All posts by Gary Holdaway

A multi genre author of short stories and novels, writing a curious mix of quick online reads and lifestyle posts.

3 Books That Shaped My Writing Style

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Despite popular belief, us writers are a simple bunch. Despite the raging depression and social anxiety, (not forgetting the fact that we have seven thousand characters, settings, and ideas running round our minds at any given moment,) we’re not actually all that complex.

Each writer’s style is a unique combination of the books they’ve read, the experiences they’ve had, the movies they’ve seen, and the stories they’ve heard. A writer’s ‘favourites’ become their standardised norm, and their ‘current’ can effect that voice in any number of ways.

Growing up, my favourite movies were horror, my favourite author Stephen King. My household is as close as it is unbelievably loud, and I have a history with Paganism, witchcraft, and the occult. I’ve been the popular kid in school, the no-shit tough guy, the rebel without a cause, the unlikely empathic, and the manic depressive.

Over the years, all these ones and zeros come together to form a unique string of code, which we then, as readers, interpret as the ‘writing style’ or ‘voice.’ Ask any writer his favourite books, movies, or childhood memories, and when he answers, you’re almost guaranteed to reply with, “ah, that makes sense.” See, simple, right..?

Today’s post is an insight into the books that have shaped my writing style. They may not each be my favourite books of all time, but they are the most prominent ones that I can recognise and call upon within my own work.

Horns- Joe Hill

For a story about a guy that develops devil horns on his head and the ability to extract the truth from whoever he’s talking to, Horns was very real. Of course Joe’s own voice, is similar to his father’s, Stephen King, but different somehow. More daring, more cynical. His youth offers him a more fresh, experimental outlook in his writing.

Horns was funny, deep, frightening, and emotional all at once. It was as entertaining as it was gut-wrenching. I remember reading through the perspective of one of the characters, and at a moment having to wipe a tear. That’s the first time I’d gotten so deep into the psyche of a set of characters, that I felt pain along with them, and that’s because the characters were so well built, so relatable, that you couldn’t help but become engrossed.

A lot of Joe’s style, and a lot of this book, comes across in my work. I personally believe I ‘levelled up’ in my writing since reading it. As writers, you’ll notice similar ‘ah-ha’ moments, where your writing takes a huge leap in the right direction. My work became more character driven, my tone became more unapologetic, and overall my writing took a positive turn. If you haven’t read Horns, treat yourself. Despite it’s movie adaptation, Horns is one of the best stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

The Gunslinger- Stephen King

I’m a huge Stephen King fan, there’s no getting around it. Before the Gunslinger, I had read countless books from his collection, from my favourite ‘Salem’s Lot,’ to the more recent detective thrillers ‘Finder’s Keepers.’ The Gunslinger is not by any means my favourite, or even one of my favourite books, but it is a great book, and it gave me validation in an aspect of my voice that had been bubbling beneath the surface for years.

I’m a philosophical mind. Every waking minute, every situation I see, presents a larger set of questions I’m keen to ask and answer. My viewpoints and ideas are universal in nature, and I suppressed that side of me when writing fiction for many years. King’s ‘Gunslinger’ convinced me that the two don’t need to stay separate, and gave me permission to experiment with a philosophical edge in my work.

Beyond that, the ‘plot’ of the first book is very loose. It’s more an exploration of the character himself, rather than a magical journey across lands with a goal to achieve. While the larger ‘Dark Tower’ series tells of a dark fantasy adventure, that individual book does not, which encouraged me to write stories that not only go from A-B, but explore the inner psyche and motivations of its characters. Sometimes, the growth of a character is enough of a plot to keep a book fluid and alive.

The dark worlds that exist around the Dark Tower and connect many of King’s novels, begins with book 1, The Gunslinger. I highly recommend it.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

The Revenant- Michael Punke

Jumping forward a number of years, The Revenant is one of my more recent reads. I loved it, cover to cover. While the book runs along a set path of injury, survival, recovery, to revenge, it also offers an in depth look at the character and his history, through a series of vivid flashbacks. The Revenant offers a guide in providing a rich backstory for any given character, without taking away from the unfolding plot in the current time.

We see him struggle to survive through serious trauma, and develop a love and respect for the character that I personally feel was missing from the movie. We find ourselves rooting for the guy, feeling his pain, going through his struggle, and existing in those pages right alongside him. This effect was achieved through a clever string of current and past events, that allowed us to feel like we know him.

While outside of my genre, The Revenant instantly became one of my favourite books of all time, and provided me a little further education in deep character driven novels. We’re talking about a book where for 200 pages, the guy laid on his back at the very brink of death, and never once became boring. If you haven’t read it yet, I seriously recommend it. I thought it wasn’t my kind of thing, but loved it anyway. I’m confident you will too!

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Bonus!

Not particularly an impact on my voice, so I couldn’t add it to this list, but Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ had a huge impact on my approach to writing, and is just an excellent book start to finish. You can check out an entire post I wrote on the book, here: The One Book That Changed My Writing Life, And Why It Will Change Yours Too.

So there you go, three books that shaped my writing style. Of course there are many more, but those are the first that spring to mind. Which books do you hold accountable for shaping your style? And if you’re not a writer, what are your favourite books and why? I love to read! So I’m always looking for recommendations.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Father’s Rage -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s entry comes at a huge delay! Photography blogger, Fragglerocking, was kind enough to provide a photo prompt for a flash fiction. You should definitely check out her site! She goes on tons of cool adventures with her camera, and always has some amazing shots to share with us.

I toyed with ideas for this one for a while, and settled on one in particular. In the middle of writing though, it changed track a little. I was going to write a scene where the children in the story were watching their parents fight through a window as it all went horribly wrong, but in approaching that point in the story, I realised that during intense fear, it’s as if we are existing in a dream state, watching ourselves act on instinct from outside of ourselves. I stuck with that and am satisfied with it’s tie-in to the prompt. Now, let’s get on with it!


Rebecca and I sat on my bed, trying our best not to listen. We were supposed to be sleeping, but my father’s voice bounced off every wall in the house, and vibrated up the stairs into our bedroom.

Sometimes Mummy left the chain off the door, but never when Daddy had been drinking. When Daddy was drinking, the chain stayed on. We didn’t come out, he didn’t come in. Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach. Out of everything but earshot.

“Jimmy, I’m scared,” Rebecca said, cradling the pillow around her ears like I showed her, “Why is daddy so angry?” Her eyes glistened with the tears she fought back, big and blue—too big for her face—like our mother.

I put my hands on hers and pressed the pillow firmer against her ears. “Don’t worry Becks.” I kissed her on the head and laid her back on the bed. “Just don’t listen, okay? Try and get some sleep.”

The shouting got louder then, and Mummy made the mistake of shouting back. The sound of a slap cracked through the house. Silence.

Silence.

Silence that stretched a lifetime.

Rebecca darted upright. I sat perfectly still, holding my breath. Rebecca shuffled closer and nuzzled her head into my shoulder. We had both heard the sound of our father’s back-hander before. Had each felt it’s sting for ourselves. This was different. Had Mummy… slapped him?

Seconds after we heard the sound of smashing and crashing all throughout the downstairs, while father screamed words we weren’t allowed to say at the top of his lungs. Becks cuddled up to me, shaking. Mum was quiet now, probably cowering in the corner while father tore through the house like an enraged bull. I’d seen it before, and the next morning always included helping mum clean up the wreckage while she quietly sobbed, whimpering as she crunched down from where father had broken and bruised her ribs.

I pushed Rebecca off and leapt up to my bedroom door, banging and kicking and screaming, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” All I could do to help. I had to get out of the room. I wasn’t sure what I could do, if anything, but I couldn’t sit on the bed quietly while my mum was abused and intimidated any longer. It had to stop.

Becks was crying now, and rocking back and forward on the bed. Still wrapped in her quilt, still cradling the pillow around her head. The side of my hand was aching with impact shock, but I kept banging. Kept screaming. I’d scream and I’d bang until I pushed out a hole in my door if I had to, even if it broke every bone in my hand. In a rush of wisdom beyond my years, I felt how my mother must’ve felt. Desperate to escape, desperate to fight back and end it, But powerless. My obstacle was a stupid wooden door with a two pound chain from ‘Discount Hardware UK,’ while hers was a sixteen stone man fuelled with drink and hate.

I banged and kicked and screamed and cried, entranced, dazed, desperate. The whole time was a blur, like a dream. Like I was watching myself from behind a glass window, sad and scared and secretly hoping that the door held true.

The sound of the doorbell ended the sounds of our father’s destruction. My panic faded away in that second, and I came back to myself. Becks continued to whimper and rock on the mattress. flashing red and blue lights illuminated the bedroom ceiling. I ran to the window and peered down to the street. The police were here. Thank God, someone had called them. I released a long, shuddering breath. How long had it been since I breathed?

A few minutes rolled by. I could hear hushed voices from the hall by the front door all the while, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. The one officer that had been loitering by the patrol car rushed toward the house, and a moment later both officers dragged father back to the car in handcuffs. They stuffed him in the back as he resisted, the taller officer punching him in the back of the head as he went.

One of them called something in on the radio—the shorter one with a Starsky-and-Hutch moustache—and they both headed back toward the house.

I didn’t think anything of it until officer Gomez came up to our room, and told us that we’d have to stay there for a little while while he and officer Rickly called some of their friends.

We were ushered out of the house that night, and by that time there were lots more vehicles outside. The first-responder car and an ambulance, two more police cars, and a Channel 5 news van.

Becks and I never saw our mother again. Our grandmother didn’t let us go to the funeral. She told us it was too much for children to go through at our age, and that some things are for adults only. We stayed with our neighbour while our grandparents drove off in black.

Our father will never be released. He’ll die in prison. Becks and I agreed that even if he does get out, we’ll kill him. He’ll never be free.

And neither will we.


Like flash fiction like this one? I publish one or two each week to give me a creative break from my longer works. Leave me a prompt or idea for the next one and I’ll add it to the list!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

It’s November! And for us writers that means it’s time to draft an entire novel at breakneck speed. Is the end result always great? Hell nah, it’s about as draft as a draft can be. But is it fun, productive, and an epic way to tell yourself the story that’s brewing in your mind? You can bet your arse it is! If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

Just Tell The Story

Encouraging NaNoWriMo survival guide badge, to help readers learn how to write a novel in a monthNaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself to get your story down on paper (or screen) as fast as possible. Unburden those epic characters from your mind, and bring them to life through words. It’s about breaking the barrier of the dreaded novel, getting the hardest part (finishing) out of the way, so it has no power left over you. 50000 words sounds intimidating, but its not a hell of a lot when you think about it. You’ve got a main character, a couple of side characters, an antagonist, a plot to unfold, multiple character arcs, all drawing to a final showdown. You’ve got this. You’ll hit 50k in no time.

The First Draft is For you

In Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ he talks about how you write the first draft with the door closed. It’s for you, and only you. The first draft is like a foundation, upon which you build your novel. You’re effectively telling yourself the story, with the intention to polish it up, catch plot holes, weave in a theme or moral, and all that other pretty stuff, throughout your second draft. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Start writing your story, and let the characters pull you through to the end. The hardest part of this novel writing mumbo-jumbo is telling the damn story, so rush it down! There’s time for making it cohesive, polished, and epic after.

Let’s Do The Math

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- Keep Calm and Write OnIt’s time to pull out the calculator folks, let’s dissect this baby and crunch some numbers. There are thirty days in November, that means, if we want to set ourselves a daily word count to achieve the goal, all we have to do is divide 50k by 30.

Run it through your calculator and you get 1,666.666 words per day. (Here we can see how the devil created this challenge and put his unique stamp on it.) So if you intend on writing every day of November, shoot for 1700 words per day. Simple.

But let’s be real here, are you really going to write every day? It’s unlikely. Whether you have work commitments, kids, blogs and social media to keep up with, or murders to go cover up, you’re gonna need some breathing room to deal with your personal shit. So let’s assume we can stick to a target of writing for twenty days out of the month.

50k divided by 20 is 2500

Now, 2500 words per day may seem a lot to some of you, but remember, that’s only twenty dedicated days to your NaNoWriMo challenge. While you’re pushing to write a novel in a month, it is only a draft. 2500 words of draft isn’t all that hard to get down once you get flowing, especially if you are following some kind of plot or structure. The trick is to write write write. Don’t keep checking your word count. Set an hour of dedicated, uninterrupted time, then check. If you’re done, then you’re done. If not, shoot for another hour, and go over if you can! You may save yourself another day of writing, or end up with an epic!

Remember Your ‘Why’

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the challenge aspect of it all. Such demands can be stilling for writers and creatives. But try to remember your ‘why’ for taking up with NaNoWriMo. It’s not to win, It’s not to show off, and it’s not to write the most amazing novel that’s ever been written. It’s to tell yourself a full, complete story, and to break through that ‘novel completion’ boundary before it ever gets ahold of us. It’s a creative exercise to show us what is capable, with a little determination and consistency.

Exercises like this are great for an individual’s psyche. To have a positive end result at the end of a periodical commitment, reminds us that gratification and success takes time and effort. We are often disappointed and sunk into ‘lows’ due to our minds being wired to instant gratification in the modern world. Getting fifty thousand (or even twenty thousand) words down throughout a set period of time, where you are pouring in your heart and soul, rewires the part of the brain that expects everything in the now.

Look, we all have different reasons for doing things, but storytelling is an art in and of itself. It’s a beautiful element of human nature that we could scarcely live without. It’s been here from the beginning of time, and it’ll be here ‘til the end. Let’s not get lost in the intricacies of it all. Just tell the story, build the characters and setting, and enjoy the process. You’re a story teller by nature. Bravo! Now go do your ‘thang. Come back to this NaNoWriMo survival guide whenever you need a little nudge in the right direction.

Plotting Tools

Save The Cat Writes a Novel- Click to purchaseClick to purchase from amazon.com

I’m personally not a plotter. My work is pretty much exclusively character driven, and a plot tends to still me and crush my creative flow. That said, for a challenge like this, it helps to have at least a timeline of events you’d like to happen, so that you can easily work from one to the next without too much difficulty. You can always go off track and your characters can still surprise you, but the briefest of brief outlines offer a little guidance when you may be lost. Equally, if you don’t fancy writing at the point you’re at, you can jump ahead and write a scene that strikes your fancy. Win/win. It’s all words!

If you’d like a real structured plot to guide you, I personally recommend looking up the snowflake method. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out Save The Cat Writes a Novel. Even for us non-plotters, this book is novel-writing gold. It provides a guide filled with beats and moments for within your story, without tacking a rigid structure around everything. Do yourself a favour writers, and pick up your copy today. It really will help turn your novels from good, to great.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

(This is an affiliate link. I only provide links to products that I have personally used, bought, and love. I will never endorse a product I have no experience with purely for monetary gain.)

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

All this aside, there are a few things we’re gonna need throughout November to keep us sane and on track. Us writers are a picky bunch, and we need a variety of items in order to complete our work. Below I’ve compiled a list of handy items to have on or around your desk at all times, and cues on how to use them.

  • A pad of Paper- for doodling on and scratching out notes.
  • A variety of pens- for even more epic doodles.
  • Tea & Coffee- because caffeine.
  • Coloured pencils or markers- to colour our doodles and highlight stuff.
  • A cat or other stroke-worthy cutie- because we’re writers. We’re lonely.
  • Alcohol (if of drinking age)- this helps…
  • Slippers and a Dressing Gown- comfort is key.
  • A chair cushion- once again, comfort is key.
  • A cuddly blanket- to hide from the screen when we’re stuck.
  • A teddy bear- to cuddle when times get hard. And to talk to…
  • An alter to the creative Gods- complete with candles, incense, frog eyes and snake skin, and blood for ritual sacrifice.

That should just about cover everything. Of course, bring yourself, your laptop, and your charger, and be sure to disconnect all your devices from the internet. We don’t need any distractions!

Well, that just about brings us to the conclusion of our NaNoWriMo survival guide! Doesn’t sound that hard, right? Seriously, as long as you set yourself a daily goal, and commit yourself to completing the challenge, you will succeed. It starts and ends with you. You can implement the above advice to streamline your experience, but ultimately it comes down to your dedication to getting your novel down on paper. You know you can do it, I know you can do it, so go do it! And if anyone asks you how to write a novel in a month, send them this way!

Share this post with your friends and writing groups, to help them achieve success in this amazing challenge right alongside you! And if you’d like to stay up to date with my NaNo activities and connect with me personally, head over to my Facebook. I’ll be posting daily NaNo tips and inspiration.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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5 Facebook Fan Page Tips- Let’s Help Each Other Out +Community Camera Roll Fun!

Over at Facebook, I post all kinds of events and content exclusive to that community. Over time I intend Facebook to be my main social hub, where I engage with the community, host giveaways, and offer exclusive content and events.

For your chance at a £25 Amazon gift card, head there now!

Today, I posted an event calling for the community to post a photo from their camera roll for me to fashion a story from in the comments. Being only a small page in its infancy, I’ve only had two entries so far, but I’m proud of those two! I wanted to share with you the first couple of photos, and the consequent stories they inspired.

But first, I’d like to exchange a few tips and tricks in Facebook page growth, From the absolute beginning to your first 100. Growing from your first thousand becomes much easier, but the initial run up to that can be a hard, lonely slog.

So let’s make a deal. I’ll share five tips and ideas with you, and in the comments, you offer me one in exchange, okay?

If you’d like to link to your facebook page down in the comments, go for it. I’ll click straight over and give you a like. Return the favour by doing the same here 😉 Without any further delay, here are my top five Facebook fan page tips.

  1. Giveaways- Offer something for free in exchange for a like and share.
  1. Link To It- in blog posts, in your email signature, on twitter, in groups when called to. People can’t find it if you don’t put it out there!
  1. Focus On Engaging Posts– write the kind of posts that encourage likes, shares, comments, etc. Engagement on a post shows in the newsfeeds of their friends!
  1. Offer Exclusive Content- give people a reason to follow your Facebook page. If it’s just the same as your twitter, G+, and blog, why should they be there?
  1. Post Image & Video Content- it’s more eye catching, engaging, and shareable. Attention spans are low on social media.

So with that out the way, what are your tips and tricks? How do you increase audience and engagement on Facebook? From zero to your first hundred. From one hundred to a thousand. From a thousand to beyond… Remember to let me know in the comments.

Moving on, let’s jump into a couple of the stories inspired by my small community today. I was lucky to have been offered two great photos to work from!


Valley Of Rocks

Image submitted by Peter Thompson

After a casual stroll we hit the Valley Of Rocks. In spite of my wife’s enthusiastic response, I didn’t see much special. A few stones stacked atop one another. She spoke of the jagged formations, and the erosion something-or-other. Wow, I could have seen that on David Attenborough, only I’d be warm, dry, and comfortable. Instead, I’m shivering my tits off on the coast in November. Still, I smiled and nodded and agreed. It was safer that way.

After some humming-and-harring between my wife and herself, she decided it’d be fun to walk the extra five miles to The Hunters Inn.

‘Maybe there’s a gift shop,’ she reasoned, ‘and we could get lunch. Make a day of it.’ Great. Food. That sounds good. Five miles of windy coast wasn’t about to dissuade me from filling my guts. If there’s one thing I love above all else—excluding the nearest and dearest, of course—it’s food.

After an hour of lunging down the coast, holding the hood of my Jacket up over my head against the persistent gusts, we came upon The Hunters Inn.

That would’ve been great, but the bloody hunter wasn’t in! Closed for remodelling! And they didn’t think to maybe, I don’t know, put some sort of notice on the sign FIVE MILES BACK?

We lugged ourselves back along the coastal path, this time downwind, but now dripping from the heavy rain that just couldn’t bare to wait another hour before coming down. It wasn’t forecast of course, that would suggest that any organisation in the UK had some idea of what it was doing.

We arrived back to the car out of breath, soaked, and chilled to the bone. The windscreen fogged up the instant the engine was running, but it’d be another ten minutes before the old rust bucket delivered air that felt even slightly warm.

Julie, I love you. But next time I’m picking the day out. He pulled the urn out from under his jacket and placed it on the passenger seat. He removed the bucket-list from his glove compartment and checked off the ‘Valley Of Stones.’

I miss you, Julie.


Walking Away

Image submitted by Janet Bayes

He turned to face her once more, before frowning and walking away. A faceless silhouette, a shadow that stretched before him as far as their history stretched back. Step by painful step, out of their lives for good.

Away from her, away from the kids, away from the life they built together. She liked to think that final look was a second of hesitation, a momentary lapse in resolve. Despite everything she had done, he was torn about leaving.

The sun set into the ocean, alongside her heart. He never stopped to look back again.


So there we have it, two fun facebook stories, free from any pressure or expectation. As long or as short as the image inspired, born from the generous submissions from my community. You should give something like this a try on your own facebook page.

So, you remember that deal we made right? Leave me a comment with your Facebook fan page tips and drop a link to your own page. Let’s each expand our audiences!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

£1.00

The Awakening -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s quick online read comes from the photo prompt above. Each week, myself, Ian Steventon, and T J Kelly challenge each other to write a piece of fiction in under 1000 words. You can check their entries out by following the links above, but for now, grab a quick coffee, and enjoy!


When Marcus headed out into the woods for his routine walk, he didn’t expect to end up running for his life away from a horde of ritualistic maniacs. He raced across dense woodland, fighting through patches of nettles and leaping low shrubbery as he went, his face and legs cut raw from hostile twigs and branches. His lungs were on fire, his breath shallow gasps of air that cut through the silence of the trees in short, raspy bursts.

He could hear them on his tail, their own crazed breathing blaring in his ears, as if some sinister playlist injected the sound straight through headphones. The pounding of their boots grew ever louder. Ever closer.

He didn’t dare look back. He knew if he did he could fall, or slow down, or be petrified through fright. Robed monsters in the fading light, shrouded in the ghastly shadows of twilight. He knew what would happen if they got him. After what he’d seen they couldn’t let him go. Worm food. And by what sickly means? For what twisted goal?

No. He must keep going. Must get safe. He’d sprint all the way home, where Dinah was getting ready to serve her famous red pepper and tomato tacos, where Lucy bashed her toy cars across the wooden floor and drove her mummy mad through the noise. He’d lock all the doors and check them twice, dial 999, run Lucy a bath, and tell Dinah all about what he’d seen. The police would arrive at the old castle ruins, and the vile lunatics would’ve cleared out. They’d find the poor girl where they left her. Cut up, bled out, tied to a wooden structure suspended over demonic symbols and mystical ornaments, all speckled red with splashes of gore.

He’d never, never, forget that girl. Her pallid face drained of all life. All hope. Her small, delicate fingers curled around that expressionless doll, it’s leg torn from it’s torso and tossed aside like trash. Her last remaining scrap of innocence, the only comfort along her final breath.

He felt a blunt pain where a rock struck the right of his pelvis, another along the center of his spine. That one hurt. He didn’t care. He had to keep going. Had to get to Dinah. Had to call the police. That little girl’s parents needed to know what happened to her. They deserved to grieve their daughter.

The next thing Marcus felt was a sharp pain across the top of his head that sent multicoloured stars darting across his vision. The impact sent him crashing to the earth, and then, nothing.

* * * * *

When Marcus awoke he was roped up on the same wooden structure that he had witnessed just before. His body was bruised, beaten, and dripping with blood. Smaller cuts had clotted with darkened chunks and scabs, his cheeks warm where the wound on his head continued to stream out across his face. Surrounding him were the robed figures, their faces a hostile red where the flickering candle light illuminated them against the blackness of night.

“He awakes,” One declared, throwing his arms out to the side as if in worship. The congregation repeated him a second later in a monotonous droan. He awakes. “This man, this Marcus Frank Hammer,” He read from the ID card he had removed from his wallet, “Believes he can interrupt our sacred awakening ritual. This, this Outsider!”

Outsider, Outsider.

Marcus was frozen in fright. The ritual items that lay decoratively beneath the young girl before, had been replaced by a circular pit, stacked high with logs and kindling. The smell of fuel saturated his nostrils, kept him dizzy. Unfocused.

“we all know the punishment for such crimes,” he said, his icy gaze locked to Marcus’ panicked eyes.

Burn him, burn him

Marcus tugged against the ropes that bound him to the structure, all his might failing him. “Though such burdens are hard to bare, it falls upon us now to make the hard choices.”

A mound of fresh earth lay off to the side where Marcus guessed the little girl was buried. After all, they had to make room for him up on the wicker-man. Round two. A double meal for the sickos. What a sacred, bless-ed day.

Images flashed across his mind, polaroids darting in and out of focus. Dinah in a candle-lit bath, Lucy’s gleeful expression Christmas morning, a loaf of his mothers homemade onion bread. He could smell that. Along the waves of imagery came tsunamis of feeling, floods of emotion, he himself a mixture of anger, fear, sorrow, and rage. The thought of never seeing his family again sunk him into a low he had never felt before. A stilling, overwhelming numbness. Just blackness in the cold reality of his situation. He was never gonna make it home. His entire family, all of his friends, would have to suffer his loss.

“He was too young,” they’d say, “And the way it happened, gasp, nobody deserves that.” He could hear their condolences as clearly as the first strike of the match. On the second, flame came, and it was tossed into the fuel-soaked fire pit.

It came in an instant—sickening, blinding pain. Nothing but panic, noise, heat, smoke. The smell. The smell of his own body burning. The smell of the paraffin. Just seconds after, the pain stopped. Gone almost as fast as it came. His first few layers of skin had all but melted from his body, now just a dangling, skinless figure of muscle and bone.

In these moments he accepted his fate. Accepted death. Willed it. Anything to end the torment, the sight of the robed freaks rejoicing around him, the tiny, pale hand that had burst out of the earth. He tried to scream but he already was. He tried to close his eyes but he couldn’t. His gaze locked onto the one thing he didn’t want to see. Couldn’t bare to see. Wished he’d never seen.

The soulless, pale little dead girl crawling out the earth, tiny limbs bloodied and dirtied and dragging her back above ground. An expressionless creature of evil, each of it’s breaths a raspy growl from the very depths of it’s throat. Eyes red and hungry, thirsty for blood and pain and death.

“Behold the awakening!”

Behold, behold.

The creature stood before him, dead eyes reading his soul. Haunting his final moment, his final breath, dead hand clutching that legless, lifeless doll.

She smiled.


Like flash fictions like this one? Subscribe for more bite size stories 2-3 times per week. Got some ideas for my next one? Anything you’d change about this one? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Interview with Mary T Bradford

Mary Bradford is an Irish published author of novels, short stories and plays. My Husband’s Sin, is her debut novel. Available now, the sequel, Don’t Call Me Mum. The Lacey Taylor story, Book 2, not to be missed!

I’m very excited to say I had the opportunity this week to ask author Mary T Bradford a few questions about her writing journey and career. In this interview, Mary offers us an insight into the publishing process through sharing her own experiences with us, and gifts an interesting and unique piece of flash fiction at the end. I’ll say in advance, I was impressed and surprised at her take on the prompt. I expected the typical ‘kidnapping’ approach, but Mary shows us that the imagination of an author cannot be predicted!

You can find Mary’s website here. Want an interview like this one? Leave a comment!


Where did your writing journey start?

I guess it started way back when I was five years old and joined my local library. I love reading and although I have read all my life I never thought about writing a story until I was in my twenties. It began with my first born, I wrote down all the antics he got up to as a toddler. I suppose it documented his early years and when family read those pieces they encouraged me to consider writing stories. I enrolled on a creative writing correspondence course with a Dublin college and graduated with a diploma with distinction. Most young people would probably ask what a correspondence course is. Well it’s like an online course nowadays but you posted your assignments to your tutor and received your work by post too, so it involved a lot of trips to the Post Office. So after that I continued to write short stories and submitted them to national magazines and newspapers. Thankfully I have been successful in publication.

Is writing something you find energising or draining? Tell me a little about the process. What you like, what you don’t?

It really depends on what the project is. If it’s something new, I am energised and all set to go, but if it’s a story that I’ve been working on for some time, well then I might drag my feet a bit to finish it. There is so much to a writing life, there’s more than just the stories to produce. There are interviews to reply to, website posts to write and newsletters to write up plus the promotion and marketing of your work. It isn’t easy and it is definitely non-stop. A writer is always working on something, even if not physically on a laptop or with pen and paper, but in their mind. Thinking is a large part of a writing life. Working out characters, plots, twists, trying to tie stuff together, it’s always on your mind, always. I enjoy the creating side of writing, it’s the marketing I dislike.

What are your favourite few books? Do you have any that stand out among the others, perhaps have shaped your own writing somewhat?

I loved, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, an Irish author. I enjoy his style and his storytelling. I’ve only ever cried my eyes out, really sobbing, with one book that was titled The Last Snows of Spring, by who I can’t recall. I read it when I was nineteen, it broke my heart. Also, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, an American writer, I so enjoyed. When the film came out much later, it was awful, they ruined a beautiful story. I don’t think any, one or few books have influenced my writing as I read lots of different genres except fantasy and sci-fi. My work has been compared to Maeve Binchy, Claudia Carroll, and others who write about family and relationships.

Give us a rundown of your first published book and how did you find the process? What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time and do it again?

My first novel, My Husband’s Sin published by Tirgearr Publishing was like a jump in to the deepest ocean and not knowing how to swim. The story came to me while at a funeral and looking around me, the secrets that so many must take to their graves with them. It started with a character, Lacey Taylor who was raised with her father, Joe and upon her mother Lillian’s death there is a revelation that upturns Lacey’s whole life. Her father had died before Lillian, taking a secret with him which she, Lillian feels obliged to reveal to Lacey and her siblings.

Regarding the manner of writing it, I wrote it in longhand, as it was my first book, I enjoyed the process of the story revealing it myself through the characters and even when it came to editing it, about seven drafts later, I still wasn’t deterred, just a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Next came the whole dealings of synopsis and query letters to publishing houses, now that’s a nightmare. Advice to myself now that I know what it takes I would say, during times of doubt remember many start writing a book but few finish, keep at it, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Finally, tell us about your new release, could you compare it to other books?

My second novel, Don’t Call Me Mum, published in March of 2018 by Tirgearr Publishing came about because readers requested to continue the Lacey Taylor story from my first novel. This second novel flowed easier for me as I knew the Taylor family intimately at this stage and so the writing process was shorter timewise. Having readers ask for a sequel in the reviews of my first novel, was encouraging and reassuring for me as a writer. Knowing people out there enjoy my stories makes the time spent working on them worthwhile. I have since been asked to write the third book in the Taylor’s lives and I am writing it at present along with another novel which is a stand-alone book.

Comparing my books to others I would say they are family orientated, about relationships, everyday life like Carmel Harrington, Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult to name a few.

You’re trapped inside a sealed room. It’s pitch black. All you can hear from outside is some kind of heavy machinery. Write a quick story in under 200 words based on this prompt, to give the readers an idea of your style and imagination.

Not turning up should set off alarm bells for his co-workers. But, Charlie often missed a morning due to this and that. He knew the boss was itching to fire him but couldn’t afford to.

Charlie was an expert in demolition, knowing exactly what strength explosive or whether the wrecking ball would be more effective.

Today it was the wrecking ball and judging by the noise outside, it would be swinging through a wall shortly at him.

This job had stirred his curiosity when he heard it housed a panic room. So after work yesterday, he had gone exploring and now was locked inside the very room that intrigued him.

Trying to remember which direction the ball would hit from, might help get him out alive.

Listening to the drone of machinery, getting ready to knock it, he sat in a corner.

His eyes had adjusted to the pitch darkness and like an old cine-frame his life rolled by.

Snooping often caused him grief. His mother forever telling him, ‘One day, Charlie, it’ll land you in real danger.’

“Well, Mom, this could be the day.” Sighing, his heart pounded.

Smash!

Charlie picked the wrong corner to sit in.


Many thanks to Mary for her honest and insightful answers! If you’d be interested in an interview like this one posted on the site, let me know in the comments. I aim to interview a different writer and blogger each week!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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An Awesome World-Building Activity for Novelists and Writers! (#WIPWorldBuilders)

In a few weeks, I’ll officially start putting words to paper (or screen) in the creation of a new and exciting story. A character driven novel I’ve been concocting in my mind for almost two years, circulating the life of a reluctant demigod chosen by the frightening warrior Gods of the Norse pantheon. He’s an ordinary guy, that feels ostracised from the world around him. He is well and truly depressed, moody, cynical, and yet kind hearted, hopeful, and honest. He’s real, and multifaceted, as all characters should be.

I don’t want to give away too much too fast and spoil the excitement for myself and all who are coming along with me on this journey, but I stumbled upon an amazing community over on twitter, and their #WIPWorldBuilders tag has me all inspired. Being new to twitter, and thus new to this excellent exercise in world building, this post is going to go back through the month and answer each of the thought provoking questions so far.

To anyone building a novel, I’d recommend doing the same. The reader doesn’t need to know everything about the world your novel is set in, but you do, and this community offers lots of decent questions you may not ask yourself. If you’d like to make a compilation post like this one, please link to this post so I get a ping back! It’d be great to read all about other people’s worlds!

Right, let’s get on with this!

1: Introduce yourself and your WIP

Hi all, I’m Gary, a multi-genre author with a love for honest, character driven stories. Over the past few years I took a hiatus from my writing career—while I dealt with depression, separation, and family business expansion—and now am back writing flash fiction, short stories, and novels.

Official work on my first novel starts in November. It circulates around the life of twenty-something Danny, a young man who’s always been a little different. He has a gravity to him, a huge potential others cant miss. He’s a born leader, insightful: he says all the right things at all the right times to all the people that need to hear them. He has a gift to retain a lot of information, and turn his hand to multiple tasks without much teaching. Despite all this, he feels trapped, depressed, wasted.

On top of all this, he’s a demigod. Chosen, if you like, by the old gods of the Norse pantheon. They never leave him alone, haunting his life through frightening dreams and unnerving encounters. They try to steer him, but his hands are tied. He cant meet their expectations. He feels as if they simply torture him, over and over again, until he finally understands the message they’re sending. The novel is a dark story of internal struggle and transformation.

2: Do people believe in an afterlife?

Some people do, alongside various split beliefs in the metaphysical/supernatural. Feeling a natural pull to the old gods and ways of paganism, Danny has built up a small group of friends that are interested in tapping into those forces—though he is clearly quite different from the rest of them. I won’t tell you how… that would spoil a great scene.

3: Is there a holiday dedicated to honouring the dead?

Of course, Halloween! Though Danny and his friends celebrate this time as Samhain with other Pagans. Danny doesn’t put himself in the same category as pagans, new-age, neo-pagan, or any other modernised faith system based on ancient tradition. He’s not sure what his faith is. He calls it his Danny-ism. His theory of everything. His way of seeing things that he cant quite master putting into words, and even if he could, would likely cause confusion.

4: Do people bury the dead? If not, where are they stored?

People do bury the dead, and they also cremate them. The world I’m building here is mainly the world we live in, though the perspective we see it from offers a different side to it. The more interconnected, spiritual side, where Gods torment men and make bargains with them. Where power can be directed toward a goal through strong will and vision.

5:What are the common causes of death in your world?

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke. These things are like a plague. Danny sympathises with the world around him, but he sees a harsh truth that others may or may not respect. They are enslaved to their own comforts. Killing themselves slowly through their lifestyles. Danny is comfortable with (though resentful of) his mortality, and accepts that his problems are a result of his poor lifestyle choices, and his own eventual death will come as a result of those choices. That doesn’t mean everybody sees things in the same way.

6: How are the organs of the dead prepared? Or are they left in the body?

If people are donors, their organs go on to support furthering the life of others that need those organs. If not, the body is buried or cremated with all organs intact. Of course, there are weird cooky cults that like to use human organs in rituals and the like…

7: What happens to the belongings of the dead?

Some are buried with them, if they hold particular sentimental value. Others are distributed through family members, normally via a rushed open house, where everyone from estranged children to third-cousins show up and take whatever they can get their hands on, in a first-come-first-serve frenzy. Nothing like death to show the living’s true colours.

8: Are there organ thieves or body snatchers in your world?

Seriously, you’ve prompted this again? Right, let’s clear this up… If there is a frighteningly dangerous coven that unwittingly enact the work of an ACTUAL demigod with a few screws loose, and they take bodies and use organs as ritualistic items, I don’t know about it. And Danny definetly isn’t going to run into them… 🤥🤫

9: How are dead pets cared for?

Some bury them in the garden, others get them cremated and keep their ashes in urns. Some particular weirdos ask for some ashes put aside to do various bizarre things with… like eat inside a sandwhich. The love of pets does strange things to humans.

10: Is anyone immortal in your world?

I’ve answered this one on Twitter already, and the basic gist of it is, nobody is really sure whether or not even the Gods are immortal. Ragnarok does tell of their death, but by human standards, they definitely aren’t mortal. Danny looks pretty good for 27, has never broke a bone in his life despite his antics, but he’s mortal for sure. Painfully so. He attributes his various aches, pains, and problems, to being trapped inside a mortal body. It’s almost as if his soul wants to burst out of it.

11: Do people believe the dead can return either as a spirit or physically?

Many people do believe in spirits to some extent, others claim they don’t but have had a few experiences, and others still are dead against the idea. That said, the idea of spiritual intervention is unsettling for most. Danny has every reason to believe himself, but casually brushes it off as a non-thing. He’s not bothered by it.

12: It’s Friday, share and follow 3 other world builders!

World building is a fun and exciting activity for any novelist or writer. It’s also fun to watch others in the process, and learn about the world they are creating. I’ll post a few links to fellow world-builder’s over on my twitter account, and I highly recommend you check them out!

13: Are premature burials common in your world?

Outside of stuntmen and cruel torturous methods of execution, perhaps employed by disgruntled mobsters, no. It’s unlikely that anybody would end up buried alive by mistake.

Well, that’s it. I’d LOVE to carry on and answer each of the questions, but I think it would be unfair on the community. I will be carrying this on day-by-day on my twitter feed, now that I’ve caught up, so head over there and follow me! Failing that, I think it’d be fun to do this again for the blog at the end of October. It’s a dark, gritty story, and it’s refreshing to run through an exercise like this outside the tone of the novel.

Guys, this was fun and thought provoking! I’d highly recommend you complete the same exercise. And if you do, please, please link to this post so that I get a ping back. I would love to hear about the world you’re building for your novel!

So what do you think, shall I post another post like this one at the end of the month, or keep content like this solely on twitter? Have you a system of world-building, or inspired to start? Let me know in the comments!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Got five minutes for some quick online reads? Try these:

Colony 81- Quick Online Reads

The Fury Of The Godless- Quick Online Reads

The Man In The Hat- Quick Online Reads

The One Book That Changed My Writing Life, And Why It Will Change Yours Too

Over the past few years, I’ve read countless books—what can I say? I love reading. Being a writer, (albeit off the grid for a couple years,) lots of those books have been centered around the craft of writing. I’ve read some good ones, some bad ones, and some that fall somewhere in between. But one book stands above the rest without comparison. It shines out of the bookshelf. Seriously. I was considering fitting a spotlight, but this book gives off its own golden glow so I figured I’d save the money…

It took rejection, trouble, small successes, big successes, and nearly being killed by a truck, to get to us, but we sure are glad it did! The book I’m talking about is ‘On Writing: A Memoire of The Craft’ by Stephen King, and today we’re gonna take a look at why every writer should own a copy.

Putting The Fun Back into Writing

Part writing guide, part biography, Stephen King delivers entertaining stories about his childhood, gifting us an intimate look at the kind of experiences that shaped the writer we see today. He builds up from his earliest memories, through his high school years, to his not-so-fulfilling cleaning, journalist, and teaching positions.

We see first hand the kind of binds a passion for writing can land you in. Throughout his journey he’s experienced praise, turmoile, trouble—genuinely funny stories about him getting into trouble—and bleeding out in a helicopter with a collapsed lung and multiple broken bones. But in the face of it all, what we see more than anything, is the love of writing that pulled him onward through it all. The drive to create that outshines everything else. This book is inspirational without trying to be, and it reminds us that writers are writers because they want to be. Because they have to be.

The Writers Toolbox

Through a charming story about his uncle Oren’s toolbox, King highlights the most important tools we as writers have at our disposal. He explains that while carrying the entire toolbox to a simple job may be more tiresome than just taking the one tool, you must always be prepared for the unseen. To be able to deal with whichever other job may pop up around the original job. As a tradesman myself, I can relate to this so much. The amount of times I’ve quickly grabbed my screwdriver just to find out that I really could’ve done with my hammer too is uncountable. It’s infuriating, and bad practice.

Of course he’s not talking about an actual toolbox, but the point is just as clear. As writers, there are a few different levels within our box, and on those different levels are the different tools we call upon in writing. Vocabulary, style, grammar, plot, theme, moral, etc. Not every story will use them all, and of course we shouldn’t try to use all of our tools simply because we have them, but most will use a combination of at least a couple. King perfectly delivers how and when to use them, alongside a plethora of entertaining examples and stories.

An Inside Look

Throughout the book, King delivers an insiders view of the industry, the commitments, and the life. Through his own experiences he offers not only the process of breaking into the market, but inspires you through his love for storytelling. His story is one of blind passion, of an easy commitment to his craft.

In the writing world, It’s easy to get bogged down by what we have to do. I have to post to my blog, I have to revise this chapter, I have to present this to social media. King reminds us of the simpler ‘have-to’s’ of the craft—I have to tell a story.—while sharing his own writing routines and rituals to help us hone our skills and get our thoughts down on paper.

Re-readability

During the reading of this book, you’ll have a blast. It’s funny, moving, and inspiring. You’ll feel something you’ve not felt, or learn something you’ve never learned. You’ll get to the end and want to immediately go back to the beginning to start it again. You’ll laugh out loud in the middle of whatever you’re doing—which is always fun in a medical waiting room—and share paragraphs and chapters with your friends and family. You’ll put the book back on the shelf, and every time you walk by it, you’ll see it. You’ll remember something from it, and you’ll laugh, or feel inspired, and every inch of you will want to pull it back out and open it up again.

Why You Need to Get This Book

I know the whole ‘invest in yourself’ cliche has grown tiresome recently, especially due to the influx of the self-help and coaching industry. I am gonna have to use it here though. I recommend lots of books on writing. But this is the only one you HAVE to own. I can wholeheartedly promise that this book will change your life, the way you write, and the way you approach writing forever. So invest in yourself!

You can buy Stephen King’s excellent On Writing from Amazon by clicking the following link. These links are affiliate links, and help to support the growth and sustainability of this site.

UK Buyers: purchase On Writing here

US Buyers: purchase On Writing here

Have you read On Writing? Let the readers know what you thought of it in the comments below.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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While you’re waiting for your new purchase to arrive, you can up your writing game and captivate your readers by reading the following posts:

The Dome- Quick Online Reads by Ian Steventon

For those of you who are new here, myself, Ian Steventon, and TJ Kelly have an ongoing collaboration, where each week one of us elects a photo prompt, and we set off to write a short interpretation of it. Both Colony 81, and The Fury Of The Godless stories in my ‘quick online reads’ collection, are examples of the fun and games our collab has already generated!

Today, I’m showcasing Ian’s interpretation of the prompt. I thought it was great! Ian uses his prose to drop us straight into this divided world, where the healthy are separated from the sick, and we instantly feel the curiosity put forward through the main character. If this piece of flash fiction leaves you wanting more, help me convince him to carry on with it by littering his post with pleading comments!

Ian Steventon Author


“When did the sickness start?” Asked Emma, as she looked out beyond the dome that enclosed them. Her father turned to face her, she thought she saw the sadness within him again, but he smiled, that magnificent smile that cured her of all her ills.
“It all happened so quickly, the domes were built for protection while you were still a young baby, they help to keep us safe, to keep the world safe, you know that.”
Emma looked out beyond the shimmering glass, everything looked so normal, the sun was shining, trees moved gently in the breeze. She saw birds rise up above the treetops and watched as they disappeared into the distance.
“Yes, but I wish I could go outside, feel the sun on my face, the breeze through my hair.”
Her father’s face suddenly darkened. “Don’t ever talk like that Emma, you know damn well we…

View original post 975 more words

Colony 81 -Free Flash Fiction

Today’s entry was inspired by the photo above, but it didn’t begin there. The title and premise for Colony 81 were concocted a few years back, but the project was left on the back burner while I focused my efforts elsewhere. Spending a little time in that world today has inspired me to tell a fuller story, a tale of power, sacrifice, and rebellion. If the following short is enough to leave you wanting more, let me know in the comments below. For now, grab yourself a quick drink, light a cigarette, and enjoy the next five minutes.


Cover for quick online reads entry Colony 81
What do you think of the cover I designed a few years back? Keep it, or scrap it and start over?

Jonah Reeves only ever knew life within the stone white walls of Colony 81. He had supposedly been shipped down from Utopia at the age of five—a promise baby from the fortunate, a declaration that ‘we will come back for you’—but he didn’t remember anything that wasn’t wheat fields and grey clothing. He knew it was all bullshit anyway. Nobody down on earth would ever be collected and taken up, not while the Utopians needed them to farm their food, purify their water, and provide all the resources they needed to stay up there. Jonah was many things, but a fool wasn’t one of them. They were slaves, and he knew it. His birth parents threw him away to keep their own spot on the ship, and he knew that too.

Nobody knew how many colonies were walled in, but it was clear they each fulfilled a separate purpose. They had water delivered in barrels marked 64, fresh clothes bundled in grey bags with the number 128 stitched into them. The highest number the colonists in 81 were aware of, was 342, from the numbers stamped on the side of the fruit crates that got delivered each week.

Jonah sat alone with his back pressed up against the colony wall, shaping multicoloured energy balls with his hands. After the riots and wars—the reaction to the launch of the Utopia—were over, people of all castes and creeds were bundled into the colonies. Families were separated, communities torn apart, and each colony was left with a diverse group of individuals that had to become cohesive. Religions and beliefs were abandoned or adapted, and in that simplicity, something new was formed.

No longer was there a God, or an Allah. As the years went on, there was never mention of Christianity, or Paganism, or Hinduism, or Sikh. They had no need for religion anymore. What came in its place had no name, only a voice they could all hear. A whisper on a quiet night, a feeling of connectivity that couldn’t quite be described. Some called it the Source, others, the voice of the earth. The Truth. The message they all ignored, the point they all missed. The silence that spoke all noise, the nothingness that encompassed everything in existence, living and breathing and powering the whole thing.

For years it beckoned out, shrouded by wars and technology, drowned out by the sound of their own voices. Had they quietened down a little, worked together rather than in opposition, they would’ve heard it before things got bad. But things did get bad, and it took tearing the world apart to find it.

Jonah watched as the balls shifted from red, to blue, to yellow, to green, floating and coming back down, dancing and stretching and shrinking at his will. Those small bubbles were a part of his essence, a part of everything’s essence. Translucent star-stuff, given form through focus and intent.

“You’ll get seen doing that one day.” Jonah looked up, and the energy dissipated at once in a sudden pop. Grace stood before him, the setting sun illuminating the edges of her silhouette in a pink-orange hue.

“You’ve gotta stop sneaking up on me,” he said, shuffling his knees under his body to come cross-legged in the cracked earth. He reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her to him. “You make me nervous standing above me like that.”

“Deal, as soon as you stop playing with your magic shit in public.” She sat opposite him, wearing her I-love-you-but-I’m-not-quite-happy expression—a half smile pulled up to the left, equal parts happiness and concern glazing the surface of her amber eyes. She really was beautiful. It still left him breathless at times, softening his resolve, cooling the fires that burned inside him.

He sighed. “I’m just practicing Gracie. Gotta figure it out.” He played around in the dirt with his index finger, drawing swirls and squiggles without purpose. Her soft hands took hold of his face and pulled it inline with hers, kissing him before pulling back to meet his eyes.

“Well figure this. If they see it they’ll kill you, probably after tearing you open to find out what it is.”

“I can tell them what it is.”

“But they won’t care what you tell them. They’ll wanna see for themselves.” She took his hands and they sat in silence for a few moments, tracing the lines in each others skin. Farmers hands, both of them, but Grace’s were softer somehow. Warmer.

“Gracie listen—“

“No, you listen Jonah. Whatever you’re thinking, it has to stop right now. Put it away.” Her voice raised, but remained hushed as if others were listening. They were miles from the chalets, but something about Jonah’s discovery put her on edge. Scared her into caution. “What you’ve found here is beautiful. It’s amazing. You’re amazing. But it doesn’t change anything, and it can’t. We’re trapped down here on a dying planet. They’re up there with all the power. You come out with something like this, we’re sitting ducks. They’ll kill us all just in case.”

Jonah squeezed against her grip, smiling. “I know,” he sighed, “I’ll be more careful.”

“It’s just dangerous, I don’t want to lose you.”

“I know,” he said again, this time sounding more certain. He pressed himself up to his feet and pulled her up with him, pulling her in. He stroked her hair while she rested her head on his shoulder, coarse from the grit of the fields, but still softer than his somehow.

“Keep it to that bedroom thing, like the fireflies, okay?” She whispered, pressing her lips to his neck suggestively.

“Of course,” he lied, ‘let’s get back home.”

They walked the few miles through the wheat back to the chalet, rough hand in softer rough hand, appreciating the comfort of each other and the fading light of the sun, painting the sky a dazzling blend of purple, red, and pink. By the time they reached the tiny stone hut they called home, Jonah had the beginnings of a plan.

It didn’t include hiding his discovery.


This post is part of an ongoing collaboration between myself, Ian Steventon, and TJ Kelly. For their interpretations of this photo prompt, check out The Dome by Ian, and Secret, Secret, I Have a Secret!! By TJ.

So there it is. The dialogue and setting can be fleshed out so much more, and there’s a much greater story to be told here. But now I ask you, Would you like me to carry this on? Before the new year I’ll be launching a web series for you lovelies, so if you want this in my list of potentials, or would like me to add parts to this in the coming weeks, let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to follow for more posts like this, alongside blogging and writing tips to take your writing to the next level. Thanks for reading ☺️

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

£1.00

Like flash fictions like this one? You’ll love:

The Fury Of The Godless

The Man In The Hat

The Cabin

How To Write Better Blog Posts +free blog post checklist!

Everyone who has started or wants to start a blog, has the same underlying reason for doing so. We want people to read our posts, right? It may be to provide feedback, it may be to build trust for your brand, it may even be for the very sake of sharing your thoughts and experiences with the world, but without people to read our work, our blog soon becomes obsolete. The truth is, if we want to draw in readers and keep them coming back, we’re gonna need to learn how to write better blog posts.

These days the net is littered with thousands of abandoned blogs, people who figured it was easy to throw up their thoughts on the net, and instantly have thousands of visitors liking their stuff and buying their products. The truth is, it’s hard. Like really hard. I don’t want my own blog to become lost in the internet graveyard, and I don’t want that for any of you either. So let’s stop that happening, and get right into what we can do to ensure readers find our site, and love it enough to keep coming back. At the bottom of this post, I have a special little gift to help you write excellent blog posts, every time. Consider it a reward for being here and wanting to improve your blog.

Write better copy

Better copywriting is how to write better blog postsI’m sure you figured this already, but if we’re gonna drive a blog to success, we’re really gonna need to up our writing game. This doesn’t mean writing the most pretentious, verbose copy you and your thesaurus can come up. Rather, the opposite. Your work should be short and sweet, clean. Just because it’s one blog post doesn’t mean it shouldn’t follow the same level of care and respect as anything else you’d write.

The Takeaway

• Have you written in short sentences with plenty of paragraphs?

• Have you reread your work, and run it through a spelling and grammar check?

• Have you read your copy aloud, to ensure it flows smoothly?

• Is your copy clear and concise?

• Has the reader found what they came looking for?

Include Relevant & Attractive Media

We’re in a world where the attention span of an average blog reader is of near-goldfish standards, and as such, it’s important we give them a reason to stick around. Did you know that many people, especially when trying to learn something new (like how to write better blog posts), will simply read the headings, and then jump to another post? I know I do on occasion. 🤷‍♂️

So it’s important we provide descriptive headings that adequately summarise exactly what the following paragraphs are going to elaborate on. On top of that, relevant high quality media, such as images, videos, and links to other posts that can help your reader, will improve how long they stick around on your site. Here’s a couple of things to think about before moving onto the next step.

The Takeaway

• Have you included descriptive, concise headings?

• Have you added a couple of high quality, relevant images to your post?

• Have you provided links to similar content that will help your reader?

• Have you implemented video (where relevant) to help improve your post.

Speak To Your Reader

A great read for aspiring bloggers! An honest and practical resource for us all. Click the photo for a link straight to it’s amazon page!

At the bottom of this post I will ask you, in one form or another, to leave a comment and follow this site. I may ask which of these tips you need to implement the most, or which is your favourite, or what you would add to the list. I may ask all of the above. Either way, I will most certainly streamline in a prompt for a comment.

It’s important to realise, however, that those comments aren’t for some popularity contest. It’s to build genuine connections with those that took the time to first land on your site, and then continue to engage on one of your posts. Comments are a great opportunity to get to know other people, learn from them or help them in a variety of ways, and build new connections you’d never be able to offline.

Blogging is a chance to forge relationships with your readers. Relationships where you provide them with something worth listening to, and they keep returning to hear what you have to say. It’s a chance to build trust with your readers and engage with them on a personal level.

The Takeaway

• Is your work written in a casual, friendly tone?

• Have you attempted to prompt conversation with your readers?

• Does your post come from a place of helping others to solve a problem or provide them with entertainment?

Implement Basic SEO Principles

How to write better blog posts using smart SEO principlesSo now you’ve written your copy. You’re happy with it, it flows, and you’ve concisely delivered your message. You’ve added relevant, high quality media to your post, and set yourself up as best as you can to develop relationships with your readers, by putting their needs at the forefront of the post. it’s almost time to publish. But first, we need to help others find your work, and we do that by adding some basic SEO principles to our post.

I’m not going to go seriously in depth here, because I don’t know everything those SEO Gurus and marketing experts know. What I do know, is a few basic tips to help streamline your results for search engines. And it all starts with keywords.

When you have a question, you type it in to google right? That’s a keyword. How to write better blog posts—this post’s keyword—or how to cook quesadillas. How to milk a cat? 🐈 🥛

These keywords are what tell google about your post, and at large, your site. They need to be present in a few select places throughout your post to get the best bang for your buck. The title, the first paragraph, the final paragraph, and your image’s alt-text, for example. Beyond that, you’ll want to write your keywords in your blog post’s ‘tags’ section.

On a site-wide scale, you’ll want a set of keywords that continue to be reinforced throughout your content. You can use keywords in your blog’s name, your category titles, and throughout each individual post. This isn’t necessary, but it is possible in certain niches. Consider the following set up

Blog Name: Bloggers World

Tagline: Everything you need to become a successful blogger.

Categories: Better blog posts, SEO principles, improve your writing,

They’re all SEO friendly keywords, meaning, things that get entered into google on a frequent basis. Questions that readers want answers to. Over time, creating posts that elect the same keywords, your site will soon become recognised as the place to go for those answers. Do some research, and implement them smoothly throughout your writing. It’s important not to go overboard and litter short posts with tons of keywords.

The Takeaway

• Include your keywords in your title, first paragraph, body text, closing paragraph, and your images alt-text.

• Don’t over litter your post with keywords that distract from the content.

• Put your reader first!

The Social Side

How to write better blog posts with the power of social mediaSo you’ve done all that, and written the perfect blog post. Not only is it relevant, informative and entertaining, it’s discoverable, easy on the eyes, and will (hopefully) stand the test of time. But the work isn’t over yet. Now we need to give your post a little boost to get it out there. We do that through social media.

At first when you share your work to social media, you’re gonna be relying a lot on how much attention you can attract from your friends and family. But over time, as your platforms grow, you’ll be notifying a large demographic of trusting readers that you’ve just posted something new for them to enjoy!

What’s important here, is turning your blog post into smaller, platform, relevant content, that links to the original post. On top of that boost in readership, facebook, instagram, twitter, and Pinterest, are great ways to further engage your readership on a personal level, and build stronger trust and relationships with them!

The Takeaway

• Encourage sharing your post with others it will help.

• Write an interesting excerpt with a hook that grabs attention.

• Dissect your post into smaller, relevant content for various social media platforms.

If you’d like more in depth information regarding the world of successful blogging, I highly recommend The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith. It’s an unmissable guideline for all us on-the-rise blogging successes!

The ‘How To Write Better Blog Posts Checklist’

Believe me, that isn’t all there is to blogging, but implementing the tips will give you a damn good head start in your blogging journey! Below I’ve posted my printable ‘blog post checklist.’ I’ll pretty it up and post it on my social media sites over the coming few days, but for now, it should help you to create excellent blog posts every time!

Over the next week or so, I’ll go back through all the content I’ve posted so far, and edit my work until I can tick every box. Beyond that, I’ll be sure to run each new post through the checklist too. I hope you get the same level of use out of this post and the checklist as I will. Over time, it will become second nature.

The how to write better blog post checklist.
Print this checklist and use it as a guideline for all your posts, past, present, and future.

Well folks, that brings us to the end of this post. Woo, that was a big one! *Wipes brow.* What simple tips would you give to those wanting to know how to write better blog posts? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments. If the information in this post has helped you, please pass on the favour to your own friends and followers, and give it a share or reblog!

Until next time, happy blogging!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Other Posts You Might Like

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5 Simple Tips To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

How To Achieve Success in Anything

The Fury Of The Godless -Free Flash Fiction

The northmen came ashore along a terrifying storm, their dragon-fronted ships illuminated by angular cracks of lighting. The clouds thundered with violence and aggression, their satanic false-gods shuddering the ground around the monastery.

Gwain had seen many men in his years—both through war, and through his work with the church—but none as ghastly and gigantic as those that fought through the water that day. Inhumanly large monsters, with red and golden hair that whipped around them like sparks in a blacksmith’s forge.

The heathens seemed unbothered by the cold. Muscular animals barely covered in haphazard strips of leather and cloth, traipsing through the icy water like the frost giants their pagan myths warned of.

A small cluster of Northumbrian soldiers were garrisoned at the monastery. They came seeking salvation and God’s blessing, and were instead met with short axes, blood, and painful death. You could hear the carving of their flesh, the cracking of their bones, over the roars of thunder.

Gwain watched as blood painted the waves a sickly red, severed body parts washed out to sea.

The men burst through the doors as if they were made of parchment, nothing but a thin veil between the Christians and the heathens. They slaughtered their way through the monastery one by one, monks foolishly attempting to hold the monsters back with brooms and ornamental daggers. They demolished all that they could. The pews chopped to pieces, the shelves and lanterns demolished. Fires formed where fallen candles met broken furniture, lending the northmen a devilish red glow that reflected their intent.

Those that abandoned God in favour of their own lives, those that fell to their knees and held their hands in the air, those that begged—were chained and pulled out into the storm. They’d meet a fate worse than death. Eternal damnation and torment. A thousand lifetimes of torture and Godlessness.

Gwain stood at the alter facing them, patiently awaiting his violent end. He was old and tired, ready to embrace his peace. His bones had begun to creak as he went about his daily business, his chest rattling with each short breath. He’d reached the age where kings seemed young, and he didn’t want to live to much older than that.

The heathen that first barged into the monastery, a monster of a man with golden hair and piercing blue eyes, fixed his inquisitive gaze on him. It was the same look he gave all the monks he struck down with his dripping axe, as they knelt and bowed their heads to God. Gwain wasn’t afraid to admit his fear. No, God was not going to save him. No, God’s love didn’t seem all that comforting. No, God wasn’t going to numb the pain of what happens next.

Flames licked the air with a newfound taste for destruction, hungry for more with each passing second. The dense heat pulled sweat from each pore on Gwain’s frail body—or was that the anticipation of the death that grew closer with each step the Northman took in his direction? Each pew battered with the back of his axe? Each monk with the thirsty blade? He could feel the smoke building up in his lungs, taste it in the air.

The Northman, fixed on Gwain, headed toward him with an amused look reflected in his features. He was enjoying all the slaughter. Or was it the power? He had certainly earned his pride. Gwain had watched as he gracefully cut through the Northumbrians in all their armour. Spears, swords, and all. With nothing but a small chunk of sharpened iron and an oddly decorated wooden shield. The monks and the brooms were just the dessert.

The heathen stood before him now, a full head taller and a musculature to rival the Greek statues, a body and size Gwain—as a knight of Camelot, one of Arthur’s own table at that—could’ve only dreamed of when he was still swinging his sword. Face to face with the monster, he didn’t look all that monstrous at all. He looked the same as the hundreds of other men Gwain had faced down, just larger and less burdened by the fear of God—that of course being the fear of those that had built their countries around Godliness. Unlike Gwain, this heathen was a truly free man.

Free from duty. Free from judgement. From God.

Gwain met the man’s gaze with a look of his own. One of understanding and acceptance. His puzzlement became amusement, and then, something that resembled respect.

Another heathen came launching out from behind him, axe raised and ready to swing. The blue eyed Northman held up a hand, and the other stopped. They exchanged words in a foreign tongue. Challenging each other in whispered hisses.

After a few moments of silence, the other sighed and turned his back, continuing to destroy whatever the fire hadn’t already consumed.

The heathen looked once more into Gwain’s eyes, flipped his axe, and hit him square in the forehead with the wooden hilt.

* * * * *

Gwain awoke surrounded by the carnage—the alter, the pews, all ruined—the perfect metaphor for his faith in God.

Lungs heavy with smoke, most of the building on fire, Gwain drew his last breath with his dying wish never more clear in his mind. All he and his brothers had suffered, all they had withheld themselves from. All the restraint, the fear, and the control.

No more. The reckoning has come.

Let the church burn.


This post comes as a result of a less-than-1000-word-challenge based on the photo prompt above. A fun collaboration between myself and Ian Steventon, soon to include another wonderful writer, where we take it in turns each week to set the prompt, and get to relish in the differences between our pieces. Seeing the variation in inspiration a simple prompt can have is astounding!

I’m not entirely happy with this piece. I have had the hardest week at work so far, and I feel flat and lifeless. It took a lot of effort to not let that show through in this piece (though I think it does somewhat). I hope you all enjoy it despite the struggle it took to bring it to your screens!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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More Short Reads Online

Stephen King Tells Us to Take Writing Seriously!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Stephen King fan. And why shouldn’t I be? Not only has the man pumped out an incredible amount of fiction, It ain’t half bad. The Stand, It, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, to name a few—all great stories, with memorable and alive characters. This is a guy—alongside other great novelists—to take writing seriously.

His writing style is perfect for a good page turner, cutting out all the crappy, pretentious, fluffy stuff, and instead focusing on the driving forward of the story at play. Being a loyal Stephen King reader, I feel his books have a lot to teach about the craft of writing. First among all his lessons, as stated in the title, is to…

Take Writing Seriously!

A lady showing that she can take writing seriouslyAbout this he is absolutely clear. If you’re serious about writing as a career, you’re gonna need to start taking your writing seriously. That means treating it as a job, and scheduling in x-amount of writing every day. Whether it’s 2000 words a day, a couple hours a day, or any variation of the above, you need to set a target, and sit down to it, without fail. No writers block, no lack of ideas, no excuses. You turn up at the same time each day, and eventually your muse will turn up to sit with you.

Equally important and along the same strand, is that you need to Invest in yourself and your craft. That means books, courses, and as mentioned above, time and practice. I cannot recommend Stephen King’s very own ‘On Writing: A Memoire Of The Craft’ enough. Seriously, seriously, seriously. My entire writing outlook changed after reading that book. Alongside being a great read and insight into his own life, schedule, and experiences, the book delves into some important writing lessons that we cannot afford to miss. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today.

In that book, he talks a lot about ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk, and highly recommends it. I do too. Combine the two books and you have enough of an education to get you selling stories and writing novels in no time.

I could end this post here and tell you that you now know enough to get going. Pat you on your back and send you on your way. But that’s no fair. There’s no fun in that, is there? So here’s a couple bonus lessons I’ve learned through my obsessive Stephen King consumption.

Character Driven Stories

With Jaime Lannister, George R R Martin proves that he can take writing seriouslyOne of the most immersive and engaging factors to any Stephen King story, is the care and attention given to his characters. If you’ve read anything by him, you can instantly see that his stories are—for the most part—character driven. He spends a lot of time getting to know them, breathing life into them, and letting them steer the rest of the story in whichever direction best suits them.

If you’re a plotter, you’ll have almost certainly come across times where the plot you laid out no longer suits the characters you’re writing about. It’s like they aren’t doing as they’re told, and if you try to force them, the entire novel loses its life. This is only natural. As you’re characters develop and come alive, certain elements of your plot may no longer ring true for them. As he states in On Writing, believability is key to writing a decent novel, no mater how fantastical or otherworldly that novel may be.

This Is A Tough Biz

Unless you’ve spent ten years on writing and editing the most perfect novel of all time, you’re gonna have to develop a thick skin, and an otherworldly determination despite all rejection letters. Because you’re gonna go through loads of those. Magazines will sit on your manuscript for months, to simply send a thanks, but no thanks. Others will tell you ‘resubmit, your story wasn’t for us, but the next one might be.’ With patience, determination, and a love for writing stories, you will break through.

From there, you’ll keep going, rejections, approvals, and all. You might start on small mags and obscure anthologies, but with each approval you’re picking up credits. Ignore the money, it’s not that important right now. It’s all about those credits. With each one, you’ll have a little more credibility in your cover letters, and start moving up the ranks.

This is assuming you write short stories, novellas, and flash fiction alongside novels. Personally, I do. Some stories simply don’t make it to novel length… others become a trilogy. Don’t force them into novels. Tie them up, and put ‘em in circulation!

If you’re dead set on novels and novels alone, then just keep on writing, keep on improving, keep on refining, and keep on submitting.

Don’t Be Afraid To Shoot & Miss

Stephen King is the perfect example of sitting down and writing what’s in your head, even if the story may end up a little shaky. After all, he did write Maximum Overdrive (LOL).

The point I’ll tie this post up with is this: you need to write what you want to write at the time. When inspiration strikes, when characters call, when a story starts to develop, you owe it to yourself to get it down on paper, no matter how bizarre it may turn out. In one of Stephen King’s most recent novels, Revival, we see one of the more bizarre conclusions a novel can end up with. It was a pretty good read, while some parts were arguably better than others. But the point is, it worked. If he abandoned the book because it took a strange turn, a lot of readers that LOVED that book would have missed out on it.

So don’t be afraid of a certain story being too this, or too that, or unsellable. Get it written, and submit to multiple publishers with all the rest of ‘em. If a simple rejection is enough to stop you in your tracks, you’re not somebody to take writing seriously. Write for the love of writing, and never, ever, give up.

Like this article? Don’t miss: 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

What’s your favourite Stephen King novel to date? Let me know in the comments.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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5 Simple Tips To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Today I’m over at Nicholas C Rossis’ blog, with 5 tips to take your writing to the next level. I hope you all enjoy the post!

Nicholas C. Rossis

Gary Holdaway | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookThis is a guest post by author Gary D. Holdaway. Gary is a young writer from the UK with big ideas, and an even bigger passion for words. A multigenre author of both novels and short fiction, Gary has a flare for the suspenseful, the frightening, and the unknown.

5 Simple Tips To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Strip away the book sales, SEO, analytics, marketing, covers, editing, social media engagement, and publishing deals, we’re all here because we share the same creative passion—writing. All those other things are the unforeseen jobs we take on when we commit to the one thing we love, and they have a huge part to play in a writer’s success. But let’s put all that aside for a few minutes. In fact, for the duration of this article, I want words like ‘SEO’ and ‘analytics’ locked up in a box and chucked…

View original post 1,453 more words

The Man In The Hat- Free Flash Fiction

Over at Fiction Writers Group, we run a weekly flash fiction contest based on a random photo prompt elected for that week. The maximum word count is 300 words. I thought this exercise would be a nice addition to my blog, and a great challenge for you guys to play along with too. Please do get involved, and tag me in your entries so I get a notification when your piece is posted. I can’t wait to read them!

The following entry is my attempt at this prompt. I think for the 300 word count, I bit off a little more than I could chew. It’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, but in much longer form. A short story, novella, perhaps even a novel. Either way, it’s what the prompt evoked, and we’ve gotta play the cards we’re dealt, right? I’ll leave it with this. I tried my best to squeeze a story that is bursting out of me, in a few short words, and I enjoyed it! I hope you do too.


Danny sat frozen to his seat, arm rests creaking beneath the strength of his grip, as the other passengers screamed and braced and grabbed on to whatever they could. The lightning struck either side of the plane, destroying each jet in unnatural unison. They hurtled toward the ground at unthinkable speed, near-vertical in their decent. Those unlucky enough to be out of their seats had been launched to the back of the plane, lying mangled and bleeding, dead on impact.

Danny didn’t move. He forced his eyes closed, tried to stay calm, coaching himself as he raced toward death. It’s over, there’s nothing I can do about it. No use panicking now, it’s done. Accept it. It won’t hurt. He shouted these words in his mind like a mantra, desperately trying to ignore the eery face of the man in 3A. The man in the hat. The man who’s seat was now empty, not a trace of him left. Newspaper gone, food cleared, tray folded up, as if he were never there. That face was burned into Danny’s mind. The face that right before the strikes looked directly at him—into him—and winked.

Was it just his mind that whispered the words in that moment? Something to do with the panic, that caused him to think in some twisted, ethereal voice?

‘Myself, sacrificed to myself.’

He heard it again as the plane impacted the ground, saw that face once more, and then, nothing.

Danny awoke sweating and nauseous. He pushed himself up onto all fours, revealing scattered pieces of burning metal and plane parts as far as he could see. Body parts and blood and bone littered across the earth. He stood, dumbfounded. Inspected himself.

Not a scratch.

Myself, sacrificed to myself.


Bonus points to whoever figures out who the man in the hat is, and what it all means! What do you think? Let me know in the comments

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Tips For Starting A New Blog

Closing out my first week here on WordPress, I’ve accumulated 35 followers, published a couple of lifestyle posts, an art post, and guest posted to a fellow bloggers site. I’ve managed to build a couple of relationships and made an active attempt at engaging with the community. Its been fun, busy, frustrating, worrying, and exciting. I have more posts in the works, some literary magazine submissions being concocted in the background, and more plans than time to manage it all! Overall, I feel my first week has been a success, so here’s some tips to help you survive the early stages of your blogging venture.

Engage With The Community

Your first job when starting a new blog is building your community

If you take anything away from this blog post at all, let it be this. When you first start your blog, you have exactly 1 follower: yourself. Regardless of how amazing and well written your blog posts are, nobody is going to see them unless you get out and meet some fellow bloggers.

If you head over to the reader, you can type in ‘tags’ that suit your tastes. For example, short story, flash fiction, blogging, psychology, etc. Start reading posts that interest you from bloggers in the community, and be sure to leave a thoughtful, grateful, or encouraging comment, and follow those blogs. This period is all about building friends and connections, and it’s equally the most fun and time consuming task when it comes to starting a new blog.

Once you start getting out there, you can be sure that a few are gonna follow you back. Just keep posting, and hang in there!

Guest Posting & Collaboration

Guest posts are great ways to drive traffic and build exposure when starting a new blog

My follower count increased from 8 to a whopping 30 on the day my guest post went live on Beetleypete’s blog. As a brand new blogger with a few scattered, non-niche posts, that kind of growth is all you could ask for and more. All of a sudden, every time you post a new piece, thirty people are gonna get an email and see it on their reader wall, without all the extra traffic you’ll get from correctly tagging your work.

Now that you’ve put all the work into building friends and connections, get to work on sending out emails with your ideas for collaboration. Many bloggers love to work with each other, and if they haven’t got time to work on anything new with you, they’ll be more than happy to post a specific piece of writing that you write for their blog. This is a great way to get your words, style, and personality out to the world. Why show your thirty followers, when you could potentially show thirty-thousand? Stay positive, friendly, and helpful within the community, and your new blog will soon be bursting with traffic!

Correctly Tagging Your Content

You may not know, especially if you use a mobile device to post your content, but under post settings, you have a built-in feature to add tags to your post. This is a great place to tell users, WordPress, and search engines what your post is about. You can add tags such as ‘lifestyle’ or ‘blogging,’ and you can add longer form tags, like search terms. For example, one of the tags I’ve elected for this post, is ‘starting a new blog,’ alongside ‘new blog’ and ‘blogging.’ This helps not only WordPress users find your content in the reader, but search engines in the long term.

The more tags, over multiple posts, that point more or less in the same direction, seriously ramp up the strength of your site. If you have a lifestyle blog, or a life coaching company, tags such as ‘how to turn your life around’ and ‘affordable life coaching online’ are great choices. The more of your content that falls under that broad lifestyle category, the stronger your site, and consequently your traffic, will become.

Final Touches

Are you starting a new blog? Let me know in the comments

Beyond all that, simple touches such as sharing photos, polls, and videos in your posts, goes a long way for the readability and engagement on your site. Don’t Be afraid to ask your community to answer a question, vote on your next post, or get involved somehow. Photos add a real inviting and personal touch to your posts, more so than plain walls of text. It’s hard enough getting readers to your site in the first place. Once they’re there, get them comfortable and make the a hot cup of tea.

What do you think of these simple tips for starting a new blog? Have a few more to add, any questions, or a personal favourite? Are you a new blogger looking to befriend a member of the WordPress community? let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, have a look for bloggers that enjoy hosting guest posts for both new bloggers and seasoned vets alike. Nicholas Rossis is a good place to start… I have a post going live on Saturday! His site is filled to the brim with useful articles to do with writing, blogging, publishing, and everything in between.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

£1.00

How To Achieve Success in Anything

Would you believe that you can achieve success in anything you want? That whatever you put your mind to, no matter how far away or difficult it seems, you can reach that eventual outcome?

If you think you are beaten, you are. If you think you dare not, you don’t. If you’d like to win but to think you can’t, it’s almost certain you won’t. Life’s battles don’t always go to the strong or faster man, but sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can. -Walter D. White

The majority of my life to this point, could be summed up with this short quote. I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, the same applies to us all. We’ve all gone through times where we’ve given up. We’ve all gone through times where our own self doubt has crippled us. Kept us from starting something, or seeing it through to the end. It’s fine and it’s normal. It’s self preservation. The threat of failure too easily outweighs the potential for success. And look, some things (the things we wish to be great at) are hard to master.

But here’s the thing. If we stop for a second, and look at those we idolise, what sets them apart from us? Was Michelangelo born with the ability to sculpt David? Was Will Smith always the go-to, bankable, movie star he is today? Let’s fast forward a few years and take a look at Ed Sheeran— have you heard his singing efforts before refining his style and finding his voice? The one, single thing, that separates any of us from success in anything, is the amount of times we’re willing to fail, adapt, and learn, in pursuit of that success.

It’s how often we are willing to come across an obstacle, and learn to work beyond that obstacle, while still holding the hope and vision of eventual success at the forefront of our minds. A ‘wannabe’ artist discovers he can’t draw hands. How he deals with that, is going to determine whether or not he’s successful in art. Is he gonna throw in the towel, give up entirely, or decide to simply avoid drawing hands? Or is he going to draw hands over and over again, in all positions, from all angles, at all perspectives, until it becomes something he’s capable of? The latter is the path to success.

You can’t write a novel without first failing at writing novels, write vibrant characters until you’ve written flat ones. It’s the lessons we learn in failure, that teach us the way to success. Once we accept this, and learn that failure is the path to success, we are truly ready to achieve success in anything we put our minds to. The only thing left to do is believe it and see it through.

You will come across doubters. You will be pushed down by those around you. Coerced into giving up by some of those closest to you. It’s not out of malice, but out of wanting the best for you, and feeling that telling you something isn’t worth the effort is somehow helping you. Success is a hard, lonely, and rocky path. From the outside looking in, it’s awful.

People don’t see the thousands of hours ‘that guy they follow on instagram’ has spent sketching, and failing, before being capable of creating that awesome time-lapse. They see you tripping up on hands, and tell you not to bother. They believe it’s some kind of god-given gift. That you either can or you can’t. You, however, know that not to be true, and it is only you that can keep going. Despite any naysayer, despite any obstacle, despite any doubt. The knowledge that success is possible, and takes work, is all you need to get there.

So why isn’t everyone a grandmaster at chess, an insta-famous artist, or an A-list movie star? Because it’s hard. And that’s where the work comes in. If you’re certain of something you want to achieve, if you’re dedicated to seeing it through, then its gonna take a hell of a lot of work.

Remember, it takes an average of ten-thousand hours to master any one thing, which does of course vary depending on the level of talent or natural affinity you may have to it. But you don’t have to be a master at it to be successful. You just have to keep going through all the struggle and hardship, knowing that eventually, you can achieve success in anything you chose!

That’s all for today folks, keep going!

For more Personal Development posts like this one, try these!


 

The Cabin -Free Flash Fiction

Today I’m over at beetleypete’s wordpress account, sharing a story that, while not perfect in its execution, was fun to write and is hopefully fun to read.

He’s a great writer himself, and his blog is always a pleasure to scroll through. Once you’re done with this, I’d recommend checking out some of his own work. You won’t be disappointed!

For more Flash Fiction like this, check out some of the following posts!

beetleypete

I am delighted to be able to present a guest post from a young British writer, Gary Holdaway. Here is his own short bio.

A young writer from the UK with big ideas, and an even bigger passion for words. A multigenre author of both novels and short fiction, Gary has a flare for the suspenseful, the frightening, and the unknown.

It is a short story, inspired by this photo.

The Cabin

In the time it had taken Dr Mark E. Redwood to trek the nine miles through dense woodland before finally arriving at the cabin, he had tripped at least six times, soaked his feet in a failed attempt to jump a small creek, and had picked up multiple scratches to his face and neck fighting through malicious low branches. He was useless when it came to the outdoors. Hopelessly, utterly useless. But he didn’t care. He had to…

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Old Art & Sketches

Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals. ― E. James Rohn

A cutesy attempt at a digital painting for my girlfriend. Give me some credit for originality!

I have, on occasion, been known to sketch. I absolutely love doodling and drawing when I have a pencil in my hand. I think I could be pretty good at it, and I can easily lose two or three hours when I do get around to it. The trouble is, any kind of artistic practice has been short lived, and now you’re looking at a 27 year old man that can produce a pretty decent copy in pencil, but has no idea of forms, shading, colour, composition, art materials, and all the cool things we scroll through on Instagram.

This year, I’d like to change that. I have nothing in my creative bank. I have to go back to bare bones. Learn to sketch animals, structures, nature. Learn the anatomy and form of different creatures. Begin to simplify and stylise those things, once I have a firm grasp of how they look and behave in my mind. I’d like to experiment -properly- with different mediums. You don’t even want to see what paper looks like after I’ve hacked at it with a brush!

My artistic goals are to be proficient and confident enough in myself, to create wonderful cover images for each of my posts over here. I’d love to have a site that is entirely filled with not only my words, but my art too. Beyond that, I’d like to create some simple but pleasing illustrations to pan through, while reading original children’s stories on YouTube.

Here’s the part where I dump whatever scans I’ve found of my old drawings. Some are decent enough, others are downright crap. Before that, here’s what you can expect from me, over the next year, with regards to art. I don’t want to over commit, and to be honest, with the writing commitments at the moment, I haven’t got much time to. Either way, this time next year, I should be considerably better than I am now.

  • Figure sketches
  • Illustrative copies
  • Weekly illustration
  • Monthly Scrawlr Box challenge
  • Daily doodles

I’ll keep posts to a minimum: probably a collection at the end of each week. Alternatively, you could follow my Instagram account for (almost) daily updates and drawings.

And there we are… everything I could find! Here’s to progress 🍸 If you like my more personal, blog style posts, and enjoy getting to know me and my life a little better, please check out some of the following posts 🙂

Musings

How To Take Control of Your Life

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. we ourselves must walk the path. -Buddha

There comes a time in life where you have to make a choice over who you want to be, what you stand for, and what you are investing your time in. So you want to take control of your life? Great, me too. But first, lets be honest with each other.

I see so many young men and women that have no time to workout, but invest hundreds of hours in playing somebody else’s life through a video game. They’re great at levelling up Lara Croft or grinding gear in whatever new money-draining Activision release there is, but can’t spare an hour to level up themselves.

They can’t afford to eat healthy, or buy supplements to help reach their goals, but they can swing by McDonald’s three times a week, and drop a hundred on a Saturday night booze sesh.

They haven’t got enough energy to play with the kids or engage with the family. They’re so tired from work and want to just chill with a movie, watching great characters act out great lives rather than forging those lives for themselves.

I’m gonna cut through the shit now and tell you the truth. If you play video games, if you sit down to watch movies or Netflix binge after work, if you grab some ‘quick’ fast food on your way back from wherever, then your lack of time, money, and energy, is bullshit. It’s a choice. A choice to favour instant gratification over long term investment in yourself. If you want to take control of your life, it’s time to play the long game, and start levelling up you.

Reality check: If you are simply going through the motions, day by day, idolising characters in movies while claiming you ‘wish’ to be like them, or living the lives of video game characters rather than living your own, you’re wasting precious time that you can never get back. Put simply, you’re a product of the modern world, and you believe that through all this you are actually living. Grinding the grind. Doing the best you can. I know this, because I’ve been this, and sometimes I still AM this.

But it’s time to get real with ourselves right now. How do you really feel? Are you content, happy, fulfilled? Or right there, beneath the surface of your easy-go-lucky ‘whatever,’ are you feeling a lack of individuality? A lack of a sense of self, of purpose? Don’t you feel that something is missing. Well it is… and what’s missing, is YOU.

And the way out really isn’t that difficult to see, but it takes a whole load of struggle to change it. It takes discipline, dedication, and drive to pull yourself out of this mind-numbing cycle. It takes the ability to focus on the bigger picture, until it starts to flow naturally. You have to make the conscious decision to LIVE, rather than exist in this zombie-like state we too easily consider living.

So let’s try a few things.

    First, we have to acknowledge the FACT that we can live the lives we wish we could. We can be strong, we can go on wild adventures, we can get the girl, we can master painting or piano. If anyone has ever done anything, you can do it too, and likely so much more than that.
    Second, start working to level yourself up. Instead of grinding for craft materials and new gear, get yourself on a training program, and spend just an hour or so, a few times a week, building yourself up. Those few hours put you ahead of 99% of the population. It’s consistency that sets you aside. Remember the long term, and keep showing up. Don’t succumb to failure like everyone else.
    Finally, stop wasting money on crappy, fleeting shit like fast food and energy drinks, when a healthy diet will reward you a lifestyle where energy drinks aren’t necessary to get through a day. We’ve existed for thousands and thousands of years without all that junk. We used to sleep. We used to relax. We used to eat what was grown. We used to MOVE. We used to be present. We used to see life as short and fleeting, and lived it as such.

I hope you can see that all of this is a simple change of mindset. It’s like waking up from a deep sleep. The world you’ve been trapped in is some dreamlike utopia, where our dreams are realised through virtual reality and short term boosts of false happiness. In reality, true happiness comes from fulfilment, and fulfilment comes through living YOUR life.

There are a few fundamentals. Think of them like foundations. We need to rebuild and relearn those things. The stronger the foundations, the more long lasting the happiness. Things like strength and mobility, self sufficiency, decent sleep patterns, an awareness of the shortness of life, an exposure to nature and ALL the elements. Get out in the heavy rain, the blistering cold, the blustering wind, and the burning sun. Get out in all those conditions and move. Simply walk. Sit. Listen.

My lovely little girl, Lily, and I, enjoying a walk in nature

We need to engage with our families. Nothing makes you smile more than pleasing your loved ones. Instead of that fast food, bring home some flowers, or better yet, some decent ingredients to cook a healthy meal. Spend time with your loved ones. Real time. Present. Caring. Attentive. Listen to your daughter tell you that she fell out with Lucy because she stole her pencil, and that Abigail got it back so now they are best friends. Listen to your partner about how John from work clearly has the hots for Jewels, and that the manager hasn’t got a clue how to run the store.

And then make some fun. Get out in nature. Reassure your loved ones that all of that external drama will never be as important as the moments that you are all together. That no matter who your child’s best friend is, they will always be yours first. That yours and your partners crappy jobs are worth it so long as you come home to each other.

These are the first steps in taking control of your life. These are the first steps in coming alive. Enjoy! Want more post like this one?

For more Personal Development posts like this one, try these!

Dealing With The Death Of A Loved One

Your cattle shall die; your kindred shall die; you yourself shall die; one thing I know which never dies: the judgement on each one dead.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is made easier through photos and memories of them. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult. Losing a family member is the last thing anybody wants to go through, and yet one of the only things we all have to. On the fourth of July, 2018, my grandfather died. It was sudden, unexpected, and exactly how he would’ve wanted it. At eighty-four years old, he was one of the most active men I knew. He went on long bike rides, worked in the garden, and went on hunting trips all over the world. He had only been back off a three week hunting trip a couple of days before he died! With him, went my naive imagining of limitless time. A sad fact of life is that it runs out. It was on this day, that I decided to change myself, and live the life I wish to live, before I no longer have a choice in the matter. This eulogy is the final gift to my grandfather, a send-off. Closure, if you will. More than that still, It’s the first piece of writing I created since deciding to get serious about my craft. I hope you enjoy it.


Some men are intellectual. They love to read and learn, can form educated opinions, and develop a taste for cultures of the world. They have a firm grasp of their finances, and pride themselves on being sensible and organised. They know that learning is not just reading, but doing, through failing or succeeding, and doing it again.

Some men are wise. They’ve read hundreds of tomes just like the intellectual, but they recognise that each page is filled with knowledge and power that only a select few could truly comprehend, unpacking the mysteries of the universe with each further word they consume. The words are never just the words, the pages never just pages. Each new piece of information is a universal metaphor, a lesson in ‘the way of things.’ One of the first lessons they learn in their pursuit of wisdom, is that while it’s good to be sensible like the intellectual, it’s also fun to be spontaneous, and that the wise man is always a fool, so relish in being foolish!

Some men are strong. They stay fit well into their final years, can swing an axe and cut wood like a man in his prime, and can hunt for his food. Even his demeanour is strong. He’s sometimes stern. He has a check on his emotions, and shows only what is necessary for the time. He has a cool head when his insides are burning with anger, and a smile when he wants to cry. The strong man can suffer in silence, for the sake of not complaining, for the sake of his reputation and legacy, and for the wellbeing of those around him.

Some are intellectual, some are wise, and others are strong. Rarely these three traits become refined in a single individual, but when they do, we all see that man as what he truly is, and was destined to be, by the Gods themselves: A King.

A King is not afraid of war, but favours peace. He does not rule through tyranny or fear, but through compassion and understanding. He’s a bargaining man; he’ll offer something in exchange for what he wants from you. He’s a leader of men, an inspiration, and an example himself. He is what he wishes you to be. He sees what he wishes you to see. And he spends each day becoming what he wishes you will become.

A king is compassionate, kind, wise, and strong. He is fair, though we sometimes may feel like he is not. A king’s wishes, his wants and his needs from you, serve a higher purpose. One of universal importance, of divine enlightenment. His outlook, his plans, and his insight, are Godly in their truth and wisdom. If we don’t look hard enough, we may miss the point. But under the comfort of full confidence and trust in his position, we know that somewhere in his request, is purpose.

Of this we can be sure, because a true king is never selfish in his needs.

When a man becomes king, he transcends the confines of an ordinary life. He leaves behind a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow, a legacy that will guide us to the greatness he left behind. He leaves not only memories, but a message; a lesson. A blueprint that lays the foundation for further growth. For a king never dies, he lives on in those he leaves behind. It’s what he deserves, and it’s what he strived for in life.

A father’s job is to prepare his children for life when he’s gone. A king’s job is to prepare his kingdom for greatness in his honour. That is all we as the living can do to let the love we’ve lost, live on.

Robert Adolf Albert Bockmeyer-Cuntz was a king. He was the true head of his family. An intelligent, wise, and strong man. He was a hunter. A business man. A husband, father, and grandfather. He was everything a man should be and more. He was a man that confidence, wit, and charm, radiated from like an aura.

There was a sense of calm knowingness when you looked into his eyes, like a man that has the whole world figured out. Thoughtful. Watchful. Present. There was a plan for this, a plan for that, and a hundred other plans for what comes after.

Like a true king, he had the Gods whispering in his ear, guiding him and teaching him the universal lessons we all too quickly ignore. Now that he is gone, he is in a place where he can look down on the world, and watch from a perspective where he can gain more wisdom ‘in the way of things,’ just as a man of his wisdom deserves and longs for. He is where those that went before him can be with him. With Angels and Gods, ancestors and loved ones. He has achieved the ultimate achievement. His life of learning and strength and wisdom has proven his worth, and elevated him to a higher status. A place where he is no longer a person, but a force. A memory, a guiding light, an inspiration. A beacon to all of us that live on.

It is our job now to honour him in our lives. To take on board what he silently taught us throughout his years on earth. To pray for him, and to him, as he deserves. It is our divine responsibility, to let him live on through us. To accept him into our hearts and live in a way that would make him proud. To worship him, and our ancestors before him, in our actions.

His life was not the end of his journey, but the beginning of ours. One shining, standout example, in a long list of ancestors he did proud. All we can hope to do, is leave as strong a foundation for our kingdoms, as he did for his. He will be dearly missed and always remembered.

A king is never truly gone while his people survive him. What he achieves in life is never lost, but built upon, in the years that follow.

While this isn’t the typical tone of my musings, if you enjoyed this and would like to read some more of my personal writing, Please check out some of the following.

Musings