Michelle Navajas is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome international best-selling poet, Michelle Navajas, to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Some of you will already be familiar with Mich through her blog, where she posts her unique and highly accessible style of poetry and prose with awesome frequency!

So, let’s find out a little bit more about her. We’ll start with her official author bio:

Philippine-born Michelle Navajas, currently residing in Malaysia. Michelle authored the book After – Rain Skies: A Million Stars, for Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) during their Million Stars campaign. It’s a collection of true and inspiring stories of victims and survivors of abuse and violence in prose and poetry.

Graduating with a Master of Education majoring in English in the Philippines (University Of San Agustin – Iloilo), Michelle was a former college professor, teaching literature, speech and oral communication, creative writing, drama, and theatre arts. She is also a graduate of Mass Communications major in Journalism (Centro Escolar University – Manila).

Michelle is active in her writing profession and works as a freelance creative writer.

She blogs passionately at www.michnavs.wordpress.com, where you can find her prose and poetry on love, life, motherhood, and her advocacy on abuse and violence.

I’d originally approached Mich to introduce her fourth book, I Would Fly To Where You Are, which she wrote during the deepest time of Covid and which was released in May 2021. However, between then and now she’s released her fifth volume of poetry, I Will Love You Forever, Too. Published just a few weeks ago, this latest collection of Mich’s poetry went straight to the number one spot on both Amazon and Kobo on its first day of release: an impressive achievement that most authors can only dream of. Also impressive is the fact that Mich has produced her five books in just two years!

I’ve just finished reading I Will Love You Forever, Too – you can read my review on Goodreads here (or over on the side bar, depending which device you’re using).

Now, let me hand over to Mich now to tell us about her writing journey and how her wonderful poetry books came to be. Over to you, Mich!

~~~

Thanks for having me on your blog, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Dreams do come true. And it can happen unexpectedly, anytime, anywhere, when you really deserve it. This has been my life’s mantra. I love to take things slowly and carefully and let things unfold on their own by the grace and power of the universe.

I remember, as a little girl, I’ve always dreamt of seeing my name in the newspapers, magazines, or in a book. And I told myself, one day I will make it happen, though at that time I didn’t know how to make it happen, not even how to begin.

My first book, After-Rain Skies, a collection of true and inspiring stories of abuse and violence in prose and poetry, was born in 2019, unexpectedly. Four decades after the conception of my dream.

It was written and published in 2019, with the sole intention of creating awareness on abuse and violence, with the hope of putting an end to the culture of abuse. It was received so well by many that I followed it up with an eBook copy made available via kobo.com.

The pandemic happened in 2020. We were all forced to stay at home and work from home. That’s how I started writing poetry almost every day. Surprisingly too, my long-time readers and followers, love my love poems. It inspired me to write even more. 

What If Snowflakes Don’t Fall In Winter? is my second book, a collection of poems about the nature of love. The success of my first book made me realize that I can be a love poet as well. After-Rain Skies taught me that love, more than anything else was what kept these victims going and hoping; their love for themselves, love for their children, their families, friends, and relatives, and most of all, their desire to want to love again and build a life around its seasons. Celebrate how love always changes, just enough to get better and better and better.

The world stopped during the pandemic. It prompted me to write poetry celebrating humanity’s perseverance and resilience. Oh! Dear One, was born to soothe everyone’s soul amidst the outbreak of a global pandemic. 

The outbreak of a global pandemic has led to lockdowns and isolation, which eventually led to the separation of families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

I Would Fly To Where You Are is my fourth poetry book, a collection of poetry written during the height of the COVID-19. Reflective of each and everyone’s love and desire to be with their loved ones – the special occasions we all missed to celebrate together like birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, and many other milestones, and also, reflective of the moment we failed to say our final goodbyes to our loved ones who went ahead of us during the pandemic. This is a collection of poetry on love; love, surviving against all odds.

We celebrate love, no matter how much it hurts and no matter how painful it is.

We celebrate life and love because there is always tomorrow, a better and kinder tomorrow.

My fourth book is definitely an epitome of true love. The kind of love that only gets better and better over the years and that no matter what it takes, it’s the kind of love worth taking the risk, worth taking the big leap, and worth keeping forever.

Finally, my most recent book: I Will Love You Forever, Too, is a compilation of poetry on the greatest love one can ever have. The kind of love that makes you want to write sappy love poems all the time (even if you are not a poet), the kind of love that makes you want to believe in “happily – ever – after” or “dreams – do – come – true”, it is the kind of love that makes you reflect on all of your “what ifs” and “maybes”, it is the kind of love where you will completely miss your beloved, strangely, even though your loved one is gone just briefly, and it is the kind of love that gives you the courage to commit to love forever.

This book also includes selected poems I wrote, which were requested by some of my very loyal readers and followers.

Book links

After-Rain Skies

What if Snowflakes Don’t Fall in Winter

Oh, Dear One

I Would Fly to Where You Are

I Will Love You Forever, Too

Mich is all over social media – pop along and see what she’s up to!

Amazon Author PageMichelle-Ayon-Navajas

Blog:  michnavs – poetry by Mich                                

Instagram: @michnavspoetry

Facebook: Poetry by Mich

Goodreads: Goodreads author Michelle_Ayon_Navajas

You Tube: Poetry by Mich

Jacqui Murray is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Jacqui Murray to this month’s Launch Pad spot. You may well already be familiar with Jacqui through her blog, WordDreams, others of you will know her through her books. It is Jacqui who introduced me to the wonderful world of prehistoric fiction, a genre I hadn’t heard of before, but now I can tell you, I’m totally hooked!

So, let’s find out a little bit more about her. We’ll start with her official author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction sagaMan vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, is due for release in winter 2022.

~~~

Before we come to Jacqui’s latest book release, let me share what Jacqui as to tell us about her journey into self-publishing and finding her authorial voice.

Finding my Voice – by Jacqui Murray

I have been writing fiction for about 25 years (non-fiction longer, but that’s a different story). When I started, I wanted to write the biography of a prehistoric female – how she survived when experts said she shouldn’t. I took some classes, attended conferences, read a bunch of books, and got excited about writing as a craft. An agent suggested I not write prehistoric fiction because the market was too small so I switched to thrillers. I wrote one, another, both well received but they didn’t sell much. I figured if I was going to write and NOT sell, I might as well write what I wanted so I switched back to prehistoric fiction. My first novel, Born in a Treacherous Time, was rejected over one hundred times but still, I wrote another, Survival of the Fittest. That too was rejected one hundred times (I stopped sending out queries when I received my 100th rejection).  Repeat for two more and then I stopped submitting to traditional publishers. I got whatever message they were sending and decided to self-publish. Yes, I was confused and intimidated, like a web browser with nineteen tabs open, seventeen of them frozen and one with music blasting but I couldn’t tell where it came from.

But none of that mattered. I was in charge of my destiny and that felt good. I peacocked for a while and then went back to work.

Somewhere along the line, I figured out my voice. That was scary at first, putting a book out to the public written the way I wanted but I felt good about what I was writing. I knew the rules, which to follow and which to bend, and understood the importance readers place on how a story is told. In fact, that is as important as rules. By the third book written my way, I began to gain traction and sell enough that I could even call myself a writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some success. A first place in a writing competition. Quarter finals in a national competition. I even had an agent for a while… That’s another story. I’ve tried quitting, but I’m back at it within weeks, like an addict. I know people who quit smoking and their rough period starts when they quit and continues till they die. Is that what being a reformed writer would be: “Hello, my name is Jacqui and it’s been ten days since I edited my last novel.” I get the shakes thinking of that.

If you’re trying to find your voice, here are my suggestions:

  • Know the rules of writing in your genre
  • Talk to professionals in that genre about your writing
  • Then, write the way you want to, with passion and energy. That’s your voice. You’ll find a group of people who like it and that will be good enough.

Someone once said about the death of one particular amazing writer whose stories seemed to be effortless:

Talent on loan from God. Talent returned to God.

When you find your voice, that’s what it feels like, as though someone greater than you is whispering in your ear and you darn well better listen.

~~~

Jacqui’s latest release is Laws of Nature, the second book in her Dawn of Humanity trilogy. I finished reading this only last week, and I recommend it whole-heartedly!

The Blurb

A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help.

In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa, the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

Book information

Title and author: Laws of Nature
Series: Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Editor: The extraordinary Anneli Purchase
Available (print or digital) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

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Follow Jacqui here!

Amazon Author Page:          www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                      https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram/jacquimurraywriter

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

Jude Itakali is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Jude Itakali to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Many of you will already be familiar with Jude through his blog, Tales Told Different, but let’s find out a little bit more about him from his author bio.

Jude was born and lives in Kampala, Uganda, and when not being an athlete on the rugby field, or crunching down numbers on a computer for work, he delicately pens the epiphanies from life and its different relationships and encounters.

He writes about all sorts of topics, finding a way to relate them with each other because no one theme exists in a vacuum.

Empathy is sometimes considered a gift, and Jude has it in abundance.

Jude has recently released his first book, Crossroads (Winds of Love) – a collection of poetry, prose and short stories. Here he is to tell us all about it. Take it away, Jude!

~~~

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today, Chris. I’m excited to tell you all about my book, which is entitled Crossroads (Winds of Love).

This is my debut publication and I used poetry because of its ability to touch a variety of people in a variety of ways. I admire the creativity it gives and the outlet of emotions that might otherwise fester within. The ability to exercise the breadth of language to pass on a message has always captivated me because it touches and evokes much deeper than plain words.

CROSSROADS (Winds of love) is a collection of poems, prose, and short stories written in verse. Many times, romantic love is depicted as a formula: advice on ways in which to get the best out of love. In my time and experience through many kinds of love, some my own, many from the people closest to me, and a few from the world testimonies and stories, I have come to understand that each situation is different, and not all advice is applicable for everyone. Love is not bound by rules, and in most cases, it does not make sense.

I wrote and compiled these poems and stories to show multiple aspects of love, to show the reader that they are not alone, that they should not be judged, and even though love’s pleasures may come with even greater pains, that in the end, the power to change it or discover it in its best form, lies within us.

This precious gem of a book has poetry in structured forms including, but not limited to sonnets, haiku, etheree, tanka, cinquain, shadorma, and many more. It also contains free verse poetry and a splattering of short stories. It takes us on an adventure through longing, intimacy, heartbreak and healing.

Click here for some of my latest reviews and some short extracts from the book.

The Blurb

In the corridors of love,
At the crossroads of loneliness,
We stand at our most vulnerable.
As the winds of love swirl, we are often ill-prepared for the portends and promises they carry;
The longing, fear, and deception.
The intimacy, and the horrors of heartbreak.
But also the hope, renewal and strength from the trials we have survived.

May these poems, prose and short stories touch each in their own particular way,
And bring us all perspective, compassion, hope and ultimately;
Love!

Find it on Amazon in ebook and paperback: USA ~ UK ~ IND ~ AUS ~ CAN ~ ESP ~ Rest of the World

If it’s available in your region, I’d recommend you order a paperback copy – so much better for poetry.

My copy arrived just a few days ago.

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Follow Jude here!

Goodreads: Goodreads Author Jude Kirya Itakali 
Blog: WordPress – Tales Told Different
Facebook:  Kirya Itakali Jude
Twitter:  @jude_clutch 
Instagram: judeitakali

Contact him on email: judekirya37@gmail.com

Location, Location, Location #22

Location No. 22 – Somewhere in Yorkshire

On our literary tour this week we’re going on a little time-travelling detour. Let me take you back to my school-days when I deftly managed to avoid a week’s work experience by wangling my way onto a historical workshop run by a local theatre group.

There were about 10 of us from our all girls grammar school, and we were about to be transported to the time of the English Civil War, accompanied by a handful of enthusiastic actors, who were keen to recreate the correct conditions for our plight under the iron fist of the Royalists who held the walled City of York.

The historical details were somewhat lost on me, but the story was that our fathers, fearful for our safety, were sending us out of the city to an unspecified rural location, were we would conceal our identities as daughters of prominent Parliamentarians and assume the roles of farmer’s daughters.

There were various preparations including the fitting of period costumes and, for the sake of historical accuracy, being urged not to wash or wear modern undergarments (which of course we ignored). Then the following day, with minimal baggage and concealed toothbrushes, we were whisked away to the past in the theatre minibus.

We were undoubtedly too compliant for young ladies of the time thrown into such a situation, but eager to get into our roles we got down to work. There was much peeling to be done. I chiefly remember the potatoes and onions. The onion skins were boiled up to make a dye for some rather malodorous sheep’s wool, which was marinated overnight, and came up a vibrant shade of yellow the following day. We learned to card and spin wool. My spinning was woeful and I was sent to the kitchen to busy myself about the potatoes again. I learned to milk a cow which was brilliant, unlike the subsequent butter-making. Churning is absolutely arm-aching.

We were also shown the hayloft where we would hide should anyone in authority from the ‘wrong side’ come calling. Little did we know that the following evening we wouldn’t have time to hide.

The sun was setting and we’d finished our supper. We were all sitting together in the large room at the front of the farmhouse which looked out onto the yard. I chanced to look through the window to see a group of soldiers, wearing high boots and feather-plumed hats, marching towards the farmhouse. They were undoubtedly the enemy. Almost before I’d had time to call out a warning, they were hammering on the door.

They took the farmer into the back room. His wife followed. One soldier stayed guarding the door. We heard punches, screams and cries; furniture was being overturned. If we hadn’t been in character before, we certainly were in those few moments.

Then they emerged. The make-up was very realistic.

The soldiers moved on.

I really don’t recall what happened after that, but what an experience! One on which I was to draw on for a little piece, written about 30 years later, in a response to a writing group prompt: ‘A Scary Moment’. Revised and updated it became the first piece in my tiny collection of short fiction, released in 2018.

~~~

The Day the Soldiers Came

I smile as I watch my mother play with my little brother Tommy on the hearth-rug. My father sits in his chair, still but alert. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I detect a movement in the yard.  I turn to look. Soldiers, four of them! By the way they are dressed, I know them instantly as ‘the enemy’. My father has followed my gaze as I gasp in fright and immediately he’s on his feet, sweeping up Tommy in the same movement and shoving him in my direction.

‘You know what to do Annie,’ he says quietly. He nods urgently at me and I grab Tommy’s hand and propel him through the kitchen. I look through the window, checking our route to the barn. It’s clear, so I open the door and we slide through and dash into the slatted wooden building. Behind us, I hear the soldiers hammering on the front door, shouting.

Although Tommy’s only little he knows what to do. Just as we’ve practiced so many times in recent months, I help him up the ladder to the hayloft. He doesn’t make a sound as we creep across the creaky boards and hide ourselves in the straw behind the loosely baled hay. We lie there, waiting. We haven’t practised what happens next. Then I hear a scream; I know it’s my mother, although the sound is like none I’ve ever heard her make. Her pain and terror flood my head. I grip Tommy tightly; he’s trembling and sobbing silently. The minutes tick by; I wonder what’s happening in the house. My father is shouting, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. The shouting stops abruptly and I hear the back door slam against the outside wall of the kitchen.

Heavy boots march towards the barn; I bite down hard on my knuckles. A cold fist contorts my stomach as I realise I forgot to drag the ladder up behind us. I hear the soldier’s heavy breathing down below. He’s pulling things over, searching. He approaches the ladder and in my mind’s eye I see him grab the ladder and place his boot on the first rung. Sweat runs down my back. Tommy is rigid in my arms.

There is a loud call from the house: ‘Move on!’ I hear the sound of the ladder clattering to the floor.  It settles and there is no sound apart from the blood pumping in my ears. Slowly I get up, my legs are shaking. I grab the rail at the edge of the loft and feel for the rope which we use as a swing when it’s too wet to play outside. Telling Tommy to stay where his is, I let myself down and run towards the back door which is gaping off its hinges.

Inside the house furniture has been overturned and one curtain has been ripped from the window. My mother cowers in a corner. Her blouse is torn and there is blood on her skirt. Father’s face is bruised and bloody. He reaches for her, but she turns her face to the wall.


The English Civil War, 1642 – 1651. Scenes from ‘Cromwell’ with Richard Harris and Alec Guinness, music by The Clash.

A Sextet of Shorts is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook and on Kindle Unlimited

Photo credits: naturalhomes.org, http://www.sheepcabana.com, pixels.com

Review – A Sextet Of Shorts by Chris Hall

What a very pleasant surprise it was when Joe Leonardi, aka the Short Story Scribe, emailed me the other day to say he’d enjoyed my slim volume of short stories; and now he’s posted such an encouraging review.

Do please check out Joe’s work too: he’s recently published a new novella entitled ‘The Comfort of Despair’.  I’ve got my copy, have you?

Short Story Scribe

A Sextet of Shorts by [Hall, Chris]I enjoy good short stories, and in thisSextet of Shorts, Chris Hall does an amazing job. Each story is complete and fulfilling, and left me wanting for just a bit more.

My favorites are “The Swindler,” because it left me thinking, and “A New Friend for Henry,” because it left me smiling.

Chris Hall, as usual, tells some good stories. Stories I highly recommend.

A Sextet of Shorts is available on Amazon.com  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C1NC397


“Who the hell am I?”20190630_1305207795170130459536580.jpg

I am an independent, self-published teller of tales,
an author, as of yet, scarcely any renown.
However, as a storyteller, I know who I am,
and with that persona, I am both confident and comfortable. I invite you to visit my website,

ShortStoryScribe.com

and/or Amazon Author Pages

Joe Leonardi              Scono Sciuto

if you are so inclined please
purchase a copy and leave a review.

View original post 44 more words

The (un)dutiful daughter

The Undutiful Daughter by Chris Hall lunasonline

Maggie trudged up the winding steps of the south tower, resentment gurgling in her stomach. Every day for the past 15 years since her father had passed away she had been obliged to carrying out the wearisome task. Every day of the past 15 years, as the big old clock in the hall struck twelve, she filled the copper watering can and climbed the tall stone steps. She was careful, oh so careful, not to spill a drop of the precious sweet well water which was all that must be used. Nothing sullied, nothing tainted, only the very best. Every day for the past 15 years she climbed to the top of the south tower to water a single bloom which her father had nurtured faithfully for as long as she could remember.

No one else could carry out the task. Not the gardener or the gardener’s son. Not the girl from the village who came to tend to her mother’s feet. Or, heaven forfend, the surly housekeeper, who prepared her mother’s meals, but not hers.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s mother sat in splendid isolation on a huge cushion-laden throne, from whence she issued orders and complaints in turn, which fell from her lips like so many leaden marbles, rolling over the stone floors to trip up the unwilling or unwitting. No task was too trivial to escape her notice, as she monitored the household through her all-seeing crystal spyglass. And, despite her great age, she still looked fresh as a daisy, while Maggie herself was beginning to wilt.

Maggie was almost at the top of the south tower. She rounded the last narrowing loop of the steps and arrived at the pinnacle. There was the single bloom. It never changed, never altered, throughout the changing seasons and  the succeeding years; its golden face, thrust upwards to the sky, surrounded by a plethora of pink petals. The petals never discoloured or dropped. The single bloom remained, static, unseen, apart from by Maggie and her mother’s crystal spyglass.

Lately, as her knees creaked and her back ached with the climb, Maggie had begun to wonder what would happen if she deviated from the routine. But it was an idle thought. She swallowed her resentment down. Duty must be served.

As she raised the copper watering can, a flock of geese flew overhead, honking noisily. Maggie looked up. If only I were free like them. Her heart yearned to fly away to a world beyond the castle; explore the unknown lands beyond the fields and cottages which she could see from the top of the south tower. If only I were free, she mouthed silently.

Maggie’s back arched unwillingly as she tracked the progress of the snow-white birds. She craned further back; her feet teetered on the topmost step. Arms cartwheeling, she desperately tried to keep her balance. The watering can flew from her outstretched hand. It spun as it fell, spilling a wheeling spray of sweet well water down the wall of the south tower.

With a superhuman effort, Maggie flung herself forward. Her face buried itself in the golden centre of the solitary bloom. Her hands clawed for purchase, pulling out fistfuls of pretty pink petals which showered over the steps. Maggie sank to her knees and steadied herself. Slowly she came up for air. Maggie stared in horror at the ruined solitary bloom. All that remained was a battered bare stalk with a smashed-in face.

Then gradually, as Maggie watched, the squashed centre of the solitary bloom plumped back out again. Features appeared: eyes, nose and mouth. Maggie blinked. The corners of the mouth turned up and rosy blushes appeared on the golden cheeks. Petals sprang out on either side of its face. The head of the solitary bloom turned; it gazed up and down, left and right, settling on Maggie’s open-mouthed stare.

‘You wished to be free,’ it said in a clear and musical voice. Maggie continued to stare. ‘Close your mouth, child,’ it continued.

Child? Thought Maggie. Hardly.

‘I too wish to be free,’ said the solitary bloom, its head bobbing. ‘I have been here for an eternity, marooned on top of this barren tower.’

Maggie rubbed her eyes.

‘We can both be free, Maggie,’ the voice sang. ‘Free as the birds on the wing. Free as the clouds in the sky.’ It threw back its head and laughed. Then it straightened up and gazed intently at Maggie. ‘You can free us both, Maggie.’ It nodded vigorously. ‘Would you like that Maggie?’

Maggie stared, transfixed. Free?

‘Free, Maggie. That’s right.’ The solitary bloom leant towards her and whispered something.

Maggie stood up. She looked around at the fields and cottages below. She looked at the wide blue sky where birds sang and flew. She stretched out her arms and took a deep breath.

‘Go on, Maggie,’ the solitary bloom urged.

Maggie bent down and ripped the solitary bloom from the earth were it grew. She held it aloft, soil cascading from its roots. The solitary bloom let out a great cry. Maggie took up the cry as she leapt from the top of the south tower.

Down below in the depths of the castle, the crystal spyglass started to shake in the old woman’s hand. It reverberated, taking up the sound of the cries coming from the south tower; louder and louder, until the very walls of the castle started to shake. The servants fled from the building and the old woman yelled and cursed on her cushions as the castle crumbled and crashed down around her. Moments later there was nothing but rubble and dust.

High up in the sky two snow white geese honked loudly, flapping their wings in joyous freedom; soon they had disappeared beyond the clear blue horizon.


From  a prompt by Hélène Vaillant of Willow Poetry: What do you see May-14-2019

The Day the Soldiers Came

the day the soldiers came by chris hall lunasonline

I smile as I watch my mother play with my little brother Tommy on the hearth-rug. My father sits in his chair, still but alert. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I detect a movement in the yard.  I turn to look. Soldiers, four of them! By the way they are dressed, I know them instantly as ‘the enemy’. My father has followed my gaze as I gasp in fright and immediately he’s on his feet, sweeping up Tommy in the same movement and shoving him in my direction.

‘You know what to do Annie,’ he says quietly. He nods urgently at me and I grab Tommy’s hand and propel him through the kitchen. I look through the window, checking our route to the barn. It’s clear, so I open the door and we slide through and dash into the slatted wooden building. Behind us, I hear the soldiers hammering on the front door, shouting.

Although Tommy’s only little he knows what to do. Just as we’ve practiced so many times in recent months, I help him up the ladder to the hayloft. He doesn’t make a sound as we creep across the creaky boards and hide ourselves in the straw behind the loosely baled hay. We lie there, waiting. We haven’t practised what happens next. Then I hear a scream; I know it’s my mother, although the sound is like none I’ve ever heard her make. Her pain and terror flood my head. I grip Tommy tightly; he’s trembling and sobbing silently. The minutes tick by; I wonder what’s happening in the house. My father is shouting, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. The shouting stops abruptly and I hear the back door slam against the outside wall of the kitchen.

Heavy boots march towards the barn; I bite down hard on my knuckles. A cold fist contorts my stomach as I suddenly realise I forgot to drag the ladder up behind us. I hear the soldier’s heavy breathing down below. He’s pulling things over, searching. He approaches the ladder and in my mind’s eye I see him grab the ladder and place his boot on the first rung. Sweat runs down my back. Tommy is rigid in my arms.

There is a loud call from the house: ‘Move on!’ I hear the sound of the ladder clattering to the floor.  It settles and there is no sound apart from the blood pumping in my ears. Slowly I get up, my legs are shaking. I grab the rail at the edge of the loft and feel for the rope which we use as a swing when it’s too wet to play outside. Telling Tommy to stay where his is, I let myself down and run quickly towards the back door which is gaping off its hinges.

Inside the house furniture has been overturned and one curtain has been ripped from the window. My mother cowers in a corner. Her blouse is torn and there is blood on her skirt. Father’s face is bruised and bloody. He reaches for her, but she turns her face to the wall.

A Sextet of Shorts Cover pic

That was the first piece from ‘A Sextet of Shorts’, my little book of short fiction pieces.

‘Sextet’ is currently available to download on your Kindle for $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.99 and other currency equivalents  (+VAT) until midnight on 01.01.19.

And, since it’s the holidays, if you’d like a freebie, I will arrange to gift a download to the first 10 people who respond in the comments section below!

The well-intentioned arsonist

wood-explosion-fire-hot pexels lunasonline
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Things might not have turned out the way they did had it not been for the arrival of the new science teacher, Mr Wilde. Keen to engage his Year 8 class at the start of the new term, he had set up a series of elaborate experiments which had resulted in some rather dramatic indoor fireworks. At least no-one had been hurt.

Jimmy was definitely engaged. He was even moved to pursue his interest outside the classroom. Guided by some useful websites he created some modest but interesting explosions in the kitchen until his mother got fed up of cleaning up the resultant debris. He even produced a miniature volcano, much to the delight of Miss Johnson, the young geography teacher; even though it did erupt all over her desk and make a disgusting smell which lingered in her classroom for days.

A few days later during morning break, Jimmy had been searching the school grounds for discarded plastic bottles for his latest experiment. As he scoured the side of lane between the school and the rugby club, he overheard two of the teachers discussing the future of the school while enjoying a surreptitious cigarette.

‘If the club sells to the local authority, we’ll be able extend the school on the site here. If not, the school will close and then who knows what will happen.’ Jimmy recognised the voice of the Deputy Head, Mr Staines.

‘But surely they’ll sell. It’s only a pitch and a tatty old pavilion. How much are they offering?’ The second voice belonged to Mr Davis, his History teacher.

‘It’s not a question of the money. Apparently the rugby captain’s great grandfather founded the club here and his ashes were scattered over the foundations of the new pavilion when it was built in 1956.’

‘So our school has to close, just because of some old rugger bugger’s ashes?’

‘I know, still, one good storm and there won’t be a pavilion for the rugby captain to be sentimental about.’ Jimmy heard Mr Staines reply. He ducked back into the hedge as the Deputy Head stalked past him back towards the school building.

Mr Davidson lit another cigarette and stared glumly at the offending pavilion. ‘Well,’ he muttered to himself, ‘climate change might solve the problem.’

Jimmy found what he’d heard very disturbing. He liked his school. He liked the kids in his class and he even liked most of the teachers. He had never been fond of rugby.

That afternoon during double Maths, Jimmy had an idea. The more he pondered on it, the better it became. It was just a matter of getting hold of the right stuff from Mr Wilde’s chemicals cupboard.

On his way to school on the morning of Tuesday’s science class, he dropped into Mr Khalid’s shop. Proffering a crisp £5 note from his savings, he grasped a large handful of his friend Mattie’s preferred chocolate bars.

Matthew Albright was the class clown. Plump and good-natured, if sometimes a little slow on the uptake, he was quite happy to rise to the challenge when Jimmy suggested he should test out his acting skills in Chemistry in return for favourite chocolates.

Mr Wilde was starting to explain the procedure for setting up an experiment to grow copper sulphate crystals when suddenly Mattie clutched his ample stomach and let out a loud groan. Pulling a series of dreadful grimaces, he slid off his chair onto the floor, where he proceeded to writhe and moan. As Mr Wilde raced to Mattie’s side, Jimmy stole across the room to the teacher’s desk and extracted the key to the chemicals cupboard. While the rest of the class gathered round to watch Mattie’s performance, Jimmy quietly slipped the key into the lock, and let himself into the cupboard. He swiftly grabbed what he needed. Within a moments Jimmy was safely back in his seat, the key was back in the drawer and Mattie had made a miraculous recovery.

Acquiring the step ladder from Stan the Caretaker had been easy. As it happened Jimmy didn’t even need to create a diversion.  He had been hanging around by his workshop when Stan had been summoned to go to the boys’ toilets on the first floor to deal with a flood. Stan stomped off muttering about paper towels and where he’d like to stick them, leaving the workshop door ajar. The step ladder crucial to Jimmy’s plan was swiftly liberated and stashed out of sight in the bushes behind the bike shed.

On a moonless November evening, Jimmy started to make his way towards the old wooden pavilion. He was carrying a torch and a small step ladder, and his duffle bag was slung over his shoulder. Propping the ladder against the side of the building, he climbed onto the flat roof of the shower block. He carefully dragged the ladder up beside him and crept across the roof. Jimmy prised open the skylight, gently manoeuvred the step ladder through the opening and lowered himself after it as it clattered to the floor. Jimmy took a deep breath. He opened the shower block door and stepped purposefully into the main part of the building.

Jimmy surveyed the interior by the light of his torch. Apart from some old plastic chairs stacked in the far corner and a few cardboard boxes piled up near the door there was nothing much inside. Jimmy dragged one of the larger boxes into the middle of the room. It had some writing on the side which looked like French; not one of his favourite subjects. He reached into his duffle bag and took out two containers. He shook out the contents of the first, making a small pile of reddish-brown powder on the top of the box. Then he carefully opened the second and gently added a white crystalline powder to the pile.

Next he took a large ball of thick twine to which he had tied a 1kg weight, taken from his mother’s kitchen. Using the step ladder, he reached up and hooked the twine over one of the beams which supported the asbestos sheet roof. Lowering the weight gently, he placed it on the floor. Returning to the shower block he positioned the step ladder under the roof light. Back in the main room he hoisted the weight up as high as he could, positioning it directly over the box. Grasping the ball of twine tightly he carefully paid out the thread as he climbed back up onto the roof. The twine was just long enough to allow him to reach the ground behind the wall of the shower block.

Jimmy paused, according to what he’d read, the two chemicals would be ignited by the percussive action of the falling weight. The resulting explosion should be sufficient to blow off part of the roof, a bit like a storm might. The sort of damage his teachers had been talking about.

He took a deep breath and released the twine. For a moment nothing happened, then there was a loud pop. Jimmy ran. Behind him there was a series of explosions. From the cover of the bushes, Jimmy saw the roof of the pavilion shatter and a succession of rockets explode into the night sky.

Had Jimmy been as keen at French as he was at Chemistry, he might have understood that the words on the box: ‘feux d’artifice’ meant fireworks.

Marketing books to the local community

 


A few weeks ago I told you about a little marketing initiative which I cooked up with my writing buddy, Paul English, involving a donation of the first two published books in his
Fire Angel Universe series to a school library. Giving a Fellow Author a Plug!

Article in Bolander Paul English-page-0Now I’m pleased to say that the article I submitted to our local newspaper, The Bolander, was published yesterday, both online and in print. ‘This is a long established popular community title which is distributed to 31 150 readers’ homes. Readers receive hyper local content with a focus on community news, including local personalities, advice and editorial columns, reader’s letters and sport.’  So it’s a good place in which to be featured!

Here’s the link to the online article, which Paul and I have shared far and wide (so you might even have seen it already): Author Unleashes Fire Angel Series.

We also have print copies of our books out there: Paul has some in a local art gallery and in our favourite local bookstore, Bikini Beach Books.

I have some signed copies of The Silver Locket in our local Mexican Deli, Senor Onion, (thank you,  Karen), they do great food by the way! And yesterday I presented a signed copy of Sextet to my podiatrist who promises to put it on top of the magazine pile in the waiting room after he and his receptionist have finished reading it (thanks, James)!

Wouldn’t these look nice on your bookshelf?

 

 

 

He’s Back!

My second cross-continental collaboration with artist, Suzanne Starr.

This story was inspired by Suzanne’s drawing which I saw on my LinkedIn feed. Once again, I found the images of her characters so compelling that I had to write their story.

You can find more of Suzanne’s artwork at www.suzannestarart.com – do check it out!

girl with big bird by suzanne starr
‘He’s Back’ charcoal drawing by Suzanne Starr*

Part of my Flash Fiction collection

He’s Back

‘That’s a pretty dress, Miss Clara,’ said the Stork, as the little girl approached him. ‘Oh, but you look sad on your birthday. Why?’ She is so tall now, he thought.

‘I wish I could just fly away like you do,’ Clara looked up at him with her large brown eyes.

‘What’s wrong, Miss Clara? You have a lovely home with people who care for you. Why are you unhappy?’

‘It’s just that I feel like I don’t belong properly. They’re not my people, are they?’ Clara fiddled with her lace-edged handkerchief. ‘You explained to me last year, you delivered me to the wrong people. I’ve been thinking about it all year.’

The Stork cocked his head and looked intently at her. ‘I know, Miss Clara, and I told you how sorry I am for my mistake.’

‘Did you tell the other little girl?’ Clara looked up at him, ‘the one who should’ve come here instead of me.’

The Stork hung his head, ‘no Miss Clara, I didn’t. And perhaps I shouldn’t have told you.’

‘So why did you?’ Clara was on the verge of tears. ‘Why did you, Stork?’

‘The two of you were my first deliveries and I got it wrong. That’s why I kept coming back to check on you, until you were old enough for me to talk to you and to explain properly.’

‘And the other little girl?’

The Stork shook his head sadly. ‘The mother realised something was wrong.’

‘My mother? My real mother?’

The Stork nodded.

‘What happened?’

The Stork’s beak drooped so that it almost touched the ground. ‘She thought the baby was a changeling.’

‘A changeling? What’s that?’

‘Some people believe that a changeling is a fairy child left in place of a human child which has been stolen by the fairies.

‘But it wasn’t a fairy child?’

‘No, of course not. That’s just a silly superstition.’

‘So what happened to her?’

‘She was left out on the hillside as is the custom in that part of our country.’

‘I don’t understand. Why would they do that?’

The Stork sighed. ‘They hope that the real baby will be returned.’

‘Oh.’ Clara was silent. She twisted her handkerchief some more. ‘But why didn’t you tell her? The mother, I mean.’

‘She could neither see me nor hear me.’ The Stork started to pace about. ‘Only little children can see and hear the Storks,’ he said over his shoulder.

‘And you couldn’t save the baby from the hillside?’

The Stork turned to face her. ‘She’d gone by the time I found out what had happened.’

Clara frowned. ‘Maybe the fairies did take her.’

‘I don’t believe in fairies.’

‘But maybe someone found her. Maybe she’s with another family?’

A large tear rolled down the Stork’s beak. ‘Don’t you think I looked for her; that day, the next day, the next week?’ The Stork sniffed and shook his huge dark head. ‘I searched for months and years, because of my mistake. That’s why you’ve been so precious to me.’

Clara went up to the Stork; she reached up and put her hand on his neck. ‘Poor Stork, I’m sorry.’

‘I will always be sorry, Miss Clara.’

Clara thought for a moment. ‘Can we go there and have a look?’ Clara waved her handkerchief towards the sky. ‘I’d love just to see where I might’ve been living.’

The Stork looked at her, eyes unblinking.

‘I could ride on your back,’ Clara ran her hand over the snowy feathers on his back. ‘It can’t be that far. If you mixed us up on the same night,’ she reasoned.

‘No, Miss Clara. It’s not possible.’

‘But Stork…’

‘I said no!’ He turned his back on her, hunching his wings.

Clara sat down on the edge of the sidewalk and started to cry.

The Stork couldn’t bear to hear her sobbing; he turned around and nudged her with his beak. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Clara, but I can’t.’

‘But it’s my birthday today.’

‘That’s the point, I’m afraid.’ The Stork folded his long legs underneath his white feathers and huddled close to her. ‘Today is the last day you will be able to see me or hear me. You see this is your tenth birthday, and after you pass the hour of your birth, you too will be blind and deaf to the Storks.’

Clara looked at him. The Stork looked up at the sun which was sinking below the tall buildings of the city. The soft feathers of his cheek brushed against Clara’s hair. ‘It’s almost time, little one.’ The Stork stood up, gently helping Clara to her feet with a brush of his long beak. The Stork faced her and bowed gracefully as the disc of the sun disappeared behind the dome of the cathedral.

Clara looked at him, wiping away her tears. ‘Stork, dear Stork…’ and as she spoke, his image started to fade, so only a faint outline remained. His voice echoed around the little square. ‘Goodbye, Miss Clara.’ Then his was gone.

That night Clara had a dream, a very vivid dream. A girl about her age was waving to her from a bright, sunny hillside somewhere. She looked just how Clara imagined a fairy might look and she was smiling. And every year after that on her birthday, Clara found a soft white feather on her pillow.

©2018 Chris Hall

*’He’s Back’ is one of two works by Suzanne Starr which form part of the ‘Into Darkness Exhibition’ at the Norwich Art Center, Connecticut USA. The exhibition runs throughout  October 2018