Lately Great and Glorious #200WT Edition!

What a week … I have my worries because every fortnight, the electricity goes off due to cable theft … to think I might not be able to publish this today is unthinkable! Must get thought out of head before I jinx it!So, what a week, back to that, yes. It’s been wildly weird, and exciting for a myriad of reasons but the most exciting by far is my interview! Yup, that’s right! It was my first ever interview and it was done for @madeleine_deste’s awesome podcast Write Through The Roof!
I was nervous, I’m not gonna lie, and I laughed way too much. I didn’t know I was that gigglesome. Like not at all.
And then the K-Pop thing … yeah, I’m not even gonna deny it, K-Pop is freakin’ awesome and my soul basically revolves around it now, I have become a fangirl to the death, and I don’t know who I am anymore, but it’s the best things EVAH!
I’m not gonna give away all the best things so if you want to find out just how crazy I am, give the interview a listen and then follow the podcast series, cos it’s seriously good!

Word Games, Hypnotherapy, and K-Pop

You can follow @madeleine_deste on Twitter, find her on her website @, and of course, don’t forget to keep yourself updated on new podcast interviews!
And now … to #200WT!
My resolution to publish everything we got for #200WT has been tested. I mean, amidst cable theft and a sudden, weird illness, there just hasn’t been time to go around with it. It was very stressful.
Today, however, we’re honoring what was said and so … here we are, with an edition of three juicy stories to go around and more Tuesdays in this month and beyond to satisfy all the ravenous readers! It is my immense pleasure to share with you today … the Lately Great and Glorious #200WT Edition!
Please share this edition as much as you can and let’s give these two amazing authors some love! 🙂


The Other Side
By Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore 

I can’t go on anymore. I’m lost, starving, stumbling through the trees, wet earth clinging to my clothes. My face is sweating, burning hot, even though the thick coils of smoke freezes the world around me like nitrogen.
I can’t continue running. Either they find me, or I’d succumb to the elements. Either way, death lingers. I can’t feel my legs; they’ve carried me so far up the mountain. I can’t hear anything. I don’t see them. I collapse into mossy earth around me, soft and rich with rain and I drink the last of my water, last few drops hopelessly falling off my lips.
I need food.
If I want to live, I’ll need strength, I think. Another river must be crossed and the current will sweep me away if I do not have strength to beat it. Using my gun to hunt will give me away, and so will building a fire.
Hunger is the last wall of humanity and naked survival, I thought. I swallow my despair and exhaustion and trek on. My eyes are blurring. The hunger pangs are excruciating, and my ribs are burning.
But I stop still suddenly. I can smell it. It’d been there for some time, by the stench, but my head turns frantically and I run.

Part 2:

The low branches whip my arms and face, but I run with only one thing in my mind.
I feel feral.
I hear the exertion from running come out in guttural growls and whines, as I follow my nose. It’s my only compass here in the wilderness.
I’m so consumed by looking for it that I almost fall over it. I rip away the grasses and moss covering it … and I gaze at it, at the sunken eyed elk, body crawling in maggots and creatures. I don’t care; it’s the first flesh I’ve seen in weeks. Bracing myself and hunkering down, I tear away at the rotten layers of flesh with long fingernails and stuff the putrefied meat down my throat, appeasing the aching monster my starvation has become. I taste it, the fetid foulness, but it doesn’t even register. I don’t care that I’m swallowing the maggot’s whole, I just eat. My hands are oozing with the rancid fluids of death, but I devour until my stomach feels as though it’d burst.
I eat until I feel … human again. Human enough to comprehend disgust at what I’ve done.
But not enough. Survival will make animals of us, and the other side is as grim as humanity.
I grin contemptuously at the dead animal, and turn away.

Author: Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore
Twitter: @TheDinsmoreGal


The Curse

By Lady Stabdagger

The anticipation was so great she could almost taste it. The ending was in sight. Months of hard work have all been leading up to this very moment. She was practically on the edge of her seat. All her planning as about to pay off. She might for once hit her own personal deadline rather than only just finishing it in the nick of time and only having a half hearted ending. Her fingers rhythmically hit the keys on her keyboard; She had found her flow and nothing was going to stop her now. Her clock in her bedroom was ticking away seemingly matching her pace. She played the victory scene out in her head when she could finally turn her project in early and celebrate the fact that she had finished a novel for once that was of a standard she wanted. The image began to fade in her mind. The edges of her victory scene became fizzy. A familiar sensation came over her. Her fingers slowed down their pace.

“No, not now. It can’t end like this. I know the ending for sure this time. This can’t be happening again. I just need to fill in the blanks.”
It was no use. She had been hit by the curse once again. She had gotten writer’s block.

Author: Lady Stabdagger
Twitter: @ladystabdagger 

Imagination to its Limit With @GretchenTuronek!

Hi, I’m Gretchen! I write a little bit of everything, but am narrowing my genre focus to fantasy. I’m a Pisces that actually does enjoy walking on the beach at night, cat person, tea drinker, trumpet player, and reader.

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

 GT: The fact that “What if…?” can turn into tens or hundreds of pages of something new and exciting. I love discovering new, fictional places and getting to know my characters, who are all far braver and more interesting than I could ever be. I’ve dabbled in a lot of other art forms, but this is the one that really lets me push my imagination to its limit.

MM: So, what have you written? 

GT: A lot of my writing these days is for my “day job” as a freelance copywriter, but when I’m not doing that, I blog about writing and in the future will be blogging more specifically about the fantasy genre. I was an early contributor to Backlog Magazine and am one of the contributors for Volume 2, Issue 1 of The Asexual. I’ve written short stories and novel-length manuscripts, but they have yet to find homes (and, in some cases, I’m grateful for it). I also participate in National Novel Writing Month and was a local volunteer for two of my five years.

 MM: When did you know writing was for you? 

 GT: Every time I’ve tried to quit writing and focus on something more “real” or “practical” as a career, writing came back with a pile of new ideas and a really skeptical look. Very few other things in my life have ever held on with the tenacity that writing has, and I stuck with it because I love it and clearly it plans to stick around.

 MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it? 

 GT: At the moment, I’m working on revising what I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2017: a fantasy novel entitled The Kingmaker’s War until I find something better to call it. It was loosely inspired by the characters and to a lesser extent events of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I’m playing. I was interested in exploring what would drive someone to become an adventurer in the high fantasy sense, how a world would actually treat this sort of person, and the psychological ramifications of what they were experiencing. In a game, a character can completely recover from their dragon-fighting injuries by eating dinner and sleeping for eight hours, but what if that wasn’t an option? What if you had to live with the mental and physical consequences of your dragon-slaying? What, or who, would keep you going? Could you even go back to a normal life after your experiences?

 MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now? 

 GT: Not including fanfiction (of which there was plenty), I vaguely remember writing a story about a haunted elementary school that I believe was simply called The Haunted School. The entire “book” was shaped like a ghost, and I think it had a twist ending where the narrator either was a ghost the whole time or became one by the end (I was a bit of an R.L. Stine fan, if that explains anything). I think the seeds of the kind of writer I would become and am still striving to be are definitely there: something fantastic and a little dark with a narrator that defies expectations. Smaller me was fearless with ideas in a way that, looking back now, I’m a little envious of.

 MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

 GT: I like to say that I’m a Plotter, but outlines have never actually worked for me and there might be more Pantser in me than I originally thought. I need a premise and a few pivotal scenes in mind before I can even begin to write an idea, but once I’m started I won’t necessarily say “no” to anything that I discover along the way. I can’t have literally everything planned before I start, but I also can’t just open a blank document and go. I need a combination of direction and flexibility to be at my best.

 MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

 GT: I actually really hated flash fiction when I was in college. I wasn’t very good at fitting a complete narrative (we’re talking exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution on the page) in 150 words or fewer. This was true of microblogging, even—believe it or not, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Twitter. As you can tell from a lot of my answers to these questions, I’m long-winded in a way that ran counter to my experience with flash fiction.

What got my attention about #FP and other Twitter-length fiction, though, was what wasn’t said. #FP is more about capturing meaningful moments and trusting the reader to fill in the details about the scenario. When thought of that way, I felt a lot more comfortable with it: longer fiction is just a series of moments that all contribute to the story or characters, and #FP just isolated that.

 MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home? 🙂

GT: The best writing advice I’ve ever received is “Write what scares you.” Fear is an emotion I can get in touch with really pretty easily, and picking apart and articulating what scares me is extremely helpful for me personally as well as a useful skill for writing. Fear is at the heart of most if not all conflicts, and it’s useful to give it a good, hard look in order to make conflicts believable and plots tense.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

 GT: Getting past my personal blocks and actually getting the words on paper. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me, and I often get paralyzed right out the gate because I never feel like an idea is perfect. I’ve found NaNoWriMo extremely helpful in getting past this block just because of the emphasis on getting the words down now and asking questions later.

 MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

 GT: I don’t always remember to say it in the moment, but “It will come back. It always does.” Sometimes talking about my ideas with other people helps, and sometimes doing something dramatically different can help ideas flow. Just because I’m stuck now doesn’t mean that I’m stuck forever: there will always be more ideas and more time.

 MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

 GT: This is going to sound like the most boring thing ever and not particularly wacky, but I picked up drinking hot water with lemon during last NaNoWriMo in order to make my tea supply last a little longer, and I honestly think it’s part of why that draft went so well. Staying hydrated is obviously good for your body and mind, and it also ensures that you get up frequently for bathroom trips. Even a few moments away from the screen, journal, or wherever you do your writing can be the difference between giving up and pushing through a creative block.

 MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!

 GT: My writing habits could be accurately represented by a housecat “avatar.” I tend to write in short but very intense bursts of chasing new and shiny ideas with an embarrassingly large chunk of time dedicated to metaphorically napping in the sun.

 MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

 GT: I’ve been reading a lot of horror lately and picked up a couple of classics. I loved Frankenstein far more than I thought I would. None of the adaptations do the heart of this novel justice. If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared for how much it makes you think and the kind of questions it asks you to answer.

 MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

 GT: Stay hydrated! It really is helpful!

But besides that, don’t be a hermit. Writers have a reputation for being loners that stay holed up with our manuscripts until they’re done, but that simply isn’t sustainable long-term. People, good or bad, can be inspiring in that they provide new ideas and perspectives. As long as you’re feeling up for social interaction, take breaks once in a while to see and talk to other people. Go to bar trivia, board game night, yoga class, a friend’s house, or wherever else is appropriate for your time, interests, and budget. Ideas have a knack for showing up when you’re not looking for them, so go out, have fun, and keep something to write on handy.

 MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work? (*Include links to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube channel, whatever you’re on and wherever you are.)

GT: I’ve already talked about my blog, and you can obviously find me on Twitter, but I also have a Facebook page for my writing and can be found on Goodreads and Instagram.

ExoSpira World Unauthorized Memoria

By Gretchen Turonek


The video started as many of the ExoSpira Memorias do. There was blackness as the Confession Crystal needed to come online, a flash of a screen, and then the inside of a medieval-looking room. It was one viewers had grown used to seeing, one home to the Bard portrayed by an internet personality and musician that went by TroubadOboe. TroubadOboe looked much like she always did in this series: a very well-animated fantasy elf wearing simple peasant garb with contrasting pieces of jewelry that boosted some of her in-game magical attributes.

This wasn’t a typical Memoria, though. For a company like Gamix, the animation quality was severely lacking, but she definitely looked sadder than she did in a lot of her other posts. The Confession Crystal that she was speaking into occasionally flickered with digital artifacts, and she was near-continuously recalibrating it to capture her face. It took her a few moments to speak.

I wish I had something a little better for this update, especially because I need to do it secretly. I don’t even know if anyone will see it, but I have to at least try to reach the outside world and share what’s really going on. Avi—MagusTer, for those of you that only know us by our aliases—managed to jailbreak a Confession Crystal before… I guess I can’t even say “before he died,” because I don’t know that’s what happened to him. I don’t know what happens to us when we take lethal damage and disappear. I fear the worst: I’d be lying if I said I hope for the best, though.

Well. It’s been a year. In-universe, at least. Has it been a year out there for you guys? I don’t actually know. Inbound messages that we’re allowed to see don’t have time stamps on them. I can tell you that you’re not getting the full story: our outbound messages have been heavily edited if not completely censored so that the truth of this never gets out. That’s why I’m hoping that Avi pulled through for me and that this works.

I was contacted by a company you’ve probably heard of called Gamix. I was supposed to be an alpha tester for a fantasy V.R. game, and I specifically was brought on to critique the music and try the mechanics of the game’s Bard class on for size. They really wanted me to show off the “unique and intuitive” spellcasting and music composition mechanics. I agreed because they promised payment and a huge sponsorship and I thought it would be awesome for my brand—TroubadOboe the medieval music enthusiast, performer, and scholar participating in such a mainstream project? How cool was that going to be? How could I say no?

I knew something was off after my party’s first encounter. Why would something that’s just a game program pain or exhaustion, let alone make healing so difficult? It was a reality show from the beginning. A virtual reality show broadcast on the internet that everyone bought into because we look like animated characters. We were actors. Entertainment.

I suppose I shouldn’t expect any of you to believe me. Maybe the only people that are even listening anymore are the trolls that wouldn’t care even if they knew. Maybe they’re going to let this Confession through for the drama, and honestly? I don’t know if I care anymore.

I’m scared to stay here, but I’m more scared to leave. I have no idea how long it’s been or what’s happened to me—the real me—while I’ve been stuck in here. This all feels real, but if I’m hooked up to a headset, it’s all in my mind right now. I know it’ll be hard to play anymore: the movements are different here, and my fine motor skills and embouchure are probably shot. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to walk, let alone use the pedals on a piano. And even if I had those things and was able to get out, my fans have probably gotten sick of waiting and left. The couple of sponsors that I already had are probably gone, too, because I’m not producing content. There’s just not much left for me if I get out of here.

And…. Well, who would believe me, anyway? It’s just part of the game. It’s part of the show. It’s all an act.

Anyway. TroubadOboe out.


May 2018 #200WT Themes!

This week began weird. Like the first two days, I was still out of my mind with a fever and stomach bug and it’s so confusing, cos in the worst of it, it’s like you’re dead but you’re flying, you’re hot but you’re cold and you’re human but like also an archer, about to strike down the heavens with thy celestial arrow thingy.
Whatever. It’s not like I had one of those ….
However, this did take away from a fully productive week and our #200WT edition. And then I remembered that I’m four days late in actually posting the new themes!
So, with no more babbling from me, the #200WT themes for the merry month of May are




We have some pretty exciting news this month, and it’s all about the Musae Mosaic team growing and getting stronger and way more exciting!
This is the first message of many regarding this.
So stay tuned!
Until next time, have a wonderful week and new month and we will see you on May the 4th!
(Methinks we’ll have a #FP theme especially for that glorious day!)
See you on the other side 😉

Double-Trouble #200WT Edition 1:

Hi, everyone! Hello, world! What an amazing thing it is to be here again!
Every now and then, favors graces us and we have enough stories to put up a #200WT edition. More often than not, we don’t, but … it makes days like these a gift. And it’s a gift we do not plan on giving up again 🙂
Be it a two submission #200WT edition or a ten submission edition, it will be there, week after week. Our dream has evolved in so many ways over so many years, and it continues to draw people into a magical fold of words and new friends, the works … we are not giving up on that dream. Rather we’re using it to fine-tune a future that was once only dreamed of. So what little there is, it will be published. It will be shared. That’s the most important thing.
At long last, the dream will be lived!
So, in that vein, we have some new authors on #200WT today, which is AMAZING and we are so excited to introduce them to you all! Please welcome, Ben Cass, Justin J, Megan Cutler and Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore, who says to call her Ellie!
Welcome to #200WT, guys! We are so excited for your stories today and thank you, thank you for sharing them with us! It’s an honour to be able to share your stories on Musae Mosaic!

“Tayamu Unveiled
By Ben Cass

“Is that your way of telling me that you’re still keeping secrets?” Jen turned her gaze towards Theonus. “Aside from your giant pet and the whole ‘I’m a magical warrior from another universe’ thing?”
Doyle’s eyes momentarily lost their twinkle. Jen tilted her head, studying him. “You are, aren’t you,” she said. It was not a question.
He nodded silently. She continued studying him. “And I suppose,” she began in a soft tone, wrapping her arms around his neck, “that it’s something you consider vitally important to hide from me?”
Doyle gently took her hands and peeled them away from his neck, holding them close to his chest. “I can’t begin to describe how vitally important it is. There are things you can’t know yet, in part because I don’t know how to explain them to you. Once I know, you will.” He kissed her hands. “That’s a promise. Just know this: secrets are a big part of my life. Everything about the Tayamu is shrouded in secrecy, and we like it that way. A scribe once described us as a web of secrets wrapped in lies and half-truths, shrouded in a cloak of mystery. It took millennia before people learned we actually existed; even today, there are many who believe us more myth than reality.”

Author: Ben Cass
Twitter: @theonuswiler

Mother’s Arms
By Justin J.

She’s said to dwell in the darkness between shadows. Watching, waiting for her chance to gather her children. Beware the twilight, children. Beware her white hood. Beware the one that seeks to make you hers. Beware the Unholy Mother.

Annie was seven years old. She was a Big Girl, so it was alright for her to be walking her garden at night. She wasn’t scared, because the stars were pretty. She liked the stars. She liked their garden, too. There were lots of pretty flowers and some very pretty trees.

Something moved near one of the trees, and Annie saw something long and white. Her mommy and daddy were inside, and nobody else lived there, so she didn’t know who it could be.

Then the singing started.

“Come now, child, Mama is calling. Come now, child, into my arms…”

Annie saw a white hood. It was pretty. So were the eyes that looked at her from underneath it. She smiled and walked towards her.

“Yes, that’s right…come to Mama…”

Annie smiled and walked into the desecrated, rotting arms that stretched out to her from the darkness. “Mama…” she said, and was gone, taken by her new Unholy Mother.

Author: Justin J
Twitter: @CrazyWriterGuy  

The Kantis Legend
By Megan Cutler

“It hardly seems possible,” Shashir murmured as she stroked the sleeping child’s head. He was still covered in blood, though they had doused him with what water they could spare. Would the stains ever fade?

“Did you see anyone else alive up there?” Derkas retorted, voice dead flat.

They had searched the village thoroughly when they arrived, knowing from the silence and the smell that something terrible had happened. Luckily, rot hadn’t set in, or they might not have found the boy. Those crazy, isolated kooks believed the mountain would protect them. Not one still breathed.

Except the boy, who stared solemnly at them from the center of the slain bandit hoard, his eyes bluer than the sky. He still clutched the crimson-soaked sword in his fists, though it was taller and heavier than him. How had he managed to swing it?

“He looks ten.” Shashir tucked a blanket around the boy’s shoulders, hoping the gentle sway of the caravan carts would keep him asleep. “Twelve at most.”

“The bandits didn’t kill themselves. It wouldn’t make sense.”

“And Litaio’s touch does? What does the war god want with a child?”

Derkas lifted his chin. “He’ll be a Kantis one day. The greatest warrior of our time.”

“He’ll have to be a child first,” Shashir said, pressing the boy against her side.

Author: Megan Cutler
Twitter: @Megan__Cutler 
Most Recent Publication: Island of Lost Forevers Box Set (


Something’s Alive 
By Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore

The house was littered in empty takeout, and beer bottles that were attracting ants. I didn’t even care; it was a roof over my head. It didn’t have to be pretty.
3 am merged into 4 am, but sleep still wouldn’t take me. I sighed and hauled myself out of bed like a zombie. The bathroom was all the way down the hall and it felt like a mile to walk.
I lumbered maybe five steps when I stopped.
Thump … thump … thump.
Something was – lumbering too. And it wasn’t me.
My heart thudded heavily in my throat and I looked at my left, to the white painted wall.
Thump … thump.
Then silence. Like it stopped right beside me. Like whatever was in there was looking at me, too.
My hands were shaking. Mind went – completely blank. I raised a hand and knocked once on the wall.
A second later –it knocked back.
Heat, terror and adrenaline flooded my body and I turned and fled, down the stairs and to the phone. I could hear it; it was stomping, the walls were echoing and they got louder, louder, as if it was moving down the stairs. Toward me.
I picked up the phone and dialled, frantically.
I held it to my ear.
And no connection.
Thump … thump … thump.
Then … it laughed.

Part 2:

I dropped the receiver, grabbed my cell and ran into the downstairs bathroom, grappled with the key and locked it.
The footsteps got faster, louder. Whatever was out there, it was picking up pace, looking for me.
My heart roared in my throat, and I felt sweat pour down my face, as the footfalls went silent in front of the door. I collapsed onto the toilet, unable to stop tears from flowing with the sweat. I couldn’t breathe. This –this was it–
Then, absolute total silence.
‘What –?’
Something gurgled in the toilet beneath me … like the water in the drain was boiling.
I froze.
And then a hand latched onto me, from inside the toilet. It pulled and pulled. I screamed and screamed. I screamed on my own blood when it pulled me deeper and deeper in, my spine snapping in two, legs dangling uselessly.
I screamed as the more it pulled me, the more flesh it ate, until most of my body was gone and blood drowned everything.
I died slowly, hearing the creature laugh and chew.
My life ended completely when I heard it flush what was left of me away.

Author: Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore
Twitter: @TheDinsmoreGal

By Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore

Mommy and daddy said I was being silly. That I was lying and making up stories to get attention. Then they’d hit me and tell me to grow up.
I always said, one day, they’d get them for me. My dolls, with the glowing eyes. The souls of wronged children. They saw everything and told me … one day, you won’t have to worry. We’ll take all the hurt away, if you want?
Just give us each a kiss and we’ll take the hurt away.
So I did. And they ate my soul out of me.
Then my dolls tucked me into bed and said they were going to take care of me. They said not to come out, no matter what. To ignore the screams, even if I was very scared.
I didn’t feel anything and I didn’t care,
I’m all grown up now and after all these years, I’m back in the house where my parents died. I still don’t feel anything. But one thing’s for sure. Legend or not our playthings heard and saw it all. And if we loved them well, maye they’d avenge the wrongs done against us. They saved us, eating away what’s left of our turmoil. No child who loved a toy was ever alone.
It’s a lesson we sometimes learn much, much too late.

Author: Eleanor Evans-Dinsmore
Twitter: @TheDinsmoreGal

By Larysia Woropay

The late-October earth was covered in a layer of frost, except for at the base of the three stakes driven into the village square.
“You’ll burn! The lot of ya!” A crone in the crowd cried, pointing at the alleged bound witches. The rest of the villagers joined in, jeering and throwing up the evil eye.
Wren’s lip curled as she strained against the ropes. These sods couldn’t count or read, but they weren’t entirely stupid. They had found her out. But given the weeping of the two children beside her, they had captured innocents, as well.
“Witches, concubines of Satan!” The priest blared, Bible in one hand and a flaming torch in the other. “You will burn in hellfire! Spilling the blood of cattle to sour our harvest! Have you anything to say for yourselves?”
The girls professed their innocence through tears to an unmoved audience while the priest stared Wren down, not breaking eye contact.
“And you?” He asked her.
Wren sighed. “Let’s get on with it, levereter.”
His eyes became hard. She knew he was a pilfering git. More reason to set her aflame. He dropped the torch. But the flames didn’t spread upwards. Fire raced outward, to the villagers and their homes, setting them alight.
Wren grinned at their screams. She loved a good witch-hunt.

Author: Larysia Woropay
Twitter: @Larysia 

Seal the Deal with @anna_chant!

  I am a writer and mother of three boys from South Devon, UK. I discovered historical fiction in my teens and fell in love with the past. At different times I’ve loved different eras from the ancient Greeks to the suffragettes but my current love is for the early medieval period, often known as the Dark Ages. I don’t like coffee but I usually have a cup of tea handy while I write!

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

AC: I love bringing the past to life and discovering those connections with people who, although they lived more than a thousand years ago, were in many ways no different to us.

MM: So, what have you written?

AC: I am writing a series of historical novels called Women of the Dark Ages, each one telling the story of one of the forgotten and uncelebrated women of the era. This is currently a series of five books from the sixth to the tenth centuries, Scotland to Rome!

Kenneth’s Queen – The tale of the unrecorded wife of Scottish king, Kenneth mac Alpin
The Girl from Brittia – A warrior princess from 6th century East Anglia
Three Times the Lady – The story of Judith of Flanders – Wessex queen to international fugitive!
The Saxon Marriage – The marriage of Eadgyth of Wessex to Otto, the young Hope of Saxony
God’s Maidservant – Treachery, tragedy & triumph – the story of Adelaide of Italy

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

AC: So long ago, I can’t remember!

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

AC: I am working on Book Six of Women of the Dark Ages, the story of another fascinating woman. It’s set in the early Merovingian Frank era and is full of mystery and magic.It’s inspired by a mixture of the history and legends of the time.

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

AC: I mostly work to an outline. The research of the story is key to its success and the first stage of any novel is a timeline of the years of the story with all the key dates of the characters and events of the story. But I am open to ideas while writing and quite often I’ll add events or even take the story in a different direction from the original plan – as long as it is still true to the historical events as far as they are known.

MM: How do you find #FP helps your writing?

AC: I love doing #FP and other hashtag games! If I use lines from my WIP, seeing them in isolation can make me instantly see ways of improving it. But I also like to use lines from my already published works – it’s like revisiting old friends!

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

AC: My favourite historical fiction author is Anya Seton and it was her book, ‘Katherine’ which made me fall in love with medieval history. The amount of research which went into it, all carried out in a pre-internet era, is phenomenal. There’s a lot of world building in historical fiction to recreate the era so I also admire many fantasy authors such as J R R Tolkein and Diana Wynne Jones.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

AC: Knowing when to stop! I find it hard to let go of my books when I publish them, finding I miss the characters who have lived in my head for months! As an indie author I also find promoting my work hard. This is an ongoing learning process.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

AC: I have a rule that I must write or edit at least one sentence each day. That’s it. No matter how tired or unmotivated I feel, I can always manage that. And usually once I start writing that one sentence turns into a paragraph, a page or even a chapter.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

AC: When I’m not writing, I often ‘talk’ to my characters in my head – it helps me get to know them! I also have a ritual for when I finish a book and am about to hit publish. I light a candle to the people of my book and thank them for sharing their story. I never forget that these were real people and I hope they would be pleased with how they’re portrayed.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

AC: Just write. I got my first novel finished when I made it my new year’s resolution to write at least one sentence a day. It’s best not to worry too much about whether the writing is any good. First drafts don’t need to be good. Mine often read more like a set of instructions for the characters! But once they are written, the words are much easier to polish.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

AC: Over the years I’ve tried many different genres but now I’m very happy just writing historical fiction. As a reader I also enjoy romances, thrillers, ghost stories and science fiction. Children’s fiction is often of a very high standard and I love sharing books with my children – rereading favourites from my childhood and discovering some of the great new books which have been written.


MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

AC: My books are available on Amazon:
Blog posts, info on new releases and all things Dark Age can be found at:
For some of the research behind the books take a look at my Pinterest boards:


Sealed ties 
By Anna Chant

Baena scrambled over the rocks pulling loose the shellfish and stowing them in the basket strapped to her side. The basket was getting heavy but she would need a lot to feed the clan that night. This was a task she usually delegated to one of her serving women but it was a balmy evening and it was a relief to be out of the smoky hall. She was even glad of a brief respite from tending to her precious, infant son.As she clambered over one last rock, pushing her red hair back from her face, she cried out in shock. Lying in one of the rockpools was a man, completely naked with long dark hair. A bruise marked his face and a ragged gash ran down his shoulder. She climbed down to him, placing a hand against his neck. To her relief a pulse still beat and the man’s eyes flickered half open.
“What happened to you?” she asked. “Have you been shipwrecked?”
There was silence. Baena suddenly realised how different he looked to anyone she knew.
“I fell against the rock,” the man said.
His voice was high pitched with a curious accent, but at least he could speak her language. “Can you stand?” she asked. “Come to my dwelling, we can treat your injuries.”
The man nodded and got shakily to his feet, leaning against her. Baena took off her cloak, wrapping it around him and awkwardly they made their way over the rocks. The further they got from the sea, the more the man struggled. He leant heavily on her, until she was almost dragging him.
“Baena?” a voice called.
It was Cinaed, the man her father had forced her to marry a few years before. She blinked, surprised at the thought. It was a long time since she had felt any resentment over that. She watched him running towards her, tall and handsome.
He took the weight of the man from her, supporting him easily. “Who is he?”
“He was lying on the rocks. I think he was shipwrecked. He is injured.”
Together they supported the man to the roundhouse which was their private dwelling. With every step, he struggled more. Baena bandaged up the wound on his shoulder.She smoothed back the silky hair, marvelling at how soft it was.
“What are you doing?” Cinaed was frowning as she ran her hands several times through the man’s hair.
She froze, not sure what she was doing. “He has a head wound. I must put a compress on it.”
Cinaed continued to frown as she slipped an arm under the man’s head, holding a cup of heather ale to his lips. But the man turned his head away.
“I must return,” he said, raising silvery eyes to meet hers. ”Take me back. Return me to the sea.”
Baena stared at him. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She cradled his head closer. “You’re injured. You need to rest and eat.”
“Take me back.” The man’s voice took on a sing-song tone, sending images of cool waters and foamy waves into her mind.
The sharp tug on her arms jolted her vision away from the man. His head fell to the floor as Cinaed dragged her towards the door.
What are you doing, Cinaed?” Baena struggled free from his arms, starting back to the man.
“Stay away from him,” Cinaed shouted, grabbing her again. “Do you hear me? You are forbidden from going near him.”
This time he succeeded in pulling her out of the door, slamming it behind him. “Guard this doorway,” he cried to a couple of his men. He sounded completely terrified. “Fetch the Abbot.”
Baena tried to get away from him but he held her tightly. “That man needs our help.”
“That is no man,” Cinaed snapped. “That is a selkie, a most evil demon. A man on land, a seal in the water. Did you not see his eyes?”
Baena stared in bewilderment at the door, but before she could reply, the Abbot hurried towards them. “My son? What is wrong?”
“There is a selkie in my dwelling.” Cinaed ran his hand through his hair in agitation. “Baena found him on the shore.”
The abbot drew in a sharp breath and crossed himself. He held aloft a cross and began a prayer. A piercing shriek rang out, the mournful noise rising higher to a pitch no man could achieve. Baena put her hands over her ears. “Stop it,” she shouted, “You’re killing him.”
Somehow she escaped Cinaed’s grip. She darted to the Abbot, pulling on his arm. Wresting the cross from his grasp, she hurled it to the ground. Instantly the noise from the dwelling faded to a low moan. Everyone stared at her. “My lord,” the Abbot said. “Did your lady look into his eyes?”
“Look into them?” Cinaed cried. “She could not look away from them.”
“My lord, you must act quickly to save your wife or she will follow him back to the sea. Somewhere on the shore is his fur, the one he wears in his seal form. It must be destroyed.”
Cinaed swallowed and put his hands on Baena’s shoulder. “My love, listen to me. Where did you find the selkie?”
Baena folded her arms. “If you destroy his skin, you will kill him. I am not telling you.”
“Please listen to me, my lady,” the Abbot said. “He has you under a spell. You must tell us.”
“Nonsense.” Baena picked up her abandoned basket of shellfish and moved towards the hall. “I shall prepare our meal. I will not help you kill that poor man.”
She felt no guilt for her next actions, as she stewed the shellfish with the juices of berries, ones she knew to aid sleep. There was a tug on her tunic and she looked down to see her tiny son, just walking now, grinning up at her. She thrust him into the arms of his nurse.
“I am busy,” she snapped. “Stop the boy from disturbing me.”
Impatiently she stirred the stew, ignoring the howls of the baby as he was carried away. She knewCinaed’s men were scouring the shore for the seal pelt. As the sun set she almost wept in relief as she knew from their expressions they had not succeeded.
The stew took effect quickly, aided by the strong spirit she added to their heather ale. It was not long before every man was slumped on the ground, including the men appointed to guard the dwelling. She stepped over Cinaed, giving him a curious look. He was her husband, the father of her child. Every time he left to defend the realm, she wept, terrified she would never see him again but lying on the ground, he appeared suddenly a stranger to her. She didn’t think she would care if she never saw him again. Her heart skipped joyfully as she pushed open the door to their dwelling. The selkie looked up, his eyes glowing in the darkness.
“Take me back,” he whispered.
“I will, but you must hurry.”
It took an age for the selkie to limp back to the shore and Baena was afraid the men would awake but as the water came closer, his step strengthened. They arrived back with no soundyet of any pursuit. The man lifted a rock, taking out a seal pelt. Pulling Baena by the hand, he went down to where the waves lapped against the rocks.
“You will come with me,” the selkie said.
The moon threw out a pathway across the sea, leading to a joyful future in the water with this beautiful man. Her friends in the clan, her husband and even her beloved child seemed trivial details she could gladly leave behind. “Yes. I will come with you.”
She stepped into the cold water, letting the waves lap around her ankles, her hand still clasped by the selkie’s. The gentle tug, urged her on. A larger wave rushed in, crashing against her knees, the shock of cold water raising a sudden memory. Another memory of water. Not the sea but the icy waters of a loch. It was a joyful one. How she and Cinaed had laughed as they splashed each other before he had helped her to the bank and taken her into his arms. It was the day she had always believed their baby boy had been conceived.
The selkie still tugged her on but although they were alone on the shore, there came a stronger tug from behind. She pulled her hand free.
“You will come with me,” the selkie said, the silvery eyes gazing into hers.
Baena shook her head. “I made vows to my husband. I will stay with him.”
The selkie smiled. It was a beautiful smile but not as beautiful as the smile which lit up Cinaed’s face when he arrived in the hall each evening to find her and their baby waiting for him.
“Your husband is a fortunate man.” He threw the skin over his shoulders and instantly a seal with silvery eyes flopped in the shallows. Baena gasped, shrinking backwards as it slid deeper into the waves,its head bobbed up and down in the moonlight as it disappeared out to sea.
“Baena!” came a cry, more agonised than the earlier shriek of the selkie. “Baena!”
Baena climbed back over the rocks. In the moonlight she could see Cinaed wading up to his knees in the sea.
“Cinaed!” she shouted.
Cinaed raced towards her and caught her tightly in his arms. “Where is he?”
“He is gone.”
“But you are still here. My love, he put a spell on you. I saw it. Nothing is more powerful than the spell of a selkie.”
Baena stood on tiptoes and pressed her lips against his. “Some things are

Monday Moods with @madeleine_deste!

I’m Madeleine D’Este, writer, reviewer and podcaster from Melbourne. I write speculative fiction with an element of mystery. My steampunk cosy mystery novella series The Antics of Evangeline is available on all good ebook platforms, featuring the feisty and resourceful Evangeline solving strange mysteries in colonial Melbourne. I also host a podcast called Write Through The Roof where I interview writers of all different types and ask ‘what’s the one thing that improved your writing’.

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

MDE: I’m a planner at heart, I don’t get up in the morning without a plan and so I love plotting out my stories and making up new worlds and scenarios. I love that special moment when the words flow and I disappear and the story unfolds magically on the screen. It’s the best damned thing in the world.

MM: So, what have you written?

MDE: I’ve published four novellas (and an omnibus), I’ve written countless novels although most are languishing on hard drives or dead computers. I’m currently querying a second world historical fantasy novel, I have a horror set in a high school with trusted readers and I’m drafting a third novel project (more about that later).

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

MDE: I ignored the craving in my gut for years and focused on my career. Every now and then I would try to write a book but fail and give up. It wasn’t until later in life that I admitted to myself that writing a book was No.1 on my bucket list. So I stopped ignoring the nagging feeling and did it.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

MDE: I’m in the midst of a vomit draft on a new novel about curses, baking and community. My head is too full of random crap, so my memory is rubbish and I can’t remember where I got the idea for a cursed recipe book from, but the story combines folklore and witchcraft with a gritty crime, folk-horror in an urban setting. The Wicker Man meets The Craft in inner city Melbourne with chocolate muffins.

MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?

MDE: I remember some terrible poetry at school, with some odd phallic imagery in hindsight. There’s less phallic imagery in my writing these days.

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

MDE: While I love a plan, I know the plan sometimes goes out the window as soon as the words start flowing. So I start off with a spreadsheet (yes, I know) which is a hybrid of Steven Pressfield’s Foolscap Method and The Hero/Heroine’s Journey. Then I write away, let the story unfold and revise the plan when I inevitably go off-course and have to recalibrate my co-ordinates.

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

MDE: I’m usually a long form writer. It’s novels for me. I treat #FB as a warm-up to my writing sessions and an opportunity to put some creativity out there and see if it resonates with anyone. Just one single ‘like’ will keep self-doubt at bay for another day.

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

MDE: I like rich worlds and clear concise writing, which rarely go together, so I get inspired by all kinds of writers. I love Mervyn Peake and China Mieville for world-building, then I go to crime writers for clear concise writing like Michael Robotham or Val McDermid. And at the moment, I also inspired by the twisty-turny shenanigans of Agatha Christie and PD James. And my favourite inspiration for character is LM Montgomery with Anne of Green Gables.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and … why? What about it really hits home? 🙂

MDE: I have two phrases on my whiteboard at the moment – ‘make and be silent’ and ‘toss creativity into the void’.
Both remind me to get on with the work and don’t worry about the outcome.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

MDE: My grammar is terrible, so I spend a lot of time editing. I use Text To Speech to listen to my work to hear the mistakes that my eyes glaze over. I also hate proof-reading with a passion.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

MDE: I’m learning to tell myself to stop pushing the Muse. She’ll resolve the problem if I stop pressuring her. Yes, it may take time but the answer will come. I don’t have time for writer’s block, I just keep typing.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

MDE: I can’t write with shoes on. This is a bit yucky when I’m writing in a library but I find shoes restrictive.

MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!

MDE: It’s a bit cliché but I’m drawn to ravens; their inquisitiveness, intelligence and their blacker than black feathers. But my other avatar is a grey pebble; worn smooth and beautiful by the ravages of time but ever persistent

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

MDE: Give yourself the permission to write whatever comes out; no matter how weird and wonderful, twisted and tortured, or happy and light-hearted. You are the only one who can write your story, so let it free. And if you want writing advice from lots of more accomplished writers, come check out my podcast Write Through The Roof.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

MDE: I’m always drawn to the dark and weird. Over the past few years of writing, I have been exploring and finding my own niche and it appears my writing is drifting away from pure speculative fiction and into paranormal mystery. This is great fun and a whole new set of writing rules to learn and play with in the crime/mystery genre.

MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

MDE: I have a weekly book review show on called Dark Mysteries so I’m always reading. A recent fave is Beneath the Skin by Sandra Ireland; a spooky strange modern Gothic tale set in a taxidermist’s in Edinburgh with PTSD and family secrets.

MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

MDE: Keep learning.
Keep trying.
Don’t forget to laugh, breathe and take walks.

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

MDE: I’m usually hanging about on Twitter or at
The Antics of Evangeline are available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and more
Write Through The Roof is available on iTunes and Stitcher.


Evangeline and the Alchemist

Chapter 1

By Madeleine D’este 

It all started with a rat-a-tat-tat on the Professor’s laboratory-workshop door. Evangeline and the Professor looked up from their inventing to see Miss Plockton in the doorway.
“Chief Inspector Pensnett ta see you, sir?” she said.
Evangeline perked up on her stool. A policeman here at 56 Collins Street? Something exciting was surely about to happen.
“Ah, yes. I plum forgot.”
Evangeline’s father stopped adjusting his new, improved auto-chariot and walked over to the wooden bench, placing his trusty brass screwdriver with the ivory handle down beside neat stacks of brass cogs, wheels and pins. Her father, Professor Montague Caldicott, the pre-eminent horological-engineer in all the Colonies, smoothed down his humongous moustache with his real hand.
“Your lesson is over for today, m’dear. Follow Miss Plockton upstairs and continue with your embroidery.”
“But Father…” Evangeline groaned. “I could be of some assistance.”
“Police matters are not for the ears of impressionable young ladies. All those dead bodies and smugglers and swarthy criminals. Far too sordid.”
“I never get to do anything interesting,” Evangeline grumbled as she stowed away her rosewood-handled screwdriver in the pocket of her dress, along with a handful of brass pins. The smaller and more delicate screwdriver was a recent gift from her father, an encouragement to pursue her own inventions.
Evangeline’s plain bottle-green day dress, buttoned to the neck, was not the latest fashion but it was better than she had ever imagined in her previous life on the grey foggy streets of London, when her toes poked through holes in her boots. Cold was something she had yet to worry about since she arrived three months ago on the dirigible from Singapore. She wondered whether Melbourne could be anything less than sweltering.
“Out. Out.”
The Professor shooed Evangeline and Miss Plockton from the laboratory-workshop, before carefully locking the door behind him.

There was a time when a visit from the police would have frightened Evangeline. She would have hurried to hide her loot, but not today. Today she was a reformed character, setting aside her urchin ways and learning to be a proper young lady. But being good all the time was a bit dull.

Evangeline sulked all the way up the stairs, clumping her feet and dawdling. Her father passed her, continuing up the oriental carpeted hallway into his study, closing the door behind him. The conversation of men was muffled by the closed oak door.
Evangeline loitered in the hallway, waiting for Miss Plockton to drag her into the sitting room to complete her crudely stitched handkerchief. Whilst Evangeline was proficient in many skills, needlecraft was not one of them.
Rather than bustling Evangeline away, Miss Plockton did something curious. Her father’s personal secretary produced a large brass key from her pocket and opened the small closet adjoining the Professor’s study. The room where all the house linen was stored.

The house on Collins Street, where Evangeline now lived with her new extended family, had many secrets. Built by a gold prospector with some alleged unsavoury tastes, there were many hidden passages and nooks within the walls and floors. Evangeline was yet to be trusted with a set of keys, her attempts to explore the house thoroughly hindered.

Inside the small room smelling of lavender and camphor, Miss Plockton pushed aside a stack of damask curtains, revealing a pencil-sized hole in the wall. An audito-projector, one of the Professor’s best-selling patented inventions, appeared from under another stack of bedsheets. Miss Plockton wound the key, placed the brass tube over the hole and the audito-projector sprung into action. The sounds of male voices emerged through the horn, as clear as the Melbourne summer sky outside.
“Eavesdropping, Miss Plockton?” Evangeline gasped.
“On occasion, a secretary needs ta take initiative,” Miss Plockton said.
Impressed by Miss Plockton’s rebellious act, Evangeline squeezed into the tiny room beside her. There was little room in the linen cupboard with the two women’s fulsome skirts.

“Thank you for seeing me, Professor,” Pensnett said. His voice was gruff with a tinge of the Black Country.
“My pleasure, Chief Inspector. Anything to help the Constabulary.”
“I understand you are responsible for inventing the auto-chariot, sir?”
“Oh, yes. One of my many tinkerings.”
“Actually, we’ve had a few problems with auto chariots. Reckless young gentlemen racing along Flinders Street.”
“Oh, I know nothing about that…”
“Not to worry, sir. I am here for your assistance with another matter entirely. I have rather a curious case on my hands.”
Evangeline’s skin tingled. She knew there was something exciting in the wind today.
“We have reports of new unusual shipments of gold hitting the market of Melbourne.”
“I am a humble horological-engineer, sir. Although I occasionally branch out into other experimentations, I know nothing of rocks and minerals from the ground. Why is this gold ‘unusual’?”
“There have been reports of strange activity. It does not behave as gold should. Apparently gold purchased from a reputable merchant in Goldsmiths Lane has blackened. Overnight.”
Evangeline heard a familiar clicking sound. It was the brass fingers of her father’s clockwork hand. He was probably stroking his proud whiskers as he often did when he pondered.
“Allegedly, on Monday, the gold was bright and yellow, and yesterday, the nuggets looked more like iron. Dull and grey.”
“Of course. Alchemy. Fool’s gold.”

From her hiding place in the cupboard, Evangeline’s eyes widened. But before a gasp of surprise could emerge, Miss Plockton deftly placed a ladylike hand over her mouth. On first inspection, with her tight steely bun and pinched face, Miss Plockton appeared pure hell or high-water Highland Presbyterian, but Evangeline wondered whether she owed some of her efficiency to a touch of the fey.

“We understand you dealt with similar occurrences in London, Professor.”
“I assisted the Goldsmiths Guild by developing a device to identify the offending alchemical material. I can’t remember whether I brought it with me. I’ll have to rummage through my trunks.”
“Was the perpetrator apprehended?”
“The device was a success…But alas, we were too late to catch the fiend on that occasion.”
Evangeline listened greedily to the details of the Professor’s colourful past. Perhaps he was not as boring as he appeared. They had only been reunited for three months, and there was so much she did not know about her long-lost father. She had not even heard the full story of his missing arm. She vowed to grill him at the next available moment.
“Do you have any clues to the identity of this scoundrel, Chief Inspector?”
“Unfortunately not. The heights of the gold rush are over but Melbourne is still a transitory town. It is hard to keep up with all the comings and goings.”
“And there is still plenty of money to be made by unscrupulous characters.”
“Indeed. I thought I’d come out to the Colonies for a quiet life.”
The Chief Inspector and the Professor chuckled.
“Clues are scarce, I’m afraid,” Pensnett continued. “When we spoke with the goldsmith in question, he claimed he could not remember the person who sold it to him. The poor fellow was very flustered by his shoddy memory.”
“As though his mind had been erased?”
“Quite. He blamed some type of phantasm.”
“A ghost? And you believe him?”
“I’m not a man of science. It might sound ridiculous to you…”
“Not entirely…”
“But I have seen enough unexplainable things in my time to keep an open mind. The goldsmith is a reputable businessman.”
“And the case gets even more peculiar.”
“Do tell.”
“The goldsmith surrendered the remaining gold, but when my Constables checked the evidence again this morning, the whole lot had turned grey. Not a speck of gold left.”
“Transitory augmentation. How devious.”

The linen cupboard door burst open.
“Hallo. What is going on here?”
It was Uncle Augie.
Evangeline and Miss Plockton both blushed red, caught in the ungenteel act of eavesdropping.
“A game of sardines? How fun. Move over.” Augie’s voice boomed as he pressed his generous frame into the cupboard. Evangeline cried out as a heeled boot squished her delicate toes.
“Uncle Augie. You do have big clod-hoppers.”
“Miss Evangeline.” Miss Plockton scowled. “Language, please. This is not a fish market.”
“Ssh,” Augie hissed. “You are both terrible at this game. I would have expected better from you, Miss Plockton.”
The door swung open again.
The Professor and Inspector Pensnett stood in the doorway, frowns etched into their foreheads.
“Oh drat. They found us. Squeeze on over, Miss Plockton. We must make room,” Augie said.
“What is going on here?” The Professor stood with hands on hips.
“Sardines, my old chum. Join in.”
The Professor spied the audito-projector clamped against the wall and roared.
“You have been spying on me.”
“Please forgive me, Father…” was all Evangeline could say. Miss Plockton was white as the damask sheets beside her. “I only wanted to…”
“Why is everyone in the linen cupboard?” Uncle Edmund appeared in the hallway, dabbing a handkerchief at his damp forehead, glistening from the outdoor heat. “Is it time for tea?”
“I must be off, Professor,” Chief Inspector Pensnett said. “I am grateful for your time and advice.”
“Yes. Yes. Let me show you out. Please excuse my impertinent daughter and my secretary. I shall dismiss her at once.”
Evangeline gasped again.
“Don’t worry, Miss Evangeline. He gives me my notice at least once a week. Usually on Thursdays,” Miss Plockton said as she bustled away to fetch the tea.
Evangeline’s stomach rumbled loudly. Augie glanced at her, horrified.
“What a beastly noise from a young lady. How can I present you to the Normanbys if your bodily functions speak so loudly?”
“I can’t help it,” Evangeline retorted.
“You take after your Uncle. Always hungry.”
Augie looked fondly over at his best friend. Edmund and Augie had accompanied Evangeline to Melbourne on the long dirigible journey from London to Rome, Rome to Delhi, Delhi to Singapore and then finally Singapore to Melbourne. The Professor’s younger brother, Edmund, was an accomplished architect. He was called to Melbourne to design many of the modern sandstone buildings springing up on every street corner, in preparation for the World Exhibition in 1888. Edmund and Augie were constant companions, they shared a room on the dirigible and even had adjoining rooms here in the house.
Augie, or August Beauchamp, wasn’t Evangeline’s real uncle. He had recently taken over the Prince Albert Theatre on Lonsdale Street and knew all the fashionable people in town. When he wasn’t managing the theatrical types of Melbourne, he was Evangeline’s strict etiquette master.

A triangle chimed down the wooden hallway.
“Goody. Tea. I’m famished,” said Edmund as they all emptied the linen cupboard and traipsed down the hall to the conservatory.

Evangeline smiled to herself.She hoped there would be more talk of the mysterious alchemist over tea. It would be awfully exciting if the Professor would let her help.
Or perhaps she could catch this rascal on her own.

‘Fever Dream’


Beat thumping
I push the pedals
“110 RPM,” the instructor yells
A single drip of sweat splashes onto the bike frame
Studio mirrors fogged
Thighs burn
Teeth grit
Music accelerates and so do I
I hear nothing else
Transported to a dancefloor
Darkness cut by sporadic white light
Arms reaching skyward in joy
Grinning wide, eyes closed
I am the beat and the beat is me
My body is bliss
Bass in my bones
The world is gone
“Thirty more seconds. Don’t give up.”
Back on the bike
Twenty years later
Smiling as I push on to the end

Magic and More with @MoriKaithor!

Hei! I’m Mori Kaithor, I’m French and I’m currently a student in book publishing. I would love to become a full time writer in the future but otherwise I’ll be content with being able to do it just as a passion. I’m trying to pick up as many skills as I can but I’m often way too lazy still I managed to be a decent cook and speak five languages outside of French (Spanish, English, Danish, Turkish and currently learning Korean), I know it doesn’t look like I’m a lazy person but I have a ratio of 70% procrastination so it leaves me 30% to be efficient (note that the ratio still works in my time to be efficient).

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

MK: I just love to create, if I didn’t write I would have looked for another media to support my creation, most likely video games or comics in collaboration with a drawer. I have a large universe in my head and I really had to let it out at some point because it started to make me depressed to not show it. In short, world building is my stuff and novella ensue 🙂

MM: So, what have you written?

MK: I wrote quite a fair lot of shorts before starting my fantasy series to train myself a bit I would say. I am pretty fond of horror for short stories and sometimes I write humoristic ones but I keep those for myself because I think its way too offensive for anyone else but me 🙂

I also tried many formats to write like three sentences stories or ten words stories to be as efficient as possible in showing my narration intent and convey it to the reader.

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

MK: My English teacher made us do a writing project where I had to write a gothic tale and it just went bam in my head I should do that. Since then, I’m having my fun defining my universe.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

MK: Currently, I’m writing Tales of SeliVatis: Timelines, it’s a weekly fantasy serial and it marks the start of a somewhat historic anthology of my universe. I won’t write any novella about the events before the start of the book (probably) and I will show how the societies evolve with magic instead of technology. If you want to know what happens before E1820, the year at the start of my book, I have The Everything Book, it’s a lore book written by an important character of my story, The Librarian, an immortal individual that holds many secrets of the world. In this lore book, you’ll learn about many things in my universe: countries, magic, religions…

It’s a lore book, duh.

I was inspired by reading way too much tropes and thought about how I could add my own spice to those already overused and defined themes like time travels, Chosen Ones (I hate those btw)…

MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?

MK: It was about a blue monster that ate fingers except if you gave him chocolate sticks. It was supposed to be humoristic at first but it slowly became an horror story, I stored it somewhere but I think I would cringe a lot reading it.

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

MK: I’m a hybrid, I like to know where I’m going sure so I already have all my chapters organised in bullet points lists till chapter 50 so I know what characters does what or where they are going.

Then, I’m doing the pantser stuff, I read my bullet points and I let the flow going until my imagination is dry.

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

MK: I like flash fiction or #FP for experimentation mostly, I like to try out sentences I could probably put somewhere in a future story and see how well it works. Like I said before, it’s all about being efficient in your words.

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

MK: I love surreal artists like Dali, especially because they try to explore the human mind which I try to do as well when I create a diverse cast of characters.

I’m pretty fond of absurd comedy from authors like Alfred Jarry or Eugene Ionesco, dark themes under the disguise of comedy. This is probably where I got my somewhat cynical tone in my work.

Finally, Tolkien and Adrzej Sapowski for the fantasy themes they put in their works that inspired me greatly.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home?

MK:Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.”

Salvador Dali

That has been my mentality since a long time, everyone does mistakes. If you can’t understand where or when you’re wrong you’ll never progress and that’s how I try to grow as an artist and as a person.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

MK: For me, it’s adjusting the pieces of the puzzle in my head. It’s not hard to have ideas but the hard thing comes when you want to develop that ideas into chapters and divide that idea into an organised mess than you can start putting on paper.


MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

MK: If it gets hard, I take a little break, forcing myself will only result in something that is completely bland or uninteresting at least for me. If I still can’t write for a few days, I just write a sentence every day until my flow goes back. Finally, if I’m really hard on the writer’s block train, I’m switching WIP, I write a short story so my main WIP can mature for a few weeks until I go back to it.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

MK: I generally like to have my five senses occupied to be able to concentrate on the writing, otherwise it’s really hard for me to focus.

In five steps it looks like that:

-Eyes on the computer

-Metal/classical music in my ears until my ears are ringing

-Chewing on something, generally a piece of gum or chocolate or drinking a cup of tea

-Hand on the mouse

-Incense burning

Then I’m completely ready, in general, to write something.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

MK: If you have it, do it you can just make art for yourself. Art is not always meant for other, sometimes it’s just medication for yourself, it can be your little secret garden.

I don’t really know what helped me to that point, probably sheer willpower but I’m still not sure.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

MK: I’m mostly attracted to fantasy, sci-fi and horror because those three are closely related and you can pretty much use all the theme in one of these genre to make it in another one. Also these genres are the ones I made my culture with, excluding the classics. In #FP, it depends sometimes I can have a nice line of romance (even if I hate writing that), themes call different points of view and I try switching as much as possible to try something out.

MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

MK: I read the entire Witcher series after getting into the game I love the English translations it’s absolutely amazing J.  I almost regret that some good part got skipped in the game.

There is also On Ugliness by Umberto Eco that is great for people that have interest in art or history and for research purposes. It’s illustrated and classified by themes and it’s a really good source of knowledge. I love the part about Witchcraft.

Finally, since I’m a poor student, I can’t buy all the books I want so I read everything that interest me for free, so here’s some good works by some Twitter pals you can read for free.

-Victorian Mistress by Jesse Stuart, if you want something out of the nowadays stereotypical teenager vampire story.

-Beaufort Scales by Kim M. Watt, a great collection of short stories with an amazing dragon.

-A Patriot’s Tale by Nicole Pierman, historical fiction in the setting of the American Revolution.

MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

MK: First, shout out to my friend @Daiyana_Cosplay who drew my profile picture, she’s a cosplayer and an amazing artist overall. Check her out on Twitter, I’m sure she’ll love it!

Top ten maltesers in a bag of maltesers:

  • The first one
  • The one you get after working on your book
  • The on at the end of the bag
  • The one in the handful you took
  • The one that is stuck to another one
  • The one that you ate in half to check its inside
  • The one that you confused for your stroopwafel
  • The one you throw on your computer out of rage
  • The one that you put in your pistol replica
  • The one that you put in the box of gums to confuse co-workers

I’m ending it with two quotes from Jean-Claude Van Damme, it’s unrelated but I do what I want.

“If you talk to your bleach when you’re washing dishes, it’s less concentrated.”

“If you phone a psychic and she doesn’t answer the phone before it rings, hang up.”

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?  

MK: Well, I have a twitter @MoriKaithor, a Wattpad still Mori Kaithor and I used to have a blog which I’ll reopen at some point so I can fill you in with random stuff and useless top tens.


        A Bargain     

 By Mori Kaithor


Eric could not believe what he found in his backyard, a key with a sticker “Basement” on it. He moved only one week ago and wondered why he could not open the door while the nervous and fidgety landlord gave him supposedly all the keys.

He could remember how he came across the “deal of the century” like he said himself, after trying numerous real estate agencies. One day, Eric, following a failed deal -related to the poor student situation he was in- was accosted by a thin man with bags under his eyes but clearly well-dressed once he went out of the agency.

The man proposed him a deal, he could offer him a house ten times better than any of the offers he tried for just a hundred euros of rent monthly. What a bargain!

As any of you would have been suspicious, Eric, naive as he was followed him without a second thought.

But he was not lying apparently, the thin man led him just a few meters further from their original position, passing a public park with the promised housing at the end of the stone path.

Eric could not believe that such a manor could be rented for just a hundred, he did not think two times before handshaking the landlord. They both entered the property and signed the deal in minutes.

“Oh well.’ Eric thought. “I should not worry too much about those matters, I have everything I want.”

He picked up the key, stuffed it into his pocket and went back to the manor. The manor was a work of art, taller than the surrounding trees, large red stone walls and a garden that you could fall in love with. Eric thought that perhaps the cost of a hundred was due to the fact that the large bell that used to be suspended in the bell tower was sitting in an unstable manner on the second floor after crushing the upper ones. But the landlord assured him that it was safe.

He admired the horizon one last time, returned home and dashed into bed.

His sleep was agitated, he dreamed about cities and people chanting in a circle. The chant slowly seeped into his mind until he mumbled.

“The Green is the colour of Man. The Door is a Rainbow. We are the Light, your Gaze is a Shadow.” He repeated in the same rhythm with long pauses between each sentence.

Suddenly the dream stopped when he sworn something grabbed his soul, a weird sensation. It was similar to having your head squished by a hydraulic pump and losing every marker of time and space.

But he could not wake up, he was trapped in a state of semi-sleep with a paralyzed body. Eric did not know what to do, pinned to his bed by phantom hands on every limb. Slowly, figures started to draw themselves in the dark. First the nose, then the jaw and finally the eyes. Their mouths were sewn by a red thread. Suddenly one of them put his hands on both of his cheeks and stared directly into his eyes.

“I am the potter, you are the clay. You are the lost lamb, we are the shepherds.” The shadow whispered in an ear-ripping voice.

Another one took the place of the first with the same gesture.

“You must bow. I am Three.” This one whispered in a calm but irritating voice.

The last one did not replace the second in the same position but still whispered in an energetic but nasty voice.

“Your river is fear, mine is mercy. Your heart is stone, mine let the river flow.”

Once they were done, they disappeared in the shadows of his home, leaving him staring at the ceiling with his eyes wide open and bloodshot.

Silence. Sensations slowly returned to his body, he could move his fingers, slightly, but not much more for the time being.

Eric felt drained, emotionally in particular because of the nightmarish figures. He continued to fight his own body for a moment to try to jump to the bathroom in order to clear his mind and when it finally happened, his own strength surprised him and he fell off his bed. While laying on the floor like a poor imitation of a turtle, blood started oozing out of his nose due to the impact.

He dragged himself to the bathroom, opposite to his bedroom, crawling on the floor, partially stunned and bloody.

Then, Eric pulled himself up using the sink and gazed at his reflection in the mirror. He was in a bad shape -similar to the consequences of a street fight- and more importantly, the visions could not be erased from his mind. He was dizzy and unsteady on his feet but cleaned himself up with splashes of water and a towel.

Eric grumbled and went back to his bed, limp-legged.

“What a nightmare.” He thought. “I hope I did not break anything with my fall…”

Thus, his first week in his manor ended on a sour note, to say the least.

In the morning, Eric could not take his breakfast. His hand was aimlessly dipping his buttered bread in his coffee. After all, he could not forget last night. His eyes wandered through the windows until he caught another disturbing sight. A puppet-like figure, limbs tied by strings, making slows steps in his garden before disappearing in a cast of mist. He dropped his bread, causing his coffee to splash on his white shirt and more importantly some burning pain.

He screamed more of surprise than agony but he would be late if he were to change and thought he could hide the stain with his jacket.

This would later prove to be completely useless, the stain started from his collar to his armpit and could not be covered completely.


His day was terrible as well. Eric’s focus was at his lowest point and repeated a process similar to his bread with his pen and notebook.

Hallucinations kept bothering him, one in particular. His teacher’s face was changing to be more horrific hour by hour. It started “simply” with the skin shedding and falling on the ground but now, grey flesh grew back on the skull with dirty patches of hair at the wrong places -the throat for example- and more importantly, a new pair of eyes were floating near him, staring at Eric.

Eric breath started to be rugged after all the pressure he was put under these last hours. Most likely, he could not keep his face straight and the last spit of composure he might have is nowhere to be found. He stood up and went home in a hurry, even forgetting his notes and bag.

On his way home, he was assaulted by voices in his head.

“We are freedom. The Door is the Rainbow.”

“We are calling you, The Green is the colour of Man.”

“We are waiting for you. We are the Light, your gaze is a Shadow.”

With this, Eric began to perceive more and more perverse visions.

The most terrifying one was a child killing his father with a stone shot by a slingshot between the eyes.

The closer he was from his home, the stronger the voices and the visions were.

The phantomatic limbs again. Grabbing his limbs, slowed him down and the further he was going forward, the more he was pinned down to the ground. One step left from his door but he could not move anymore, the mass of arms finally stopped him. The three shadows stared at him, with a smile revealing crooked teeth.

“Come we are waiting. You have been chosen.” They whispered at the same time.

Then, they released him but the cold sensation of their hands stayed on his skin, unlike the other time. But at this point, Eric was not the same anymore, his instinct told him to go to the basement. They were waiting for him. His eyes became paler until his irises were blank and the way he moved, his humanity could be questioned.

Slowly, the front door was opened, the stairs to the basement were descended and Eric stood in front of the basement door. He knew he had to wait for something. A few moments later and the front door was closed, steps sounds were coming from the back. Suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed his shoulders. Eric did not react, he knew the thing he waited came.

“Come, Eric, the Masters are waiting for you.” The landlord whispered in his ear.

Then, the thin man took the basement key from his pocket and opened the basement. A room without light and a foul stench of decay.

“Akim, we are pleased.” Three voices shouted in the background.

“I am delighted of this honour. The device worked. I am ready to ascend.” The landlord answered.

“Come and be blessed.”

“Eric, it’s your turn now, bring them new devotees to serve them. The basement key is the device, plant it somewhere in the garden for the next initiate.”

The landlord opened Eric palm and put the key in his hand. Then, he engulfed himself in the back of the room. Silence before only sounds of bone-crushing and flesh tearing could be picked up.

“Eric, your duty is to bring us a new landlord. Once you did, you will ascend.” The three voices shouted.

“It will be my utmost pleasure.” Eric answered.



Double Trouble 2-Months of #200WT!

Welcome to the double trouble two months of #200WT!
It’s been a hard, insane, and nutso couple of weeks and months but we’re not gonna go into it! We’re talking about the future now.
In everything that’s been happening and not been happening, we’ve been working hard on a ton of things and it’s all coming together. FINALLY.
So now … NOW we’re gonna have some fun and get ahead on a ton of things. For the remainder of March and April, we are going to publish both month’s themes and all can be written together or apart, however you like! BE CREATIVE, FOLKS, THIS IS YOUR TASK AND THIS IS YOUR MISSION!
And so, without further chit-chat and et cetera, here are the two months of themes that we are putting out into the world!

The #200WT themes for March:




Sounds cool, right? Ahh, I’m excited for these …
Oh! And the #200WT themes for April are as follows:




Whooo! There you have it! The double trouble two months of #200WT. I am so excited. I’m excited to have this going again! Seriously, I feel like this is a whole new chapter for 200 Word Tuesdays and I’m so looking forward to seeing all the new stories and everything.
I’m staring down the business end of my 22nd birthday in April, and I want that day to mean something more than me aging for another useless year. I want to start really living the vision I’ve had for Musae Mosaic for so long and with a lot of luck and no small amount of hard work, I think it’s possible that together, we can create the magazine I dream it can be. The ultimate platform where we can celebrate the many vibes and voices in this world, in writing, in art and creativity. This is my calling and now is the time to heed it.
So … guess who’s going all in from now on and guess who’s changing the way this magazines gonna work??
That’s right! I am yours and I am devoted to your art, your writing and your voice!
That’s my vow.

Until next time, and until we meet again over your awesome #200WT’s, have fun! Be cool! Stay safe and stay creative! Keep writing! 🙂

The @Lord_Stabdagger Super Special #200WT Edition

The last couple of weeks have been hard. Hard and full of potential, and full of work. But its beginning to come together and in a big way.
To illustrate this perfectly …we’ve been keeping a kind of huge secret from the world for the last year and a half.
And this is the first you’re hearing of it!
This secret has been in development for months and months, and it’s been an evolving process of learning and applying those learnings to new things, and it all comes down to a perfect, client-centred and fully qualified way of connecting artists to their completely unique superpower …
It has been a period of a lot of faith. Faith in this project, and a lot of faith in ourselves, and now … the tables have finally turned. Its results time! 😊
In that whole vein, it’s also a new day for all that we’re doing on Musae Mosaic and we’re looking into some major changes and while we’re nervous, it’s also pretty exciting!
We hope you’re excited too. Everything we’re doing is for you! 😉
And now … to #200WT!
This is the last edition we have that is going to follow the format we’ve been having for the last few months, and we’re looking forward to some changes!
For this edition, we have something very special for you. There were no other submissions this week, but … something amazing happened and we got a MEGA submission from our very own, @Lord_Stabdagger, based on the beginning of his chain story, Run for your Death. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? With that in mind, we decided to run with this chain story and this story alone, so … without further ado, we present … the @Lord_Stabdagger Super Special #200WT Edition!

Run for your Death

By Lord Stabdagger

Part 1:

Robert had never been happier. Finally, after several years of hard work his life was exactly where he wanted it to go. In the morning he starts his new job and by the end of the year he’ll be set for life.
He stands in front of his wardrobe mirror admiring the new suit he’ll be wearing, totally absorbed in his own self-worth, when all of a sudden, “Good morning,” came a voice behind him.
He turned to find a tall elderly gentleman dressed in tweed, sitting on the end of his bed, casually smoking an old-fashioned pipe.
“Who the hell are you! How did you get in here!”
“Oh, don’t worry about me, I’m simply here to deliver a message.”
“Get out or I’ll call the police!”
“Police? Don’t be ridiculous they won’t help you. Nobody will, but perhaps I can help you to help yourself.”
“Who are you!”
“I have many names, but usually people refer to me as the Grim Reaper.”
“I haven’t got time for this!” He went to grab the old man, but he wasn’t there.
“Exactly,” said the old man, leaning against the wardrobe, “you haven’t got time.”
“What? How? What?”
“You’ve only got until eleven thirty-six tomorrow morning.”

Part 2:

“I’m going to die at half eleven tomorrow morning?”
“Thirty-six, yes.”
“And how may I ask am I going to die?”
“You’re going to jump off peak cliff.”
“What the bloody hell for!?”
“Because the alternatives are far more gruesome. You’d be far better off jumping from a great height.”
Robert laughed, and the old man smiled.
“Tell Brian I’m going to kill him!” said Robert.
“Brian? Do you think this is a prank?”
“Well of course it’s a bloody prank! You’re no more the Grim Reaper than my late Granddad!”
“So, you’re not convinced?”
“No. I am NOT convinced!”
“I see. Would you rather, I looked like, this?”
Moments later Robert was as white as a ghost and frozen to the spot. The old man lent against the wardrobe with his arms folded, sporting a smug grin.
“I’d sit down if I were you,” he said. Robert slowly sat on the bed.
“Why?” he asked, “but, why?”
“I know. I disagree with it myself. I tried to argue your case, but they decided your time is up.”
“The powers that be. My employers.”
“Look, I don’t make the rules, I simply collect the reapings. But there is a plus side to all of this.”
“Is there?”

Part 3:

“You get to choose how you’re going to die. Personally, I’d go with the cliff.”
“Why? What’s the alternative?”
“Tomorrow morning there’s going to be a series of potential disasters that for you will prove quite fatal.”
“Such as?”
“Now let’s see, two motor vehicle accidents, a gas explosion, a stabbing, the fall of a heavy object, and an electrocution. If you don’t take my advice, one of these alternatives will be your downfall.”
“Why is the cliff any better?”
“It’s a thousand-foot sheer drop. With your nervous disposition you’ll be dead before you hit the rocks.”
“Oh, cheers.”
“My pleasure.”
“But why me? Why now? I’ve just,”
“Yes, I know. A young hard-working man, just got your life in order, a prosperous future ahead of you, terrible waste.”
“This isn’t happening. I’m asleep, I must be!”
“You’re not asleep.”
“Then I’m hallucinating!”
“Then, then, I, I must be –”
“You’re wide awake and fully aware. This isn’t a dream. You’re going to die tomorrow morning and I strongly suggest you exit via the cliff.”
“But, I don’t want to die.”
“Nobody does, except for a small minority.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do for me?”
“Afraid not.”

Part 4:

Robert sat dumbfounded.
“Look on the bright side,” said the old man, “at least you’ve had prior warning. When the moment comes it won’t be quite so bad.”
“That isn’t helping.”
“Mmm, comfort was never my strong point. Anyway, I must be off, I have several appointments at the hospital before visiting a pile-up on the motorway. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“All day! I’ll stay right here, therefore I cannot be involved in any accidents.”
“Oh really?”
“Of course! Why else would you take the trouble to warn me in advance?”
“Stay if you wish. It won’t change anything.”
“Why? What could possibly happen to me here?”
“Oh, you’d be unpleasantly surprised. Trust me on that.”
Robert was suddenly alone. The only sound was the frantic pounding of his heart thumping in time with the ticking of the clock on the wall. With every second that passed the time of his demise grew nearer. He thought about the list of deadly encounters that were supposed to happen tomorrow, then realised a slight floor in the old man’s plans. There aren’t any cliffs for hundreds of miles. The old man’s voice echoed through his mind, ‘you’re going to die tomorrow.’
“The hell I am!” he spat and grabbed a suitcase.

Part 5:

An hour later, he’s on his way to the train station. The old git didn’t mention trains. A trip to his uncle’s house out in the middle of nowhere should keep him safe; miles and miles of open flat land and not a cliff in sight. Of course, his plans will need to be delayed and rearranged, plenty of time for that after cheating death in the morning.
By eleven thirty-six he’ll be tucked up in bed watching the football on Sky Sports, then lunch with a pint to celebrate at the Kings Head, then back on the road to success. Perfect.
Waiting in line to buy a ticket he’s growing impatient. The people before him are foreign and can hardly speak English, arguing with the ticket man. Time is passing. His train will soon be leaving. Another one thunders past causing the building to shake and dust is falling on his face. He brushes it away and looks up. Above the window roof was an old concrete statue. As the train passed he could see it moving slightly. ‘The fall of a heavy object,’ came the old man’s voice. “LOOK OUT!” he called and dived out of the way.

Part 6:

His suitcase was flattened by the statue as it came crashing down, he just managed to get clear and ran out onto the platform. As the panic ensued he caught his breath and realised he’d need a new form of transport as no doubt the trains will be cancelled for the time being.
He ran to the nearest bus depot and hunted for a rout that’ll take him as close to his uncle’s as possible. The only way to do it would be using several routs taking far too long to reach his destination in good time.
The only option left was a cab. ‘Two motor vehicle accidents,’ came the old man’s voice through his mind. Risky, but in theory, reaching his uncles would be quicker by car.
He hurried through the nearby streets to find a cab, and finally saw a free one pull up beside a pub. A woman was just about to open its door when he barged into the back and slammed the door behind him and commanded the driver to go. The driver was an elderly man a little hard of hearing, and eventually agreed to take him the long distance after throwing him a wad of cash.

Part 7:

The journey would take at least three hours and the driver needed fuel. They pulled up to a gas station just out of town and Robert went to use the bathroom while the driver filled up.
As the driver was waiting in line to pay, Robert joined the queue with a handful of snacks for the journey. The young man at the till was raising his voice at the assistant; then pulled out a long knife demanding cash from everyone. The driver, an X-soldier, challenged the youth believing he was still able to tackle a man in a fight. Remembering what the reaper said, Robert dived behind a stall to hide, only to feel the cold steel of another blade held to his throat. He raised his hands and stood slowly, his assailant escorting him to the other crook, being wrestled by the driver.
They broke up, the crook threw his knife, the driver ducked, and the knife was now heading straight for Robert’s chest.
A moment later, he was on the floor, and his captor was falling to his knees with the knife in his throat. The driver launched himself on the other crook, and Robert scurried away, got in the cab, and sped off at high speed.

Part 8:

With a full tank and a racing heart he shot down the road like a bullet, narrowly avoiding a collision with a truck as he rejoined the carriageway.
His shirt felt damp, then realised his captor’s knife had cut into his skin as he dived out of the way. Luckily it wasn’t a deep cut.
Minutes later he was finally beginning to calm down. Night was falling as well as a thickening fog and ahead of him the traffic was slowing down. He tried to overtake as much as he could until forced to stop. ‘I’m off to a smash up on the motorway,’ came that voice again. This must be the smash he was talking about.
Robert tried to be patient as the jam went on for up to an hour. He’d be half way to his Uncle’s by now. Growing restless he got out of the cab and walked ahead to try and see the commotion through the fog. Many cars were beeping their horns and above them was the sound of a truck horn, blasting repeatedly. Behind him there came a mighty crash and several vehicles were ploughed past him by an articulated lorry that failed to see the traffic jam in time.

Part 9:

Among the carnage was his cab, now small enough to fit into another car’s boot. Robert just stood there between two cars that missed the action, frozen with shock and disbelief. That must have been the first of the two motor accidents the old man mentioned.
Bewildered at his near miss with certain death he wondered with the frantic crowd towards the pile up. Through the fog he could see the truck was a tank carrying fuel and it had tipped onto its side leaking petrol from a split. Sensing what was about to happen he turned and fort his way back in the opposite direction. Moments later, an enormous fireball lit up the scene
The force of which sent him flying into a field beside the road. He landed on a stack of hay. He looked behind him at the inferno; then lay back down hyperventilating. Above him the sky was a series of thick black lines. An electric pylon was stood next to the haystack. The cables were stretched over the road, and the flames were just tall enough to reach them. ‘An electrocution.’
“You have got to be *&$%:~# kidding me!” he said, and rolled off the haystack just in the nick of time.

Part 10:

The cable was weakened by the heat and snapped away from its holding, falling directly where he was laying. The haystack was now a bonfire and poor old Robert was staggering as fast as he could away from the chaos.
A short while later he wakes up in an Ambulance, his neck cleaned and dressed. Only one Paramedic is attending him as the staff is spread thinly.
The medic checks him over and leaves him to rest while he attends to other people. Robert lay back. There was no hope of reaching his Uncle’s now and thought of being in hospital was the safest place on Earth.
He chuckled to himself, confidant he’d beaten the Reaper at his own game, when a familiar voice caught his attention.
“There you are,” it said.
“Brian? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Looking for you. We were going to pay you a visit, but we saw you heading for the train station. You weren’t thinking of leaving, were you?”
A chill ran through his body. “No, erm, it isn’t like that, wait.”
A big man got in, a large hairy fist and everything went black.

Part 11:

Many hours later he awoke, his head pounding, his jaw aching. He was sitting in an old wooden chair in a dingy room. Outside he could hear crashing waves and seagulls. As his vision came clear he was surrounded by a bunch of big blokes. Before him was his friend stood behind another man seated before him in a leather armchair.
“Welcome back,” said the man.
“Where am I?” he groaned.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Robert. You’ve let me down.”
“No, you don’t understand, I was –”
Robert recognised the voice and forced his eyes to focus. The man sitting before him was someone he knew quite well, or so he thought. “Uncle! But, how, what –?”
“This morning was going to be your big chance to prove yourself. But it seems you had plans of your own.”
“You’re the boss?”
“You always were a big disappointment, Robert, like your mother always said. She’d be so ashamed of you now.”
“No, you don’t understand, I wasn’t bailing I was, I was –”
“I was, I was –” he couldn’t tell them he’d had a visit from the Reaper himself and desperately tried to think of something.
His Uncle nodded to the big man behind Robert.
“No! Wait! I can explain!”

Part 12:

The big man had the defibrillator from the ambulance attached to a car battery. He was about to put it to the sides of Robert’s head when he caused the chair to fall back, knocking the man off balance. He fell in such a way as to electrocute himself.
The other men pulled out knives and stood ready.
“Please,” he begged, “there’s no need for this!”
“Finish him!”
Robert wasn’t much of a fighter, but he was good at getting out of the way. As the men went for him they ended up stabbing each other.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” shouted his Uncle, then pulled out a gun and tried to shoot him. Again, Robert dodged and weaved then threw himself out the nearest window. He landed on the body of a men they killed earlier. Instead of panicking he quickly looked at the dead man’s watch, 11:29am, and ran like mad.
Behind him he heard two cars roaring after him, so he ran as fast as he was able, not knowing where he was or where he was going.
The cars weaved across his path trying to run him down, his Uncle took the odd pot shot from his window missing every time.

Part 13:

Robert stopped by a large rock to catch his breath. His friend took the opportunity to try and crush him against it. Robert dived; his friend panicked and hit the rock head on with a loud crash.
Now his Uncle, the boss, was heading straight for him. He ran, and ran, and ran. He dived over a line of small bushes hoping to dodge another attempt on his life and found himself falling.
“Excellent choice,” said the old man, casually falling beside him as though he was lying down, gently puffing on his pipe.
“Yes, yes, yes I get that a lot.”
“Sorry, it isn’t part of my job description. Don’t worry, it’ll all be over in a moment.”
“You brought this on yourself.”
“Life is full of choices and you live according to the consequences.”
“Do you really believe your cut out to be a gangster? You couldn’t fight your way from a paper bag.”
“Have you?”
“Look, I can’t save lives, but I can grant last wishes.”

Part 14:

“It doesn’t quite work like that I’m afraid. You see, you’re here because of someone else’s last wish.”
“Please! I swear I’ll change my ways! There must be something you can do!”
“Mmm, well, mmm, not really, no.”
“You are such a complete and utter… shouldn’t I have landed by now?”
“Yes, about a minute ago.”
“Then why haven’t I?”
“We’re having such a lovely chat I thought I’d prolong the moment.”
“Your unbelievable! How can you live with yourself?”
“I don’t live at all.”
“Look, please, I swear I will turn my life around! Just give me one more chance!”
“Are you a man of your word?”
“Yes! Yes, I am! I AM!”
“I’m not convinced.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave!”
“Your mother’s grave? That’s a shame. Very well I’ll take it up with head office.
The old man vanished. The sharp pointy rocks were getting closer very fast. He screamed and screamed, then landed with such force that his bed fell to bits and his bedside table went flying across the room.
He looked around as he caught his breath. No rocks, no waves, just his room. “What the! How… I’M ALIVE!” He laughed like a madman and jumped on the remains of his bed.

Part 15:

“Only so long as you keep your word,” said the old man, leaning against the wardrobe. Robert nearly jumped out of his skin.
“I’ve spoken to the powers that be,” said the old man, “they have plans for you.”
“Yes. You stay on the straight and narrow and good things will be waiting for you.”
“You mean this wasn’t all just a –”
“Dream? Good heavens no.” The old man hinted at the tall mirror on the front of the wardrobe. Robert was a mess. The radio turned itself on tuned into a news programme describing the catastrophe on the motorway the night before. Robert fell flat on his arse with the realisation it was all real.
“So, we’re agreed?” asked the old man.
“Yes,” said Robert.
“Splendid. Right, I’ll be off, and If I were you I’d get cleaned up and pay a visit to your mother this afternoon.”
The old man smiled. “Remember what I said about last wishes? I’ll see you again in a few years’ time, unless of course you go back on your word. Cheerio.”
Robert spent the afternoon with his mother while his Uncle and friends were arrested during an armed bank robbery that went horrible wrong.
But at least as his mother breather her final breath, her dying wish came true.

Author: Lord Stabdagger
Twitter: @Lord_Stabdagger  
Website: castle-stabdagger/blog

BookBabble Interview – Awakening Passions with @demiurgent_G

Here it is! The very first of its kind, celebrating a long-time Musae Mosaic community member and wonderful friend, Alicia Wallace, with her new book Awakening Passions!

MM: So … tell us about you as an author. How long have you been writing?

   AW: I started writing in school, thanks to an hour a week that was dedicated to story writing. At the time I read a lot of Enid Blyton and my writing reflected / mimicked that. I only stop writing when my mental health makes it impossible, and even when I’m really ill I sometimes try poetry. The funny thing is, it’s not for the writing. It’s always about the storytelling for me – and the times my writing takes the biggest hit is when I’m most socially active, because I’m telling my stories out loud.

MM: Give us an outline of this book.

AW: During the Regency period, when ladies weren’t allowed to know sex existed until they were married, and young ladies weren’t allowed to be with gentlemen outside their immediate family unescorted, two orphaned young ladies are cast onto Society. The rules are drummed into them over and over, with different impacts. One of the girls is healthy, curious and naively willing to risk her life for a bit of fun. The other discovered her sexuality in a very traumatic way and is now convinced she’s the lowest of the low. They meet several men, among them a pair of gentlemen rakes who decide to play with the girls’ affections, for their own reasons.

MM: What message do you feel your book most openly conveys?

AW: I hope it says that it doesn’t matter what the “rules” are, or how rigidly you adhere to them, the most important thing is that you have the courage to be honest about yourself and you treat everyone with kindness, dignity and respect. Treating people differently because they don’t fit a particular mould is harmful to us all, and going against popular opinion can be very, very hard.

MM: When did this project begin for you? From the first seed of inspiration to the finished product?

AW: Even today girls get a lot of mixed messages – you’re either a slut or a prude, you’re too much of one thing or not enough of the other, so it’s really hard to figure out who we are as individuals – and this is in an age where we talk about sex very openly. Even in the most supportive environment, you still get bombarded with messages from films, media, etc. It’s almost impossible to think about sexuality as a teen or young adult without a sense of confusion at best. 200 years ago, when to express any interest in a young man could be considered unseemly, it must have been dreadful. So I spent a while exploring that idea. It took about 18 months before I felt able to commit words to a page, and that was for NaNoWriMo. I wrote the whole novel in about 40k words originally, which is fortunate because I have a massive problem with ski slope endings. I spent the last week of November padding out the end and wrapping everything up and ended up with my very first full novel. The process didn’t end there, but I’ll talk about editing later.

MM: How did it feel, getting the story out from you and onto the pages, and out into the world at last?

AW: It was amazing. I was so proud just to have finished writing something that long. It really broke down an internal barrier for me because since then I’ve written several long-form stories, and the process gets easier each time. I also have to confess, even though this isn’t a “proper” publishing contract, when I realised some complete stranger had read the book (my first royalties of 24p came in from the US where someone read the whole thing on Kindle Unlimited) I actually screamed. I had an awful cold at the time so it wasn’t a particularly impressive scream, but it was an amazing feeling. I was – still am – overjoyed.

MM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

AW: Getting to know the characters was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most amazing part. I’d written a lot of short stories, vignettes and other bits and bats, but nothing where I’d been so close to a character before. When I started writing, I thought Helen was a real person and everyone else acted as a support structure for her. It wasn’t until I was half way through writing that I realised they were all real people. It was funny – I’d had a scene in mind from the very start of writing, based in a ballroom where George’s ex-mistress is trying to seduce him back to her and he throws her over for Helen. I swear, when I reached that part of the book and tried to write it, for a second I was stood in that ballroom with them and they all looked at me in varying shades of disgust and ridicule. They collectively refused to do what I wanted and I thought: “Well, that’s me told.” I stopped writing, re-read the novel from the start and edited big chunks that didn’t feel right. By the time I got to the ballroom the story was *completely* different and infinitely better.

MM: What was the hardest part of writing this book? The parts that really through you for a loop?

AW: Editing! You know how proud I was when I finished the 50k words? Well, I stupidly thought that I’d written a good book and I kept thinking that for almost two years. After a long break I came back to read it again (I wanted to feel good about myself) and discovered it was deeply flawed. I was very upset, very embarrassed and got to work hacking and slashing it into something that would be readable to people who aren’t me.
That experience basically made me immune to hurt from any constructive criticism, though, so I’m very glad it happened. It also taught me a lot about *big* mistakes I need to avoid which I rigidly adhere to – number one being it doesn’t matter how much I know about the regency. I’ve written a novel, not a thesis. If the facts aren’t absolutely 100% essential no arguments no nothing THEY’RE OUT!

MM: Throughout the writing of your book, which character did you feel you most related to? And how did you feel their character development impacted you?

AW: I originally intended Helen (aside from the crippling sexuality issues) to be very similar to me. I thought that would make her more authentic, but the truth is I’m far too eccentric to be a repressed Regency lady. George’s sister, Marianne, was originally a more or less throwaway character that was only there to display all of my eccentricities, but she turned into a very beautiful, lovely person, with a phenomenal amount of strength and generosity within her. Her back story made me cry like a baby the day I discovered it.

MM: How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?

AW: Georgette Heyer – I think that’s the most common response from people who’ve written a Regency romance and with good reason. Her knowledge of the era was impeccable and she was capable of writing the most ridiculous things in a way that made them seem either frivolous or threatening depending on how seriously she wanted you to take the character. The Duke of Avon is a masterpiece – by turns awful and alluring, depending on the nature of the scene. Anyway, after reading Heyer, I got into Austen, and then I devoured every Regency Mills and Boon that came my way. It seemed like the easiest place to start writing – some of those M&B were not great, and I was sure I could do better!   

MM: What kinds of research went into this book and what are some of the references used in it?

AW: Oh I love me some research! I own *many* books about the Regency era (by which I inaccurately mean everything between 1793 and 1820) covering politics, social structure, wardrobes, weapons, food, slang and other such things. I also use the internet a lot: one lovely thing I refer to are the historical maps you can find online because they can give you a real sense of place – this is one of my favourites:

As well as maps, you can find church records online quite easily and to me the ability to refer to the curate of a particular church by the name of the guy who was there at the time was a lovely feeling. Also, although I’ve been trained not to rely too heavily on Wikipedia, it can be a great place to pick up on gossipy tidbits about some of the more prominent figures of the age that might not be accurate, but can embellish your sense of place without overwhelming the reader.

MM: Did this book have a soundtrack? Music that you loved listening to?

AW: I listen to Radio 2 while I write. If I try to choose my own music I end up with a very limited selection. However, the Jeremy Vine show isn’t to my taste – it’s too often people arguing, which is very disruptive when I’m writing – so if I’m at home on a weekday, I turn the radio off at 12 and take a 2 hour lunch break!
However, I do have a music playlist on Youtube that I sometimes set to random and bury myself in. It started a mellow background music for when I play the Sims, but it’s good for writing too. Hopefully the link will work!

MM: Any chance of a sequel? 🙂

AW: Marianne’s story is waiting to be told. I know roughly what happens to her, I just haven’t been able to find her voice yet. If people want it, that will be more than enough encouragement for me to work harder at getting that written.

MM: What do your plans for future projects include at this point?

AW: This is quite a long list, but crucially, I’ve switched my primary genre into thrillers. I’ve just finished writing one called “A Better Place” which I’m going all out on getting an agent for (as soon as I pull together a pitch/ query) and I’ve started a new one called “After Life.”
“A Better Place” is the story of three women who are linked by a murder: the killer, the victim and the detective investigating. It was a dark, dark thing to write, but I’m very proud of the finished product.
“After Life” is the story of a man who has been murdered, and in his death he learns he’s one of many victims of a serial killer who has been going for over a decade. One of his fellow victims – one of the first to die – is deeply distressed by the fact that her killer has never once thought of her death, and he is determined to help the police catch him and help her find some peace.   

MM: Do you write just anywhere or do you like having your own little nook where the muse feels most at home?

AW: I can write anywhere there’s a keyboard, really, but I live with a dream that when I’m a full time writer, I will have a shed that gets really cold in winter. There will be an electric heater, a kettle and my computer, and I will huddle over the keyboard like Scrooge at his desk, with fingerless gloves and a nightcap on.
My current flat has storage heaters so I spend a lot of time being cold and it really helps me focus 😊
I’d love this:

But I accumulate clutter so it would end up looking like this:

MM: What books have most inspired your writing insofar?

AW: Enid Blyton was my very first inspiration, but as I matured I took on Austen, Dickens, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Boris Akunin and, of course, Terry Pratchett. I live in hope that one day I will be able to write with the sheer artistry of Sir Terry, but failing that I’ll settle for twists like Akunin, satire like Austen, or characterisation like Dickens.

MM: How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion, and how do you feel it enriches you?

AW: Storytelling is, for me, a way of life. I can’t give directions (according to my boyfriend) without segueing into a narrative form of speech. Instead of “next left” it’s “you’ll see a left coming up in a minute, we’re turning there.” It makes some parts of my working life really easy though – I have to write reports and convert notes into presentation speak, or textbook entries, and it takes me an hour to do what takes other people days, because I do it *all the time*. I never stop writing and the transferable skills are fantastic.

MM: How do you feel this book impacted you, impacted the way you tell stories and share them with the world?

AW: I learned a lot about things to avoid from my first draft, and I also learned that I can actually do it. That, for me, was *huge*. The other element – sharing with the world – I’ve noticed that when I wrote this book I was very reluctant to ask people for feedback because I didn’t think I had the right to subject them to it, even when I felt it was “finished”. It felt very invasive. Nowadays I’m happy to throw my early drafts around to find out if they feel like something people would want to read, and that’s really good for me.

MM: How did you celebrate the publishing of your book?

AW: As it isn’t a traditional publishing contract, I didn’t go through the period of anticipation after signing a contract and getting a proof copy. I used Kindle Direct Publishing and banned myself from looking at Amazon for almost 48 hours. When I realised it was up, I basically went Twitter crazy. I was so, so happy. Then I figured out how the reports work and learned I’d made 24p in royalties. I’m not kidding, I was more excited by that than I was when I earned my degree.

MM: What advice would you like to pass on to fellow writers still working on the fulfilment of the literary dream?

AW: I’m not there yet, but I’d say there are 3 things:
1) Stop apologising. I know you do. “I wrote this, but it’s probably not very good,” “I don’t think people will really like it,” etc. You think you’re being humble but you’re actually saying “Obviously, you’re incapable of judging the merits of my novel, so I’ll tell you what to think before you read it.” It’s a weird self defence thing, and no-one cares what you think. You wrote that book for readers, not for you. It doesn’t matter what *you* think. It matters what your readers think. Stop telling them what to think. I did this a lot in my early days and once I was made aware of it actually made the whole process of getting feedback so much less awkward.
2) The book isn’t about what you know. I made this mistake in my first draft and it irritates me immensely when I see it in other writers. If you’re writing a book about building a ship, spending the first 20 pages talking about how the engines are assembled within the framework only shows off that you have done your research. If it doesn’t further the plot, cut it out. It’s highly unlikely that two experienced engineers are going to be having a conversation and one tells the other “You probably don’t know about this really major thing in our field that had been happening for the last 20 years” and if they do, it had better be because you’re highlighting what a patronising ass they are. (I’m sorry, this is getting a little ranty😊 )
3) No criticism is bad. It may be painful, but that isn’t the same thing. If someone tells you your plot doesn’t make sense, there’s no point in arguing: the reader is telling you their truth, and you write for readers. Ask for more information – what their issue is and why it doesn’t make sense. They may, after all, have skimmed over a really important point. But that’s not strictly their failing either. That’s not to say you won’t get people picking on ridiculous things “Your psycho is from Birmingham. My mum’s from Birmingham.” (has actually been levied at me as a criticism, I kid you not) and obviously, there will be times when 99% of your readers get it and you have to decide how much work you need to put in for that 1% and whether it will negatively impact the rest of your readers.

MM: Anything more you’d like to add?

AW: The hardest thing about writing fiction is authenticity. We all have our own voices, and finding that voice takes a lot of work, but it’s wroth the effort. I could pick out a Terry Pratchett piece – even an early one – very quickly. Same with Stephen Fry, Bill Bryson and many more. When you write with the “correct” voice, it makes a huge difference to the authenticity of the piece.

If you’re writing fan fiction, using the voice of the original writer let’s you get away with a *lot*.
If you’re writing historical or fantasy pieces, try to get a feel for how the people of that time or place would speak.
If you’re writing just as you but struggling to find your voice? Well, playing around with other people’s voices is a good way to learn your own and it will absolutely make a difference.

MM: Where can your loyal fans find you?

AW: I’d like to open with a book pitch once more: Check it out! My first ever published book!
I have a blog where I regularly post short fiction, poetry and the occasional irate discourse on some unimportant facet of life.
I live on Twitter. I’m @demiurgent_g. Currently my timeline is very full of my new book and this cold I have, but it will get better soon, I promise! Follow me – I have many amazing friends that I retweet and chat with. Your life will be enriched by knowing them, even if my cat’s antics fail to entertain you.

Excerpt of Awakening Passions …  
By Ruth Richardson

It was a long time before they met again, but their aunt’s reaction had been so strong that as soon as she spied him, Helen murmured to Rose “Earl of Langley and of Fallon, and Lord of Highton.” Rose snapped her fan open and hid her giggles behind it. The list of My Lord Hazlemere’s titles had become their mantra after their aunt had recited the whole amount trying to make clear to them his importance. Both girls found such an ostentation to be stuffy and it rather prejudiced them against the poor gentleman. Rose found his quiet reserve to be dull after her recent experiences with more forward, younger gentlemen. Helen initially considered him to be slow and tedious, but under a feeling of obligation to her aunt – and both girls were truly grateful for the opportunity their aunt had offered them – she persevered with him, trying to find some way to converse with him that wouldn’t leave her utterly bored. Through desperation one day she had made an observation on the recent Corn Laws that she had learned about through her morning habit of working through puzzles and reading newspapers. Instead of responding with horror that a woman should know such a thing he responded in kind and they spent almost half an hour discussing the politics of the day. When the conversation broke up he eyed her with new interest and she considered him with more favour than previously.
Now they met regularly at similar social functions – sometimes only for half an hour before one party or both departed – but such was the nature of the society they moved in that their circles continuously overlapped. Rose found those circles to be increasingly narrow and bereft of interest. Helen felt she had met at least one real friend and considered herself to be lucky. Their aunt observed the budding relationship and although she reflected to herself that she would have expected a man with a history such as Hazlemere’s to be more interested in the lively Rose than the sedate Helen, she was happy as long as one of the girls landed such a prize.
She did not look with such favour on George Carstairs however and her eyes narrowed as he entered the room one evening while they were at a ball. While Hazlemere had renounced his rakish ways over a year ago, Carstairs was still renowned for his appalling behaviour and lax approach to the rules of high society and now that she had two young maidens to care for, Lady Agatha found herself questioning how reliable his reputation was for being no despoiler of innocents. Unfortunately, for some reason, Rose appeared to have caught his eye and he was now spending time around her. Aunt Agatha would have been horrified had she known the truth as to how that came about.
At a ball a few nights previously, Rose had been bewailing to Helen the tedium of their admirers, after a particularly miserable country dance with a parson’s son and she cried out “Why are all the gentlemen so boring, tedious and safe? I want excitement and adventure!”
Upon hearing this Helen practically recoiled.
“Oh, Helen, I know you don’t want that, but I do! I want a man who will excite me, interest me, play with me and make this more fun! You can keep your dull, safe, tedious Hazlemere. I know he is exactly what you want, and you have no competition from me. I want more. I won’t settle for being a middle aged wife with children and nothing joyful in my life before I turn twenty. I want to live a little first! I want someone like…” she trailed off and looked around the room, a huge sparkling ballroom with throngs of people until she spied one dark, eagle eyed man bending over a sparkling red-head in her early thirties. “I want someone like him.”
Helen stared across the floor at the dark man and felt a surge of danger rising inside her. Everything in her head screamed out that he was a bad thing to be too close to. She tried to convince Rose that it was silly to get involved with a man like him but she was adamant. When he casually strolled out to a balcony fifteen minutes after the girls first saw him Rose followed and Helen, unable to let her sister fall headlong into danger without at least as much protection as Helen’s presence could provide, followed. Rose elegantly tripped onto the balcony and dramatically thrust aside a curtain to almost collide with the gentleman in question.
When she spoke to him “Oh! Forgive me sir, are we welcome in your domain?” his initial response was to attempt to retreat, but he appeared to rethink when he saw Helen following her onto the balcony. Helen was mortified when she caught his eyes on her and tried to shrink behind the curtain her sister was holding, her aunt’s strictures on proper behaviour echoing in her mind.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Miss..?” The gentleman spoke and his voice was deep and gravelly, somehow completely in keeping with the feeling of danger that was thrumming through Helen.
“Miss Rose Collins,” she bobbed a curtsey and he bowed and turned his gaze to Helen. “This is Helen, my sister. She thinks we shouldn’t be here so she probably won’t talk to you.”
Helen gasped in horror. Such rudeness was beyond her comprehension and she was truly scandalised by the attitude her sister was taking. He saw her face and read the distress in Helen’s eyes as clearly as if she had shouted it aloud.
“Lord George Carstairs,” he bowed. As he did so, he gestured with the right hand which held a cigarillo. “If you will forgive me, ladies, I withdrew to partake.”
Helen didn’t find the smell of tobacco too unpleasant and was torn between reassuring him that he had no need to apologise and the need to retreat from this situation as rapidly as possible. While she fluctuated in confusion, Rose tilted her head and twittered, attempting to thrust her breasts forward to entice his gaze while declaring that she enjoyed the scent of tobacco so much that it seemed unfair that ladies were not given the freedom to indulge.
“It is,” she stated, “one of the many freedoms gentlemen have that I find the lack of to be so constricting as a lady. I’m sure you could introduce me to others.” George Carstairs was not the sort of man to allow a chit of a girl to lead conversation in a way that this one was attempting to and her clumsiness was wholly unappealing to him. He found himself more in sympathy with her sister’s horror than interested in her own aggressive flirtation.
Noticing the glance Lord Carstairs cast Helen, Rose moved forward to reclaim his attention. “My sister is a little shy, and disapproves of meeting you like this. But then, she prefers a gentleman to be like the eternally dreary Marquis of Hazlemere with his endless prosing on about stuffy politics and farming. I want a man to be adventurous, to be entertaining and to seek out danger; not stay at home every night with no more interest in fun and frolic than a bishop!”
Helen’s horror had turned into mortification as her more forward sister began to disparage a gentleman who she had truly begun to esteem and George Carstairs’ lips twitched as the only thing he wished for upon hearing a thoroughly inaccurate opinion of Hazlemere came true – that the man himself should hear it as George watched.