Friday, 8 January 2016

Snap, crackle and prompt - weekly delights

If I’d thought the slightly tricky combination of prompts might be off-putting I was soon proved wrong, since you all showed great imagination and very deft placing.  Hopefully this week’s words will be equally productive, but I know from my own writing the occasional ‘difficult’ word can bring out excitingly acrobatic feats.  It’s a treat too to see so many serials developing, even though, for myself, I find them so much easier than one-offs that I think I need to challenge myself a little more often.
After expressing unnecessary doubt, Patricia’s “Slithering like Cleopatra's asp into the bosom of the galley” in the twenty-seventh episode of Cripplegate Junction has won first place, with honourable mentions going to Chris and Zaiure.

Words for the coming week are: bark, chess, dry

Entries by midnight Thursday January 14th , new words and  winners posted on Friday January 15th


Usual rules: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialized fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media best pleases you and, if you like, remind your friends that we are open to new and returning writers.

67 comments:

  1. Getting the picture

    If he’d been more knowledgeable about nature than he was of death he could have told what tree it was the body had been tight-bound to from the bark pattern tattooed indigo on the lard-white back laid out before him: a chess-board, wet-inked then tipped and swirled immediately, squares wrung to anguished diamonds.

    Having done the necessary swabbing, slicing, probing, peeling; having stretched and re-stitched the torso Y and face in place again, he’d submitted his report on cause of death.

    Now, no relative, wet- or dry-eyed to claim her, she was his; flensing tool, set-square, IKEA ‘Ribba’ frames to hand.

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    Replies
    1. Gruesome and horrible, but that description of the woman's back...wow! Very creative and wonderfully phrased. That last line made me shudder!

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    2. exceedingly gruesome and matches my mood this evening perfectly - as in, devil take it, I wish I could write like that!

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    3. Now there's an autopsy report that conjures all the images. Love the thought of "swabbing, slicing, probing" and "peeling" being necessary. This was antiseptic in delivery and yet so thought-provoking in execution.

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  2. Congratulations to Patricia, that was one hell of a good use for that prompt. Also congrats to Chris and Zaiure, great pieces.

    On a sidenote, I started a new blog today where I'll be rambling on about fantasy, books, movies, blogs, etc. With every post I'll always promote a site that I like and I took the liberty of promoting "The Prediction" with my first post.

    In case anyone is interested, here is the link:
    http://fantasyrambler.blogspot.de/

    Don't worry, my next installment of "The Immortal" will be here any day. ;)

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    Replies
    1. I failed to link it properly the first and second time, so here it is again. ;)

      Fantasy Rambler

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    2. Thanks Kai -I see it's finally appeared!

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    3. Awesome, I'll be sure to check it out. :)

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    4. Look forward to checking out that link as soon as I get a moment.

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  3. WINNER TAKES IT ALL

    The pieces were in place. Black Obsidian. White Diamond.

    The stakes were considerable.

    The air high above the table top mountain was dry and thin.

    "Ah, my hell hounds are barking."

    "My heavenly host are singing."

    Their eyes locked momentarily across the chess board.

    "Your move."


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    Replies
    1. How well "The air high above the table top mountain was dry and thin." sets the scene - excellent use of the prompts! (Have to admit I'm really struggling this week)

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    2. I'm with you on inspiration this week, Sandra. This is giving me more trouble than last week's combination.

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    3. Definitely a chess game with high stakes! Love the imagery evoked by 'black obsidian' and 'white diamond'.

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    4. this is clever, so much said in so few words, because the words chosen create their own images. Like it a lot.

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  4. The Immortal 24

    Her fingers entwined with my own began to pull away. I tightened my grip as if hanging on for dear life. Not wanting to hurt her, but knowing that if I let go Death would pull me back into the abyss.

    I barked my resignation through the dryness of my throat, hoping for sympathy or good will. “I was sent to kill you, but I won’t. I can’t. Death is using me like a pawn in an otherworldly chess game.”

    Sandie’s eyes pierced my soul, searching for the truth of what I had said. “But what did he promise you?”

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    Replies
    1. And again, "a pawn in an otherworldly chess game" is superb. This a particularly strong episode.

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    2. Lots of lovely phrasing in this. Sandra picked out my favorite, but I also loved 'knowing that if I let go Death would pull me back'.

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    3. oh yes, good one. Love the last line!

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    4. There's not much I can add here that hasn't already been noted. As previously commented, the "pawn" reference is inspired. I found it interesting and intriguing that our resurrected protagonist is apparently still in possession of his soul. I wounder if that will be his salvation or his downfall.

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  5. On a totally non-storytelling topic, what needs to be done to get the titles show up in bold?

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    Replies
    1. Patricia, it's HTML: you need to type < then b then > at the beginning, and < then /b then > at the end. Use i for italic.

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    2. Yay...the HTML coding works, as in "combination" above. Thanks so much, Sandra.

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  6. Kursaal (Episode Three) -- "Archon"

    Leaving silence in his wake, Archon navigated the forest floor, a chessboard carpet of dry leaves and tangled tree roots.

    He followed the cobbled byway through the arched entrance of the Kursaal and past the barkers' quarters until he reached Manasa's caravan. Perched upon the wooden steps, she was expecting his arrival. The fragrant smoke from her cigarillo drifted heavenward. Manasa kissed the triangular head and allowed his darting tongue to caress her lips.

    "There's my lovely boy!"

    Archon coiled into the waiting Charming Basket. If he had been a cat, he would have purred.


    ---------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale, please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/kursaal.htm.
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site.
    Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    Replies
    1. Loved your description of the forest floor as a chessboard. Brilliant! And Manasa sounds like a fascinating character. :)

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    2. Superb opening line and yes, this serial promises much. Well done with the barkers!
      btw - the link is missing the final letter of html ...

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    3. Ooopss...Thank you, Sandra. Revised link below.

      ---------------------------------------------------------
      To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale, please visit:
      http://www.novareinna.com/kursaal.html
      A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site.
      Thank you.
      ---------------------------------------------------------

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    4. seems all the clever ones have been busy here already, that's classic cliff hanger writing.

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  7. Change of focus [160]

    Pettinger’s suspension was short-lived.
    The Chief Super, realising he’d appointed a woman whose bite appeared to be much worse than her bark, applied what he claimed was a legal reverse promotion, quoting a precedent as obscure as some ancient chess rule which, in effect, demoted her.
    Becky Upminster complained to no effect.
    Pettinger genuinely sympathised: it was a shitty trick.
    Becky proffered London Dry Gin.
    Pettinger declined. ‘Prefer Grey Goose, thanks, and,’ remembering Vanessa, ‘ that stuff is mother’s ruin –‘
    Becky, bitter, ‘This particular mother’s already ruined – the only bastard now is it’s father!’
    ‘Who was?’
    ‘Who d’you think?’

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    Replies
    1. Lucky Pettinger! Smooth phrasing as always. Loved how you worded the line about the legal reverse promotion.

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    2. oh tis, good so it is. Pettinger up to his usual games and nearly getting away with it, too.

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    3. This serialization continues to mesmerize and amaze. And you claimed to have been struggling this week. Pshaw, I say!

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  8. The Mad Queen [4]

    As expected, the Queen had been less than pleased at her isolation. During one of Luke’s visits, she procured a handful of dried bark and attempted to stuff it down her own throat, blue eyes spitting fire, as her maids tackled her and forcibly cleared her mouth. Once they helped her back to her feet, she smiled coldly, eyes still hard on his, and made a regal gesture at the chessboard in one corner, unconcerned about the bits of wood on her chin or the wild tangle of her honey-gold hair.

    “Care to play, dog,” she said.

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    Replies
    1. Mad Queen indeed! Where is this going to go?

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    2. superb writing here and a lot of intrigue, too.

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    3. I find myself totally absorbed when reading this serialization and so, the end always comes as something of an abrupt screeching halt. Love the image of "blue eyes spitting fire."

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  9. Full circle [Threshold 96]

    Ravenscar!
    Which better? Witness, undermining the prosecution, or escape and find a way to free him?
    Someone, from two floors above, barked an order.
    Urgently, feigning avidity, to Burk’s father, ‘Captured? I’ll only believe it when I see him. Is he chained? Held secure? Fed only on dry bread and water?’
    He took me to what had once been a wine-cellar, the white tiles of its chess-chequered floor a-bloom with crimson stains.
    My heart near stopped at his tight-shackled blackness – hot echo of when I saw him first.
    Eyes glinted. Teeth gleamed. His words another heart-jolting echo: ‘Don’t flatter yourself.’

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    1. I am loving this particular serial and this is such a good instalment. Again, killer last line.

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    2. Another serialization that I totally adore. This one always moves as smooth as silk and and I always have to go through each one at least twice in order to catch the prompt words.

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    3. Smooth as silk is an adequate description of your beautiful phrasing. Loved the description of the wine-cellar floor, as well as 'tight-shackled blackness'.

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  10. Cripplegate Junction/Part 28-The Cripplegate Games Collection

    "I will take that Queen and any other chess pieces you may have stolen," insisted Miss Constance.

    George whistled. "Barked like a true Sergeant Major, sis."

    The Grande Dame was indignant and insulted. "Mind your manners in the presence of your betters. This Red Queen is rightfully mine."

    "It is part of the Cripplegate Games Collection," said Constance.

    She turned to her brother. "I will fetch the Station Master. Do not allow her to leave."

    George snapped to attention with a smart salute. His fingers brushed the formerly dry bandage swathing his forehead and came away speckled with fresh blood.


    ---------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/cripplegate.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site.
    Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    Replies
    1. Really inspired use of the prompts! - well done indeed.

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    2. yes indeed, the prompts vanish in this instalment. Again, killer last line.

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    3. Entertaining and beautifully layered as always. :) I really liked the imagery of the last line.

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  11. Infinity 129.
    I heard tell some years ago of a certain bark that would dispose of unwanted things. I have unwanted things, the devil’s spawn of the Creature. So we be sailing the South Sea islands searching for the stuff. Tis like a game of chess, wanting to outwit those who want to know why we want it. I need fresh so I can dry it and scatter it and dispose of it once and for all. I wants the Infinity free of its burden. And its Cap’n who be sick to the heart with the thing. God send a fair wind!

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    1. I really did have no end of trouble locating the prompt words in this. I love the introspective musing and the idea of "unwanted things." And...we are at installment 129. Ye gods, Antonia. How do you do it?

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    2. I'm SO glad you had poisonous bark - I researched it but could not fit it in anywhere convincing - and the other prompts so appaently tailor-made

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    3. Loved your use of bark, hadn't thought of a poisonous version! Hope the Captain comes out the winner in this game. :)

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    4. thank you!
      As with most of my work these days, it's 'put sad or evocative music on and let the fingers do the work.' I brood on the prompts for a few days, then just go for it! Not had to delete an entire episode yet but it may come. I think the Cap'n has a few more adventures to come before he returns to his home port at Shipton.

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  12. I think what I like best about the serializations here is that whether creating or following, you can never be absolutely sure how the storyline is going to materialize because so much is dependent upon the prompt words. It makes for a very challenging project but also one that is so unpredictable. I don't know about anyone else, but I have absolutely no idea how my "Cripplegate Junction" or "Kursaal" will eventually reach conclusion.

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    1. Me too! I have absolutely no clue where my story will go, but that's half the fun...and a bit frightening haha. ;)

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    2. I've never known which way they'll twist, which has proved good training for the murder mysteries I write, albeit on a much larger scale. Also, although I've the list of prompts I never know which will come up next until I'm ready to do the weekly letter.

      But as you say, Patricia, it's the not knowing that makes this such a fascinating and, dare I say?, addictive challenge. And seeing how others meet it is another part of the reading enjoyment.

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    3. I actually have a vague idea of where I want my story to go, but managing that with the unpredictability of the next prompts is tough. Several times, I've already gone in slightly other directions than originally planned, but that's definitely part of the fun. :)

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  13. The Scaled Heir

    The sibilating bark of the Serpent Hounds made Enori want to stick her fingers in her ears, but dour Magda was watching, so she merely gritted her teeth and took a sip of syrupy wine. Her maid had been exceptionally sharp-tongued when she’d had returned from outside, with spring-green chess threading her hair and purple mud on her dress and hands. Now dry and re-clothed, her skin still felt raw from Magda’s scrubbing.

    “Enori,” her mother said. “You must not wander past the sky shields. It’s not safe.”

    Enori scowled. It rarely rained acid anymore.

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    1. Nearly went blind trying to spot the prompts in this - beautifully, tantalisingly done - and what a gorgeous piece of writing.

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    2. Beautifully done. Such skilled writing and magnificent imagery. Frankly, Sandra, I wouldn't want the job of selecting this week's winner!

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    3. the magic of setting a complete background in a few words never fails to amaze and entertain. This is a delight.

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  14. On An Unrelated Note

    What a sad beginning to the year. First news of David Bowie's passing and now Alan Rickman. The world is a less talented place without two such major talents. They will be missed but their presences will always linger.

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    1. Very sad. :( Loved both of them.

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  15. tis just too sad. Ever grateful for the legacy of music and film they have left us.

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  16. Queen gambit

    It’s been a long, dry week - escorting old Mrs. Wheeler twenty four hours a day means no booze and almost no sleep, but the pay is nice. She called after she got spooked by Monday morning’s mail; some nut sent her a chess queen busted in two, with a note, maybe in brown ink, she just knows it’s blood, saying this was the end for her. I keep saying with these kooks it’s all bark and no bite and to let the cops deal with it, she says she can’t sleep unless I’m keeping an eye on things. And sober.

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    Replies
    1. A simple, single, devastatingly disabling kick to the gut, not a word wasted and impossible to pick out a favourite phrase because they are all superb.

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    2. Tight, entertaining piece. Love a good murder mystery!

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  17. The Adventures of Rosebud, Pirate Princess #7
    Playing with Fire


    I saved all the bits of tree that came aboard, so today Natasha and I decided to make a chess set. The bark for the board needed drying, but the wood was already perfect for carving. I lightly torched my pieces, but left Natasha’s tree colored. The board will be burnt in a grid after I make a stencil out of the spare fireproof cloth. Hopefully we’ll have time to play between jobs, though not with the current schedule.

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    1. When I first saw the prompts I thought of my morris team, the Bassett Street Hounds, because we have a dog chess board that appears every year for our ale.

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    2. Oh, Rosie! As original and inventive as ever - this gave me such pleasure.

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    3. Love this little glimpse into their lives of how they pass the time.

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