BADASS PRINCESS OF THE WEEK: THE STORY OF THE CRYSTAL SHIP

It’s been a long time since I did a Princess of The Week; a series where I look beyond Snow White and Beauty, to the Awesome heroines who are just as strong and adventurous as their male counterparts Last time, we looked at a dragonslayer and a woman who used her wits to become the Sultan.

This week- as part of the prompt of the day challenge (inspired by the theme of magic)- we’re going to look at The Crystal Ship, a story where a young girl travels to the ends of the kingdom to rescue her Prince.
Continue reading BADASS PRINCESS OF THE WEEK: THE STORY OF THE CRYSTAL SHIP

Daily Prompt: Scorched- BEYOND THE APOCALYPSE

via Daily Prompt: Scorched

BEYOND THE APOCALYPSE

2062- and we were running for our lives. Running from the men in anti radiation suits. We turned the corner- but there were more men out to kill us. They weren’t government or enforcers. They were ordinary men from our rival tribe; they were worse than enforcers. For them this was personal.

“You can’t do this!” screamed my sister.

“Like hell we can’t, you little vermin!” cried a woman.

“We didn’t do anything!” screamed my sister.

“You’re taking our food!” screamed man, “It’s thanks to people like you, that our supplies are dwindling! It’s your fault this happened in the first place!”

He handed us to the men in radiation suits. My sister screamed as they dragged us away. Towards the entrance. Towards the end. My heart pounded in my chest. This was more like a dream. I heard the door slam. I felt earth beneath my feet for the first time. Exposed on the surface. We were going to die. We were really going to die.

My sister banged on the door for what seemed like an hour. No one listened; of course they didn’t. If I learned one thing from the underground Haven, it’s that people never listen. Eventually my sister learned that too. Her screams grew silent. She fell to her knees and was silent for a long time. Then she began to speak again.

“There’s no way out.” she said.

My answer was silence. I looked up at the sky, at the grey snowflakes falling on my cheek. My sister looked up too, lost in thought.

“Hey sis, can you tell me about the sky again?” she said, “Before the great war.”

I smiled, sad. I looked into the big black sky; at the endless wasteland of fallen buildings, burnt to the ground and covered in grey snow.

“I’ve never seen it before. “

“Tell me anyway.” she said, “I…I need something…something to stop me thinking about this…”

I sighed and looked to the sky, at the grey flakes falling down.

“Grandma always said back then, snow used to be different than it is now. Before the surface was scorched.” I said, “It didn’t fall apart when you touched it- not like this.” I said, holding another ashy flake in my palm as it disintergrated, “It was cool and wet. It used to cover all the earth, all the trees with beautiful white sheets. And people used to build snow men. Or make little balls and throw it at each other.”

We stare out, into the ashen wasteland.

“There wasn’t the war back then.” I said, my voice small, “There was… but not like this. Not like the one that did this- not like the purges.”

“Sis…” my sister’s voice choked. “How long… do you think we have… before the radiation kills us?”

“I don’t know, four hours maybe?”

We were both silent. We looked back at the cave lead door of the underground city we came from.

“Four hours.” she choked, “…I don’t want to die.”

“I know you don’t.”

“I’m scared.”

“I know you are.”

I didn’t know what to tell her. In a few hours, we’d be nothing. We’d be dead. All I could do was hold her hand.

“The sky,” she spoke softly “It’s beautiful. Funny, all that time underground… I never thought I’d see it.”

I looked up at the endless void, filled with beautiful stars. I’d never seen a star before, but I’d assumed it was like one of our strobe lights. I never knew its life could be so…pure.

” Do you think it’s true- what they say?” she said, “That… maybe there is a paradise-somewhere here?”

The lost land sealed by the stone door. The story every child in the underground city knew by heart.

“Maybe.” i lied

“Hey, sis. I don’t want to die doing nothing.Do you think… maybe if we look, we might find it before the radiation kills us?”

“I think we should try.” I said.

We walked together, into the scorched wasteland, looking at the remains of humanity. At the piles of rubble that was once our greatest achievements that meant nothing now. In search of what man had been searching for since the dawn of time. Paradise. A place better than this one.

Hey, thanks for reading. This was done in response to the daily prompt challenge which is here: Scorched . Follow the link to find out about taking part.

If you’re interested in another piece of flash fiction set in this world, please click here for more on their paradise.

The Secret of The Sailor and The Kraken

Everyone knew the story of  my grandad. 50 years ago, a Kraken had terrorized our town. Killed a lot of people, including my Uncle. That’s when Grandpa snapped; with only a hunting knife, he went out and killed the monster and became a hero.

But one of the strange things about him was that he always walked along the sea front alone, late at night.

I followed him one night. I watched as he stood by the ocean. Moonlight glittered on a shiny black tentacle.

He didn’t even look up, “I knew you’d find me, lad. I’d like you to meet Ella. The Kraken’s daughter.”

“But… why?”

The old man gave a heavy sigh.

“Ella here’s a herbivore.” He said slowly, “Tried to feed her some tuna but she wouldn’t even touch it.”

“Then…”

He put his hands deep in his pockets.

“I found out…” he said, “many years ago, my son was seeing another man. Your mother said some men found out and didn’t like it. Were gonna blackmail him. Don’t know who.Apparently the thought of me knowing was worse than death to him.”

He kicked a rock.

“I’ll never know what happened- if it was someone else who killed him, or he did it himself.” his voice choked “All I know is that people still go missing, my son’s gone, and killing that Kraken didn’t do a damned thing.”

He gave me a long, tired look.

“If you only remember one thing I’ve told you, remember this.” he said, “It’s easier to kill a monster than look in the damned mirror.”

Grandpa walked away into the night,not looking back.

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This is my 280 word submission for the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Each week we submit a story of approximately 100-175 words based on a photo which we use to center our short stories on. It’s really beyond the word length and is probably ineligible, but I had a good story and decided to share it here anyway. Hopefully it’ll be a good read anyway. For more information, click HERE.

Scarecrow of the Old South

 

Mr Abbott was always there, on the porch, drinking a beer. Holding his shotgun. Say his only friend was that scarecrow.

Older folks say it wasn’t always like this; he was different before ‘nam; or before his wife left. It always changed.

All we knew was that he’d always been there until one day, he wasn’t. We no longer saw him. We wondered, but no one dared ask. It was a salesman- an outsider – who found him. Said the door was open. He looked in. He dropped his suitcase. Called for help.

Police said Mr Abott had a fall. He’d layed there three days before he died. Shame really. We all went to his funeral. No one cried.

The only thing left of him is that scarecrow. On some nights people say they saw the scarecrow holding his old shot gun. Mr Abbott’s long been dead.But even now, no one dares go near his property.

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(157 words)

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This is my 150 word submission for the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Each week we submit a story of approximately 100-175 words based on a photo which we use to center our short stories on. For more information, click HERE.

FLASH FICTION: Last Man In Paradise

I opened the stone door, to the other world; the one I thought could only be a delusion. Paradise. My breathe caught in my throat. It was… real. All those years of fighting, grey clouds, bullets. Watching my father die. Now I was here, in a field of endless green.

I held a flower in my hand. Bright and red and beautiful. It withered and turned to dust. I scattered its ashes. It turned the grass brown. I smiled. There were no people here; no houses, no cities. Not the wars. The angry crowds.My father; the mob dragged him away. Now there was nothing but singing birds.No one else here. I walked back out the stone door. Let Paradise be.

SPOOKTACULAR BOOK REVIEW: COME CLOSER- by Sara Gran

The Halloween season is upon us, and what’s the best way to celebrate? Well, there’s getting stupidly drunk and sexifying a character that should never be sexified, but in second place there’s reading a creepy psychological novel about demonic possession!

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Why did something like this happen?

Come Closer tells the tale of a woman under demonic possession from the victim’s point of view. There’s no spinning heads or ‘I see dead people’ or earth shattering superpowers, but we a fascinating psychological descent into anarchy as our heroine sabotages her life in what could either be a straight up demonic possession or an analogy for a psychological break down.

It starts out subtle- with nothing worse than a few bitchy comments and some random tapping in the house- and it remains fairly mundane throughout- right until the end when it gets amped up with our protagonist’s actions becoming far more dangerous and her visions even more eerie.

It’s incredibly well written. I don’t get scared or creeped out by horror, especially the supernatural stuff ( the infamous Shining had no effect on me), but the end scenes were brutal, bleak, disturbing (yet never gratuitous), and as awful as the heroine had been throughout the novel, you genuinely felt for her desperate final struggle to hold on to her humanity. The end was completely fitting, and the final analysis- who Namaah was and how she fitted into the heroine’s story- was really good.

And it’s the psychological themes that raise this novel to the next level. Traditionally, demons have been portrayed as psychological tempters, so it makes sense that her actions should come from within her. There’s a whole lot about how the expectations of womanhood are constraining, and how some men can’t bear to see women as fully flawed and messy. Though even better, its not a simple ‘you go gurrrl’ case of ‘poor oppressed woman against big bad man’- it’s more complex than that. Her husband- the main other presence in this novel besides our narrator and the demon Namaah- comes across as a decent person. He really puts up with a lot and does try to help her. She also contradicts herself, telling us how reliable he is and then going crazy telling us how he’s always late, suggesting some of his ‘flaws’ are in her head and that she’s just using it as an excuse to justify lashing out at him when her real problems are her own repressed issues.

I got the impression that the real confining chains in her life didn’t come from any  man, but her own internalized expectations of what a woman should be that grows more suffocating each day. That’s some pretty nuanced stuff and a great use of the unreliable narrator.

Come Closer was so good, so well paced, so well written that it could have been the perfect novella. But there was one little problem… one slight, small, planet swallowing black hole of an issue that only consisted of a few sentences, but my God did it create an awful blight that tainted the whole novella. I am of course, for those of you who have already read it, referring to…

CASUAL HOMOPHOBIA!!

Yep, it just comes out and punches you in the face. I’m not talking about the usual patronizing  gay stereotypes or ‘that’s so gay’ being carelessly thrown around to describe anything that’s generally shit. No, this novel goes full f-bomb nucleur. In the very first chapter we have our protagonist writing a letter to her boss calling him the gay f-bomb. And not just in a generic ‘that’s just a word I use to insult people’ way, its perfectly clear that she’s degrading him by insinuating he’s one of dem icky gays by compounding it with a few other choice insults that make that perfectly clear. Sure, the letter writing incident was framed as nasty and something she did under demon control, but then our heroine emphatically agrees with the statement.

It was so jarring, so malicious and came so out of no where that I pondered for a while that whether it was meant to be the demon controlling her mind, or as a way of showing just how repugnant our heroine is. But, at that stage of the story Naamah hadn’t really begun to control our heroine’s thoughts yet. Later in the book she describes a young man as a ‘flaming queer’- not out of anger, not in a stage when she was implied to be under the demon’s  thrall, but casually as just as a generic description- like how you might describe someone’s dress. So yeah, clearly the author’s trying too hard to sound ‘edgy’ or she thinks homophobia is totes okay.

I really enjoyed this novel, but I just can’t really get down with a novel that throws around such blatant homophobia.

VERDICT: I don’t know. It’s a really well written story and explored fascinating themes of female agency with some great use of Judaic myth, but by God, did the pointless, virulent homophobia put a downer on the whole thing.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: MARCH

Another month has rolled around and I’ve looked at more books this month than I have in any previous months.

 

Book of the Month: The Color Purple– by Alice Walker

imageI originally thought I was going to make it To Break The Demon Gate, but as soon as I read the Color Purple I realized it couldn’t be anything else. A heart wrenching story of oppression, love, the importance of education and friendship seeing you through adversity. I said everything I needed to say about this book in my review here, and it’s a book that I would recommend to everyone and that’s why I’ve put it my Top 20 Books Everyone Should Read.

 

Short Story of the Month: Mummy– by Banana Yoshimoto

imageThis was definitely the most difficult category to choose because I’ve read so many superb 5 star short stories this month. However, the stand out had to be Mummy by Banana Yoshimoto which was found in a compilation of short stories by Japanese authors called The Book Of Tokyo. Banana Yoshimoto is currently one of the most acclaimed authors of Japanese fiction, and from reading this short story it’s easy to see why.

Mummy is a very strange and utterly intriguing short story about a young women who enters a warehouse alone with a guy she barely knows, but instead of finding herself a murder victim, she enters a three day sexual adventure that’s  strange, dangerous, fucked up and exhilerating. Banana perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young woman embarking on an early sexual adventure- the hunger for the forbidden, the new, dangerous and the thrill of adventure.

Runners up: The Forest of Memory, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, Moonlight on Shoji Bridge

World Building of the Month:The Teracotta Bride– by Zen Cho

This was another category that was difficult to choose. Right up until the end I was torn imagebetween the supernatural politics of the Mercy Thompson series and the science fiction reimagining of the Himba people in Binti; I thought I had finally decided on Binti, but then I read the Terracotta Bride. The Teracotta Bride gives us an in depth look at the Chinese/ Malaysian afterlife,a world with ten levels of hell where wealth is gained by corrupt methods and from paper burnt by the deceased’s ancestors. As well as giving us a fully realized interpretation of that world, it also points out its flaws (that even though the rest of the world’s evolved, the afterlife still possesses a medieval view of the role of women); it also asks some interesting new questions about this world like ‘are those paper servants created to serve their master sentient?’ or ‘what happens to the Teracotta Soldiers after their master’s reincarnated?’ On top of that, it even brings in a little speculative fiction element with the same principle used to created the Terracotta Soldiers is used to create a robot servant? What happens to a robot in the afterlife? Does it have a soul?

Every about this story was so unique and fascinating that there could only be one choice for Best World Building.

Runners up: Moon Called, Binti

Male Character of the Month: Lord Yamada and Kenji

to break the demon gateTo Break The Demon Gate is one of my all time favourite fantasy series. It takes place is Japan during the Heian era and is full . Lord Yamada is a great protagonist- a disgraced minor Lord who’s suffering from the loss of a loved one and is taken to the edge of grief. I think we all know what it

However, a story with only Lord Yamada wouldn’t be the same, as part of what makes the novels so great is his banter and odd couple friendship with Kenji, the ‘reprobate monk’. Kenji is the yin to Yamada’s yan, a carefree, light hearted lecherous monk who’s always getting lost along the tenfold way in the bottom of a cask of sake or some other worldly pleasure. Even though he’s always on the recieving end of the more humourless Yamada’s scoulding, the two have a strong friendship that sees them through their numerous adventures against the various schemes of the supernatural.

Female Character of the Month: Jade Yeo

imageIt was either Jade, Sofia or Cyan from Hedon this month and since I’m trying to avoid giving The Color Purple everything, it just had to Jade. I mean, come on, what’s not to love about her? She read’s like an unholy hybrid of The Importance of Being Earnest’s Cecily and Jane Austen’s Emma, completely rebels against all of societies norms and calls her unborn child ‘the worm’. She is one of the greatest females in literature and I really enjoyed the relationship between her and her best female friend.

Runners up: Sofia, Nettie, Cyan

 

POC Character of the Month: Sofia- the Color Purple

imageI really, really try not to nominate the same book for every category, but I couldn’t read The Color Purple and say it’s not the best thing I’ve read all month and that it doesn’t include the best POC portrayal in literature; because it is one of the most revolutionary portrayals of African American women ever written, so much so that it garnered praise from Oprah Winfrey (who ended up playing Sofia) and Lenny Henry.

I chose Sofia in particular because I fell in love with this character. Strong and independent, she had to stand up for herself her own life and she vowed never to let any man treat her like a punchbag. True to her word, when Harpo tried to beat her into submission she didn’t back down but fought him with every ounce of strength she had. Her finest moments included taking down Miss Eleanor Jane and her misguided and privileged view of her importance to her unwilling ‘mammy’ figure- something that is sadly still relevant today when films like The Help continue to get made and receive more critical acclaim than films like Selma.

LGBT Character of the Month: Celie- The Color Purple

shug and celie.jpgBefore Pam Grier’s portrayal of Kit Porter in The L word and Orange Is The New Black came on the scene, The Color Purple’s Celie and Shug Avery were two of the very few portrayals of black lesbians and bisexuals in the media.

Celie is a great character: she is a very human character who suffers a lot. She starts off as an extremely passive person who suffers silently and endures through life, even proving to be a little manipulative when she advises Harpo to beat his wife because she envies her freedom. However, she soon develops into a strong and capable person with a sense of self worth, and a big part of what takes her on that journey is her love for Shug. In spite of being constantly forced to sleep with men since she was 14, the first time she ever feels desire of her own was when she thought of Shug, who she felt a mix of adolescent infatuation and sexual desire for since she first found a picture of her. That sexual awakening burgeons into a deep friendship and later a physical relationship. Two often gay relationships are reduced to either ‘just sex’ or an asexual companionship, but The Color Purple avoids that by both 

Because of the pernicious stereotype of gay people being turned gay because of abuse and that lesbians are attracted to women because they hate men, it can be difficult to portray an LGBT character who was abused. However, although she 

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FEBRUARY: BOOK OF THE MONTH

It’s already been a month and I’ve reviewed  a lot of different books. Below are just a few of the novels and short stories I’ve looked at. Most of them have been of such an excellent quality , and filled with so many great characters, that choosing my favorites was difficult. However, there were some stories that absolutely blazed while the others merely glittered, so without further ado, here’s my pick for the best stories of the month.

Continue reading FEBRUARY: BOOK OF THE MONTH

REVIEW: F**cking Through The Apocalypse- by Jason Werbeloff

When Harold, not a day over 86, hears that the asteroid is going to hit in 27 days, he doesn’t sink into depression, nor jump off a building, nor move to Hawaii like his neighbors. No, Harold fulfills a dream. Harold decides to open a brothel.

F**king Through the Apocalypse is a short story about loss and redemption … with a hint of fuchsia.

A crass title splayed across an image of pretty flowers(thematically significant!)- the cover is a good analogy for the book, as F**king through the Apocalypse is crude on the surface but at heart its a sweet and humorous tale about finding comfort and connection in the darkest of times. Continue reading REVIEW: F**cking Through The Apocalypse- by Jason Werbeloff

REVIEW: Visiting Grandpa’s Brain- by Jason Werbeloff

Grandpa doesn’t regret donating his brain to Zoogle. But when Judgment Day arrives and the Vatican possesses the world’s largest search engine, Jesus meddles with Grandpa’s search results. And Grandpa is not impressed.

Visiting Grandpa’s Brain is an irreverent sci-fi comedy horror that will dissuade you from keeping your brain anywhere but in your head.
Okay, Jason Werbeloff, who’s been supplying you with the crack and where can I get some? Like with Werbeloff’s other short stories, Visiting Grandpa’s Brain is buzzing with so much mad energy that regardless of whether you think  Visiting Grandpa’s Brain is good or heretical, you’ll definitely never forget it. Continue reading REVIEW: Visiting Grandpa’s Brain- by Jason Werbeloff