Fantasy: why do I write in this genre?

Truth becomes fiction when the fiction's true;
Real becomes not-real where the unreal's real.

The above quote is from the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber, and if you look at Wikipedia's list of top selling books of all time, six out of the top eight are fantasy, or have strong fantasy elements, so I'm not alone in being a fan of the genre. But why is fantasy, and I'm using the term loosely as there are many sub-genres, so popular?

I'm taking it as a given that genre delineation is a marketing tool used to direct readers to a particular type of book, because all stories, irrespective of genre, share the same basic requirements: a protagonist, a plot, and a setting.

Human protagonists experience a range of emotions, which enables readers to engage with them, and even those that are not, for example, robots or little furry animals, exhibit some or all of the same feelings. Whether your character is Leopold Bloom, Bilbo Baggins, Scarlett O'Hara or Miss Marples, readers must want to follow their journey, and find out what happens to them. A character's relationships, and their success or failure in this area of life are part of the emotional appeal of a story.

The term plot is used to describe the sequential events that take place within a story, and follows the standard dramatic arc of increasing internal and external tension, climax and resolution. From folk tales and myths to Greek tragedy, through Shakespeare's comedies to modernist novels, you find this convention. The reader's expectations about character and plot are present whether you read or write crime/detective, magic realism, rom-com, fantasy, fan fiction, or the genre known as literary fiction, and if you tick these boxes, you have a chance of satisfying readers.

For me, the setting of a fantasy novel offers a greater opportunity to bend the rules, although sub-genres such as urban fantasy or postcyberpunk, take place in the world as we know it, or use elements of our world with plenty of gritty kitchen sink realism thrown in. We owe a great debt to the myths and folklore of our ancestors, which we are adapting and passing on to the next generation. Tolkien's use of Norse mythology in Lord of the Rings springs to mind.

A more tricky aspect of genre writing is the framework created by established books which generates limitations. Fairies, elves, and space explorers are generally good, whereas trolls, goblins, and aliens are the standard baddies (except E.T. of course). On the other hand, you could have fun playing with these accepted norms, and feature a teenage troll worried about his complexion, although I'm sure the robot who constantly cracks bad jokes has been done. It's a delicate balance for genre writers to follow these conventions and yet introduce something new and original. If a writer is successful in doing so, their contribution is added to the cannon for later writers to follow.

As a reader and a writer, it's the otherness of fantasy that is its greatest appeal to me, and because the genre is generous, it can include romance, mystery, and be a thrilling tale of suspense on as epic or small a scale as the writer wishes. Sometimes the further we travel in our imagination away from the external world perceived by our senses, the more understanding we gain.

Writing Update:
In January I'll start outlining book three of my urban fantasy trilogy, Samsara, (Books One and Two are available), and until then, I'm editing a science-fiction/fantasy nanowrimo novel. Some years ago, I wrote a fantasy novel, and digging the manuscript out from the depths of a drawer, and reworking it is on the to do list. Although I've written in other genres, I keep returning to fantasy and my first love—sci-fi.

I was very happy to be interviewed earlier this month by the fantasy author, Kellie Steele, and you can find the interview on her website, as well as information about her debut novel, White Ghost and the Poison Arrow.

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Today's haiku:
snow lies on the ground
one red apple left hanging -
blackbird finds a feast.

Join me on Twitter at: @teagankearney

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing. 

Happy Halloween

Well, I did it! I have to admit getting this book ready for publication by my self-imposed deadline of Halloween became a marathon this week. Pulling everything together, keeping an eye open for anything from a extra space between words to a hole in the plot so large no one had spotted it, and trying to stay sane, has been interesting to say the least.

So, if you're a fan of the genre, I hope you'll read the first chapter below, and like it enough to download it from Amazon or Smashwords.

And if not, have a happy Halloween!

Blurb alert:

Why is a rogue vampire targeting young women who bear a resemblance to Tatya? A master vampire, a shaman, and the alpha of the local werewolf pack team up in an unlikely alliance to defeat the new threat to Orleton's citizens. The second book in the Samsara Trilogy sees Tatya face a challenge that will make or break her. 

Vampire Sacrifice ©

Chapter One: Starting Over

They stood on a narrow unstable tower of rock jutting out above the encroaching maelstrom. The shriek of mountains shattering pierced the air; she watched as a thousand black splinters punctured the demon’s body and face as he fought for survival. Stinking yellow-green sulfur fumes seeped through the long thin slashes opening round them. The abyss was close.
She realized if the barriers sundered, he would do his best to drag her down with him. If he couldn’t have her, no one would.
Hellish screams rent the air as those he’d left behind eons ago howled their satisfaction at the prospect of their revenge at his return.
His face contorted; black and yellow bleeding into the brilliant blue of his eyes. “This is not the end,” he snarled baring his teeth, ignoring the low thrum of disintegration.
Tormented twisted shapes bulged towards him, trying to reach and haul him through the fragile barrier. Daemons howled and reached through the fabric of their world to pull them both into theirs.
His hands tightened around her neck, and she watched, frozen, desperate, terrified as a drop of red blood bloomed on his lip and slowly fell towards her.
Then the voice of another, chasing the nightmare away. “It’s okay, Tatya. It’s over. He’s gone and can never come back.”
And the golden link connecting her to the voice pulsed with reassurance and conviction.
Tatya jerked awake, covered in sweat, legs entangled in the bedding making it impossible to move. She froze at the sound of footsteps in the corridor till she remembered where she was.
The door opened, and Eva’s tousled blonde head and sleep filled eyes appeared. “The same dream?”
She nodded. “Sorry. Did I wake you?”
“No problem. It’s five thirty, and I wanted to be up early anyway. Coffee?”
“That’d be great. You up for a run before I leave?”
“You bet. Let’s see who’ll beat who today.”
They grinned at the old joke.
After pulling on a sweat top and pants, and downing a quick coffee, Tatya followed Eva down the steep cliff path to the beach. The house was in an isolated spot and saw only occasional visits from a few hardcore surfers. The tide was out, and the dampened sand created a firm surface for their morning jog.
Eva lasted an hour before staggering to halt, and gasping for breath. “How you do it is beyond me, but I’ve had enough. Don’t stay too long, I’m making pancakes for breakfast.”
Once Eva had left, Tatya let herself go, racing back and forth on the mile-long stretch of white sand for another hour. When she felt the kinks easing from her body, she stopped running and stood for a moment staring out to sea. Thin gray clouds lay in a line along the horizon, and the pale delicate blue sky hinted at fine weather after yesterday’s spring storm. This morning the water was as peaceful as a sleeping babe, its surface smooth and glasslike, tiny wavelets surging and retreating, sushurring softly on the seaweed and driftwood strewn beach.
She remembered the recurring nightmare.
She sat with others, young and old, men, women, and children on a beach. They shared a fermented drink laughing, joking, drinking, eyes twinkling, and teeth glinting in celebration. Red-orange flames danced under the bright moonlit solstice sky. The bard stared at her across the fire. He’d seated himself opposite where she couldn’t avoid his gaze. He smiled, his blue eyes hypnotic as dark gold snakes covered in flickering black lines crawled out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth and slithered towards her. She turned to Vanse for help, but as she touched his arm, he disintegrated into ash. Then the half-daemon, half-vampire grabbed her, and she was back on that ledge fighting for her life.
The memories and dreams never truly left her. And along with the dreams came thoughts of Vanse. Sometimes she dumped her pent-up lifelong hatred of everything vampiric onto him. At others, when she could scarcely breathe at the thought of being separated from him, she wondered why she was putting herself through the unnecessary torture of staying away. It was all she could do to stop herself driving as fast as possible to Orleton.
To say the relationship between them was complicated was an understatement. Vanse had saved her from the half-daemon, half-vampire, Angelus by giving her his blood, so for a time she’d been connected to both of them. Until she’d killed Angelus. But to keep the demon in hell, she and Vanse needed to stay connected. She could cut him off for short periods, but when either of them thought of the other, the link sparked. Regrettably she had no power over his thoughts. She did her best to rationalize the emotions he aroused in her, telling herself she’d deal with the situation when she returned to Orleton.
She’d miss the sea––its vast unceasing movement and unending changes of color eased her inner restlessness. But she would miss Eva more. They’d been roommates in college, and Eva had offered her shelter and solace while she grieved for the loss of her Aunt Lil and Sean. Tatya laid both deaths at Angelus’s feet; his need for her powers had destroyed the people she loved. She had never been able to confirm it, but her aunt’s illness must have had a psychic origin, with Angelus the most likely culprit. But she hadn’t died from her illness. The monster had orchestrated her death using Sean as his instrument.
The link flared and faded. She was always conscious of her connection with the vampire master. Sometimes it felt as if he was checking in on her, making sure she was managing. But he was discreet, didn’t push her. She knew he was waiting for her to initiate contact. And it was true he was never far from her thoughts. How could he be? If her memories were correct, she’d loved him for many lifetimes. And he’d waited, and saved her repeatedly over many lifetimes.
This new mixture of demon, vampire, and human blood that ran through her arteries and veins had changed her. The alteration to her metabolism after linking with Vanse hadn’t been obvious at the beginning, but during the months since, she discovered she beat Eva at every physical activity they undertook––unlike college when her friend had been the sporty one winning trophies while she practiced Tai Chi in the park. These morning runs on the beach had presented an opportunity to explore the potential of her body. Being able to run faster, for longer was only one change: when she tired, she recovered quicker; she didn’t need as much sleep; her skin glowed and her hair, already thick and curly, shone with deeper red highlights, and grew quicker than normal. She wondered how long her lifespan might be, seeing as how she was a hybrid, and wasn’t certain if she had the right to call herself human anymore.
Another benefit she enjoyed, and took great advantage of, was eating as much as she wanted, when she wanted, with no effect on her weight. In fact, her metabolism quickly burned up every calorie she consumed. She was often hungry and felt guilty at the huge amounts of food Eva prepared for her each mealtime.
As if she’d heard Tatya’s thoughts, Eva’s voice floated down from the top of the cliff. “Yoo-hoo! Breakfast is ready! You’d better get a move on!”
She was right. If Tatya had any chance of making her goal of being in Orleton tomorrow afternoon, she’d have to leave soon.
Looking at the long empty stretch of sand, she smiled. Coming here had been good for her. She’d needed time and distance to get the events of last autumn into perspective. At one point, she’d considered moving here, buying a property nearby, but her roots were in Orleton. Apart from Vanse, who she suspected might compel her to return if she didn’t do it of her own free will, she missed her friends, Bill Corwin, the local sheriff, and her mentor, Changing Sky, not to mention the people who came to her for healing. She’d grown up in the small mid-western town, knew it well, was familiar with its people, and didn’t want to resist its pull.
Even though the cliff path was a steep climb, Tatya was barely out of breath when she reached the top, and strode into Eva’s kitchen. She breathed in the delicious smells: fresh orange juice, coffee, piles of pancakes, and a large bottle of maple syrup were spread out on the kitchen table.
“Eve, you’re an angel.”
“That’s understood, but eat while the food’s hot. You can shower after. There’s your latte, and I didn’t forget the extra shot.”
Tatya eyed the large pile of pancakes on her plate with relish, before sloshing a generous amount of syrup over them. “Mmm ... my favorite! Seems a shame to leave when I’ve just gotten you trained.”
“You’re welcome anytime, Tat. You’ve always got a place here.”
“Yeah, you, me, and Jimmy. A cozy threesome.”
“You can keep me company when he’s away. Seriously, Tat, my door is always open for you.”
Tatya stuffed another chunk of maple syrup covered pancake into her mouth.
“Hey! Go slow there’s plenty more.”
“I may need to hire a cook.”
“How are feeling about seeing your old place? You think you can handle that yet?”
Tatya flashed on the image of Aunt Lil’s house, her childhood home after her parents’ tragic deaths in a train accident, with black clouds of smoke rising into the sky as it burned to the ground. She shrugged, serving herself more pancakes and syrup. “I haven’t been back since the fire, so I won’t know till I see it, but I won’t be going out straight away. I’ll finish getting the shop and my living space set up. Readjust to seeing the town again. Then when I’m ready, I’ll go take a look.”
Eva refilled their coffee cups. “Do you aim to rebuild? Or are you thinking of selling?”
“Sometimes I think I’ll do one, sometimes, the other. Watch this space. I’m not making any impulsive decisions. No matter what happened that place holds precious memories.” She patted her stomach. “I’m stuffed. That was delicious. Thanks, Eva. You’ve put me back together. And not for the first time either. You’re a real friend. You need anything from me, just ask, and I’m there for you.” As her confidante in college, Eva had salvaged Tatya’s broken heart from more than one relationship that ended in disaster. “You told Changing Sky you’re coming?”
The mention of the shaman brought a smile to Tatya’s face. “Nope. I haven’t told Bill either. I saw them both when I signed the contract on the building the other month. It’ll surprise everyone, but it’ll be so good to see them. I’ll need more sage bracelets and I need to restock all my supplies. The whole lot went up in flames along with the old house. That’s how I think of it these days. The old house.” Tatya was quiet for a minute as thoughts of happier times surfaced.
“It won’t be easy seeing people. The smallest thing can trigger memories.” Eva’s voice was anxious, the mother hen seeing her chick totter off on her own.
“I know. But avoiding it isn’t going to make it go away. And I need to work. I’ve been thinking of getting someone in to help establish the herb plots.”
Neither said anything, but Sean’s presence hung heavy between them. He’d been her best friend and partner in the herbal business they’d started two years ago.
“Be careful, though. Remember that card. You’ve pulled it every single time I’ve done a reading for you.”
Eva was a fortune-teller. A good old-fashioned seer who used a crystal ball, the I Ching, and her specialty, Tarot cards, which she taught Tatya how to use during her stay. The card in question was the Abyss.
The memory of Vanse turning to ash from her dream came to mind. “But in a certain way, there’s danger at every step. You can get killed just crossing the road.”
“In New York or Los Angeles, yeah. But Orleton?”
They laughed. The only time there was even a hint of a traffic jam in Orleton was the 4th of July parade, or on the odd occasion when the Winnebagos blocked Main Street during the tourist season.
“You haven’t forgotten any of your new outfits have you?”
One day Eva had surprised her by taken her on a trip to San Francisco’s Uptown Oakland district, dragging her from one shop to another, insisting she needed at least a few smart outfits for the next chapter in her life.
“People judge by appearances. You’re not a college grad anymore. You’re an upcoming business woman, and your clothes should reflect that.”
“And this is coming from a woman who wears hippy tie-dyed skirts from the sixties?”
“Hey, I’m a fortune-teller. I’m allowed to be eccentric. You should see some of my competition’s outfits.” And they’d giggled as Eva described get-ups ranging from the stereotypical gypsy to the Siberian shaman.
An hour later, standing by the truck, Tatya looked around for the final time. The stubby brown hills nearby, the darker purple mountains further away, and as she turned, the dark line of Prussian blue of the ocean in the distance. With her heightened senses she could hear the waves, soft in the background, and she breathed in the fresh salt sea air. Staying here had purified and healed her body and her mind.
“Looking forward to the first road trip in your new baby?” Eva asked, opening the passenger door of the vehicle and dropping Tatya’s bag on the floor.
Tatya had spent a part of her aunt’s inheritance on a brand new shiny black Chevy truck. She’d never owned a new vehicle. Every single one of her previous cars and trucks had been second or third hand. “I can’t wait to see how it handles. A long drive will give it a chance to stretch its muscles.”
“What time will you get there?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to take it slow, enjoy the scenery.”
“Drive safe.”
“Come here, you. Thanks. For everything. I mean it. I won’t forget. I owe you big time.” She put her arms around Eva and hugged her tight.
Listening to the engine’s smooth purr, as she headed for the freeway, she calmed the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She knew why she was nervous. Vanse. She’d put him out of her mind over the winter, while she cried her heart out over the two people she’d lost, and mourned their passing. Now she had to return to the land of the living––or in Vanse’s case, the land of the undead.
The link flared, as his emotions, knowing she was returning, poured through the connection, and her body shook with the strength of his feeling. She slowed down, and summoning her power, she cut the link. A short sharp cut. Her hands and fingertips glowed as she gripped the steering wheel. Good. Eva’s psychic exercises were working.
She no longer leaked power, a powder keg waiting to blow. She was stronger physically and psychically. He’d caught her unawares, that was all, but she’d be prepared next time. He should know overwhelming her wouldn’t make any difference to how she felt about him. Sparks would fly and rules made clear when they met. Keeping her speed down till her anger calmed, power retreated, and her hands steadied, she fixed her eyes on the ribbon of road ahead. But as she drove, her thoughts kept circling back to the tall dark and handsome vampire.
Vanse had waited centuries for her, but she’d comprehended nothing of this, till knowledge of her past lives had awakened. The trouble was in her first life she’d loved Vanse, and each time they’d met, that love had rekindled. When Vanse halted her transformation she’d experienced the intense emotions a newbie vamp has for its maker. This was now layered on top of memories of her love for him from the past. Vanse was waiting for her to return. Tomorrow she’d be in Orleton, and unable to avoid him. The problem was, despite her protests to the contrary, the thought of seeing him a shiver of anticipation up and down her spine.

Vampire Sacrifice, Book Two of the Samsara Trilogy, is an ebook available from:

Check out my short stories and flash fiction on Wattpad (magic realism, sci-fi, crime, romance and women's fiction), just click on the images on the 'Short Stories' tab at the top of this page. Or if you're interested in something longer, I've previously published two novels - and one is free if the genre is to your taste. 

Join me on Twitter: @teagankearney 

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Thank you for visiting my blog, and please leave a comment. To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Vampire Sacrifice, Book Two of the Samsara Trilogy, is an ebook available from:

Not a lazy post but a tribute ...

I didn't post a blog last month, because I was on the last stretch on editing and tweaking my WIP, Book Two in the 'Samsara Trilogy', before sending it off my editor. I'm still hoping to make my self-imposed publishing deadline (end of October - paranormal, Halloween, etc.) and my brain was glued to this one task. Currently the cover and blurb are being readied, which makes me sad and excited. Sad because, even though there are bound to be some issues to address, I'll soon be leaving the characters and story which have occupied so much of my inner world this past year; and excited because the book will soon be published - which is a thrilling adrenaline-fuelled nerve-wracking exercise. Watch this space ...

So I want to use this post to thank the following bloggers. I have the utmost admiration for those writers who post on a regular basis, as well as continuing to work on their novels. These people write not just good, but consistently excellent blogs, and I urge you to at spare a few minutes of your day to check them out.

Carol is witty, makes a great job of being an L-Plate Gran, and has just released her latest Victorian crime (Sensation) novel, Death & Dominion.

Yolanda's intriguing poems reflect her thoughtful approach to life.

Vashti is a lively, friendly blogger, author of The Basement, and she hosts a haiku prompt on Fridays.

Squid is a generous, supportive, Irish writer who released Honeysuckle Lane, his debut novel this August.
A writer and performance artist who always has something interesting and insightful to say.

A blog chock-full of helpful advice for indie writers.

Writer and book critic, Anne successfully published her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, in July.

One of the most helpful people I've ever met, Christine blogs on a number of subjects, including the wildlife in her garden, and released the second book in her Reluctant Detective series Traces of Red this August.

Chris hosts one of the best websites offering support, information and resources for indie authors that I've come across.

Charli's lively blog is the centre of a literary community, and she hosts a weekly Flash Fiction challenge every Friday.

These are only a few on my list, and there are many more great blogs out there I've yet to discover. I know time is short for all of us (if only it would stretch when you're doing something pleasurable instead of shrinking), but popping in and out of these pages always lifts my mood. IMHO each and every one of them is worth your time and effort.

Check out my short stories and flash fiction on Wattpad (magic realism, sci-fi, crime, romance and women's fiction), just click on the images on the 'Short Stories' page. Or if you're interested in something longer, I've published two novels - and one is free if the genre is to your taste.

Join me on Twitter: @teagankearney

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please leave a comment. 
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Eddie's War

As a teenager, my brother once dragged me along with him to visit the Imperial War Museum in London. While he meandered awe struck among weapon displays, I found myself reading accounts, many of which evoked a strong emotional response, of soldiers in World War One who had been awarded  medals of honour for outstanding acts of bravery. Many years later, I remembered my reactions, so although what follows is a work of fiction, with names, characters, places and incidents either a product of my imagination or used fictitiously, the following story was inspired by an actual event. 

Eddie's War

Eddie clutches at wisps of his dream. Summer. His ma smelling of babies and herbs. He shivers, curling hedgehog-like into a ball, something he did when he was small after Da came home and battered anyone who said anything he took umbrage with. Even those harsh childhood memories appear rosy compared to what he is encountering now.

‘Time, lads.’ The sergeant’s heavy hand taps Eddie's shoulder before moving along the trench. For such a big man, his movements are tender. The mercy of the hangman towards the condemned.

Eddie pulls the coarse blanket up around his ears to keep the freezing cold at bay. The need to empty his bladder forces him into moving. While he waits his turn at the latrines, the stink of faeces mixed with quicklime curls up his nostrils, filling his mouth and belly with nausea. At least he's not seen Jameson’s for a few days. Eddie thrusts aside the memory of his field punishment - tied to a gun wheel two hours a day for eleven days - awarded for a brawl with Jameson. He won't forget that in a hurry. After returning to his position he finishes his bully beef and biscuits before sipping the cold tea that tastes of turnips. He relishes the rare moments of quiet before the day’s action.

‘You ready?’ his mate, John, whispers.

Eddie nods.

Both men kneel. ‘Our Father who art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name ...’

Eddie glances up and down the line. Most men have put their rifles aside, and a gentle murmur rises as they pray with eyes closed.

‘No one is an atheist when the bullets start flying,’ John had told him once. ‘Then everyone prays.’

The ack ack ack of enemy weapons starts and a familiar fear knots Eddie's gut. Training kicks in, and he grabs his Lee-Enfield, checking the bolt-action mechanism, the ten-round box magazine, cartridges, cylinder and bayonet.

He brushes aside the seditious thoughts - appearing daily now. The bastards move us like pawns while they sit safe, far from the front line. This is just a game to them. It’s not their guts being smeared on the battlefield. And if you question, hesitate or, God forbid, lose your wits, your own side executes you. He clenches and unclenches his hands round his weapon as he remembers Willis, condemned to death as a traitor after walking away from the battle field. Jameson had volunteered to be on the firing squad, but it was the contempt in his eyes as he took aim that sticks in Eddie’s mind.

‘2nd Battalion,’ the sergeant’s voice growls, ‘move up the fire steps.’

The men surge up the rough ladders lining the wall and fling themselves flat. The top is angled so they lie protected.

Eddie tenses. There's nothing that equates to warfare. Your body is coiled tight with adrenaline. Before the action starts you lie motionless, yet you're alert, poised, every sense heightened. Each sound you hear draws a response from a nerve somewhere in your body. You don’t dare think this might be the last few seconds of life, because if you did, you’d remember your loved ones, and lose the hate you hold on to because you need to kill. He stares out at No-Man’s land. If he half closes his eyes, he can almost believe he’s with his Da in Chelmsbury Woods; an early morning mist creeping along the ground, frosty air biting his fingers, and cold seeping into his bones as he lies concealed in bushes holding Da’s old rifle waiting for a rabbit or squirrel to happen passed.

The earth shudders as barrages of artillery pound targets, and choruses of mortar detonations swell to a deafening volume.

‘Fire’ orders the sergeant.

Eddie raises his head, scanning the area; he aims and discharges his rifle. Bullets scream through the air. Empty the magazine; reload and fire. Again and again.

The Huns are too distant to distinguish individual features, but close enough to see rows of steel helmets and glinting bayonets.

Eddie pauses, rubbing his numb fingers. Something catches his eye. He squints. ‘Look! There! Isn’t that Housby? ’ he mutters.

Housby had been shot too close to the enemy lines to be recovered even under darkness. That was two days ago when they tried - and failed - to storm their adversary’s position.

Sure enough, where Eddie is pointing, hardly distinguishable from the churned, frozen mud, John sees a brown-grey lump twitch.

‘The bastards!’ Eddie’s up and moving.

‘Hey! Eddie! Come back! You can’t save him. You’ll be killed,’ John shouts.

But Eddie races forward.

‘Cover him, lads!’ John yells.

Eddie runs in stops and starts; bent, scuttling like a crab, he scuffles sideways and forwards, his heart pumping so hard he thinks it’s about to rupture. Then he trips, and his face smacks the mud as bullets whistle by far too near. The wounded man groans; Eddie lifts his head – and realizes it's not Housby. It's Jameson.

More shells detonate.

Eddie freezes. What if John’s right? What if I don’t survive? The thoughts crowd in, and he shakes uncontrollably. Oh God, I don’t want to die out here in this freezing hell of muck and mud. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Not yet, dear God. Please not yet. And I sure don’t want to risk my life and die for a rat like him. I’ve not come too far to go back. Then he hears Ma's voice: You always got to try, Eddie. All you got to do is try. His thoughts seesaw. Shall I save myself? Or try to save Jameson?

He makes a scurrying, scampering mad dash towards the prostrate man, ignoring the incessant shellfire and bullets screaming passed him. Somehow he reaches the fallen soldier. He crouches and sees black blood oozing from Jameson’s wounds. ‘Jesus, you’re a mess,’ he says.

Jameson whimpers as Eddie heaves him up onto his shoulder.

Balancing Jameson’s weight, ignoring the smell of festering wounds, Eddie locks eyes with the Boche soldier positioned directly in front of him, not twenty feet away.

The young, blue-eyed, dirt-smeared lad, who couldn’t have been more than sixteen, has a clear shot. But he’s frozen with fright. It’s probably his first battle.

And Eddie knows that look. Once out hunting with Da, there'd been a deer, a creature whose grace so stunned him he couldn’t shoot. Da snatched the gun out of his hands and with one sure shot secured enough food to keep his hungry brood fed for a week. Eddie remembers the soft innocence in the animal’s eye as it looked up sniffing the air, oblivious to its approaching death. He winks at the boy and grins at him through cracked lips.

The youngster manages a stiff nod.

But Jameson is heavy. Like the deer Da had made him carry back on his shoulders. A fully grown doe is a heavy load for a thirteen year old boy and twice he fell. Da stood, his expression hard, and watched without helping, each time Eddy laboured to rise. It took an hour to walk the mile to their cottage. Afterwards Da made him skin and butcher the animal while he smoked his pipe and watched. But Eddie’s mind is fixed. No-one is going to butcher Jameson.

Incoming Howitzers whine and lights flash as targets are struck: excruciating cries echo from both sides as heavy mortar rounds find soft flesh which explodes outwards. The sound of aircraft overhead adds a deeper bass growl to the awful cacophony of battle.

A part of Eddie is aware that not a single shot from behind him is aimed in their direction. He knows they are blessed; their return a miracle.

John scrambles out and rushes towards them. Grabbing Jameson’s arms, he lowers him from Eddie’s back and together they half-carry, half-drag the unconscious man to safety. The three of them slide in a tangle of limbs into the trench. A rousing cheer erupts from the men, who, hardly believing what they’d just witnessed, had expected Eddie to be killed at any minute.

‘Bloody fool!’ barks the sergeant as he takes Jameson off them. Carrying him like a babe in his brawny arms, he moves sharply up the line, throwing more words over his shoulder. ‘You’re a bloody fool, Eddie, but a bloody brave one!’


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Image from Shutterstock by Natalia Maroz.

If you enjoyed reading this story, please check out my stories on Wattpad - just click on the images on the right. Or if you’re interested in something longer, I've published two novels - and one is free if the genre is to your taste.
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
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To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Gearing up again ...

Writing Update

Resting a novel between drafts is a necessary step, but after finishing the first draft of Book Two of Samsara, (the paranormal trilogy currently occupying my internal landscape) I felt as if I had a permanent itch. Keeping busy with other projects was like slavering the spot with calamine lotion which provided only temporary relief. However returning to edit with a fresh eye is worth the wait.

My experience is limited, but so far, writing each first draft has been different. The first draft of Book One, Tatya's Return, came out in a flood. Written during the 2013 nanowrimo it emerged on to the page with noticeably greater ease than the earlier battle with my debut novel. The first draft of Book Two has been trickier; half-way between a vigorous love making session and a bout in the boxing ring, where I finished up exhilarated and exhausted. Editing will be the re-match, and despite the effort involved in endlessly pressing Ctrl+F, Ctrl+V, I’m eager to start. 

When revising, I use a method similar to triage. Like a doctor with a patient, I tackle the most drastic tasks first, before turning my attention to the smaller, if more painstakingly labour intensive, but equally necessary jobs needed to achieve good health. 

My first step is a read through, so I print out a hard copy. Next, red highlighter in hand, alert and poised to strike, I’ll go through the manuscript making notes. These could refer to plot, dialogue, characters, action, or setting. For example, I’ve already decided to move the inciting incident forward. This is bound to have a knock-on effect, and require re-jigging of subsequent sections – but that’s part of the course. When I’m finished, even an Alan Turing would have trouble decoding the massacred pages, and Jackson Pollock would be proud of me.

This stage complete, back to the laptop to make these changes, then on to the grammar/spelling/style edit for which I use Pro Writing Aid. One thing I’ve invested in during this breather is an upgrade from the free version of this software program to the premium edition. I spent a chunk of my break trying this out on my 2012 nano, and couldn’t believe how much easier the process was, and how much more quickly I worked through the bruising list of corrections.

A second read through – aloud and taking it slow while paying as much attention as I can muster, correcting as I work, in spite of which something always slips through. When I’m confident the edition I have is acceptable for others, I send it off to my beta-readers, which creates another breathing space.

This rhythm of intense engagement, followed by a putting aside, allows a fresh perspective, and curbs the tendency to develop the wood for the trees syndrome. How long you rest your work depends on the individual, but Stephen King in his On Writing suggests a minimum of six weeks. And this is how long I’ve taken, while still giving myself a decent chance of meeting my deadline of publishing in October.

If this creates the impression of organized efficiency, that’s wonderful, but the actuality will be fairly chaotic, because I’m also re-decorating the living room. This includes sanding and re-painting book cases and tables, plus periodic attempts at clearing the garden to create a path so I can foray out for supplies!

A recent twitter conversation between writers focussed on the topic of so long as I’m writing, everything is okay. Now while this may not be a universal truth, it’s something I wholeheartedly endorse at this point in my life. I've become that bouncy enthusiastic kid in the back seat of the car who’s forever asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Well, the answer is yes, and I can’t wait to start!

Today’s Haiku
sun shining through glass
glitters over surfaces -
refracting jewels

Useful Links:
Two editing software programs - both with free online editions.

I’d love it if you checked out either of my novels, or popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories ... just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Title & Cover Reveal (plus a sneak peek!)

 I Know It Was You Wow! I’m thrilled to reveal the title and cover of my new book. The publication date, October 10th, is fast approaching, ...