Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Whilst you may not agree with everything I post, if you respect my right to my opinion I'll respect your right to disagree with it and we should get along just fine. :)

Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

Right then, on with the blog...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #34: Twinkle in the Pixies' Den

This is episode 34 of my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, or have missed an episode, you can find a full index of the episodes here.


Twinkle examined the air brick in minute detail but there appeared to be no opening mechanism, magical or otherwise that she could find. She pulled it, pushed it, swore under her breath at it, but the brick wouldn't budge. She was on the point of trying a particularly explosive kind of magic when the brick swung open and Twinkle only just had time to dive into the shadows.

Salkeld emerged, whistling to himself as he upended a rubbish bin off the back step. Twinkle took the opportunity to slip silently inside. Salkeld was sure he'd caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye, but when he swung round he found himself alone. He shrugged and ducked back inside, tapping the lock with his wand and hearing a reassuring “click” in response. Salkeld sauntered back up the passage towards the basement.

Keeping to the shadows, Twinkle crept into the basement. She had seen Salkeld lock the door behind him and her throat tightened with the knowledge she was going to need help to get out again.

* * *

Upstairs in the shop, Gardner was pacing. Crowley leafed through yet another ancient tome, desperately searching for a method by which he could re-create the ritual to restore his human form. Gardner's pacing was beginning to get on his nerves.

'For goodness sake! Will you stop that?'

'Eh? What?' replied the cat, still pacing.

'You're wearing a hole in the bloody carpet! How am I meant to concentrate?'

'But I'm hungry,' wailed Gardner. 'I always pace when I'm hungry.'

Crowley rolled his eyes. 'You were fed not three hours' ago. Where do you put it all?'

'It's not my fault I have a fast metabolism.'

'Ha! Fast metabolism? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? The only thing fast about you is the speed with which you clear your dish. Now do me a favour, would you?'


'Sod off and pace somewhere else so I can concentrate.'

Grumbling, Gardner set off to pace in the corridor instead. Crowley sighed, and turned back to his book.

* * *

Twinkle eased open the door to Swazzle's hut, marvelling as she did so at the shoddy workmanship of Pixie construction. Slipping inside, she pulled a small pouch from her clothing and sprinkled its contents liberally into the pottery cup next to Rushalka's bed.

'Hey, what are you...,' murmured a sleepy voice behind her.

Her heart hammering, Twinkle spun round to find Pogmorton sitting on the edge of his bed, staring bleary-eyed at her. She was on him before he could finish the sentence, the tip of a wicked looking dagger held to his throat. Pogmorton's Adam's apple wobbled up and down in an attempt to avoid the tip of the blade.

'Not another word,' hissed Twinkle, 'Or I'll open you from ear to ear.'

Pogmorton nodded gingerly.

'I must talk to you about The Book. But not here. Somewhere private. Let's go.'

Motioning with the dagger, Twinkle followed Pogmorton outside.

'The shop,' said Pogmorton keeping his voice low. 'It should be nice and quiet up there.'

Good idea, thought Twinkle. And closer to an escape route.

'Lead the way.'

Pogmorton, dressed in his nightshirt, lead the way over to the stairs, his curly-toed slippers slapping against the floorboards as he walked. Every footstep sounded to Twinkle like a drum being struck. She wondered how on earth Pogmorton hadn't wakened the whole basement.

'It's this way,' whispered Pogmorton, absently scratching his behind and yawning.

Twinkle shuddered, trying not to think what lay under the nightshirt as they reached the stairs. Soon they were at the trapdoor, which swung open a few inches to Pogmorton's touch and they clambered through the gap into the shop.

'Evenin' Pogmorton. Who's your friend?'

Twinkle was sure her heart would burst as she desperately scanned the shop for the source of the voice.

'Evening, Master Crowley,' replied Pogmorton as Twinkle caught sight of the large, grey rat on the shop counter.

Twinkle's mouth opened and closed, the rat seemed to be, no, it couldn't be. It was, the rat was reading a book.

'Allow me to introduce Mistress Twinkle, a fairy of my,' Pogmorton paused, fixing Twinkle with a steely gaze. 'Acquaintance. She needs to speak to me in private, apparently.'

'Oh, don't mind me,' replied Crowley, 'Once I get my nose, err...snout in a good book, I'm dead to the world. You carry on. Pretend I'm not here.'

'Right then,' said Pogmorton, turning to face Twinkle. 'What's all this about The Book?' He wiggled his fingers in the air to emphasise “The Book.”

'It's a long story,' Twinkle began. She caught sight of Pogmorton's expression. 'But I'll keep it short,' she added, 'Under the circumstances. The Book contains a very old and complex ritual which, if performed correctly...,' Twinkle bit her lip.

'Go on.'

'Which if performed correctly, has the power to rob my people of their magic and power of flight. We, the fairy kingdom that is, need to destroy The Book, but there's a snag. You are the pixie who sealed The Book in its vortex, so only you can break the enchantment and retrieve it.'

Pogmorton did not look convinced.

'My right hand is in there too and I'd quite like it back,' she added with a weak smile, glancing at the crystal appendage poking from the right sleeve of her tunic.

'I seem to remember, and correct me if I'm wrong here, dying to stop you getting your hands on The Book,' Pogmorton said flatly. 'Why on earth should I help you get it now?'

Twinkle's eyes gleamed. 'If you want the antidote to the poison I slipped into Rushalka's cup, you'll help me. The spell of thirst I placed on her should be working just about,' Twinkle paused, 'now. She'll wake desperate for a drink. And before you get any bright ideas, it is a formula of my own invention, and only I have access to the antido...'

The rest of Twinkle's sentence was cut short as she pitched forward with a grunt, a large cat's paw planted firmly in the middle of her back.

'Oooh, Pogmorton! You brought me a snack.' Gardner smiled. 'You're too kind,' he mumbled as he clamped his jaws to the back of Twinkle's neck.

'Nooooooooooooo!' wailed Pogmorton.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #33: Of Draigs and Gnomish Builders

This is episode 33 of my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, or have missed an episode, you can find a full index of the episodes here.

The draig paced inside its cage. Swazzle had been gone for hours and the draig was hungry again. The fortnight since Christmas had been a period of frenzied activity in the basement of Goddess Rising, activity the draig had not been invited to help with. It had spent much of its time cooped up in its cage and was beginning to resent this new arrangement.

If it could have asked him, the draig would have known how guilty Swazzle felt at keeping it locked up. His nocturnal wanderings took him farther and farther afield in search of this and that for Botchett, patrolling for any signs of fairy activity or procuring enough food for the draig. Privately Swazzle thought the draig was comfort eating. He was also convinced that, unless something could be done soon, it was only a matter of time until the local butchers reported the continuing thefts of sausages to the Big Folk's Police.

Pogmorton had proved a poor companion for the draig. Still weak from his ordeal, he spent much of his time in bed, or speaking in hushed tones with Rhusalka when she came to visit. The draig had tried to engage him in play, earning itself a smack on the snout when it snapped playfully at Pogmorton through the bars of its cage.

It was late in the evening when Swazzle arrived home, shaking the rain from his cloak as he stamped mud off his boots on the doormat.

'Blimey! It's pissing down out there,' he announced to the room in general.

Pogmorton opened a bleary eye. 'Eh? What?'

'I said it's raining. Absolutely chucking it down.' Swazzle dug in his satchel, producing a package wrapped in butcher's paper. He strode over to the draig's cage. 'Here you go, lad. No sausages tonight I'm afraid, but I've brought you a rabbit. I'll take you out for a walk later.'

The draig fell upon its meal, the taste of rabbit a welcome change from pork sausage. The draig had been thinking you could have too much of a good thing. The endless diet of sausages had begun to give it wind, and it didn't think Swazzle appreciated the sudden vents of fiery gas through the door of its cage at all hours of the day and night. In seconds the rabbit had been devoured and the draig sat, swishing its tail in front of the cage door.

'That thing eats like a unicorn,' mumbled Pogmorton.

Swazzle chuckled softly. 'Aye, it has quite an appetite and no mistake.' He turned to the draig, 'Come on then, lad. Let's go and have a wander.' Swazzle opened the cage door, deftly attaching the draig's lead as it attempted the dash past him, and waved to Pogmorton as he was dragged out the door.

* * *

Oberon had serious misgivings about the two gnomes as they clambered over the ruins of the fairy fortress, tape measures in hand, pausing now and then to scribble in small notebooks and suck their teeth. After an hour of such treatment, Oberon could stand the suspense no more and bellowed at the pair to tell him what was going on.

The gnomes trotted over deep in conversation, the fatter one holding up his pencil against Oberon's question while he concluded his conference. Sensing Oberon was about to explode, the fatter gnome reached into his waistcoat pocket and handed over a business card, which read: Messrs Flaecem & Scarpa, Structural Engineers. Oberon was almost sure he caught another line of text swim into view as the card was handed over: Fortress renovations a speciality.

'Hmmm,' considered Oberon.

'We can start tomorrow,' piped up the smaller gnome.

'I dunno.'

'We're very reasonable,' reassured the larger gnome.

'You don't employ goblins?'

The gnomes consulted. 'Nope, only gnomes,' they replied in unison. Oberon noticed the smaller gnome writing something in his book. Attempting to read it upside down, Oberon was sure he saw the words “false beards” before the gnome snapped the book shut and beamed a most disarming smile at him.

'I suppose it would avoid the whole tendering process,' Oberon mused, stroking his chin, 'And you reckon you can begin work tomorrow?'

'At first light,' chorused the gnomes.

'Oh, all right then. You're hired.'

'Champion,' said the larger gnome.

'See you in the morning,' said the smaller one.

It suddenly occurred to Oberon that he ought to get a price before the work started, but when he shouted down the castle wall, which the gnomes were scaling with alarming speed, they didn't appear to hear him. Oberon shrugged and walked back to the quarters he now shared with Titania. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with gnomish builders, he wondered.

* * *
Twinkle watched from her vantage point on the roof of Goddess Rising as Swazzle swung the air brick open and climbed out into the night, the draig close on his heels. Picking his way carefully between the piles of rubbish in the back yard Swazzle and his pet soon vanished over the top of the back yard wall.

Rubbing her hands, Twinkle beamed. So that was the way into the basement, she thought. Her ten day vigil behind the chimneypot had finally born fruit. She thought as she crept towards the edge of the roof, that she would not miss sharing the roof with the feral pigeons who seemed to take great exception to her presence. Brushing the last of their droppings from her cloak, Twinkle dropped silently over the edge, gliding down to the back step.

She made straight for the air brick, wondering how on earth she was going to get it open.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

100 Stories for Queensland

You may have seen news reports of the flooding in Queensland, Australia in the media over the past few days. You may be wondering if there is anything you can do to help. Well, dear reader, there is.

You can of course donate money to one of the organisations helping in the area however, there is another way. 100 Stories for Queensland is a new charity anthology seeking stories to put together into a book to raise funds for victims of the Queensland flooding. If you're a writer please, please consider donating a story, details of the submissions procedure can be found here.

But I'm not a writer, what can I do? Do you read, or know someone who reads? Yes? Then you can help too by buying a copy of the anthology when it's published (it is hoped the book will be available for sale in around six weeks), more details about when and where you can buy it as I get them.

If you're on Facebook, please "Like" 100 Stories for Queensland's page and keep up to date with developments on this project. If you're on Twitter, keep an eye on the #100storiesforqld hashtag, and if you're on both, do both!

I'll close with a heartfelt appeal from Jodi Cleghorn, Brisbane based writer, editor and Co-owner of eMergent Publishing. Jodi also happens to be a mate of mine and, along with Trevor Belshaw, who's post about this project can be found here, is one of the team behind 100 Stories for Queensland. I'll hand you over to Jodi now, please spare her a couple of minutes of your time. Thank you.


photo courtesy of Angus Veitch

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