Friday, 21 April 2017

‘Plots, true or false, are necessary things’ [John Dryden]

At least in novels, as I am discovering, to my hair-tearing cost. When writing to Prediction prompts forward planning is best avoided and I fear has made me complacent because, 90k words into my current wip, fourth in the series, I’ve come to realise is very necessary indeed.

But in between the wrestling, I’ve enjoyed some stunning reading here, in the company of fellow writers whose words – both post and comment – provide evidence we are engaged on something valuable. There were, as ever, half a dozen which made it to my shortlist, and Perry, for his Exodust, made it to the top, for the lovely language and weightiness behind what was being said..

Words for next week: necessary pucker willow

Entries by midnight Thursday 28th April, words and winners posted on Friday 29th

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. Serialised 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 you prefer.

95 comments:

  1. Thank you. I am delighted and honoured for my piece to be singled out from so many excellent and enthralling stories.

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    1. My favorite story came out on top this week. Thanks Perry for making me look good.

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  2. Nicely done, Perry. Worthy indeed of the top honours last week.

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  3. An awesome story Perry, a well deserved selection.

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    1. Well done, Perry! Now all of Thirteen writers know...

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  4. Cripplegate Junction/Part 93-Yarns

    In a secluded room on the Sanitarium's second floor, walls hung with classic illustrations from "Wind In The Willows," a woman worked embroidery silks to create a river bank scene.

    Meticulously choosing her colours and careful not to pucker the canvas with overly-tight stitches, she recalled a time (an undetermined time) when a small child (her child?) sat on her lap as she narrated adventures involving the preposterous Mr. Toad and his woodland cronies.

    She didn't necessarily always remember the name, but thought it might well begin with a "C."

    The needle momentarily faltered.

    Christopher?
    Constance?
    Clive?

    --------------------------------------------------------
    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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    1. Another one in top form Patricia. Very enjoyable.

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    2. A beautiful picture of pathos. Thank you.

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    3. Placid wasn't one of the prompts but you used it most well as your theme. As for the prompts, tey just drifted along on the slow current of the story.

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    4. Beautifully evoked scene of tranquillity and just hint of something not quite as it seemed. Lovely.

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    5. a delightful scene, with that undercurrent of something menacing somewhere. Clever.

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  5. Infestation

    The mindless, reanimated stiffs with a hunger for human flesh were getting out of hand. They had to die. Or more precisely, being undead, they had to die again. The math got complicated.

    Groaning, Jose Luella Cruz hoisted the massive pneumatic bolt gun he’d pilfered from his brother’s slaughterhouse and nodded to Willow.

    “Are you sure this is necessary, old man?” she said.

    “Somebody’s gotta do it.”

    “There’s so many of them.”

    “We could just pucker up and kiss our asses goodbye…” he said.

    “I hate zombies.” She took his arm as he approached the first one.

    “Me too, baby.”

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    1. Great build up. I can just visualize Bruce Campbell gearing up for another blood and guts melee.

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    2. Entertaining, a bit of humor and well placed prompts.

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    3. Ugh. Matter-of-fact nastiness evident from the opening sentence. And well-placed prompts.

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    4. This was a very gritty piece and so very current. Love the dialogue exchange and the prompts were so well integrated, I had to read it twice just to pinpoint them.

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    5. Your use of 'hoisted' and 'pilfered' perfectly illustrated a careful, apt choice of verbs.

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    6. I love zombie horror. Nicely done.

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    7. Good one, John. Just watch out for those pesky dangling participles...

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  6. Sorry to have been gone for so long. I started a new job and school all at once, and things have been kind of chaotic. But I'm happy to send some fiction your way once again.

    The Price Is the Price

    “Necessary?” he asked. “Is anything really necessary? That willow by the lake, for example. Seems a bit much to me, but there it is.”

    I sighed. Fairies are exhausting.

    “That’s not what I mean,” I explained. “Is there another way to cover the cost?”

    His eyes widened with understanding. “Oh. I see. Too expensive for you?”

    “In a manner of speaking,” I said.

    “Sorry, lass. The price is the price. Pay it or chew cabbage.”

    What could I do? No substitute would work for the spell.

    I closed my eyes and puckered. His lips were cool like the autumn breeze.

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    1. A blend of sharp and sweet, with a lovely hint of grown-up fairy tale.

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    2. It reminded me of a game of Truth or Dare and he got hit with a dare. An enjoyable story.

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    3. This was quite lovely with a delightful soupcon of whimsy. Adore that "pay it or chew cabbage," comment. Did that come from your imagination or is it an actual saying? Regardless, it seemed to fit so well.

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    4. Thanks for the feedback! :)

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    5. very nicely done, and yes, the truth or dare game is definitely there.

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  7. Change of focus [232]

    The banging he could hear was the front door; not Aleks trying to release himself from within his laptop. Unplugging it, deeming it necessary, however ludicrous, to keep in touch, Pettinger lurched downstairs.
    DC Moth.
    Immediately, ‘Boss, I –‘ Then Henry read the immensity of emotion in his boss’s willow-green eyes. ‘What’s wrong?’
    ‘Aleks. Aleks is –‘
    Henry’s forehead puckered, intermingling doubt and sympathy. ‘Not ‘Dynasty’, Boss, but almost. The bitch behind Roger Bailiwick is none other than –‘
    Pettinger’s anguished groan silenced him. ‘I don’t give a bollocking shit about Bailiwick! Not when my son’s life is in danger!’

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    1. I haven't followed this bu every episode make me want to. I'm immediately drawn into the excitement even though I'm lost. That's a skill.

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    2. HUNGER

      The falcon couldn’t quite compute the shimmer which flooded previously familiar hunting grounds.

      Even from half a mile up it could feel the wrongness of everything. It had watched the willows lurch earthwards from the isolated cove, as they would in a high wind, yet not straighten.

      This was disconcerting enough, but the spoor which was lacking was beyond the necessary for survival.

      The falcon soared and quartered the scope of its vision. Then it spotted a group of large rodents near the entrance of some sort of cave.

      It stooped, the pucker of concentration nearly imperceptible beneath facial down.

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    3. The cherry on top: willow-green eyes, the rest of the story is rather good to boot.

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    4. Thank you Perry - and I am so pleased to be returning to the falcon's eye view; this even more impressive and immersive than the first.

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    5. (I couldn't seem to get this to take below your recent "Change Of Focus" episode, Sandra, and just kept redirecting me here...so I guess I'll go with the flow....)

      And Pettinger is on the point of losing it. It was only a matter of time. Nice build up of tension. I wouldn't want to be in Pettinger's path at the moment!

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    6. (And this is regarding Perry's "Hunger.")

      So pleased you decided to give us further insight into the falcon's journey. I do hope you'll continue with the tale. It promises much and I for one am anxious to find out more about those rodents.

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    7. another dreaded d p crept in, otherwise this is a tight good instalment. I'm seeing a lot of the d p's lately, rejected a story this morning where every paragraph started with one!!!!!

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  8. Fayre Trade

    Renaissance Festival garb, while unnecessary, was encouraged. The knight inspecting "Wynifred's Whatnots" was a shining example. His gaze moved beyond the jar of willow wands to an item nestled within a crystal pendant jumble.

    "What will you take for the chalice?"

    "Chalice?" queried Wynifred (a/k/a Maggie Turpin). "Oh, the pewter goblet!" Her brow puckered. "Twenty florins?"

    "I have no coin but would barter this." He offered a tarnished copper lamp. "Former property of an Arabian ruler."

    The exchange satisfied both parties and although the lantern was certainly dull, a once over with Brasso wadding would bring it up a treat.

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    1. And are we to see a genie emerge? Great dialogue.

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    2. I think, if the prompts are favourable, I may turn this into a third serialization, assuming I can handle it. There could be many and varied stories worth telling surrounding the wares available from Wynifred's Whatnots. I feel "Cripplegate Junction" may be nearing its conclusion anyway. The original ambience/concept is much changed lately. Just need to figure out how to tie it all together with a nice bow (probably take a few more installments yet). However, I may continue the saga with "Orange Tabby Tales." Marmalade informs me that he still has a lot more to meow about.

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    3. Oh. I should be very sad to see the end of Cripplegate Junction :-(

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    4. Thank you, Sandra. I think it will be some time yet before I can wrap it up, but I believe I'll begin the wind-down, prompts permitting, of course.

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    5. Intriguing final sentence. A fun story.

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    6. definitely a fun story and I love the reference to Brasso, we use a lot of it in the shop. We are ever astonished at how many customers say 'oh I remember that smell! Shame you can't get it any more...' yes you can, we have five tins in the kitchen...
      I would hate to see Marmalade go, but understand Cripplegate may be winding down. Some serials simply run out of story.

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  9. Interesting episode with a gravid dry humour.

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  10. For better or worse, Wynifred's name made me think of the movie, Hocus Pocus. This was a much better story, than that movie was. Very good prompt use, a tough of humor and I enjoyed it.

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  11. My first attempt. :) It's the start of something, I hope to continue in a serialization:


    The Apothecary

    by Rie Sheridan Rose


    “Is it really necessary to come to the station?” I sighed. “I’ve a thousand things to do today...”
    “I’m afraid so, ma’am.”
    My brow puckered in a frown. Ever since someone stole my supply of willow bark, the constables had been calling round practically daily asking me to come see if they had found the culprit. It was quite irritating.
    Of course, being the only apothecary in the commonwealth had something to do with it...

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    1. Welcome Rie. This is very nice indeed - smoothly-used prompts and intriguing set-up, I look forward to reading more.

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    2. Very engaging, Rie, I like the world-building of a commonwealth with an apothecary.

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    3. Magnificent "first attempt." Can't help but think you've done this kind of thing before. Beautifully hidden prompts and the idea of a tale revolving around a lone apothecary is inspired. Hope you'll be back with more.

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    4. Welcome Rei, to our little guild. A very enjoyable story, willow bark, very good use of that and the other prompts.

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    5. Good job with the prompt words. They fit in seamlessly. :)

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    6. Good to see you here, Rie, with one of your class stories -abuilding.
      For the Challenge people, Rie is one of my top Thirteen O'clock Press writers, like Perry. I only have the best, you see...

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  12. Test match

    Like many men who worship cricket he rhapsodised about the crack of leather on willow and spent much of that summer trying to convert me. It being necessary to attend daily, and stay until the stumps were drawn, he was sensitive enough to keep me sweet by providing hampers of champagne and introducing me to his many friends confident, in spite of their much better looks, their more sparkling conversation, I’d not stray.

    Knowing, in the coolness of the evening, I knew no-one else so deliciously, efficiently capable of applying leather, raising puckered weals on this Willow as did he.

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    1. Very clever title and a refreshing revival of the word "rhapsodized" before bowling right into the dry-humoured puns of kinkiness too bold to be considered a Freudian "slip". But I'm left with the notion of a foot fault with the final paragraph. Should it really be a new sentence/paragraph. Hmmm, maybe Hawk-Eye is required.

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    2. Hah! I agree, maybe not a new paragraph - that only introduced as I posted to give a bit of space. But a new sentence definitely intended. And I claim the omitted 'to' as poetic licence.

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    3. Too cute! You little devil, you!

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    4. An unexpectedly enjoyable piece of unusual lechery. As for prompt use, excellent.

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    5. Very efficient yet full descriptions. An enjoyable read.

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    6. makes me look at cricket differently... loved it

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  13. I've just renamed the series.

    Kandar-6: Harvester of Eyes
    Necessity dictated I follow the mage. I knew where Philas would go. The mage stopped at Ragock’s, and then put some coins in the bowl of a priestess of Shadzar. I got that feeling and stepped into my hidy hole, for a bit. His willowing stroll ended at Sharina Loring’s place, The Pyro-Hydra, food served fast and hot, like the women who work there.
    I asked Sharina, “The stranger who came in. What room?”
    “He paid for his privacy.”
    “His privacy is compromised.”
    Sharina said, “Twelve gold, Uxator.”
    I counted out the coins, as I puckered my lips, kissing Sharina.

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    1. Bit of shifty action going on here.

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    2. Most interesting. Like the idea of a "willowing stroll."

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    3. While thoroughly engaged with the ongoing narrative, I have to point out that 'hidey-hole' is the correct spelling and much as "willowing stroll" sounds great, it means nothing - though I can see that changing, knowing how their roots tends to wander.

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    4. I rather liked "willowing stroll." It may part ways with the conventional definition of "willow," but it evokes an image. I think that was a fine choice.

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    5. definitely going with the hidey-hole spelling, the willowing stroll stopped me in my tracks, so, nice as it is, I would edit that out if it came in a story submitted for an anthology. Anything that stops the reader in their tracks is no good, they break their link with the story.

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    6. Thanks for the feedback! It's gold yet I may not change willowed stroll, so no apologies for it. I might change it but so far 50% liked it and as a couple of recent associates of mine have said, I need to like what I write.

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  14. Kursaal (Episode Sixty Seven) -- "Tea For Yew"

    Little Libby Pepperdyne packed her picnic basket with all necessary items, including the Willow Pattern tea set that had been one of her twin sister's prized possessions.

    Arriving at the remembrance garden planted in honour of the murdered Lucy, she spread a checkered cloth on the ground and sprinkled puckered yew leaves for decoration. There were plenty left over, after all.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the toes of gigantic clown shoes.

    Capers shuffled to a halt behind her.

    "Been waiting for you," she said cheerfully, reaching for the steaming teapot before turning around.

    "Cuppa?"

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    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.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

    (NOTE: Lucy Pepperdyne made her debut in Episode 24 and Libby Pepperdyne in Episode 60)

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    1. Oh, Patricia - you KNOW I'm frightened of clowns ... but I'm delighted with the willow-patterned china.

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    2. Well, could it be that Capers may have met his match? I don't think Libby will prove to be as much of a pushover as her twin. Course, I could be wrong. The outcome is not in my control but subject to fate dictated by those three prompts that drift our way every week. If it's any comfort, Sandra, clowns are the stuff on my nightmares as well!

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    3. Send in the clowns. Revenge served as hot tea. Khan wouldn't agree but the whole story just flowed so well.

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    4. As usual extremely engaging. I cringed at the idea of a prized willow-pattern set being taken out for a picnic and had a double take at "she noticed the toes of gigantic clown shoes". Tips surely? Dunno if its just me but "toes" gives the impression of separation into phalanges. NOT that that wouldn't be an excellent idea for clown shoes - just never saw them.

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    5. Yeah, but, Perry (and I do like the way you make me re-think!) one hears of 'steel toe-capped boots'. And, for me at least, 'tips' implies something more flattened, more dainty than the usual bulbousness of clown shoes.

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    6. I must admit, I had a bit of a mental debate over using "toes," but could find nothing comparable with the exception of "caps" (although "tips" might have been a suitable alternative, my searches never turned up that one). However, I couldn't shake the image of "caps" as being those strips of little exploding thingies that used to go in a toy gun. So, "toes" it was! I DO like the idea of clown shoes displaying separate phalanges. Wish there had been a way to incorporate that -- assuming I'd thought of it, which I didn't!

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    7. another dreaded d p! is this the week for them?
      As far as toes are concerned... my office is decorated with moons, somewhere around 300 of them. One moon, which hangs from the ceiling, is a clown complete with raggedy suitcase. His toes are peeping out of his open boots. It's a known clown thing. Patricia's right to use it.

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  15. Where would it end? [Threshold 161]

    Dark enough to necessitate more candles. Shadows trembled, quivering like willows in a summer breeze. In their flickering light Raven read my uncertainty, muttered an imprecation and left the room.

    Parchments. Piled upon the table. Pushed aside in incomprehension, spilled upon the floor. Mindlessly I watched the overflow of melted wax, observed it slide, then pucker as it dried. Would reducing all to ashes restore my trust in Raven, or incur his wrath at the destruction of evidence? Where would it end?

    Raven reappeared. Smiled. Held out a hand to me. ‘Come. It’s long past time we went to bed.’

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    1. [Threshold 161] In keeping with the quality of the serial, this was just great. I love the use of short sharp sentences. Very few use that most basic pace-modulation tool anymore. It's refreshing to encounter it well done on this site.

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    2. Thank you for that Perry - I quite frequently get criticised when folk read them as jerky.

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    3. no, they're not jerky, they're scene setting in their own way. Ed McBain used a lot of them and I like his fast paced writing. This is a good instalment.

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  16. Cold Feet

    She stood there, ablaze in red; red dress, red stockings, red stilettos, red garter. She held a revolver in one hand, almost nonchalantly, like she would a ceramic cigarette holder.

    “What’s with all the red?” I said noting the ample cleavage beneath the pucker of satin.

    “Really? You want those to be your last words?”

    “Not necessarily.”

    “I like red,” she said, her willowy hair backlit by lamplight.

    “All dressed up and me with a gun to my head.”

    “Life’s a bitch.”

    “Fine, I’ll marry you.”

    She lowered the gun, smiling. “I should have thought of this years ago.”

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    1. This is very entertaining! Especially liked the 'pucker of satin' and her first reply.

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    2. Beautiful descriptions. I really like this one.

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    3. Hahahahaha. Excellent use of repetition for the positive. Though I didn't quite get the "willowy hair" and could not get the image of Rupert Bear's Raggety out of my head.

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    4. good one, John. Willowy hair is good, it's trailing, flowing, sweeping downward. When I travel to my friend's house (every Monday night) I pass by a huge, truly huge willow tree, its branches trailing to the ground.

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  17. DEFINITION OF A BULLY

    They were more pews than desks: long wooden pseudo-pillories, ingrained with puckered confusion and the rubbed-off agony of strapped hands.

    It was instinctively necessary that Dominic lift the lid of his section.

    Heavy wood nearly trapped his fingers as teacher slammed it shut.

    “Is this YOUR desk?”

    “No, sir.” Dominic shook his head, eyeing the willow wand the man casually slapped against his own leg.

    “For the class...,” the man urged.

    “NO, SIR.”

    “No sir,” Teacher mocked, “but I was curious whether Seniors had anything worth stealing.”

    Dominic was mortified at such a notion.

    The sharp pain interrupted Dominic’s indignation.

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    Replies
    1. "pseudo-pillories" - what an original idea, and the rest of the sentence a masterpiece. Had me thinking 'Jane Eyre' and likely (had I read it) 'Oliver Twist' but also returned me to a paler version of my own school days.

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    2. very much Jane Eyre, I agree. Good piece, this.

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  18. The Mad Italian no 2
    2.
    It is necessary to begin with the damned Mona Lisa. You’re asking why… it’s not a brilliant picture, she was no startling beauty, it was for money. Sometimes you have to pucker up and get on with these things in order to eat – or drink.
    I asked if she liked willow trees, all weeping into the water. She said no. I asked if she liked music, she said she was indifferent. I asked - didn’t bother, there was no way to get the expression I wanted and then a brainwave. I told her an off colour joke. It began…

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    1. So explains the smirk. I can picture Leo having this discussion. Very enjoyable.

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    2. For me, how you were able to create the scene. I saw it clealy, her on a stool and Leo struggling to have the perfect image to paint. Well done oh and great use of the prompts.

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    3. What I especially like about this - and all historical novels who adopt such a device - is the relaxed, very contemporary dialogue which does not distance the reader. Nice one.

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  19. Antonia - Please clarify what you mean by 'dreaded' dangling participles. My understanding is that they are only 'bad' when misaligned with the subject, e.g. 'Walking down the road, the shops seemed scruffier than she remembered' which implies the shops are doing the walking.

    Patricia's 'Arriving at the remembrance garden planted in honour of the murdered Lucy, she spread a checkered cloth' seems fine to me since it is clearly 'she' who is arriving.

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  20. Kandar-7: Moon Shadow

    “Papa,who followed us,” the mage asked the puckered bat on his shoulder.
    “Two guards, of thieves, three, easily spotted, and a willowy fellow, who followed from the place of the disarmament. I almost lost him.”
    “Almost lost him? How did you almost lose him?” the mage queried.
    “He didn’t use the shadows to hide as much as he hid inside the shadow.”
    “A thief perhaps?”
    “Maybe or another mage.”
    “Tend to your necessities for a few hours, enjoy yourself. Eat some insects; fly into the lady’s hair or bite some people, maybe they’ll think you’re a vampire.”

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  21. This week I had some very unexpected advice about how to write, what's important and unimportant and perspective. This poem is my attempt to thank them for what they imparted.

    Help from my Friends

    Recipe: Predictive necessities:
    One-hundred words,
    Rhubarb of voices,
    A cacophony of sound,
    Advisers two, one marooned, the other a little fuzzy
    Friends, varied like spices.
    Encouraging me upward; explaining what’s unimportant,
    “Those here are in the same well, just on a higher rung.
    Careful of where your hands grab, care not for the writing on the wall.”

    This ladder I climb, did it originate in imperfection
    or from the scum at the bottom?
    Willow branch ropes with puckered drift wood rungs,
    Banded together with strands of hope,
    Can’t do critiquing or complaining, as long as I’m in the well.

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  22. Pucker was a man of unusual tastes.
    What had started as a crime of Necessity had ended with his hiding from on the decrepid Dearborne estate. What he had assumed was abandoned only looked so. Occupied soley by the highborn Lady Dearborne and a lone serveant who appeared to have died the week before.
    Bedridden and dying, the Lady gave him her last request.
    "Bury me beneath the willow tree," she whispered.
    Pucker shook his head as she passed.
    He wouldn't bury her beaneath the willow tree, but he would be willing to slow roast her over it's coals.

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    1. Welcome Ghostrunner - and what an impressive start. I very much like this, strong scene-building and a nasty bite at the end.

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