Morning all!

And hope you’re all having a decent weekend….

I’m quite glad the week is over – everything is really busy at the moment, I’m doing edits on Book 2 in all my spare time, and got caught up in the train uproar on Thursday night, so my (usually 1hr) journey home actually took best part of 6 hours, leaving me getting in so late I had 3h sleep before having to get up again and start my Friday commute! Yuck!

However, in better news,’ On Dark Shores: The Lady‘ is just this minute up to #7839 in the whole of the Kindle Store – get me! I’m really pleased, even though that will probably last all of ten minutes…. but to be in the top 10k is quite cool, so though I guess I’ll be back down again by tomorrow, I thought I’d record the moment! The editing of book 2 is going apace (in part thanks to said train journey) and I’ll be unveiling the new and improved blurb once all the votes are in.

But that’s quite enough from me – let’s get on to what you’ve really come here for!

This week we are lucky enough to have a guest blog from none other than Lisa Hinsley! The challenge I set Lisa was to write a fairy story as it would have happened if she herself was the heroine. With her tendencies towards the horror genre, it was never going to be light and fluffy, but I think that you’ll enjoy the following – Snow White it ain’t!!

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About the author:

Lisa C Hinsley was born in Portsmouth in 1971, and grew up in England, Scotland, and America.  Recently, her novel What Alice Sees placed as runner-up in the 2010 UKA Opening Pages Competition. Her novel Coombe’s Wood finished in the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2009 and was awarded runner up in the all-genre Book of the Year Awards 2008 on Arts Council website YouWriteOn. Now listed on Amazon Kindle, Coombe’s Wood has sold over 2000 copies. 
Check out her website at http://lisahinsley.weebly.com for her blog, links, and all the latest on her various works.

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GUEST-BLOG CHALLENGE: The Fairytale…

Lisa rolled over in her bed and wished her mother dead. She couldn’t believe she’d had the nerve to try and make her eat the kidney in the pie. Yuck! Who eats such horrible stuff? Oh yes, her mum and dad. She let out a huff and pulled her pillow over her face.

How dare she? Mum should eat horrible stuff, like roasted grasshoppers or fried grubs. She saw that on a documentary on the telly. See what she thinks of eating things that make her want to gag. Lisa rubbed at her knuckles where he mother had rapped them with a fork. Persuasion, her father called it. Lisa called it abuse.

A loud bang from downstairs sounded, and Lisa threw the pillow aside and sat up, curious. There was a second bang followed by a short sharp scream – her mother! Lisa jumped out of bed and opened her door and crept to the top of the stairs. A group of small dumpy men with long scraggly beards had her parents surrounded.

“Where’s the girl?” one of them asked, and poked her mother with a short sword.

“Oi, lay off my wife. What do you think you’re doing?” Her father shoved the blade aside.

Three of the dwarfs pressed swords into her father’s side.

“Ow, that actually hurts. Those aren’t toys, you know.” He sounded scared, and Lisa tried to see a little better what was going on. Who were the dwarfs, and where on earth had they come from?

“Where’s the girl? Your daughter?” the one she thought was the leader asked. He had a funny accent.

“What daughter?” her father answered. “We don’t have a daughter.”

“I don’t think I believe you…” the dwarf thought for a moment, then said, “Take them through. They’ll tell us where she is eventually.”

Her parents were shoved towards the coat cupboard. At the last moment, her mother glanced up to the stairs at Lisa. It was enough. Two of the dwarfs came back into the house and closed the cupboard door. There was a gleam in their eyes as they climbed the stairs. Lisa jumped up and ran for her bedroom, but they were faster. Next thing she knew, as she grabbed desperately at the handle, something hit her on the back of the head.

Everything went black.

Lisa opened her eyes to find herself in a large sunny room. All around her were other children, laughing and playing.

“Urgh…” Lisa touched the back of her head where the dwarfs had hit her.

“Oh, hello.” A blonde girl noticed her moving, and came over. “You’re new, aren’t you.” She said it as a statement. “Don’t be scared. You’ve come to… child heaven.” She grinned widely. “But you’re not dead,” she added quickly.

“Where am I, then?” Lisa sat up. She was on some sort of fancy day bed, covered in rich, red velvet.

“You’re in another world,” the girl whispered. “Oh, sorry. I’m Liz. I came here last week. I’m waiting for my family to be assigned, should be very soon now.”

“Family, what are you talking about?” Lisa was more awake now, noticing the bars on the windows, even through the thin curtains.

“None of the adults can have children. So they take children who need a family and bring them here.”

Lisa checked the room for the door. She found it – and one of those warrior dwarfs. “But I have a family,” she muttered.

Liz shrugged. “But I’m guessing they didn’t treat you very well. Are they horrible?”

Lisa didn’t answer.

“Anyway, here you’ll get parents who treat you like a living god.” She smiled. “Hungry? You can order whatever you fancy. But there’s already piles of things to choose from.”

Liz helped Lisa off the daybed, and took her to a table covered in cakes and sweets. Lisa’s tummy grumbled, she’d gone to bed without any dinner. As she munched on a cookie, she wondered about what they’d done to her parents. Would the guard know what happened to them? Maybe they were sent back.

“Um, excuse me?”

The warrior dwarf clicked his heels to attention.

“What’s happened to my mum and dad?”

The dwarf waved a hand as if her question wasn’t important. “Why would you want to know about them?”

“Because they’re my parents?” She was getting angry. Why wouldn’t anyone give her a straight answer? “I want to see them. Now!” she shouted.

The dwarf cleared his throat. “You’ll see them… tomorrow.”

She knew he was making it up. Not to worry. She’d wait. Eventually she’d find out what happened to them.

Days passed. She had a tummy ache from eating too many sweets, and a strong craving for her mother’s homemade soup. She slipped out to use the loo, and as she sat there, allowing a few tears to fall, closed up inside the toilet cubicle, she heard a noise – two of the dwarf guides.

“Oi Bert, another of the parents kicked it last night. Need you to help me drag the body up from the dungeon and toss it out in the lake. The crocodiles will make short work of that one – nothing left but skin and bones.”

Lisa poked her stomach. She’d grown noticeably rounder since she came here. Too many sweets and cakes, and not enough exercise. She missed her bike as well. A sob threatened to escape, and she clapped a hand over her mouth in case the dwarfs heard.

The other one was speaking, “…Fine, Norman, I’ll help. But then you need to help me get the next sacrifice up the mountain.” A sacrifice – what?

“Okay, that’s a deal. Do you know where I can get any more heat protection? Mine’s shot, and it’s blooming hot on top of the volcano. When the chid is squirming, you have to have the protection wrapped all the way around.”

Lisa started, her eyes wide. They were sacrificing them, the children, into a volcano – like she learned in history. She had to do something! The dwarfs left the room, and the moment she judged it to be safe, she leapt off the toilet seat and fled the room.

But back in the main chamber, where all the children lolled around on comfy sofas and beds, surrounded by toys and food, Lisa realised how close their guards stayed. There was no way she’d be able to make a grand announcement to the other kids, so she went to William and whispered in her ear, “We don’t go to new parents. They’re sacrificing us to the volcano.” She nodded her head towards the window. Beyond the bars, a plume of smoke rose from the nearby mountain.

William shook his head. “You’re wrong,” he whispered back.

“I heard two of the dwarfs talking about it, just now in the loos. They didn’t know I was there.”

“I’m not so sure…” No doubt he was thinking about his mystical future parents.

“Then stay. My parents are in the dungeon, just as yours probably are. To be honest, I don’t care what you do. Just pass the message along. Goodbye.”

Lisa didn’t wait for acknowledgement. She made her way to the edge of the room, and waited for her chance to escape. It didn’t take long. Maybe William believed her. Maybe he simply wanted to give her a chance with what she believed. Either way, he’d climbed up on top of a table laden with creamy cakes, and toppled everything over. There was an almighty crash and a yelp from William, and the guard who usually stayed by the door ran over. This was her chance. She opened the door, wished William good luck, and slipped out of the room.

She stood out so badly. No other children were wondering about, so she ducked behind a statue and the tapestry behind that was hung from the wall and tried to figure out what to do. She had to look like one of them. A dwarf would make the most sense, as she was about the same height. Her mind made up, Lisa crept out from behind the tapestry, and searched for a weapon. She didn’t have to go far. The walls were adorned with all manner of weaponry. She grabbed what looked to be an ancient club, ripped it off the frame it was attached to and hid back behind the tapestry. Making sure she had a view of the hall, she waited for a solitary dwarf.

Many came in twos and threes, and she had to stifle a yawn as she waited. But then one rounded the corner. Lisa made sure no others came around the end of the corridor and jumped out, first startling the dwarf, them popped him on the head with the club. He rubbed his head, a curious frown on his face.

“Go down,” she muttered and cracked the club over his head a second time. This was enough, and the dwarf toppled over. Quickly, before anyone else came, she stripped the dwarf and dressed in his clothing. Rubbing her hands on the floor, she wiped the dirt she’d picked up on her chin. It was the closet she’d get to a beard. Hopefully they weren’t born with beards, and she’d be dismissed as a young one. Finally, she pulled his cat on, wrinkling her nose at the stinky smell, and dropped the tapestry over him. Hopefully she’d have enough time before he woke up or was discovered.

Now disguised, Lisa walked around searching for stairs going down. She half ran, half walked, trying every door she found. Some were locked, and she fretted, what if the one she wanted was locked, and she’d already gone past it? But as she took a left into  a new passage, she spotted a rounded door, different to all the others. Her heart quickened. It had to be that one, she knew it!

Lisa ran down the hall and tried the door, it opened to reveal stone stairs descending down into darkness. Bingo! She thought and quietly closed the door behind her.

Oh no. Lisa tried not to start crying. The smell down here was overpowering – poo, pee and death, all mixed up together. The first thing she saw was the prison cells. Gaols, she supposed they’d actually be called. They were small, with iron bars on three walls, a long row of them on each side with a corridor running down the middle. Someone had thrown straw down, and the adults had gathered this up as a makeshift bed. All of the cells were full, and all of the adults were staving. A small noise escaped her, and suddenly dozens of pairs of eyes turned her way. Halfway down, she recognised her parents, but they were different. While she’d been upstairs getting fat on sweets and cakes, they’d been starving to death.

“Mum, dad, it’s me,” she whispered, and stuck her fingers between the bars.

“Lisa?” her father replied, his voice weak. “Is it really you?”

Lisa nodded as she tried to hold back the tears. They both looked so sick. In the cell next to them, where the occupant probably hadn’t moved in a fair few days, a grub crawled slowly over. Her father grabbed it as soon as it was close enough.

“Darling, I have some food for you.”

Her mother obediently opened her mouth, and he put the grub, still wiggling, into her mouth. Lisa tried not to gag as her mother chewed and swallowed. “Thank you dear,” she said, he voice so weak it was almost mute.

“Where’s the key, I’ve got to get you out.”

“They keep it down the end. Be careful, there’s always one of those dwarfs guarding them,” he said, his eye on another grub.

Lisa didn’t want to see her mother eat a second maggot, and took off down the end of the cells. As she rounded the corner, she stopped dead. The key was hung from a hook above a sleeping dwarf. He appeared to be in a deep sleep, muttering and twitching as some dream played out. She thought of her parents, the volcano, and home. Her mind set, she tip toed forwards.

“What do you think you’re doing?” A hand lashed out and grabbed her by the wrist.

She cleared her throat in and in her best deep voice said, “I’m helping Bert get the bodies out to the lake. Need to open the cell.” Her heart beat so hard, she wondered if he’d hear it, if that’s what would give her away.

“Lazy git. Should be doing it himself.” He squinted at her. “You new, haven’t seen you about.”

“Umm…” she thought for a moment, had to come up with something reasonable. She recalled the conversation in the bathroom and said, “I’m Norman’s nephew. New to the job.”

“Ah, fair enough. Well if you’re here, I’m off of a break.”

With that, he released her wrist, stood up and stretched. Before she could say another word, he’d gone.

Lisa reached up a second time, unhooked the key and ran back into the main room. Moments later, her parents were free. The three hugged of a second, but only for a second, they were still in so much danger!

“What do we do now?” Lisa asked. “How do we get home?”

“Well first, we do this.” Her father took the key from her and handed it to the couple in the next cell. “Free yourselves, and hand it along,” he said, then grabbed Lisa and her mother by the hand. “I know where we came in. That’s our best chance of getting home.”

Her dad certainly seemed to know where he was going. He led them out of the dungeon, up a corridor and down another. Finally he stopped in front of an ornately carved wooden door. “I’ve been dreaming of escape, of this door, of going home.” He stoked Lisa’s cheek, and then her mother’s. Come on.”

He opened the door to reveal a cupboard. The three glanced at each other, this was the right place – the portal.

“This has to be right, yeah?” Lisa asked.

“Has to be. Looks right.” Her father scratched at his beard.

“Will it take us home?” her mother asked.

“Could take us anywhere.”

“Dad,” Lisa tugged on her father’s sleeve. “Anywhere is better than here.”

With that, the three of them squeezed into the small space. After a quickly mumbled prayer, her father closed the door.

“Do you think that’s long enough?” her mother asked.

“I’ve no idea.”

“What did they do when they took you over?” Lisa asked.

“Closed it and reopened it, and voila, we were somewhere else. What about you?”

“I don’t know. They knocked me out.”

Her parents exchanged a sad look.

“I got a bump on my head, you two were starved, priorities!” she said, just as her mother usually said.

“Open it,” her mother said.

“Go on, Dad.”

“Here goes nothing.” Her father squeezed his eyes shut and opened the door.

“Oh my God, we’re home!”

“Don’t swear, Lisa,” her mother said, but she had a big grin on her face.

“Go open the cupboards,” her father told Lisa.

“Which ones?” she asked.

“All of them.”

Lisa ran around the bedrooms, opening all the doors, wedging them in place, and found her mum and dad in the kitchen. Everything was open. Even the kitchen cabinets.

Suddenly, Lisa breaks down in tears. “I’m sorry mummy. I wished you dead, and that you had to eat grubs because you made me eat kidney.”

“Oh sweety, it wasn’t your fault,” her mother said and cuddled her close. But not close enough to hide the look she gave her father. An accusatory glance, a glance full of blame.

“How about I make a promise,” her mother said. “I won’t make you eat any more kidney.”

“Okay Mum.” Lisa made her own promise at the same time: that she would never, ever wish her mother dead.

Unless she made her eat something else yucky. Then Lisa might just close a door. Or two…

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So there you have it – don’t cross Lisa unless you have a penchant for crawly foodstuffs…..

Thanks to Lisa for her fairytale, and to you lovely people for dropping by! Next week’s guest blogger is still tbc but in the weeks ahead we can look forward to something from the pen of MTMaguire, author of ‘Few Are Chosen’ and assorted others from the worlds of poetry, prose and theatre. Cool, huh? – hope you’re enjoying these blogs as much as I am!

In the meantime, have a great week – and do drop by next week for our next guest spot!

Take care, peeps!

JAC

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