Category Archives: fantasy

Nexus – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

“Do you think it was ever real?” Jeff shifted his face towards me.

sculpture by Hasan Novorozi

“What was?” I replied absently, staring into the distance.

“The horse, the Pegasus?” He lifted off his elbows, rolling onto his side. “That one?”

My eyes refocused, taking in the golden bronze sculpture not far from our blanket.

The lowering evening light glinted like magic and I could almost imagine the creature lifting into the sky, its precision pistons and hydraulics whirring smooth and silent. It would soar on glorious wings, skimming clouds and the far off mountain tops. Then Jeff nudged me.

“Wow, you’re just lost today!” He sniggered.

I tore my eyes away from the monument. I flushed under his gaze. His ice-blue eyes softened and the corners of his mouth curled into a grin. My hair slipped across my face and he stretched out his hand to lift it away. His hand brushed my cheek and my heart quickened.

Embarrassed, or shy – I couldn’t decide which – I broke eye contact and dipped my head, hiding a heady smile. I heard Jeff move closer to me. His arms wrapped themselves about me and I let my body mould itself against his.

“I’ve never met anyone like you, Tansy,” he whispered, his words moving like velvet across my skin and into my ear.

I smiled and his mouth met mine. For a moment I froze, wondering if my inexperience would register with him, but I had nothing to worry about and melted into the kiss, my lips moving gently against his. It wasn’t just our mouths that responded and I let my hands rove, my fingers ending up entwined in his hair and stroking the nape of his neck.

Soft kisses rained down, and his lips explored my shoulder. My back lightly arched and my head dropped to the side as his touch sent tiny fizzing explosions through my body. I opened my eyes and the late sun bathed me in golden rays, and I caught a glimpse of the gleaming Pegasus in the corner of my eye. Its cogs and gears and wheels shone, and the light flowed through its mane and tail, and I almost believed it alive.

Jeff’s mouth sought mine again and then he reluctantly moved aside grinning at me as we untangled. I giggled and he laughed. “You do things to me!” He threw himself down onto his back and stared up into the sky.

I shuffled closer and looked at him, his face rosy with desire, untidy hair, and creased shirt. I smoothed my hand across his chest, slipping it between an unbuttoned gap to caress his skin. He closed his eyes and groaned.

I laughed and sat up, tucking my legs beneath me. Jeff rolled over and leaned against me, propping himself back up on his elbows again. The horse glowed in front of us as the sun disappeared behind the mountain. It became a shadowy figure as pale moonlight took over from the sun, ghostly even.

“So,” he broke the silence. “Do you think it was real?”

I didn’t answer.

“I mean, years ago, centuries ago, before they were banned?” When I still didn’t speak, he continued. “Not just horses, but people, you know – the mechanical ones. They got really advanced, then when they thought we’d not be able to tell the difference, they banned them. Do you believe that? I never saw one I couldn’t tell was robotic.” His voice trailed off as he stared at the sculpture. “If they were real, they sure were beautiful.”

My skin prickled, goosebumps spread across my arms, and my scalp tingled.

“I’d know if I met one. Not that I could, they don’t exist anymore.” He turned to smile at me. “That one, the Pegasus, it enchants me. That’s why I like coming here, and with you –” His fingers trailed across my bare arm. “With you, it’s even better.”

I linked my fingers with his. His hand was warm, sweaty, and real. He gazed into my eyes with such intensity, such adoration, that I knew his naivety was genuine.

I leaned down and touched my lips to his. He pulled me into his embrace and his hand moved slowly down my neck, across my collarbone, and down to the soft cotton décolletage of my dress. Not far beneath the cotton, beneath my silky organic skin, beneath the network of miniscule tubes and hydraulics, beneath the silent whir of cogs and gears, beat my heart, my clockwork heart.

Really needed to write something for this photo provided by Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge prompt. A sculpture by Hasan Novorozi. The steampunk Pegasus just spoke to me, as do most things steampunk!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat – Enchanted and seduced…

Sometimes a book comes along that both entrances and seduces you,
and I was mesmerised by
Michael Wombat’s The Raven’s Wing.

The Raven’s Wing - Michael Wombat - Enchanted and Seduced Mediaeval Mystery and Magic - The Last Krystallos

I’ve said it before, I don’t often blog about books, I love reviewing them, but every now and then I’ll be so blown away they have to feature on my blog, like Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt. I’m a sucker for a book that draws me in with fantasy and quirky magic.

I’ve read several books by this author before, and always loved them. He has a knack for portraying truth and using description to weave you right into the story. We also collaborated, a couple of years ago, on Human 76, where Michael Wombat was a vital part of collating and helping to create a very original collection of stories.

The Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing is a labour of love and the resulting book is an incredibly authentic mediaeval novel with a hint of truth and chronicle behind it. Read the blurb:

They say you should follow your dreams. They never tell you what to do when the dreams start following you.
The year is 1322. Minstrel John has enough on his plate with his wife’s funeral. He could do without the naked woman who keeps forcing her way into his dreams, the angel dropping skulls in the village church, the stranger that attacks him for no reason, and the sexy, one-eyed, fire-dancer who is after only one thing – his music. Then there are the voices in his head, compelling him to investigate a mystery that just keeps on growing.
Based on a true story, this is not history, this is the 14th century as experienced by those who lived there, and who saw it as the leading edge of time. As John discovers, demons and magic can be very real.

white and dark feathers by the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The story begins with an intensely erotic dream, if you know Wombat’s writing you’ll know nothing daunts him, down-to-earth honest, bawdy realism and coarse language intertwine with sheer beauty and descriptions that will whisk you away to another time. After this you are introduced to John, a simple minstrel, and his friends as they deal with the loss of John’s wife. It could be an unassuming tale, but John’s life takes a turn that will change him forever as a mysterious skull is found at the funeral.

You will be drawn into his life and the mystery that shrouds him. You’ll love his friends and you’ll cheer John on as he humbly searches for answers. Wombat will take you on a tour of mediaeval Britain complete with myth and magic, and you’ll be left wanting more.

Print of Winter's Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Print of Winter’s Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Now, think about the 14th century and imagine you want to write something that truly reflected the period… I asked Michael Wombat about how much research went into The Raven’s Wing:

‘Since I first heard Steeleye Span’s ‘John of Ditchford’ 20 years ago I’ve thought it’d make a good root for a story. When I finally got round to building a proper tale around it, it took 6 years to research and weave a satisfyingly deep story around what was in real life a thuggish murder. I made sure to keep copious research notes (thank you Scrivener!), and included the most interesting things I discovered in the Notes at the back of the book.’

The back of the book Notes are a real treat. Knitting realistic 14th century dialogue, words, places, and much more into a modern-day written story isn’t easy, though Wombat has done it so well; the tale is both fluid and beautiful to read. Chapter-by-chapter Wombat analyses and explains his terms and wordage to both educate and fascinate you.

Six years of research must have brought up intriguing facts and stories, so what was his favourite?

‘The most fascinating part of the research for me was the songs I discovered. Songs of love, lust and weird stuff aplenty. And of course the medieval recipes.’

A friend of mine, Miranda, recently made Pentecost’s waffres, and said they were delicious!

I said earlier, once this tale is done, you’ll be left wanting more. Michael Wombat commented:

‘As for the future, I’m putting together a pocketbook of ‘Raven’s Wing Extras’ – sketches I made while writing the book, behind the scenes stories, character backstories and so on. Beyond that, I kind of left Jenifry and Moss with a massive cliffhanger – one day, maybe, I’ll write their continuing story.’

I definitely want more from this period of time and Wombat’s characters.

Michael Wombat and The Raven's Wing

© Michael Wombat

I am a big fan of Wombat’s writing with many of his books on my Kindle and on my bookshelves, and I look forward to reading more. Wombat is an eclectic writer with a penchant for the extraordinary, and reading his bio will let you know what you’re getting yourself into:

A Yorkshireman living in the rural green hills of Lancashire, Michael Wombat is a man of huge beard. He has a penchant for good single-malts, inept football teams, big daft dogs and the diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Abducted by pirates at the age of twelve he quickly rose to captain the feared privateer ‘The Mrs. Nesbitt’ and terrorised the Skull Coast throughout his early twenties. Narrowly escaping the Revenue men by dressing as a burlesque dancer, he went on to work successively and successfully as a burlesque dancer, a forester, a busker, and a magic carpet salesman. The fact that he was once one of that forgotten company, the bus conductors, will immediately tell you that he is as old as the hills in which he lives. Nowadays he spends his time writing and pretending to take good photographs. You can have a good laugh at his pathetic blog or his photographs, but most of all please go and mock him mercilessly on Twitter or Facebook. Michael Wombat has published over one book. Other authors are available.

Please follow him most actively on Twitter, find him on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, at Cubic Scats and sign up for his Patreon for new and exciting stories.

My last words for The Raven’s Wing – sometimes I get lost in stories because they seduce me, sentences inspire, and the story takes me somewhere completely new. Maybe you’d like to visit the 14th century? Go on give it a try… you won’t be sorry!

The Raven's Wing - Michael Wombat book coverYou can buy The Raven’s Wing

from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

It’s seriously worth every penny.