Monday, 31 October 2016


SA HorrorFest Strikes 12
My contribution to this years Bloody Parchment 2016 Anthology 

Waking the Dead

“Tell me again why I agreed to this harebrained scheme?” Sarah Carrick took a deep breath and tightened her hold on her best friend’s hand.
“You want to speak to Scott don’t you?” Steph asks. At Sarah’s nod she continues. “This is the only way.  Mona assured me this woman’s mojo is strong.”
“And we trust Mona?” she murmurs eyeing the decrepit building in front of them.
To describe the structure in front of them as a house would be too charitable. The four wooden walls of what must have been a rectangular Wendy house are collapsing inwards into a weird polygon shape. The path leading to the place is made of cracked tar. Around them the streets are empty but she can see one or two curtains twitching into place whenever her eyes flicker past.  If she wasn’t so desperate to talk to Scott she would back in the car and get out of there.
“Uh-ha,” Steph mumbles back tapping in a quick message on her smartphone.
Looking around at their less than stellar surroundings Sarah wonders how Stephanie could be at ease. This was the type of neighbourhood where you kept your purse out of sight, pepper spray on the ready.
“Are you sure it’s safe to leave the car out here?”  Sarah whispered.
“Sarah would you relax already!” Steph replies in obvious vexation. “Do you really believe I would lead you into a potentially dangerous situation? Mona and her friends always come here and nothing bad has ever happened to them. According to Mona the lady has a reputation around here. No one would dare to steal on her doorstep.”
Shoving the phone into her coat pocket she starts pulling Sarah along.  “Come on.”
Sarah allows herself to be dragged towards the broken wooden door.  Steph knocks on the door and it is opened by an old black woman.
“Hi I’m Stephanie and this is my friend Sarah,” Steph says brightly thrusting her hand into the woman’s hand.  
The woman smiles widely opening the door wider for them to enter. “My name is Tandi. I’ve been expecting you. Come on in.”
Steph moves inside and Tandi turns towards Sarah to shake her hand. Sarah takes her warm hand and smiles politely.
“Hello,” she mummers as she passes through the door. Tandi glances outside briefly before closing the door behind them.
“Please take a seat ladies,” Tandi said indicating the two-seater sofa. “What I can do for you.”
Sarah is pleasantly surprised to find a warmly decorated room. The floor is covered with a large red carpet and on the walls are framed family photographs. Somehow Tandi has managed to make the place look comfortable. The furniture is old but sturdy-looking. Sarah is convinced that the table between the two-seater and Tandi’s chair is an antique if her eyes aren’t deceiving her.
Sarah sits next to Steph on the surprisingly comfortable sofa. She studies Tandi while pretending to look at her home. In her yellow polloneck jersey and brown wraparound skirt Tandi is not what Sarah expected at all.  She knew it was stereotyping but she’d had been expecting those feathery headdress and other fetishes—not all this crazy normal.
“What can I do for you?” Tandi asks again, her dark eyes alight with amusement. Sarah wonders if she can divine what she was thinking. That would be mortifying.
“I want to talk to my fiancĂ© Scott. He’s been gone for two months now...” Sarah’s voice tappers off at the end. She wipes away the stray tears from her eyes. Just talking about him brings fresh grief. He was the love of her life and he’d died so young. They’d had so many plans but none of that would happen because he was gone.
“It’s okay sweetie,” Steph’s arm goes around Sarah’s shoulders and she draws comfort from the caring embrace.
“Is it possible...Can I speak to him?” she asks Tandi.
“I’ll do my best,” Tandi replied. “But you have to understand the rules. The spirits of the dead are unpredictable.”  As she spoke Tandi took out a small wooden bowl with strange carvings on the side.  From a side drawer she produces a tiny bunch of herbs tied in the middle.
“Contacting the spirits of the dead is dangerous work, for you and for me. That’s why you have to follow the rules to the letter. No matter what happens you do what I ask you to do. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Tandi’s serious expression is a bit scary but Sarah was undaunted she would do anything to see Scott again.
“Alright then we can get started,” she said at last. “Did you bring anything of his?”
Steph takes out the watch Sarah had bought for Scott last Christmas. Tandi takes it and places it in the bowl. Then she takes a sharp quill and reaches for Sarah’s hand. Sarah gasps at the sharp pain when Tandi pokes her. Holding her hand over the bowl she lets Sarah’s blood drip over the gold watch. Sarah counts six drops, enough to cover the glass face of the watch. She pops her finger into her mouth watching Tandi work.
Tandi picks up the herbs and lights them with a match. The fragrant scent of burning herbs fills the house as Tandi begins to chant in her native tongue. Sarah is captivated by the cadence of the low rhythmic words and her eyes are drawn to the little bowl in the middle of the table where her blood was being absorbed into the watch’s golden metal.
As Tandi chanted waving the little bunch of herbs in swirling circles she notices that the smoke from the herbs is collecting into a solid mass. It keeps pilling up next to the table into a tall column of grey smoke. Sarah stares open mouthed as the smoke takes shape and distinct features emerge.  She can’t help but gasp when Scott smiles down at her from his great height.
“What is it? Do you see something?” Steph asks excitedly.
Sarah doesn’t answer as she rises shakily to her feet barely noticing Steph looking around obviously not seeing anything. “Scott?”
“Sarah I’ve missed you so much.”
Scott’s voice brings fresh tears to her eyes. She really missed hearing that deep voice. “OMG it’s really you!”
“It’s me baby.”
“Oh Scott I miss you so much,” Sarah’s hand trembles up. “I hope you don’t mind but I was desperate to see you.”
“Don’t touch him!” Tandi’s urgent voice gets through to her just in time and she lowers her hand to her side.
“I always knew you loved me,” Scott smiles sadly. “But it’s time to let me go.”
Tears start streaming down her cheeks, “How am I supposed to live without you? Losing you was so hard.”
“I know baby. I didn’t want to go but my time was up,” he said looking behind him. “At least we get to say goodbye this time.”
His joke makes tears stream down her face harder. She’d just got him back now he was being taken away from her again. Double the loss. Double the pain.
“What happens if I touch him?” Sarah asks keeping her eyes on Scott’s flickering image. Already the white light surrounding Scott is fading. They have very little time left.
“You would die,” she replied in a solemn voice.
“Sarah, what are you doing?” Steph is on her feet too trying to hold her back.
“I meant what I said,” she murmurs back. “I can’t live without him. My life is not worth living anymore.”
“That’s not true! You have family that loves you” Steph’s voice breaks at the end but Sarah’s mind is made up.
“I know,” Sarah smiles and touches the column of smoke. “I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”  
Everyone cries out but it’s too late her fingers have touched the dead.  A cold icy pain races up her arm and envelopes her entire body. Yes, she thinks, I am about to die. She is vaguely aware of Tandi and Steph kneeling next to her.
“I love you Stephanie Richards,” she forces out of her lips.
“Do something!” Steph grips Tandi by the arm shaking her in her desperation.
“It’s okay Steph. This is my choice—” Her words end in a long shuddering gasp. The cold has spread to her heart and she can feel it falter.
“There is nothing I can do for her.”
Sarah would have smiled if she could. She wasn’t afraid. In a few moments she would be with Scott again. The pain is receding and she feels like she’s floating on a cotton cloud. This must be how death feels like, she thinks.
“What’s happening to her?” Steph asks Tandi. Her friend is lying on the floor eyes wide open, a silly smile on her face but she’s still breathing.
“The dead cannot return to the living but the living can join the dead,” Tandi replies. “Her body is dead but her spirit will be trapped within it until her time comes.”
“No!!!” Sarah screams but no one can hear her. She no longer has a voice.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Burning Woman part 16

The morning after our disastrous dinner I was treated to Morris’ silent treatment. My tentative attempts to start conversation where met with infuriating one word answers. Teenagers argh!
I was a little late for work and the sister in charge gave me a warning. Way to start the morning. Hurrah!
As I do my rounds my day starts getting better. I love the hospital routine which keeps me occupied until the lunch hour. I clock out on the time sheet and head for the cafeteria where my colleagues are already monopolizing the huge central table.
“Hey Rudo come sit with us,” Trevor says in his deep booming voice.
“I’ll be there just now,” I smile as I join the queue. There are only three other people in front of me so it doesn’t take long for me to get served.
“Hi Bianca!” I great the buxom head cook.
“Hi Rudo,” she replies. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great, and you?” I study the menu as she finishes dishing for the last person on the queue.
“Same old, same old,” she says wiping her hands on her pristine white apron. “What can I get you today?”
“I’ll have rice and beef stew please.” One of the best things about my job is that the hospital provides its employees with one full meal per shift. This feature has gone a long way to helping me save money and maintain a healthy budget.
Once I have my tray I thank Bianca and move towards Trevor’s table.
“Hey guys how’s it going?” I say taking my place next to Samantha Hove one of the nurses from the casualty ward. I get a few hand waves but otherwise they are too busy sharing the latest gossip to mind me.
“I told you there was something fishy going on with those two!”
“I’m telling you they did it in the storeroom!” Trevor says from across the table. Trevor has forever abolished the ‘men don’t gossip’ myth from my mind. He’s a tall reed thin man in his mid-forties. He’s a security guard in the casualty ward so I see him a lot while doing my rounds. He’s one of the friendliest people around but he’s also a chronic gossip.
“Who did what in the storeroom?” I ask Samantha quietly, totally feeling out of the loop.
“Dr Changa and that new nurse aid Tsakane,”
“You’re kidding!” Samantha laughs at my shocked gasp.
“I kid you not,” Trevor says cutting off Samantha. “I’ve seen them go into that room too many times.”
“But he’s married!”
“So?” Tendai says rolling her eyes at me. “Married men cheat all the time.”
I have to agree to that one. I was the living talking example of cheating husbands. I had a members t-shirt.
“I bet she’s boinking her way to a promotion,” Sam speculates. I have to agree with him. Dr Changa is the head of the casualty department. He could make or break a young nurse’s career.
“Well she’s definitely working hard at it!” Trevor says, making everyone laugh. “She’s in the storeroom at least three times a day.”
“It’s so unfair,” Sam grumbles. Sam is the only male nurse in casualty and if it takes a couple of booty calls to get a promotion then he was definitely in trouble.
“It is what it is,” Trevor says. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Don’t look so sad Sam. Dr Changa always goes after the newbies. He’s always making promises he doesn’t keep,” Cynthia an older nurse says. She’s been working at the hospital far longer than anyone else.
I check the time on my wrist watch and see that I’ve five minutes left. I say my goodbyes and head out of the cafeteria. I don’t want to push my luck by being late twice.

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Wolf and the DoveThe Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Summary

The Wolf

Noble Aislinn grieves as the Iron Wolf and his minions storm through her beloved Darkenwald. And she burns with malice for the handsome Norman savage who would enslave her. . .even as she aches to know the rapture of the conqueror′s kiss

The Dove

For the first time ever, mighty Wulfgar has been vanquished--and by a bold and beautiful princess of Saxon blood. He must have the chaste, sensuous enchantress who is sworn to his destruction. And he will risk life itself to nurture with tender passion a glorious union born in the blistering heat of hatred and war.

My review

This book was one of my first not to mention favourite medieval romances. Set in England when the Saxons where conquered by the Normans, The Wolf and The Dove is an excellent bodice ripper. The story starts with the defeat of the heroin's father at the hands of the honorless knight and his deplorable sidekick. Aislinn of Darkenwald watches her father and other serfs murdered outside her home.

To make matters worse she is claimed as the spoils of war by her fathers murderer and forced into his bed that very night. Aislinn and her elderly mother conspire to escape but are stopped by Wulfgar, the Iron Wolf of Normandy, newly arrived to rule Darkenwald, and one look at Aislinn leads him to claim her as his own. She hates the Norman conquering forces, but Wulfgar awakens a consuming passion in her that she can't deny. As she struggles with her growing love for Wulfgar, she does what she can to aid her conquered people and her bereaved mother.

But the jealous murderer conspires with Wulfgar's half-sister Gwen to do away with Aislinn and Wulfgar. When Aislinn is kidnapped Wulfgar can finally admit that the woman he conquered has in truth, conquered his heart.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Burning Woman Part 15

 “I can’t wait until Monday!” Morris Jnr says as we exit the city department store. The bag of brand new school uniforms dangles from his hands. He wouldn’t let me carry the precious cargo.
“Did you see the school grounds and all the equipment they have?”
His excitement brings a smile to my face.  “School is not all about play you know.”
I walk faster to keep up with the exuberant teenager. Morris Jnr is now thirteen years old. I’d been promoted to senior nurse. With the promotion came many added benefits but the biggest was the transfer to the bigger city general hospital. Morris had transferred to a new more sophisticated school.
She’d laughed when he had stared at the tall skyscrapers with bugging eyes. That’s how I must have looked the last time I was here, I thought. The city was a far cry from our humble village, as different as night and day.
Morris Jnr has taken to city life like a duck to water. He has already made new friends in the short time we’ve been here. I was worried about uprooting him from the village but now I see I needn’t have worried. We’re going to be just fine.
Later that day, we sit across from each other enjoying an early supper. The house I got with the new job is small but sufficient for Morris Jnr and I.
“Now that we have a house in the city will father come and stay with us again?”
There goes my good mood. How do you tell your child that his father will not come and stay with him because he has another family. It’s been a couple of years but Morris Jnr believes naively, that his father will return. For his sake I hope the pink tinted glasses wear off sooner rather than later.
“Morris you know that your father is with Onicca now,” I say softly.
“But we’re his family too,” he insists. “Father said I could visit him when we moved to the city.”
“I’m sure your father will come and collect you when he is ready.”
“I have his address why can’t we just go there on Sunday?” he says, his guileless eyes stare accusingly at me. “It won’t cost much, just two dollars. We’ll need two kombi’s to get there.”
“Two dollars? Morris who have you been talking to?”
“I asked Tapiwa and he told me where to find the kombi’s.” His eyes slide away to his plate. The silence is thick with tension.
“Your father will collect you himself and that is the end of it!”
“If you won’t take me then I will go by myself,” he bellows loudly. His chair crushes to the ground when he stands up. His jaw hardened by steely defiance. A sheen of tears glitters in his eyes before he flies from the room.
Huffing out a great breath I clear the table and right the overturned chair. On my way to my bedroom I stop at Morris Jnr’s door and hesitate. I can hear quiet sobbing coming from the other side. I knock but don’t hear anything anymore.
Eventually I push the door open. A blade of light pierces the dark room. The sniffles have stopped and all is silent. His face is shrouded in darkness but I know he is not asleep.
“He will come soon...”

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Goal (Off-Campus, #4)The Goal by Elle Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just love this series. From the time I read the deal I wanted to know how the four roommates would get their happily ever after. Tucker was by far the more subdued of the hockey playing hotties. And he basically took care of the other guys in the previous books.
Sabrina on the other hand came up as a stuck-up girl with a major hangup on hockey players (Dean in particular) I wasn't sure I was going to like her for Tucker. So glad I was wrong.
The story starts with a hotter than hot hook-up in Tucker's car. What was meant as a once off experience(on Sabrina's side) turns into more when Tucker persists in building a relationship. Sabrina has a heavy toll on her shoulders. Sabrina's home scene was horrible. Her stepfather was an ***hat and her grandmother was slightly better. I really admired her characters determination to make something of herself. something that enriched the story and made it very real not some blown up sob story.
Tucker is also plagued by his mother who wants him to go back home and buy a local business. I didn't like her so much when she tried to force him to do something he didn't enjoy.
The way Sabrina and Tucker handled the pregnancy was very convincing. I also loved that Sabrina didn't give up her dream but worked a little bit harder to get it. This is a wonderful inspirational not to mention hot read for YA

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