#Poetrychallenge – Exploitation, a haibun

Resentment and anger made poor bedfellows . They stole the pleasure from the day, creeping relentlessly across her mind like a slow eclipse of the sun. It was time to take back control of her life. Time to make a change.

She never imagined her life could become this unfulfilling and frustrating. Getting up early every day and trying to behave as if everything was normal.

Outside the walls of her home, the world had turned itself upside down. Masked strangers roamed the streets, ringing on doorbells asking for food to fill empty bellies or trying to sell some unnecessary and unwanted item to the impatient and irritated inhabitants of the houses. There were no jobs and the poor and uneducated were desperate and verging on starvation.

Within the walls of her familiar home, her own life had become a nightmare of relentless stress as her working days grew longer and longer. More and more demands were made on her until one day she’d awoken to the unexpected realisation that exploitation and abuse of human rights comes in many forms. The shocking understanding dawned that she was a pathetic pawn in the corporate game where no-one mattered and no employee ever won.

Pressing the send button, her resignation letter left her email box.

To late she learned

That undue quickness of mind

Mixed with compassion

Creates the perfect cocktail

For endless exploitation

This haibun was written for Colleen Chesebro’s poetry challenge. You can join in here: https://colleenchesebro.com/2020/09/01/colleens-2020-weekly-tanka-tuesday-poetry-challenge-no-193-poetschoice/

#ThursdayDoors – St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). 

This week, I’m featuring St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.

The church is named after Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose “incorruptible” right hand is housed in the reliquary.

St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest
Beautiful front door of the Basilica
One of the elaborate inside doors
Another gorgeous inside door
The reliquary or shrine containing St Stephen’s right hand

My great blogging friend, John Rieber, has also shared a Thursday Doors post about Budapest and a journey on the Orient Express: https://johnrieber.com/2020/09/03/open-these-thursdaydoors-and-take-an-amazing-trip-to-budapest-on-the-orient-express/. He did some interesting things in Budapest that we didn’t have time for so do pop over and have a look at this post. He has many other great ones too.

#Bookreview – Mahoney by Andrew Joyce

What Amazon says

In this compelling, richly researched novel, author Andrew Joyce tells a story of determination and grit as the Mahoney clan fights to gain a foothold in America. From the first page to the last, fans of Edward Rutherfurd and W. Michael Gear will enjoy this riveting, historically accurate tale of adventure, endurance, and hope.

In the second year of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin. He has not eaten in five days. His only hope of survival is to get to America, the land of milk and honey. After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. Thus starts an epic journey that will take him and his descendants through one hundred and fourteen years of American history, including the Civil War, the Wild West, and the Great Depression.

My review

I listened to the audio book of Mahoney, narrated by Michael R.L. Kern. The narrator did a great job with this book and had the right voice and inflections of tone for this particular story.

Mahoney is a fascinating story of the lives of Devin Mahoney, a poverty stricken farming tenant in Ireland who travels to America during the famine, and his son and grandson.

This book is well researched and shares intricate details relating to a variety of contraversial topics including: the lives of the tenant farmers in Ireland during the family and the shocking treatment they received at the hands of their English overlords, the journey by sea of Irish immigrants to America on board the “death ships”, life for the Irish immigrants on their arrival in the “promised land”, the circumstances of the civil war in America, life in the wild west of America for a young man from the East and his journey to becoming a marshal and an incredible fast gun, the life of the wealthy in New York before the Great Depression, the plight of the poor during the Great Depression and the circumstances of African Americans living in the south during the late 1930s and 1940s.

The list above gives a taste of the insights and depth and breath of this wonderful book which I enjoyed tremendously. Although I had some knowledge of most of these periods in history, the level of detail shared in this book, and the way the author wove the history seamlessly into the story, resulted in a great learning experience for me, together with a fantastic and engaging story.

Mahoney is divided into three parts with each part devoted to the development of one generation of the Mahoney family. There are elements of high adventure and romance in each character’s specific tale.

My favourite character was Devin because he was so spirited and determined. He overcame incredible difficulties to travel to America and start a new life there. The revelations about life on board the ships used to transport Irish immigrants to America were an eye opener, as was Devin’s positive attitude and determination to do whatever it took to succeed. He worked hard labouring jobs in order to establish his reputation as a solid and reliable worker and I found that very admirable. I also loved his love interest, Mary, who aside from being beautiful, was also resourceful and hard working. Their romance was sweet and made me feel good.

Dillon also has an amazing life but there were some things about his character that were a bit unfortunate in the long run. This didn’t make him less interesting and enjoyable as a main character but it did set the scene for his son, the third generation.

It is often said the the first generation builds everything and the third generation destroys it and, initially, this would seem to be the case in this book. David Mahoney, however, evolves into a most unusual and dedicated man and his story is also unusual and revealing about certain aspects of life in America.

This book is well written and highly entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history and books about human drama, with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure.

Purchase Mahoney by Andrew Joyce

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #15 NEW Image Prompt. Join in the fun! #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity

The picture for Suzanne Burke’s writing prompt challenge this week reminded me of the death of one of my characters, Rex Bacon, in my novel Through the Nethergate. You can join in the challenge here: https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/08/28/fiction-in-a-flash-challenge-week-15-new-image-prompt-join-in-the-fun-iartg-asmsg-pursoot-writingcommunity/

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Rex Bacon was a real person and he did died as described in the book. His ghost is said to haunt one of the inns in Bungay. I fictionalised the circumstances surrounding his death in this extract:

THE MAN UNDER THE STAIRS
As he set off along the pathway towards the town, Rex Bacon could feel the rage building inside him. It was a balmy summer afternoon and it was Saturday. He had finished his milk deliveries in record time and had a rare half afternoon free.

“Alfie saw them going up the stairs to the bed chambers,” Tom had said. “It’s not the first time he’s known them to meet at the Inn.”

All along the path, the wildflowers grew in a profusion of bright colours: blue, purple, yellow and white. Breathless, from his tightly constricted chest and fast pace, he remembered the last early afternoon he had walked this path. He had bent down to gather a colourful bouquet for Katheryn, binding them together with the pink ribbon he kept in his pocket for this purpose.

At the top of the rise, he stopped. The woodlands fell away on both sides of the path. On the right he could see the town including the two Market Crosses, St Mary’s Church, the Grammar School, and all the principal houses and shops that comprised the town centre, and on the other he could see his cottage – their cottage. It was tiny and ramshackle, but it was theirs. It looked just the same as it had that morning when he left home before the sun rose. There was no difference, none at all.

He swiftly descended the slope and walked to the door, the summer crickets jumping around his shoes. “Katheryn,” he shouted as he entered the one roomed cottage and stopped. A part of him hoped she would be there, that it was all an elaborate lie. She wasn’t.

Rex walked over to the pegs inside the cottage door and deliberately took down a coiled rope. He bent and grabbed a couple of the sharpened stakes he had leaned against the wall, in readiness for the weekend’s planting. Slinging the rope over his shoulder and with the stakes held loosely in his hands, he stepped through the doorway and closed the door gently behind him.

Ø Ø Ø

“Well, this is a surprise,” a harsh voice rasped.

Katheryn sat up in the bed, her dark eyes wide with shock. The blanket was pulled up over her chest and her shoulders, plump and white, rose above it. The young man lying next to her in the bed also sat up. He had a mop of vibrant and lustrous dark hair. His cheeks were flushed and his naked skin glowed with vigour and life.

“Rex,” said Katheryn. Her voice was soft and timid. Rex’s eyes rolled in their sockets, filling with hideous rage.

An inhuman force seemed to have taken over his mind, roaring in his ears, commanding him to destroy the figures in the bed. He lunged forward.

“Don’t!” whispered Katheryn. Her lover’s face drained to an ashy white. He had not moved but was whining, deep in his throat. The sound seemed to go on and on.

Rex’s eyes locked with the man in the bed as he drove the sharpened end of the stake into his neck. The man’s attempt to shout out was cut off as Rex wrenched the stake free and a fountain of blood poured from the resultant hole. The body toppled slowly sideways.

He turned to Katheryn, sitting frozen with shock and horror, and drove the stake deep into her heart. She gasped, and her eyes rolled back in her head as she died instantly.

Ø Ø Ø

Richard looked up as Rex, huddled in an enormous coat despite the warm day, walked into the hall and sat down at a rough wooden table in the corner.

“Strong ale, Rex?” he called. Normally customers had to approach the counter to order but, as the hall was empty at this time of the afternoon, Richard didn’t mind taking Rex’s mug over to him.

Setting his drink down on the table, Richard noted the younger man’s darkly glittering eyes and straight, unsmiling mouth. He watched Rex overtly as he drained his mug.

“Are you okay?” Richard asked. Rex smiled, a horrible twisted smile, and looked at him out of eyes that looked years older than his actual age.

“I’ve had some bad news. It will pass. All things pass in the end,” he replied.

Richard was to recall these words later.

Ø Ø Ø

Thirty minutes later, Rex left the hall. Picking up an ale barrel that stood discarded in the entrance, he walked purposefully towards the stairs that led to the upstairs chambers. It was dark and dingy in the narrow landing at the top of the stairs. Shrugging off the dead man’s coat, he exchanged it for the coil of rope he had hidden there earlier. His shirt and trousers were a mess of blood.

He bled like a stuck pig, thought Rex as he threw the rope deftly over the heavy wooden ceiling beam. Reaching up, he grabbed the end and threaded it through the loop he had made on the opposite end. He pulled gently and the loop ran up the length of the rope and drew tightly around the beam. Standing back, he admired his efforts.

The barrel shook as he clambered onto it. He formed the loose end of the rope into a noose and placed it over his head. Closing

his eyes he pictured Katheryn, his darling, and kicked out his legs. The barrel wobbled and fell over.

Death did not come easily. The drop was short and Rex dangled helplessly from the end of the rope as it compressed his trachea and the arteries and blood vessels in his neck. The excruciating pain was unexpected as his survival instincts took over and his body struggled for air against the compression of the noose and the weight of his own body.

As the darkness descended over Rex’s mind, he heard a voice calling, “Rex, look at me, Rex.” It took all of Rex’s will power to focus on the apparition in front of him. Thickset and powerful, the monster had vicious teeth and claws. Its eyes struck terror into Rex’s fading heart. The glaring, red eyes were the last thing Rex recognised as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Ø Ø Ø

His heart blackened with rage and resentment as his spirit hovered above the stairs, listening to the black dog’s convincing lies and watching his body being roughly hacked down. The naked bodies of Katheryn and her lover had already been discovered and the men were making ribald comments about Rex and his inability to satisfy his wife’s needs. The glowing red light that flowed up from the depths of the Underworld faded as Rex shambled after his new master.

#Bookreview – Subject A36 by Teri Polen

What Amazon says

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

My review

Subject A36 is a fascinating story about genetic engineering taken to an extreme. I have done research about the not so futuristic concept of “Designer children”, where parents are able to chose their children’s characteristics from eye colour to increased IQ and sporting skills, and so the ideas in this book had the distinct ring of possibility. This made the story line very frightening.

Asher lives in a world where no-one gets sick. All people have been genetically enhanced not to get sick. The wealthy in this new society, live a privileged and sheltered life in The Colony, while the less fortunate citizens of the planet, live as outsiders constantly on the lookout for Colony soldiers. As payment for their disease free existence, the children of the outsiders, and sometimes the whole family, are randomly selected and taken to Colony laboratories where their desirable genetic traits are stripped from them and given to the wealthy. Unfortunately, the so called donors, don’t survive this process.

Asher’s family are among those taken for genetic stripping, but due to his father’s foresight, he is able to escape the soldiers and join up with another family of resistors to this oppressive system. Years later, Asher is entrenched in the resistance and is one of their key operators when the go out on missions to try to save the unfortunates who have been selected for gene stripping.

Asher is an interesting character. From the beginning of the story, the reader is aware that Asher has unusual physical traits. He is taller and stronger than other men his age and is able to get by on very little sleep. He is an intense and passionate person and is in love with Brynn, the daughter of the family he found shelter with after his own family was taken. Asher has never fully recovered from the loss of his family and feels immeasurably guilty about the fact he had to leave his two sisters behind when they were on the run from the soldiers. Asher was following his father’s instructions but he doesn’t know why his father was so determined that he escape at all costs. I really enjoyed Asher’s intensity, intelligence and focus.

Brynn is a wonderful female lead character and is a good role model for modern girls. She is strong and tough but she has retained the understanding and nurturing qualities innate to a good mother and wife. Brynn is the person who helps Asher deal with the pain of his loss and his feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

This is a fast paced book about a topical subject. The author has done her research well and the medical and bio-technical aspects are well presented and believable. Her characterisations are excellent and Ms Polen manages to spring some big surprises on her readers when characters chose the lower moral and ethical road, rather than the high one. These portrayals help make the story believable as she portrays the full range of human characteristics from greed, selfishness, ambition and heartlessness to devotion, empathy and loyalty.

I am looking forward to book 2 in this series.

Purchase Subject A36

Open Book Blog Hop – First drafts

Do you hurry through a first draft, or are you conscious of flaws as they go down? Has that changed over time?

This really is an interesting question. I do believe that, for me, this particular aspect of writing has changed over time.

My children’s books are quite short at just under 600 words. This is the standard length for a picture book. They don’t require an awful lot of editing but I always read the proofs carefully and my publisher also goes through them. I’ve still found the odd error in them, but not enough to worry about. I have more issues with the pictures in the ebook that often seem to distort. It really bothers me when that happens.

My first longer children’s book, Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town, was also edited by my publisher and myself. I haven’t picked up many errors in it but it was only 33 000 words and my writing style has changed a lot since I wrote it. I still think it is a fun story but I have progressed a lot with showing and not telling as well as writing dialogue since I wrote this book in 2017.

My three most recent books have all been through a long editing process. The first one, While the Bombs Fell, was written and edited firstly by me, and then my mother had a go at it. It is her story and I wanted her to be happy with all the details so we went through it word-for-word three times. I had the most wonderful developmental edit of this book by Charli Mills. As a result of her advice, I turned the whole story around and added a lot of the historical elements to the book. Her advice about developing a timeline of the historical events and overlaying my mother’s life over it was excellent. I’ve subsequently developed timelines for both Through the Nethergate and my nearly completed novel, A Ghost and His Gold. The timeline for this latest novel is included in the book to help readers with the main events of the Anglo Boer War which is the main setting for this story.

Through the Nethergate was edited by me, developmentally edited by the talented Esther Chilton, who also gave me some fantastic advice and ideas, and then edited by my mother and my husband. I gave it another read before sending it to my publisher and she also read it and gave me changes. I haven’t found a lot of mistakes in this book either, although there are a few that slipped through.

A Ghost and His Gold started life as a short story of 5 000 words which grew to 30 000 words. I had this draft novella developmentally edited by Esther Chilton and a few of her comments triggered a series of new ideas. The book has swelled to 116 000 words. I sent the enlarged version back to Esther who undertook another developmental edit which helped me close out a few lose threads in the story line. I also changed the writing style for one section at her suggestion. I am pleased with the amended version and am grateful for the good advice I received. This book has subsequently been edited by my mom and my sister and I am now doing my final read before sending it to my publisher. It will get a further edit from Anne and she always finds things that need correcting.

Reading the above, I realise I go through five rounds of editing for each book. That is in addition to the editing I do as I go along. I am not a fast writer. I never churn out more than 1 500 words in one sitting and sometimes its as little as 700 words. I spend a lot of time researching and then reworking my writing for each paragraph so its as good as I can get it before I move on. Despite this careful editing as I go along, I always make changes after each chapter has “rested” for a few weeks.

I am happy to note that my developmental edits are far less extensive now than they were for my first book. I can say the same about my short stories which have only needed small changes and not big reworks.

I work very hard at ensuring I incorporate all the advice I’ve received from my developmental edits and from other people who kindly take the time to read and comment on my prompt writing and extracts, into my stories going forward.

This is for my books. I am not as good at editing my blog posts. Sigh! I try, but there is only so much time in a day and I spend at least two hours a week writing book reviews and eight to ten hours a week writing and editing. I also work a 35 to 40 hour week, and sometimes more if we are on a deadline, and I spend time with my boys. I also read a book a week and listen to two audio books a month.

Do other blog-hoppers hurry through first drafts?  Click below to find out:

Rules:

Link your blog to this hop.
Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

A new horror anthology

I am participating in another Box under the Bed series anthology of horror stories, edited by Dan Alatorre.

I have participated in two previous anthologies in this series. Dark Visions, published in 2018, had my stories The Willow Tree and The Haunting of William.

Nightmareland, published in 2019, features three of my short stories, The Siren Witch, Death Without Honour and The Path to Atonement.

The new book is called Spellbound. It is available for pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Spellbound: A horror anthology with 20 stories from 15 authors (The Box Under The Bed Book 4) Kindle Edition

I have two horror stories in this book, Death is about Choices and Glass Mountain.

Blurb

From the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bed horror anthology and its #1 bestselling sequels Nightmareland and Dark Visions, comes Spellbound
– a horror anthology with 20 stories from 15 authors.

A young girl and her mother seek out a mysterious sorceress to guide the child in developing her powers, but the beautiful blonde witch has ideas of her own – and desires a powerful book that only the child can give her.
Tremble along as the stories in the magical book are revealed. “Some are true, some are false, and some are spells disguised as stories to hide our kind from those who would do us harm.”

* A young man is given a family heirloom at his mother’s funeral, but her protection can’t save him from himself.
* A sailing ship takes a journey to the new world and discovers horrors along the way.
* A young girl seeks a connection with her parents but learns she isn’t magical enough.
* And many more!

Compiled by USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror once again unites the minds and stories of more than a dozen amazing authors.

Spellbound will take you into the shadowy world of the eerie and macabre, with heart stopping stories from:


USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Gamma Sequence),
award-winning bestselling author Robbie Cheadle
award-winning bestselling author Ellen Best
award-winning author Kaye Booth
award-winning bestselling author Alana Turner
award-winning bestselling author Christine Valentor
award-winning bestselling author Nick Vossen
award-winning bestselling author Alana Turner
award-winning bestselling author Victoria Clapton
award-winning bestselling author AM Andrus
award-winning bestselling author Adele Marie Park
award-winning bestselling author MD Walker
award-winning bestselling author Dabney Farmer
award-winning bestselling author M J Mallon


Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before borrowing a book, giving away jewelry, looking into a mirror, or going out on a moonlit night.

CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.

In celebration of the forthcoming book, I made a short reading of an extract from The Siren Witch from Nightmareland.

#Thursdaydoors – Budapest

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). 

These are some photographs of random doors I took during our time in Budapest last year September. The stone and mental work is amazingly ornate and beautiful.

Norm is on holiday for the next few weeks so he isn’t hosting this challenge.

#Bookreview – Gallows Hill by Charles F. French

What Amazon says

History always makes an impact on the present. Retired homicide detective Sam Sadlowski faces his personal history and fears as well as living and dead enemies.

My review

Gallows Hill is the second book in The Investigative Paranormal Society series. I have read the first book, Maledicus, so I was engaged with the characters in this book before I started it. In Maledicus, I quickly became very attached to the main character, Roosevelt or Rosy to his friends, and also to Helena, the little girl who becomes the focus of Maledicus’ evil intentions.

In this second book, a different member of the society is central to the story and we get an opportunity to learn the backstory of Sam which, intriguingly, ties in with the central themes and story of Gallows Hill.

Sam is a retired detective who lost his only son, Josh, to suicide ten years earlier. His son’s death destroyed his marriage and Sam lives alone. He has never recovered from Josh’s suicide and carries a burden of guilt that is threatening to destroy him.

The author is exceptionally good at character building and his depiction of Sam and his emotions and motivations are captivating. I quickly grew to love Sam and was thoroughly invested in his life.

The story has a dual theme, the first being the chronic illness of his friend and colleague’s daughter, Maria, and the ultimate revelation of the circumstances surrounding Josh’s death and the second, is the investigation by the society of rumours of a ghostly presence at an abandoned steel mill on the outskirts of town. The two themes are cleverly woven together to create a satisfying and clever story.

The ghostly presence, Ebeneezer Schwarznacht, is horribly depraved and his portrayal was reminiscent for me of the men behind the Salem witch trials. I find the evil embodied in this type of personality, pious and self righteous, is far more frightening than the concept of a demon as it represents real people and real happens rather than fantasy. It is chilling to think of killers who are totally entrenched in their belief that they have a divine right to judge others and take away their lives.

The author does a great job of running the two themes in parallel with clever overlaps and then tying them both together with some great twists at the end.

This is an excellent and chilling story and I would recommend this book to lovers of horror and supernatural stories.

Purchase Gallows Hill by Charles F. French

No key – a poem

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There is no key

Secret or otherwise

To unlock a mind

That has gone awry

Stretched to breaking point

By three wretched visitors

Stress, the spirit suppressor

Anxiety, the spirit disabler

Fear, the spirit destroyer

There’s no front door

No easy access

You need to delve

Take the time to explore

To test and experiment

Following the clues

Traveling the paths

Half formed and rutted

With your tiny hammer to hand

Built of unconditional love

You must chip away

At the filters and barriers

Unraveling the maze

Breaking down the walls

Removing the debris

It could take months

Or even years

There is no way of measuring

Its unfathomable presence

You have to persist

Until you find your way in

And the healing can begin

By Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I haven’t written any poetry for months. The spirit just has not moved me so I was pleased when the idea for this poem popped into my head in response to this photo.

Written for Fiction in a Flash Challenge hosted by Suzanne Burke. You can join in here: https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/08/14/fiction-in-a-flash-challenge-new-image-prompt-week-13-pursoot-iartg-asmsg-writingcommunity/