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Humour, pen names and server moves

Things have been a bit hectic the last few days and my website and all my e-mail has been moving server so blogging didn’t happen much last week (sorry about that). It will now resume from today although this post is more an amalgamation of all sorts of things (I will hopefully blog again later today or tomorrow with some cool news.

In the mean time I would like to draw your attention to a few really awesome short books, mostly (although not all) written under pen names of authors I know. They are all free or $0.99 and msot are meant to make you laugh. I’ve not read all of them yet but I know the authors and have a lot of respect for them and their work so they’re sort of coming with a recommendation.

31 Ways to Not be a Douchebag by Arn Ooying

Take a hard look in the mirror. What do you see? An awesome guy staring back at you, or is there just the hint of a douche?

Being a douchebag is an affliction that anyone can suffer from. If you think, just for a moment, that you might have douchebag tendencies, then you NEED to read this book.

Arn Ooying is here to help. Make friends and get laid the easy way: by not being a douchebag.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

Horror Stories From A Computer Tech by Geekus Maximus

Six true stories about the craziest, creepiest, and funniest customers I’ve ever met as an in-home computer technician. Read them at your own risk…

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

 

How to Knit Yourself a Husband in Five Easy Steps by Lattice Stockinette

Broken-hearted and broke, Heidi had one last chance to get back home to her true love. She’d knit her way to happiness.

A Short Yarn by Lattice Stockinette.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

 

The Cone of Shame by Fluffsina Fluffkins

This book contains the harrowing tale of one cat’s nightmarish beginnings. How much can one naked fleshy creature put her through?

A short account of a life in torment.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

 

Upscale your Macaroni and Cheese by Sherrie Giddens

While this is a short book and written in a humorous style, all of the recipes are family tested and loved. Learn how to upscale your box of macaroni and cheese while giving your family a little variation on a pantry staple.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

So that’s the books so far (there may well be more to come). As I said at the top they are all cheap or free and all have a humour twist to them, so have a peruse and hopefully a good giggle.

End of the Road: Anthology Release

A few months back I got the opportunity to submit a short story on the theme ‘End of the Road’ to a group of fantastic authors and the ebook is now out!

Blurb – Roads end. They begin somewhere, too. In between, all manner of things happen: friendship, betrayal, horror and maybe even joy. For some, the End of the Road brings love and happiness, for others agony and suffering, and for a precious few, sorrow may lead to something revelatory. The potholes and pitfalls found in this anthology are many, but for every character, there is an end of the road.

This road ends in a collection of short stories by 31 of the most gifted writers of our time, with stories from action and mystery superstars Russell Blake, Traci Tyne Hilton and Mike Meyer; romance stars Jeanette Raleigh, C A Newsome, Suzie O’Connell, Kathleen Steed and Anna J.McIntyre; and from cutting edge science fiction and fantasy authors Saxon Andrew, Stephen Arseneault, John Daulton, and JRC Salter; post-apocalyptic and dystopian authors Brandon Hale, Scott Langrel, Dale Roberts and Jess Mountifield. Intended for lovers of short fiction everywhere, the End of the Road is a must read for anyone intent on keeping current with the literary scene.

That’s not every author involved but it’s a good chunk of them and the full list can be found on the book’s page on goodreads and a free copy for any ereader can be picked up on Smashwords. Yup, that’s right. It’s free.

A print version will hopefully appear soon as well as, hopefully free, version on Amazon and other stores for any that want to get it elsewhere, but Smashwords does have kindle and Ipad compatible formats already for those who can’t wait.

My story is called Sherdan’s Road and is a sequel of sorts to the books in the Sherdan series although it’s quite a bit in the future of Sherdan’s life and there will be several more books before it. So it’s great for those who want a sneak peak into what might happen to Sherdan.

For Such a Time as This + Free Stuff

It’s my birthday today! Yup I have one of those things too. It’s the one day where I like getting attention and all that sort of stuff, but in true hobbit style I’m giving stuff away today, you know the sort of present like stuff.

The first of the things I’m giving away today is Wandering to Belong, my fantasy short! You can pick up a copy on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or any other amazon ebook store) and you don’t have to pay a thing.

Also I’ve got an excerpt of my latest release, For Such a Time as This, for you to read below, you can also get that on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

***

“Ishtar! Grab the damson pudding, over there, that’s it,” the bustling older cook yelled as he added two more jugs of wine to the trolley in front of him. Ishtar did as she was instructed, placing the dish in the final space on the laden vehicle.

She leapt out of the way as Malden pushed the little cart towards the door. He would take it up to the waiting room right outside the dining hall, giving Ishtar and the other assistant cooks a moments respite.

Ishtar slowed her pace as she checked on the hot puddings still cooking in the oven. In less than half an hour another damson pudding, two more cherry and almond cakes, four giant apple and cinnamon pastries and a cocaya bread and raisen pudding would go up with another large helping of red wine.

She gave the other three females a few instructions as they waited for their chef and master to return. Despite Ishtar being a simple slave like the other girls they did as she asked without complaint or fuss.

Not wanting to be idle when Malden returned, Ishtar rolled out more pastry into a long rectangular shape. The pastries seemed to be a favourite with the guests Andreas was entertaining that day. She sliced up the soft dough while her mind drifted to other things. She had made this dish so many times she could do it in her sleep.

Malden returned as she was ladling the apple mixture into the centre of the final of the six pastries.

“Good, good Ishtar… Where’s the cinnamon. Ah here it is, sprinkle that on them. Kimi, put that over there, good, good. Now let’s get started on another… Thank you Penalay.” Malden continued on telling his assistants what to do as he bustled around as well.

For the next twenty minutes all of them rushed around the kitchen preparing, stirring, slicing, mixing and fetching to create another trolley laden with food. The task of pre-empting what the feast would run out of was their sole purpose.

When Malden left with the next serving Ishtar paused to slow her rapid breathing. Her feet ached and she silently said a prayer to Tanayth that the feast would end soon. They had been in the kitchens for the last fifteen hours and there would be at least two hours of tidying and preparing for the following day.

Ishtar almost dropped the pudding she was retrieving when Malden came rushing back in. His slender frame quivered before her and no words came out of his opening and closing mouth. Her eyes went wide; silence was not normal. She rushed the dessert onto the nearest surface and went to him.

“Fetch that stool Kimi,” she said as she took his arm to support him.

“No, no, I am fine,” Malden found his voice and waved everyone away. “We can stop cooking. The feast is over.”

All the girls smiled and put down their tools. Ishtar stood waiting for Malden to explain what had happened.

“The Queen, she… she didn’t come.” He paused and she opened her mouth to ask what he meant but got no further. “King Andreas sent for Hasina and she refused him. She would not attend the feast.”

All the girls gasped.

“What did the King say?” Ishtar’s eyes were wide with fear.

“She’s to be beheaded. Immediately.”

The three girls whispered amongst themselves and Ishtar put her hands over her mouth to stop herself from making any embarrassing sounds.

“All of you can take a break for a few minutes. You’ve all been working very hard today.” Malden turned from them and busied himself tidying his kitchen. The three younger slaves rushed from the room, still talking amongst themselves. Ishtar gently tidied beside Malden, stacking the empty bowls as he put their contents in containers or the bin.

She watched him while she worked. His hands shook as he fought to keep going. If she kept busy near him she knew that he would soon tell her everything he was thinking.

“Why didn’t she do as she was asked?” The King doesn’t like to look the fool and his advisers are even worse. Listen carefully Ishtar, don’t ever give the King reason to be angry with you or ever upset his favoured people.”

“I won’t Malden. I’ll always do what you tell me to. The King thinks you’re the best chef in existence and we’re all leading easier lives because of it.”

Ishtar pictured her little room on the floor above. She had the good fortune of Malden’s favour and Malden had the King’s. Very few slaves had their own private rooms.

Malden had been kind to her ever since she had arrived, showing her how to hide her elven nature so none of the humans realised she wasn’t one of them as well as teaching her to survive. He had warned her several times of what they would do if her true race became apparent.

She stood a little taller than the other human girls her age, but being thinner stopped anyone being too suspicious. She had dyed her silver hair a dark brown and wore a head band to hide the points of her ears. No one even suspected.

“Go on girl, take a break with the others,” Malden said as he shooed her out of the room. She soon found Kimi, Penalay and Olivian sitting in the nearby courtyard. They looked up at her as she came over to them with a thousand questions on their young faces.

All three were younger than her and had been captured together from one of the last human settlements that stood against the King. As such they had known each other before arriving. Whenever anything happened they always banded together to talk about it.

Ishtar found it difficult to get to know them. They were strange to her and she had been alone for a long time, but Malden encouraged her to make an effort and the girls were always pleasant to her face.

“Do you really think that Queen Hasina will be beheaded?” Kimi asked. All of them had wide eyes that darted around the courtyard, almost expectant of someone jumping out from behind the trees to behead them too. Ishtar couldn’t help smiling at their naivety. The kitchen was a world apart from the King himself.

“I think so, she disobeyed the King,” Ishtar replied.

“But doesn’t he love her?”

She shook her head.

“Even if he did he would need to show he cannot be disobeyed. But there is no need for you three to fret. We are all safe here with Malden. He has looked after me since I was five. He will look after all of you as well.”

Ishtar went and sat with them on the stone bench. The conversation subject changed to their cooking and the feast they had managed that day.

A few minutes later all their names were called from the kitchen and the trooped back to their work. Malden and his helpers would need to get some of the food prepared for the following day.

The King always requested a particular cake in the afternoons and the fruit in the recipe would need to soak in brandy all night; and the pastry and dough would need time to settle.

Ishtar threw herself into the last of the day’s tasks with as much effort as she could muster. The sooner everything was done the sooner she could rest her feet. Rushing around the whole day had caused the arches in her feet to ache remorselessly each time she put weight on them.

Malden continued his running commentary of the activities and requirements of the kitchen to the four girls. They all worked hard but Ishtar the hardest. Her stamina kept her going longer than the others and the heat from the many ovens affected her the least of all of them.

“Put that over… that’s it, thank you Ishtar,” Malden said as she pre-empted his command. “Now where’s that fruit mix?”

“It’s already finished and soaking,” she replied, pointing to the bowl Malden sought.

Two hours later Ishtar swept the last of the dust, flour and dropped food out of the door into the courtyard for the birds. Malden was the only person left in the kitchen with her. Everyone else had been allowed to go off to sleep.

As soon as she had finished her final task of the day she put her hand to her forehead and wiped away the few beads of sweat which adorned it.

Taking her by surprise, Malden hugged her. He then held both of her hands in his and looked at her, a gentle light in his eyes and a parental smile on his face. She waited, expecting him to explain his thoughts but he did not. Instead he let her go and waved her out of the room.

“Go on now, go get some sleep.”

Ishtar did not need telling twice. She scurried off to her little room as fast as her weary legs could take her. Fortunately, she did not have far to go. Her private room sat only a flight of stairs and short corridor from the kitchen. It nestled in the wall of the great castle and had just one small window to the outside, not that she was ever there when the sun was up to send any light through it.

She sank into the straw mattress on the wooden bed frame, which creaked and groaned in protest of even her light body. A small set of candles lit the otherwise dark room, casting an ever changing and flickering glow over her few possessions.

In one corner stood an old wooden wardrobe. Its surface had lost any varnish it had once been covered in and Ishtar had to avoid getting splinters whenever she opened it. Her desk sat beside and appeared to be the newest of her furniture even though it had been Malden’s father’s for twenty years before she had been born.

On top of the desk sat Ishtar’s most treasured possessions; her sewing box and materials. She made clothes and other pretty accessories when she had free time from her duties, although that was seldom.

Malden had given her a few small coins for mending some clothes of his and a few more when she had made the uniforms the new girls had needed. It had not been much as the King frowned upon the slaves making money but it had bought her everything she’d needed to make the few things she could make time for.

Ishtar rarely got to wear the items she made but it didn’t stop her making them anyway. Her latest creation was an elegant dress, similar to something she had seen the previous queen wear once. It had a flowing floor length skirt which tapered backwards into a small train and a deep v neckline.

However, the dress was not finished. The hem was many feet long and she only managed a few minutes sewing each day by candlelight. If Malden knew she was making herself late for bed every night making the dress he would get angry and stop giving her any money at all, so she only did a little here and there to not arouse suspicion, and tonight she wouldn’t do any. The feast had gone on so long she needed to sleep.

Wandering to Belong

Now that Sherdan’s Prophecy has all been blogged I’ll be returning this slot to sharing something I’ve been working on in one of the many different creative fields I like messing around in, so here’s a sample from my most recent release, Wandering to Belong.

The flickering lanterns and torches of the small village caught Aneira’s eye. Her stomach rumbled as her mind associated the warmth and comfort of the place with good food. Over the last few weeks she had struggled to hunt enough to feed herself, and a village would have crops and potentially other necessities she could trade for.

Making her mind up on that thought alone, she changed direction and trudged over the rocky grass land. As the evening darkened she lowered her head. The lights from the village would taint what little she could see in the dark of night if they were in view. If she also concentrated on each step at a time it helped to keep her feet going when all they wanted to do was rest; something she had learnt long ago.

Sounds of the village soon greeted her ears and she allowed herself to look up at the hopeful sight. There were a few stone built houses, not many, but enough to show good masonry, and another handful of wooden houses along the edge nearest to her. She imagined there would be a similar number on the other side of the village.

She looked for the shields of a chieftain or warrior’s hut as a few people scurried here and there, eager to be indoors rather than out in the night. No one noticed her approach and she kept it that way, sticking to the shadows and hedges until she’d checked out the shield’s design, if one existed.

As she snuck up into the shadow beside one of the pale stone houses she noticed what she sought. A shield hung on the building opposite, just below a lit torch. The pattern wasn’t one she recognised which meant that this village didn’t submit to any Lords she knew of.

She slunk back the way she had come to double back and enter into the village along the dirt track. Coming into the centre of the village in full view would make her look less like a threat.

Previously, she’d walked straight into any civilisation but she’d soon learnt to be wary of certain Lords. When she crept in she found people were suspicious. And being driven off when she was this hungry didn’t appeal to her.

Once she was out in the open she lowered her hood from her smooth black hair. She kept it short to help keep it neat and tidy but strands still framed her thin face. Once she’d patted down her hair to neaten it, she stowed her bow on her back and rearranged her small pack of belongings, to make sure straying hands couldn’t get into it without alerting her.

With slow, deliberate steps she made her way into the village. The first woman who saw her didn’t even acknowledge she existed and this helped Aneira feel more at ease. The next nodded briefly, before continuing with her business.

So far they looked like a busy, but fairly poor, farming community with not much to worry about in terms of safety. There wasn’t even a small jail or military type building. Just the chief’s house, an inn and a few other slightly smaller stone houses for the richer of the people, probably the actual land owners. She’d not seen any cattle, and there didn’t appear to be any horses in the two berth stable.

Most people had shuttered up their houses already and light only leaked out around older windows in need of maintenance, but the tavern had a few windows open and the noise of laughter and conversation greeted her.

As she reached the door she sucked in her breath, tried to look as harmless as possible and pushed into the tavern. Immediately the room went quiet and all eyes turned her way. She did her best to appear calm as she walked up to the bar and the man who stood behind it, drying some metal tankards with a dirty looking cloth.

“Good evening,” she said, breaking the silence.

“Evenin’ stranger. What can I get you?”

“I’m afraid I’ve not got any money. I’ve been travelling a long while but I can work hard. Do you know of anyone here who might need some work doing in return for some food, and a bed for the night?”

The bar keep looked thoughtful while the whole inn around her remained silent. She knew everyone had heard her words but it seemed none of them were going to help. Just as she was about to tell him not to worry and that she’d move on, he put his tankard down and walked through to the back room.

“Darlin’ do yah want some ‘elp with the dishes? Got a whelp ‘ere who wants to do somethin’ fer a spot o’ food and a place to kip.”

Aneira couldn’t hear the reply as the door swung shut behind the bulk of the owner, but it seemed like they were going to take pity on her anyway. Still looking young had its benefits. While she stood waiting for the Landlord to come back, conversations around her started up again and people went back to their drinks. So far so good.

The door swung open again and the tavern owner stepped out. He held the door open and motioned with his head for her to go through. She smiled as she rushed around the bar to do as he asked.

As soon as she stepped through into the kitchen the smell of hot food assaulted her senses. The woman at the stove was almost as large as the tavern owner himself. They all obviously ate well and with any luck would treat her to a similarly sized meal. She nodded at the middle-aged woman as she was looked over.

“I’m Aneira. What would you like me to do?” she said after a moment’s wait.

“The dishes need doin’ fer starters, then we’ll see what else there is.”

She nodded and looked over at the sink. It was stacked full of pots, pans, dirty plates and tankards; eating would have to wait.

***

Aneira sank into the wooden chair, not sure if the creaking noises were the wood as she sat down or her knees, from standing so long. It had taken her several hours to battle through the mountain of washing up, especially as every little thing that Heulwen thought might need cleaning had been put into the sink at some point. Her fingers were wrinkled and her nails had never looked so clean, but she had finally finished and the couple had seemed impressed with her work.

While she waited for the food she’d been promised she had a proper look around the inn. Now that it was later many of the villagers had gone to their homes but some remained and continued to chatter. Most of them were considerably less sober than they had been when she’d arrived but a few were still steady on their feet.

The Landlord made her jump as he put a plate down in front of her.

“’Ere you go lass, tuck into that.”

She needed no second encouragement and bit straight into the hot pork pie, following it with several shovellings of creamy mashed potato and gravy. Within minutes the slice of pie and mash had gone and before the owner could return with a drink for her she’d started on the bread and butter beside.

“Thank you, Merrion,” she said around a mouth full of bread dipped in the gravy. She picked up the tankard and almost downed the sweet liquid. It wasn’t something she’d ever drunk before, but it didn’t have the bitter aftertaste alcohol did, so she figured it was safe to guzzle.

“Well that didn’t take long. Will you be wantin’ some more?” Merrion said as she wiped the plate clean with the last hunk of bread. Her eyes went wide and she stared at him for a moment. The plate had been a feast to her and here he was asking if she wanted more. She nodded her head vigorously in case he changed his mind. The man just chuckled and she found herself grinning at how much of his body wobbled up and down, even after he’d stopped.

Once he’d returned with a second plate filled with an equal portion as before, he left her to eat and went back to his bar and customers. She took her time with the seconds, noticing an unfamiliar feeling of fullness in her stomach. It didn’t stop her demolishing the food again, however.

The tavern soon closed and Merrion came and sat down with her, bringing her another drink at the same time.

We’ve got a spare bed, up in the loft. You can kip in it when you’re ready, then you’d best be on your way tomorrow and get as far from ‘ere as you can.” The tone of his voice peaked her curiosity. It had been a while since she’d heard fear in a grown man’s voice. Especially one who didn’t seem to have anything to fear.

“What if I want to stay a bit longer?”

“You’d be a fool. You’ve got sense, I can see it behind those eyes of yours. Get yourself up and gone first thing in the mornin’ and make sure you’re as far away as you can get by the followin’ day.”

“Why, what’s going to happen?”

Whatever it was, the inn keeper wouldn’t say any more about it, and before she could think of another way of asking to get him talking again, Heulwen came out of the kitchen and ushered them both upstairs to sleep.

If you liked this sample and want to buy the rest of the story it’s currently available as an ebook on amazon.com, and amazon.co.uk.

Innocent Hearts

As I mentioned yesterday my new ebook is out, Innocent Hearts. It’s two short stories of the fantasy genre and two brief blurbs for each story are near the bottom of the blog.

The reason I’ve written this blog is two-fold. Firstly if you are going to buy my ebook anyway, this is a request that you do so on a particular day. December 27th to be precise. Having lots of people buy my ebook in a short period of time makes it climb the rankings faster and gives the book more exposure from Amazon. Amazon calculates the rankings hourly and several sales in a single hour even can have a huge affect.

The other half of my reason is simply this – Half of all royalties of this book in its entire lifetime will go to the TRC. Here’s a link for the people that don’t know what charity that is: http://www.trc-uk.org/

It’s my chosen charity for all my book related fundraising. In June I climbed a mountain in the middle of the night to raise money for them and I’m sure I’ll be doing something whacky next year as well, so you’ll also be lining their pockets.

Now I’ve stated why I emailed here’s those blurbs finally:

When Bronwen’s parents die she has to leave her home in the wilderness and try to find the elf city her mother told her about, but with little food and no experience in the wild she risks her life just trying.

Liza doesn’t fit into the Nepharil society, she can’t fly, something her father reminds her of daily. She hasn’t given up trying but her time is running out and her father is impatient to have her married and out of his hands.

To top all that off, if you’re still not convinced I’ve had the ebook priced at the lowest amazon will let me set it to. $0.99/£0.86

So to clarify, please buy my ebook on December 27th and half of all the royalties will go to the TRC and help change the lives of children.

Here’s the two links for the US amazon and the Uk amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Innocent-Hearts-ebook/dp/B006PEPI0W
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Innocent-Hearts-ebook/dp/B006PEPI0W

Also if any of you know any other people who might be interested, please forward the link to this blog on to them or if in the US consider gifting them a copy of the ebook as well.

Thank you.

Learning To Fly: Revamped

I’ve been given the honour of putting two of my short stories forward for a collaboration of shorts by me and two other authors. The genre is going to be fantasy so I thought I’d revamp one of my favourites Learning to Fly, I added some stuff, named my characters and here is the next draft. It may well get drafted again but for now I like it. Enjoy!

 

“Oi, dirt-sniffer, get out of bed.”

Liza groaned and rolled over. It was only dawn and she had not managed to get to bed until long after sun down.

“Come on. Your mother needs your help. I’ve got a visitor for our evening meal today.” Liza’s father, Nathaniel, banged his fist on the edge of her bed.

“For the third time this week?” Liza threw back her covers and stood up, being careful not to catch and tangle her wings.

“Yes, for the third time this week. Believe me, I am as fed up as you with all these fancy meals just to get you taken off my hands. With you being a dirt-sniffer you’re not making it easy.”

“I don’t want to be forced to marry some idiot you bring over for food just because you deem it necessary.”

Nathaniel lifted his hand and flung it backwards across Liza’s face. She reeled back onto the bed behind her.

“You will be on your best behaviour this evening, is that clear?”

She nodded as she felt her cheek. She had bitten her tongue with the shock at the back hander but she knew she had got off lightly. There would be no bruise. Satisfied, Nathaniel left the room.

At twenty-six Liza was well past the age Nepharil females normally married. Her father was still trying to find her a suitor. Two days before he had invited a seasoned warrior to dine with the family. She had poured hot cocaya in his lap when he had asked her father if a hundred felkin would be acceptable as a wedding payment.

A hundred felkin was not even a days wages. And to add further insult the Nepharil had already married five women. He had boasted of the beauty of one in particular all evening to her.

The beating her father had given her had been worth it. She knew that the only reason she did not suffer more from her father’s anger was because the only two things she had left to promote herself as a good wife was her looks and her ability to cook.

Knowing, that her two brothers would soon be up to torment her further Liza stopped thinking over the past and pulled her clothes on. She then brushed her hair and neatened the few feathers in her wings that had been knocked astray while she slept.

Hearing her brothers call to her mother downstairs stopped Liza from continuing her preening and sent her running downstairs. Joseph was her eldest brother and he often came to join them from the bachelor house for breakfast as well as meeting his younger brother, Stewart, for training. Liza was the youngest of the three.

As soon as she entered the kitchen her brothers and father started demanding her to serve them. Her mother was already at the stove, cooking. She had made a mix of wheat flour, milk and eggs to fry into soft cakes, Nathaniel’s favourite.

The three male Nepharil did nothing but sat at the table and talked idly of their work. Nathaniel and Joseph both worked as soldiers and Stewart was in training to be one.

Liza had just served all three drinks when her uncle, Christopher arrived. Christopher’s wife had died in childbirth, taking their child with her. Christopher, therefore, joined them for all their meals.

Christopher would often request of Nathaniel the use of Liza to help in his own house and, of course, her father would not refuse. It was one of very few things that had discouraged the drop in offers for her. Liza would do Christopher’s housework but he would always make sure that they had time for at least a small lesson in wing strength or positioning or anything else he thought would help her to learn to fly. Unknown to any one else he had not given up trying to teach her to fly.

As always Nathaniel ribbed Christopher for having no female of his own. For some reason this caused Joseph to pipe up and suggest that his uncle purchase a female elf slave to do his housework for him. Suddenly all three males decided this was exactly what Christopher needed.

Christopher could not get them to leave him alone about the idea until he promised to look into it. Liza sighed, though it went unheard. It was a shame that no one else in her family could respect that her uncle had actually cared about his wife and did not wish to just replace her.

Changing the subject, Christopher asked if he could borrow Liza for an hour or two just before lunch. His excuse was an errand in the marketplace but she smirked when she heard this. She had already done the task for him the day before when she had gone to the town for her own family.

It could only mean that Christopher wanted to actually spend time with Liza on a flying lesson of some kind. Her heart beat faster in excitement. She lived solely for the lessons with her uncle and the hope that one day she would no longer be deserving of the insult dirt-sniffer.

Liza could hardly concentrate over breakfast and got yelled at several times by her father for getting something wrong or not being quick enough. She managed to get through the meal and Nathaniel, Joseph and Stewart left. Christopher then gave her instructions of where to go in the marketplace and said goodbye as well.

After checking what time her mother would need her back to help with the chores and grabbing some fruit to eat Liza rushed off out of their tree-top house and climbed down the rope they had to have tied for her. The market was two miles away and up hill all the way, but Liza was too excited about getting there to care how difficult the journey was.

If she had been able to fly it would have taken her less than ten minutes to fly up the rest of the mountain to the Nepharil town near the top but she could not. Instead it took her forty minutes and she was breathing heavily by the time she could even see her destination up ahead.

Christopher appeared by her side, landing just a few feet away, before she reached the outer walls of the town. He smiled at her and she tried to smile too while she got her breath back.

“You were sooner than I thought you’d be,” Christopher said.

“I did not want to keep you waiting. You take a great risk”

“Every Nepharil should have the right to keep trying,” Christopher frowned, “follow me. I do not know how long this will take.”

Liza knew better than to ask questions. Christopher seemed to know exactly what to do to teach her the next thing she needed to know and she suspected that he had taught Helen, his wife, how to fly after she had been given up on and labelled a non flier.

Christopher led Liza up the mountain even further and away from both her home and the town. Liza had never been this way before and had no idea where they were going, but any excitement she would normally have felt at going on an adventure with her uncle was stolen by the coldness of the fog that wrapped itself around them.

After half an hour of silence and regimented marching Christopher stopped. The two of them stood on the top of a cliff. The fog made the edge hard to see but Liza could just make out enough when the wind gusted and pulled the vapour out of the way.

“Here we are, today you fly.” Christopher looked at her. He had a smirk on his face. Liza gulped. She had not expected him to actually tell her she was meant to fly. She did not think she was ready.

“I want you to jump off the cliff. I’ll come with you.”

“You want me to what?”

“Jump off. You know how to move your wings right and have enough strength in them. At worst if you don’t manage to fly I’ll be there to catch you before you hit the bottom.”

Liza knew Christopher well enough that if she didn’t at least attempt his instructions he would threaten to stop teaching her. Taking a deep breath she turned towards the edge of the cliff.

She stood completely still, her teacher equally still beside her, both of them wrapped in mist. The feathers on the ends of her wings fluttered gently in the wind as she stood watching, hoping to get a glimpse of the land beyond. Slowly she took a step closer to the edge, stretched her wings outwards, and took another deep breath in.

Standing still again, waiting, she watched the fog swirl. This time she was rewarded for her patience by a brief glimpse of what was beyond the precipice. There was not enough time to see exactly what was there but enough to make her take another small step forwards.

Christopher, eager to continue, walked right to the edge and as he did the mist parted again, allowing her to see the drop from the cliff and the valley below. It was amazing and unlike anything she had ever seen before, lush green fields and a deep blue winding river.

Encouraged by what she saw she took the final step towards the edge of the cliff and hesitated once again. The white vapour closed in around her, thicker than before, as if it thought she had seen enough and did not want to tempt her further.

For a long time she did nothing but shake gently with fear. All the shock flying tactics the other Nepharil males had put her through flashed into her head. None of their ideas had worked and she was not sure now would be any different.

After a lengthy pause Liza’s nerves got the better of her and she took a step backwards. Christopher immediately turned to her.

“You can do this. Trust me,” he said. She looked away

“I’m not sure I can.”

“I would not ask you to do this if you could not.”

She nodded in response and stepped back to the edge. She held her breath, spread her wings and jumped. He followed and for a moment the two of them plummeted towards the ground below still enveloped in fog.

After what seemed an age to her she snapped out of her panic and used her wings to soar in the wind. She moved her wings up and down matching the rhythmic beat of her heart, just how he had taught her to.

Within seconds Liza was climbing, her teacher still beside her. She let out a laugh of joy as she rose back to her previous height and then higher still. The two of them flew and danced around each other, enjoying simply being there together, until she noticed that the wind had picked up and finally cleared the mist away.

Without hesitating she flew down and landed amongst the trees and flowers below. Her teacher was not far behind and faced her as he landed. It was obvious that he was as exhilarated as she was by her first flight. They smiled at each other, sharing the moment, before her grin broadened and she enquired.

“What’s next?”

Christopher laughed and Liza could not help but join in, exhilarated with the freedom she now felt. Both of them were standing with bright eyes and their heads a little higher than normal. They had been working away for years, building the strength into Liza’s wings so she could fly. Many times Liza had considered giving up, now they had achieved their goal.

She had flown.

“We had better get back to your home. We have already been gone well over an hour. Your mother will need you.” Liza nodded at her uncle’s wisdom. “I suggest you do not let your father know until after tonight’s meal.”

She bobbed her head up and down again. Christopher then took off into the sky and hovered, waiting for her to follow. She frowned as she stretched out her wings again. Flying from stationary was not going to be as easy as flying from the fall.

With a few exaggerated down flaps she managed to lift off the ground, only to find herself standing a few moments later.

“Just a little more.” Christopher encouraged her. He flew a little closer, just in case.

Liza frowned and concentrated on how it felt when she had begun flying the first time. After a brief pause, where nothing happened at all, she lifted off the ground and flew upwards.

They flew together in circles and twirls as she tested her new found powers to their limits, soaring on currents and then diving, to stretch out her wings and level off before hovering inches off the ground.

Christopher led her back to the cliff they had jumped off and then they flew together, low to the ground, back in the direction of the town.

When they were about half way back they landed to walk the rest of the way. Keeping Liza’s successful flying a secret would not work if she was seen in flight and, although she did not vocalise it, her wings were now very tired. Her wing joints ached with the exertion. She hoped it got easier with practice and use.

Christopher left Liza where they had met, after a brief hug, and she headed home. It was almost two hours since she had left the house and she knew her mother would need her back soon.

Her uncle’s warning not to let anyone know she could fly was still at the top of her thoughts so she walked, with a slight bounce, back to her house. Facing another dinner with men only there to try and buy her hand in marriage did not seem too hard to face with the knowledge she was no longer a dirt-sniffer.