Friday, August 03, 2007


Devil's Dyke,
Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire.
Photo by Janet Bord.

Jason's contest on Clarity of Night is now closed.
Many entries. Many excellent and varied entries to intrigue and delight.
His picture-prompt for the contest captures a scene from a short story I just finished and sold. Exactly and accurately. I entered more as an obligation to synchronism than out of any ambition.
What follows is my contribution. I prefer to think of it that way rather than as a submission.

In the blue of the moon they howled and hunted.
Night was their strength and light their only weakness..
But our high forest was a dark, rich place of shade and shadow, even by day. Of massive deadfalls, tumbled rocks and sudden crevasses.
And no longer sanctuary.
Some who ventured to gather fuel or tend their snares did not return.
We found only blood and heard the clan winds, lamenting, whispering:
Cha till, cha till, cha till mi tuille.
We return, we return, we return no more...
We saw their shapes slink and circle beyond our night fires. Fires that grew smaller as our supply of wood decreased. The Woman of the Bones warned us we must make an end or flee...

They hunted me through the dawn on either side of the narrow track. Before and behind, beyond the flame of my torches, padding, sniffing. I could almost hear their saliva drip from open jaws.
When I heard the first long undulating howl behind me I ran toward the sunlight, leaped the pit trap and turned at bay.
Blood lust for my bare flesh made them incautious. They burst in full cry into the broad shaft of golden light that pierced the swaying treetops and struck downward like a spear.
It turned them to stone.
We dropped more stone over them. It is named the Place of the Dark Trolls. There is even a song.
I never hunt that way.
I hate being bait.


Anonymous said...

A delecious tale that leaves me hungry for more.

Carla said...

Great scene! And congratulations on the sale!

Ric said...

spare and light - very nice.

Gabriele C. said...

Lovely haunting.

Congrats on the sale.

Jaye Wells said...

Congrats on the sale.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Steve. For once I had to pare it down to meet the word count.

Carla,Ric, Gabriele, thank you. Quite different from the short story - more a Minor Annals thing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jaye.

People, you might click over and read Jaye's entry. Delightful - as usual.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

very nice, Bernita. What market bought this? They have great taste!

Bernita said...

Details to be announced, SS.
Thank you!
This piece is not an excerpt, however, just derived from the same location so beautifully identified by Jason's photo.
There are trolls in it though...

takoda said...

Ditto everyone's congratulations!

I enjoyed reading it even more the second time on Jaye's blog-after the contest closed. I could take my time and savor the mood you were creating.

I want to hear more about the Woman of Bones!

Jon M said...

Superb that Bernita, I missed the comp cos I was engrossed in my book thing story that I'm doing. Which isn't bad. I love/shiver at the idea of HAVING to go into such an environment...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Chris.
I've begun working through them too.

The Woman of the Bones just appeared. I'll have to see if I can learn more about her too.

Jon, thank you, but you shouldn't exaggerate.
Where I grew up, such scenes were familiar - which may explain why I had to insert the supernatural to make for danger.

Gabriele C. said...

The Woman of the Bones just appeared. I'll have to see if I can learn more about her too.

Don't you love those walk-in characters that screw with your story, lol?

Bernita said...

Usually, I welcome them, Gabriele... and find myself yelling "Come baaack!"

December/Stacia said...


And huge congrats!!

raine said...

Love the 'feeling' of this.
Verra nice!
And whoop on the sale. :-)

Marie said...

Wonderful writing.

Bernita said...

December, Raine, Marie.
Thank you.

The Anti-Wife said...

I really liked your entry!

Charles Gramlich said...

Beautifully written as always. You have such a way with words and description. As usual, my only complaint is that it's too short. Would love to see more development of this core story.

Congrats on the sale as well. Cool.

Bernita said...

Thank you, AW.
I like yours, too. Killer last line.

Charles, I know the sale is a small thing, but it makes me beam.
Glad you liked the flash. Thank you.

kmfrontain said...

Congrats on the sale.

I love these little short scenes you post.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen!

Anonymous said...

"The Woman of the Bones" reminds me of the rather badly named but very interesting "Angel of Death" old crone in The 13th Warrior. She calls for the bones - kept in an old tortoise shell - to do her soothsaying.


EA Monroe said...

Hi, Bernita! I read your piece over at Jason's (and Jaye's story) and enjoyed. I wish I had a smidgen of the talent and imagination you and Jaye have!

It's been a while and I wanted to drop in and say hi. Too busy at work these days and lots of catching up to do.

Jaye Wells said...

Bernita, you're too kind.

Bernita said...

Yes, Asa, very corny name. I remember the character but never caught her name.
Thinking about it, I realized there's a "bone woman" in Terry Goodkind's "Wizard's First Rule" series.
Casting the bones, of course, was a common method of divination.

Thank you, Elizabeth - who is another person who is too modest about her skill.

Not at all, Jaye.I really like your voice and style.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Bernita!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Seeley.

Jeff said...

A great story, Bernita. And congratulations on your sale.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff has a very nice story in Jason's contest. So does Takoda - and maybe several others, besides them, AW and Jaye. I haven't made my way through them all yet.

takoda said...

Hi Bernita,

I hope it's okay....Church Lady marked your blog as a special place.


Bernita said...

Chris, of course it's OK.
I'm flattered.
Thank you.

SzélsőFa said...

I re-read it again, this time, aloud to myself in the lonely room. Loved it, again.

SzélsőFa said...

I read now the comments:
This one caught my eyes and mind 'The Woman of the Bones just appeared. I'll have to see if I can learn more about her too.'

I love these characters. I met one of them and she was called, I knew right away, 'The Keeper of Fire' - I was amazed by her appearance, too. She appeared once or twice never to return again.

Bernita said...

I re-read it again, this time, aloud to myself in the lonely room. Loved it, again.
Thank you so much, Szelsofa - whose very name is music - for a writer, such a comment is as good as it gets.

Sad, yes, though somethings dissolve like mist if we examine them too closely.
I tend to put mine in my "From the Minor Annals" posts, in hopes they may return.

Rob said...

Really enjoyed your entry. Sets a fantastic mood.

Bernita said...

Kind of you, Rob. Thank you.

ScaramoucheX said...

Wow...helluva illustration, have impeccable instincts in these matters, at least.
Evocative to me, because I walked in a place like that, in 1972,in England.


Bernita said...

I gather a "fearful fiend did close behind you tread," Scaramouchex?

SzélsőFa said...

I'm sorry your story was not selected among the winners.
I feel strange about those who were. What's yuor take on almost all of them being associated with aggressions, pervert, sick people, murder, cheating, sex without real love... and so on?
I am kind of shocked.
Am I missing something?
My language skills are defective, not being a native English, but are writing skills, technical merits more important than the subject?
You may anser me in my site or here - thanks very much for calming me.
Eversince I read the results I am disturbed. I can't help it and I really, really don't want to hurt anyone, Jason or any other people who took part.
I am sorry, Bernita. I wrote a similar entry on my site about my feelings re:the results...
I really don't know what's next.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Szelsofa. I did not expect to even place in the contest.There were no ambitions attached to my entry. It was simply a contribution.
Perhaps what you are missing is that the morality of the entries is largely irrelevant to whether a piece is well-executed or not.
Actually, in a previous contest, many of the winning entires were, for the most part, upbeat and positive.
I would say that technical skill - as in grammar, spelling, word choice etc. - is of equal value to the technical merit of the larger structure of a story - the story arc.
These technical skills can be acquired. I know several writers whose native language is not English whose skills are superior to many who have English as their mother tongue.Gabriele, who posts here, is just one example.
In fact, sometimes it can be an advantage as often as not, because of the fresh perspective the "non-native speaker" brings to the language.
Jason went to some trouble to explain how he evaluates the entries based on a point system.
I think he makes it clear that in spite of his attempts at objective analysis, choice, as always, is still often subjective.
Do not be dismayed.
Somehow, it seems I missed commenting on your story. I apologize. Because I liked its premise and you have several lovely lines and insights.
I think those that did comment were basically correct: the word count limit obliged you to shorten your concept - resulting in an ambiguous conclusion.
Flash fiction is not for everyone. Not every talent is best displayed in flash venue - though it is a valuable discipline and exercise.

It was just a contest.
Do not be discouraged about your abilities.
You DO have talent.

SzélsőFa said...

I appreciate your answer, Bernita.

I think I understand that the morality of a story has little, if anything to do with how well it is written. To this reasoning, one would say 'Why, of course'.


I read Jason's evaluation system btw, and learned how he wishes to judge the entries. Perhaps, as you said, some subjectivism got into the picture...

At the same time your mentioning that some of the previous contests had an optimistic feeling around the winners reassured me that it was just ONE if the many competitions, and sometimes the tune is up sometime it's down.

Your non-commenting on my entry is allright, too. 83 entries to read are a bit too much :)
I thought my writing would remain unclear, given the limited time and language skills. I wanted the challenge :)
Thank you for encouraging me!!!

SzélsőFa said...

by 'limited time' in the last paragraph I referred to the word count limit.
A few weeks ago, I have started writing something which I plan to be as long as 8-10 pages.
I dedicated a separate blog for my thoughts about it.
Perhaps, as you have also said, the long version will fit me better.
In these days I'm looking for a method to keep me on track for I keep wandering off into obscurity and basically, nowhere.
I liked your entry about how the voices should be addressed. I think I'll be learning somethings from you, via this site :)
Hope you don't mind...

Bernita said...

Szelsofa - if anything I write helps someone I am very glad.