#BlogBattle. “Dead But Dreaming” December Entry:

“Cromlechs are ancient relics from a time long ago. Remember this well, as no civilisation is ever permanent.” The Amanuensis.


I’ve referenced a WIP many time and this is back story regurgitated from previous incarnations now collated and waiting for the writing to manifest. If it makes little sense then it’s not really supposed to. I’ve not written it all yet.

The Amanuensis is locked in time a sorcerers bubble trying to work out who he is and what happened to collapse his citadel. Everything I’ve ever written ties into this somehow.

What to include here and what to omit was tricky. The scenes used come from a traumatic piece that has touched readers before. I chose two excerpts from that. Neither actively mention Chloe alive. Not in Houghton Fengrave (our world). The Amanuensis touches all worlds and even he found it too terrible to include the full transcript here. It was referenced though, and was the very first thing the acolyte he mentioned ever wrote. His words hold true too. It is raw and un-proofed.


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Dead But Dreaming

Smith…I see you.

Wayland started. There was evil in his mind. Cold words creeping across his unconscious conscious and rich in melancholia. Glancing around he was drawn up to the plateau where The Black was reared up on hind quarters unfurling huge six ribbed wings ending in curled talons. Webs of weathered skin spread out over them leaving the horned tips protruding at the rear. It’s neck stood proud and layered with scutes whose edges shimmered in a purple haze where the sun reflected. It was the eyes that captured Wayland; for these were settled upon his.

Extract from “Letters of The Amanuensis – A Chronology of Events – Private journal.” Edited.

I’m looking at parchments describing a battle, treachery and annihilation. The solution must be here. It has to be. Dragon Stones join the dots, but where are they all?


Two. There are two found. A black and green. Hard as obsidian and glowing in the hands of those joined to their beast. The blacksmith has one and a wizard another. Black for the blacksmith and The Black beast. Figures. But the green glows not. The wizard has yet to find his dragon.

I believed they were all long gone. The dead fields glow white in bones when the sun rises. Man, elf and beast together. I must know what the wizard seeks and where the Smith lies. I will try to commune with The Black. It is dangerous, but I must know.


That was foolhardy. The beast is neither dead not living. It is a relic out of time and space. Despite my protections, it…

I must know. Why is it not gone like it’s ancestors? Why is the Smith connected? I must explore his trail more. The wizard too. These stones are powerful and remain undocumented.


The Amanuensis rested his head upon hands that were locked together. Beside him the parchment used to commune with The Black lay withered and scorched. Unreadable.

To his right, in another pile of notes, rested scripts waiting to be examined. C for child. Another piece in the jigsaw. The innocent who should be dead, living in another world.

Atop a cliff, some leagues away, The Black saw the man crouch down and stare into the dragon’s eye. In that moment it saw more of the mind inside the flesh. Haunted and split in two worlds.

Locked doors hid memories the Smith was no longer seeing. The dragon knew the man was dead in the other place and walking this one with purpose, and not knowing why. Muscles flexed along its spine and Stygian wings unfurled with the rise of head as its maw moved side to side tasting the winds. Death and silence still reigned in the lands this side of the forest barrier, even now after so very long.

The beast knew where Wayland was travelling; he had the Eye after all. Picked up off his slain rider at the end of days when dragon kind was swept from the world. None but The Black remained and he was as dead as the Smith in another world. A shadow lingering in the wastelands haunting those that bled through in death. Lonely in vigil over a once sacred place that now housed the remains of the past.

Ethereal white fire filled the sky in rage and anger. The Smith was safe as long as he bore the Eye of the Black.


Rose reached the staff room, sat down and began rocking Emily. It was deathly quiet. From his office the Head made the worst phone call of his life, staring out of a window overlooking Norton Road. He could hear the sound of sirens drawing closer, see students, staff and parents in bits all over the playground. He knew in his staff room there was a child that had just witnessed a horrific accident involving not just a friend, but an identical twin sister. For some reason he also knew she was dead and the rush of paramedics to the scene was not going to change that.

He also knew he would not work here anymore.

Extract from “Letters of The Amanuensis – A Chronology of Events – The Twins.” Edited.

As I looked through time an event became clear. Focussed and entirely wrong. It destroyed a family, a man and created a paradox. Twins separated by the skin of two worlds touching. Something has gone very wrong and a darkness is spreading. The dead man screams in dreams, a witch queen has escaped and a dark sorcerer tries to unlock the door to the human world. I must know more.

Are you dead girl?

“No, I mean yes…and no. It’s dark here and I want my sister.”

Would that be Emily?

“Yes, do you know where she is?”


“Please tell me, I need her to survive.”

I can’t.

“Can’t or won’t.”


“You’re mean and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”


The girl is a child and she cries.

Fingers flicked the edge of a page. The candle flickered, momentarily, but not unnoticed. The Amanuensis looked up, his head not moving from where it lay beneath a dull brown hood. His candles never quivered, never burnt dry or extinguished. Something had reached in.


Girl, are you still there?

“I have a name you know.”

Chloe, dead in one world and alive in another.

“If you say so.”

How did you die?

“Him… it… the cloaked man thing. I don’t really know really. I was there one minute and a van came and then I was here.”

Did you see him?


Can you describe him?



“He hurts me.”



The Amanuensis stood and placed his hands upon the dark oak before him. He read the rest of the entry to himself. It was not pleasant. Two worlds, two twins and two sorcerers. This necromancer and a witch queen that fled.

He shuffled his notes looking for the original manuscript bearing the full account of the tragedy. Written by an unskilled Scribe, an acolyte too shocked to care for such things as good word-craft. It was raw and desperate. Clues lay within the parchment. The candles flickered again. A sign he thought true. Ripples in Time were growing. At the top of the page were the words…


Unseen his brow furrowed in thought. Dragons and blacksmiths… a third world gone wrong. And the connection? He sat down again drawing more parchments towards him.

It was after the following summer half-term before Emily bravely entered Houghton Lower School again. She only did this for one week, and never moved from the desk she once shared with Chloe. Her hazel eyes no longer rich in the vitality of life once commented on in the staff room by the now missing Kelly Norris.

No longer was there the infectious smile and witty banter. In fact reflecting back Mrs Smythe could not actually recollect hearing her say anything at all. However, it was the child’s eyes that scared her the most. They were truly haunted and in a different place. You could look into them and see the depths of an abyss from which you might never escape.

It was the saddest week Mrs Smythe ever endured.






















22 thoughts on “#BlogBattle. “Dead But Dreaming” December Entry:

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  1. Wow, there’s a lot happening here, Gary! I understood bits and pieces, and I enjoyed trying to stitch it all together in my mind. I didn’t feel too stupid however, as you warned of the twisty nature of it in the foreword. 😉

    The tidbits we get from the Amanuensis’ journal drip-feed us information as to what’s going on, but have enough missing to have us demanding to know the information that occupies the gaps. A really nice framing device!

    I really like the rich lore and the world you hint at, too. The remaining Dragon Stones, their owners, and the creatures they are linked to but must first find. The thing that reaches through to the Amanuensis and flickers his candles. All of this interspersed with echoes of the sorrowful tale of the twins at the school.

    There’s some really poetic lines, here, as well. One of my favourites is: “The dead fields glow white in bones when the sun rises.” I also found, “He also knew he would not work here anymore,” to hit quite hard.

    Great writing! Also, apologies for taking so long to get around to reading this, Gary. I’m only just beginning to get on top of things!

    1. Thanks for such a considered comment Joshua! It’s a pity you and I weren’t talking when I did the A to Z where the Amanuensis went from concept of just an interviewer to my manuscript casts into a fully fledged character with building storyline of his own. His journal acts between actual manuscript extracts. Four in total plus his own development as he becomes aware he’s trapped in a conjurers bubble with no recollection of why. Dragon stone still sits here somewhere as a full chapter. I draw a lot from that into other worlds that are all linked via the Amanuensis and his Library… more specifically a vault in the Keep he’s now separated from.

      The twins bit was actually the first thing I ever wrote too. From acorns do tall trees grow so to speak. Thanks for quoting those lines too. I often miss things like that when actually putting them down. I zone into the worlds and often don’t consciously think about what hits the page. I’ve often read back later and thought “I wrote that?” Although that can apply easily to trash writing too lol.

      No need to apologise either. I’ve been lagging recently too. It happens here every time I do NaNo!

      1. Fantastically rich world(s) you’ve got there, Gary. It’s really wonderful to get snippets of the breadth and depth of it. It echoes King’s DT in its scale and ambition — marvelous!

        Quite a brilliant starting point, too. It’s an emotionally charged story that touches all of us, I feel. It’s lovely that your modern work is still linked to your very early pieces! Ha, I sometimes get that when I look at older stuff, but mostly I cringe — all in good nature, of course! Part of the course of improving, I guess — it’s all a journey.

        Lately I feel like I’m caught under a perpetual rockfall! I keep trying to dig myself out and get ahead of things, but then get buried again… I haven’t managed to read anyone else’s stories this month, I hope nobody thinks I’m rude! 😀

        1. Thanks Joshua, although one fears a mighty DT comparison a tad optimistic! I think part of why it’s not committed to a start yet is I already know it’s a complex world build. Three years ago I wrote that test chapter Dragon Stone. A few other rambles too. The concept has grown since then and it’s a huge task to undertake. Of course one might think that’s procrastinating and counter with an ancient reference about huge journeys beginning with the first step.

          You’re right about looking back at early work too. Although in truth one way or another I’ve been writing far longer than it might seem. If one takes in science papers, theses, policy writing from science through charity work and school governance I’ve been writing most of my life…it’s fiction that’s recent! Might have given word craft a head start?

          I guessed you were in a post NaNo hiatus. That habit thing…easy to start, easier to lose under life’s grabbing it away. I actually mentioned you in my post this month as the git that made me try gothic horror too 😂😂

          As for being rude…I very much doubt it. We are all vulnerable to life interventions. It’s about balance. That said I was about to message you on FB to see if you were OK!

          1. I think realistic optimism can be healthy — after all, didn’t King look at LotR and think, “I wanna do that,”? One word at a time, Gary! You’ll get there. 🙂

            Yes, you’re right. I think the scientific writing mindset of explaining complex things in ways that can be easily digested can be very useful in our creative works. Ditto for getting the reader excited about the vision you’ve got!

            Absolutely! Bang on about the habit… I let it slip a little over the holidays — both the WIP and the blog — and now I’m feeling a bit guilty! You’re right, I need to strike a balance, I haven’t been using my time very efficiently… Thanks, Gary — I’m hoping to stay on top of things now!

            1. Realistic optimism is healthy IMO. I keeps fantastical dreams grounded so false expectations stay rooted. The habit is also something that’s stalled longer pieces too. That said I’ve got a draft still five chapters short of an ending that I have already mapped out in the follow up which is done. Not sure how that happened 🤔

              Scientific mindset tends to look at things logically too. Is that plausible or waffled in to fit what I want. That goes with character mindsets and events. It’s why I was wondering why nobody asked why Jacob and Maggie were there at night! I’d worked out why which is when back story started up. Another WIP 🙄

              Habits can take knock-backs post NaNo. It’s full on and unless it’s a normal writing pace or close it can be draining. Then you see Christmas looming and it’s easy to leave it for January. That’s over a month where habits can wilt. I know mine does and has too. That said now is a good time to pick it up again methinks. I started by scheduling the next BB prompt here. Methinks this word is going to be tricky!

              1. I agree — stay grounded, but don’t be afraid to dream. 😉 Yes, we’ve spoken of this draft before! And I’m guilty of exactly the same thing… It’s funny how we approach the timelines of our stories in very interesting ways, isn’t it? (Just look at Star Wars — “Let’s start with part four…”)

                That’s also very true. I often think that when I write, I just set the initial events in motion and then just follow the story to its natural, logical conclusion (I guess that’s why my protagonists rarely survive the horror, haha!). I did have questions, but 1,000 words isn’t an awful lot to play with, so I guessed you didn’t have the space — I look forward to reading more, if more of this is to come! 🙂

                Yes, I’m trying to get back into gear! It doesn’t help that work is very chaotic at the moment… the short stories are doing okay, though. I’m looking forward to the next BB prompt! I love how I can never tell where the story is going to go — I often end up with a tale I’d have never thought of without the prompt. Who’d have guessed I’d have thought of sharks from ‘bucket’? 😉

                1. Ha, ha…no point being dead and dreaming when life’s there to exercise it, or is that exorcise it (in keeping with the theme title of this one). Seems I am now behind on replies too. Still, bonus of that is I fixed the PC so job one done. My data drive wasn’t the faulty one either so that was a huge relief.

                  I often wonder if Star Wars had the backstory to the pre-release films already built to some extent to feed into part four. That said if I’m progressing this story it’s a scene well into the book so doing it that way might help decide if it’s got bones worth pursuing. My alpha reader is chomping at wanting me to on a weekly basis now 🤔

                  True about the space too. It’s why I resorted to the journal starter. It saved words to set it in time and place. Might do that more ha, ha.

                  Same here too, this is prompt week already. That said mines drafted and just waiting for Rachaels to go live so I can nab the URL. I’m still trying to figure out how to use it and it was one of my words…mind you all this years are so I really have zero excuse not to be months ahead of everyone else lol

                  1. Ah, that’s great news, Gary! One less thing to worry about, so you can invest more time into thinking about publishing. 😉

                    I often wonder that too! Or maybe they started with the later parts, and let the latter story arcs influence the beginning, which might be a cool approach to writing our own stories…

                    Ha! Yes, I think necessity is the mother of all invention, is it not? Having a small word limit forces you to convey ideas in creative and different ways — ways you might not have thought of without the limit. I also write music and paint, and I self-impose different restrictions for each piece for much the same reason — it’s all an experiment, and you can get some cool stuff in the end!

                    Yes, I just read the prompt word! Vivacious… I’m normally quite fast with responding to these prompts (it’s become quite the race against myself, seeing if I can beat my ‘record’, ha!), but I may have to have a think about that one! I like the challenge. 😀

                    1. Too right! I just need to instal the new drive now and use a cradle to see if I can access the failing one remotely. Thing with a smart boot up setup is it flags a failed or failing drive without really knowing if it is dead or not. Weekend job methinks!

                      That was sort of my issue with Black Marsh. It was a follow up to the first book that I have yet to complete. The prologue gave me the ending to its predecessor. Funny how that works really!

                      Go you, I never knew you wrote music and painted too. Kudos to the creative mind. Ever tried book cover design? You might be a natural.

                      I’ve over thought vivacious so I reckon I’m better off just starting something and letting it do it’s stuff. It might throw a fitting curveball somewhere 🤔

                    2. Sorry for being AWOL for a while, Gary! It’s been a chaotic week! Did you manage to get everything all up and running in the end? I had my fingers crossed for you!

                      Yeah, it’s kinda quirky! I know that when I write, I have a tendency to jump back and forth. Sometimes there are gaps in the story that I fill in later. Sometimes I “know” what the conclusion will be, and write that after the intro, then move on to the middle bits… Whatever gets an end result, really! 😀

                      Thanks, Gary! I just like to make things. 🙂 I’m not very good at painting real things! I’m more into the abstract stuff. Having said that, I had a go at painting an image for this month’s story (which I’ve just completed!).

                      Took me a while to think up how to go about the story, but I got there in the end. A nice challenge!

                    3. No worries Joshua, we all get “those” weeks! Yes, new drive went in with a minor Doh moment until I initialised it as a new volume. The old drive was read perfectly in an external cradle that copied the data across too. I might reformat it and see if I can use it now too. Just in case smart boot found an error which caused it to hang.

                      Skipping if things stall can help clarify why it was stuck too, or boring lol. I think boring is probably a loss of plot direction that leans into hopeful waffle as it tries to find a way back. I find tagging that zone and moving on can steer a clearer path through later connecting the dots.

                      I always thought real things require a technical mind to draw or paint. Possibly a tad different to a true creative mind. Abstract suggests creative to me…and since you write fiction I guess that fits nicely. Are you using that image in the post? I’ve not had chance to look at the entries yet. Mines drafted in WordPress, but I’m struggling for an image. Mind you, it’s back with the Amanuensis so it might make no sense at all as that tale still drifts in and out of clarity!

                    4. It seems as if I’ve been having “those” weeks since the start of the year, haha! So glad to hear that you managed to get it all working, that’s really quite the relief!

                      I think you’re absolutely right, trying to babble on until the story hits its stride once more. I sometimes feel like I have two great points in the story, but the in between bit sags a bit. Perhaps time jumps or some other device might be useful…

                      Yes, a real technical precision is required! A precision I don’t have! 😀 I like to throw shapes and colours and patterns on the canvas with reckless abandon, going wherever my imagination takes me. As Bob Ross said: “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Yes, I did use the image — I tried to blend “real” and “abstract”, with mixed results… The really weird abstract experiments are much more my home. As I said on FB, I think I’ll be doing more art for my stories. Really bring the reader into those twisted little worlds I’ve got within my mind!

                      Yes, I’ll be looking at the other entries soon — hopefully I’ll have a minute tomorrow or on the weekend. I look forward to reading yours, Gary! I loved the last one with the Amanuensis! If you ever wanted me to have a go at painting you a picture, I’d be more than happy to. But remember, I can’t really paint real things, ha! Just the general “emotions”.

                    5. Mid February already too. I need to step back and breathe before spring hits summer and we’re rolling back at NaNo again…although I may well skip it this year and stick with camps.

                      Sometimes I think skipping has a distinct advantage. If the story sags that will provide release from that part and also be a stiff awakening if the next part won’t connect. It might be saying this sucks so either put it away until it doesn’t or leave it alone. I’ve blogged about such things wrt NaNo for people who start, but struggle. Getting to 10k and seeing something dry up is not a fail, but a sign the story isn’t a book. It’s not wasted time as you’ve explored an idea. Then I think how long did the short story The Gunslinger sit in Kings box waiting for the journey to pick up again. Write what’s working maybe and retire the rest until the muse picks them up again. A bit like over thinking a crossword clue, coming back later and having a eureka moment.

                      Art, or creative art, might well always have an element of happy accident ha, ha. It could be the only way to escape just copying a subject with no real feeling. Might be similar with writing the way I do too. Rigid arcs and pre-planing never adhere. That to me is concept territory. I don’t really know the story of characters until they start the journey proper.

                      I’m a bit behind on the stories too at present. I’ll get onto new entries this weekend…hopefully! Be interesting to see your thoughts on this Amanuensis. I’m thinking, or seeing, his foot tapping waiting for the actual tale to be started. By all means have a bash at painting something befitting his prison of ice…which is actually a conjurers bubble….not sure you’ve seen that part 😳

                    6. I know, I don’t know where the year is going. As if it’s March in less than a fortnight! When are the camps rolling around? Just so I don’t forget!

                      I think that’s sound advice — it’s not a race, after all! The crossword analogy works perfectly. Write what works in the moment, you can always return and fill in the details you’ve left blank.

                      I agree! It always feels like an experiment, just “playing” with things, and seeing what result comes of it. A certain level of acceptance of whatever the result is. There’s a nice lyric from a hardcore punk band I quite like, “We sweat like boat builders and marvel at our work / Smiling at the imperfections.” I try to keep that in mind, be it music, art or writing that I’m doing! 🙂

                      I’ve read a handful (including yours) yesterday, but I’m still a bit behind… I enjoyed yours a lot, but I think you’ve already responded to my comment on that story. 😂 I’ll catch up completely, one of these days!

                      I’ve actually had a stab at painting this ice prison/conjurer’s bubble. It’s very experimental and abstract — the sorta stuff I can actually do. Nothing “real-world”! I’ll send it over on Facebook when I get a moment!

                    7. Camp one is April. I’ll try and remember to put a post on the BB site if Rachaels ok with it. The leave it for later tactic I started using in my first NaNo push. It’s so not somewhere to dwell on a stall! Sometimes the scene skip gives you the missing link too. Too lyric for the cause too!

                      I’m almost up to date on the others now. One I know I’ve missed! I’m so mixed up now too. I’ve no idea if I have replied to your comment on my current one or not! I must get focused 😳

                      I’ve seen your message on Facebook too. I figured catch up here first then go there…. time and all that. I might use that image though if I go visit the Amanuensis or even rehash the actual scene where he’s realising where he is… and talking to the antagonist proper. The last one wasn’t that…just saying 😂😂

                    8. I’ll have to set a reminder for then, in addition to the BB post (if it’s allowed) — just so I don’t lose track!

                      I’m not caught up at all! 😂 I aim to put some time aside this weekend and get some reading done! I’ve been busy for the reasons I told you via FB message, and I’ve also been creating more work for myself by setting up a “sister” blog dedicated purely to my art. Talking to you about it put the seed of the idea in my head, and I’ve not been able to shake it, so, here we go. I liked the thought of sharing my “other” creative hobby, but… Considering I was saying that I couldn’t find time. 😂 Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment? I’ve coupled that with an update of the blog’s aesthetics, so that the two blogs are twinners (if I may steal King’s word!).

                      I think you’ve already responded via FB, as I was so slow in getting back to you! It’d be a great compliment if you used one of my mad scribblings that I’m trying to pass off as “art” for one of your story scenes! (Then again, I guess I’m just trying to pass off my inane ramblings as “writing”, too! One man’s chaotic thoughts are another man’s source of entertainment, or something like that…)

                    9. I was caught up, then some new stories appeared so now I’m not again! But get in there with the twinner blog. I’ll have to take a look. Puts my re-theme delay to shame!

                      Yes, I just replied to your FB missive. Will definitely use it. Might even send more art prompts too. Practice and all that. Oddly my main reader has a young daughter who was given the task of creating an image for Yish. She did a remarkable job of doing it as anime!

                      As I said on the other social platform…. it’s not for the creator to back slap inanely. It’s for readers or art voyeurs to decide. Chaos to entertainment indeed!

                    10. Time slips! Interviews and such are occupying so much time — apparently it’s been 5 days since you responded! I remember thinking, I’ll respond when I get a second, and now… 5 days? Sorry, Gary! The days are blurring past me at the moment. Argh, it’s March and I’ve still got stories to read for Feb! Will have to get on ’em soon, or I’ll have a backlog of 2 months’ of BB entries to read! I like to peruse as many as I can — there’s always great stuff to be found!

                      Thanks, it’s definitely a different “vibe” over on that blog. Hence why I made a separate one, so that there weren’t tonal inconsistencies. I’d love to see that anime pic! I admire anyone who can draw people (I can’t draw believable humans to save my life 😂).

                      Yes, I suppose you’re right. Make your stuff, put it out there, and let the audience come to their conclusion!

                    11. I get them too! Mostly pub related at present then the day flips into school runs and poof! March already too…not sure how that’s happened! My own backlog is growing too. I feel your pain lol. Hopefully the interviews will throw something back soon too. Fingers crossed for you.

                      Part of me is thinking of a second site like Rachael for short story prompts too. Mind you if I was more productive on other writing that might be better placed on a sorted re-theme.

                      If you think about it we’re already putting stuff out here. Comments will let you know if it’s working or not…and the beauty of a community is replies that inspire directions we might not have thought about….the basis of the next short story even!

  2. Now this is quite the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey tale! 😉 I think I managed to follow it pretty well since I’ve read many of your earlier posts, so I feel like this story fills in a few gaps. And yet it also raises more questions! There is one reference I wonder if I understood correctly: You tell about the dragon stones, and then later mention the Eye of the Black. Is that an alternative name for the black stone of that dragon? Nice job!

    1. Thanks Abe, I’ve been MIA due to NaNo in November and mind recovery heading into festive manic WTF this week. I’m hoping to catch up on BB stories soon though.

      This is all part of an unexpected back story that came upon me unexpectedly during an A to Z challenge. The Amanuensis was supposed to be nothing more than an interviewer with characters from several manuscripts. He rapidly became a fully working character with the interviews weaving a new WIP linking everything together. The direct links into this are with Naz and Yish and Wayland in the actual Dragon Stone chapter that’s knocking about somewhere on here.

      This piece is rather timely-wimey! Connection duly noted too lol. It’s bound to raise questions and if it does then I’m taking that as a big positive. Unlike stand alone short stories that’s the bit that keeps readers going…and writers like me writing because I want to know what happens too!

      Yes, spot on wrt the dragon stone. The pre-history mages before their civilisation collapsed and became lost in time could use the stones to draw their dragons through temporal portals. These were then known as The Eyes of the dragons. The colour representing the dragon it was connected to.

      This is very much a WIP I’m wanting to start crafting properly. The back story alone is now up at 80k 😳

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