Writespiration #93 Underwater Ballroom

BallroomI get inspiration from all over the place, I actively seek it out on a daily basis. Basically I’m a sniffer dog only my crack cocaine happen to be quirky ideas. Although I’m hard at work editing Keepers, I can’t help but ferret away at other projects. Currently I’m searching for location inspiration for a different book series.

I found something awesome recently in an article on the Atlas Obscurer, and I just had to share it. They found a ballroom built under a lake. You can check out the article here. The ballroom happens to actually be a smoking room, but they called it a ballroom, and that was enough to send my mind reeling. What if it really were a ballroom? The glass roof, now covered in algae would have allowed dancers to view the creatures in the lake while they danced. I almost have to squeeze my temples to prevent all the ideas falling out. I love this.

Your challenge this week is to set a piece of flash fiction under water. Write a story in less than 200 words. Paste in the comments or use a pingback and submit before 7th August.

As always, I am slow to respond to entries because I read and moderate everyone, you may find a delay before your story appears and before I comment.

Photo Credit: Large Pig Flickr

Photo Credit: Large Pig Flickr Underwater Ballroom Lea Park Estate, UK.

Now, obviously I have cheated, my entry is WAY over 200 words, but it’s my blog and this was genuinely an accident. One of the books I have on the back burner is called The Firmament. A YA dystopian novel, based on the Flat Earth conspiracy. This ballroom image just happened to spark an idea for the ending of that book. So here it is:

The Firmament – Excerpt from the last few paragraphs of the final chapter:

The corridor narrowed so much it was barely wider than my shoulders. Alaric had said the claustrophobic halls were something to do with keeping the structural integrity of the ballroom. But even the thought of being this far under water made my breath catch. The walls brushed my shoulders like gentlemen bowing. Finally, my ears popped relieving the pressure in my head.          

I approached the end of the tunnel. A soft melody that trilled like birds singing filtered off the dance floor and through the corridor. I glanced at my simple pink silk gown and felt underdressed. I’d spotted some of the women in extravagant Cinderella dresses before they stepped down into the tunnels. It was a mystery how any of them squeezed through. 

I came to a sudden halt as the tunnel ended and opened into the ballroom. Gasping, I clung to the wall. The ceiling was an enormous dome made of the clearest glass I’d ever seen. I could see the ocean and a plethora of oblivious sea creatures swimming through a forest of rainbow coral. They were free to roam wherever they wanted.

Luscious satin curtains lined every wall. A stage sat on the far side of the dancefloor, with two ornate white thrones and a full orchestra responsible for the melody played. Shuffling across the dance floor, a swathe of women in elegant ball gowns and covered in jewels, tapped out a maze of dance patterns with military precision; their partners wearing tuxedo uniforms. It would have been beautiful if it weren’t for their identical expressions. Those flat eyes, emotionless faces and false smiles would haunt even my happiest dreams.

I’d never regretted anything in my life. Not fighting with my dad, deciding to break out of the Firmament or leaving everything behind. It had been three months since I escaped. Three months since I’d seen Luke. He would have loved this. I was selfish. A terrible friend too obsessed with my own stupid mission to see him.

As I stood on the edge of the ballroom, unable to enter because of the pain in my chest, I realized it was guilt; guilt because I regretted leaving Luke behind. Now, for the first time in my life, I saw him, really, truly saw him. The irony was, he wasn’t even here. I closed my eyes and visualized his shaggy hair, sparkly gaze and gawky expression. I’d thought him plain, someone I’d only ever love as a friend. But even in the fog of my memory, he seemed vibrant.

“Lexi, what are you doing?” Alaric said, jolting me out of my thoughts.

“Nothing. Sorry.” I shook my head clear.

“Your coronation is about to start.” He gripped my wrist a fraction harder than was comfortable, signalling it wasn’t a statement, but a command. Alaric had never given me cause to believe he would rebel. He was an ardent enforcer of the Society. But the wideness of his eyes, told me his grip wasn’t for control, but fear.

I would be crowned. Not because they demanded it of me, but because I saw that behind all the opulence, the extravagant lifestyles and the stilted smiles, they weren’t free either. Not really. They were just as trapped as I had been in the Firmament. I’d thought escaping would be the end, a new life. I was wrong. This was only just beginning.

If I wanted to free mankind from the Firmament, I’d have to free Alaric and his people from the Society too. But the only way I could free them, was to become one of them.

Sacha Black © 2016 All rights reserved


Now to last time and your entries for your WIP’s first and last lines.


First in Shelley Wilson:

First Line:

Claws scratched at the cold rock just inches from his bare feet. The twisted limbs of these tormented creatures snaked through the bars of his cell as they tried to reach him. Starved and beaten, the monsters craved his blood.

Last Line (Not quite the last line as that would give away a huge spoiler!):

‘I’ve had help,’ she said, laughing as she climbed on his back, and settled herself behind his long neck.


Frank in next with some lines from his poetry

First stanza:
on the radio
in the car when I was driving from work
the weatherman was chatting
to Ms Drive Time: …

last stanza:

some days
he said
our family can go all day
with just one flush
then gave
a forecast
for tomorrow

fine again


Barb in next with a first line and the end of the most recent chapter she’s written.

First Line:

I always knew my office was haunted. I just never knew I was the ghost.

Last line (of middle chapter!):

None of that prepared me to stand up in front of two hundred and forty thousand people and tell them that heaven is trying to destroy their city—and doesn’t mind if that means destroying them as well.


Next up Helen, with a book I am simply desperate to read

First line: Apparently, there was a time when humans thought vampires to be dead creatures, reanimated corpses with a thirst for blood.

Last line: Then I speak, the words coming out in a rush of breath. ‘I am Raven.’


Diana Wallace Peach In next with her WIP

First line: The ironwood pier below Mur-Vallis pointed like a sooty finger over the Blackwater’s swirling luminescence.

Last line: She understood the tantalizing impulse to wield her new power and so she would.


Lorraine Ambers next diving straight into the action.

First line:

The elfin girl wept violently as pain ripped through her stomach right the way up into her chest, as if something was shredding her from the inside out. She screamed into the night.

Almost the last line: (Well, ‘The End’ isn’t very exciting. Wink!)

‘Goodnight.’ She breathed, vanishing from beneath him. Leaving her scent and warmth in his bed. Soon she would never have to leave his side again. He rolled back onto the pillows.


Next in Geoffle with a first and last line from Buster and Moo.

First: Landen Powell coughed as she entered James Franks’ office.
Last: She glanced back at Mervin. “You two are the first to know.”


Jane up next with her current WIP

First: He stands behind me, enfolding me in his arms. It has become a habit with him, as if I would float away if he didn’t hang on tightly.

Last: In his arms I am carried, and in his arms I leave the world of pain and hurt and suffering behind a veil of sapphires and rubies.


Lloyd in next with these lines from his WIP

First line: The main character thinks, “I regret my part in one of the greatest tragic love stories in human history.”

Last line: at the end of Chapter 27 is currently: “I can’t live with the mental anguish that comes from losing someone you love.”


Mcclellanelias up next

First: Pre-dawn dark blanketed dormant houses on cemetery-quiet Organ Road. Sean Bergin watched digital numbers cycle on a track watch as a distraction from a kicking-and-screaming nicotine fit. It had been 30 minutes since the drug courier drove into the 200-unit-warehouse complex.

Last:

“Wait, wait, wait,” Toughie said, hands up. “There’s another option, here.”

Leti stayed Sean with a raised hand. “And that is?”

“Money never sleeps and I need new talent. How would y’all like a job?”


Ritu in next with her WIPs lines

First: “What’s it gonna be ‘cause I can’t pretend. Don’t you wanna be more than friends?”
Lara had had enough of this. She never thought she would be able to be strong enough to actually say it to him, but there it was.
Last: This really wasn’t panning out how she had planned!


Graeme in next, cheating by giving us first and last lines from both his WIPs

Carrion

First: His master’s home was large and comfortable, but the messenger knew his place: outside, huddled in the cold night air.
Last: And Salin went.

Birth Rights

First: Frank Gilman put his coffee down and stood up.
Last: He suddenly realised he was grinning. “I’ll be waiting.”


Next Lavinia with these two lines:

First: Curls of smoke dissipated on the frigid air before furious flickers could be spotted in her eyes.
Last: And in another life, everything would continue to be different.


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106 comments

    1. Oh thank you so much. I was TERRIFIED of posting it. I so rarely post any fiction of mine. So thank you SO much for your kind words of encouragement. Means the world to me ?

          1. You need to come over to where I am then! I’m back home with my parents in Brum, and my Pops is a retired dentist!!!
            I’m enjoying the first week of school holidays, chilling with the folks…
            Next job on the agenda is sorting the kids bedrooms out. That will be the nightmare!!! ??

  1. What a great prompt for this week Sacha, I will have to caffeinate my brain to come up with something appropriate (or inappropriate as the case may be)!
    Loved your story too this week. I could picture the scene so clearly.
    Some great WIP’s too from the others. all so talented 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy, haha, I didn’t think about poetry in terms of the prompt, but I have no doubt you will come up with something awesome.

      Thank you for the compliment, I was genuinely nervous about posting it. So thank you for your lovely words.

    1. Thank you 😀 hehe, I was nervous about posting it. It’s one of the books on the back burner for now, and it’s not the series I will publish first. But this little writespiration sent my mind wild, I just had to write!

        1. Well that’s true! I hadn’t really thought of it like that. Maybe I should share more. I just get so nervous. God, what am I going to be like when it comes to pressing the publish button for goodness sake!

          1. Now or later, dear. Eventually you gotta do it. This WP community is wonderfully supportive so I wouldn’t fret. And you’ll build some anticipation for your book! 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking about this one for a few days… how’s this for ya?

    The crushing blackness enveloped him as he struggled what he thought was upwards.His irrational mind telling him he was too deep, a mile down. Even his oxygen starved rational mind dismissed this, he was alive. Whatever had dragged him down hadn’t taken him far.

    Each sweep of his arms getting harder, his shut his eyes tightly, hanging on to his breath as his lungs screamed for air. On an on he struggled even as he felt his strength wane. Then in a second he was on the surface as if spat out of the ocean. His mouth and eyes opened, sucking in breath with a rasp as brightness returned again.

    (Hmm… think it’s shit – but anyways).

    How’s you?

    1. There’s a few things I’ve found about about this that very simply prove the Earth is round:
      1) Timeszones – we know and hate them.
      2) Lunar eclipses, the round Earth shadow appears on the moon. If the world was flat, we could have either timezones or a round shadow at a lunar eclipse, but not both.

      With rocket launches you need to arc to deliver successfully into orbit, unless the object needs to break away, in which case you can shoot up, but it will probably curve anyway to set it’s course.
      The other thing I remember is how you can see things for ages after they move away, even on a river or canal – this is easily explained with the refraction of the atmosphere. Something you see when you look at a warm road and the shimmering effect.
      I’m going to do a full piece on this and I want to see if I can make a youtube vid to go with it. But in my mind, science says – The Earth is s ball!

      But – I did find these interesting and for a moment, I nearly believed him! lol

      1. I think you should contact Mark Sargent and invite him to do a Skype as part of your video series. See if you can defend your round earth theory against him. I don’t have all the answers, he does.

        1. That’s a good idea, but I’m not balks like that. I also don’t want to be see to openly attack, instead I just want to write the post, make the video (which will be my first at this time) reference his and see what happens.
          He has his beliefs and I’m not one to rubbish them. Just like anyone ☺

          1. I called him, interviewed him and recorded it, I need to post it actually. He’s pretty open, and is willing to be challenged, he’s WAITING for someone to prove him wrong.

          2. Oh I see. I never knew that. The thing is it’s proving it an a simple scientific way that can be recorded and communicated easily, with no misunderstanding. That’s my task.

          3. Yeah, I have science and facts that I think will leave you questioning him. I then need the last piece of science to smash it.

          4. I can’t even remember, it was AGES ago. I just remember him having an answer for everything I asked. The thing is, I’ve listened to a bunch of other stuff on it, including pilots and high ranking officials who all use science to back it up. I’m not saying I actually believe it, but I do think he has a good argument and one that raises a lot of questions science can’t really answer.

            The other thing is, some of the coinciding theories around the moon explain some of the things you were talking about. But alas I am not an encyclopaedia and can’t remember everything off the top of my head. I just remember doing a lot of research at the time trying to prove him wrong, and well… I couldn’t. Every time I came up with something he had an answer. It’s hard to argue with that.

          5. OK, no problem. If I asked you to put a pole in the ground 1 metre long and take a picture measuring the shadow, would you do it?

          6. I’ll send you one, the same size as mine. If we measure the shadow at the same time of day the length of your shadow should be shorter than mine because your further wet and the curve of the earth should affect it slightly.

          7. They appear to come from in the sea, so like they’re rising. The reason the effect isn’t obvious quickly (horizon is 3 miles at at feet or roughly human height) is because the atmosphere retracts light. Making the curve less obvious.

          8. I don’t understand what you’re saying.

            The ships should sink at the horizon if the earth was curved they would sink. They don’t. I saw one yesterday and it didn’t sink.

          9. I’ve seen them sink, how far was it? The reason they take so long to sinknis the earth’s atmosphere bends or refracts light. Like at the point the sun touches the horizon we can still see it, but it’s been proved this is only because of refraction. In actuality at that point the sun has set.

          10. I’m not convinced, scientists come up with a lot of cock and bull crap that’s later proven wrong look at history. And the boat was SUPER far away. If you can convince me one way or another though I’ll be dead impressed. But I think you got your work cut out to convert me one way or t’other.

          11. OK, I can see that. That’s why I have to thing about this and create something bullet proof!
            You wait… You’re going to see fucking genius at work here and I’m hoping you’ll be impressed!

          12. Mmmhmm. You’re going up against a guy that researches to prove his theory for a living.

            If u do it I’ll take my hat off to you, but it’s guna be like convincing an atheist extremist that God exists! ?

          13. I’m not even going to try and convince him because there is no scientific basis for his beliefs. Just you, which will be hard enough I think!

    2. thanks for the lovely entry, I don’t think you’ve joined in before, so welcome <3 I'm honoured. I'm okay, swamped though. I won't be reading any posts this week as I am SOOOOO close to the end of my book I am cutting back on all kinds of stuff, having a few guest posts too just to give me breathing space to finish. How are you?

      1. I’m glad you liked it, I did one ages ago but I often miss your prompt. I’ve got you on my daily updates so I shouldn’t miss anything now ?

          1. RAMMED is how! I am less than 8k away from completing my re-writes so I have buckled down and stopped anything that isn’t writing. I took a break now to reply to some comments as I have a disgusting amount to catch up on. But mostly, I am pedal to the metal, bum on seat and pounding out the words. you?

          2. Damn Sacha, it sounds like you’re hard at it. Don’t stop and I’m sure it’ll be great when you’re done!
            I’m good thanks, I’ve got some writing projects on the go I need to knuckle down to. Watch this, space…

  3. I like your piece Sacha, writing stuffed full of visual details. I’ve just been reading your article about YA book covers, and I have to say, when I read the title of this post I thought it said ‘The bathroom.’ They discovered a bathroom under the sea… I was just a little bit nonplussed. Ballrooms are much smarter.

  4. A little contribution, edited rom a longer story I am writing on the remarkable Mrs Charlotte Bennet, the first woman to dive for pleasure and the first to go down in a diving bell.

    Mrs Bennet’s Dip or The Diving Belle (a tale of 1805)

    “Are you sure you want to do it?” The engineer asked nervously.
    “You promised me yesterday.” The young widow replied, looking a little nervously up at the massive black machine.
    “Very well, follow me.”
    As he climbed the ladder, she removed her coat and handed it to her maid. In her bathing dress of stiff brown linen she followed him into the Bell and sat on the bench opposite.
    “Haul away,” he called and she had to hold tight as the sailors hoisted the Diving Bell into the air, looking down she saw first the deck of the boat though the opening, then the waves. For a moment she watched the water sparkle, then the bell hit the surface. She gave a little cry as the water splashed on her legs.
    Looking down she saw the remains of the sunken ship, that John Braithwaite was salvaging.
    “Now if you feel at all faint you must let me know and we will ascend.”
    “Why, do you think all women will faint at the first opportunity?”
    “No, I don’t know how women will react, you are the first woman ever to dive like this.”
    “The first!” Now she felt a little faint.

    1. Ahhh Gordon, I love this. What a fabulous entry. I also happen to love that you create fiction out of historical events. You’re a talented writer just like Geoff 😀

  5. Can’t wait to read The Firmament, Sacha… that piece is such a great ending to a book and a great lead into the next one. Just hurry up and publish already!!!

    Yeah the idea of the underground ballroom kinda freaks me out. I won’t go scuba diving… all that dark water out there and the mysteries, and bloody ginormous creatures it contains scares me just a little. My dad was a deep sea diver, too, so that’s a little bit ironic. I never even learned to swim till I was 9, what a disappointment I must have been! Lol! Also with my fear of drowning, I think I’d just stay well away altogether, lol! And anyway, just who is actually in the goldfish bowl? We think it’s the sea creatures, but maybe it’s not…

    1. Thanks my lovely <3

      Haha, I am not sure about scuba diving either. I think I will have to do it, just once, but it freaks me out a bit I'll be honest. But then, I do swim pretty well.

      I wonder if you have a fear because you drowned in a past life?

  6. What a fabulous extract from The Firmament. Lovely descriptions that were written so well and which instantly came to me as I read them. I hope you have plans to bring the book back to life, Sacha?

    Here’s my piece of ‘tongue in cheek’ flash.

    The Ballroom was the only part of the ship, underwater, where guests could view the world that was the crystal clear ocean.

    “Meet us there,” her husband had told her.

    She’d spent days looking for the perfect ballgown, and hours getting herself ready. The only question she kept asking herself was why it was all starting so early?

    She felt the ‘Belle of the Ball’ as she paraded around the ship, making her way to the underwater ballroom. It never mattered that other guests stood in amazement as she walked passed them, some even snickering and pointing at her.

    As she finally reached her destination, her heart slowly sank as if it were The Titanic. Pushing open the doors to the ballroom she was met with words she didn’t want to hear.

    “Mum! Over here. We’re just about to start a game of five-a-side football. There’s plenty of other ball games you can try as well, but you’ll have to get changed into something a little more sporty if you wanna join in.”

    1. Hi Hugh – I know you’re going to frown on me for the epic delay in commenting, but I’ve taken a leaf out of your book in order to finish mine!!!!!!!!! Which I nearly have. So they comment delays are mounting, *sigh*

      Anyway – yes definitely going to finish the Firmament, its going to be a series. I’m kind of adding bits here and there but it’s shelved until Keepers is finished.

      Positively loved your story, your writing has really developed too. Loved the Titanic bit and the ending had me feeling really sorry for her.

      1. Not in the least, Sacha. At least you respond to comments. Okay, it may take you 56 years ( I mean a few days) to respond, but you don’t just ignore your audience (unlike some).

        That’s good news about the the Firmament. I’m glad to hear you are taking more time for your book. It’s important you carry on doing that and I see you’ve also so by asking for a few guest posts – well done!

        I’d forgotten all about this piece I’d written. I remember now that it immediately came to me when I read your prompt. Silly stuff, but it’s something I’ve learned from Esther, who is always reminding me to try writing something out of my comfort zone. She’s persuaded me to write a Rom-Com…and I am ?

  7. I really enjoyed your story segment. I too love the idea of an underwater ballroom. I like to draw ideas from everywhere as well. Lately, I am exploding with ideas that are not down on paper yet. (I had a little computer trouble last night.) 🙂

  8. You do find the most intriguing pieces of information. But isn’t that what we writers do? Collect ideas. I love it when I have time with my grandchildren. It seems no matter what happens they excitedly say, “We could write a story about that.” (I wonder who they get that from!)
    I love the thought of a glass-roofed underwater ballroom. How cool would that be!

    1. Well exactly! I definitely actively search for inspiration these days. I suppose I used to be a passive collector. As and when something interesting passed by I’d think it was interesting and inspirational, but now I aggressively seek out interesting and inspiring things. I’m hungry for it so I never run out of ideas 😀 Its an obsession!

      I love that your grandchildren say that 😀 <3

  9. Dr Josiah Pretty was a mystery man. No one knew his background. His qualifications, while sound, remained unchecked by the authorities. He just appeared one day, setup business behind a brass plate announcing his name and ‘Consultant Urologist’ and began to practice. His client base grew with his reputation for a caring manner and a rapid diagnostic ability. He had been practicing for ten years when a clumsy error led to his being uncovered. The tabloids luxuriated in the gory details of his sinister practice, the many men’s lives ruined by his unethical behaviour. But the worst came fourteen days after his secret was revealed when workmen found hidden preservation tanks in the basement containing trophies of each unnecessary operation. The next day the papers were full of ‘Dr Pretty and his Underwater Ball Room’.

  10. When I find myself in strange geologic place, I think, “What would Sacha make of this?” You have a historian pondering sci-fi your passion for it so infectious. The ballroom underwater is certainly an intriguing idea and fits into your dystopian novel. I’ve long neglected Jen and you have been such and inspiration to her…

    The Golden Promise by Charli MIlls

    Fools look at mountain water and see gold reflected in sunlight. With more greed than common sense, they believe in nuggets trapped beneath millions of strewn boulders. It’s a gambler’s false hope. They believe in gold even when cajoled, “Not yet, Boys, not yet…”

    Schnatterly fed on fools. He had a string of investors believing in the golden promise of Boulder River. Since 1914, he’d been turning stones. It disgusted Jen how Schnatterly ordered hydraulic hoses to blast through the river canyon each successive summer only to end each season with another, “Not yet.”

    Jen knew his dirty little secret. Schnaterly built his wealth on possibility. He bought his luxury yacht on the great Kootenai River below with investor money. His clothes, pocket watch and ridiculously gleaming shoes, were ill-gotten gains. The hydro- blasting, the logging, the flume – all props of deceit.

    Tonight she’d take Wolfric beneath the holding ponds where the Boulder spilled into the Kootenai. She’d found a way into the underwater vault Schnatterly laughingly called his golden ballroom where the ore was stored. No one would believe a woman no matter how tough she was with an ax. She had to convince Wolfric. There was no gold.

    1. oooooooooohhhhhhh, sinister and like….. what happens? OMG, does she get caught?????? I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

      Beautiful piece Charli, and thank you, what a lovely compliment. You have made a sci-fi lover ponder the details of history (and I don’t do details) so clearly both our passions are infectious. 🙂 <3

  11. Holy crap I love this! What an awesome, amazing idea. (You know I tend to have water as a theme in a lot of my flash.) Have you read Atlantia by Ally Condie?

    Fab entries this week! LOVE the first lines. *drools* And your excerpt is fantastic. Maybe this will make me write. ?

    1. Nope, but I have just downloaded a sample and chucked it on my wish list 😀 Thank you by the way 😀 glad you like it <3 Was nervous about posting it for some reason.

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