A – Z Challenge 2016, B is for…

Bis for Bell, Vanessa (née Stephen; 30 May 1879 – 7 April 1961).

Vanessa Stephen was the eldest daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth (1846–1895) for many of us she has been overshadowed by her sister Virginia. There were also brothers Thoby (1880–1906) and Adrian (1883–1948), and half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth, and they grew up in Westminster, London. She was educated at home in languages, mathematics and history, and took drawing lessons, she attended Sir Arthur Cope’s art school in 1896, and then studied painting at the Royal Academy in 1901. 2-vanessa-bell-7

In later life she alleged that during her childhood she had been sexually molested by her half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth, though of course one can only speculate not only if this was true but if it was whether she was the only sister effected and if that had repercussions later in their lives.

After the deaths of her mother in 1895 and her father in 1904, Vanessa moved to Bloomsbury with Virginia and brothers Thoby and Adrian, where they met and began socialising with the artists, writers and intellectuals who would come to form the Bloomsbury Group.

She married Clive Bell in 1907 and they had two sons. The couple had an open marriage, both taking lovers throughout their lives. Bell had affairs with art critic Roger Fry and with the painter Duncan Grant with whom she had a daughter, Angelica in 1918, whom Clive Bell raised as his own child

Vanessa, Clive, Duncan Grant and Duncan’s lover David Garnett moved to the Sussex countryside shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and settled at Charleston Farmhouse near Firle, East Sussex, where she and Grant painted and worked on commissions for the Omega Workshops established by Roger Fry. Her first solo exhibition was at the Omega Workshops in 1916.vanessa-bell-self-portrait.1257676666

Some of Vanessa Bell’s works were related to her personal life. For example, her illustration for To the Lighthouse, the book by her sister Virginia Woolf, which was not published until 1927, is about a beach with lighthouse that was a part of Bell’s and Woolf’s childhood in St Ives, Cornwall.

I chose two paintings by her the first a self portrait, and I have to say in both this painting and the photo of her there is a definite air of melancholy. it is easy to see that this is a woman who has known pain, something which obviously ran through the family. Though the majority of her paintings are fairly abstract there are other example of still life compositions which I feel are better for demonstrating her actual artistic ability, the more avant garde painting do of course testify for her creativity.

This is one I really liked…

(c) Henrietta Garnett; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Henrietta Garnett; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

White Roses a simple composition however it evokes so much more, the fading blooms wilting, life cut short by the removal from their nature environment and enforced confinement in a vase and the books also trapped by the weight of the water. And of course we know water is the element that took her beloved sister from her.

Do we read too much into the words or paintings of the author or artist? Of course we do! We place our own knowledge, beliefs and theories upon what might be a very simple thing, she may have just seen the roses decided they needed raining a little to catch better light, hence the books and it might just have been a pleasant way to pass an afternoon. The thing is we are both right and both wrong, no interpretation means more than any other because we cannot know every possible meaning for everything. If Virginia had lived would Vanessa’s work have been more well known? Would Vanessa have painted herself smiling in her old age?

So many possibilities but maybe the only real truth is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and needs no other.

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WIP Wednesday – After The Ball

First let me say what a wonderful time I had , and highly recommend if you get the chance to attend one of the Hourglass events you should. In fact next October they are going to be in Peterborough, The Darker Side of Fiction event is looking for authors and bloggers to attend so you should certainly consider it, I hope to be there as an author but if not shall be there as a guest so we can meet for a coffee or something a little stronger in real life.Check out the Facebook page here

Now back to the weekend just gone, I have filmed the before and a clip of the ballroom but not much on the night, I was too busy enjoying myself but I shall intersperse a few pictures in this post. So let’s start with a selfie…

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The camera on my phone is not brilliant for photos in low light as the flash is on the rear facing camera only but I do like the rather gothic feel it gives this photo.

First thing to discuss is the stress of getting ready in a limited time frame, rather like leaving your novel until a week before a deadline it means you have to cut corners and are not quite as prepared as you would like. Okay the shortcuts taken in getting ready may be seen quicker but they are at least fleeting, whereas the cracks in your work can pervade your whole writing career.

The first thing I realised after leaving the house was I felt incredibly overdressed, another reason the arrive the day before and stay at the hotel next year but stepping out of your comfort zone is a good things sometimes and I definitely went with the old maxim of if you do not feel confident fake it, and so upon arriving at the hotel we entered the foyer and moved towards other masked and gowned people.

No the one slight negative I would say is that most of the getting to know each other seemed to have been done during the day at the actual signing, the evening event is more social and although I still chatted to a few people and met some amazing authors and readers, you feel a outsider, like you have been invited to a party but you do not really know anyone and they all know each other, it also does not help that no one looks like their author profile picture in the evening, I certainly don’t look like mine…

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And no the cleavage is not that impressive in real life it was just the camera angle and the dress. The thing is unless you are really confident in yourself these events can be daunting, there were women of every age and shape there but you cannot help but to compare yourself and your dress choice to others, I still felt fine until we had official photos taken, one of which I shall be posting on the kitchen door to keep me out of it for the next year lol but seriously by the next one I attend I intend to have the most glamorous before and after shots ever.

This is the one and I know you are all going to tell me how good I look because you are all far to lovely to be realistic but seriously there is far too much junk in that trunk.

You are also treated to a rare photo of the daughter which she will probably demand I remove so enjoy it while it lasts, though as she does not read the blog she might not notice if no one tells her.

But anyway back to lessons learnt, and the fact is I learnt more about myself than anything else, about which of my insecurities are holding me back and make me self concious, that I really want to be parter of this type of creative community and that I need to really focus and stop procrastinating to make it happen.

I am my own worst enemy!

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There was of course entertainment and I did do a little video of them so you will see that on Friday, we failed to win anything in the raffle and left before the disco was really in full swing (I had been at work that day) but here is a little food porn to excite the taste buds, I did not take a picture of the starter because basically I was starving at that point but I did take photos of the main and dessert…

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I realised that when the last book launch did not go off how I wanted it to that I have become disillusioned and allowed it to effect my belief in myself, how can I expect anyone else to believe in me if I do not have it in myself. So next month I shall do the A – Z challenge again, at the same time I shall be reworking a couple of parts of Disintegration and Voices then I shall be back at the start of May ready to push both while working on The Dragon’s Mark, if I want to make this my career and earn an actual living from writing I need to push myself and find the faith in myself that I had at the start of the year.

At the end of the day yes, luck and fate play a part in success but we cannot complain if we fail to push ourselves and do everything we are capable of to achieve our dreams. Part of that means sacrifice, in my case spending less time chatting online to friends or wasting time playing games on FB when I could be writing, the morning after may not look pretty,

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But it will be worth it to reach your goals and get the life you want, so I shall leave you with a final picture, until the next event, and know how incredibly lucky I am to know you all have my back and are always willing to gove me a shove forward when I feel myself falling back, I know I am already ahead of the game in that respect xxxx

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

Kicking Myself Up The Backside

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This week I have made a real effort to get back into the swing of things and not allow myself to wallow in self pity, it would be easy to spend my time playing games on Facebook (okay I still do a bit of that) but instead I have worked on blog posts, scheduling Facebook posts and have even done my January Writing Resolutions Round Up which you can find by clicking here or in the tab above.

The fact of the matter is when adversity hits it becomes incredibly easy to get distracted in procrastination, when I realised my dropbox had not been auto updating as it was supposed to I could have cried, in real terms I have not actually lost a lot of work but the emotional reaction makes it feel so much worse.  To be honest in a bout of self doubt I have deleted far more work previously than I lost in this incident (yes I know you should never delete anything and just file it away for a rainy day.) It is hard to force yourself to focus and move forward when in truth you would rather curl up and not bother but Sunday reminded me of part of the reason for Voices, little Charlie and his tragic battle against Cancer.

Sunday saw the second anniversary of Charlie’s passing, a life cut tragically short in fact hardly given a chance to begin, and while I mourn the Grandma I loved so much I know she lived, loved and made the most of her time on this planet.  We do not have a choice in what life throws at us we do however have a choice how we deal with it.  We owe it as much to those who had no choice as to ourselves to make every minute of our lives count.  Of course we cannot all spend all our lives, climbing mountains, fundraising for causes or seeing the sights we long to see, sadly too much of our time is spent in doing the daily toil to pay the bills but the little free time we have is what counts.  It is about looking at the world about you, appreciating the million little miracles in every day life, as the quote says ‘stopping to smell the roses’.  It is saying thank you to someone who makes you smile, be they friend or stranger and causing a smile on the lips of another.  Paying it forward not just in theory but in practise, I regularly write random letters to friends and know from their responses how much they enjoy getting something other than a bill via snail mail, take up the challenge and do something to make others feel good. (If anyone wants to be on my random mailing list feel free to email me at paulaacton@gmail.com)

Life is not always good or easy but it is still a precious gift which has been denied to so many others, we can sit and feel sorry for ourselves or we can make our presence felt, which will you choose?

DVD Review – Dangerous Minds (1995)

220px-Dangerous_mindsNormally I would not think of worrying about spoilers for a film this old but it does actually strike me that there may be those out there who did not watch this film because of the age group it was marketed at.  I was twenty three when this first hit the screens and it was aimed at those younger than me, teenagers really caught up in the newly emerging rap culture which was making its way into mainstream UK from the US.  I watched it because I love Michelle Pfeiffer (though I wish she had an easier name to spell) and she was playing the main role in this film I will give you a taste for it by playing the trailer.

I think what fascinates me most with this film is knowing it is based on a real story Lou-Ann Johnson was a real woman who decided she could make a difference, she is the sort of person who needs to be not only teaching but actually implementing changes that make those from disadvantaged backgrounds believe they have a choice, that teenage pregnancy or crime is a career choice and the best one they can aim for.  Most of us as parents teach our children to reach for the stars, but who is there for the parents who can’t or don’t care, too many teachers are left in a position which no resources and no options other than crowd control in these situations we need more teachers like this to help give children hope when they have none.  I love the song from this film and I well up with tears listening to it because I have seen the film, if you have you will if not I hope it will inspire you to take the time to watch the full film.

For anyone who hasn’t watched the film but now wants too the link at the end of this will play the whole film.  I give this 5 out of 5, is it 100 percent true to the real story of course not this is the Hollywood version but the fact this woman exists and inspired not only the children but the film and millions of people around the world to stop and think about how things could be changed even if it was only for the length of the film is worth every star in the sky.

C is For Charlie

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How could C stand for anything else than our little hero who has changed so many lives around the world.  I know many of your here followed Charlie’s journey with me and so wish it had had a different outcome.  It requires strength to create something positive from such tragic circumstances and that strength overflows in Charlie’s family.

They are in the process of registering Cords4LifeUk as an official charity and continue to fundraise to help promote the benefits of cord donation, I know by now all my UK followers will have signed the petition by clicking on the picture of Charlie at the side of this page but if you have a friend or two who you think would sign, share the link with them. I asked Joey Beard, Charlie’s dad what all the support has meant to them.

“1st of all thank u for doing it ……. The support we have received has been amazing and has really helped us as a family through a very difficult time”  Joey Beard

Charlie’s mum and sister along with a couple of family friends have been in the recording studio this week and have released a 6 track EP to raise funds to continue ensuring that Charlie’s Legacy becomes a reality.  Please go take a look, you can have a little listen before you buy to let you appreciate this is actually really good quality stuff.

http://rubberbandaid.bandcamp.com/   this is the link for the EP and warning when you listen to The Best Two Years have your tissues ready this was sung by Charlie’s amazing big sis Ellie and the words are truly heartbreaking yet you will find yourself smiling through the tears remembering this truly remarkable little boy taken far too soon by cancer.  I will post links at the bottom of the page for those who are new to this blog and have not read all Charlie’s story for now I will leave you with a taster which is just Kelly Worth (watch out for that name in the future) singing what has really become Charlie’s song and on the EP she sings this with his mum Fiona.

You can read more about Charlie’s journey on FB and support the family via Twitter @Cords4LifeUK

More details can be found on my interview with Claire Halliwell who set up the Cord Donation petition and on other posts here on my blog if you type Charlie into the search bar plus the lovely pic of him will take you straight to the petition if you click on it.

The First of My Inspirational Angels Series – Claire Halliwell

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Some Angels are only loaned to us for such a short time – I wrote this recently on someone’s blog (they know who they are) but it really is true some Angels are destined to spend only a short time on Earth others to remain and walk amongst us and some inspire others to be transformed.  As I have helped trying to promote Charlie’s Cause I have been amazed by some of the amazingly strong and compassionate people I have come in contact with.  There are events in life which if the strike will either make you or break you these people have stood up to adversity looked it firmly in the face and fought not only for themselves but for others, when most would curl up in self pity they have reached out to help others, they are each and every one of them truly inspirational and over the next few weeks I would like to introduce you to just a few of them.

I am personally really proud to introduce Claire Halliwell to you, as most of you are aware I have followed Charlie’s journey from the start because of my friendship online with his Great Uncle but since Charlie’s passing #CharliesArmy has grown unbelievably and standing proud at the front has been a remarkable lady who I am now proud to call a friend. so Claire I would like you to meet my readers and readers I would like to introduce you to Claire…

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1) Claire you have become the spokesperson for the family in some ways while they deal with coming to terms with the tragic loss of Charlie, how did you get involved in with Charlie’s journey?

I read about Charlie’s story in the national news papers. I wanted to help but wasn’t sure how to contact the family. Then I came across Charlie on Facebook just as the Aurora Kinase trial failed and I knew I had to do something to help.

2) You have designed the website for Charlie’s family what is your hope it can achieve?

I hope that people in the same position as Charlie’s family can find solace in the fact that other people are going through the same thing and are fighting for their loved ones too. I hope that families can turn to the website’s resources page when doctors have exhausted all available treatments to help them find orphan drugs, experimental drugs, clinics over seas and clinical trials.

3) You are also behind the petition, though I know a few asked about one, you were the one who stepped forward and took responsibility for organising it can you tell anyone who has not heard about it (though how they missed it I have no idea lol) what the petition aims to do.

During his treatment for Acute Myeloic Leukaemia, Charlie received the blood from an umbilical cord from a lady in the USA. The UK stocks of cord blood arevery low. It is upsetting that a country which is pioneering in so many areas is so slow on the uptake of storing cord blood. Cord blood can be used to treat many many illnesses and is being researched to help with many more. Those illnesses include: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma,Aplastic Anemia, Neuroblastoma, Children’s Cancer, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy. Just think how many people are affected by these illnesses, not just those with them but their carers and their family and friends who are all indirectly affected. The petition aims to increase awareness amongst pregnant women so they can make an informed decision about ubc (umbilical cord blood) donation, something usually thrown away as hazardous waste which can save the life of another. Not only does the petition aim to increase awareness amongst pregnant women but it also aims for every major hospital to have the facilities to store ubc on a temporary basis while it can be transferred to a regional centre. If the UK had good stocks of ubc then those who need it could save valuable time for those who need to receive it who are often in the most vulnarable of positions and can not afford the loss of time in order to receive treatment.

4) You have also helped organise the twitter campaign #CharliesArmy #CharliesCause to promote the petition and as part of that I know we have had had some successes and some celebs we have gone right off naming no names lol but if you could have a dream celeb to get on board with this campaign who would it be?

Ooooh that’s a hard one. There are so many influential people out there. Personally, I would like someone who felt passionately about what we are trying to achieve. Gary Lineker’s son had leukaemia as a baby but then there are lots of celebrity mum’s who feel equally as passionate. Linda Robson has tweeted our petition and has said she is on the Anthony Nolan register, causes like this are close to her heart. It would be wonderful if she would like to promote the petition with us. I think if you are passionate about something people can feel it and want to get involved so my dream celeb would be the celebrity who really believes in what we are trying to do. If any celebrities would like to get involved they can contact us on twitter at @CordsforLife

5) Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?

Charlie has been the inspiration for this petition, his family have created a cause, which is pending registered charity status, called Cords4Life UK. I want people to know that the cause is there and does a wonderful job of creating awareness.
I also want people to know these facts about cord blood donation taken from Anthony Nolan:
It’s a risk free procedure that does not interfere with the delivery of your baby in any way
On average, every year 1 in 100 cord units will be used for transplantation compared to 1 in 1000 registered adult donors
80% of transplant requests would be met if the UK saved just 50,000 cord blood units. In the UK alone last year, 65,000 litres of cord blood were thrown away!
Up to 70% of people who need bone marrow transplants will not find a match. Banking stem cells improves those odds.

If your readers would like to sign the petition they need to go here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/45622
HM Government E Petitions will send them an email to confirm they would like to take part – it is esssential that the click the link within this email to confirm their signature.

Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to spread awareness!

You are most welcome anyone who would like to read more about Charlie’s Journey or knows anyone who may need to access the resources page which has links to clinical trials all over the world can find it here or can find out more on his Facebook page here

Charlie Harris-Beard

25/06/10 – 08/02/13

Gone But Never Forgotten

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Spread Some Love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo Vlog again as you know from yesterdays post I am having a few issues with windows 8 and the compatibility of certain software and programmes but I want to take a few minutes of your time to look at the links I am discussing and consider making someone smile.

Next week is valentines and many of us are safe in the knowledge we are loved and those that aren’t in relationships know they have the possibility of happiness and that it could be waiting round the next corner.  But there are children out there like little Charlie who do not know what tomorrow will bring or even if tomorrow will arrive.  I did not know about this amazing scheme until today when someone posted the link for Charlie’s page but it is amazing.

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Post Pals provides a chance for children in long term hospital or hospice care to make contact with the wider world.  Obliviously home addresses are not provided but a mailing address is where mail can be sent safe in the knowledge that it will reach the child for whom it was intended.  One recipient until her tragic recent passing was the amazingly courageous Alice Payne well known for her blog and bucket list.   As well as their site which can be found by clicking on their name at the start of this paragraph you can find them here on Twitter and on Facebook I have looked for a US site for them but not found one so far.  There will be heartache along the way lives cannot brush against each other without leaving a trace and some of those on these sites will not be there to receive cards for year after year and a lucky few will get better and leave the programme to make room for others.

What I would ask of you guys is please consider taking a few minutes and a couple of dollars/pounds/euros or other currency and making a child smile.  I do not ask that anyone send huge expensive gifts to strangers but instead to pick up a post card when you visit somewhere cool or scribble a few lines on a pieces of paper and post it.  In some ways sending to children overseas has an extra bonus in that the child gets to see lots of cool stamps from around the world my little boy loves it when I receive post from fellow bloggers as he loves looking at the stamps I may even have to start a little scrapbook for him with them.  We can’t fix the world but if we all take a few minutes out of our day to think about making someone else happy in a way we make the world a slightly better place. If someone has a link for a US version of this please let us know.  I stated at christmas I wanted to start writing at least one handwritten letter per month well I am changing that to two one to a friend/blogger and the other will be a card or postcard to a child fighting illness.

Will you join me?

300 Posts and the Start of a New Year

Okay so technically as a pagan the new year began for me just over a week ago with the Solstice but as I had no computer it passed by rather quietly.  I have to say in some ways I believe the Mayans had it right for me personally as the dates for their end of the world and the pagan year end were in time with each other but I think we misinterpreted their meaning.  I say this because this new year I really do feel like it is the end of one way of life and the beginning of a new one which I am really excited about.

In 2012 with the help of friends around the world who I have never met in person I found the self belief and confidence to actually believe in my own ability as a writer. I have written a specific writing resolutions post to be published tomorrow so I won’t go into that too much here but let me say I am very excited about the projects and aims I have set for the next year.

One area which has suffered this year is reading anything other than blogs, I really do need to remedy that in the future and although I hate reading by numbers I think setting a target of reading 20 pages a day of which ever book I have on the go is realistic, if all else fails I will read them while laying in the bath.

My blog which I envisioned as a sort of online journal which I only expected myself and a few friends to be interested in has become so much more.  You have provided a sounding board for my ideas, an audience for my stories, I have met people who have become not only friends but teachers showing me ways to improve my own work.  There is a preconception about the writer as a lonely, hermit locked away with a typewriter isolated in their own world, well maybe that applies to those for whom financial success has altered their way of life but I think the blogosphere shows in full technicolour glory the bonds of friendship, respect and comradeship is alive and well within this community.

In real life I am lucky that I will start this new year in many ways far healthier than I have the last few, my surgery has been a success (touch wood) though I am still in recovery stages as I work on getting the muscles working again, I have stopped smoking even though I still really really want one which is weird considering the smell now makes me feel sick.  But also I cannot help but think about those for whom the past year has not been so considerate of, poor little Charlie whose trial treatment failed to deliver the miracle we all hoped for, now the family are left facing a very bleak new year unless the power of prayer can provide a miracle.  It would be easy to lose faith at a time like this but it is the very time when one must draw strength from them Charlie as you know was given weeks to live a couple of months ago yet he is still here and fighting, there is an amazing young lady named Alice Payne who has been fighting off this disease and refusing to let it beat her for over twelve months now.  It is the most we can do to hold on to each day as it passes and pray it brings these children closer to a cure which surely must be found to combat this terrible disease.  Children teach us what it really means to appreciate life, they do not know that they should be defeated by this thing which has invaded their bodies, they do not know they should fear it and this gives them the very strength to keep fighting unlike adults they have not learned to give up.

I am determined to make the most of every day and to raise some funds for both the Charlie fund and for the other charity close to my heart The Joseph Salmon Trust which helps families who are struck by the terrible tragedy of losing a child.  Will I make thousands for either probably not but I do believe every penny counts and if I make a hundred pounds or so for each then I will be contented.

I know this has ended up as a far more serious post than I ever intended it to be so if you have read down this far may I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and hope your wildest dreams may come to fruition.

My highlight of 2012….all of you guys coming into my life.

Stalled

Despite the fact I have good intentions for the ghost story collection I have stalled on writing it.  The last few days I have done some soul-searching as to the reason and I think I know why now.

I originally intended it to consist of ten stories but the idea for different stories kept coming to me then the other week I posted a flash fiction based on one of the ideas I had dismissed which everyone seemed to love and think should be made into something more.  While praise is of course wonderful it made me question the stories I had chosen to put in and those consigned to the sidelines.

The solution now seems to me to cut back the number of stories to the original ten and save the rest for a second volume.  Since I reached a decision on this the task has become far less daunting though I still am hovering over one or two stories and whether they should be included in this first collection.  I do now at least feel I can get back to work on it without having to ignore new ideas that spring up.

To get my mind back in the right frame of mind I have been watching a few ghost films and programmes I thought I would share a couple of clips from what I have been watching.

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Josh Mosey’s Flash Challenge

Strolling through my emails this morning I read this post flash fiction challenge 10 options 100 words limitless possibilities

I don’t normally do these things not because I don’t think they are great but because I always feel guilty at not having time to go read all the others posts who take part but as this seems to be a one off for now at least then I thought why not.  So first the badge thingy which if after you read mine you fancy taking a look, click and it will take you to Josh’s masterpost.

The smell of sulphur filled the air and a crimson glow emanated from the great lizard stretched out filling the cavernous space.  He was close, he could see the light reflecting in the surface of the gemstone he desired, only a few more steps and he would have it. Loose rocks caused him to lose his balance and fall.

The dragon opened its brilliant blue eye, took a deep breath and exhaled.  The flames danced in the precious stones it guarded before dying away to leave the cave empty.  He returned to his slumber to await the next thief coveting his treasures.