Category Archives: short story

The Violent Fae Blog Tour – The Ordshaw Vignettes

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To celebrate the release of The Violent Fae, the closing chapter of the Ordshaw series’ The Sunken City Trilogy, Phil Williams is sharing twelve short stories from the city of Ordshaw. The Ordshaw Vignettes are tiny insights into life in the UK’s worst-behaved city, each presenting a self-contained mystery.

You can read today’s story below. For the full collection, visit all the wonderful blogs in the tour.

About Ordshaw and The Violent Fae

The Ordshaw series are urban fantasy thrillers set in a modern UK city with more than a few terrible secrets. The Violent Fae completes a story that began with Under Ordshaw and its sequel Blue Angel, which I reviewed yesterday, following poker player Pax Kuranes’ journey into the Ordshaw underworld. Over the space of one week, Pax unravels mysteries that warp reality and threaten the entire city.

The Violent Fae will be available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback from November 5th 2019.

If these vignettes are your first foray in Ordshaw, note that Under Ordshaw is on offer on Kindle in the US and UK between October 28th October – 1st November.  

The Crane Driver

It was already late when the radio cut out. Sure way to make a long day longer. 350ft up in the crane, Dave had eyes on the roof and the waiting men, could easily lower the pipe into their waiting hands. But you didn’t do that. Didn’t touch a damn thing without the radio. He kept his hands away from the lever, eyes off the function displays – you do nothing until the banksman gets back in touch.

You had to keep cool, isolated in this little metal cage. No noise from the traffic, nor the shouts and clanks of the construction site. All you’ve got is crackling radio instructions, and that’s good because you need steel focus. Slow, steady, everyone depending on you.

When the radio cuts out, you wait.

Dave looked across the city rather than down at the blokes waving from the roof, just get the job done. Nope. He scanned the Net, a plain of buildings due north, the whole district in need of renovation. Lot of space there; if he got up some savings he was gonna take a crew himself, show some –

A blue spark drew his eye to a big red-brick church, taller than the surrounding derelicts. And – it came again – blue light sparked in its windows like someone flicking lights inside. Dave squinted. Welding? Half a dozen guys going at it throughout the church? Something unnatural there …

You saw weird things up here. The silence made them worse. Technical skill was one thing, a disregard for heights another. Dave had both in spades – could waltz along a high wire, though you wouldn’t get him down a sewer, not for all the tea in China. They’d had collapses, accidents in the metro. Much safer up here. But the crane had other dangers. You had to keep your head.

Barry Wicket, he got it bad. Hadn’t jumped but almost did. They were all shouting from the ground when they saw him perched on the crane arm. This high up, alone, hour after hour, it could make a man do things. Barry claimed he heard a little lady goading him. Wanted him to do it, said his life was worthless. He agreed. Only, last minute, the voice laughed at him and broke the spell. He was about to step off when it said, “Oh my God you’re actually going to do it?”

The voice in his head, mocking him. That confusion saved his life. Took him another hour but he made it down. He never went up again, Barry Wicket. Lost his license and saw a therapist, ended up a stadium steward. Got scared of being alone.

Proper creepy, Dave thought, that voice laughing after all that negative persuading. Might’ve saved Barry’s life, but left it sounding more real. Not just him freaking out, too weird for that. Then, a wandering mind went complicated places.

Yet thinking on that, Dave couldn’t deny the church was lighting up. These lances of light shot out the door – open, wasn’t it? Spitting lightning, like the building held a storm inside. Dave blinked, but it didn’t go away. He stared instead.

Finally, it stopped.

A dead, empty church again, another Net district husk.

Had he imagined it the same way Barry Wicket heard that voice?

“Dave – you with us?” the radio buzzed, and Dave threw himself back to the controls, focused on the displays to centre himself.

“Got you loud and clear, Bob,” he said.

“Good, great, not sure what cut us off. All good up there?”

“Hunky dory,” Dave answered. One focus now. Lower that pipe, get the job done. Definitely not thinking on whatever might or might not have been in that church. You saw weird things up there. Heard things, too. You didn’t dwell on it. Didn’t talk about it.

That’s how you got on.

Previous Story
For more Ordshaw shorts, you can check out yesterday’s story, The Concierge on Bookshine & Readbows. The next story, The Chemist, will be available on BiblioSanctum from October 28th.

Links:
The Violent Fae Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48246084-the-violent-fae
The Violent Fae UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07Y7CRV1L
The Violent Fae US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Y7CRV1L
Under Ordshaw Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40092074-under-ordshaw
Under Ordshaw UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07CXYSZVN
Under Ordshaw US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CXYSZVN
Blue Angel Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43232280-blue-angel
Blue Angel UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07L33XJZ7
Blue Angel US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07L33XJZ7

Find Phil Williams: https://www.phil-williams.co.uk

Interview with JEAN LEE – Author of Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN #Brainfluffauthorinterview #JeanLeeauthorinterview

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I’d like to welcome Jean Lee, author of the recently released Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN which blew me away – see my review here. I’ve been reading Jean’s amazing blog for a while now and it’s always a pleasure so I was delighted to have a chance to chat to her about her writing.

How does Wisconsin inspire you as a writer?

Wisconsin breeds the fantastic.

We are home to peculiar, toothsome beasts like the Hodag, devourer of all-white bulldogs.

We are home to unique, word-some writers like Neil Gaiman: “There’s that tiny off-kilter nature in the Midwest that’s in the details,” he says when asked about writing…

Neil Gaiman says ‘American Gods’ is

rooted in Minnesota-Wisconsin weirdness

The writer found a strange quality in the Midwest that fuels his “American Gods.”

We are home to hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Picturesque, perhaps? Plainfield was indeed picturesque once—until Ed Gein was arrested in November of 1957. You may know the rest. Basically, Gein inspired many of the fictional horror icons we know today: Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill are all rooted in the reality of Ed Gein.
We drove through the wild patches between the hidden towns often when I was a child. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In the small farming town of my youth, I could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Wisconsin is filled with hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Rock Springs was a town of 600 when I was a child, a little grain-fill stop for the railroad. We didn’t even have a gas station until I turned 5, and our library, a small portion of the town’s community center, could fit in a utility closet (it probably was a utility closet at one point). Farms and wild wood filled the gaps between towns. Unless, of course, you went towards Wisconsin Dells, where the wilderness is trimmed and prepped and ready for its mandatory close-up before the tourist rushes to the proper civilization of water parks and casinos.

We drove through those wild patches often. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In Rock Springs, one could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Both Charlotte and Liam, the Fallen Prince, are strong, nuanced characters – when you first started writing this book whose story did you most want to tell?

At the outset, the story was all about Charlotte. It was strictly in her point of view, the story opened with more of Charlotte and her sister’s life before boarding the bus, and so on. I wanted Charlotte to escape her wretched life and fly. But once I got her into River Vine, I began to see an ensemble take shape, a family of characters bearing their own shames and despairs, all struggling to free themselves and find hope in the future.

Liam wasn’t much to me at the outset–just a pompous artist who had some growing up to do. It was Arlen, the teacher, that got me to slow down and see what he saw: a kind heart that had been brutalized so often it had forgotten what it meant to feel. The more I drafted, the more I came to see Liam’s inner struggle to grow beyond his cage.

When did you start writing Fallen Princeborn: Stolen?

2010. Yup, that’s a while ago, but life tends to fill the years, and in my case, I had just become a mom. Postpartum depression hit hard. Very, very hard. I felt very cut-off from life. I couldn’t feel the joy of motherhood. I found myself often staring out a window, trapped in walls yet somehow exiled outside of feeling. I’d look upon my sleeping baby and feel nothing but guilt because I couldn’t feel complete with motherhood. Then a friend introduced me to the awesome challenge that is National Novel Writing Month. From November 1st-30th, you are to write 50,000 words of a story not yet started (that’s cheating. Outlines are permissible, though.). The story may need more than 50K words, but what matters is that you reach that length in thirty days.

I swung it that year, and felt AMAZING. I was escaping the trap, driven to feel with characters outside of this world. I couldn’t just sit and dwell on individual lines or plot points—I had to keep going, and because I had to march on in the narrative, I found myself marching on in real life, too. I wasn’t staring out the window waiting for minutes to pass. I was…I was back, you know?

I felt a part of life again, enjoying the touch of my daughter’s tiny hands around my finger and her boundless grey-blue eyes. I reveled in these things. I felt…complete.

How did you figure out the names of your characters?

Charlotte’s name came from a baby book in the long, long, LONG process of choosing a name for our firstborn. After weeks of highlighting and crossing out names, we had narrowed ourselves down to Charlotte and ____. Well, we went with ____ for our kid, so I kept the name Charlotte for my heroine. I’d grown attached to the name over those weeks. It carries both feminine and masculine traits, both delicacy and strength. A perfect fit.

Nature was ripe for names, since this small society has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries. From this I uprooted names like Poppy, Ember, and even Campion (it’s a kind of rose). Many of the other names I chose after studying The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. I loved having this broad overview of names across various cultures. It’s through this book I discovered names that fit some aspect of my characters’ nature, such as Dorjan—“Dark Man” and Liam—“strong-willed warrior.” It’s important to have names that matter. Be it the history, the meaning, or because my child almost carried it—the name needs to matter.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing’s a must. When I write, I channel the depression away from my family and into a universe where my characters can fight it.

It’s never completely gone, you know, depression. We can slay it, burn it, bury it—but it never dies. Only by spinning stories can I transplant some of that darkness into villains, heroes, and worlds. From the darkness grows the adventure and the hope.

What has it been like – juggling writing, teaching and three kids?

Three years ago, you may as well have asked what it’s like to juggle three bowling pins with spikes on fire. Back when I was trying to write in bedlam, I stole whatever time I could before dawn. The television usually bought me at least an hour in the day to outline, draft dialogue, or keep up with my blog. The children’s naptime never felt long enough, but I made due.

Once the boys began preschool, I could at least promise myself one hour of writing time a day. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But that’s the thing about writing and keeping a job and running a household: every minute to write’s a blessing. Sometimes those days crash and burn. Other times—like when the boys didn’t have school—we found other ways to be creative.

Now that Blondie, Biff, and Bash are in school all day, I always have time for writing, be it for the blog, editing, drafting, etc. Granted, summer’s still a trial, but because I didn’t give up on writing when time was scarce, I have many stories to share here in the daylight hours.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Research can feel like a big time-suck, but when it comes to publishing, DO YOUR RESEARCH! There are so many scammers out there with their “author services” and “exclusive anthologies.” They’re going to talk you up, make you feel amazing, and before you know it you’ve paid four digits for lousy editing on a slap-dash affair no one’s going to see. Scope out the small presses. Join author groups online to gather recommendations for editors, book designers, and cover artists. Your story deserves to be seen, but when it’s ready.

Yes, an author platform really does help. Don’t think of it as yet another time suck; rather, treat it as the regimented prose exercise. Reading countless other voices, writing tight posts on a regular basis—all helps the craft, not hinders it. No, it’s not the novel you dream hitting the best-seller list, but making a website, commenting on social media—these simple actions give your name an author’s history. Other writers/publishers/agents/readers can trace your name back to studies, comments, and whatever else you write. You build that platform, you build a writer’s resume for the publishing business to see.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

When my sons’ principal calls. Nothing f***s over the creative mindset when you have to come and talk about one son, or the other, or both. Again.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I do write under a pseudonym, actually. When you’re a preacher’s kid, all your actions and talents are scrutinized—“you play piano just like your mom!” “You sing just like your dad!” “You write just like your father.” “You should be just like your mom and become a teacher.”

There comes a time when you get sick of all the comparisons, and just want to be known for something YOU do, not what your parents do. So when I started my site Jean Lee’s World, I wanted to see who’d like my writing for my writing, NOT because of who I am or whomever I’m related to. Writing under another name’s also allowed me to work through past traumas and current depressions without bringing any family members under fire, which is important to me. These are my demons, not theirs.

How did you begin writing the short stories that accompany your novel?
The short stories began as a writing experiment last year. My husband had been listening to John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, and a story began to shape in my head of a child dying at the hands of a cuddly creature before a dark skulking thing gets involved. When I showed the short story to my publishers, they encouraged me to write more short stories as little introductions to the universe of Charlotte and these imprisoned shapeshifters. Thus Tales of the River Vine was born, with stories following both antagonists and protagonists across the years.

The challenge with such “prequels,” as they are, was to find emotional centers without chipping away at the emotional arc of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. Take the last story of the collection, “Tattered Rhapsody.” Originally I intended the story to be called “Dirty Charlie,” featuring Charlotte the Wise-Ass taking on some gang members at her high school for profit. Girl’s got to earn bus money somehow, right?

But the story felt wrong. I couldn’t pin it at first. Charlotte’s there, she’s showing her strength, her protective instincts for her kid sister. And yet, the story felt…heartless.
Then it hit me: Charlotte’s heart doesn’t speak with her fists. It speaks with her music.
And just like that, the story’s heart found a pulse, a rhythm both despairing yet defiant. Just like Charlotte.

I hope you enjoy reading “Tattered Rhapsody” and the other Tales of the River Vine and telling me what you think. They’re all FREE on Kindle, Nook, and other publishing platforms!

 

 

 

The 7/7/7 Challenge

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I thought I’d pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the wonderful Sara Letourneau. And the challenge? To pick up my work in progress – currently my short story Picky Eaters I’m hoping to self publish with the help of my pal Mhairi Simpson before Christmas – flick to the seventh page, go down to the seventh line and post the next seven sentences,manuscript though I’m going to give you the next seven lines, because my sentences are very short.

What you need to know is that Granddad, a rather grumpy dragon cursed with the gift of time travelling, has recently moved in with his daughter and is looking after the grandchildren while their parents are off on a mating flight…

Sammy Jo’s bright gaze skewered Granddad. “Mummy says after the mating flight, there’ll be an egg.” She tilted her head. “How does that happen?”

Yearning for good old-fashioned phrases, like ‘Wait and see’, Granddad’s mind blanked. “Um… you know the birds and bees?”

Her brow-ridge wrinkled. “Do they go on mating flights, too?”

Granddad’s desperate glance rested on Billy Bob’s mound of stones. “Well, there’s baby boulders…”

So… the question is – would you want to read the rest?

Review of EBOOK short story Hookers and Blowe by Mhairi Simpson

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My pal Mhairi Simpson’s short story was on my To Read list and during a train journey to London, I decided to give myself a treat. Firstly, let’s get the business of the title out of the way first. While this story is aimed at an adult audience, it’s not ‘adult’. And certainly not about the sex trade and illegal nasal substances – sorry if you were suddenly excited, there…

hookers & bloweDetective Constable Robert Blowe has put away more criminals than most of his colleagues combined, but in a world of plea bargains and witness protection, he’s starting to wonder what the point is. His fatigue on the job gets worse when a murder of a local drug lord has Blowe on the back-foot and searching for answers to questions that go back to his childhood—to the scene of his own father’s killing. The murderer is no average criminal and seemingly always one step ahead. You can’t touch it, let alone cuff it, and if you see it, it’s probably after you. Blowe is the only person ever to survive an encounter with the shadowy killer. That was over thirty years ago—a distant memory. Until now. Blowe isn’t one to hide from a challenge, however, and with the aid of a peculiar informant, a little faith, and a considerable amount of guts he faces down his nemesis. If he doesn’t stop it then no one will.

And there you are – the hardbitten lawman finds himself confronted with a shadowy murderer who targets those who have crossed the line, themselves. Simpson’s prose is always enjoyable – her style has plenty of bounce and some nicely noirish images. I quickly got caught up into the story and found Blowe a sympathetic protagonist – but also was interested with the moral conundrum that Simpson sets. In an environment where the hardened criminal seems to be able to operate with impunity, is it so terrible if some shadowy vigilante picks off the occasional lawbreaker? And if the collateral damage is that occasionally an innocent gets caught up, as well – maybe that’s just the price to pay for having someone/thing out there that gives the wicked pause for thought…

Simpson manages to pack a lot into this short story, which kept me engrossed right up to the end – and wanting more when I reached the end. Looking forward to reading her first full-length novel…
8/10