Category Archives: short story

PICKY EATERS is now available! #PickyEatersshortstory #Moodboostingshortstory #PickyEaters4thebattleagainstmentalillness

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And here it is! Picky Eaters is now available as an ebook and in print. Click on the cover below or in the sidebar to be linked to your nearest Amazon store.

As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But all I do these days is write… So I dusted off one of my favourite characters, Casta the Grey. He’d got into a real pickle looking after those pesky grandchildren of his, but what happened next? I decided to find out – and that’s how this longer version came into being. It’s funny and quirky and hopefully will take you away from some of the big, scary stuff going on around us for a while. And I am donating all proceeds from Picky Eaters for the duration of its publication to mental health charities.

Click on cover to take you to your nearest Amazon store

BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

Hayley of Far too Fond of Books says: I don’t normally read fantasy but this short story is so lovely. The descriptions of the dragons are fab and it reminded me of books I loved when I was a child and made me wonder why I never reach for the genre anymore. 5 stars

Sneak peek…
He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to?
Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear.
The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps.
An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?”
“’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing.
The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!”
“Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively.
But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.”
Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.”
“They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.”
The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!”
She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.”
He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”



Sunday Post – 7th June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Apologies for the grotty appearance of this post. Unless I pay £147 a year, I can no longer use WordPress Classic editor. I am exploring other options, as having to struggle to this degree to get even this unsatisfactory result isn’t feasible – I’ve better things to do with my time…

We’re now into flaming June and our summer weather has abruptly departed. I would be happy to report that we’ve got rain – we haven’t. Gale force winds are savaging the garden and drying it out still further. Oh well.

It has been a busy week as I have been getting Picky Eaters ready to see the light of day – and I’m thrilled at the wonderful cover my mate Mhairi Simpson has produced. Many thanks to her for donating her time to this project. Other than that, more editing and working on Mantivore Warrior. Tonight there is another Zoom family gamesnight which we’re looking forward to joining – hopefully I won’t be smitten with another headache!

Last week I read:

The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…
I loved the Swords and Fire series – see my review of The Defiant Mage and found the unfolding situation at the start of this gripping tale immediately pulled me into the story. A great start to this spinoff series.

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne
Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop. As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students.
This was great fun – though there were various plot holes large enough to haul a grizzly through, it was well narrated and I really liked Theo Cray, so was happy to go along for the ride.

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby
PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…
This was an intriguing dynamic, where poor old Bell finds himself indentured to Lady McDeath, who sends him to sort out the most dangerous and messy tasks popping up around Cold City. I’m glad I have the second book on my Kindle, ready to read when I get the time. Review to follow.

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.
Yet another quirky paranormal murder mystery – it’s been something of a theme this week – I enjoyed this addition to this entertaining series and will be reviewing it in due course.


My posts last week:

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal

Friday Face-off featuring Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL * Review of The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of The Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Sunday Post – 31st May 2020


Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Tips to Photograph Bees https://wanderingambivert.com/2020/06/03/tips-to-photograph-bees/ Given that a lot of us are still in lockdown, wandering around the garden, or going for walks might give you the opportunity to take a pic of bees, here is some advice on how to do it well…

A Teacher’s Story #1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/06/03/a-teachers-story-1/ What an inspirational tale…

Talking with Kids about Racism https://platformnumber4.com/2020/05/30/talking-with-kids-about-racism/ Many thanks to Becky for posting this really useful resource. I very highly recommend the article ‘What White Children Need to Know About Race’…

The Last Video Store on Earth https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/06/04/guest-post-the-last-video-store-on-earth/ I loved this article…

Kvetch – 22 https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/06/03/kvetch-22/ And if you’re in need of a laugh, or two…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal #PickyEatersShortStory #PickyEaters4thebattleagainstmentalillness #PickyEaterscoverreveal

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I have mentioned several times over the last couple of months that I was working on another project – and today I am in a position to finally talk about it. As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But what? My own health issues and age meant I wasn’t in a position to volunteer for the variety of important jobs needing to be done. And given my sewing skills, or lack of them, no one would want to wear scrubs or masks made by yours truly. All I do these days is write…

So I went back through my stories, searching for this one. The story of a grumpy old grandfather, who is suddenly faced with looking after a couple of lively young dragonets… It had been published as a 1,000 story in Every Day Fiction way back in 2008, but I added more, as this family wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s humorous and quirky and as far away from the current difficult situation as you can get – a quick, easy read for folks, who perhaps like me, aren’t looking for anything too demanding or downbeat right now.

I’m planning on publishing Picky Eaters – Part I on 22nd June and for the duration of its publishing lifetime, I am donating all proceeds to mental health charities. So I’m hoping the story itself will provide a bit of escapist entertainment, while the profits will also go to a cause that I know is in desperate need of more resources. Mhairi Simpson, my book buddy and awesome cover artist has also donated her time and work on this cover for nothing, as her contribution towards this project.

In the meantime, advance reader copies of this story are available at Booksprout – this is the link – for the first 20 reviewers interested in reading about the exploits of Castellan and those lively dragonets, Sammy Jo and Billy Bob.

BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

Sneak peek…
He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to?
Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear.
The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps.
An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?”
“’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing.
The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!”
“Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively.
But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.”
Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.”
“They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.”
The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!”
She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.”
He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”





Sunday Post – 31st May, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Mantivore Dreams is free for today and tomorrow – just click on the cover in the sidebar, which will take you to your local Amazon outlet to claim a copy…

The weather feels like high summer – long, sunny days and no rain. Except for a bit of a nip in the air. So Himself is still trudging around with the watering can. The bronze and pink bed is looking fabulous and my cordyline has started flowering – the scent is amazing, intense and lily-like. And now my yarrow is looking beautiful.

I have now finished my first major edit of Mantivore Warrior and I’m really pleased and excited at how that is going. Wyrd and Wonder 2020 has just finished and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part. Many thanks to Imyril @ There’s Always Room for Another, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work in making the event such a success.

A lot less happily – I had a go at the WordPress block editor option which is about to engulf those of us who haven’t yet switched across during the week and it was a complete car crash. It won’t successfully wrap text around images, the way I’ve doing for years and I don’t find it remotely intuitive. I managed to flip back to Classic, but I know that eventually I’ll have to get to grips with it and I’m dreading it☹. I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the help provided – while the assistant was very friendly, the instructional videos wouldn’t load, the graphic how-to clips moved far too fast for me to follow. And at one point when trying to load yet another non-functioning link they provided – my trusty desktop fizzled to a stop – it never does that! Which was when I broke off asking for help… So my blogging in the coming weeks might be a bit sporadic while I grapple with the misery ahead of me.


Last week I read:
Less than usual, because I started off rereading Mantivore Prey, the second book in my Arcadian Chronicles series, before starting the edit of Mantivore Warrior – but I don’t count that in my reading listings, as it comes under the heading of Editing!

Night’s Tooth NOVELLA by Jean Lee
Mississippi River Valley, 1870s. The white man wields rails and guns to bring law to the land. But there are more than wild animals hiding in the territories, and it will take more than guns to bring them down. Sumac the bounty hunter needs no guns to hunt any bandit with a price on his head, even one as legendary and mysterious as Night’s Tooth. But Sumac didn’t count on other bounty hunters coming along as competition, nor did he expect hunters sharing his own magical gifts. It’s one man against a gang and a mystery, all to protect a train that must cross the territories at all costs…

I love Jean Lee’s immersive, punchy writing style and she completely nailed this gripping shapeshifter Western fanatasy story. Review to follow.


Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The year is 2050: automated cities, vehicles, and homes are now standard, artificial Intelligence, CRISPR gene editing, and quantum computing have become a reality, and climate change is in full swing―sea levels are rising, clouds have disappeared, and the planet is heating up. Quinn Buyers is a climate scientist who’d rather be studying the clouds than getting ready for her wedding day. But when an unexpected tragedy causes her to lose everything, including her famous scientist mother, she embarks upon a quest for answers that takes her across the globe―and she uncovers friends, loss and love in the most unexpected of places along the way. Gravity Is Heartless is bold, speculative fiction that sheds a hard light on the treatment of our planet even as it offers a breathtaking sense of hope for the future.

This was an entertaining action-filled near future adventure that left everything on rather a cliffhanger. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Three AUDIBLE mini-reviews – How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero; The Lost Plot; Uprooted

Friday Face-off featuring Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles is FREE!

Review of Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Grave Secrets: the Lavington Windsor Mysteries – Book 1 by Alice James

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader tag – Wyrd and Wonder 2020

Review of The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall

Sunday Post – 24th May 2020

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

My Own Sorrow https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2020/05/27/my-own-sorrow/ Some of you might know Drew as an outspoken book blogger, whose forthright views often include rather sweary language – but he also produces poems of wrenching sadness…

It’s Never Too Late: 10 Writers and Artists That Were Late Bloomers https://leighhecking.com/2017/04/04/its-never-too-late-10-writers-artists-that-were-late-bloomers/ As someone who won’t see 60 again, I found this article very encouraging…

10 of the Most Beautiful Poems in the English Language https://interestingliterature.com/2020/05/beautiful-poems-english-language/ Regulars to my Sunday Post will know I’m a fan of this site – but this is a VERY big claim to make. I wholeheartedly agreed with one of these choices and thought a couple more were maybes – what do you think?

Breaking Through Writer’s Block https://writerunboxed.com/2020/05/27/breaking-through-writers-block/ This is a subject that fascinates me, particularly after watching several talented students wrestle with this distressing problem…

Thursday Doors – Castle Saunderson https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/thursday-doors-castle-saunderson/ Somehow I’ve missed out on Jean’s posts recently, so I was delighted to catch with this magical offering…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






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