Thursday 20 September 2018

Quiet Library

The new post is up on my website here - I hope you feel free to drop in and have a look.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Tales from the White Hart

The paperback is on its way!  I have finally given up trying to lose the rogue blank page and committed.  The paperback collection of Tales from the White Hart, bundled up with Across a Misty Bridge, is now available.

I still can't believe it has happened, but here's the proof - Tales from the White Hart

I now feel almost like a 'proper' author.  It also makes me feel incredibly grateful to all those who have encouraged me and those who take the time to read the words I've written.  Thank you! 

I've decided that if I feel almost like a 'proper' author then perhaps it's time for me to act like an author.  I'm starting with a giveaway.  Leave your email address in the comments below before August 16th 2018 and I will pick a random winner and send a signed copy of 'Tales from the White Hart'.  The winner will be announced on August 21st 2018. 

If you wish to enter this giveaway and wish to receive my newsletter then let me know in the comment.  I will not add you to my mailing list unless you ask.  If you do ask, then I promise I will treat your email address with absolute care, keep it securely, never share it and I promise that if you ask to be removed from the list then I will do so straight away.  I know there are rules about keeping information, and I will be utterly conforming to the letter of them, and I will also follow the spirit of the rules and treat your information with care and respect. 

The first newsletter will come out in mid September, which gives me six weeks to learn how to do newsletters.  I'll include some chat, any news, my utter and sincere appreciation for anyone who reads the things I write and a small piece of original fiction, such as an extra chapter from one of my books, a story giving insights into a character that I use or perhaps an advance chapter in an upcoming book. 

Thank you for all the support, the encouragement and the kindness.  It has made 'Tales from the White Hart' possible. 

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Meet for Lunch

I know the step I have to take,
I know the choice I have to make.
I smile and try to take a bite,
My mouth is dry, my throat is tight.
I take a sip of lukewarm tea,
Look up and see you watching me.
I hoped that we would share a meal
Before I tell you how I feel.
Aware of hurt and furtive looks
I blurt out, ‘your new sandwich sucks.’

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Review: Dangerous Liaisons by Barbara Tyree

This is not an awesome book.  It is a frustrating book.  There is an awesome book in there, or possibly two awesome books, but this edition doesn’t quite hit the mark.

The story of FBI Agent Sierra Lancaster and her interactions with the people around her is potentially gripping with plenty of twists and turns.  There are old flames, FBI agents, partners, sort-of-estranged relatives, shoot-outs, deals, busts and a whole swathe of difficult and challenging interactions.  I am a sucker for complex interactions and intricate layers of relationships and this is almost awesome.  I found myself muttering as I read because it isn’t quite there, and it could be.  I would almost be enjoying a sudden revelation, but the foreshadowing hadn’t quite hit the mark.  I would be almost caught up in a character’s development, but it wasn’t quite consistent.  I would be almost hooked on the story but some of the details didn’t strike true.  I finished this book wanting to kick something because I read a nearly good book.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this book.  If a second edition comes out, however, I recommend grabbing it with both hands.  I sort of hope that Ms Tyree makes two separate stories out of it, because there are at least two separately awesome books in there.  I shall definitely be watching out for further work from her, as there are some great stories in there and I want to read the awesome ones. 

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Iron Crown

The legendary Iron Crown was now just rusted metal.  He pushed aside the rubbish on the floor and picked it up.  It was still surprisingly heavy.  He turned it over in his hands and even though it was so decayed he could feel the power in it.  It was heavy with more than the physical iron.  Centuries of being the loadstar for every ambitious heart had left their mark.   Had it been worth it?  Had all the scheming and plotting been worth the pain?  Had the brief season of rule been worth rending the world apart. 
He glanced through the gaps in the ruined castle walls.  The sun was getting lower.  He had to leave before night fell and the Dark Ones walked. 

Thursday 19 July 2018


Many walk past his statue.  School children sketch it and history teachers wave wildly as they walk its bounds.  His name is in legend.  But for those who have the sight, his ghost huddles at the foot of the bronze, sobbing inconsolably, his hands shielding his head, as he remembers the blood shed in his wake.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

The Bells of St Brigit

I thought I would revisit this piece I wrote back in 2014 in response to a writing prompt from Write on Edge.  

The bells of St. Brigit's are calling tonight,
The moonlight is sparkling over the sea,
The stars are shedding their magical light,
And my lover's dead soul is calling to me.

The roses are breathing their passion filled scent,
The soft waves are hissing onto the sand,
The bells chimes are ringing an empty lament,
I feel the blessed touch of my lover's cold hand.

Down the stone staircase and out to the sand,
Across the storm wreckage to the now quiet sea,
My lover steps slowly away from the land,
A final farewell and he's now lost to me.   

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Free Books!

There are a lot of free ebooks out there.  Some are legitimate free ebooks which are released on Amazon, Smashwords and similar places to tempt readers into buying other books from the same author.  Others are curiosities.  Perhaps someone wants to share their knowledge of making chainmail or crochet or gas metal arc welding and for whatever reason don't feel it right putting a price on it. 

There are other legitimate sites where the books are free.  You can visit your local library (some lend ebooks as well), or read books that would otherwise have a cost through subscription schemes like Amazon Prime or Scribd.  You can even share books around.  There are a lot of book exchanges, some more official than others.  I found a load listed on Wikipedia here

Some free ebooks deal with health matters.  Sometimes those who have struggled down dark paths of addiction, disordered eating or chronic illness want to share their experience and how they made it through.  They can be a valuable resource to people lost in bad places.  Please always check advice from these sources against reputable medical advice.  It's not that all of the books would mislead you, but some are safer than others.  You are precious and worth doing due diligence. 

Then there are places out there that tout that they supply free ebooks, but perhaps aren't the safest places to find a good read.  If you are not familiar with a site, it's worth double checking or skipping altogether.  The last thing anyone needs is to find themselves downloading the latest virus instead of the most recent blockbuster. 

These are all modern books dealing with new fiction or current techniques.  But did you know that there are a lot more books out there that may have passed under your radar?  For example, did you know about 'Internet Sacred Text Archive'?  This is a collection of free texts on folklore, esoteria, religion and mythology.  You can donate or subscribe to read without ads, but if you do neither you can still read such works as 'Four Ancient Books of Wales' which is a translation made in 1868 of some of the older works in the Welsh tradition.  I am sure that fantasy writers of all types would have a gleam in their eye at the thought of dipping into the legends of the saints, the Vikings, the Celts, Alchemy, the Pacific, or even UFOs.

You can also have a rummage around the kindle bookstore on Amazon.  Did you know that there are a lot of free classics on there?  I have no longer have an excuse to avoid Moby Dick - free on Amazon.  I ought to be dipping in to Immanuel Kant, or Dickens, or Kafka - all with editions of their work free on Amazon.  I won't, though.  I'm currently listening to the free Audio book, The Children of Odin.  This channel, like many others on YouTube, has a collection of out of copyright books read by individuals and while some are less than perfect, others rival professional audio books. 

If you are looking for a really good site for free, obscure, out of copyright books, then check out Project Gutenberg.  There are currently over 57,000 free books, including 'Memoires de Garibaldi' by Dumas, Dracula by Bram Stoker (seriously worth reading the original if you haven't already and if you want to pay for an audio version the one with Brian Cox rocks), and Persuasion by Jane Austen.

And after going back to all these great places, I think I may spend some time dipping in to a chapter or two.  I may be gone some time. 

Thursday 5 July 2018

Elfshot at Dawn

They got Jenkins just as dawn broke and the mist was sidling away from the valley.  It was elfshot, straight in the chest above the heart.  We carried him back as he raved, our legs dampened and cooled with the morning dew and the light spilling golden through the mist and down the valley.  Into the farmhouse we took him and put him near the roof with a Bible next to his bed and a rosary over the bedstead.  The priest was slow to come but prayed hard when he came and someone was always watching as Jenkins told us about the sky kingdoms sailing through the skies like swans and cooed at pictures on the walls that only he could see. 

The hen keeper could hear his shouts as she collected her eggs and topped up the water trough.  The cows being milked in the cool dairy with rowan twigs hung above the stalls could hear his cries.  Neither the doctor not the priest could pull the elf shot as Jenkins sang wildly as if under a mackerel sky. 

He died at sunset, not well, and we did not bless the day the Shining Ones, the Fair Folk, the Faerie returned. 

Thursday 28 June 2018

Grave Insight

“I miss him.” Geoff said, looking around the hall. 
“So do I, but I hate admitting it.” Stephanie took off her Chanel coat and hesitated for a moment before hanging it on the peg next to Uncle Jeremiah’s dusty jacket.  “He never approved of me.”
“Or me.” Geoff took off his own faded jacket.  He thought it was quite a spectrum as he hung his jacket up next to his wife’s fuchsia model.  Uncle Jeremiah’s old jacket was probably older than most vintage cars.  Stephanie’s up to the minute coat was probably worth more than most vintage cars and was absolutely right for a top flight barrister.  His own humble raincoat was not as old as Uncle Jeremiah’s but was far more battered and had been bought only with practicality in mind. 
“I looked over the will.  It’s not worth contesting, but what was his solicitor thinking?” Stephanie ran a finger over a dusty table and shuddered.  “I mean, the house is signed over to us, all the bank accounts are closed and the estate is considered settled.  But there is still around a million pounds unaccounted for.”
“It’s not unaccounted for, according to Colin.” Geoff had not had a good opinion of the solicitor.  “It’s hidden in the house.”
“To be precise, the whereabouts is hidden in this house.” Stephanie sighed and got out her phone.  I suppose I had better start making a list.”
“What do you mean?” Geoff opened the door into the sitting room and wandered in. 
“Well, a list of what we need to do.” Stephanie followed him, automatically straightening some sagging cushions.  “It all needs a deep clean and we should probably redecorate.  This is a beautifully sized room with a great view of the garden and we could strip out all these bookcases and go for something more minimalist.” Stephanie trailed off as she checked the side table and adjusted an ornament on the mantelpiece. 
“It wouldn’t be the same.” Geoff said.  He stood motionless in the centre of the room, an older, greying man with a nondescript sweater and faded jeans as his curated, blonde wife darted around the room, unable to stay still.
Stephanie paused.  “No, it wouldn’t.  I can’t imagine it changing.  It would be like losing another member of the family.”
“It needs a good clean,” Geoff said, “And perhaps a lick of paint, but I can’t imagine it ever changing.  There has always been a sofa at that angle, so that you can watch the birds in the apple tree outside.”
Stephanie tested the sofa with a cautious hand.  “Do you know how hard it is to get hold of a decent upholsterer these days?  But it’s sound.” She checked the small bookcase in the corner.  “I mean, I can imagine replacing the sofa but putting the new one in the same place.  I can imagine different books in the bookcase, but I there always has to be a bookcase here.” She sat down suddenly.  “I wish we had seen more of Uncle Jeremiah in the last few years.”
“My nerves couldn’t stand it.” Geoff said, sitting next to her and taking her hand.  “He would be arguing that you should be at home in the house and why wasn’t I in the London office.  You would be arguing that he was an old fossil and when was he going to get out of the nineteenth century.  He would be complaining about how much you spent on handbags and you would be complaining that he hadn’t replaced his wreck of a car.  It would be murder.”
“He didn’t understand us.” Stephanie looked around.  “But he was always there.”
“I know, my dear.” Geoff said.  “The problem was, he was always there with an argument.  And then your career took off and I was busy with the kids.  There was never the time.”
“At least you called him.” Stephanie’s thin fingers clung to Geoff’s sturdy hand. 
“I rang for a listen at least twice a week.” Geoff agreed and smiled.  “Come on, let’s look around.  According to Colin, we need to have a grave insight.”
Stephanie snorted.  “I suppose we need to look out for stone crosses.”
“That would fit Uncle Jeremiah’s sense of humour.” Geoff helped his wife up and they wandered back into the hall. 

It was hard, going from room to room.  Every room had a ghost of an argument and a swathe of happy memories.  The study was the hardest.  It seemed to have become Uncle Jeremiah’s living space, with a tray for his meals sat on a table near the door with a salt cellar perched in the corner.  Photographs were everywhere you looked. 
“Look, do you remember this?” Stephanie picked up a picture.  “It was the summer after we married.”
Geoff looked over her shoulder.  They looked so young in their dated clothing, sprawled on the unkempt lawn at the back and filled with joy.  “I remember.  We had the most amazing time.  We had most of our meals in the garden, played cards for matchsticks every night and you and he had a ding dong battle about the Children’s Act.”
Stephanie shrugged and put down the picture, wiping her dusty fingers on a tissue as she wandered around the room.  “Geoff, come and have a look at this.”
Geoff followed her to a dim corner.  “That’s a lovely picture, and it’s full of graves.  Perhaps it’s a clue.”
Stephanie looked hard at the painting.  It looked nineteenth century, with dark, small leaved trees and sprawling shadows.  Graves framed the path to a ruined church and it pulled you in to its sombre centre.  “If Uncle Jeremiah was here, we would be having an argument right now about Romanticism versus Classicism and I would be quoting Byron and he would be talking about Tchaikovsky.” She swallowed a lump in her throat. 
Geoff leant forward.  “I bet this is the clue.  This tells us where the money has been stashed.”
“I suppose so.” Stephanie straightened the picture.  “It’s got graves on it.  Perhaps we need to count them or something.”
“At least it doesn’t refer to his grave.” Geoff said, his head to one side as he studied the picture.  “He was cremated and his ashes scatted at sea.”
“He said he was going to do that so I couldn’t dance on his grave.” Stephanie took a deep breath.  Hardened barristers did not cry. 
Geoff frowned.  “It’s not a very good clue.  I mean, shouldn’t it have a map or a motto or something?”
“You are a genius with numbers, my darling, but you never worked out how Uncle Jeremiah’s mind worked.  The grave is a red herring.” Stephanie lifted the picture down.  It was surprisingly light and left dust marks across the sleeves of her silk blouse.  “He would never give us a plain clue.” She turned the painting over.  On the back was a small key and a nondescript envelope taped to the corner.  She laid the picture face down on the desk and picked at the tape holding the key as Geoff worked the envelope free.
“It’s numbers.” Geoff said, spreading out the slip of paper.
Stephanie wasn’t paying full attention.  The key was small but well made.  She looked around the room and the large, mahogany desk had keyholes in its drawers.  She found which lock the key fitted on the third attempt.
“At least, it’s numbers but I don’t think it’s about the numbers.” Geoff said.
Stephanie turned the key in the oiled lock and pulled open the drawer.  It held a handbag, a beautiful, Hermes Birkin bag, in her favourite fuchsia pink.  She picked it up and stroked the immaculate surface.  The clasp moved easily under her fingers and nestled inside the perfect lining was a note addressed to her in Uncle Jeremiah’s spiky handwriting.
“It’s a bank account number.  I’m pretty sure it’s international.” Geoff said but Stephanie wasn’t paying attention.  She unfolded the note.

Dearest Stephanie, Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more that while you may not be my idea of a good wife, you are perfect for Geoff and an asset to the legal profession.  Please forgive an old man his mistakes.  And don’t go spending all the money on handbags.  This one should be enough. Jx 

Behind her, Geoff was checking his phone.  “It’s a Swiss account.  We’ve found the money.  Stephanie, we’ve found the money!” But she couldn’t answer.  All she could do was choke back the tears as she hugged the bag. 

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Is It Art?

I went into Leeds today.  I had a few errands to run, the sun was shining and I thought I would make the most of it.  I got off the bus in City Square and saw this.

It's a statue of some legs, in case you haven't guessed.  It's been done very well, and someone has gone to a lot of trouble and effort and it's bright and colourful and contemporary.  I wasn't sure about it, though.  I'm not educated in Art, and I think if you have a fine arts background and you know more about context then it's probably a really great piece.  For a philistine like me, it just looked like some colourful legs.  There's some more about it here.

A little later, in Briggate, I took this picture.

As you can tell, I'm not brilliant when it comes to pictures.  This is a statue of Minerva, apparently, and I think was sculpted more recently.  As I said, I'm completely uneducated, but I love the way that the solid metal is made to look like fabric folds.  According to a snippet here, Minerva was the goddess of weaving and commerce which is absolutely perfect for Leeds which was built on textiles in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and I love the owl mask, as owls are on the Leeds coat of arms.  I understand this as much as I understand anything.  It tells me stories in the way that the Legs don't.

The question is - are they both 'Art'?  Of course they are, and some people will prefer one and some the other.  In both cases someone took an idea and translated it into something solid using skill and passion.  The problem isn't in the sculpture, the problem is in the question.  The question is poison. 

In Leeds Art Gallery there is a huge canvas painted blue.  That's it - just a vast, flat, blue rectangle.  My instinctive reaction is - someone had a sale on blue paint.  However I have been told that there is a lot of skill in getting an even tone and texture over such a large canvas and that those who paint will really appreciate it.  I know that whoever painted it did a better job than I could ever do.  Who am I to say that they are wrong? 

That question - is it art? - is poison to writing as well.  You can be caught up writing the most exciting, challenging, thrilling story.  You can see the action, hear the voices, even smell the smoke and flowers but there is always a little doubt.  There's always a little niggle.  Are the characters deep enough?  What about extended metaphors?  Have I let an adverb sneak in?  Should I have included this character?  Should I have cut that character?  I need to edit more. 

I think that the questions you should ask are things like, are the characters believable?  Are they consistent?  Do they have the same eye colour from one chapter to the next (it happens!)?  Does the story make sense?  Does it have variations in pace?  How about the descriptive passages?  How does the dialogue sound?  All these are valid questions.  You should never stop unless you can say that you are proud of it.  But if you find yourself asking, is it art? then I think you need to step away from the writing and do grocery shopping or cleaning or something that ties you back to the mundane.  From my experience, chasing Great Art is bad for the mental health. 

I don't agree with everything that Rudyard Kipling wrote, but darn it, he could work rhythm and I was reminded of his poem when I saw the Legs this morning - The Conundrum of the Workshops

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Feeling the Tension

Your monuments, what do they mean?
Build your stone high and shout your deity.
Hope that the stone outlasts the age
Hold tight to written, lawful piety

And when the old roots wrack your faith
When the cold moon bites and rags your mind
How do you hold on to the bitter dregs?
How do you slip into your role assigned?

Old shadows creep and stretch before your feet
Old lanes and lines cross across your path
You’re happy to bask in summer’s generous warmth
Are you willing to take the lash of winter’s wrath?

Look at the stone path, that’s where you tread,
Turning away to turfed green paths that roam.
Is it because your faith outlasts the stone?
Or do you listen when your soul hears home?

Tuesday 20 February 2018


From an awesome prompt by Our Write Side

You tell me that he's wrong for me,
You say it will not last.
You point me to the exit sign.
I smile and walk straight past.

Thursday 8 February 2018


Another response to an amazing prompt from Our Write Side with an amazing image taken by Tara Roberts

I look around, my mind is filled
With pots and cloths and clothes and things
The clutter that comes in bags from school
The scattered stuff the postman brings

A sock hangs off the angled chair
A cup is perched right on the edge
Fingerprints on walls abound
Cat fur lines the window ledge

But if you walk across the park
And head towards the underpass
Ignore the coloured painted tags
Step round the routine broken glass

Look up, a square of pristine sky,
Windwashed leaves are dancing free,
Nothing besides, that’s all I want
The sky, the leaves and, down here, me. 

Friday 2 February 2018

As It Should Be

Tell me again, about the fight
And how you fought it to the damnation
See me writing how you fought the fight
And I look on and nod in admiration.

Hey, look at you, I lean in closer
You fought the fight and here I am admiring
You are the destiny, I just cook the meals
You come home to a hero’s welcome

And as I scurry round to find the feast
And wonder whether the wine will last the night
Tell me again about the fight
And I’ll make sure an audience awaits.

I do a thousand thousand tiny works,
I find your shield and shirt and sword
And lay in preparations for your feast
And wonder if I’ve done enough

So here you are, hero and warrior wild
And I am grateful that you stoop to me.
You are the centre of the bardic tales
And I, peripheral, will worship thee.