The Friday Fiction with Michael Bolan

I am delighted to introduce Irish author Michael Bolan to you today. Like me, Michael bases his books on Irish myths. Here is an excerpt from his latest book, The Stone Bridge; check it out,  and give the gift of a book this Christmas… even if it’s to yourself! Enjoy!


Michael Bolan’s latest book

Isabella’s good mood stayed with her as she walked her horse slowly through the ancient trees of the forest. It seemed that most of the world was covered by trees, something she never complained about. The soft sounds of the forest soothed her, the rustling of the leaves overhead helped her forget the perils that lay ahead.

She kept thinking about her mission and about the family she had left hours previously. Their life was etched in sweat and toil, bound by the cycle of the seasons. It was so different to the pampered life she had enjoyed in Leuven, or even the unusual existence she had built for herself within the warband, something she had only been able to do because of the education, both formal and informal, that she had received as Duke Henry’s daughter. And yet, despite being simple, uneducated folk, Dentek and his family were happy; happier than most.

Spending time with them had refreshed her; as a long bath washes grime from the skin, her brief sojourn with the farmer left her feeling more alive than she had for weeks. Her burning need to rejoin her people was lessened, her desire for Conor banked like an overnight fire, as she found her thoughts repeatedly returning to the simple family. Leaving Dentek without offering some form of recompense for their hospitality galled her, so she slowed her horse and wheeled the beast around. She would hide her coinpurse where it would be easily found. She found herself humming a gentle ditty as she moved through the woods, dappled in the sunlight.

The sun was beginning to sink towards the western horizon when she smelled the smoke. Assuming that one of the farmers in the hamlet was burning stubble in the fields, she thought nothing of it and continued riding. Something struck her as odd about the smell. It was early to be clearing fields; that was done post-harvest, the ash serving to enrich the soil for the next year. And the smell was strange: not the golden dryness of burning straw, redolent of leather and sunshine; but a more acrid smoke which made her think of Leuven’s ironworks. Frowning, she picked up her pace, bouncing in the saddle as she trotted her horse towards the hamlet.

As she crested the ridge overlooking the shallow valley in which the homestead lay, she felt bile rise in her throat. The thatched rooves of the farmhouses were ablaze, the livestock running wild. Of Dentek, his family and his neighbours, there was no sign. She felt a curious detachment settle over her as she slipped from her saddle and unhooked her packs. Without haste, she loaded her four pistols, strung her bowstaff, checked the fletching of her arrows, and loosened her throwing knives in their sheaths. Satisfied she was ready for battle, she remounted and kicked her heels hard into the horse’s sides. Well-trained for war, the stallion galloped headlong through the trees towards the village.

*****

The roan steed crashed through the treeline like a cannonball, hooves ripping up great clods as it raced towards the homestead, rider clinging centaur-like to its neck. As they neared the village, Isabella could smell the metallic tang of blood and knew her worst fears would be realised. The dispassion that had taken her deepened. Her mind focused on what was to come.

Rider and mount burst into the open space between the houses, unable to stop. Her eyes caught glimpses of dead bodies strewn between the buildings, and she almost crashed into two demons running from one of the houses, swords dripping garish blood onto the hard-packed earth. The pistol in either hand boomed, and the two demons fell, their twisted carmine masks alive as they screamed. Her hands holstered the spent guns and raised her second pair. Hoping that the madcap ride had not loosened their deadly load, she raised and fired, dropping another pair of demon-masked men. And then she was through, her mount barrelling out of the homestead and back into the open fields.

Isabella paused at the treeline to reload her guns and then trotted the lathered horse along the edge of the fields to approach the village from a different angle. Her horse gathered speed once again, and she used her knees to steer it between houses, surprising yet another pair of attackers. One gun rang true, dropping a fifth, while the other misfired. With the grace of an acrobat, she drew her spare pistols and kicked her leg over the saddle, dropping to the earth and rolling, the farmyard dust coating her dark leather armour. She regained her feet with grace, sighting the attacker as she did so. Firing both pistols, she killed him without qualm.

Her senses were fast becoming overloaded with the rank charnel-house odour when stone chips exploded from the wall of the house behind her. She hadn’t even heard the report of the musket. Another shot boomed out, pinning her down behind the low stone wall of the communal well. A brief lull suggested that there were only two marauders left, and that they were reloading their guns. Thinking it likely they both had pistols as well as their muskets, Isabella’s mind raced, unfettered by emotion. Knowing her current position was untenable, she looked around for ideas.

The well-bucket lay on its side, its contents long soaked into the dry soil. Hefting it with her right hand, she used a throwing knife to saw through its rope before throwing it backwards over the well, towards the muskets’ position. Two shots rang out immediately, and she burst from cover, sprinting in a crouch towards the byre. The large double doors were barred shut, but the small picket hung open. Inside she could hear the bellowing of the bull, driven mad by the noise and smell. She dove headfirst through the door, hearing two more shots ring out, higher-pitched than before. Pistols, she noted, as she skidded face-first through the fragrant loam of the byre floor. She rushed to the doors and lifted the stout wooden bar that held them closed, before spinning and flipping the latches of the bull’s pen.

The enraged beast burst from its stall like a horse at the beginning of a race, knocking the byre doors from their hinges as it escaped its confines. Twelve hundredweight of prize beef made no attempt to pause for the man before it; in fact the bull’s weak eyesight didn’t register the obstacle until it was too late. Isabella followed the beast from the byre to see one of the remaining attackers crushed to a messy pulp under its broad hooves, dead before he could scream. She ran for cover, throwing knives in hand as she sprinted.

“A woman!” roared a voice behind her, astonishment colouring the anger it contained. “You demonic bitch!” it screamed, the irony of the statement lost. Isabella skidded to a halt beside the wall of one of the houses, realising with a start that it was Dentek’s. At least, it had been. Fury rose inside her, as she stood and walked into the open.

Before her stood a heavily-muscled man, his six-foot frame clad in blood-red leather armour. He cast his pistol aside, having no time to reload it, and drew a shortsword from his belt. His left hand held a long dagger, blade crimson with the spilled blood of the villagers. As Isabella walked towards him, he spat and stretched his neck from side to side, readying himself to pounce. “Who are you, whore? I would know your name before I fuck your dead body,”

The pair were separated by no more than three yards. Isabella dropped her knives. “I am the bull of seven battles; I am the eagle on the rock.” She undid her belt buckle, allowing her empty sheaths to fall to the earth, doing the same with her shoulder quiver. “I am a flash from the sun; I am a strong wild boar.” Her voice grew from a whisper, gaining strength as she stared at the man. Never had she felt such hatred, such righteous anger.

Impatient to finish her, the man attacked. His shortsword slashed crosswise before swinging back, as he stabbed his dagger towards her belly. He was fast, but Isabella was not where he had thought. She skipped aside. “I am a salmon in the water.” Her right foot shot out, catching the warrior in the side, knocking the wind from him. He whirled, both blades swinging low to catch her legs. She jumped, smashing a foot into his face as she spun sideways. “I am the word of knowledge,” she cried as he attacked again, his blades finding nothing but air as she spun away.

The man stepped back, ripping off his mask, exposing a cold face reddened with anger. “Who are you, bitch?” he shouted. “Ach, it matters not, you will die!” He leaped forward again, swinging both blades in sequence, chopping and scything as if cutting wheat. Isabella’s hands darted out, blocking the insides of his forearms, deflecting his blows, seemingly at the last possible moment. Her punches began to take on force, beating him in the stomach, the chest, the neck, the head, as she shouted in his face, “I am the head of the spear in battle!

Her hands flew back, striking his wrists at the same time, knocking the blades from unfeeling fingers. With all her force she drove her right fist forward, her bunched knuckles hitting the man’s throat. She heard the gristly crunch as his windpipe collapsed. He flew backwards, landing on his back.

Isabella stared down at his gurgling countenance. “I am the god that puts fire in the head. I am vengeance. I am Nemesis. And I will wait for you in Hell.”

She stamped her heel down on his face.




Michael Bolan: nomadic Irish storyteller

Author Michael Bolan
Author Michael Bolan

It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realise that all he actually did was tell stories.

There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.

Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.

Now living in Prague (again), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.

Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.

His website (http://www.michaelbolan.org) is a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings – along with reviews of books he finds lying around the internet.

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelbolan225

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelbolan225

LinkedIn: cz.linkedin.com/in/bolanov

Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/michaelbolan

Conor Kelly and The Fenian King | An Excerpt

So sorry if anyone just received a blank post notification from me… somehow in the seconds between finishing this post and hitting the publish button, wordpress managed to lose my entire content. There have been some weird things going on at wordpress lately,,, gremlins in the machine?

Ali Isaac - Conor Kelly and the Fenian King

Hugh from Hugh’s Views and News has very kindly featured my book, Conor Kelly and the Fenian King as his Book of the Month… cue sparkly lights and glitter! Yaaay! Thanks, Hugh! In tandem with this, you can find the book at only 99c/ 99p on Amazon, and completely FREE on Smashwords and associated retailers. And now, here is an excerpt…


Chapter Forty Two – The Disappeared

the present day…

 

Conor coughed and spluttered as the dust rose in clouds around him, then admonished himself; his body and lungs were safe in his aunt’s little Micra at the bottom of the hill. As a free roaming spirit, he couldn’t be harmed by clouds of dust, or collapsing masonry, or landslides, or whatever it was that had caused Sidhe Finn to cave in.

But Ciara could. What if she was killed, crushed beneath a fallen orthostat? What if…

Conor felt waves of panic swell inexorably through him like the tides of the sea. He couldn’t find her. He couldn’t see her. Even with his spirit eyes and his supernatural senses, he couldn’t detect any sign of her presence. It was as if she had simply vanished.

But that was impossible. Maybe she had got up and wandered outside, dazed and confused. Maybe she had a head injury, and didn’t know where she was. She could be out there, floundering about in a state of bewilderment.

Oh my God! She could fall off the cliff and plunge to an untimely death in the quarry…

He had to get out, had to find her. He took another quick look around. Many of the orthostats had fallen inward, held up from the floor only by the central pedestal which supported the coffin. A couple of the ancient stones had cracked in two. The coffin had been smashed into matchwood, but Conor saw no evidence of bones. Fortunately, much of the loose rubble which traditionally comprised the infill between the chamber ceiling and the mound had been removed by Aylmer’s builders, and replaced with blocks and mortar, thus forming a secure foundation for the tower. The old mortar had cracked and crumbled in places, releasing some of its bricks, but had mostly held firm. The devastation was not as terrible as he had expected.

But his heart jumped into his mouth when he realised that one huge, carved orthostat had collapsed directly onto the spot where Ciara had crouched the last time he had seen her. Its fall had not been halted by the softness of a body beneath it; no pool of blood lay spreading on the ground around it. The relief Conor felt on observing that was short-lived. Where was she?

Beside the stone, the flagstone with the Ogham symbol lay smashed into several pieces. It had been lifted from its resting place, and placed beside a small pit. Which, Conor noted with disappointment, was completely empty. Had Ciara found the missing mouthpiece and removed it? Or had she lifted the flagstone to find only an empty space and a sense of despair? He had to find her. Where was she?

Convinced at last that the chamber was completely empty, Conor allowed himself to drift up through the ceiling and into the circular chamber above. The stairs leading down from the entrance had collapsed into nothing more than an unstable pile of rock. He floated over it and out through the devastated doorway.

It was dark. The weak wash of moon and stars showed Conor that the hillside was deserted. After the explosions and collapse of the tower, it was eerily silent, almost as if nature itself was shocked at this traumatic turn of events.

He wandered around the remains of the tower, dejected and overwhelmed with guilt. There was no sign of Ciara.

Am I to blame? Did I cause this with the ferocity of my lightning attack on the tower? Or was it the quarry? I’m surprised the hill didn’t collapse years ago after such extensive mining. Surely it was an accident just waiting to happen; we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time…weren’t we?

Pushing his way carefully between the yellow gorse bushes, Conor stood on the edge of the cliff and contemplated the drop. Was Ciara down there, broken and battered and bleeding? Far beneath him, a tear trailed down his face as, in the car, his inert body responded to his desolation.

The only way to find out was to leap down after her. Even knowing that he could not fall or be hurt, it took Conor a good few moments to find the courage to jump over the edge. He found it much easier to control his descent this time around. As the ground rushed up to meet him, he saw that the quarry men were running about in a panic. Alarms were sounding, people were shouting, but the drills were silent, and the trucks which transported rock and rubble lay abandoned.

Hmmm…looks like there’s been a bit of a disaster down here.

Conor levelled out a couple of metres from the ground and glided slowly along the base of the cliff, searching for Ciara. Eventually, elated, he had to conclude she had not fallen. His only other option was to search the path on his way back to the car. Perhaps she was already waiting there for him. With his spirits lifting, Conor retraced his journey. But Ciara was not there.

For what felt like the hundredth time, he wondered where on earth she was.

The car was waiting on the far side of the car park, just as they’d left it. Conor felt anxious now; for Ciara, and also for himself. His body was lying in wait for him on the back seat, but what if he couldn’t get back into it? He hadn’t stopped to contemplate how that part of the process was achieved. He might not be able to do it. What then? He had been outside of his body for quite a long time. He might not be able to readjust to its rhythms and limitations.

He went first to the front of the car, half expecting to see Ciara sitting there, impatiently waiting for him. She wasn’t.

What do I do now? Do I re-join my body, and wait? Or do I go out looking for her again? I’m really tied by my mobility if I re-enter my body at this stage. But the longer I leave it, the harder it’s going to get.

Conor wavered between his choices. Then the decision was snatched from him. When he looked in at the rear window, his body was gone.

smashwords-button  kindle-button


allen-collageAylmer’s Folly and Sidhe Fionn are real places. I visited them when I was researching for this book. You can read about them in my post, Almu | Home of Irish Legendary Hero Fionn mac Cumhall.


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COMING SOON: Conor Kelly’s Guide to Ireland’s Ancient Places, an exclusive free gift for all newsletter subscribers, featuring all the sites and locations upon which The Tir na Nog Trilogy is based. WANT ONE? It’s FREE, and coming to a newsletter near you soon! All you have to do is sign up to my Marvellous Myths newsletter.

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Swanskin | An Update

swanskin2So last week I set myself a challenge of adding four thousand words to Swanskin, and guess what? I did it! I finished last week on 15,629, and I have actually added 5470. Here is the picture to prove it…

Only another 10, 000 or so to go… first draft could be complete in a couple of weeks, if I manage to continue at this rate! I never imagined that at the beginning of the year.

Here is an excerpt. This is from the other main character in the story, Ruadhán. You pronounce his name Roo-awn. It means ‘red-haired’. He is Cethlenn’s love interest, and also a swan shifter. You met her in last week’s excerpt.

As we passed through the outer palisade walls and into the court, my eyes were on stalks, my head turning this way and that, anxiously searching for a sign of my lover. Could it be that I had imagined her? Had I flirted all night with some ghostly creature, an apparition born of my intoxication and imagination? Or was she a temptress of the Sidhe? It wasn’t unheard of for the folk of the magical realm to interfere with mortals when the will took them.

We joined the queue waiting to enter the great hall. “Will you ever stop fidgeting,” complained my father at last. “What has got into you?”

“Ruadhán’s in love,” announced Siadhal, and I blushed furiously.

“How wonderful,” exclaimed my mother, taking my arm.

“Who is she? Is she beautiful? Will we meet her tonight?” clamoured my sisters.

Father rolled his eyes. “Women!” he and Siadhal declared in unison.

Thankfully, I did not need to explain further, as we arrived at the High King’s hall and were ushered to our places.

The King’s hall was an oblong building with a large central hearth. His table stood at one end. My sisters nudged each other excitedly when they saw Cuchullain seated at the King’s side. Long tables with benches either side lined the walls and filled the central floor space. Servants scurried back and forth, serving food and drink.

“Not too far from the King’s table,” my mother approved.

“But far enough from the fecking O’Connollys,” Father glowered across the hall. We all instinctively followed his gaze.

The feud between us MacMahons and the O’Connollys stretched so far back into previous generations that not a one remembered any more who had started it, or why. It remained a matter of honour which could only be settled with the seizing of land and the raiding of cattle. The price? Spilled blood, and far too many families on both sides grieving over the loss of sons.

We watched now as two of the five sons helped their aged father, O’Connolly Mór, into his seat, followed by his attractive young wife, who they say was more interested in her stepsons than in her doddering old husband, and who could blame her?

Their assemblage of beautiful daughters of various ages filed dutifully onto a bench behind their parents. Like their mother, each one of them had a fine head of jet black hair and a pair of crystal clear blue eyes.

One of them was staring back at me. The blood drained from my face. It was Aoife.

Hope you enjoyed that. My plan for next week is to achieve another four thousand words. Watch this space…

SWAN FACT No.2    Swans do mate for life, and they touch beaks to kiss. When they kiss, their necks form a heart shape. No wonder they became associated with love and fidelity.

My first book, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean picked up two reviews, one from Sacha Black, and the other from Eric Klingenberg. Thanks to both, just for reading, which makes me so happy, and for your reviews. You can read them here…

Sacha Black’s Review  4 Mistakes to Avoid when Transcribing Research into Fiction

(not what it sounds lol!)

ERIC KLINGENBERG’S A REVIEW CONOR KELLY AND THE FOUR TREASURES OF EIREAN BY ALI ISAAC

The 777 Writer’s Challenge and a Sneaky Peek at ‘The Cinderella Shoes’

shoes2

I was tagged last Sunday by blogger and supporter of Indie writers, and all-round top guy, Kev of Great Indie Authors, to take part in the 777 Writer’s Challenge. Thanks, Kev!

The rules are to go to the 7th page of your current WIP, find the 7th sentence, and then paste the following 7 sentences into your blog post. You must then nominate 7 other writers to do the same.

I must admit that I have cheated somewhat; my current WIP is all over the place at the moment, and I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing it just now.

Instead, I give you a slice of a short story I wrote earlier in the year, called ‘The Cinderella Shoes’. I have bleeped out the naughty word, as I don’t want to offend those of a more sensitive nature. So here goes…

“I glance down at my feet. Four hundred euros of Swarovski encrusted soft silver leather now adorn each one, balanced on a perfectly crafted, needle-thin mirrored heel. The first pair of ‘f*** me’ shoes I have ever dared to own.

I push back the panic which is welling into my throat, locking away the guilt for later. I just want to enjoy the elation which is coursing through my body. It is a long time since I have felt the excitement which accompanies an illicit act. I am appalled, and enthralled, by my own audacity.”

Oh my word! What did she do? Sorry, can’t tell you any more, ‘cos this one has gone out to a writing competition. As I don’t generally tend to fare well in writing competitions, I expect that you will be able to read the story in its entirety on my blog fairly soon!

So here are my 7 nominees. I would be delighted if you choose to take part (because I’m nosey, and want to see what you’re working on!), but as I always say, no pressure, it’s just for fun, if you have a few spare minutes.

Jane Dougherty

Sacha Black

Helen Jones

Sue Vincent

Sally Cronin

Geoff le Pard

Hugh Roberts

The Friday Fiction | Squid McFinnigan

squids book

Excerpt from Honeysuckle Lane

Frank’s palms slipped on the steering wheel. He was in a full panic attack now. Was the car following or not? His eyes flicked constantly to the rear view mirror. Hunched up over the wheel, his body hummed with tension.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said giving voice to his worry. He had to hit the brakes hard when a red Micra pulled out of nowhere. He had been so absorbed in the mirror, he failed to notice it coming from the slip road. The car behind him blasted its horn angrily, surely that was good. If they were tailing him, why would they draw attention to themselves? Frank’s exit was coming up, then he would know for sure. Leaving it to the last minute, he swerved into the turn off, not even indicating. When he looked in the mirror it was still there, taunting him, its grill smiling. It kept well back, but always there. The windows were tinted, a man’s car, an angry man’s car, a violent car. Whoever it was, they were following him for sure, and Frank had a damn good idea who was behind the wheel. He had no choice now. He had to get home and quick.

Before long, Frank was weaving through the rabbit warren of houses, which made up the cities commuter belt. The grid pattern of seventies estate design had been replaced with graceful swirls and twists. Each, revealing a small cluster of houses, while cleverly hiding the massive number of identical clusters, the miracle of modern living. Down along ‘Ivey Terrace’, the black car stayed behind him, around ‘Elder Close’, the car was still there. Turning on to ‘Elm Road’. Wait, it didn’t turn. The car was gone. Frank waited for the car to re-appear, but it never did. Five minutes later, Frank pulled into ‘Honeysuckle Lane,’ and his own driveway. Frank sat there, breathing hard, willing his heart to slow a little. He looked behind him and the road was deserted, he must have been letting his imagination run away with him. He had to get a grip on things.

Nine, identical detached, houses stood in a crescent, facing a small tree planted green. Front gardens with no dividing walls, window boxes and hanging baskets abounded. Not a person to be seen. People didn’t work or socialise here, they merely sleep, that’s commuter living. All kinds of people housed in identical boxes, those that couldn’t afford city prices, but still lived the city life. Frank stepped out of his car, taking his bag from the back seat. He walked towards his door and behind him, his car beeped, knowing the key was leaving, the car automatically locked up. When he first got it, he’d thought it was cute, like the car was saying good bye. Now it just depressed him. Locking the car, yet another task modern technology wouldn’t trust to a stupid human. Were we becoming obsolete, only useful for consuming and breaking things?

Frank strode quickly up the drive to the house, the feeling of being followed lingered like a bitter after taste in his mind. Once inside he locked the door behind him. At last he felt safe, in his own place. He rested his head against the timber, taking long calming breaths. Sweat stuck the shirt to his back, upstairs a floorboard creaked and Frank held his breath.


Hi Squid, welcome back to aliisaacstoryteller! It’s been a while since you were last here, and I can see that you’ve been very busy indeed during that time! Can you please tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book, Honeysuckle Lane? What inspired you to write it?

Sometimes, things happen during the most mundane of tasks, which make me prick up my ears and pay attention. The idea for Brendan, the main character in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, came to me in Tesco’s, of all places. I was wandering around the dairy area, when I noticed a tall man pick up a pot of natural yogurt. He looked at the pot for a few moments, then slipped it back on the shelf.

Perhaps my brain works differently to other people’s, because the first thing I thought wasn’t “Some yogurt would be nice right now” but “Imagine how easy it would be to slip a poisoned pot of yogurt on the shelf, letting fate decide who might pick it up.”

That idea that gave birth to Brendan. Over the coming days, I imagined what a man, who would place poisoned yogurt, on a supermarket shelf, might be like. I fleshed out his bones in my mind and wondered what other weird stuff he might indulge in.

The canal scene in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ formed when out walking the dogs one evening I came up behind a lady walking alone. As I got closer, I could see her tense up. In my case I gave a cheery greeting and hurried past. Brendan, on the other hand, would have gotten right up behind her and stayed there, matching her pace, knowing that every step was making the woman lose her mind.

After Brendan’s personality began to solidify in my head, I wondered what it would be like to live alongside such a person. Then again, you could be living right next door and who would be any the wiser, until it was too late of course. That was the spark, which kicked off the other stories, and the idea that they should all take place in the same row of houses and run concurrently.

The story outline quickly came together, and I wrote each chapter as it would happen in real time. I had a vague idea where ‘Honeysuckle’ would go, but I had to let the story take its own road to get there. Lots of things happened that I hadn’t planned, or even thought of, until the words appeared on the screen in front of me. I often wondered if I would be able to hold the whole thing together for the duration of 100K words, but I did, and the proof of the pudding is there for all to see.

Hmmm… sounds intriguing! So tell me, what was the deciding factor which made you go down Kindle Scout route?

This is my first go at a novel, and to the publishing world, I am an unknown entity. It’s very difficult to get an agent or publisher to take a punt on a wet-behind-the-ears prospect. It would have to be one hell of a book to come out of the blocks and straight into a publishing deal. I always felt if I got ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ finished, it would have to be self-published.

By the time ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ was eventually finished, I had spent hundreds of hours writing, changing, rewriting, and editing, the thing. I had fallen in love with it, and the thought of just casting it into the vast ocean of books, that is Amazon, filled me with dread.

I sent submissions to a few agents, but the length of time they take to even read something is daunting. That was when Kathleen Rothenberger, the lady who edited the book, told me about Kindle Scout. What appealed to me about this platform, is vetting of manuscripts before they are accepted. I think the volume of books appearing every day in the self-published arena is killing everyone’s prospects of success.

I like the fact that the public have a vote in what they like and what they don’t, on Kindle Scout. I like that it is a secret ballot, and the voting is not influencing potential readers. I don’t know who has voted for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, and neither does anyone else. I truly believe this is a good thing for E books and could well be the way to go in the future. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats. I hope that ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ will make the grade but only the public and the good people at Kindle Scout can decide that.

Well, best of luck with that, Squid! Writing one’s first novel is a huge learning curve for any author. What is your top tip for aspiring authors just starting out on their writing journey?

I think that the most important thing for any writer, is to enjoy what they do. If you get into this game for fame, or fortune, you are going to be very disappointed. I would also say that new writers should not fear criticism. No work is universally liked, none.

Reading is vital, if you love to write, you should LOVE to read. If you don’t, I think you should take up a different hobby.

Lastly, I would ask them to decide if they would still write, if they knew the works they penned were going to sit in a dusty box, for the rest of time. If they still say yes, then they are born to be writers. It is a human trait to want to share our thoughts and experiences with others. I get such a buzz when someone takes the time to read one of my stories, and to be honest, I can’t get enough of the feeling. I think that’s factor which is driving me to get ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ published.

Yes, that sure is a great feeling! So how do we go about reading and voting for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’?

Oh, that’s very easy indeed. Just go to https://kindlescout.amazon.comYou have to log in. Some existing accounts cannot access this, or are told ‘USA only’. If that happens, any account opened with a new E-mail will allow access. (I am not sure why this works, but it does.)

Find the cover of ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ and click on it. This will open up the first 5000 words for you to read. Then at the bottom, you get to nominate the book by pressing the big blue button, if you liked what you saw.

You are allowed three nominations at any one time. When the books you have picked run out of time, they are either selected for publication, or not. If the book is selected, then all who voted for it get a free advance copy. You can see how Kindle Scout reviewers could quickly build up a nice little library.

squidAnd now, a little about you. Do you have a day job when you’re not writing?

Normally you can find me standing behind the bar, polishing a few glasses or pulling a pint or two. My job was something I had to give a lot of consideration to when I started writing. In my life, I hear more than a few personal details, and some of the people who have confided in me would be upset if they felt I was using them in my writing. That was why I decided to mask the exact location of my little establishment, to protect the guilty in a manner of speaking. Some of the customers know that I write and even follow along on my blog but I tend to keep it under the radar when I can. Eventually it will all come out I am sure but that is a bridge to cross on another day.

Ok, so tell us a little something about your background that no one else will know…

I have shared a fair bit about myself in my stories and on my blog, so picking something big that is unknown is difficult.

It might seem strange, but I love storms, big ones. My favourite place to go when a storm is raging through the night, is the local pier. I love to hear the wind howling, the feeling of the spray stinging my face as it is driven on hurricane force winds, and watching the waves explode high into the air. I walk out as far as I can and stand there, feeling the force of nature drench me to the skin. It makes me remember just how small I am.

Interesting! I like watching storms too, but from the nice dry interior of my home preferably, lol! So, what is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? How do you start your day?

Ha! Mornings and I don’t get on so well. Most days, the sun is coming up about the same time, I am going down. But the first thing I do every day when I get up, is open the curtains, feed my gold fish and I always say “Morning Fish.” I have a shower while my two hounds sit on the landing and wait for me. After that, we all go down to the kitchen for breakfast. Once that is done, no two days are the same.

I’m definitely not a morning person, either! But nor am I a night owl! Do you have any other interests that you manage to slot in between your day job and writing?

Oh yes. I play squash, golf, and surf. I like to gather my own firewood. A man who cuts his own firewood, heats himself twice. I go fishing now and again, snorkelling in the summer when there are no waves for surfing, and of course, walking the dogs.

What is your next writing project?

I have a short story to finish called ‘Shovel Head’ about a mother who feels taken for granted by her family. However, when she gets a flat tyre on the way to the shops her life takes an unexpected turn towards fulfilment.

I was asked to write that story by a friend of mine on G+ and it’s about half done. I have an idea for another longer story, possible novel, but that will have to wait until ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ is over the line.

Something I’d personally like to know; you have written some great stories on your blog based on your personal experience as a barman. Will you ever publish these in a book?

That is a more difficult question to answer than you might imagine. Yes in a way, and no in another.
I wouldn’t like to publish them, not just for the possibility of making a few Euro, even though a few Euro would be very nice indeed.

Over the last two years I have gotten something from my writing that money could never buy. In the beginning, it allowed me to get some things off my chest that I felt unable to do in my day to day life. Writing my worries and memories down cast out more than a few ghosts. Then a strange thing happened, people began to see themselves in my words and were affected by them. They cried and shared and became my friends. They helped me and in a way, I hope I helped them.

So you see, the stories grew to be more than a few words on a screen, they became a connection, stretching across the globe. If I thought that by publishing them they would bring something to someone else out there, then I would do it without a second thought. I know you might thank that is a load of sentimental codswallop, and it might be, but it’s how I think of them.


On a final note, I would like to extend my thanks to you, Ali. From day one, you have been such a fantastic friend and mentor. Your help and encouragement has been beyond amazing and it’s thanks to people like you, that I ever finished ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ at all. I never believed that this day would come, but you never seemed to have a doubt.

Before starting my blog, I often thought singers were being insincere when they thanked their audience so fervently. Now I know that they mean it to their very core. It is the people who take the time to say ‘Hi’, to comment on a story, to give a post a plus, or give a book a vote, which make my days so wonderful.

Every time I make a new friend through my writing, I know it’s because we have glimpsed the world through shared eyes. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has ever read a story, visited my blog, voted on ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ or said hello on twitter, Facebook or G+. I am the luckiest man alive to have friends such as you.


If you would like to find out more about Squid, and read many fine samples of his writing, please visit his blog ‘Where it Began’ . You can also follow him on Twitter, or on Google+. You can read one of his short stories on The Friday Fiction.

And finally, most importantly, you can vote for his book, ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ on Kindle ScoutLast day for voting 20th June 2015. Best of luck, Squid, and thanks so much for joining me on my blog once again.

Book Review | Arson by CS Boyack

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I’m giving you a good look at the cover, cos it’s awesome!


I had read a few of Craig’s books, and greatly enjoyed them all, so I decided to try Arson. I had some misgivings before I began, because it is Sci-Fi, which usually goes straight over my head… all that physics and futuristic technology stuff just boggles my mind and completely alienates me, if you’ll pardon the pun!

Also, I like to think that through our writing and blogging journeys, Craig and I have become friends, and it would hurt me to have to write a less than favourable review, or just not write anything at all; in the Indie world, reviews matter, but they have to be honest and written with integrity.

So I was a little apprehensive at the start.

I needn’t have worried though. Although set in a futuristic world, Arson is all about the characters and their story. And what characters they are!

Perry is the main protagonist, an inter-galactic fire-fighting hero who through no fault of his own, becomes injured in service, and discharged from duty. He’s the kind of man who puts his own life at risk to save a friend. For a while, he is lost… fire-fighting is in his blood, his father was a fireman, and his sister is an arson investigator.

Then his sister is gruesomely murdered, and he decides to apply for her job, with the intention of investigating her murder. At Glynnco training camp he meets the weird and wacky Dr Pennington, a female character that I just adored! This book has many good points, but Dr Pennington is by far the best, and I hope she reappears in future stories.

An action-packed beginning sets the tone and pace for this story, which has a little something for everyone; adventure, adrenaline, violence, camaraderie, boot-camp, romance, sex,  some of the sex scenes are quite humorous! Oh, and did I mention, there’s lots of fire!

As far as the science fiction goes, this is certainly an interplanetary multi-cultural futuristic world, but it’s still recognisable; they still go trick or treating at Halloween, there is still a need for religion, the characters still eat real food, and wash up their dirty dishes. They still drive cars, but outside of the inner city, they fly in a complex skyway network. The mobile phone has been replaced by the tablet, but it’s more than today’s device, it’s ID, and every function of a character’s life is contained on it.

Arson proved to be one of those books I couldn’t put down, and when I did, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Boyack is a rare breed of author who can write successfully and convincingly in a multitude of genre’s, and never disappoints because his greatest strength lies in his development of highly believable and enjoyable characters that you grow to really care about.

The futuristic stuff is sure to satisfy Sci-Fi buffs, but the story will definitely please everyone else.

You can buy this book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Don’t forget to also check out Craig’s blog.

The Friday Fiction featuring Charlton Daines

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A Christmas with the Dodger, Charlton’s latest novel, is OUT NOW on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords, priced at only 99c/ 77p. It would make a great Christmas read, or gift for someone you know.

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The overcast sky could not dampen the natural cheer that constituted the habitual mood of Reg Dawkins. As a young gentleman of dubious status, Reg often enjoyed a little amusement by presenting himself in the city dressed in more costly attire than would be considered normal for a common craftsman, and certainly for an apprentice of journeyman standing.

Lily’s good influence had dictated that most of Reg’s wardrobe had been acquired through honest means, with a little help from the haberdashery skills that Jack had learned as a young Australian exile of even more dubious position. Some of these skills had been taught to his young adopted progeny as a matter of expedience and Reg had eagerly developed his natural nimbleness in the art of turning an ordinary pre-made article of clothing into a perfectly tailored garment that gave the impression that the wearer had paid dearly for bespoke items on Savile Row.

Despite the value of dexterity with a needle and thread, Reg occasionally supplemented his wardrobe with the odd garment that might have been left lying unattended in the wrong place at the wrong time. With winter growing colder in the last days before Christmas, Reg had it in mind that he should acquire a good, warm overcoat by one method or another and decided to keep his eyes open when he entered the Old Bell Pub in Holborn, where he was reasonably sure that he would find Jack sitting back with his boots on the table, regaling his usual associates with stories of mischievous exploits in a young life that he had never actually known. While the true stories of Jack’s youth might have been far more interesting, the erstwhile pickpocket preferred to fictionalise a lesser criminal past that might be less likely to end with his neck in a noose.

The old pub had been attached to a hotel until the year before when the greater part of the building had been demolished, but the tavern carried on under the friendly ownership of a certain Mister Treadaway. Walter, as his friends knew him, played host to many of the area’s business owners who found time in their busy schedules to hobnob with others of their perceived class of an afternoon at the Bell. Having learned the art of bookkeeping over a year’s employment with a certain Mister Brownlow and having a natural affinity for transferring ownership of goods, Jack Dawkins had developed an enterprise whereby foreign articles, most often silks and tobacco, were received as occasional deliveries to a rented warehouse and subsequently sold at a substantially higher price to local merchants during Jack’s daily afternoon walk about town.

Jack and Reg shared an understanding of Jack’s time ‘at the office’. It had taken some considerable influence from the woman he loved for Jack to go straight at all, but as a man accustomed to answering to himself alone and spending his time as he saw fit, he had fallen into a pattern of leaving the house during what would be considered as normal office hours, including half day Saturday, and after attending to whatever small amount of actual activity that was required to keep the business running, Jack spent whatever time remained at his own leisure.

Reg entered the main room of the Bell without drawing undue attention, but to his surprise, Jack was not to be found at the back table, though some of his local business associates populated the usual bench. Reg stepped quietly back onto the street and aimed his steps towards the warehouse where Jack kept his acquisitions. He speculated that Jack might have been required to receive a delivery, or to collect some merchandise or other for despatch to one of his regular connections. The distance was not far, but Reg walked at full speed in an effort to reduce the time he would have to spend in looking for his adopted guardian. He was acutely aware that Lily was waiting.

Reg maintained a key to the warehouse in case Jack should require the younger man’s assistance with transporting goods. This Reg produced when he arrived at the designated property and he let himself inside just before a light rain began to fall. The scent of spices and tobacco immediately assaulted his nostrils, as well as a distinctive sweet aroma that Reg recognised all too well. He looked over the crates of goods, neatly stacked against the walls and in rows, and wondered which of them contained a new shipment of opium.

It wasn’t that Reg had any objection to the intoxicant, so long as Jack didn’t make too much of a habit of skimming his wares, but the acquisition of it was invariably at the expense of the infamous East India Company, from part of a shipment gone astray for a slightly higher profit, and was far too easily identified as stolen goods. Whether it was the loss of the goods or the import taxes that might have been collected was neither here nor there. The East India Company was notorious for its methods of eliminating competition and interference in permanent and sometimes messy ways.

‘Jack!’ Reg called out to the slight echo of the room. There was no reply and no sign of any other occupant. Reg searched through all the rows of stacked boxes briefly, then went to the office space that was attached to the larger warehouse room. Still no Jack was to be found. Reg took a moment to think. Nothing had been disturbed. The papers on Jack’s desk were in neat piles, a habit Jack had developed during his employment with Oliver Brownlow’s company.

There was no sign of a struggle or anything amiss and the dubious merchandise was still in its place, therefore, Reg surmised, there had been no visit from the East India Company as they surely would have reclaimed the opium at least, and probably some of the other wares that fell within their remit. Jack was simply not where he was expected to be, but had gone out somewhere in the city of London for his own purposes.

Reg stopped to admire some particularly attractive silk in an open crate of fabric bales. The dark, plum colour suited his taste and the tiny stitches of red, green and gold embroidery somehow worked with the dark background in a very attractive design. Reg made a mental note to ask Jack if he might pinch a bit of the silk for a waistcoat, then went outside and locked the warehouse up securely. The light shower had abated and the air smelled a little fresher for it, though the afternoon fog still carried the stink of the city.

Jack often brought home the roast for Sunday dinner on a Saturday afternoon, so Reg walked down High Holborn towards Smithfield Market in Farringdon and Long Lane. A busy market place had always been good hunting grounds for a boy pickpocket. Reg smiled at the thought of Jack doing the weekend shopping like any honest citizen, now that he had a bob or two to his name and could afford to keep his family in Sunday roasts.

Reg glanced around as he passed the fish and poultry markets, just for the sake of being thorough. Jack was still small of stature and could easily move unobserved through a crowd, but Reg could usually recognise him by his movement, unless he was leaning somewhere and keeping still while observing the multitudes for himself. Reg had been known to find Jack in such repose, looking for all the world as if he might be assessing the best marks within the distracted throngs. Some habits never died.

The sound of a cleaver chopping through a thick bit of meat drew Reg’s attention, and there behind the butcher he saw him. Jack was still as a statue, his eyes on the menacing sharp implement that had just dismembered the leg of a large animal with a single powerful stroke. The look of cool assessment in Jack’s eyes was very familiar to Reg. There was no mistaking it, Jack was on the game.

Reg considered Lily’s prospective reaction briefly, then decided that there was no point in wasting a properly misspent youth. The butcher would make for a dangerous opponent if Jack should be caught, even without the threat of the razor edge on the tool of his trade. Those powerful arms, should they get hold of a man, especially a small man like Jack, could easily squeeze the life out of him before the brute even realised that he was applying too much strength in his attempt to prevent a thief from escaping before the constabulary could be summoned.

What Jack needed was a distraction; something that would command the butcher’s full attention for a moment or two without drawing the additional awareness of the other vendors. Reg sauntered up to a row of suckling pig carcasses hanging from metal hooks just inside the man’s market stall.

‘I say,’ Reg began in his most genteel put-on accent. ‘I dare say the flies have had their way with these today. Can you offer a discount for late afternoon trade?’

The butcher turned to Reg with an expression of suppressed irritation, but the words he spoke sounded as pleasant as the man’s lower class accent could produce.

‘They be two shillings, same as they was this mornin’.’

‘But the sign says one and six!’ Reg declared with shock, indicating a plainly displayed sign with 1S 6d, or one shilling and six pennies, clearly indicated.

‘That be for the lit’ler ones, all gone now.’

The butcher was beginning to show his impatience with the prissy would-be customer. That he had deliberately raised the price when he saw the cut of Reg’s fine, silk waistcoat was not lost on the observant young man. A sarcastic retort and an accusation that the man was trying to cheat him rose to Reg’s lips, but the gleam of mottled light that fell on the edge of the cleaver gave him pause. There was no sign of Jack or of the fine cut of pork roast that had previously occupied the chopping block, so Reg decided it was time to make a discreet exit.

‘Well, perhaps tomorrow then. When you have more of the smaller piglets in the morning.’

With that, Reg tipped his hat and walked swiftly in the direction away from the chopping block, so that by the time the butcher had turned and found himself bereft of a choice pork loin, Reg had disappeared round the corner. After dodging down a few small streets to cool his trail, just out of habit, Reg guessed that Jack would be boldly taking the most direct route home, confident that there was no pursuit and that only Reg would know which direction he had gone.

His guess proved correct. Reg spotted Jack walking leisurely up Farringdon Road as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

‘Took your time, mate,’ Jack said in his old vernacular. He winked as Reg trotted up beside him, eyeing the neat parcel under Jack’s arm, wrapped in butcher’s paper as if it had been bought in the traditional manner. ” ‘Ad to slow me steps to let you catch up.’

‘I thought it might be prudent to keep his attention for a while,’ Reg returned. ‘Is this where our roasts have been coming from all along?’

There was no judgement in Reg’s query, only curiosity.

‘I’ve been known to drop the odd coin in the market,’ Jack explained. ‘If only to make the vendors recognise me as a paying customer. But a man ‘as to keep ‘is ‘and in.’ Jack winked again. ‘Needless to say, we don’t mention a thing to Lily.’

The last sentence was delivered in the cultivated accent that Jack had practiced since his return to London nearly fifteen years ago, when he had spent a considerable amount of time and effort to make himself fit in among a class of people who were as wealthy as his old friend, Brownlow. Teaching Reg the value of such an affectation as the young orphan had grown up was one of the accomplishments of his life in which Jack felt the most pride.

‘Not a word,’ Reg promised, returning the conspiratorial wink. With that accord agreed between erstwhile miscreants, Jack and Reg soon arrived home, their heads held high and the Sunday roast presented as if they had bought the fare in the way of any respectable citizens.

Reg, however, secretly smiled to himself, feeling vilified of his occasional excursions into the practices of his reprobate childhood.



Charlton Daines is an academic and an afficionado of fine Literature. As such, he has sought to add to the collective of world Literature with the occasional selection that might appeal to those with a love of Classics and Historical Fiction.

The occasional spot of Humour or flights of fancy are likely to slip into this all too serious catalogue of self-indulgent scribblings.

Charlton Daines was born in London, but currently lives in the middle of England with his family, which includes an odd selection of common and pedigree cats.


Thanks, Charlton, for stopping by my blog today! I really enjoyed this excerpt from your book, Jack Dawkins. You can connect with Charlton on his blog, on Facebook, and you can tweet to him on Twitter. You can also find him on Pinterest, and on GoodReads. Most importantly of all, if you want to get your hands on his book (and it would make a fab gift for Crimbo!), you can buy it on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.


If YOU have a story or a book you’d like to see featured on The Friday Fiction, don’t be shy, tell me about it! I’d love to hear from you!