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

The Friday Fiction Featuring Helen Jones

My dear author-friend and fellow blogger, Helen Jones, has just released her fab new book, A Thousand Rooms, and I was honoured to be able to offer my beta-reading services… all part of my cunning plan to read a great new book by one of my fave authors before anyone else, lol! Helen is already well known for her delightful fantasy series, the Ambeth Chronicles, but A Thousand Rooms takes her writing to a whole new level… this is very much a grown up story, and in its own unique way, sits perfectly with the season. Read on to find out why…


get your copy of A Thousand Rooms

Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. Killed suddenly, hit by a car while crossing the road. But then… nothing happens. No angels, no loved ones arrive to help her. Instead, she’s left to wander the streets of Sydney alone, a lost soul in a big city. In this excerpt, she’s just attended her own funeral, and is now wondering what to do next. Then a light in the window of a nursing home catches her eye…

Another glow catches my eye. It’s in a window on the third floor, like a light coming on then gradually fading to off again. It’s golden and sparkling and intriguing and something in me is drawn to it, shaking me out of my fugue state. I wonder what it is, feeling a little tug under my breastbone. And, just like that, I’m inside.

I am in someone’s bedroom. I rub at the ache in my chest as I look around. The pale pink walls can’t completely disguise the fact that this is a sickroom, the ceiling hoists and metal trolley hinting at infirmity, the wheelchair folded and leaning against the wall proof of it. Yet there are touches of home. An old cushioned rocking chair next to a low table holding photographs that span decades, laughing babies grown to tall adults, young lovers to wrinkled companions. Two small paintings of ocean scenes hang on the walls, a quilted dressing gown draped across the chair. Despite the medical apparatus, it is a peaceful place. And I am not alone.

A frail old woman with soft silver hair is lying on the bed, wearing a dark pink dress and lighter pink knitted wool jacket. Her legs are bone slender in tan stockings that wrinkle around her ankles, her hands crossed on her stomach. A small group of people are gathered around the bed. Two men and a woman, all of them teary, while a teenager leans against the wall, wiping her eyes, black mascara smeared. A nurse is pulling a blanket up over the old woman, her voice gentle as she speaks to the bereaved family. The energy in the room is one of sorrow but also love and acceptance, joy of a long life lived, of life given to others. As the blanket covers the old lady the woman turns to one of the men and he holds her close, his hand on her hair as she sobs on his shoulder, his own eyes red rimmed. The other man also wipes at his eyes, his shoulders hunching. There is so much love here you can feel it, as though the air is thick and golden and warm with it, weaving soft tendrils around the little group. My own eyes tear up in response and I feel an easing inside me, as though the tense knot of wires is starting to relax, coils loosening.

But where is the old woman’s spirit? You know, the bit of her that’s like me? I can’t see her anywhere, but there seems to be a sort of glow near the door, like a faint trail of sparkles that dissipates as I watch. I stare at it for a moment and an idea hits me.

I need to be there when someone dies.

God, that sounds awful and macabre but hey, I’m already dead. I’m not some snuff film fan, someone who gets their kicks from watching others leave this world. I just want to see what happens to everyone else. To see if perhaps I can meet someone who can help me, or at least not be alone anymore. After all, it shouldn’t be too hard to find – this is a big city, people being born and dying every day. Pushing aside the idea that I’m in some sort of Purgatory to be judged, I figure this could, just maybe, work. I start to feel excited, considering the possibilities. Perhaps I could even tag along with them, if they know where they’re going, like some sort of buddy system to get you to Heaven. I giggle a bit at this, thinking of the ad campaign you could run. Something in nursing homes, you know – ‘Heaven – it’s harder to get to than you think.’ ‘Don’t die alone, take a friend.’ I imagine Darryl in the boardroom showing mock-ups to clients and I laugh even more then clap my hand over my mouth, shocked at myself. But seriously, I need to try this. I need to do something. I can’t be like this forever.

Decision made, I walk out of the room. I know, I can drift and go through walls and all that, but sometimes I just want to feel normal, you know? And walking through open doorways is a normal thing to do. I find myself in a long hallway carpeted in tasteful dark grey, the walls a restful shade of pale green. It’s deserted, thank goodness. There are doors along both sides of the hall, each with a number on them except for the occasional sign saying ‘Nurse’ or ‘Staff Only – Private.’ Paintings hang at intervals in between, peaceful scenes of landscapes and mountains and leaves.  I start to wander along, knowing what I’m looking for but not sure how to find it, wondering what the odds are of two people dying on the same night in the same place. But I can’t think too much about that so I keep going, turning a corner into another hallway, the same as the one I just left. Rubbing at my chest where I felt the little tug before, I wonder if that’s what I need to follow. Concentrating, I look at each door when I pass, but there’s nothing.

When I reach the end of the hall there’s a set of swinging doors that open onto a stairwell. I go down one level, emerging through a similar set of doors into a large dining room, a small vase of flowers on each table. One end of the room is set up with rows of chairs, many of which are filled with elderly people who are all watching a film, projected onto the large screen set into the wall. I stop for a moment to watch the flickering black and white images, a love story, by all the kissing that’s going on. The ancient faces watching range in expression from teary to dreamy to unaware, eyes in wrinkled sockets gleaming like marbles in the reflected glow from the screen on the wall.

Then I feel something, a sort of tingle in the centre of my chest and my head turns. Something is happening, nearby. Following the feeling, I’m led out of the dining room into another grey-carpeted hallway, once again lined with doors. But I know exactly which one I need. I can see the glow, golden and unmistakeable as it comes around the edge of the closed door. I think myself inside, and then I am.

Another peaceful room, pale lemon walls and another padded armchair. There are paintings on the walls here too, but these ones are religious in tone, Jesus with his heart exposed, a sad faced Madonna clutching a plump baby. A small statue of the Virgin Mary is on a small table in the corner, a lit candle in front of it. There is a pool of melted wax around the base, colourful flowers scattered on the table, their bright petals mingling with the wax.

And the glow is all around us, as though the air is full of gold sparkles, floating gently like dust motes. An old man with wisps of grey hair is lying in the bed, looking small and wizened, his eyes closed, his skin slack. His covers are pulled up to his chest, his head supported by several soft pillows. A young woman sits in a chair next to him, holding his hand, tears gleaming soft on her cheeks. A young man stands behind her, his hands on her shoulders as if to support her. She is speaking softly, almost under her breath. I can only just hear her.

‘I am here, Tio, dear Tio, we are here. And if you need to go, you go, just know that we love you, so much, we will see you again one day, we know it.’ Her voice is softly accented and it gives the words a beautiful cadence, like a prayer, as she keeps talking and rubbing the old man’s hand so very gently, as though he is unutterably fragile and precious.

Then he dies.

Just like that, his last breath going in and then no more. No exhale. It’s so peaceful, especially when compared to the crash bang of my own demise. It’s as though everything stops moving for a moment, even the gold sparkles hanging still in the air. They glow brightly and disappear, winking out like fireflies at dusk. Then, and this is really weird and kind of creepy, the old man sits up. Except it’s not his body. That’s still lying there, his hand still being held by the young woman who is sobbing now, her head bent. The dead man’s spirit turns to look at her, sorrow on his face. He reaches out as if to touch her cheek and I swear she feels it, lifting her head to look around and then up at the man behind her. Once again there’s a feeling of love, pure energy throughout the room.

A young woman comes in through the door and she is gorgeous. Caramel skin and dark eyes, curling dark hair pinned up with colourful flowers like the ones on her dress. She is smiling as she goes straight over to the dead man whose face lights up when he sees her.

‘Maria!’ he cries, taking her outstretched hands and it’s as though she pulls him completely from his body and away from the bed. He pulls her into a hug, kissing her smooth skin, burying his face in her hair. And, again, this is weird but he is starting to look younger – his back straighter, hair going from grey to black again, wrinkles smoothing away from his face until he looks the same age as the young woman.

I make a face. This has not happened to me, I’m sure. If I could find a mirror that reflected me I’m sure I would have the same crow’s feet and dark circles as always. I’d been thinking about having them ‘done,’ you know, some sort of injections but couldn’t stand the thought of filling my face with stuff. Still, doesn’t matter now. Whoops! Looks like they are getting ready to go, holding hands as they move towards the door, smiling lovingly at each other. The air is starting to glow again, but just around them. As it gets brighter I lunge forward, managing to step into the glow with them just in time. We start to ascend, surrounded by whirling lights and colours, painted Mexican sugar skulls interspersed with the Virgin Mary, fairy lights twinkling and it all spins around confusingly in a mad mix of imagery, lifting us as though we’re in the centre of a tornado but it’s not frightening at all. In fact, it’s amazing. Whee! I’m finally on my way to Heaven! I guess the fact that I know I’m dead helps – after all, what else can happen to me? We land, and I look around in wonder.


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Author Helen Jones
Author Helen Jones

Helen Jones was born in the UK, but then spent many years living in Canada and Australia before returning to England several years ago. She has worked as a freelance writer for the past ten years, runs her own blog and has contributed guest posts to others, including the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists site. When she’s not writing, she likes to walk, paint and study karate (when housework and family life permit!) She’s now working on several other novels, enjoying the chance to explore new fantasy worlds. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and daughter and spends her days writing, thinking, cleaning and counting cats on the way to school.


Where does Helen hang out?

Blog: http://www.journeytoambeth.com
Facebook: Author Helen Jones
Twitter: @AuthorHelenJ
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/helenjones
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenejones33/

How the Old Stories Inspire Today’s Irish Writers with Modern Seanchai Alan Walsh

Book of Conquests by Jim Fitzpatrick
The Book of Conquests by Jim Fitzpatrick

Followers of this blog will know just how inspired by obsessed I am with Irish mythology, and how I can lose myself in it for hours at a time. I call it research, but really, it’s my guilty pleasure; how lucky I am that I can indulge in it on a daily basis as an excuse for the work of writing!

And it seems I am not the only one. The illustrious Jim Fitzpatrick was feeding his inspiration and creating his famous masterpieces in the year that I was born. He in turn has inspired many artists and writers to unleash their creativity based on Ireland’s legends, not least among them, today’s guest author, Alan Walsh.

Alan is not new to this blog; he very kindly allowed us a sneak preview into his latest novel, Sour, which is based on the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows, a couple of weeks ago. It’s certainly a highly original reworking of the myth. I love the caustic tones of the Puca, as he narrates the story, and the portrayal of Deirdre as a bit of a wild free spirit. Check it out for yourself; you can read it here, if you missed it. I already have a copy on my reading list. So, without further ado, here is Alan to tell you what exactly inspired him to write this book…

Sour by Alan Walsh
Sour by Alan Walsh

I had picture books of illustrations by Jim Fitzpatrick, when I was growing up. This was probably my first exposure to Irish myth, that and the obligatory Children of Lir they teach you in school. I used to like to copy out Jim Fitzpatrick’s pictures, owing to how much I liked their style, how they depicted a strange, ethereal world, like something from an old metal album cover, only more refined. So it was really that, as a boy, and then years of not really caring much for the old stories in way or another until I moved to London.

I had lived abroad before, in Italy, and had gotten along very well trying my hand at reading Italian authors, but for some reason, while living in London, I went and sought out books of old Irish stories. Not just Irish, either, but volumes of old Celtic tales, from Wales and Scotland, from France and other parts of mainland Europe laying claim to that heritage. Then further afield, taking in mythology from Scandinavia and Russia, from Africa and the Middle East and on and on. It ran a little like languages, each border two cultures met, the mythologies cross-pollinated easily.

London is very much a drinking culture. It’s not uncommon to take a pint with your colleagues at lunch and pick it up again after work on a Tuesday. I happened to be working in IT, which meant I was in an office with a wide range of nationalities, all of whom were curious sorts by nature. When they found out I was reading mythology they asked me to recite something.

Well, the only one that came to mind consistently, was Deirdre of the Sorrows. I’m still not sure why. I think maybe it’s because of how it ends. The same way Romeo and Juliet endures because of the horrific ending, this story lingers because it almost couldn’t have ended more horribly. It was all but guaranteed a reaction from a listening group. I still find that when I tell the story now, even here at home. Maybe that’s when I started wondering about Sour.

I had been writing a story about a murder in a small, dreary rural town in Ireland. It was kind of a procedural really. The lead character was a detective, he introduced the reader to one weird character after another as he pursued his line of questioning. The idea was the reader would uncover how the town was a kind of microcosm of the nation as they read along. But it lacked a hook until it dawned on me the crime I had in mind wasn’t a hundred miles away from the old story of Deirdre and the Sons of Uislu, and right then I set about working out how I might be able to use the old tale. It felt strange, on one level, re-purposing an old, almost sacred cultural element to fit my own needs, but I think that’s where the fun came in and that what provoked me into pushing the boundaries of taste with some of the more famous of Ireland’s heroes.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill as an unemployed wide-boy, downing cans of cider and passing his days playing X-Box on the ghost estate he lives in with his mates was a lot of fun to imagine. The kind of young men you see roaming streets in groups of about six in the small hours of the morning, with their dogs. This was the Fianna, there being no reason you can’t find old fashioned courage and heroism in characters as modern as this.

Cuchullain was re-imagined as a battle-scarred old traveller, bossed by his wife, passing his time watching afternoon television, but still managing to strike fear into the souls of the characters who come to ask for his help, along with everyone else in the town. Casting Ireland’s great epic hero as a traveller was interesting to me, owing to how that culture is so entwined with what we think of as Irish going back as far as the sixteenth century.

That the story is told by a Puca opened up a wide range of opportunities, as the mischievous supernatural being is most probably the very definition of the unreliable narrator. I was pleased mostly with how much potential the character gave me to bring in nature and give it character, how trees were angry about deforestation, how a cloud can be a hate-filled bastard, that mountains choose to look different based on how you look at them. I hoped people might be prepared to accept those kind of absurd digressions from a nebulous trickster.

Deirdre herself was the easiest to write, I think. In the original story, she kills herself at the end. Many people read that as an act of despair, but it always felt to me more like an act of defiance. When she was told she’d be shared between the two men she hated most, she showed them she was still in control of herself, if only in this last, awful way.

That idea really informed how she was written, an outright rebel from the first time we meet her. Not just an ordinary one either, a provocative, showy, angry rebel. Someone who has ostracised herself from the whole town. Only later do we learn she hasn’t just been rebelling against her father, but rather the whole town itself too, which she sees as complicit. Writing as the Puca gave me license to paint these characters with broad strokes, making them much larger than life, along with all the incidental characters, like the Morrigan, an old lady in a bowler hat doing an Open University course in fine art and also the smoking, grouchy crow that follows Deirdre wherever she goes.

Writing a book is a strange experience as it relates to a particular timespan in your life as much as anything else. I guess it’s much the same as reading one now I think of it. This one, for me, will always be the book I wrote between London and Dublin, between when I had the life of a tearaway to when I met my wife and we had a little boy together. I’ll always look back on the book with this in mind. I still read Irish mythology very regularly, and enjoy seeing it being re-purposed and re-imagined as much as and even more than I have, as this is definitely the only way to keep the old tales alive.


Read an excerpt from Alan’s book, SOUR, here. 

You can buy SOUR on Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and most other retailers. It would make a great Christmas gift for someone you know!

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Author Alan Walsh
Author Alan Walsh

I’m a writer, designer and recently a father too, who returned to Dublin a couple of years ago after living abroad in Bologna, Florence and London, doing all kinds of jobs from teacher to delivery-man to commis-chef.

Sour is my first novel, published by Pillar and available in all the very best places. I tweet pretty often at @Alan_Walsh_77 and I blog as often as I can at: http://alanwalshblog.blogspot.ie/, and there’s a whole website about the book at: http://sourthenovel.weebly.com/

The Friday Fiction featuring ALAN WALSH

Alan Walsh Sour


An Excerpt from Sour by Alan Walsh

“Listen here: Dee O’Loughlin was an unnatural strange beauty. Bevan Morgan, the oul crone, with her cigars and trilby hat and her track suits and all the rest of her madness, she was correct about that one. Dee was right at that minute up in her bedroom on the second floor of Clonliffe House. She was locked up tight. Her room was bare. It was down to the white walls. Even the wallpaper was tore off. She was no longer surrounded by her fancy clothes, her computer, her music collection and fabulous plants and art she had made. Alls she could do was to stare like a madwoman out of her window, out over the rolling green pastures of the estate, into the wind and rain, and weep and moan. She could barely breathe from it. Time passed without her even blinking. Her pupils went down to dots with her eyes rubbed raw pink about them. If she could have, she would have gone and thrown herself out of that window and down onto the gravel below. But there were bars now.

You see, Dee used to be allowed friends. They were allowed come to the house, if she behaved. They drank the collection of vintage teas, told time by the priceless grandfather clock, old enough they said stopped anytime Cromwell looked at it (not true, he had his tea by the chime of it). They could run up and down the winding staircase, hand crafted from some of the oldest trees in the whole district, and I knew those trees and their families, and grudges are still borne over that. But Dee wasn’t sent to school like other girls. Dee was homeschooled. And on top of that, she was scarcely ever allowed off the grounds of the estate, or even outside the house for that matter. So it was practically impossible for her to meet any other people of her own go to make friends with. She had herself for company.

The fact was also that the other girls in the town seemed to hate her. There was no reason for this. It’s just how things sometimes are, and it’s a shame. Maybe it’s because she was so good looking. Maybe it was down to her wealthy family. I don’t know. When she was allowed out collecting dead birds, starting fires in the back field or flying her kite with that worst of all swear words emblazoned all over it in ruby red for the whole town to witness, which she did a fair amount, they pointed at her from far off. They had names for her. Worse again was what her father called his only rule. Actually it was one of about a thousand million rules he had, all of which added up to the same thing which was Dee crying in her room. This rule was that Dee could never have a male friend. No young men were allowed in Clonliffe House. When Dee competed in her cross country running events, at which she was fast enough to bring home silver for the town on a national level, not that it mattered a spit to any of them, she was chaperoned off from contact with any boys by some of the working men sent along with her in the car. She was driven to the race. She raced. Then she was driven home with her medal. I can’t be sure, but I think the engine of the car was even running as she was making her way along the finish-straight. I remember watching her run. She timed her swearing with her breathing and heartbeat. She breathed out all of the cigarettes she smoked out the crack in her window at four in the morning. It felt like expelling all the badness. It only got her silver. I always wondered what the gold placed girl was saying and smoking. Dee spent a good whack of time up in that room by herself, is what I’m saying. Long hours. Which left her a little odd. People who have more of a tie to books than people often picture the world a certain way. Usually they have it clearer than most, far as I can see. But then, I’m just a fool Puca around for about a thousand years, you don’t need any opinions out of me.

One of the things helped her along was Nemain. One day when Dee was six, she found she all of a sudden had a whole lot to tell and no one to tell it to. Her father was out on the estate and he never spoke to her anyways. Her mother hated her, of that she was sure. She hadn’t the patience for a diary then, and Facebook hadn’t yet been invented to make other people your diary, so she found herself talking to Nemain. Nemain was a little crow. She was a little crow that sat in the corner of the room and was sad when Dee was sad, and screeched wild murder when she was mad and cawed cackles out of her loud enough to break windows when something was funny. We won’t say if Nemain was really there or wasn’t really there, but she was there for Dee when Dee had need of her. Does this make Dee a feral, disturbed little child? Well, in a way yes, because she used to go sending Nemain to mess up the lives of the girls that pointed and laughed at her on the street. Nothing serious now, Nemain would just go and tear up their homework. Or shape shift into a beautiful young girl and kiss all their boyfriends. Or shite into their cereal while they were turned away. Nemain was a wild oul bitch and no mistake. Now, we won’t say if Nemain really went and did these things, but some of these girls deserved it and Dee needed to feel that they got it. I never actually checked into the facts, if they really did. I liked Dee, though. I think it was the profane kites, flown high enough the whole town could read, and the hell she caught over them. And I knew where she had come from, and where it would all end up. For all of that I liked her.

So one day I opened the door for her.

Some could say this was a wild big mistake. That it was the start to the whole thing. But those are little picture type people. I’m more of a big picture type. You look at a big fuck-up like this whole thing, usually there’s an injustice at the root someplace and it has little enough to do with one wee little matter like opening an oul door.

It was very simple. There was a local club hosting a junior disco down in the town community centre, where the youth groups went when it was raining and they’d run out of cans. The parish priest read in a Sunday supplement that the supervised drinking that carried on in Europe, and in France in particular, was an example to cultures like Scotland, England and Ireland, and that drinking and socialising with adults was beneficial to the community. So he organised this junior disco. I liked that Parish Priest. Man called Father Domnach. And I don’t like too many Parish Priests. He wasn’t too far wrong. Then, in other ways, he was completely wild off the mark. One of these ways was that the whole night would cavort straight out of control, sacrificed on a pagan altar of smuggled cigarette smoke, oceans of hip-flask vodka, crying girls smeared over in cheap lipstick in the corner, lads puking up most of their insides in the other, the guards called, the adults locked out the back, only raging, younger girls puking up most of their guts behind the car park, the sound-system only wrecked, the DJ threatened with strangulation and poisoning and towns of teenagers for miles around emptying in their direction once it got out there was free drink to be had. And Cormac MacNeassa was there too. Cormac showed up there with the boys he hurled with down at the centre. He bumped into some of the other lads he tended stables with on the Clonliffe Estate too, lads who had gone and gotten cans in, so he figured he’d stick with them. They found a corner to watch the madness unfurl and get through the cans.
“Did you think it was going to be this good?” one of them said to Cormac, early on in the night.
“You know what? I did. I had faith in Father Domnach,” Cormac said. There were two girls clawing out one another’s hair in the purple strobe lighting, the other hands free for their cans, and the priest blessing himself in the window. That was when Dee walked in. I opened that door for her.
“Would you look at that?” the same boy said to Cormac. “It’s Wild Dee O’Loughlin. What about that. If she isn’t a quare fine ride too.”
Dee strolled in among the chaos, looking unearthly. She had let her imagination go, up there in her room, getting ready for the disco. She knew her parents would never in ten thousand years let her anywhere near the place. So she asked Nemain to help open the window for her to drop out of. She had asked Nemain’s advice on what to dress herself in too, and Nemain had recommended a glittering Arabian scarf, a long, loose wrapped sarong, layers of random coloured materials, lucky charms hanging out of them, and lots of makeup lathered on thick round her dark eyes like she was Scheherazade herself. But I wasn’t sure if Nemain was up to actually opening the right doors, so I played the gentleman about it, starting with the door to her room.

“She’s totally sick in the head. Look at her. Look at what she’s dressed herself in. Like a school pantomime genie. Stand well clear of that, lad,” Cormac said back. “Wild O’Loughlin, she’s owned by her Da, so she is. He’s her jailer. He’s driven her fuckin’ mental. We’ve all seen the kites. She has a pretend crow that she talks to.”
“Still, though, would ye look at her?”
“Aye, I know.”
Dee moved through the madness like an ethereal being. Her robes flowed. Her jewellery caught the strobe lights. She had her own hip-flask, more than one, in actuality, her own cigarettes, she had no need of the unprotected punch-bowl which was by now lapping at somewhere between seventy-six and seventy-eight per cent proof. She saw Cormac Mac Neassa though. She looked through the jungle of other young lads stumbling and crawling toward her. She watched Cormac get up and leave with them two boys. The one of them incapable of shutting up talking to Cormac, the other who was just about too drunk to even speak. She watched them exit the front door and find the corner of the car park for a cigarette, holding the third lad up. Cormac was always the great one for watching the chaos unfold from without. Dee left the hall after them and circled the back of the car park, through the trees. She lit a cigarette. She cracked open a flask and listened to them talk.

“They distracted the guards. They lit bonfires down by the Widow Gorman’s land. Also by the Quarry and the furniture warehouse.”
“That old furniture is fierce good kindling. They thought that one out.”
“The widow Gorman will make kindling out of them. That’s the one keeps a loaded rifle under the bed. Has done these twenty years.”
“They all do that.”
“They all say they do that.”
And on it went.
“They say she’s possessed too, that widow.”
“Possessed by what?”
“Possessed by vapours, up out of the earth. Buried souls come back in gaseous form, to wreak havoc.”
“That would account for her demeanour right enough.”
Now we won’t say Nemain was there and distracted the two other fellas a minute away, or that she wasn’t and didn’t. But either way they were distracted. The drunk boy Damien fell over for sleep and took the other with him, leaving Cormac. That was the minute that Dee saw her chance. What she did was: she hopped up on his back. She hopped right up and grabbed him around the head, covering his eyes, crossing her legs tight around his gut and clinging on for dear mercy. He bucked like a rodeo bull some long time, so he did. He spun. He ran backward and forward. He tried to call out for help. But she had her hands over his mouth too.
“Cormac MacNeassa,” she said. “You’re a fine thing. I’ve seen you from the house. You work my father’s stable.”
“Get off of me ye wild animal. Ye cat. Ye wasp.”
“I will not either. I have you now. What do you mean by wasp anyway? Who’s a wasp?”
“You’re the wasp. Attacking from behind like an animal.”
But she clung on tight like a little limpet on a rock. He couldn’t shake the girl. There was volcanic swearing out of them both. After a bit, he started to tire out. She was still stuck to him when he collapsed to his knees, beaten. Well, all of that was how Dee O’Loughlin and Cormac MacNeassa finally met.

Nemain still thinks it was her behind them meeting. I just checked into the facts too. Turns out Nemain actually did do all those horrible things to them girls that I mentioned before. The oul bitch.”


About Alan Walsh
Author Alan Walsh
Author Alan Walsh

I’m a writer, designer and recently a father too, who returned to Dublin a couple of years ago after living abroad in Bologna, Florence and London, doing all kinds of jobs from teacher to delivery-man to commis-chef.

Sour is my first novel, published by Pillar and available in all the very best places. I tweet pretty often at @Alan_Walsh_77 and I blog as often as I can at: http://alanwalshblog.blogspot.ie/, and there’s a whole website about the book at: http://sourthenovel.weebly.com/

The Friday Fiction with Geoff le Pard

Geoff needs no introduction on this blog; he has practically become a regular of late having taken up residency on the Friday Fantastic Flash! As a member of the Bloggers bash committee, and proponent of #1000voicesspeak, he has become quite well known around the blogosphere. Well, in case you hadn’t heard, he has a new book out, and here he is to tell you all about it.

Ali has kindly offered me the chance to share with you a little about my new book, My Father and Other Liars.

The extract below is the start of chapter five. Before this point we have focused on the two main protagonists, Maurice Oldham and Lori Ann Beaumont. In this scene we meet Isaac Beaumont for the first time. Isaac is Lori Ann’s father and the current head of the Church of Science and Development. We already know about the Church, its focus on genetic research at the university it funds and that an investigation is underway into the possible misuse of certain Federal grant monies it receives towards that research.

I wanted to share this with you because (a) It begins with a description which for me is quite long but since it relates to the fictional town of Beaumont where a lot of the action takes place is crucial to the narrative – how do you feel about this? I explored locations over at the Daily Echo last week; (b) We hear a little about the investigation but also the internal stresses at the University – in this context we come across two important characters for the first time: the Professor in charge of the genetic research, Jacob Stzinski and the Chief Operating Officer of the Church and the acting head of the University, Dan Albertstein – do these introductions leave you intrigued? (c) We are also introduced to Gina Peroni, Isaac’s PA and friend to his daughter who it turns out has crucial part to play in the story – what do you surmise about her from this section? (d) Apart for the opening chapter that probably changed ten times, this was one of the most difficult sections to write, mostly because I was trying to answer the questions I’ve posed above.

A lot happens in this part, most of it via dialogue. As I’ve written over at Sacha Black’s Writespiration, having effective dialogue is a real skill and difficult to master. The combination of the longish opening description, the significant information dump and Isaac’s internal and external dialogue make it something I want to change every time I read it. So what do you think? What would you change?

Beaumont is a modern town situated close to the panhandle to the north west of Oklahoma. It is within 100 miles of Enid, the nearest town of any size. In the 1987 edition of Towns and Cities of Oklahoma Beaumont, then called Cooloon Heights (pop 1720) was described as ‘a bustling little throwback to a distant age of ranching and staging posts’; that ‘while the oil and gas wealth that has benefited other parts of the north of the State did not extend to Coolon Heights, the town has grown with ‘the unexpected and unbalancing addition of the Church of Science and Development’s growing community’. That year, two changes that would dramatically alter the landscape occurred. First, Pastor Joseph Beaumont persuaded the town council to change the town name to Beaumont on a promise to drill for new water supplies, and second, Isaac Beaumont, his son, produced the first sketch of what was to become the Beaumont Christian University campus, later renamed the Christian University of Beaumont. The development was rapid. The old town survived but as a twee museum piece of boutiques and coffee shops serving the university’s growing population. The campus itself, shaped like a fan with each Faculty housed along one of the spines, was dominated by a 15 storey monument of glass and steel, designed with more than a nod to Mies van der Rohe. This centre piece, at the hinge of the fan and called the Cornucopia building, housed the headquarters of the university, the Beaumont Charitable Foundation and, at the top, the administrative offices of the Church itself. Isaac Beaumont, now Pastor of the Church, occupied a corner office that looked out over the town. Whenever he needed inspiration, for a sermon or an essay or any one of the many interviews he gave, he would stand and stare to the west, calling to mind the stories his Father told him of that first bumpy truck ride when he found Cooloon Heights and knew he’d come home.

Isaac was a tall man with a straight back and the remnants of blond hair, mostly now silver. His blue eyes shone in the light from the hot Oklahoman sun. He turned away from the window, having briefly caught his reflection, distorted by the angle of the glass; it made him look tired and older than his 57 years. He glanced towards his PA, Gina Peroni, bent over her notepad. She had short blond spiky hair that Isaac felt sat oddly with her conservative dress sense. She was waiting for him to continue the read through for Friday’s sermon, but his concentration had gone.

He said, “You know, Gina, several times I’ve thought I missed the cut and thrust of the university, helping shape its future but talking to Professor Stzinski earlier reminded me what a… a pain it can be.”

She smiled up at him. “He did sound animated, sir.”

“You heard? Jacob was pretty loud.” Isaac paused, wondering if he should say anymore.

Gina said, “Can I do anything, sir? In Mr Albertstein’s absence?”

“No Gina. Jacob’s just a little paranoid. You’d think, after the press he’s just had, he’d be happy.” He picked up a sheet and read, “The Chronicle called him ‘genius’ and The Monitor said he was a ‘once in a generation marvel’ and Beaumont Christian University is the ‘go-to place for budding geneticists’.”

“It hasn’t all been favourable, sir.”

“What have I missed?”

“The Oklahoman was pretty rude, I thought.”

“Was it?”

Gina shuffled her papers, avoiding his gaze. Isaac smiled. “Come on Gina. Tell me the worst.”

She coughed. “It implied that you didn’t know what you were getting into when you recruited him and you’ve been lucky so far. Pretty churlish I thought. It said… it said you must be crowing.”

Isaac smiled as Gina lifted her head. “That’s pretty good for those fellas, don’t you think? After all they usually display their Southern Baptist prejudices quite openly.”

“I think they feel we are a little too liberal, sir, taking on the Professor.”

Isaac smiled. “First folks to call us liberal. That wouldn’t please Dan.”

Gina nodded. “Did Professor Stzinski say why he was upset, sir? Was it Mr Albertstein?”

Isaac hesitated before continuing. “It’s nothing really. And yes, it seems to be Dan’s fault this time. Apparently, Dan agreed to one of the department’s main funders, the Medical Research Funding Bureau, he said, sending in a team to do a check and, of course, according to Jacob, their sole aim is to disrupt him and his work. I’d not heard about this.”

He glanced at Gina but her head was down. “It sounded harmless enough to me. As usual Jacob expects me to sort this out.”

Gina nodded. “I’m sure Mr Albertstein can quiet him, sir. Maybe during your 2 pm call you could mention it?”

“Dan’s good at polishing Jacob’s ego, isn’t he? Yes, probably best if I ask him to speak to Jacob.” Isaac looked at the picture that dominated his room, a reproduction of Raphael’s Madonna and Child. Another reminder of his Father. “Sometimes…” He shook his head and looked back at Gina. “Sometimes it’s easier dealing with the egos of TV producers than those of scientists and administrators, that much I have learned. Now, this interview with the Chronicle…”


My Father and Other Liars is the second book by Geoff Le Pard.Published in August, it is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

His first book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle can be found on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls.

Friday Fantastic Flash

Headstone in cemetery with flowers for concept of death and loss

Flash Fiction Friday is a new feature on aliisaacstoryteller, which will run in conjunction with The Friday Fiction. I am inviting all you authors, bloggers and readers to join me and have a go. You can submit here, I will feature only one story each week. Entries can be on any subject, so long as they are under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!

So here is my entry to kick it all off.


Birth Mother

“You’re not my real mother!”

She recoils, as if I have stabbed her with a real knife, not just the sharp edges of my words. Her pale lips tremble, the voice they issue so frail I can barely make it out.

“I nurtured you, reared you, devoted the best part of my life to you. What does that make me, if not your real mother?”

But my feet have already jumped the precipice; there is no going back. “She gave me life. There is no greater gift a mother can give a child.”

“That’s not true.”

“You just don’t want me to find my real parents. You want me all for yourself. You’re selfish, and afraid.”

An uncharacteristic hardness settles into the line of her jaw. “Alright, then. I set you free.”

It is not the reaction I expect, and I flounder, speechless for once.

“Get your coat. I’ll show you.”

I have no choice but to scrape up my courage and follow her out the door.

*

I eye the gravestone, the bare plot, untended and unloved, and wipe the tears savagely from my face.

Sometimes, the stories we make up for ourselves are preferable to the truth. Sometimes, the most twisted imagination can’t compete with reality.

She died young, my birth mother, her life stolen by the drugs she craved so badly for most of it. I had been taken from her as a baby when she was caught trying to sell me in a pub, a desperate attempt to raise funds to fuel her addiction.

Five hundred euros was all I was worth.

I turn away, burying myself in my real mother’s arms. She holds me tightly, stroking my hair, and murmurs softly.

“It was the best five hundred euros I ever spent.”


 

Don’t forget to submit your flash fiction piece here. Thanks for reading and taking part!


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.