It’s been a while…

Hi, its been a while…

Of cause, you may not of noticed, but the Passing Place has been on something of a hiatus. Real life has been throwing curve balls and writing blog posts has been thrown somewhere down the bottom of ‘the list of important things I need to get done’.

But occasionally its nice just to check in and say hi, so this is me checking in and saying hi.

Harvey and the duckmen…

I’ve been involved with 6E’s Harvey Duckman anthologies since day 1, back then they planned a one off anthology of scifi, fantasy, horror, steampunk and general weirdness, written by fifteen different writers and asked me to submit a story. Which I did.

That original idea has grown and grown, into what is currently seven volumes of the main series and two specials (Christmas and Pirates).

Volume one is now even available in hardback…

Image

But they are not stopping there, volume eight is due out in the next few days, and i’ll post the cover of that little delight when I finally get to see it. As with all the others, because they keep asking me back, there is a story in volume eight written by yours truly, and I am really looking forward to hearing what people think of a my character, Lucifer Mandrake court magician to Victoria Sax-Coberg, of whom there will be more to come…

Hannibal Smyth

Speaking of that first volume of Harvey Duckman, it was almost the literary debut of old Hannibal himself. My story in volume one The Cheesecake Dichotomy was written while I was still working on the first Hannibal novel A Spider in the Eye and when I submitted the story early in the summer of 2018, had the first Harvey been published shortly after then it would have been. But that first volume of the anthology took a while to put together and in the mean time Hannibal debuted in my novella ‘A Scar of Avarice,’ and ‘A Spider in the Eye was finally published a couple of months before the first Harvey made it to the printers. Chronologically however ‘Cheesecake’ remains the first complete Hannibal story and one that’s more important to series than many might assume.

But back to Hannibal, I said way back in May that the third novel was written and I was on with the second draft. This remains the case, my over optimistic estimate of having it done and dusted by now has been derailed by life. But it’s progressing and I’ll hopefully be through with the all important second draft by the end of next month. The Squid may not entirely be on the shoulder, but its crawling its way up there.

This third volume nicely rounds off the first trilogy, and the Hannibal that goes on from there will be a little different after all he has been through. Coincidently, as I was talking about HD1, ‘A squid on the shoulder’ is heavily influence by that first Hannibal story from way back in the first Harvey Duckman, with the unexpected but I hope much anticipated return to the series of Henrietta ‘spanners’ Clarkhurst, as Hannibal finds himself on the island of Doctor Musk. Not that you need to have read ‘The Cheesecake Dichotomy’ to enjoy ‘A Squid on the Shoulder’ but the fall out from ‘the cheesecake incident’ as its still called in the members bar of ‘The In’s and Outs’ looms mightily over this third novel and the previous novels in the series.

Hettie ‘Spanners’ Clarkhurst

The Maybe’s

Back at the start of the year I was talking about getting three books out this year. This looks a forlorn hope now as life has got in the way in ways I always hoped it never would, but I am not going to rush to finish a book that’s not as good as I can make it and life ain’t going any easier on me right now so the best I can do is give you an update.

The second novel in the Maybe series is still in its first draft and has been slow going, but its not been forgotten and hopefully Gothe will make an appearance early next year.

The Lexicomicon is still in the works and the working drafts are with my editors, so hopefully more news on that soon

And finally, the Elf Kings Thingy is not forgotten either, but bringing out an episode every week has been , I will get back to that tale before too long.

Or were, but hopefully some of them will

Anyway that’s all for now, I hope this finds you and your life in good shape. Much love to all

Mark

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Naming the Novel

An interesting read on a subject I always find fascinating. Book titles are always a challenge

Ben Sawyer

“It’s as good a name as any. And I’m not likely to forget it. That happens sometimes.”

When I first put this site together, I wrote a sentence that has more or less been there ever since – “Waking the Witch is the first novel in a series of urban fantasy stories, and is currently slouching its way toward publication.”

The novel became Waking the Witch in my head while I was writing the earliest chapters and quickly became lodged. There was just one problem – nobody has ever really liked the title that much.

For me, the phrase resonated with all the characters, both literally with Holly rising from eternal slumber and more metaphorically with both Mira and their antagonist, who embodied a potential to be fulfilled and a malevolence bubbling up from within respectively. All of them were waking their witches in their own unique way.

(It’s…

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Chapter titles

I have a thing about chapter titles. I’m always a little disappointed when an author doesn’t use them, though just numbering chapters is very much the norm these days. The naming of chapters harks back to the days when many novels were first published in periodical magazines. Way back in fact, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As for that matter do chapters as a concept themselves.

A mild digression: One of the most ludicrous criticisms ever levelled at a writer was when one ‘critic’ accused Terry Pratchett of ‘not being a proper writer, or of any literary worth, because he doesn’t writer in chapters.’ This critic was of course an idiot and Sir Terry could and did write his splendid stories any damn way he chose. And if a critic did not find ‘literary merit’ in them, because they were not subdivided into chapters then frankly I question there merit as a critic as they have just proven their opinions to be without worth… But I digress.

Chapters were used to spilt up a novel into monthly/weekly sized chunks to be published in periodicals, and chapter titles were used to add a little hype. ‘coming next month, Horacio Khalid part two’ not having the same punch as ‘ Horacio Khalid continued next month in ‘The torn dress and the dagger’ or ‘The burning of Kroschev’ or ‘The dying of hope’ etc… These days when novels are published in books, chapters don’t serve their original purpose. But it doesn’t mean chapters or chapter titles have no worth. Chapters add structure to a novel. Sometimes they signify a switch in point of view, or a digression on a single subject that while part of the novel as a whole is still separate.

When they have names you also get to play the chapter title game of trying to figure out what a novel is all about form the chapter list. This may be just me but I always find it a fun game…

Chapter titles, which I have always used, do something else. They add a certain tone to the novel as a whole. In my first and most atypical novel Cider Lane for example, each chapters title is a single word, I didn’t plan it that way, but they work for the one of the novel, a contemporary thriller, romance come tragedy which is hard to categorised, even for me. One word chapter titles like ‘Withdrawal’,’Trepidation’, ‘Stars’, and ,’Abigail’ fit the tone of the novel which has a certain bleakness to it. (its a odd novel in many regards, odder still because its one of mine, I worry about it, which oddly also makes it the one that I ask readers opinions of most).

Then there are the chapter titles in Passing Place, which are perfect reflections of the novel itself, which is strange, odd (in a different way to Cider Lane), thoughtful and on occasion weird, titles like ‘The Existential Meanderings of Gaia’,’The Forrest in the Cellar’,’Power according to LaGuin’, and ‘Causality Sandwich’ not only do they fit each chapter, they give an essence of the odd and unworldly nature of Eqwiths Passing Place.

Maybes chapter titles are somewhat deliberate in hearkening back to Victoria periodicals, and obey some careful rule of my own about what they are, as they need to fit the tone of that book and series too. Which while steampunk, and obstructively set in the same universe as the Hannibal Smyth series, though a hundred and fifty years before Hannibal’s own time, the are not told by Hannibal himself. there tone is slightly primmer, a little more serious, yet with a touch of light sensationalism about them. ‘A Soul in a Bottle’,’The Battle of Sheers Wharf’,’An Inking in the Night’. and ‘Whitehall Revelations’ fit that difference in tone from those stories told by Hannibal.

As for Hannibal himself, well the Hannibal novels are told in Hannibal’s own and somewhat idiosyncratic voice. They tend to be a little obtuse and reflective of a more modern sentiment than the ones in the Maybe series, as Hannibal is in a time period somewhat closer to our own despite technology not having advanced in the same way (which is somewhat at the core of both series, Maybe set as it is at the dawn of Hannibal age, when History turned left rather than right). So while they maintain the Victorian periodical theme, they have a twist to them, contain a smattering of pop culture references, and the occasional vulgarity, its Hannibal after all, ‘Avoiding any Imperial Involvement…’ ‘Bullet train to Hiroshima’,’ The Hand of America Lays Upon My Interests’, and a personal favourite of mine ‘The Washbowl Interrogation’.

These titles are all very much in Hannibal’s own voice. They fit the Hannibal novels in tone and substance. Which brings me to why I was thinking about chapter titles in the first place. I’ve just finished the first ( though in some cases forth) draft of the third Hannibal novel ‘A Squid on the Shoulder’ and part of finishing it involved going through the chapters and deciding if the working title for the chapter was going to stay or if it needed a new one. This is because chapters change in the writing and what you think there going to be about isn’t always what ends up on the page. So often working titles are place holders. But now I have the complete list, subject to change in future drafts, but the titles are likely to remain. They are, as ever, very Hannibal…

So as I have them, I thought I would share them. Feel free to play the chapter title game and see what you make of them.

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The price of Defying Winter

LC grew up in a war zone. A dirty little war, on a dirty little planet in the between. He was a refugee street kid, or would have been if there was anywhere to flee to. In stead he was just a street kid, stuck between the occupying forces and the gorilla insurgents, being played off by both sides against the other while every day was just a struggle to survive, and to keep his ‘family’ of the lost and forgotten victims of the squabbles of two diametrically opposed super powers together and safe.

His future, when he had the luxury to think about it at all, was set in stone. At some point doing little earns for the resistance to earn a few rations here, while tapping the occupiers for anything he could get would lead to either his early demise or been forced, by circumstance and at the point of a rifle, to join the resistance, because starvation or execution where the only other choices and they were no choice at all.

If you have not read CG Hatton’s Kheris Burning, the first Thieves Guild origins novel, you should. Its a book that has echos and parallels with the lives of street children in places like Syria, Sierra Leone, El Salvador. Its also a wonderful science fiction novel, not least because of those perfectly written windows on to the real world, by a wonderful author.

At the end of that first book (and this is not really a spoiler as the LC is a main character from the main Thieves Guild series of novels) LC is plucked off Kheris by an organisation called The Thieves Guild, because they see something in him. LC has potential, though he doesn’t know it at the time, and they have been keeping tabs on him a long time. His talents make him a valuable asset. But his guilt is all about the ‘family’ he has left behind, and just because you’re a ‘asset’ doesn’t mean you aren’t disposable if it comes to it. The Thieves Guild is a whole new kind of family, a family that looks after its own, a family with a mantra…

‘ No one messes with The Thieves Guild’

This is patiently not true…

Actually rather a lot of people mess with The Thieves Guild, but usually they don’t know they are doing so. Because that’s the rule, the one hard and fast rule, the one you can never break. No one messes with the Thieves Guild because no one knows they are messing with them. the price of membership is never admitting that membership to anyone outside the guild. You live a lie, multiple lies, when you in deep cover.

In Defying Winter, LC learns the real cost of the price. He also faces an enemy he all his experience in the war zone of Kheris, all his guild training, all his talents and skills, have left him woefully unprepared for. The rich….

Embedded in a boarding school for the galaxy’s richest scions, one that breaches the two super powers of the galaxy , the old earth empire and the corporate super block of Winter. Street kid LC finds something unexpected, beyond his inability to know which fork to use for the fish coarse, he finds something he did not know he was looking for, and in finding it comes up against the price of being a member of The Thieves Guild. To lie and live a lie, as convincingly as he can, because everything depends upon those lies, while caught in that oh so familiar web the young have always blundered into full of innocence and utterly unprepared.

In the end, perhaps predictably but not in a way that detracts for the story, just because some thing are inevitable, events lead to LC having to face up to the price of being Thieves Guild and the price of forgetting that price.

The price of defying winter.

As with the previous two books in this series, and the main thieves guild series, this is fast paced scifi at its best. Written with passion and flair, its a book that hard top put down once you start reading because every chapter hangs you over a cliff, every paragraph, every sentence, every word come to that. Its hard not to read it in one sitting, unless you start it late at night and don’t intend to see it through to the dawn.

I’ve been telling people to read C G Hatton’s novels for a long time now, so my question at this point is , why haven’t you? You don’t know what you’re missing

and the first two books in this series…

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Talking about: writing short stories

How do you go about writing short stories?

This was the other question the Harvey Duckman writers set out to answer at Scarborough scifi online 2021.

Of course, this is a complex subject and every writer has their own views but between us we shared a few secrets and made a few suggestions. So is you want to try your hand at short story writing, or novel writing or just writing in general, this panel may be for you.

I can promise only two things, firstly, its all good advice, or at least advice that is well intended, and secondly there is no mention of cannibalism in this broadcast…

Also, I’m wearing my other hat…

You can find out more about the writers and the Harvey Duckman series at the Harvey Duckman website

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Talking About Inspiration

Where do you find your inspiration?

Its a question every writer gets asked, that I get asked, so often its something of a cliché. Its a shade away from that other question, ‘where do you get your ideas from?‘ that crops up so often and brings the average writer out in hives…

My current answer to that other question is ‘from drinking the distilled essence of the souls of the never born.‘ But if I am honest rum is just as effective and easier to get hold of. For a start bargaining with the gods of the dreamless land always gives me a head ache…

Actually, the answer to that first question is probably different for every writer, yet it often comes down to a simple truth, we read a lot. But its more complicated that that, if not quite enacting strange rites on the third night of a full moon and burning sage to ward off the hungry things that linger near the boarders….

A week ago, as part of Scarborough Scifi Weekend on line, me and a half dozen writers from the Harvey Duckman Presents series got together to talk about our inspirations. None of them admitted to dark pagan ritual cannibalism, but it was a fun and interesting panel all the same.

You can find out more about the writers and the Harvey Duckman series at the Harvey Duckman website

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The Elf King’s Thingy part 9

The Elf King’s Thingy Part IX

Speckpocket the Genealogist of the kings court was not having a good day.

It hadn’t started well, As the King, it appeared, had decided to dissipate half his court in a rage. Well, he conceded, perhaps not quite half, but more than enough of the loiterers, lapdogs and sycophants that infested the throne room on a daily basis had cease to be corporal. Which meant lots of paperwork for Speckpocket to fill out.

His task, in the grand scheme of things, was to keep track of who everyone was or more correctly had been. Fay don’t die very often, but dissipation was much the same, worse in fact as you had to keep track of who had been banished so when they turned up again at some point claiming to be the former ‘Lord Catsnape’ you could dig through the archives to discover if ‘Lord Catsnape’ had been someone important or a minor functionary who had no rights as such to claims.  It could be hours, days, months , years or centuries before someone re-enorperised. Often when they did no one remembered there had even been a ‘Lord Catsnape’ to begin with. Let alone what calling if any he had on the kings purse.

As Speckpocket scratched away with his quill on sheets of velum he muttered to himself, “would a ball point be too much to ask, or actual paper rather than bloody goat skin.” Then he cursed loudly as a split in his nib caused the ink to blot. He vented his feelings by throwing the quill across the room in the direction of his assistant before opening his desk draw in search of a replacement and his knife. Disappointingly the draw was empty. He snorted loudly and stared over at his assistant Mudlark.  “You have one job, only one that matters, keeping me supplied with bloody quills,” he shouted and started looking around for something to throw at the offending clerk.

He’d have thrown the knife, but with his luck he would have struck Mudlark in the head and discorporate the useless swine. Which would leave him with out and assistant and more importantly, even more paperwork to fill out.

It was the prospect of more paperwork that swung the argument against fayacide and so he just threw his blotting pad at the offending clerk.    

Mudlark was already hustling for the doorway, ducking from expectation as the blotting pad flew over his head. ‘One job, oh yes I only have one job and its do everything you grizzled old swine.’ He thought to himself, not for the first time. Unfortunately for Mudlark as the clerk rushed through the doorway collided with the waiting deManfess and so it proved to be the last time he had that thought…

“Quills, I needs quills damn you…”  Speckpocket shouted into the void beyond the doorway, then as he watched Mudlark’s head came back into the room without he rest of him. His jaw dropped slack and he stared at the head rolling across the dust laden carpet, as it slowly came to rest. The horror of further paperwork and  now sans assistant washing over him as he slowly raised his gaze to the doorway just as Mr Spleen stepped through it and carefully over Mudlark’s head.

Mr Spleen coughed and took a handkerchief out of his pocket to dab at his mouth. “I’m afraid I have no feathers on me Mr Speckpocket. But luckily we only want you to look something up for us…” he wheezed.  

Behind him deManfess entered the room gnawing on an assistants arm. His teeth still glowing green ever so slightly…  

Next week ( or possibly in a couple of days) the tale of ‘The Elf king’s Thingy’ will continue, with Part 10 And the first appearance of Merl’s Imporium

You can find the full series here

Authors note: This part work comprises of a first draft, without the usual editing, proof reading etc, It is somewhat raw because of this. There may be glaring errors, terrible typos and crimes of a grammatical nature. Feel free to point them out if your self-esteem requires a boost, you would certainly be proving your intellectual superiority over the author in doing so…

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The Elf King’s Thingy Part 8

The Elf King’s Thingy Part VIII

There are probably worse fates in the world than double geography’… Anna mused to herself while failing to pay any attention to the lines of strata been drawn on the white board by Mr Wainwright, possibly the more boring teacher in the history of the profession.

In fairness, in Anna’s opinion anyone who willingly chose to teach geography was going be boring. Anna preferred History. Interesting things happened in History. Even if the history they taught at school which tended to be the least interesting bits of history. Anna even preferred Theology to Geography. At least Theology taught you about some of those worse fates that could happen. The really interesting stuff, however, happened when you mixed history and theology together and got myths.

Myths were fun and defiantly has some worse fates than double geography…

As Mr Wainwright continued ‘teaching’ them about how glaciation crated the landscape of the pennies in the last ice age, his explanation seeming to take longer than that ice age, Anna started to revise her opinion on fates. She suspected if Sisyphus was given the option of double geography or continuing to push his boulder up the hill in hell, he would opt to keep on pushing … 

She became aware she was yawning just as Mr Wainwright broke off from U shaped valleys to loudly ask “Are we keeping you awake Miss Kirkpatrick?”

Anna sat up with a jerk, mumbling “Sorry sir” much to the amusement of her classmates, and felt herself go red at the cheeks as everyone, with the exception of Heidi, laughed at her discomfort. Mr Wainwright grunted and was turned back to the board to continue his lecture on moraine dragging along the base of an ice sheet just as a strange buzzing noise started to emanate from Anna’s vicinity.

“If that’s a phone you can bring it here right now Miss Kirkpatrick.” Mr Wainwright snapped.

Anna was hit by a sinking feeling as she glanced nervously down at her bag, which was indeed where the offending buzzing was coming. One thing she knew defiantly was not the cause was her phone. She had stopped bringing her phone to school when it ceased to be new enough to be ordinary. She had asked her parents for a newer model but her father had insisted she did not need one as her old one ‘Performs the function it was designed for, it’s a phone, you can ring people on it and they can ring you…’ Which was the kind of wisdom her father often spouted.

Her father’s logic was as fatally flawed as it was inescapable. It was based on the false premises that teenagers use their phones to ring there friends, rather than to snap-chat them, Instagram, watch videos of cats, facebook their lives , twitter what passed for their thoughts and speak in the complex and to him incomprehensible language of emoji. ‘smiley face, boot, cat, smiley face, yellow star , twinkling star, cupcake’. In reality calling these devices phones was a misnomer. They were really an extension of the id, via a five inch screen, that allowed access to the world beyond the mundane, not devices for conversing with other people. 

To avoid ridicule over her outdated device and of course the feared being not ordinary, Anna always left her ‘phone’ at home. That and her own inability to understand what ‘smiley face, boot, cat, smiley face, yellow star , twinkling star, cupcake’ actually meant.

Despite giving her bag her best hard stare, the buzzing sound from within continued. As did the sinking feeling. She knew what it was, it was the box. Of course it was the box, ‘Why did I have to bring it with me, I knew something like this would happen…’ she thought top herself . The last thing she needed was to have to take out the box and let other people see it. No matter what else it was, ordinary it wasn’t, but Grandma Grunswick had insisted she bring it with her to school. ‘If Dearie insisted on wasting her time with book learning, then Dearest must take the Calidonius with her, lest Dearest leave it to be lost. We can’t have that now can we Dearest…’

Grandma Grunswick always spoke like that. And then she would smile at her, she always smiled at her. There was something chilling about Grandma Grunwick’s smile, but it was the words that had chilled Anna most. Though she knew Grandma Grunswick loved her, at least, she was sure Grandma Grunswick did. She could still make even the plainest words sound sinister and threatening in nature. Yet they were also compelling, playing on Anna’s desire to conform and be ordinary  

When Anna was a child, a real child that is, rather than a teenager, Grandma Grunswick had been her imaginary friend. A wise old woman who would always be there to look after her. Granma Milly had been slowly returning to the age of the quiff and brothel creepers since Anna had been about three, and Granny Kirkpatrick was just a couple of pictures on the wall her dad used to point to occasionally and talk about. Grandma Grunswick on the overhand was there on a night when her parents had tucked her in to talk to in the dark, like all good imaginary friends she was also there to blame when something went wrong. “I didn’t drop the eggs it was Grandma Grunswick who nudged me…” It only became a problem when Grandma Grunswick stopped being imaginary when Anna turned twelve.

“Kirkpatrick, bring that phone here right now…” Mr Wainwright snapped at her.

Anna looked back up horrified and grabbed her bag, pressing at the box through the cloth hoping doing so would make it stop, but it continued to buzz and she realised it was vibrating at an alarming rate. “Sorry sir, it won’t stop.” She heard herself saying while a nasty bit of laughter started elsewhere in the room. The echelons of the pack setting in, she had broken the first rule, she had stood out from the crowd. ‘at least they all think it’s my phone.’ She thought bitterly.

“Kirkpatrick you have five seconds to turn that thing off and give it to me, or you can go to the green room..” the teacher said in what was the most animated voice he had ever used. ‘If he had only used that much passion when teaching his subject geography might prove to be less unconsciously dull.’ Anna found herself thinking…   

She wanted to protest it wasn’t her fault, and more than that to protest it wasn’t her phone. But if he made her open the bag she would be in further trouble. Not with the teacher but with her classmates. Strange wooden boxes that vibrated were defiantly not ordinary.

Five seconds proved to be both no time at all and the longest of epochs, but when Wainwright spoke again it was with a degree of resignation, and continuing buzzing form her bag that Anna just stood and walked out of the classroom. The whole room laughing at her save for Mr Wainwright who could sense that which teachers fear more even than an Ofsted inspection, he was losing control of the classroom.

“Settle down you lot, that’s quite enough form you Jenkins, right pack it in or she won’t be the only one sent to the green room…” she heard the teacher say as she fled.   

 

Next week ( or possibly in a couple of days) the tale of ‘The Elf king’s Thingy’ will continue, with Part 9 In the office of Speckpocket Genealogist to the Elf Kings Court

You can find the full series here

Authors note: This part work comprises of a first draft, without the usual editing, proof reading etc, It is somewhat raw because of this. There may be glaring errors, terrible typos and crimes of a grammatical nature. Feel free to point them out if your self-esteem requires a boost, you would certainly be proving your intellectual superiority over the author in doing so…

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The Elf King’s Thingy part 7

The Elf King’s Thingy Part VII

The atmosphere of The Great Vault was one of brooding gloom, despite the glow worm lamps doing their best to shed light around its grim interior. ‘Candles would be better.’ Mr. Spleen thought to himself and he walked through the room examining the odd child sized footprints that lay in the layers of dust that covered the stone floor. The footprints led to the small plinth that sat in the middle of the vault. Upon this lay a red cloth of velvet. Mr Spleen could see it was red velvet despite the layers of dust everywhere in the room  due to a small square in the middle of the cloth that was dust free. Conspicuously so. But it was not where they led that made the footprints odd. Or at least it was not the main thing that was odd about them.

No one ever entered the Elf-Kings vault, judging by the dust this had been the case for an eon or more. Indeed, Spleen mused, ‘It’s a wonder anyone noticed it was even missing’ Though he had no doubt there were watchers of some kind. One thing you could guarantee in Fea it was that something was always watching. Generally at least two something’s, because both courts had there spies.

At his side de Manfess sniffed the air, looking around with a certain kind of disappointment.

“No blood.” The beastly one uttered, then strode over to one of the glow worm lamps and began dismantling it for no real reason beyond, Mr Spleen suspected, boredom.

Mr Spleen sighed to himself and his chest whistled. His partner had many uses but considered thoughtful investigation was not one of them. He examined the footprints again, fascinated by the oddity of them. It was not that they were human child size, many fea were human child size, at least most of the time. Nor was it that they were the footprints of someone wearing human shoes, very clearly human shoes, as fea, when they wore them, favoured shoes that pointed somewhat at the toe…

No, what was odd about the footprints was that they started ten yards in from the wall. At the opposite end of the vault to the one and only door. To be exact, that was to say they started from nowhere, then moved through the vault in a straight line till they got to the plinth, then they disappeared. The obvious conclusion was the owner of those footprints had just appeared in the room, walked to the plinth and vanished again. This was, in Mr Spleens experience, not the sort of thing human children did. Yet according to the reports of the watchers that were not there, a human girl had done so. It was all rather puzzling, because humans, children or otherwise, did not enter the lands of the fea at all. Not any more at any rate. Not for over a thousand years or more. 

There was a crash behind him, and Mr Spleen turned with a certain indifference to see DeManfess biting into a glow worm…

“Good worms these, crunchy.” The bestial man said.

Mr Spleen shock his head at this and went back to his pondering, having already decided to Ignore his partners next question, which he knew would involve offering him a handful of worms. Not that he had anything against the eating of glow worms, but he did not like to snack in the afternoon when he was working. Also, if he was honest, it tended to give him indigestion when the worms tried to crawl out through the holes in his stomach lining… Besides which, he was busy thinking.

Footsteps that appear from nowhere, then just vanish. A portal perhaps? There were the ways… But no, it couldn’t be that simple. A portal would require magic and the vault was warded against all forms of fea magic. Besides which you needed the magic to work where the portal was opened from, and everyone knew magic no longer worked in the human world. Something else was at play here, he was sure.

He walked over to where the footprints originated and sniffed at the air. But there was no scent of anything but dust and time. Apart from the footprints the dust on the floor was undisturbed. So not a portal. A portal was a violent thing, a rip between realities, such things left a trace, and generally smelt of geraniums. Yet there was nothing.

A portal between two points on the fea’s plane of existence perhaps? Such would create less disturbance, it was true, but that brought you back to the use of fea magic and the wards would have gone off. No fea could cast a spell that brought them here, not without a backlash from the wards dissipating them instantly.

Mr Spleen scratched his chin with one hand, a nervous habit from a life time ago when the vestiges of beard had grown there. Then the crunching of another worm behind him broke his concentration and he realised what he was doing with a little regret. One of the advantages of been undead was your hair stopped growing, so no more shaving, but for some reason he missed having stubble to scratch, and fingernails to bite come to that. You never realise, he often brooded, how much joy the habitual biting fingernails was until the quick ceased to be quick and you’d bitten them down to nothing. He’d tried false nails for a while afterwards. Gluing them on, however, was something for which he had little penitence. Particularly as he knew full well he was only gluing them on so he could bite them off afterwards. It just seemed pointless after a while. When they talk about the troubles of the undead life style, Mr Spleen noted, they seldom mention you becoming bereft of simple pleasures like scratching your stubble and masticating on your fingernails…  But then he forced himself to consider the problem at hand once more.

Footsteps that appear from nowhere, footsteps that then just vanish. A portal from inside the fea, but one no fea could cast. No human can use magic in their world. Wards against fea using magic to enter. Use magic in their world… No human could use magic in their world… In their world…

“Oh that’s clever de Manfess, that’s very clever…” Mr Spleen said in triumph, smiling, a nasty smile of many teeth…

“What is…” his partner said mumbled with a mouth half full glow worms, which let out their light with each syllable. Which was, you should note, exactly as disturbing as it sounds.

“Someone has been playing clever buggers… And I believe I know just where to start looking to find out whom…”

“And where would that be?” Asked the glowing mouth.

“The genealogists  I believe, I’m sure they’ll be only too pleased to help us with our enquires.”

“I hope not,” de Manfess said nastily, “I hope they refuse to tell us anything. Then we’ll have to bleed them a little?”

“Oh, I’m sure my fine compatriot, that they’ll be difficult at first. So, there will be plenty of need for bloodshed.” Mr Spleen replied with no real sign of reticence at the idea, indeed something of a happy smile.

After all if you can’t bite your nails you have to do something to relieve the tension of the day.

Next week ( or possibly in a couple of days) the tale of ‘The Elf king’s Thingy’ will continue, with Part 8 There are probably worse fates in the world than double geography

You can find the full series here

Authors note: This part work comprises of a first draft, without the usual editing, proof reading etc, It is somewhat raw because of this. There may be glaring errors, terrible typos and crimes of a grammatical nature. Feel free to point them out if your self-esteem requires a boost, you would certainly be proving your intellectual superiority over the author in doing so…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, books, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, horror, humour, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, mythos, novels, reads, supernatural, the elf kings thingy, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Friday round up of fabulous stuff

I’ve not done one of these for a while, but sometimes it just nice to kick back and talk about some great things in the world. We don’t do that enough.

First up, while last weekend was difficult for personal reasons, I did manage to catch up on some reading and finished Kate Baucheral’s latest novel , the third in the excellent SimCavalier series. Spoilers alert, its fabulous. My review is the second slide.

Meanwhile, due to my difficult family weekend I missed out on a fascinating panel at LitCon online hosted by Joseph Carrabis discussing world building across several scifi-based genres with YA science fantasy author Claudia Blood; alt-history, steampunk, and scifi author Geoff Genge; speculative fiction author Theresa Halvorsen; action-adventure military scifi author C.G. Hatton; scifi author Fabrice Stephan; alt-history and dystopia author Liz Tuckwell; and Joseph Carrabis himself. Luckily it is available on Mr Carrabis’s YouTube channal, which is like my own but more interesting, for any perspective authors of interested readers to catch up with.

Finally, as I said last weekend was not one of the best I have ever experienced. There was plenty of good news along with bad however. And among this I received so delightful reviews for my own novel’s and short story collections.

I know posting my own reviews could be seen as a little sad, but, sometimes writing is screaming out into the void and just hoping that perhaps someone likes and appreciates your madness, because feedback of any kind is hard to get and sometimes that little lift you get from a nice unexpected review makes this whole nonsense seem worthwhile…

And finally, finally, we got our first review of Harvey Duckman Presents 7, and in keeping with the truly international draw of this series and the writers within it was from India. Which was a pleasant surprise… And oddly enough, in the strange interconnections of such things there is a story from way back in Harvey volume 3, written by some semi-literate Yorkshire or other, which stars old Harvey himself and is set in India, where Harvey had travelled to find new writers and is waylaid by Big Publishing’s hit men, and escaping his death due to a cat and a mysterious door, which is the creation myth of the Harvey Duckman series (rather than the more prosaic truth of the matter which was a bunch of writers drinking in a Teesside bar) … Which is why getting a review on Amazon India in particular made me smile.

And finally finally finally.

A good weekend to all , and my your choice of impossible sky gods go with you…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, big questions, book reviews, errol the bookcase dragon, Esqwiths, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, Harvey Duckman, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, novels, Passing Place, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment