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Monday, 31 August 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Writing - market - mystery east of the web...

Can you write mystery short stories for a new imprint from East of the Web?

They're seeking mystery short stories, tales of crime; fast paced thrillers. 'We're interested in most types of crime fiction and thrillers - from the detective puzzle to realistic contemporary thrillers,' they say. 'We're looking for strong writing and original, exciting plots.'
 
Wikipedia commons
 
They pay for selected stories starting at $0.05 per word or a mix of an advance and a royalty.
 
Stories should be at least 7,000 words.
 
Stories will be published under a new electronic imprint from East of the Web, ‘one of the world's leading publishers of short stories.

‘We encourage the submission of previously published as well as new stories,’ they say. ‘If you're looking for a way to make some money from your back catalogue or to get those stories in front of new readers, we would like to hear from you.

‘By focusing on quality, eastoftheweb.com has become one of the top destinations on the web for short stories, with over half a million unique visitors a month. Our mobile app 'Short Stories eReader' has been installed on over 100,000 mobile devices. With over a decade of experience in electronic publishing, we have the reach and the reputation to be the perfect partner for your short stories.’

They’re also looking for sci-fi, horror, and romance short stories. Check out their website.

Their submission process involves first contacting them about your story via their online form; you will then hear back from them within two weeks, letting you know whether to submit your proposed story.
 
This could also expose your name to a bigger audience than hitherto...


 

 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Saturday fiction – ‘Thunderstorm’ – an excerpt

Today, here’s an excerpt from ‘Chapter Eleven – Trial’, from Wings of the Overlord, book one of the Chronicles of Floreskand, a fantasy quest novel co-authored with Gordon Faulkner, both of us writing under the name Morton Faulkner. There’s a small glossary at the end for unfamiliar words appropriate to Floreskand. [Book two is a work in progress, To Be King.] The character descriptions have occurred earlier...

This scene attempts to incorporate weather (not for the first time in this quest, I might add), thus providing action and drama. Weather can often be used as a ‘character’ in a novel; certainly, it provides added conflict, and helps define other people:

A great bank of silvery cloud mass loomed, casting a shadow upon the grassland ahead.
       “Looks like a thunderstorm,” observed Rakcra.
       “It seems to be moving in our direction.”
       Sun shone brilliantly everywhere except where they were going. Darkness spanned the horizon; there was no way round it. The sight alone cast an indefinable fear into Fhord’s heart. Knowing that she was being premature and foolish, she nevertheless delved into her side-pouch and withdrew the storm-idols, and prayers traipsed over her lips. In the past, from the safety of her shuttered windows, she had peered through the wooden slats at the startling flashes of forked lightning, hurled down by the jealous Nikkonslor. But she had never actually weathered such a storm in the open. Yes, she realised, she was afraid. Greatly so.
       Rakcra reined in his whinnying horse. “Stay as outrider, Fhord, while I seek Solendoral and find out what he plans to do.” He squinted to manderon. “There’s no shelter anywhere – we may have to ride on through it, hoping for the best.” He swung his mount round and galloped down the crest into a small vale where the main body of the Hansenand montar rode, oblivious of the encroaching anvil-clouds.
       Musty, dry breezes gusted through Sarolee’s mane. An unhealthy taste filled the air, oppressive. Her palfrey baulked a couple of times but Fhord kept her cantering up and across the sloping bracken. Occasionally, she glanced back over her shoulder, anxious for word from Rakcra or Solendoral.
       At last a rider and horse hurried towards her, the man’s fur cloak billowing in the warm breeze. Fhord was almost wheezing on the close air now as she saw it was Alomar.
       “We’re to quicken the pace, lass. Solendoral says these summer hail storms can be deadly. If we stop moving, we’re lost!”
       Not for the first time on this expedition, her heart sank. “Hail? In summer?”
       “Freak weather hereabouts. Some say this is Nikkonslor’s peeving-ground. But I reckon it’s something to do with the weird cluster of mountains – the Sonalumes don’t seem to obey the natural laws as our so-called experts predict them. Give me a tried and tested stioner any time!”
       Fhord led her horse down the slope, joining the van with Alomar. “Did Ulran –?”
       “Yes – predicted it last night, he did – hence his advice this morn to carry fur cloaks. But what else can we do? There was no shelter at camp, and we’ve come across none since, either. Some of these slopes may shield part of the effects – if the hail falls slantwise. But if it comes down straight, then what?” Alomar grinned, his moustache long and unruly now.
       Fhord nodded and released her fur cloak, put it over her shoulders.
       “Close up!” came the shout from behind.
       Neither Fhord nor Alomar lessened their pace but after a time the rest of the montar, complete with trundling fire- and equipment-wagons, closed up to their rear.
       “Keep together!” shouted Solendoral as the horde began to ascend the shallow ridge directly in their path.
       Ahead, flat unrelieved ground of hedge and thicket with grass interspersed. Hardly a tree in sight, not a boulder cluster to be seen.
       “Keep it tight!”
       And so they rode full into the fury of the storm.
       The prospect was daunting as Fhord – still one of the front riders – entered into the deep shadow. The surrounding air-temperature abruptly dropped. The sun’s light and warmth were suddenly obliterated. She looked warily upwards and all was black, a great rolling mass of cloud, seething slowly on hidden winds.
       Then the torrential hail fell. Alomar’s words had readied her for it, but no preparation could have shown her what it would be like to experience.
       Each hailstone must have been the size of an eyeball. As Alomar had feared, the hail sluiced straight down, pounding upon their heads and shoulders and the backs of their necks. Horses whinnied continually and the great pounding persisted, reverberating through their bony frames, almost tearing the clothes from their backs.
       At least Ulran’s stionery had forewarned them. Upon entering the black shadow they all donned heavy protective cloaks and, if no helmets were to hand, hoods.
       The canvas roofs of the wagons boomed like massive drums, echoing thunder rolls from afar. The fire-wagon hissed and steamed and black smoke billowed around it.
       Bruised and slightly stunned by the storm’s vehemence, Fhord shoved a young Devastator by her side: “Use your shield over your head!” she shouted, pointing to others who had already done so. The rataplan of hail on wood and steel and canvas heightened. Some hide shields were rent with the hail’s force, but others held.
       Head down, Fhord rode on without a shield, riding unseeingly, her mind numb and unable to See ahead. Vision was impaired to fractions of marks as the hail fell in thick sheets.
       Many times Sarolee was jolted as another rider blindly led his horse off course. As for navigation, it was no real problem. The Hansenand, like all other hordes of the Kellan-Mesqa, had instinctive directional sense and would continue manderon.
       A shriek, from a woman just in front, momentarily halted Fhord. She realised that if she tarried, someone would collide with her from behind. But she couldn’t leave the woman to be trodden underfoot or perhaps drown.
       Bruised and weak from the constant pummelling, she gasped for air as the hail broke into water and drenched her to the skin. She gripped the reins tighter and peered through slitted eyes, bracing herself against the storm’s terrible oppressive fist.
       As she concentrated, she found she could perceive that little bit further through the slashing sheet of hail.
       Ahead, on a hard piece of ground – a small island midst the mud – where the hailstones bounced off with staccato sounds, she detected a slight movement, the patch of red – possibly a dress.
       With almost manic force, Fhord tore at the reins, brought Sarolee round slightly and headed the short distance to the patch of red.
       Now the shape was distinct. But there was no movement. It was a girl-child, lying prone. All about her were puddles, splashing. By the– she held back, biting on an imprecation. The child was probably dead already, drowned if not crushed under the horse-hoofs.
       She reined in beside the still, pathetic figure, peered behind and could picture nobody about to collide. But she would have to be quick.
       Against her better judgement, she dismounted and, whilst restraining Sarolee with one hand, she reached down and grabbed at the belt of the girl’s dress.
       Sarolee chose that moment to buck as a stark tongue of lightning flashed overhead, ephemerally illuminating the scene.
       Puddles of mud glared whitely and a deep gash of red appeared on the girl’s temple as Fhord pulled her over. Mud covered her eyes, nose and mouth, but she noticed the child’s small pigeon-chest rose irregularly.
       Again, Sarolee whinnied and heaved against her rein, jerking Fhord. The cloth belt of the dress snapped and for a brief moment she feared she had lost sight of the girl and would never find her again, her efforts wasted. And time was mounting against them. Above the roar of the storm she could hear the trundle of wagons, getting close.
       “Steady, girl,” said a calming voice and Fhord swung round.
       Ulran, astride Versayr, was stroking Sarolee. “Quickly, Fhord, while I calm your horse!”
       Amazed that the innman’s voice could carry above the storm’s din, Fhord needed no urging. She immediately loped across the squelching mess to the girl.
       Her chest still heaved.
       Fhord thrust an arm under the girl’s back and legs. Stooping under the weight, she wheeled round, only in time to avoid the heavy hoofs of wagon horses and their groaning load.
       Fhord stumbled as the fire-wagon passed no more than a hand-span away, hissing and belching smoke and steam like some infernal monster from Below.
       She reached Sarolee a little breathless, but nowhere nearly as exhausted as she’d have thought. Her knees trembled, felt weak.
       “Throw her over your pommel!”
       Fhord hesitated, anxious not to be too rough.
       “Quick, Fhord – no time for niceties, the other wagons will be here any–”
       The groaning and creaking were close enough to hear even above the storm’s noise. With an almighty heave Fhord slung the girl over her pommel and leapt into the saddle after her.
       Ulran threw her the reins and together they galloped forward, just in front of a pair of wagons.
       The wagon-loads were becoming heavier and heavier as leakage poured into them. Inside, the women were bailing frantically to lighten the burden for the already beaten and exhausted horses, but everything was so sodden and weighty they must have felt they were fighting a losing battle. And all knew that to stop now in this quagmire would be fatal.
       “Keep moving!” barked Solendoral, his port-wine birthmark livid in a ghostly flash of lightning. His brow furrowed. That lightning had exposed a couple of men on foot to his right, off the track of gouged mud and puddles. He brought his horse round and was at that moment joined by Alomar.
       “Trouble?” queried the warrior.
       “Join me!” Solendoral shouted.
       Thunder cracked, hail bounced off the ground, wagons creaked and horses and people shrieked and called.
       They were almost upon the two before they knew it.
       It was an argument, two Devastators fighting with bloodied fists, no horses in sight.
       Solendoral recognised them immediately. “Rakcra! Etor!”
       Their leader’s voice penetrated even above the din. Both simultaneously broke their hold and backed off. Defiance shone in their eyes, but there too was respect for Solendoral.
       “You’ve lost your horses, I see!” barked Solendoral. As Rakcra made to speak, he added, “No, not now! You, Etor, up behind Courdour Alomar – quickly, man! Rakcra, here–” And he offered his arm and the youth leapt up behind his leader. “Later, we will hear both sides. But not now!” And both doubly laden horses rode on with the now retreating rearguard of Hansenand.
       The storm seemed to go on for all eternity then finally a glimpse of light could be seen ahead, dreamlike in its quality. Yellow-white, completely framed by darkness, it was like viewing the Sonalume Mountains through gauze.
       Wisps of steam rose and meandered. Fhord heard the song of a bird. Prisms of light dazzlingly refracted on drops of moisture in the air. Bright green grass beckoned, still, soft. Thick beams of godly light slanted through the last shreds of black-grey clouds at the rear of the ranmeron-marching anvil-heads.
       “We’re through!”
       Such was the cry of relief as each member of the party passed into the sunlight again.
       As Fhord emerged, with the girl moaning half-consciously, she looked back upon an uncanny sight.
       It looked as though the Hansenand were riding out of some hideous black tunnel. The sky ranmeronwards as far as she could see was the same silvery mass she’d discerned earlier, yet close by the black feathered into brown-grey and grey and thinned into circling moving wisps, forming a mysterious tunnel. The steam and gasses from the sodden ground swathed about the horses’ fetlocks, creating the impression that they rode on the air itself. They appeared like an avenging army of the gods, returning after some victory over the Black.

- Wings of the Overlord by Morton Faulkner, pp141-146

Glossary
Nikkonslor – great lord of night
Montar – part of a horde, a group of Devastators
Hansenand – a tribe of the Kellan-Mesqa, Devastators
Sonalumes – mountain range
Stionery – weather lore
Innman – inn keeper, Ulran being the most famous
Manderon – our north
Ranmeron – our south
 
Wings of the Overlord – hardback from Knox Robinson

 
A review: ‘… so descriptive you feel part of the story. A fantasy adventure that draws you into the quest…’
 
Amazon UK here

Amazon Com here

Friday, 28 August 2015

FFB: The Casebook of Solar Pons

This is the fourth of six Pinnacle paperback books concerning the private enquiry agent Solar Pons, penned by August Derleth.  This collection was copyright 1965, my Pinnacle paperback published April 1975. There are eleven ‘adventures’, previously published in The Saint Mystery Magazine (extinct) or Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (still publishing!) in the 1960s.

The Solar Pons creation by Derleth was in response to the absence of any new Sherlock Holmes adventures from the pen of Conan Doyle. His first Pons adventure was published in 1928 (See an earlier blog here). Conan Doyle died in 1930. These pastiches closely resemble the Holmes canon, though are not slavish copies; Pons is his own man, and he has his own chronicler, Lyndon Parker, M.D. This collection also contains a fictional biography of Parker. I find these faux biographies fascinating and indeed have created several for my characters in the Tana Standish psychic spy series! [See also the note at the end.]

 
The adventures in this collection tend to occur in the 1920s or 1930s – no specific dates are provided. An attempt at creating a chronology of the Pons adventures is published in The Reminiscences of Solar Pons (1961). So whereas Holmes was an investigator knocking on the door of the twentieth century, Pons seems to be a twentieth century enquiry agent harking back to the nineteenth, in mannerism and style, and this treatment tends to work.

Derleth delighted in blending fact and fiction. Brief mention is made of Carnacki the ghost finder (an occult detective creation of William Hope Hodgson, 1912; indeed, Derleth published the Carnacki stories in a 1948 collection.) Parker has a liking for Sax Rhomer’s Fu Manchu stories. And Pons’ foil, Scotland Yard Inspector Seymour Jamison, makes use of a pathologist, the famous Bernard Spilsbury. Other familiar characters who crop up are Pons’ long-suffering landlady, Mrs Johnson, Pons’ brother Bancroft who works in the Foreign Office, and Constable Meeker.

The story titles emulate those of the Holmes canon: ‘The Adventure of…’ the Sussex Archers, the Haunted Library, the Fatal Glance, the Intarsia Box, the Spurious Tamerlane, the China Cottage, the Ascot Scandal, the Crouching Dog, the Missing Huntsman, the Whispering Knights, the Amateur Philologist, the Innkeeper’s Clerk.

Parker’s writing style is in the same vein as the estimable Dr Watson. And at times, his description leaps off the page: ‘It came with startling suddenness when the hounds gave tongue. An instant later the cry “Gone away!” rang forth, and the field plunged forward. The hounds boiled out over the moor, their music ringing wild on the wind. From Huntsman to field and back among the other members the cry was passed that a dog-fox had been viewed, the hounds were hot on his scent.’ – ‘The Adventure of the Missing Huntsman’

Mysterious deaths in closed rooms, savage death at the claws of a beast, identity switching, people who are not what they seem – Derleth runs the gamut of twists and turns in these clever sleuthing short tales. If you have never read Solar Pons and hanker after Sherlock Holmes, then treat yourself, read a Solar Pons story or two; they’ll bring a smile of recognition together with great pleasure. Nobody else has written such a sustained sequence of Holmes pastiches. They’re a delight.

Note: If you’re interested in biographies of fictional characters, try Imaginary People, a who’s who of modern fictional characters (1987) by David Pringle. Then there are these books, too: The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower by C. Northcote Parkinson (1970), Biggles, the authorised Biography (1978) and James Bond: the authorised biography of 007 (1973), both by John Pearson, Tarzan Alive: a definitive biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage: his apocalyptic life both (1973) by Philip José Farmer.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Writing – supporting characters (2)

In an earlier blog (here) I touched upon supporting characters, prompted by a guest post from Nancy Jardine (here) I promised to return to the subject.

A few minor characters – essential to keep the story moving – sometimes push themselves into more than one book. Naturally, if you’re writing a series, it’s a good idea to feature regular minor characters; besides offering some familiarity for the reader, they can grow with the main character too. That can be regarded as a given, also, for series characters: they need to develop and change as their story unfolds from book to book, rather than be untouched by preceding often traumatic events.

In my book Write a Western in 30 Days, I stated ‘While minor characters don’t need as much description, it’s useful to give each of them some identifying feature, whether the hair colour or nose shape. Or a humorous trait. If a barkeep simply serves the drink, don’t dwell on him too much; if however he has information to divulge to our taciturn stranger in town, then imbue the barkeep with a little more life.’ (p91).

This is true for any genre novel. Minor characters are there to add flavour, colour, texture, realism, even humour, and most importantly to move the story forward. They are not there simply for padding and inconsequential chat.

When building up your back-story (which may never see print), there are several instances where character motivation should be embedded. People generally don’t do something without a reason. They’re motivated by pride, greed, altruism, love, anger, jealousy, hate and a lot more besides, much of which is created in their past.

In my book The $300 Man, Lydia hates Mexicans, because her husband found love and solace in a Mexican woman’s arms. The child of that union was Corbin, the hero – so she doesn’t like him, either – his mixed race is a constant affront to her. So her past shapes how she feels towards the Mexican workers at the silver mine in the story. Her past provides her with powerful motivation for her current actions and intent.

Certainly, incidents or people in their past might return to haunt them. By building a past for your characters, they cease to be made of cardboard. Within a short while, they’ll seem alive. And to a certain extent this applies to minor characters as well.

Somerset Maugham has said that every action of a character must be the result of a definite cause – significantly related to the entire fiction, of course.

Each motive must be in keeping with the character’s behaviour pattern that you’ve established. Otherwise, you lose credibility; again, consider applying this to minor characters.

In Last Chance Saloon (2008), which takes place in 1866, Jonas the deputy sheriff is featured; he’s in love with an older woman, Ruth, a widow; the relationship is not resolved at the end. A year later, 1867, there’s a passing mention of Jonas and Ruth in Blind Justice at Wedlock (2011), ‘Ruth Monroe who’d scandalised the town with her new beau, Deputy Johnson, a man some thirteen years younger than her.’ However, in Old Guns (2012), which mainly takes place in 1892, we see that they are now happily married and Jonas is the town’s sheriff. Of course, their descriptions have aged in the intervening quarter-century!

My main protagonists in Blood of the Dragon Trees, a modern-day thriller set in Tenerife, are Laura Reid and Andrew Kirby, aged 25 and 34 respectively; they are fighting the trade in endangered species, among other things. In Catalyst, the first in a new crime series, the hero Rick and heroine Cat meet up with a private eye in Barcelona who is instrumental in helping them obtain incriminating evidence; the private eye is half-English, half-Spanish, Leon Cazador, whose cases are told ‘in his own words’ in Spanish Eye. At the end of Catacomb, the second in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series, the plot necessitates that the hero Rick fled with a minor character to Tenerife, leaving behind the heroine Cat in Morocco. The sequel Cataclysm then logically begins with a villain from Blood of the Dragon Trees escaping police custody in Tenerife and doing harm… which involves Rick and, ultimately, Cat, Laura and Andrew!

These inter-relationships move the story forward, create additional threat, and hopefully keep the reader turning the pages wanting to know what will happen to people they’ve come to know vicariously; I hope too that regular readers will enjoy meeting some of these characters again. However, it is not essential to following the novel to have read all of the linked books.

To a certain extent, these characters elbowed their way into the books I write. Life is stranger than fiction, so it’s not too outlandish to postulate that some characters will know each other in different works! Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.

I’m not alone in this, of course; plenty of authors return to minor characters in their books. Perhaps you can think of a few?

***

Blood of the Dragon Trees - paperback and e-book

Amazon UK here (it has clocked up 8 good reviews, but for some reason no more than that, sadly)

Amazon COM here

Spanish Eye - paperback and e-book

Amazon UK here

Amazon COM here

Catalyst - paperback and e-book

Amazon UK here

Amazon COM here

 
 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A twist, grue, scend, and cleft of books

Way back in the 1960s and 1970s, one of the popular thriller writers who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Desmond Bagley was Geoffrey Jenkins, both with eye-catching covers from Fontana paperbacks. Jenkins was South African, and originally a journalist and newspaper editor. When 17 he wrote and had published A Century of History, which received a special eulogy from General Jan Smuts. He went on to work in London’s Fleet Street and was a war correspondent in WWII.

Interestingly, while working for the Sunday Times, he became friends with author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Fleming later praised Jenkins’ debut novel, A Twist of Sand as ‘a literate, imaginative first novel in the tradition of high and original adventure’. Jenkins could be relied on to deliver an exciting action-filled adventure yarn.

After the war Jenkins settled in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he married.

His first novel, A Twist of Sand (1959), was subsequently translated into almost two dozen languages and became a movie in 1968 starring Richard Johnson and Honor Blackman. He kept his day job until he had published his third novel.
 
After Ian Fleming’s death (1964), Glidrose Productions commissioned Jenkins to write a James Bond novel in 1966. Jenkins finished the manuscript for Glidrose entitled Per Fine Ounce, but it was rejected. The full novel is believed lost, though a few pages have survived. Two pages have been released to the public and were exclusively published by the James Bond website MI6-HQ.com. The first post-Fleming Bond book was Colonel Sun by Robert Markham [Kingsley Amis] (1968).

Jenkins had a penchant for using unusual titles for some of his novels.
 
  • A Twist of Sand (1959)
  • The Watering-Place of Good Peace (1960; revised 1974)
  • A Grue of Ice (1962) published in the U.S. as The Disappearing Island
  • The River of Diamonds (1964)
  • Hunter-Killer (1966)
  • Scend of the Sea (1971) published in the U.S. as The Hollow Sea
  • A Cleft of Stars (1973)
  • A Bridge of Magpies (1974)
  • South Trap (1979) published in paperback as Southtrap
  • A Ravel of Waters (1981)
  • The Unripe Gold (1983)
  • Fireprint (1984)
  • In Harm's Way (1986)
  • Hold Down a Shadow (1989)
  • A Hive of Dead Men (1991)
  • A Daystar of Fear (1993)
Geoffrey Jenkins died in 2001, aged 81.



Note: If you want a Wikipedia link to all things ‘James Bond’, go here.


 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

'I very much felt a part of their lives.'

It's good to get favourable book reviews. They make an author's day. The bad ones - well, they happen too... The reviews don't have to be effusive, glowing or filled with adjectives.

We'd like to think the reader enjoyed the story, lived with the characters, maybe even empathised with some of them, and felt compelled to comment. Every comment is appreciated.

Today, the first in my Tana Standish e-book series received a review on Amazon UK; a confirmed purchase.

So, thank you, 'Book Buddy' for your 5-star review of THE PRAGUE PAPERS:

'Thoroughly enjoyed this. The very opening chapter is a promise of intrigue and suspense. I wasn't disappointed. Good fast pace. Characters that are so vividly and craftfully developed that I very much felt a part of their lives. I am now in the second of the series for another rollercoaster ride. '

Amazon UK here

Amazon COM here

Monday, 24 August 2015

Writing – research – 1933

I’ve been researching the year 1933 for a short story project and found the following news items of interest; whether I’ll be using any of them is debatable at present, as I’m still in the planning stage.

May 10. Nazis burn books considered to be ‘un-German’ in the square of Berlin University. Another bonfire in Munich, while children watched: ‘As you watch the fire burn these un-German books,’ the children were told, ‘let it also burn into your hearts love of the Fatherland.’ Books came from a blacklist of tomes removed from public libraries – works by Heinrich Mann, Upton Sinclair, Erich Maria Remarque. Any books that depict war in an unpleasant light were destined for the flames. Their places on the shelves were filled with Mein Kampf by Hitler and books by other leading Nazis, mostly novels written by home-grown authors that glorified war.

Comment. Books have been destroyed for centuries; most odd, it’s as if the philistines believe that ideas can be un-thought. The most tragic and famous is the destruction of the library of Alexandria. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 and he stated it was his response to the scourge of McCarthyism, though later he considered it was a general abhorrence of book burning. Needless to say, books still get burned by people who believe they know best – even the Harry Potter novels! [Naturally, book burning by the Nazis was nothing compared to their heinous treatment of Jews and others, even this early in their short-lived so-called Thousand Year Reich.]
 
 
July 23. Germany. Importing banned books is punishable by death.

July 26. Hitler’s cabinet announced plans for the compulsory sterilisation of people suffering from blindness, deafness, physical deformity, hereditary imbecility, epilepsy and St Vitus’ dance. Force may be necessary.

Comment. Hitler’s belief in eugenics and the uber-Aryan is like something out of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, though that book was published in 1932. Huxley’s book has been banned over the years, notably in some US states, one of them citing ‘because it centred around negative activity’!

July 28. UK – drought warning as temperature reaches 90F (32C)…

Comment. Oh, this was before anyone had invented the catch-all excuse Global Warming, conveniently renamed Climate Change.

August 4. Forest fires rage in Dorset and Hampshire following dry weather… (12 Aug – rainfall ends the drought and puts out the forest fires)

Comment. You can rely on the English weather to sort things out…

August 23. Decree from Berlin – all doctors must be Nazis.

Comment. Of course it wasn’t only this profession that was forced into following the Nazi credo. If you wanted to work or advance in work, then it seemed the only way was to espouse the Nazi doctrine. Appalling; it would never happen in the UK...
 
Sep 1. HG Wells has his sci-fi novel published: The Shape of Things to Come – a future history, predicting the Soviet experiment will become hidebound in dogma, while the capitalist US Treasury will soon be unable to afford its armed forces. Germany and Poland would be at war by 1940, and after a hundred years or so a Utopia will be formed, with a benevolent dictatorship, which too will fall though bloodlessly…
 
Comment. This alternate history (1933-2106) features the abolition of all organised religion (including Islam and Roman Catholicism), among other things! His prediction was that Poland and Germany would fight for ten years; Britain would remain neutral.

Oct 14. Germany quits the League of Nations and walks out of the Geneva disarmament conference. ‘Equality, not arms, was my aim,’ Hitler said. A referendum will be held to get the German people’s approval of their policies – however, only the Nazi Party is on the ballot paper, all opposition is banned… Result: 95% in favour!
 
Comment. There was no way that Hitler would honour any verdict at the end of a disarmament conference, so it made sense that walked out. He had a completely different agenda, outlined in his book, of course. Of course other regimes around the world have emulated this plebiscite ruse = one party, bound to win!
 
What is done in the past, echoes through all eternity... to paraphrase a certain general who became a slave who became a Gladiator.

Internet was down yesterday, now back...

I was in mid-post for yesterday's Blog when the Internet connection failed... It's back now, so I'll post later today.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Saturday fiction - excerpt


In October, Crooked Cat Publishing release the second novel in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series, Catacomb. This one differs from the first, in that the main protagonist, Catherine Vibrissae (Cat) isn’t featured in the beginning. This is a flashback of some three years, to explain the two NCA characters hounding Cat and Rick, Pointer and Basset, both of whom we met in Catalyst.

   

CATACOMB
Prologue: Dogs of Law
2012
Vauxhall, South London
“Rippon’s death seems a little bizarre,” I remarked over the rim of the Delft coffee-cup. I should have known better but sipped the aromatic hot black liquid anyway, then grimaced. The Superintendent’s secretary had sugared it again. “All he did was rub suntan lotion on himself – and a couple of hours later, he’s dying before everyone’s eyes.” It was a gruesome case, skin peeling off, disintegrating into body-fluids.
            “Let me explain, Alan.” Superintendent Thurston scratched his bald head. Since I’d joined SOCA, he’d used my first name; we’d been round the block together for a few years. When accompanied by anyone else, of course, I was DI Pointer. Now, he steepled his plump fingers, an old mannerism. Implicit in his tone was “Are we sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin!” So he began: “Some years ago a group of Birmingham chemists discovered a method of getting plastics to disintegrate automatically after being thrown away.”
            “Yes, but that was a long time back; I thought it wasn’t practical, lack of funding for research...?”
            Thurston nodded, setting his sallow cheeks trembling. “The invention involved dyes which, when added to plastics, caused them to break down under the action of sunlight’s ultra-violet rays.”
            “Though this was before the ozone layer depletion crisis? Now, they’d disintegrate even faster than planned, I guess.” The irony was lost on him.
            “Correct. The Swedes and Canadians have been working on it too, but only the British version works when subjected to direct sunlight. Well, I say British, but it isn’t quite. The firm now dabbling in it is French-Swiss – Cerberus. Their founder, Loup Malefice bought the rights and hired the scientists.”
            “So commodities on window-sills are safe?”
            “Yes. To start with, the self-destruction time could be varied from three months of summer sunshine to three years. They toyed with calling it Ecodream! Now, though, if applied in the right proportions, this stuff could turn plastics to dust in three hours!”
            I didn’t like where this was leading: Rippon, the incredible melting man. But it was time for my “It’s only effective on plastics, surely?”
            Shaking his head, Thurston mumbled, “Was, Alan, was... But the military got interested...”
            Bloody typical!
            “As you’re aware, any major scientific discovery has the Defence people looking for ways of utilising these inventions. Often, it’s the other way around, isn’t it? A military invention has civilian use – look at GPS, for example.” I nodded while trying to maintain my bearings in Thurston’s lengthy and rather meandering explanation. “Intensive research came up with a refined adaptation for use on human tissue and metals. In fact, only glass and rubber are really impervious.”
            Of course the suntan lotion had been in a glass jar.
            Thurston went on, “It can assume any colour; we still call it a dye, though.” He shrugged. “But without the action of sunlight, the stuff’s harmless.”
            Well, in for a penny: “And the formula’s been stolen?”
            “As well as a large sample of the dye, yes.”
            My mouth had gone dry, but I had no desire to resort to the coffee. “How on earth did Rippon come to possess the doctored lotion in the first place?”
            “A good point. Rippon was the Under Secretary responsible for Science and Research Coordination. He used to entertain scientists regularly at his Belgravia home. Keeping in touch, he called it. The four suspects all visited Rippon last week when they reported the formula and sample missing.”
            “I see. A few minutes in Rippon’s bathroom and the lotion could’ve been treated. I suppose that money’s the motive?”
            “Oh, yes. Our lab discovered the bottle’s label had a message on it: Payment of £2 million for the formula’s return...”
            “And the means of communicating our response?”
            “We must give our decision in tomorrow’s Times and await further instructions. The alternative given isn’t pretty – an unspecified town’s water-supply will be treated with the stuff at...” and he squinted at his desk-clock/calculator, “... seven tomorrow night...”
            “This puts the current bout of consumer terrorism in the shade.” No pun intended. “We’ve less than twenty hours...”
            “Imagine,” Thurston said, shaking his head, staring at his open file.
            I had already: a whole town, washing and cooking, then going out to work in the sunshine. Sunshine was rare enough in these islands, but to make it a killer defied belief. Bloody typical of the defence establishment! A boon to mankind, to abolish waste, and they have to meddle with it, turning sunshine into a killer far more effective than cancerous melanoma.
            We could pray for rain, I suppose.
            Thurston stood up, paced the tired carpet and scowled at the streaks of pigeon-pollution brightening the window-sill outside. “Well, Alan, I want you to go to their Research Establishment – Pethewray Point, on the Devon coast. The security dossiers of the prime suspects, courtesy of the Minister himself, are on my desk.” He jutted his chin at the teak furniture in case I had difficulty identifying it as a desk. The dockets were red, and as I picked them up their India-tags clinked on the polished surface. Thurston swerved round, and I smiled: the desk was unscathed. “All have been involved with the project since MOD took over. And they’re the only ones who’ve had access to the formula and the dye samples.”
***
I elected to drive down in my battered old Citroen – I profited more on expenses. Sergeant Carol Basset occupied the passenger seat, working through the dossiers. She usually drove me around, but was happy to let me take the strain. It had proved a strange yet rewarding partnership; we’d worked together since SOCA was established in 2006 and after a brief period getting to know each other’s methods we’d gelled. Partly due to our surnames, partly because we made a good and rather tenacious team, many in SOCA referred to us as “the dogs of law”. I’m not keen on celebrity, a term that’s been demeaned over recent years, but I couldn’t argue with that definition, I suppose. Carol reckoned it was a hoot. I always thought of her as Carol, but traditionally I referred to her as “Sergeant”, rather than “Basset”.
            All the way on the road I couldn’t get rid of the nightmare vision of a sunny Cornish ghost-town succumbing. Had I just passed through it? Were those shoppers I’d seen back there destined to die by the sun’s glowing rays? Death held no sting for me now, but this latest threat made me shudder.
            Twenty chequered years with the Force meant I’d seen my fair share of misery: widows prostrate, rape victims in catatonia, unrepentant murderers in strait-jackets, orphaned children in traumatic shock, mutilated children and their bereft parents: the list was endless. And the Grim Reaper hadn’t left me unscarred, either. Eileen had foolishly opened a mysterious parcel addressed to me during the Kyle terror-gang investigation. There wasn’t much of the house standing when the bomb-blast’s dust-clouds subsided. Courtesy of extremists, not your run-of-the-mill underworld villains. Society of late seemed to breed a lot of extremists; it was as if the thin veneer of civilisation was being scraped away by incursions from the State, self-interest groups, interfering self-aggrandising do-gooders, religious zealots, law-makers who didn’t understand human nature, and of course politicians who didn’t live in the real world. Eventually, we caught the bastards, though their subsequent sentences didn’t remove the profound emptiness she’d left behind. We’d bought this car on our tenth wedding anniversary.
            When some of the city’s villains I’d helped put inside actually paid their respects at Eileen’s funeral, I had almost gone to pieces. Stupid, really, we’d been too close, loved too deeply, so when I was left alone, I was just that – alone. We had no friends, only acquaintances and colleagues. They did their best, offering well-meaning platitudes. Christ, I’d better get rid of the car. I can’t face this self-pitying catharsis every time I drive long-distance!
            “You’re very quiet, sir?” Carol said.
            “Sorry, I was thinking.”
            “That’s my job. You make the arrests.”
            I laughed, tears streaming, vision slightly blurred, but not dangerously affected. I glanced quickly at her but she was looking at the dossier. Hastily, I wiped my eyes and cheeks with the back of a hand; there was hardly any wobble as I steered one-handed.
***
Under the benign sun I parked in a layby, a small distance before the next rise which concealed all but the radio antennae of the Pethewray Point establishment.
            “We’re early,” I said. “The Research Director isn’t expecting us till 9am.”
            “Fancy a look around, sir?”
            “Indeed.” I opened the door and got out. “Time for a little relaxation, before the fray.”
            Leaning on the other side of the car roof, Carol said, “And time to blow away the memories, if nothing else.”
            Sometimes, I was sure she was a mind-reader.
            Breathing in the salty air, I walked across the weather-beaten prickly-yellow gorse, Carol silent by my side. Fields gently climbed towards the cliff edge a half-mile away, where I could glimpse the shale rooftops of a couple of cottages. Circling gulls squealed plaintively.
            The warming sun highlighted the Ministry of Defence notices surrounding the isolated village of wired-off Nissen huts and prefabricated offices. Scaffolding framework stalked to the rear of the place; drills stuttered loudly on the faint breeze. It was in places like this, on the edges of solitude, where my senses came alive; the opposite of sensory deprivation – city-life surrounded the body, permeated the skin and mind: only here could I seem to function as a human being.
            I blinked away morbid thoughts and turned to Carol. “Time to go, Sergeant.”
***
I hope this whets your appetite for the actual book!
Only the prologue is in the first person. The rest of the novel is told in third person, as usual.
 
A few more glimpses into Catacomb will be made in the run-up to publication day, 20 October, 2015.
 
Cataclysm, the third in the series will be published in mid-December.
 
 
CATALYST available in paperback and e-book 
 
From Amazon COM here
 
From Amazon UK here
 
From Kobo here
 
From Smashwords here