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Monday, 20 October 2014

Writing – Market – Sixpenny magazine

This new magazine is due to launch soon (Winter).

It’s looking for short stories and illustrations. As the editors say, “Long, long ago, there were magazines filled with illustrated stories. They created a market for writers and illustrators to hone their craft and make a living, and they gave readers a steady supply of stories they could truly enjoy. When these magazines began, some were called sixpenny magazines, because they cost a sixpence - affordable enough for just about everyone. But over time, all of these 'everyman' fiction magazines died. Luckily, while out in the woods one day, we found a single cell of a sixpenny magazine hidden away in a nugget of amber. Soon after, we discovered the emerging technology of the internet. Thanks to that little pocket computer called a mobile phone, people are reading again. We have decided that now is the time to bring back the SIXPENNY. 

“SIXPENNY is a digital magazine of illustrated short stories. Our stories will be classified as literary fiction, but they'll also be entertaining as a rule.  Each issue has six stories that take six minutes to read: three are by widely published authors, and three are by unpublished authors. We pay our writers and our illustrators. SIXPENNY exists to bring substance and real feeling to the in-between parts of your day.”

For Writers:
Pocket-sized stories. Literary fiction that keeps a reader engaged and excited from the first word to the last. Each story should be a six-minute read – 1,000 words, give or take (just a little). The six stories selected for each issue will be illustrated before publication in SIXPENNY.

How to Submit
The current reading period ends on October 31st.

Six stories will be selected for publication for the Winter launch. Stories can be submitted by clicking the ‘submit’ button on the website, which will take you to their submission engine Submittable. They will attempt to reply with feedback within two weeks after the end of the reading period. They will consider simultaneous submissions but would appreciate it if you would notify them promptly if your manuscript is chosen for publication elsewhere. Multiple submissions to SIXPENNY will be considered.

Payment and Copyright
You must own the rights if your story has been previously published. SIXPENNY acquires First Serial Rights for published stories. Copyright for any works published in SIXPENNY will revert to the author upon publication. “We will request, as part of our publication contract, your permission to feature in published works or excerpts on SIXPENNY’s website and in its advertising. We will also request permission to publish the stories accepted throughout the year in a yearly anthology.”

Writers will be paid $100 for each story published in SIXPENNY.

For Illustrators:
Please submit a portfolio by clicking the ‘submit’ button and follow the guidelines. If your portfolio is chosen, you will be included in their Illustrator Database, and they will contact you when they find a story for you. You will be paid $100 per illustrated story that is published in SIXPENNY. Each story typically needs 3 small illustrations.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Reminiscences - where did those 49 years go?

On 19 October 1965 I joined the Royal Navy; 49 years today. I was seventeen.

The journey to join HMS Raleigh as a recruit has been covered in the blog here

Part of page 2 of my Service Certificate
I finally left the navy 2 August 1989, having served almost twenty-four years.

In that time I was fortunate not to be at sea for a lot of my career. I sailed in three frigates: in the Cod War our ship was holed below the waterline; skirting the edge of typhoons in the China Sea and hurricanes in the Caribbean, the ship superstructure was buckled. I’ve participated in realistic landing and insurrection exercises in Portland including nuclear and biological attacks and undergone advanced first-aid classes. I’ve been inside communications centres and on the ships’ bridges - the nerve-centres - and bounced around in Gemini assault craft.

I’ve sailed in a conventional submarine and the hunter-killer HMS CONQUEROR and also toured the ‘nuclear forests’ of a Polaris submarine. On South Georgia I walked inside a glacier and slept overnight at Leith's ghostly deserted whaling station. I’ve flown in Wasp helicopters and been winched onto a ship's deck. Having flown from Karachi to Islamabad, Pakistan, I drove up the Khyber Pass where I met some Pathans, quite forbidding characters draped with ammunition-belts; from here I looked out over the Plain of Kabul. (See this blog here ). I snorkelled in the Red Sea, trekked the mosquito-riddled jungle of Belize and stood atop the Mayan pyramid of Altun Ha.

I learned Chinese kung fu (quanshu) in Malta where I teamed up with Gordon Faulkner to write the first of a fantasy series set in mythical Floreskand – Wings of the Overlord (see below). I’ve fired automatic pistols, rifles and machine guns, though not in combat, and carried the bodybags of airplane crash victims and viewed corpses post-autopsy. I’ve manned and loaded ship's guns and my memory can still smell the cordite. All useful material, I guess, for a writer.

Before I joined the navy, I dreamed of being a writer, and had written two spy novels (unpublished). While following my career as, appropriately, a Writer in the RN, I still pursued that goal in various guises – editor of ships’ magazines, selling short stories and articles, and sending out many a manuscript that would fail. The navy taught me many things, not least to be persistent and never to give up. Finally, I started getting novels accepted in 2007 and thereafter; an ‘overnight success’ that has taken roughly fifty years.

Never give up.

[This is written from the perspective of a writer. Great joy also came with marriage, the birth of our daughter and our grandchildren].
* * *
WINGS OF THE OVERLORD by Morton Faulkner
Available from Amazon UK here
Available from Amazon COM here

Available post-free worldwide from the book depository here

So begins their great quest that tests the trio to the limit. Exciting obstacles include raging torrents, snakes, feuding warrior hordes, lethal fireballs, terrifying electric storms, treacherous mountains, avalanche, betrayal and torture. The travellers start out barely able to tolerate each other but, gradually, as their problems are overcome, they grow closer. The strength of comradeship is evoked and also selfless sacrifice. Their story is rich in history and threatening events that beset them on their quest.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Saturday Story - Tales of the Red Tellar-1

Tales of the Red Tellar - Regloma Troglan, duellist

As my co-author Gordon Faulkner is signing copies of our book Wings of the Overlord today Saturday at Inverness Waterstones (1200-1400), I’m making a departure from the usual Short Story blog.

This is an excerpt, which can be read as a complete story (having been tweaked for this presentation).

* * *
“Do you recall hearing about Regloma Troglan?” Alomar asked with a grin.
        “Indeed – a famous duellist – oh, about fifty years ago,” supplemented Fhord, remembering the books in the Archives.
        Alomar chuckled. “If our bookworm can recall, all the champions he unseated were special–”
        “No, I can’t remem – wait, they held their champion-sword for less than two quarters each?”
        “True enough, but no, I was thinking of their personal lives. Perhaps that was an unfair question. Of course, I’m speaking from personal experience now. All the champions he unseated had something to lose which meant more to them than any championship – be it family, wealth, esteem in business, whatever.”
        “Go on,” urged Fhord eagerly.
Courdour Alomar had entered the Lorgen’s Fable inn on his way through Endawn when he thought he recognised an old acquaintance, though he was lief to think he was mistaken.
        Then the man, slumped over the table in a shadowy corner, rose unsteadily and swerved, demanding another drink.
        In the light now, though unshaven and wearing old and patched clothes, his black hair in disarray, the man was Reall Demorat, until but recently a champion duellist of Endawn.
        Recognition did not flicker in Demorat’s eyes as Alomar held him by the shoulder and guided him back to his shadowy table. The warrior ordered another bottle of wine and settled down to talk.
        Strangely, after the first new goblet of wine, Demorat seemed to sober up, and recognition slowly dawned.
        After their first expressions of surprise and pleasure at this coincidental meeting, Alomar asked, “By what ill fortune have you come here, Demorat?”
        “Regloma!” Demorat seethed, gripping the wine bottle till his callused knuckles whitened. “I owe it all to that devil-spawn cheat!” And, shakily, he poured another goblet full to the brim.
        Demorat raged with an obsession that the present unbeaten champion duellist, Regloma Troglan, was a fraud, for he employed two henchmen to threaten any champion or contender listed to fight Regloma. The threat was basic enough: lose the fight if you wanted to see your family without disfigurement or death.
        Despite the amount of wine Demorat imbibed, Alomar tended to believe his friend; such chicanery was typical for the city of Endawn. “But you weren’t married – nor even involved with any–”
        “My body – they threatened to cremate me!”
        Of course, now Alomar remembered. Demorat belonged to a rare sect who staunchly believed that they must be interred after death; to be burned to ashes meant that the soul would dissipate and wander aimlessly for evermore. He had to admire Regloma’s men, they had chosen the only chink in Demorat’s personal armour. What was a duelling championship title compared with eternal oblivion?
        After a while it became evident that Demorat wished to leave, though now almost incoherent. Alomar gathered that the hostel where Demorat slept shut its doors shortly; and the streets of Endawn were not safe after mid-moon had passed.
        Alomar paid for the wine and, with his right arm round Demorat’s back supporting him, Demorat’s limp arm round the warrior’s neck, and taking the main weight on his right shoulder, Alomar guided his drunken companion out into the dark alleyway.
        Demorat vaguely indicated they should move to the right.
        They had not gone far when Alomar’s sixth sense detected movement in the shadows. He stopped, propped Demorat up against the rough-stone wall, and withdrew his sword as the four attackers stepped out of the darkness.
        Alomar was hard put to it to keep all four at bay, but presently one of his assailants erred in his judgement and the warrior’s sword ensured that no more errors of judgement would be committed by that man.
        Demorat seemed to realise his life was at risk, and, though drunk as he was, he reached for his sword: with his trusty blade in his grip, he tended to sober a little, and clashed swords with one of the remaining three.
        Alomar shattered the sword of another attacker and as its blade fell with a loud ring to the cobbles, the two other assailants faltered then backed off, and soon took to their heels.
        Aware of the silence at his side, Alomar turned: Demorat was crouched against the wall, his back to Alomar. The other assassin lay dead; but a knife protruded from Demorat’s side.
        To withdraw the blade now might mean a slow death, life-blood oozing away; Alomar gripped the handle and with a tremendous jerk he snapped it at the hilt, leaving only the blade slightly protruding. Gently lifting Demorat to his feet, Alomar adopted the same carrying method as he had earlier before the attack.
        When the two distinct thuds sounded Alomar pitched forward with Demorat, unmindful of the hard cobbles.
        There he lay, unmoving though his ears were attuned to any untoward sounds from the night.
        After some time had elapsed, he risked rising watchfully and slowly.
        Whilst he had been fortunate, his companion had fared badly: one arrow shaft had sunk in the nape of Demorat’s neck, the other in his arm roughly in the same position where it had been limply resting over Alomar’s neck.
        They had silenced Reall Demorat’s drunken accusations for ever.
     As he was in a strange city Alomar had no wish to answer questions. With regret he left the murdered champion to the street rats. He had a purpose to fulfil, however, and he would not rest until he had accomplished it or – pleasant thought! – he died in the attempt.
            The latest of a long round of duels had been publicised for the next day; Regloma Troglan was billed to fight a brash young contender for his title.
        As Alomar took his seat in the duelling room he wondered at the manner of leverage Regloma’s men had used on this contender.
        For the majority of the audience the fight was excellent – and there were plenty of thrills – especially when the lithe youngster from Lellul narrowly missed drawing the champion’s blood. But to the eye of Alomar there were a few flaws in the duel. The subtleties were missed when they should have been grasped; openings remained open, to be ignored or unseen.
        The warrior looked about him, studying the older, worldlier members of the audience. Strangely, there were few. It was as though the men who had once duelled stayed away by design, knowing too well the travesty of their art that would be performed this day.
        All who watched were the sensation-seeking public, ever-watchful for a killing, though by tradition the challenger had the choice of first-blood or death. This aspirant from Lellul had chosen first-blood – as had all Regloma’s protagonists.
        At the duel’s close, when the contender received a cut, lost his sword and somewhat grudgingly acknowledged defeat, Alomar tossed his poniard down into the arena.
        The dagger thudded into the wood boards and the cheering subsided. His intentions were explicit enough: he challenged Regloma to a duel.
        Because of the public challenge, Regloma had to accept. “Two days hence – and who, pray, shall I have the pleasure of depriving of pride?”
        Alomar tendered a false name, claiming he harked from Carlash which was so far to the ranmeron few if anyone present would know the peculiarities of a Carlash native. “First blood,” he declared.
        That night he expected an encounter with Regloma’s henchmen and he was therefore not surprised to come upon an altercation in an alleyway close to his lodgings.
        The spindly silhouette of a tall man towered over a cowering figure at the end of the alley adjoining the inn.
        Alomar ran up, shouted, “Stay, villain!” and his voice echoed in the narrow confines.
        At that instant, the spindly fellow pivoted round, snarled something unintelligible and slashed his sword side-ways, against a knotted rope that stretched upwards. A wet-wood cage crashed down, trapping Alomar before he could jump clear. He smiled grimly. They had snared him well.
        Now, each man lifted a long spear out of the heap of rubbish in the corner and advanced on him.
        He felt the wet-wood and appreciated their choice: it would not be cut by axe-stroke, let alone sword; and the combined weight of the cage was too great to lift. He was trapped like a wild mountain beast.
        “We want words with you, man of Carlash,” said the tall one. And he jabbed the spear through the bars: Alomar dodged only to be sharply pricked from behind by the other, smaller henchman.
        “Say your words, then,” growled Alomar.
        “Lose your duel with Regloma, friend. Or else we must perforce claim your life. If you lose, then regard the debt paid.”
        Yes, they had chosen well. Somehow, they had guessed aright; he would not welcome being killed as a caged animal. And, as was the custom, because he was at their mercy, his life was theirs – to claim at any time.
        Alomar nodded and they both relaxed. “You leave me no choice.”
        He grabbed the spindly man’s spearhead, ignoring the cut hand, and pulled the weapon towards him.
        So surprised was the fellow, he had no opportunity to let go. Alomar pulled the man’s head through the bars, jerked suddenly, and the crack of vertebrae sounded loud and awful in the night.
        While the other tried stabbing with his spear mainly out of rising fear, Alomar parried with his sword and relieved the corpse of the cage keys; they were soon covered with his hand’s blood, slippery and awkward to manipulate, but he finally unlocked the cage.
        As he stepped out, the other spearman turned and ran down the alleyway.
        Alomar picked up the fallen spear.
        His throw was deadly accurate.
The same motley band of spectators was assembled.
        Adjusting his bandaged hand, Alomar studied the steely eyes of the gaunt Regloma. He was a good swordsman and not to be underestimated.
        After the salute, they closed and the first clash of blades sent a roar of expectation from the crowd.
        Thrust and parry, attack and retreat, until sweat covered both men and the crowd as one sat on the edge of its seat. Word of the long duel had obviously passed out into the street, for many of the once-empty seats were filling.
        After a lengthy period of fierce swordplay, Alomar decided he had sufficiently worn down the wiry body of Regloma. At their next clamorous clinch, he snarled, “I killed your two henchmen, fraud!” And he whispered his real identity.
        His words had immediate impact. Regloma pushed free and shakily backed off, amidst cat-calls from the crowd. Those once-smug eyes briefly reflected fear: now, he must fight in earnest.
        Another clinch, and Alomar said, “I shall let you win this fight, Regloma – but any more you wish to win will be done so on your own merits... or I shall return...”
        Alomar had no wish to become a champion, fighting duel after duel, as if by rote. He had needed to be footloose and uncluttered. He let Regloma cut his hand and disarm him, though no one would have guessed.
        He kept a wary eye on the champion, however, ready to use his poniard should betrayal enter Regloma’s heart.
        But Regloma accepted his defeat in victory. He was acclaimed with tumultuous cheers, the most riotous praise for any victory he had ever “achieved”.
        Leaving the champion to his triumphant circuit of the arena, Alomar caught an empty look in the man’s eyes.
        A bitter pill to swallow, indeed, to taste the ecstatic jubilation of the crowd, knowing it would be for the first and last time. For once tasted, it would become a drug.
Cobrora Fhord shivered not only with the cold. “And –?”
        “And,” supplied Alomar, “Regloma lost his next duel and never again won, though he travelled to all the duelling houses in Floreskand. The audiences of Endawn’s duelling rooms once again comprised duelling men.”

* * *
WINGS OF THE OVERLORD by Morton Faulkner

Available from Amazon UK here

Available from Amazon COM here

Available post-free worldwide from the book depository here

So begins their great quest that tests the trio to the limit. Exciting obstacles include raging torrents, snakes, feuding warrior hordes, lethal fireballs, terrifying electric storms, treacherous mountains, avalanche, betrayal and torture. The travellers start out barely able to tolerate each other but, gradually, as their problems are overcome, they grow closer. The strength of comradeship is evoked and also selfless sacrifice. Their story is rich in history and threatening events that beset them on their quest.



FFB - Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines (2003) is the first in the Hungry City Chronicles, a series of four books by Philip Reeve. Aimed at teenagers, it’s a good read for adults too; an action-packed adventure which oozes originality. 

Over a thousand years in our future, when the earth has virtually been ruined following a very brief but devastating conflict, the Sixty Minute War, the seas are dry and many cities and towns have evolved into mobile fortresses. 

It’s a town eat town kind of world – all to do with Municipal Darwinism, where big powerful towns and cities attack weaker ones and utilise the building materials for fuel and ransack antiques and artwork for their museums and capture people for slaving in the engine-rooms.  And London is on the prowl, it seems, heading into the dangerous hunting grounds...

Apprentice Tom Natsworthy manages to thwart an attempt on his hero Valentine’s life but is repaid by betrayal and is cast out of the city, into the treacherous Out-country, with only the would-be assassin Hester Shaw for company.  A fragile friendship develops between them and they are picked up by a wandering town and imprisoned, to be sold as slaves... 

Their adventures are daunting and exciting, with plenty of chapter-end cliff-hangers. 

In opposition to the marauding towns and cities is the Anti-Traction League who have spies everywhere.  Then there are the air-pirates and their balloon craft.  To make matters worse, searching for Hester is the Resurrected Man, Shrike, mostly metal and virtually indestructible. 

The descriptions of the cities and towns, the forbidding environment and the marvellous individual characters make reading this book a joy.  There are heroes and villains and even the bit-players are sketched-in sympathetically. The grimness of the bowels of London city – with its turd tanks, the colours of the airbase Airhaven and the multi-national pirates, the magnificence of the scenery viewed from the air, all combine to present a visual feast just crying out for a movie.

Then there’s the pirate town of Tunbridge Wheels.  The Mayor of this town, Chrysler Peavey, is a fascinating character who only wants to better himself – and have an easy life at others’ expense, of course...

And hovering in the background is the mystery of MEDUSA and the dreadful power that London’s mad mayor is about to unleash...  The ending was satisfying and sad and made me want to buy the next adventure straight away!
The full series is:

Mortal Engines
Predator’s Gold
Infernal Devices
A Darkling Plain

Reeve was thirty-seven when this first book was published and he’d been writing since he was five. Never give up; keep writing!


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chronicles of Floreskand - Miscellaneous facts – 001

Wings of the Overlord is the first chronicle to be released from the Royal Institute of Records, Lornwater, in Floreskand.
From time to time, assorted facts, acquired over a period of fifty years, will be divulged regarding the mythical Floreskand, its denizens, flora and fauna.
Today, we will briefly look at
The Overlord
As outlined in ‘Song of the Overlord’, Daqsekor is the Overlord, the One, the High God. The ruler of all, nothing and everything.
Daqsekor’s symbol is the pure white sekor. The flower is indeed named after him.
The name Daqsekor is a combination of ‘daq’ (yang) and ‘sek’ (yin) with the suffix ‘or’ meaning ‘lord’.
The five-part ‘Song of the Overlord’ can be found in Wings of the Overlord, introducing each part of the saga.
Type of flower, with octagonal petals; regarded with religious significance, each god being given a different coloured sekor as an emblem.
So begins their great quest that tests the trio to the limit. Exciting obstacles include raging torrents, snakes, feuding warrior hordes, lethal fireballs, terrifying electric storms, treacherous mountains, avalanche, betrayal and torture. The travellers start out barely able to tolerate each other but, gradually, as their problems are overcome, they grow closer. The strength of comradeship is evoked and also selfless sacrifice. Their story is rich in history and threatening events that beset them on their quest.
To date (16 October), it has picked up two good reviews at Amazon UK!
Available from Amazon UK here
Available from Amazon COM here
Available from the publisher Knox Robinson here
Available post-free worldwide from the book depository here

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sorry, no post today!

Sorry, I've been busy with the final final edit of The Prague Papers... and a few other things.  Hopefully, normal service will be resumed tomorrow!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Crooks bested

Inspired by Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar, The Saint, I conceived and wrote a series of short stories about Leon Cazador, a private eye who was not averse to bending the law to ensure that members of the criminal fraternity get their just deserts. Dessert = sweet revenge?

He evolved almost whole after the first tale in 2005. Half-English, half-Spanish, he served in the forces and the secret service, roaming the world. This meant that he built-up an enviable selection of contacts he could call upon for help from time to time. As with our real-world private enquiry agents, who are not permitted to get involved in a murder investigation, he couldn’t go there; well, providing he wasn’t caught doing so, perhaps.

The tone is sometimes light, sometimes dark – because life is like that.

Victims really do need more champions; the criminals have had it their own way for too long. I wouldn’t suggest that Leon Cazador is a vigilante – that role is reserved for my protagonist in Sudden Vengeance. But he certainly strives to bring his kind of justice to the unrepentant ungodly.

For a taster, here’s the beginning of the story ‘Off Plan’:

I was wearing a false moustache, grey coloured contact lenses, and my hair was dyed black. My brother, Juan, wouldn’t recognise me. In fact, I had difficulty recognising me. I was no longer Leon Cazador but Carlos Ortiz Santos. Sometimes it was necessary to wear a disguise and take on a fake name to hoodwink the ungodly. This was one of those times.

“If you can’t come up with the €75,000, Alonso,” I said, “then I will make the offer to the other two developers.” I tapped the regional map impatiently with a forefinger. “The mayor wants the money soon, so it can all be settled.”

Alonso Vargas was slim and appeared urbane in his smart suit. He was convincing in his tone and words. The perfect conman, it seemed. “It is difficult, Carlos. That is a great deal of money.” He was toying with me, playing for time, and debating whether I would bargain. His dark eyes glinted. I knew it wasn’t with humour but greed. He rubbed his pointed chin, pretending to think. He needed a kick.

I sighed resignedly and started folding up the map.

“No, no, Carlos,” he said and urgently gripped my forearm and halted my retiring action. “I have the money, as promised.” He eyed the Mercadona supermarket bag at his feet.

“That’s good, Alonso.” I smiled and left the map half-folded.

He cocked his head to one side. “I suppose it would be foolish of me to ask for a receipt?”

I grinned and nodded. “That would be foolish, yes. The mayor has to pay several anxious people to adjust various documents. Others, they need financial incentives to keep their mouths shut.” I shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“Ah, yes.” His eyes glimmered with the prospect of four hundred acres of re-designated land, all his to build upon. “I know how it is.” His foot gently moved the plastic bag over the tiled floor towards me.

Leaning down and picking it up, I asked, “So, you can bring me the final instalment next week, as agreed?”

“Cash flow is difficult, times are not so good since the building boom has slowed down, you know.” He shrugged pronounced shoulders. “The crisis, it bites deeply.”

Shaking my head, I quickly finished folding the map. “If you cannot honour our agreement, then I must go elsewhere. We agreed you would pay me two instalments.” I slid the bag across the table, in plain view.

Anxiety was written all over his face. He glanced left and right, but nobody seemed to be paying us any attention.

“I’m not one of your clients, Alonso. Delay is not an option.”

“No, no,” he said hastily, pushing the bag towards me. “Please, take this now. It is difficult, but not impossible. I will have the rest of the money.”

“You’re sure?”

He nodded and offered the same smooth trusting smile he turned on for his clients. “You have my word,” he said.

I stood up. “Your word is good enough for me, Alonso,” I lied and shook his offered hand. I turned and left the bar with the bag of money under my arm.


To find out how Alonso – and quite a lot of other crooks – gets his comeuppance, please purchase or otherwise obtain a copy of Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat. The e-book is really good value – and reviewers on Amazon UK and Amazon COM seem to think so too.
Amazon UK here
Amazon COM here
End of commercial break.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Writing – Market – Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

Of course, we should all strive to write fantastic fiction that comes from our imagination… Not so easy, sometimes. The print and e-magazine Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is now open for submissions. They pay 15c per word up to a maximum of $500 for original fiction. Reprints are paid for at a flat rate of $25.

The editor, Warren Lapine, is seeking work that spans the complete spectrum of speculative fiction. H’s keen on wordplay and fiction with a literary bent.

No simultaneous submissions. 

No maximum word-count, but if it’s long it better be good…

Send your submission as an RTF attachment by email to

Note in the subject line whether the story is original or reprint. You can send by post if you prefer.

See the full details at

And good luck!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Books - Nightstand Book Reviews

Nightstand Book Reviews is worth visiting frequently. It’s the brainchild of Patti Phillips.

Like many of us, Patti has a long love affair with books.

When not reading, or writing about the fabulous books she has discovered, she writes a blog in the voice of Homicide Detective Charlie Kerrian. You can follow his adventures at – which I also recommend.

Patti says she is “a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina. I am surrounded by books (the iPad is in the pile) and the airport is an hour away when I am ready to explore the physical worlds described in the paper/digital ones.”

You can contact her on Facebook ( and Twitter (@pattiphillips) or reach her by email at

Patti also runs a regular draw for subscribers to her Nightstand Book Reviews. I was one of the lucky recipients this month and expect my choice from her long list in the mail in due course.

Do pay her a visit.

As for authors contacting her about your book, don’t. She has her sources and she “will find you, whether in a brick and mortar bookstore or a virtual one online.”

She has purchased all the books reviewed on this site, whether in ebook or paper format (sometimes both). “I have, however, received thank-you emails, rave tweets, and cyberhugs.” That latter is important, I think. If a reader makes the effort to write about your book, if it’s possible, it’s nice to say “thanks”.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Saturday Story - 'The Newly Weds' - part 2 of 2

Wikipedia commons - Scottish mountains

Nik Morton
Part 2 of 2:
Story so far: Barry Paice is mountain climbing with his new wife Sadie when they encounter her ex-husband Jasper climbing with his girlfriend Lynne. Lynne is saved from a fatal fall by Barry and she reveals that Jasper and Sadie want them both dead… Now read on.


Barry didn’t believe Lynne. It was too far-fetched! Yet it seemed to be stretching coincidence too far, meeting Sadie’s ex on a mountainside.

The soft iron clinker of Jasper’s boot rasped on the rock behind them.

Barry swung round.

Eyes shining, Jasper advanced on him, piton hammer raised threateningly.

‘Oh, God,’ Lynne moaned. She stood, nursing her injured arm in its sling, her eyes staring. Sadie clambered towards Lynne, a vicious piton hammer in her hand.

Out of the corner of his eye, Barry glimpsed Jasper lunge forward. Barry ducked and lost his foothold and stumbled to one knee.

The piton clanged against rock and Jasper kicked out. The metal toecap caught Barry on his shoulder, jarring his frame. He spun away his heart lurched as he slipped over the edge.

The rope round his waist pulled, and the sudden arrest of his fall winded him. He hung suspended at the end of the nylon rope.

Jasper leaned over the edge and grinned. ‘Sorry about this, Barry, old son. It’s nothing personal, only business!’ He sounded rather sad about it. ‘We want your money – and the insurance, of course – so we’ve arranged this little climbing tragedy.’

We? Barry’s mind raced as his scrabbling feet found a slender rocky rib for purchase. He thrust himself up on the ridge, he grabbed at Jasper’s nearest leg and held on tight as he fell back.

‘Don’t!’ The sudden wrench unbalanced Jasper and he flew over Barry’s head, arms flailing helplessly. His wail bounced off the mountainside.

Heaving in great gulps of air, Barry pulled on the rope and spotted Sadie. Behind her was the slumped shape of Lynne. And now she was heading up the ledge for him.

He redoubled his efforts to pull himself up, hand over hand on the taut rope.

Suddenly, Sadie kicked out and her sole’s iron muggers broke the fingers on his left hand and grazed across his chin. For a fraction of a second he blacked out with the excruciating pain. He came too as he was cast down again on the end of the rope. His heart hammered while his body slammed into the rock wall, ribs bruised or broken.

          Hazily blinking up at Sadie’s scowling face, he couldn’t believe she was his wife. The delightful bow of her mouth widened into an ugly shape. She bawled, ‘Murderer!’

She stamped her boot down on the rope and he felt it vibrate, twisting him round in mid air.

‘Jasper was better than you!’ she shouted. ‘Every time – even last night!’

Surely this wasn’t the woman he’d courted and just married?

‘I hated you touching me!’ she screamed. ‘The whole romance was a farce, all planned!’ She laughed dementedly.

His chest ached but not merely with the bruising he’d sustained in his fall.

She hurled the piton hammer and it hit his shoulder, its point slicing into the anorak then twisting out into space.

Desperately now, he tried to stop spinning and kicked out, and attempted to snatch a toe-hold.

His heart sank as the section of rope above made a cracking sound. She must be using another piton or a knife to sever it. Sweat streamed into his eyes. He blinked and clamped his feet on the rope and hauled with his one good hand, but he had a long way to go.

Sadie’s sudden scream seemed to curdle his blood. He looked up.

She slumped forward, her head and shoulders looming over the edge, then she toppled and plunged past him, a piton lodged in her back.

Praying the partially severed rope would hold, he hauled himself up with only one hand.

Gasping for air and wheezing from pain, he edged over the rocky ledge and scrabbled to his knees, cradling his broken fingers in his lap.

Ashen faced, Lynne moved to him and knelt by his side. Her eyes filled with tears, she said, her voice rasping, ‘They were never divorced.’


‘They’ve done this before.’

‘What, Sadie and Jasper?’

Lynne nodded. ‘They’ve used different names and take turns to find a new spouse. Then their loved one meets with an accident shortly after the honeymoon.’

‘Couldn’t the police arrest them?’

She shook her head. ‘Never any evidence of wrongdoing. The accidents never appeared suspicious. I was to get the evidence this trip…’

He stared. ‘My God.’ He retrieved his bag and offered the flask.
She smiled weakly and drank. ‘You know,’ she mused, ‘this insurance investigation job’s getting tougher.’
* * * *
Previously published in 2 parts in TV Choice, 2010.
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014

If you liked this story, you might like my collection of crime tales, Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat, which features 22 cases from Leon Cazador, private eye, ‘in his own words’.  He is also featured in the story ‘Processionary Penitents’ in the Crooked Cat Collection of twenty tales, Crooked Cats’ Tales.

Spanish Eye, released by Crooked Cat Publishing is available as a paperback and as an e-book.