Monsters, Magic Items, and Thingies from M T McGuire

M T McGuire:

I don’t often Reblog but Charles Yallowitz has been doing a spot on his blog where people give him made up silly words and he comes up with a definition. Most of us have played this in the car on long journeys, right?

Anyway today he’s ‘done’ – if that’s the right word – mine. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Legends of Windemere:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2pt2-F2j2g

Today’s list comes from M T McGuire!  Enjoy the weekend!

Gralark

A member of the crow family, this bird has a grainy coloration to help blend in with the wheat fields.  It feeds off insects and rodents, using its camouflage to sneak up on prey. There are sharp barbs on the underside of their wings, which can deliver a paralytic toxin for taken down larger prey like rabbits.  Gralarks can get fixated on shiny objects and have been known to get pulled into wheat threshers because a fallen item has stolen its attention.

Scaboildan

This beast is covered in scabs caused by the hot water that it lives in.  The Scaboildan thrives in bubbling springs and sitting on the hot bottom creates a solid shell of rough skin.  These large amphibians have no pain receptors, so they are able to live within the dangerous water.  They move very…

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Box 010: Number 12, Angela Burkhead

Well hello, and after a bit of a hiatus, welcome, once again, to Box 010; a bit of light whimsy which is, in no way, inspired by the popular BBC programme Room 101. Here’s now it works. Every two weeks, except in the holidays when I turn into Mumzilla and everything goes a bit mental, my special guest will pop in and then present us with five things they would like to see consigned to the dustbin of existence. This week’s special guest is Angela Burkhead. She has just published Sticks n’ Stones and the Garden of Phea, a young adult fantasy novel.

Hello Angela and welcome to Box 010. Before we get started, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, yes I would. I’m a full time writer and a full time mom. Of the two jobs, I cannot decide which is more difficult and time consuming, but both bring the joys of fulfillment and accomplishment.

My son and I currently reside in Richmond, Ky, just north of Kentucky’s arts and crafts capital, Berea, Ky, where I was born and raised.

Ah a fellow author combining the rigours or writing and motherhood. Right then, let’s get onto your rant. What is the first thing that you would like to see expunged from existence for ever?

The first on my list I wish to ban from existence is Auto Correct. Let’s face it, we have all been victim to Auto Corrects evils in which the sentence: “I’m hanging out with Mary Anne” has become “I’m hanging out with Marijuana” causing a parent or two to inflict unnecessary punishment. D@$! you Auto Correct! It needs to be unmade.

Heavens yes, Auto Correct is the Devil’s tool. Good plan. So, onto your second item.

Commercial Duct Tape Products is on the top of my list.

Well, technically, it’s at number two.

Pedant!

I know, I’m sorry please carry on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Red Green who is always welcome to invade my tv with his quirky duct tape repair ideas, but people actually pay a company for something made out of duct tape? There are so many duct tape patterns out there, go on Pinterest and make it yourself! At least that way when someone asks you why you have a duct tape wallet you can say, “Oh, because I’m poor and couldn’t afford a real one.” People may be so impressed they’ll tell you how special you are. Just remember to take it as a compliment….

Oh my giddy aunt! Do people do that? Is there a whole duct tape subculture thing going on, here, that has passed me by? Mwah ha hhahargh! How did I miss it, or am I going to be grinding my teeth in a year’s time, when it hits good old Blighty. Hmm. That’s a worrying thought! Wow… so what’s your item number 3?

The use of more than one exclamation mark to express excitement. Nothing can ever be that exciting. Plus, the people reading the overly-exaggerated exclamation tend to need to express the same, if not more, enthusiasm which leads to a small army of exclamation marks that, if they were truly an army, could probably take over a small town whose inhabitants would tweet about the invasion with more exclamation marks… At this rate, the Army of Exclamations could take over the world in less than a week. One exclamation mark is enough!

Yes, oh yes, oh yes. Phnark.  Vote it in. Please… Er hem. Sorry what was I thinking of, I’m supposed to be impartial. Right then, please can you tell us what your fourth item is Angela?

Space Chimps. Not actual chimps in space, I mean the movie Space Chimps. I worked at a theater the year it came out. I’m pretty sure the children lost IQ points during the film and I still wish I could get back the 10 minutes of my life I spent watching the film during my work break.

Tell me about it. We have a kids programme on TV called Waybaloo and I swear I used to feel my brain turning to mush as I watched with my boy. Although, I confess I’ve never heard of Space Chimps – clearly I’ve lived a sheltered life.  This has been an education. OK, then, what is your fifth and final item?

Best for last, Disney’s rights to Star Wars. Oh, George, what have you done? Lucas may be frighteningly awful at romantic scenes, and I think deep down he knows he should never have filmed movies 1-3, but handing the rights over to Disney does not make up for his mistakes. It actually made things worse. I will never be able to forgive the destruction of my beloved Star Wars and I have only one thing to say; Live Long and Prosper.

Yeh and the first thing they did was stop making Clone Troopers, which my boy loves and which is brilliant.

Right then, Angela Burkhead, thank you very much for joining me today. Now it’s time to vote. You can find more information about Angela’s latest release, Sticks n’ Stones and the Garden of Phea – along with details of where you can stalk her on the interweb below the poll. Join us in a couple of weeks when we find out how many of Angela’s pet hates you have voted into the oblivion forever.

Sticks n’ Stones and the Garden of Phea

Rather than spending one more day amongst the humiliating remarks to the amusement of her fellow peers, Emily Fickeltin runs away. Or, rather, walks away. Emily is misunderstood and disliked by what seems to be every other child her age and on top of it all, she is overweight.

Her attempt to escape her pain leads her to discover a hidden place with new hope for friends and acceptance, though she cannot stay long. In this magical garden, Emily meets Phea and finds that she is not the only one looking for an escape.

Together they battle their inner most demons. Will they ever discover peace and acceptance? These two lost and disheartened souls must find who they are before they are both lost forever.

You can stalk Angela Burkhead on the internet in the following places:

https://www.facebook.com/AngelaBurkheadAuthor?ref=hl
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7824929.Angela_Burkhead
https://twitter.com/TheMsBurkhead
http://themsburkhead.tumblr.com
http://angelaburkhead.blogspot.com

 

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Stealth Marketing in the Grand Tradition of the British Navy.

OK, I’ll admit, it’s a tenuous connection, especially in the extremely likely event I’ve got my facts wrong, but there is this lovely story about Admiral Rodney; that he was concerned that the demand of the British Navy for oak trees to make ships was outstripping British supply. He therefore carried acorns in his pockets and dropped them wherever he went. Actually, it may not even have been Rodney who dropped acorns wherever he went… thinking about it, I have a vague recollection that it was some Elizabethan dude…

Sadly I haven’t been able to get a sniff of conformation on this story in connection  with Admiral Rodney or anyone else. The internet, usually a rich source of substantiation for such bollocks, is disturbingly mute on the topic. Then again, it might have been invented in Britain but it’s definitely American and the demand for trivia pertaining to European history is probably limited over there. I expect I’d be more likely to find it using Google.fr. Possibly… if I was better at French. Or maybe I’ll have to find “Our Island’s Story” a three book set of the most engaging and charmingly written, albeit ideologically unsound and dubiously jingoistic, version of British history ever produced.

But I digress. The reason I mention it is because in a small way I like to think I am upholding this proud naval tradition… except with flyers and bookmarks advertising my books rather than acorns.

GooglyJoy

Eyebombing, harmless naughtiness.

Seldom, do I leave the house without my  pockets weighed down by promotional literature; two business card sized things for books one and two, book marks for three and four, and a packet of googly eyes – because if my target area proves unsuitable for leafleting, there’s always eyebombing.

Wherever I go, I leave promotional bumpf, printed at bargain basement cost. If there’s a rack, I put them in. I was particularly gratified, after leaving some in a hotel when I arrived for the night a couple of weekends ago, to find that the staff had straightened them all out nicely with the other leaflets when I went to breakfast the next morning. As if they were legit.

It helps that as a 45 year old bag, I can pretty much dump these things where they’re not supposed to be in broad daylight, because I look like an upstanding member of the community who is far to old to do anything furtive, subversive or childish. Even if I’m right there, sticking googly eyes on the back of a builder’s lorry, or walking into Starbucks and laying out my  leaflets as if I’m a member of staff, I get the impression that the people who witness it can’t quite believe their eyes or assume my presence there is kosher.

There are other stealthy methods I employ. I leaf through books in the fantasy and science fiction departments in book shops and libraries and slip my cards between the pages for readers to find. I shoved a load into all the Terry Pratchett books in Tesco. I leave them on tables in restaurants and bars, on shelves in stores, slipped behind mirrors in public loos. Naturally I left them on the seat on the tube – on the few occasions I went to London.  I slip them under the windscreen wipers of nice looking cars. Indeed, I have not been above sticking fridge magnets with them on to lamp posts in my locale. Sometimes I even leave whole books. I have even convinced myself that all this works because I have been contacted by a fellow who went home and bought both my books after he and his wife started reading a copy one I left on the shelves in Costa.

Perhaps it sounds a bit strange but all this clandestine activity makes me feel better. As if I am at least pushing the envelope, even if I seem spectacularly unable to push my actual books onto anyone.

It’s easy to get disheartened being an author, even about the things that make you happy, so, for example, a while back, an author friend had a book picked as a read of the month on a forum I visit. I was genuinely over the moon for him because he’d missed out for so long. But it also made me feel a bit disheartened because it occurred to me that of the authors I know well, in the cyber sense, on that forum, I am now the only one who hasn’t ever had a book read in the monthly reads thing. Occasionally stuff like that catches me on the hop and makes me churlishly low – even while I’m being delighted for someone else. I suspect it’s because books are very personal things to write so it’s easy to take that sort of thing the wrong way and feel like the kid in the playground nobody wants to talk to.

Well, we all go through these ups and downs but folks, if you’re going through a down like that I proscribe a bit of stealth marketing, or, if you read books rather than write them, try a bit of cathartic eyebombing. Seriously, it’s a hoot and it’ll pep you up in no time.

So anyway,  it was with much amusement that I read this post on indie hero recently confirming  two things. First, I am not the only one who likes a bit of stealth – he calls it guerilla marketing. Second – tsk – I missed a trick.

I must make myself some stickers.

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You who? You what? You where? You… eh?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been nominated by the peerless Irish Farmarette a.k.a. Lorna Sixsmith, author of Would You Marry a Farmer, and general Irish mover and shaker, to answer four questions and introduce you to three more authors you might like. I have chosen people with new books due out or out not so long ago. I am particularly impressed that I have managed to pick an Englishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman after being nominated by an Irish woman. There has to be a good joke in there somewhere – but I’ve also added Yorkshire woman to liven things up. Kath won’t be able to answer the questions – because hers isn’t that kind of blog – but as I loved her book she gets a mention anyway. We go from rookie author to seasoned best seller and the stages in between with this lot via four of my favourite blogs.

Right, let’s get started. Here are my answers.

1. What are you working on?

Two things at the moment. First the final tweaks and polishes to the last two books in the K’Barthan Trilogy but also a completely new thing provisionally titled Space Dustmen. I also have a novel sketched out which needs writing up: Saving The World Is Not For Girls, so I’m tinkering with that, too.

However, my seems to require something totally new – and at the same time complicated perhaps it misses the sophistication of a world as fully developed as K’Barth was by the time I was done – and is being pretty insistent. So I suspect I will also trundle off into space with Driff and his fellow space refuse collectors. It’s all very strange but you know how it is, don’t fight it, go with the flow. So I am.

Yeh… that’s three things isn’t it and I said two. Well, I did tell you I couldn’t count.

2. How does your work differ from other stuff in your genre?

Sometimes I’m not sure it has a genre. Well it’s a bit of a mash up but so are a lot of things. It’s probably the only work of petrolpunk, mwah ha hhaargh! Yeh! I made up my own genre for it because I’m not full of myself or anything (snortle). I do tend to find that a line repeated in several reviews of Few Are Chosen, the first book in the K’Barthan Trilogy is, “there is nothing else like this book”. Which is kind of cool. But basically, it’s a humorous science fiction fantasy action adventure with romantic elements in books 2 and 4 – not squelchy bits romance, just a bit of snog action – but there is a love theme… and I’m digging a hole here. Stop.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Because I can’t help it. I know…. but that’s the truth.

4. How does your writing process work?

A very good question. Do you know, I’m not 100% certain. I build worlds in my brain. I always have, and once I’ve exorcised one onto paper I find others are quick to appear in its place. Hence the difficulty I mentioned with the what I’m working on question. I’ve dumped K’Barth for now, so I contain the Huurg Quadrant along with the Threeps, their political and moral system and the viewpoint of a student in London. However, what was three lines of dialogue and a picture of an aeroplane is rapidly coming upon the rails and threatening to turn into my next book. Ahead of the one that’s pretty much already there.

Alright, seriously, the actual process? It goes like this:

  1. I have an idea. I hear a song or read a science article and that idea starts to ferment quietly in my mind.
  2. It gathers momentum and the idea becomes a little more than an idea. I start writing stuff down.
  3. The political system emerges. There is usually something standing in the hero or heroine’s way and it’s usually a slimy no-good politician.
  4. The characters begin to have names and personalities and I begin to understand the dynamics between them.
  5. I start to get the major scenes and I write them up.
  6. By this time, I’m absolutely agog to find out what happens next.  So I start trying to work out how to connect them all together and why they connect. This is the point where there will be lots of angst filled posts on here if it goes wrong, because if it does, it’s like watching a film that’s really caught your interest and then, just as it gets exciting, being told that you won’t be able to find out what happens for 6 months.There is often a point, where I have to stop for some time, at about a third of the way in, to let the any plot problems my subconscious mind has forgotten to tell my conscious mind about to resolve themselves.Alternatively, I write several things different ways and end up having to bin about 80,000 words. I did that while writing One Man: No Plan and Looking For Trouble and binned at least 80,000 words; probably more in the region of 120,000. In short I have to sweat blood to whip it into some sort of shape – frankly it’s like having a terrible attack of constipation er hem, I’m so sorry, “that bloated feeling”. You take some sennacot, sit down with a novel, heave and strain, go puce and then… There’s a bit of a Eureka moment, and, splash! It’s done.

OK now it’s time to single out three other victi- lovely people to answer these questions. In no particular order, here they are:

Jim Webster standing in front of a hedge he made earlier.

Jim Webster standing in front of a hedge he made earlier.

Jim Webster.

Farmer, churchwarden, maverick.

That’s the best biog I’ve ever seen. But you may wish to know more, so here’s the longer version.

Jim Webster was born in Barrow in Furness on the 24th March 1956, the same day that Devon Loch fell at the Grand National and Dick Francis turned his attention to writing. With a teacher for a mother and a farmer for a father, Jim was thus able to read before going to school, could drive a tractor by the age of eight and was feeding calves somewhat earlier than that. Since then, he’s farmed, written freelance and acted as a consultant, sometimes managing to do all three in the same day. Jim is happily married since 1985; his wife Brenda and he have three daughters scattered about Northern England. He is immoderately proud of the fact that he has no CV, having been self-employed his entire life.

Jim writes a tip top blog about whatever pops into his head. His books are mostly fantasy, his current series based around the Land of the Three Seas, which are just ace. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself here’s his amazon page.

However, Jim also writes science fiction and his first major release in this respect is Justice 4.1 the Tsarina Sector. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noticed he popped in here for a chat about it during his blog tour. Basically, I can’t give Jim enough plugs because I love his books.  So do have a look next week to read his answers to the questions. Jim’s fantastic blog is here and the Tsarina Sector Facebook page is here. It’s also for sale on Amazon UK here and US here.

Will Macmillan Jones. Don’t worry, he’s not chained to those railings.

Will Macmillan Jones

Will Macmillan Jones lives in Wales, a lovely green verdant land with a rich cultural heritage. He does his best to support this heritage by yelling loud encouragement at the TV when Wales plays international rugby. Having been an accountant for much of his working life, he now writes in a desperate attempt to avoid terminal atrophy of his brain. A fifty something lover of blues, rock and jazz, he has achieved a lifetime ambition by extending his bookcases to fill an entire wall of his home office.

Will is best known, or is he notorious, for authoring the renowned Banned Underground Series, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, myself – think Spike Milligan writes fantasy and you’re nearly there. However, he has recently unleashed his inner 8 year old with Snort and Wobbles which you can find on Amazon here or if you’re in the good ol U.S. of A, here. In addition, he writes horror. More on that story, soon but it’s not out yet so I have to keep it under my hat.

Will blogs about a whole plethora of vaguely connected stuff – rather the way I do – and you can find his blog here.

Seumas Gallacher

Seumas Gallacher – genuine kilted man.

 To quote his biography – Seumas Gallacher escaped from the world of finance five years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades.

As the self-professed ‘oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’ his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer’s need to ‘build the platform’, and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 15,000 direct contacts.

He writes crime thrillers and the first two, the Violin Man’s Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black are impressively big hitters with more than 75,000 downloads to date. This, he tells us cheerfully, “blew his mind”.  He released the third in what has become the ‘Jack Calder’ series, Savage Payback, late in 2013 and is working on the fourth, Killer City.

His blog is an absolute hoot and I highly recommend it. As well as being funny it’s wise, witty and peppered with some very pointy-brained advice. And it’s also written the way he talks, which is in Rab C Nesbitt-ese because he’s from Govan. You can find Savage Payback on Amazon here and on the US store here. Seumas has just released a book of advice; Self Publishing Steps to Successful Sales, which explains how he went from net virgin to social media guru and seller of many thousands of ebooks in double quick time. You can find his blog with information about the rest of his books and links to buy them, too  here.

Kath Middleton – KATH ok, Googlebots? Not Kate.

Kath Middleton, indie author and serious butt kicker for quality independent publishing

Epic reviewer, kicker of monumental butt for quality independent fiction and now author in her own right. Kath is an Amazon top 1,000 reviewer, chicken mother, stone polisher and gardener she even breeds tomatoes…. oh yeh, and she writes books.

Seriously, I kid you not there’s not much she doesn’t do. Her official biography goes like this:

Kath Middleton is no stranger to the writing world, having had several of her short stories published in anthologies and many of her drabbles published online and in ‘Beyond 100 Drabbles’, a collaborative book alongside author Jonathan Hill. ‘Ravenfold’ is Kath’s first foray into longer fiction, a book which she describes as mediaeval noir. Her many hobbies and interests include reading, gardening, geology, archaeology, patchwork and quilting, and keeping chickens. And, of course, she continues to write. Watch this space!

In the few moments of spare time she has, she also keeps a blog, Ignite Books where you can find out what she’s reading. She has an eye for a good book which is handy. She won’t be able to answer the questions because she doesn’t write that kind of blog but I’m nominating her anyway because I want to give her book a plug.

Ravenfold. Kath Middleton’s debut novella.

Kath’s book is Ravenfold is the story of Fourteen year old Romelda Bolt who lives at a time when a woman is a man’s property. Her parents, promised wealth by a local lord three times her age, marry her off. A brutal and bullying relationship is born…

Go and find it, now. You won’t be disappointed. It’s on Amazon UK here and on Amazon US here.

 

 

 

 

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Even More McMini

Oh deary me, another one of those weeks, I foolishly volunteered to do a blog meme, thinking I could easily rustle up three victi er hem sorry, three nominees to pass it on to. I have two happily queued up and ready but can I find a third one? No. I have four but two who will break the chain. Even worse, it’s only as I answer the questions that I realise I’ve actually done something very similar before.

Note to self. No memes. No blog chains. Nada. Zilch. Ever again. Why adding a few million links to a blog post should take so long I don’t know but it does. Also, as I’m facing a couple of weeks sans internet, I’ve been scheduling some posts to appear in my electronic absence. Unfortunately, this means I’ve spent all week working on my blog without actually posting anything.

Chaos Fairies 1: Efficiency 0

Never mind, onwards and upwards. I thought I would share some of the latest gems from McMini, so here they are.

On April Fool’s day…
W
e went to the park. Wisely, because the lavatories are at the opposite end to the swings, we went to the bogs first.

“Mummy I need a poo,” said McMini.
“Oh dear, do you? Alright, hang on and I’ll come in with you.”
McMini stood in front of the loo with his hands behind his head.
“Shouldn’t you sit down for a poo?”
“No. I’m only having a wee.”
“Might I suggest that you hold it and aim it for greater accuracy.”
“Oh no Mummy, I much prefer doing it like this, and it’s alright I don’t need a poo. It’s April False day remember? I was just falsing you.”

I put him straight, on both counts.

On his reading assignments…
“Mummy I wish I didn’t have to read a book every night, they are terribly long.”
“Yes, they are but a lot of them are quite fun and you read them very well. Anyway, you don’t remember to change your book every night do you? So technically, you don’t read one every night.”
“True…”
“So what happens if you fail to read your book?”
“We have to sit with one of the big year olds and read it the next day. And it’s always the same big year old.”
“You don’t like that, then?”
“No.”
I laughed at this and told him that I thought ‘big year olds’ was brilliant. I kept forgetting it and asking him to remind me.
“Oh Mummy you really are a porridge brain,” he rolled his eyes. “Come on, say it after me, Big. Year. Olds.”
“Big year olds. Right.”
“Got it?”
“Got it.”

On biology…
I told him he was getting much taller and that I couldn’t believe he grew inside my tummy. He stopped for a moment in shocked silence.

“Mummy, I didn’t grow inside your tummy. I am a boy. I grew inside Daddy’s tummy.”
“No, it takes a man and a lady to make a baby but everyone, girls and boys, grows inside the Mummy.”
“Oh. Are you certain Mummy?”
“Very.”
“So did I just grow?”
“No, Daddy helped.”
“How?”
“Well, men and ladies are made to fit together. The lady’s bits go in and the man’s bits go out like putting a plug into a socket. Then they have a very special cuddle and it makes a baby.”
“Can I have a special cuddle Mummy?”
“Not with me sunshine and certainly not yet. Special cuddles are only for grown ups.”

This was the point where half of me was standing outside myself, looking at what was going on, thinking “holy shit how did I get into this?” The key with these, is to offer enough information to shut them up without them a) getting more interested or b) saying or doing anything weird at school. I think I got away with it but I am beginning to understand why they used to feed kids all that bollocks about storks.

In church…
Loudly, during a particularly quiet, prayerful bit.

“Mummy, I have just done a fart and I can smell it and it’s a really stinky one.”
“Would you like to nip out and have a poo?”
“No, it’s OK, Mummy, I am fine.”
A few seconds later.
“Actually Mummy, I do need a poo.”
There was giggling from the other members of the congregation as we walked out.

At the Altar Rail…
After a lot of lively chat to me about robots and lego StarWars figures I told him he must try to be a little quieter now because people around us were trying to pray.

“Why don’t you try saying a couple of prayers? I’m going to.”
McMini screwed his eyes tight shut and buried his head on his hands. I knew he was really concentrating because only his legs were wriggling. After about 10 seconds he looked up.
“Mummy, I am having a lovely chat with God.”
“Good stuff little one. You carry on.”

Another at the alter rail conversation:

“Mummy, you’re not going to die soon, are you?”
“I hope not. I will at some stage because everyone does but hopefully not yet.”
“Are Annie and Poppa and Gramma and Pappa going to die soon?”
“Not for a while yet, I hope.”
“But they will die before I do?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“Where do we go to get new Grandparents to replace them?”
“Well… it doesn’t work like that. They’re relatives, so when they die, there’s no-one to replace them.”
“Oh…”

Later that day….

“Mummy Annie laid* you. Who laid Annie?”
“Annie’s Mum, my Granny [name redacted].”
“Oh… who laid her?”
“I think my great, great Granny’s name was ….”
Long thoughtful silence.
“I see….”

On Manners….
While Enthusiastically Eating a Jaffa Cake, also in Church.

“Mummy look! I am ripping it like a dinosaur.”

Still in Church, still in a quiet bit…

“Look!” McMini held up a picture he’d drawn. “he is a baddy cowboy.” McMini then coloured his eyes in brown. “See? He has brown fire coming out of his eyes!”
“Brown Fire sounds like a euphemism for something else.”
“No it’s not brown fire Mummy. It’s pooh. He has pooh coming out of his eyes in big brown pooy streams.”
“Ah…” I replied as the people in the pew behind started giggling. What else could I say?

On school…

A sweet, friendly guest asked him, “Are you at school?”
“Yes.”
“Do you enjoy school?”
“Oh yes,” he said with enthusiasm.
“What’s your favourite lesson?”
“Lunch time.”

On history…
McMini told McOther a long and complicated story about a little girl called Frank who had hidden in a house under a bed from an evil soldier called Hitme. We later discovered that one of his friends had been to Holland over the holidays where she had visited Anne Frank’s house and told McMini all about it.

On cleanliness…
When I was trying to hurry him up going to bed – which takes a sod of a long time, believe me…

“Please will you stay here and play some more, Mummy?”
“I wish I could but I can’t. I have to go and cook your Dad’s tea and have a shower.”
“You don’t need a shower Mummy, you’re very fragrant as you are.”

In Church…
As the Gospel was read from the middle of the aisle, McMini moved over to where the bloke with the incense thingummy (the thurither) was swinging the incense container (the thurible). Slowly but surely he held out his biscuit, kippering it gently over the smoke. Needless to say the thurither (try saying that with your mouth full) started swinging it a bit further in McMini’s direction. Finally, wee man shuffled back to me, kippered gingernut triumphantly in hand.

“Mummy that incense smells delicious!” he said.

* Like an egg as in gave birth to.

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That’s… quite a thing.

Last week, chatting to some of you lovely peps in my long and tenuously linked to writing post about metal detecting, I mentioned I’d found a strange um… thing. Last beep of the day, heading to the car, I found this.

Find09March14Front

Yep, and here he is again from the back.

Find09March14Back

He looks old and close up he looks as if he was once enamelled. I thought he was cool, in fact I reckoned it was a saint and since he had a pen in his hand, at least, I think that’s a pen, I reckoned it was a gospel writer and therefore, a piece of ecclesiastical bling; church ormalou of some sort. Turns out he is a thing called a Limoges Mount. No, it’s not a wrestling position, stop sniggering at the back.

Limoges Mounts were made in, yes, you guessed it, Limoges. Apart from the copper alloy these things were melted onto, all the stuff required to make the enamel was in the soil around the city so enameling was actually quite an obvious choice as an artisan thing for the area.

Limoges also enjoyed a geographical advantage, in that it stood at a meeting of roads, including the popular pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostello, and there was a big abbey in the town. So basically, the enterprising locals started making holy stuff, boxes, mounts for crosses etc for the pilgrims coming through the town, or stopping at the abbey on their pilgrimage, to buy. They became known for their quality, indeed at one point, the Pope at the time decreed that every church must have a certain number of enamel things from Limoges (clearly not a fan of free trade and I’m guessing Limoges was his home town).

Things like the battered chap I dug up were probably stuck on the sides of boxes as relief elements in scenes or on the mounts for crosses. The thing that has gob smacked me a little is that the enameling trade flourished in Limoges between 1130s and 40s and 1350 or thereabouts… it became very popular in the 12th century but demand was high and the necessity to mass produce them resulted in a drop in quality. Production finally petered out in the 100 years war.

Like as not he fell off whatever he was mounted on sometime between then and now – during a harvest celebration, I’d guess. Perhaps they had an outdoor service every year… I doubt whatever item he fell from survived the reformation and if it did, I expect the Civil War (there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one) got it on the rebound. I’ll have to see if I can discover more just in case. It might be that the nearby church would have records.

This is all I know so far. That and that he’s quite rare – 7 dug up on the UK Detector Finds Database between 2006 and 2011 – so I have to declare him to my local Finds Liaison Officer… within 14 days… except he’s sick at the moment… next month then. I need to find out what he’s worth, too.

So he’s about 800 years old.

And I dug him up.

Which is a bit of a thing…

Other news. I sent the last two book of the K’Barthan Trilogy off to the Beta Readers today. So it’s off my hands for a month. Well… sort of. I will be listening to Stephen Hawking reading them from inside my kindle to track down any missed words or dodgy commas. Looks as if launch date is going to be June and July then, for deffo. Quite excited about that.

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You what?

Occasionally, I go metal detecting. Thus far, no enormous gold hoards have been discovered on my watch – how surprising – but I do find other things which are far more intriguing.

Most of the things I dig up are unrecognisable; to the point where I’m tempted to throw them away but my eternal optimism that the lump of twisted metal I have in my hands might be ‘something interesting’ ensures I never do, or at least, not until one of the other detectorists, who actually knows what they’re doing, has seen it.

This is probably a good thing if these examples are anything to go by.

IMG_1081A few weeks ago, I dug up a bit of metal that looked like one of those things old people put under the legs of chairs to stop them marking the carpet. This thing (pictured left). I assumed it was part of a tractor, but once again, ever hopeful, I stuffed it in my finds bag and kept going.

At the end of the day, when I looked closely, I realised it had two lines round it and a little hole drilled in the bottom from both sides, which didn’t go all the way through.

You know what this is? It’s the equivalent of one of those plastic medicine spoons. The hole is to keep a pill still – they were round then – the line is to mark out half a dose and the drill hole on the underneath is so it stands steady.

What I find so amazing is that everyone but everyone in the… I dunno, 500, 400 years preceding 1900 would have known exactly what that is and what it’s for. And me 100 years later? No clue.

A couple of weekends ago, I found something else; a huge lump of lead. Again, I assumed it was part of a tractor. Again, I was wrong. IMG_1078

Turns out it was a hand guard; something people sewing canvas or leather would use, similarly to a thimble, but in the palm of their hand. The ridge is the but you’d put the end of the needle into as you pushed it through.

Almost anyone alive from the Middle Ages to the early 20th Century would know exactly what it is, as instinctively as we know what a car tyre is, or a thimble.

Why was it there? Because everyone in the village would work on the fields and the women folk and kids would come out and picnic there, in the summer. That’s why one of the best places to detect is near the hedge under any old trees, because it’s where the workers’ families would have sat and where they would all have had dockey (elevensies) and lunch.

What amazes me about this is how much of history has been taken for granted and thrown away. I’m sure it’s something most people are aware of. How many times have you gone into an antique shop, seen some kitchen implement and thought, “Bloody hell! I remember using one of those at my granny’s house!”

Well, OK, maybe that’s just me but it does intrigue me how many aspects of our world, which we intuitively understand today, our vernacular surroundings of stuff, if you like, will probably flummox our antecedents. Exactly the same way that the vernacular, every day items of 70, 80 maybe 100 years ago regularly flummox me.

It also amazes me how a learning a few simple things about how our predecessors lived, and finding these unremarkable, vernacular items, illuminates their world. Suddenly it is real, alive and with substance.

So what has this to do with writing?

Well, I suppose, the first thing is my favourite topic, that you can build a rich and complex world with little more than a few hints. That if you give the right information as a catalyst the reader’s imagination does the rest. Second, how fast life and the world moves and how soon things are forgotten. Most of the items I find were in common use from the Middle Ages; earlier in the case of the hand guard, until the early 19th Century. That’s 500 years. 80 years later and I don’t know what they are. Such is the price of progress.

Third thing… how amazing it is to find a truth in history. When the causes and factors behind so many world events are down to interpretation it’s incredible to find things that can be expressed as black and white facts; it’s that and this is what it was for.

And to make the header post for Facebook more interesting, here is a picture of Chewbacca, my cat, who died 18 months ago, sadly but who was very cute.

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