Tag Archives: reader’s picks

And now for something completely different!

This week, once again, we are striking out in a different direction, although, clearly it’s a slightly less different direction than it was last time because we’ve done this once before. Today, we will be taking a pleasant and rambling detour to Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas with our friend and poet from a couple of weeks ago, Tallis. This week, I’m sharing a complete tale. As well as appearing in the Port Naain Intelligencer series, Tallis also appears in his own series and on his own blog, no less. I have no idea how Jim Webster finds the time to write all this stuff but as you know, I always enjoy Jim’s books, so a chance to share this one was too good to miss! It also has an extremely apposite title for the condition of yours truly, pre holiday. Enjoy!

Unfashionably Tired …

There are disasters that can strike even the most well organised entertainment. Some you can plan for and seek to avoid. Some you can watch out for and step in immediately to nip trouble in the bud. Others seem to strike out of the blue.

If I was apportioning blame, the temptation would be to give a generous helping to Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren. There again Almas Slackwater cannot be held innocent of blame. Finally I would point the finger firmly at Bethan Phloom who was the hostess and failed to keep control.

To be fair, everything started well enough. The hostess was gracious, people were pleased to be invited, and there was a genuinely pleasant atmosphere. Then Madam Mudfold arrived in a nice dress. It was in silk with a rather interesting floral pattern. The hostess commented on it, others passed equally flattering comments, and Madam Mudfold was delighted. To be fair, she was entitled to be; it was a really nice dress and suited her perfectly.

Five minutes later, with Madam Mudfold barely out of the entrance hall, who should arrive but Madam Cockeren. Now I know these two ladies have had their differences in the past. I am willing to admit that the term ‘feud’ adequately described their relationship.

Still, of late they have been genuinely restrained, behaving with reasonable dignity and even some decorum. Personally I suspect husbands ended up getting involved, mainly due to the risk to life and limb that the feud occasioned.

Still the arrival of Madam Cockeren wouldn’t have been a cause for concern, but for the small, but hardly trivial detail, that she was wearing exactly the same dress as Madam Mudfold. The same silk, the same lines, and to all intents and purposes the same dress. Admittedly there was a little more material in Madam Cockeren’s dress, but this is merely because there is a little more material in Madam Cockeren. But still, it was a delightful dress and suited her perfectly.

Now at this point Madam Phloom as hostess should have done something. As it was she merely had a fit of the vapours and left me to deal with it. Still, that is why I was there. As tactfully as possible I explained the problem to the two ladies, separately, and they agreed to remain in separate rooms and to let me know if they needed to move from one room to another. Thus they need not ‘accidentally’ meet each other.
It’s a scheme I’ve used a number of times and with good will on both sides, it works nicely. I personally had no doubt that it would work equally well on this occasion. Madam Mudfold was in the first floor parlour; Madam Cockeren was in the first floor salon.

And then Almas Slackwater arrived. Alas, she too was wearing the same dress. Unfortunately Almas, is almost a full generation younger than the other two ladies. Now I have heard her described as winsome. Personally I would describe her as charming, witty, and fascinating; others have used the terms ‘frenetic’ and ‘maenadic’.

So whilst the other two ladies could feel assured that they looked elegant and attractive, Almas looked stunning. When she walked into the room one elderly gentleman muttered to me it was as if spring had arrived two months early.

Unfortunately, she arrived just as Bethan Phloom had recovered from her fit of the vapours, and had returned to duty welcoming her guests. She took one look at Almas and fainted clean away. We carried her to her room and she plays no more part in the proceedings.

Almas proceeded to blaze a trail through the house like a comet. She swept through every room, leaving the ladies feeling inadequate and the gentlemen feeling overwhelmed. To be fair to her, it’s just something that happens in her presence, she doesn’t need to work at it. Finally I met her on the hallway and asked her about her latest work. She is a very promising young poet. This distracted her and allowed the rest of the guests to get on with enjoying themselves, until the bell rang for supper.

Now supper needs some explanation. Bethan Phloom had inherited a cookery book from her grandmother. Whilst Bethan and her mother had done well in the grocery trade, grandmother had been in service as a cook and was apparently a really good one. The book Bethan had inherited was the old ladies collection of custard recipes and Bethan had decided to have an evening of custard. We would have a chance to taste over fifty-seven different flavours and textures of custard.

It was then, as custard was served, that everybody had to move into the same room and mingle. Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren were careful to ensure there were always people between them and so they weren’t forced to acknowledge the other. To be fair to them they managed to achieve this without appearing to snub anybody, and frankly I was rather proud of them for achieving this and making my role so much easier.

The Almas arrived in the dining room. Not only did she go and stand right next to Madam Mudfold, she even examined the other lady’s dress to see if the stitching around the neck was the same. Madam Mudfold was mortified. It wasn’t merely that Almas was wearing the same dress, she was wearing it infinitely better. I felt sad for the older lady. The dress suited her. I suspect she had loved it, but I knew that she would never wear it again.

Then as Almas moved away, she seems to have inadvertently bumped into somebody, who in turn stumbled and knocked somebody else. The upshot of this was that strawberry custard was poured down the front of Madam Mudfold’s dress.

Madam Mudfold didn’t hesitate. She put two fingers into her mouth, emitted a piercing whistle which caused everybody, including Almas, to turn round. She then hit Almas full in the face with a carefully hurled bowl of caramel and ginger custard. To be fair, it was an excellent shot. People applauded.

Almas rallied, fell back to another table, and proceeded to send volleys of thick-set summer-fruits custard tarts in the direction of Madam Mudfold. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the custard dripping down her face, Almas’s aim was not perhaps of the best. Whilst all the tarts hit, not all of them hit Madam Mudfold. Others joined in, a number of younger ladies rallied to Almas, whilst Madam Cockeren led a party to rescue the now much beleaguered Madam Mudfold.

The older ladies drove their younger opponents down the stairs, but at the kitchen door Almas rallied her forces. Re-equipped with individual custard pies, they counterattacked. The battle raged up and down the stairs, into the kitchen and out of it, until at least, vanquished, Almas and her legions retired, gloriously custard-besmeared, into the night. The older ladies, realising the damage that had been done to their garments, bid each other an affectionate goodnight, and also decamped. The last to leave were Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren who were arm in arm as they went to find where their sedan chairs had got to.

This left me with Sina the maid and Cook. Bethan Phloom remained firmly in bed, so it fell to the three of us to clean up. It took us nearly nine hours. I washed custard of the walls and shovelled it into bins whilst the ladies cleaned the floor behind me. Then Cook retired to clean the kitchen whilst Sina worked her way through the other rooms that hadn’t been plastered with custard, whilst I finished off washing carpets and similar.

Finally, long after dawn I went into the maids’ parlour to find Sina had put the finishing touches to the fire there. She was preparing for a new day. I went into the kitchen to discover that Cook had made coffee but had fallen asleep before she could offer us any. So I took two mugs of coffee, added cooking brandy to both and went back to the maids’ parlour to give Sina hers.

As she drank half of it she leaned back in the chair.

“Mr Tallis, yesterday my young man asked me to marry him. I told him I’d think on it.”

I waited whilst she emptied her mug in one long swallow.

“You know what, Mr Tallis. After last night I’m going to tell him, yes.”

I congratulated her, took the empty mug off her and went back to the kitchen with our two mugs. On my way out again I glanced through the door of the parlour. Sina was fast asleep.

¶=========================== ¶

And the hard sell!

Welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.

So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees.

These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.

Firstly:-

Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

Click on the picture to find out more or use the link below!

http://getbook.at/DeepWaters

And then there is:-

Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?

To find out more, click on the picture or the link below.

http://getbook.at/PlayingTheGame

Finally …

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page by clicking on the link below, it should take you to his page on your local Amazon:

author.to/JimWebster

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page at
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/
https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

 

 

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Filed under General Wittering, Interesting

Let me take you by the hand and lead you …

Through the streets of Port Naain.

Yes, this week we are doing something a little different. I am posting an excerpt from the latest adventure penned by Jim Webster. This one is from Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas and features Benor, apprentice cartographer and Tallis, poet, who meet and have numerous adventures in the Port Naain Intelligencer series. If you don’t know these guys, you should, they’re fun, some of my favourite indie characters. The series is well worth a read as are Jim’s longer books – which are about Benor when he is older. But what do I know? Read the excerpt and see for yourself!

Embarrassing

Tallis, with a tight grip on the hand of Young Vortac, ran down the alley, frantically trying to think of a safe destination. He glanced over his shoulder, realised the pursuers were temporarily out of sight, and dived down a side alley and kept running. A cry from behind of,

“There they are,” showed him his subterfuge hadn’t worked.

He knew this neighbourhood; they were now approaching an area where he had patrons. Still he didn’t want his patrons faced with a horde of ruffians. He glanced behind him; their pursuers were more spread out than they had been but some were getting very close to them. Then he recognised a house. He’d performed there but as an anonymous participant in an affair organised by somebody else. Without hesitating he led the boy through the side gate off the lane and burst in through the servants’ entrance. Hastily he slammed the door and barred it behind him. He was just in time. Somebody shoulder-barged the door even as the bolts slammed home. Ignoring the outraged cries of cooks and miscellaneous downstairs staff he led the boy, still at a run, through the house, out of the front door and away down the road. He reckoned they’d gained over a hundred yards before somebody thought to go round the front of the house to check the other doors.

Now with a better lead he had chance to think. The boy, Aea be thanked, had got the hang of it now and they were running side by side. Not having to pull the child had made things easier. Tallis ran in silence, considering and rejecting options. A glance over his shoulder showed him that he wasn’t going to outrun the thugs behind him indefinitely. Then the brainwave struck him. To the boy he gasped,

“Another hundred yards, then into the Institute.”

They accelerated as they approached the tall red-brick building with the imposing façade. Tallis ran in through the open door and slammed it behind him, then at a brisk walk made his way up the grand staircase. They had reached the top of the staircase before the first thug hit the door. Tallis didn’t have much confidence in the lock, a feeble thing. He reached the first floor landing and opened the door to the art class. Below he heard the crash and the door gave way.
As quietly and as unobtrusively as possible he made his way past the various ladies painting. Then to his delight he realised their model was a boy. Gently he drew Young Vortac to him.

“Go through there to the side room. You’ll find tea and cake laid out. Help yourself; I’ll join you in a minute.” The boy nodded and disappeared.

Tallis made his way to the model who was looking at him nervously. Tallis leaned forward and said softly, “When a mob appear in the doorway, point at them and shout, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Why?”

“A good question. Because I’ll give you money.”

Tallis reached into his pocket, but the boy suddenly looked up, pointed at the door and screamed, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Good boy, now run and hide behind the most formidable ladies you can find.”

Tallis turned to look at the fracas that was developing. One ruffian found himself standing very still as a young lady held a palette knife to his throat. The man obviously wasn’t sure how sharp it was but didn’t feel the urge to experiment. Others had gone down in a cursing heap of thrashing bodies, paintings and easels. Tallis ducked down, and hidden behind a phalanx of indignant artists, made his way to the side room. There he found young Vortac tucking into the cakes. Tallis helped himself to a couple and then led the boy down a side stair to the kitchens and then out into the street. Tallis and the boy walked casually together through the suburb heading generally south. Tallis pointed out sights of interest; finally Vortac asked a question that had obviously been troubling him.

“Excuse me sir, but who are you?”

“Why me? I’m Tallis Steelyard, the poet.”

It was distressingly obvious that the name meant nothing to Vortac. “And the other man, the one who rescued me?”

“Benor? Oh he’s a cartographer.”

Vortac touched the ring hanging round his neck. “So you know my father?”

“Never had the honour, I’m afraid to say; but I’m sure Benor knows him.”

They walked along companionably in silence for a while, and then Vortac asked, “So where are we going?”

Tallis pointed towards the estuary, visible now. “We’re going to the barge where I live. Benor will doubtless get fed up of looking for us and come back to the barge. Then we can take you back to your father.” Tallis glanced down at the boy. “I think it will be better to take you back to your father than back to school.”

“But my father is assumed to be dead.” The boy sounded uncertain.

“I’ve been assumed to be dead occasionally,” Tallis replied. “So long as you don’t actually die, it’s a useful way of stopping people hunting for you.” With this they walked on again. Not far from the Old Esplanade, Benor caught up with them.

****

Back at the barge Benor found some bread that had been left too long, and some cheese that was harder than is normally considered pleasant. With the bread toasted and with the cheese heated and spread over it, it made them not a bad meal, enlivened with a splash of spicy fish sauce to give savour. They finished with coffee and Benor reached behind a pile of documents on the dresser and brought out the silver drinking cup made by Young Vortac’s father.

“Do you recognise this?” He handed it to the boy.

“Yes, it belongs to my mother, my father made it for her.”

“I’ve sent a message to your mother, telling her I’ve found it.”

“She’ll be glad of that, she loved it.” Then more eagerly, the boy said, “And I got a letter saying she was coming to Port Naain on business and she’d see me soon.”

“How soon?”

“She should be in the city now; I was to meet her tomorrow.”

Benor glanced at Tallis. “We’d better get this boy back to his father now.”

They walked the boy back through the city. He carried the silver drinking cup wrapped in some rags.

At the door of the house on Togger’s Gyll, Benor knocked. Eventually it was opened by Vortac. Immediately his son rushed to him and threw his arms around him. Benor and Tallis stood back to give the father and son space, until finally Vortac set his son down on the ground again.

“So?”

Briskly Benor said, “There was an attempt to murder him and we thought he’d be safer here than at school.”
Vortac nodded slowly. “Then you have my deepest thanks.”

Benor continued remorselessly, “But probably not for the next bit. According to your son here, his mother is in the city and expects to meet him tomorrow.”

Vortac looked shocked. “So what do we do?”

“I know what I’m going to do. There’s a plot to kill your wife and daughter as well, so I’m going to find them and try and prevent it.”

With that Benor turned on his heel and strode off down Togger’s Gyll. Tallis murmured to Old Vortac,

“Don’t take it personally, he’s had a difficult few days.”

****

Katin, the Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her daughter Natisse sat in the office of Raswil Muldecker the usurer. They both sipped small glasses of wine as Raswil himself checked through various papers. He looked up,

“Excellent, excellent. Everything balances and the inventory agrees with the contents of the chests.”

Somewhat haughtily the Chevaleresse said, “Shouldn’t it?”

“It’s a rarer occurrence than you might expect madam.” Raswill allowed himself to smile. “But yes, your funds are now deposited in the accounts as agreed.” He passed across three papers, “The top one is yours, the second is in your daughter’s name and the third in the name of your son.”

She scrutinised the papers and passed the second to the daughter. The others she folded and tucked into a purse hanging from her belt.

“Thank you Master Muldecker. Everything seems to be in order.”

“Thank you madam.” There was a note of sincerity in the man’s voice. “We have a reputation for reliability to maintain, we value our customers from Partann. We aim to provide security and anonymity.” He raised his glass, “To the continued good health and prosperity of you and your family.”

The mother and daughter raised their glasses dutifully and sipped. There was a knock on the door. The miser looked displeased.

“Who is it?”

“Santon Gilfell, sir, a matter of some urgency sir, concerning the ladies.”

“Oh well, you’d better come in.”

The young clerk entered looking flustered. I’ve just had a letter from an ex-colleague, Sir. You remember Wast Divot who used to work here?”

“The young fool who left a good job with prospects to become the clerk to a mercenary company?”

“Yes sir, well here’s his letter.”

The miser took the letter and read it in silence. He looked at the young clerk.

“Can you vouch for it coming from Wast Divot?”

“Yes sir. Admittedly it’s scribbled in haste but it’s still in his handwriting. On top of that he and I had a code. If he needed to prove a letter was from him he’d call me Sant in the greeting. I call him Waston when I write to him.”
The miser turned his attention to the two ladies.

“Does the name Ulgar-Zare mean anything to you, and would he try to kill you?”

The two women looked at each other. Eventually the mother said,

“Yes, if he thought he could get away with it.”

“It appears that young master Divot and his companions met one Ulgar-Zare in a wayside tavern. He was riding north with a dozen men in his train. There seems to have been drink taken and he overheard a couple of the men talking about the problems of finding you and killing you in a big city.”

Hastily Santon Gilfell added, “With your permission, I think I have a solution. I handle the account for Jorrocks Boat Yard and they have a boat, the Flower of Partann, which is ready to sail. It’s just been in for a refit, and they would leave tonight without taking on cargo, on your assurance that they’ll be able to trade with Windcutter Keep without tariffs to get a return cargo.”

The two women looked at each other again. Natisse whispered in her mother’s ear.

“I don’t like running.”

Her mother whispered back,

“Neither do I, but this way we can be home before he knows and mount our own strike whilst he is still in Port Naain looking for us.”

She turned back to Raswill and his clerk. “Thank you, we will take you up on your kind offer.

****

Benor went first to the house in the Merchant Quarter which the Chevaleresse had previously rented. Alia the housekeeper was there. She remembered Benor and was friendly in a somewhat guarded manner. She couldn’t tell him where the lady or her daughter were, but did tell him they’d sent her a note to ask her to close the house up for a while because they had to travel back to Partann unexpectedly.

Benor ran to Rapscallion’s Wharf where ships to Partann normally sailed from. As he passed along Fellmonger’s wharf, Mutt, still wearing his borrowed school uniform, fell in step with him. The boy had obviously been waiting for him.

“Benor, I was meaning to ask you summat.”

“What?” To his own ears this sounded a bit curt, so Benor added, “If it’s something I can help you with I will.”

“Am I still an apprentice cartographer?”

This question was so unexpected that Benor nearly stopped in his tracks.

“Yes if you want to be.”

“Good.”

Together they made their way down the Ropewalk. Evening was falling as they dropped down to Rapscallion’s Wharf. From that point on Benor moved cautiously and tried to stay hidden. He finally saw the Flower of Partann. There were a handful of crew on deck and the gangplank was still out. He made his way closer. It was there he noticed two sedan chairs travelling down the wharf. They stopped opposite the end of the gangplank and two ladies, the Chevaleresse and her daughter, got out of their chairs and walked up onto the boat.

Benor glanced down at Mutt.

“Can you go and get Tallis and old Vortac please? If those two women sail in that boat they’ll be drowned. Somehow we’ve got to stop it.”

“Nail and another lad are supposed to be waiting for me on Ropewalk, I’ll send them, Nail’s quicker.”

“Fair enough, send them to Tallis first, Tallis will know them and listen to them.”

Mutt slipped away and Benor turned his attention back to the Flower of Partann. The ladies were being shown into a cabin set under the poop deck at the stern of the boat.

Then he noticed two other figures watching the Flower of Partann. One was a man he didn’t recognise, the other was a women he did known. It was Minny. He moved forward, keeping a pile of sacks between himself and them. At the end of the pile there was an open area, but once he crossed it, he’d be able to get close to them by walking round the other side of some barrels. He made his way silently across the open area and reached the barrels. Here he stopped and listened. He could hear the voices but not well. He moved closer and peered round the edge of the barrels. He was now almost within touching distance of the man. He heard the man say, “You got them to go on the boat. If I was a betting man I would have put money against it.”

Minny replied, “Easily done if you know her. A forged letter which told of a serious threat, then an opportunity to avoid the threat and strike a sharp blow at the person who was threatening them, she couldn’t resist it.”

The man nodded, “Cleverly done. Anyway we got the boat ready, Minny. We’ve done our bit, so we want the money.”
Minny replied, “Yes, Ardal, you’ve done your bit, so I’ll do mine. Here’s the money.” She passed across to him a heavy pouch. The man opened it, looked in and shook the coins up a little. “Ah gold, don’t you just love it.”

Benor heard a sound behind him and felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round just as a fist struck him on the side of the head and everything went dark.

======================================

And now the hard sell

I’ve thought long and hard about blog tours. I often wonder how much somebody reading a book wants to know about the author. After all, I as a writer have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an interesting world for my characters to frolic in. Hopefully the characters and their story pull the reader into the world with them. So does the reader really want me tampering with the fourth wall to tell them how wonderful I am? Indeed given the number of film stars and writers who have fallen from grace over the years, perhaps the less you know about me the better?

Still, ignoring me, you might want to know a bit about the world. Over the years I’ve written four novels and numerous novellas set in the Land of the Three Seas, and a lot of the action has happened in the city of Port Naain.

They’re not a series, they’re written to be a collection, so you can read them in any order, a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories in that regard. So I had a new novella I wanted to release. ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure.’ It’s one of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection and I decided I’d like to put together a blog tour to promote it. But what sort of tour? Then I had a brainwave. I’d get bloggers who know Port Naain to send me suitable pictures and I’d do a short story about that picture. It would be an incident in the life of Benor as he gets to know Port Naain.

Except that when the pictures came in it was obvious that they linked together to form a story in their own right, which is how I ended up writing one novella to promote another! In simple terms it’s a chapter with each picture. So you can read the novella by following the blogs in order. There is an afterword which does appear in the novella that isn’t on the blogs, but it’s more rounding things off and tying up the lose ends.

Given that the largest number of pictures was provided by a lady of my acquaintance, I felt I had to credit her in some way. So the second novella I’m releasing is ‘The plight of the Lady Gingerlily.’ It too is part of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection.

So we have ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure’

View or download the book from your local Amazon here.

Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.

And we have ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily’

View or download from your local Amazon here.

No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him.

======================================

Lastly, if you’d like to read yesterday’s excerpt you can find it here on Ken Gierke’s blog: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/

While, tomorrow the thirteenth and final episode will be posted on Sue Vincent’s blog, here: https://wp.me/p1wss8-hR3

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This week, I have been mostly reading books!

Over the last month or two I’ve been trying to find some books in my genre – humorous science fiction fantasy – and give them a read, mainly with a view to having something of a similar ilk to my own books to share with my mailing list. If I’m just giving readers the heads up about one or two books, as opposed to a group author promo or a group giveaway, I like to make sure I’ve read and enjoyed them, myself. So, with apologies to any of you reading who receive my newsletter, as well, here is a bit about the latest couple I’ve read.

These two books are polar opposites; about as diverse as you can get, although I enjoyed both of them, each on its own merits. And strangely, if you like my books, they do tie in with different aspects of my approach; the first, with the humour and the second with my obsession about the idea of grey; of life – and politics – being more complicated than the nice, simplified, sound-bite, black-and-white politicians and the media would have us think.

Bearly Awake.

First up, if you enjoy things paranormal and you are looking for a nice, light, easy bit of escapism, I have just the thing for you. Bearly Awake, is a romantic comedy by D. R. Perry. The story follows two main characters: Bobby, a bear shape shifter, who suddenly feels a very strong urge to hibernate just as he is supposed to be cramming for a crucial end of term exam. And Lynn, pointy-brained human who has a habit of alienating people with her excessive sarcasm.

Will Bobby stay awake and pass or sleep, and be thrown out of college? Only Lynn can help him. Both are at the Providence Paranormal College; the best-of-the-best and only one of it’s kind, but Lynn feels that her inability to bear fools gladly has made her as unpopular there as at home, so she has put in for a transfer to a university nearer to where she’s from. Then Lynn’s tutor gives her the task of being Bobby’s study buddy to get him through the exam. Things are complicated further by the fact that even though Lynn thinks he’s way out of her league, Bobby pretty much sets his cap at her. Can Bobby persuade Lynn to stay? Can Lynn keep Bobby awake so he can get through his exam?

Now, I confess that, as someone who is a bit leery about paranormal books and (usually) pathologically avoids reading any books with shape shifters (or vampires in case they’re sparkly) I approached this one with some trepidation. However, I really enjoyed it. This book takes the idea of our normal, humdrum world and tweaks it a little into something different and a lot more interesting. I do enjoy that. Likewise, it takes a standard trope – the shifter romance – and gives that a bit of a twist into something different, too.

It’s engagingly written, I enjoyed the characters and its gentle comedic style. You also get a feeling of relish coming through in some parts where the author has clearly enjoyed writing it and I like that in a book, too. I also enjoyed the sweet romance aspect, when I didn’t expect to. The story zips along pretty fast. In some instances, I had to back track because I’d missed the point where something was mentioned in passing. That can make it feel slightly rushed in a way. That said I was perfectly able to pick up everything required so it’s no biggie and I’d much rather that than have loads of background info holding up the plot.

This was a shorter length novel – about 40k I think. Having read the book, two things have stuck with me: first, the characters intrigued me enough to keep me thinking about them afterwards, and I will probably purchase the next in the series at some point because I like their company. I also spotted the nascent beginnings of a mystery that needed solved and I want to see how they go about it. Second, there were some fun and different ideas which stayed with me, I really liked the special, invite-only library for creatures who can’t go out in daylight, for example.

The juxtaposition of beings at this college, human, shifter, vampire, etc was fun and well imagined. I hadn’t realised how much scope for humour there is in what shapeshifters might turn into, for example, and how it might affect their personalities. All in all it was a diverting and fun introduction to the Providence Paranormal College series. It is what it is, light, frothy fluff, but if, like me, you like a bit of escapist whimsy, you’ll enjoy it.

If you would like to give Bearly Awake a go, you can download it for free until 1st May, 2017, if you sign up to D. R. Perry’s newsletter. To do that, click here:

http://dl.bookfunnel.com/jjqfu5iw0u

Shifting Reality

And now for something completely different: A few weeks ago, also in my quest for books to share with my newsletter, I decided to check out one of Patty Jansen’s books. I realised I had one that I’d downloaded last year, when it was perma free, and so it was that I read Shifting Reality, which is the first book in the ISF Allion Series; one of three. Here’s the overall series blurb:

They were taken from the poorest slums in the world to work in space stations. They were promised free food and accommodation. They didn’t know that they, or their children and grandchildren, would never see their home again.

Seventy years on, this is the story of Melati, from New Jakarta Station at Epsilon Eridani.

Once again, this book steps aside from the usual. Our main protagonist is Indonesian, part of a group of migrant labourers who ended up on a space station so far from Earth that they will never be able to return home. What I loved about this book is that you get so immersed in another culture, and a completely different one to that which you might expect. Some of the stuff about food made me hungry, the plot is clever and intriguing, the political situation seems incredibly realistic, in a good way. We’re not talking gritty, well, we are but not in an everyone must die horribly and all the characters are loathsome miserable bastards kind of way. It’s gritty in that life on the station is hard and Melati our heroine, is stuck between her own community and that of the officers and staff running the station – who live in a different part of it, in far more comfortable circumstances – while Melati’s family, and her people, are living in on the lower decks in a slum.

The basic premise is untangling a mystery, and as Melati tries to solve it, her efforts bring politics closer to herself and her family than she’d like, and of course, it also brings her into conflict with her family and challenges her loyalty to her employer, the International Space Force. Things get fraught. As Melati gets closer to the truth there are murders. People she loves suffer and she has to somehow walk the line between two polarised social groups to solve the mystery against a background of rising political tension. But above all, as much as it is a mystery, and sci-fi, this story is about the complicated nature of existence: being who you are, trying to fit in, trying to change your life or advance your fortunes without losing sight of your roots and your soul, attempting to look after your family and do what’s best for them when they’re buggered if they’re going to let you. It’s about the hard reality of attempting to stay in the neutral ground between two groups of people, both of whom you care for, when neither of them much cares for one another, without compromising what you believe is right. In short, though set in space, in the future, it’s about the daily business of living life on Earth right now. I loved the whole complicated mess of Melati’s life, and the way she tried to make sense of it. I’ll definitely be reading the others.

If you think you like the sound of this, you can grab Shifting Reality for £1.99 from all major retailers. More information can be found here:

http://pattyjansen.com/2012/11/20/shifting-reality/

And you can find out more about the series – ISF Allion World – here:

http://pattyjansen.com/category/isf-allion-world/

If you’re looking for an even bigger bargain, I’ve just picked up the first book in Patty Jansen’s Ambassador Series; Seeing Red, for the knock down price of 99p/99c etc. It’s on promotion to celebrate the release of the latest Ambassador instalment – book six, I think. I haven’t read it yet, but I mention it here because if you think you like the sound of Patty Jansen’s style and don’t mind where you start, you could save £1/$1 starting with the Ambassador Series first.

Information about Seeing Red, Ambassador 1, is here:

http://pattyjansen.com/pages/ambassador-1-display/

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Lots of 99c and free books AND a giveaway! #funnybooks #99cbooks #freebooks #giveaway

Apologies to those of you who read my newsletter as well because this week’s blog post is, basically, what I just sent you. I know I’m a lazy, bad lady but I wanted to share the funny bits a second time.

Anyway, here we are, talk about time flying, I just blinked and it’s bye-bye January. Here’s hoping Nostradamus is wrong and armageddon, a 26 year long World War III (shudders, that’ll see me out) and all the rest, fail to materialise.

Luckily, I had other important matters to distract me this week as McMini required a bit of help from me to conduct his exhaustive research into the latest burning philosophical question that’s been bugging him:

Does Darth Vader poo?

Yep. And you know what? Amazingly, the answer is out there.

Straight up. It’s true. It’s amazing what you can see on YouTube these days.

Yes. We found it.

He doesn’t, by the way. Apparently he has bags and tubes around his armoured suit that collect er hem … stuff. He doesn’t have to eat, food goes in intravenously, but he does like a drink from time to time so he has straws inside his helmet so he can take the occasional drink. A bit like James Hunt then – or was it Nikki Lauda, or even Graham Hill? – one of them used to get thirsty during Grands Prix so had an orange juice delivery system rigged up so he could have a drink from a straw in his crash helmet. Needless to say, the first time he used it, most of the orange juice squirted in his face.

Anyway, burning question answered, McMini’s next quest is to find out weather Darth Vader has a willy, ‘because it might have been burned off when he fell in the lava after fighting with Obiwan Kenobe.’ He wants to know if prosthetics are involved and if the results are metal, plastic, etc, and whether the wires are properly insulated if it’s electronic, ‘because otherwise he will have an electric shock every time he has a wee.’

And I thought I was weird.

Odds are, by the way, that Lord Vader doesn’t have a willy. As one of the lovely folks who read my newsletter pointed out, wobbly dangly bits would be the first things incinerated in a lava pit-related plunging accident and it’s obvious he doesn’t. It’s why he’s in such a bad mood all the time. That and having sacks of pooh under his suit, next to his skin I expect.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. To be truthful, I am very happy to lose myself in the bizarre world of my son, if it distracts me from the relentless horrors of the real one. It struck me that you may be looking for a distraction, yourself. If you don’t have anyone of your life of suitably distracting eccentricity, fear not. I have three ways for you to lose yourself in books this month. Because I’m feeling all technologically whizzy, I’m going to put the pictures in too. Oh yes I am.

THING 1: Patty Jansen’s Monthly Promo.

This month over 100 sff books for 99c or 99p etc. It runs from today through to Sunday 5th February, but some books may be reduced after that. To check it out, click this link: http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

THING 2: CCEkeke’s Monthly Instafreebie promo.
For a week in February, 22 books, all free in return for mailing list sign up.

This runs from 5th – 11th February but you may find the offers are on before or after those dates.You can find that here: http://ccekeke.com/february-promo.

THING 3: There is NO Thing Three.*

THING 4: Funny Five.
Another smashing giveaway in which you can win funny books.

This one runs from 1st – 12th Feb. You can win copies of:

  • Good Omens (Pratchett and Gaiman)
  • The Ultimate Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
  • The Princess Bride (Goldman)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  • Novels and Short Stories of Kurt Vonnegut 1963-73.

If you enter, you will also receive a series of curated emails featuring free or bobby bargain humorous books (99c). You can find that one here: http://readfunnybooks.com/giveaways/funny-five-book-giveaway/

So there you are! That should keep everyone going for a week or two!

Enjoy.

* Sorry, I have to stop doing that joke.

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You can #win a #kindle (oh yes you can).

Weeeeee peps!

The new Awesome Indies revamped, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, redoubtable website is relaunched today! Oh yeh.

Do I hear you say uh?

OK, here’s a bit about Awesome Indies. Their aim is to sift through the indie book world picking out quality reads. The premise is that if you go to Awesome Indies and browse their catalogue you will get quality, properly produced stuff. In other words, they cut the crap so you don’t have to. Well… of course they do, two of my books are on there (phnark geez I’m modest). To be honest, there they have left off a couple of authors whose work I admire (David Staniforth and Jim Webster) but at the same time, for books of a certain type they pick well. I’ve not had a duffer off there yet, hence my recommending the site here on my blog.

Today, it being the relaunch and all, there are a whole raft of books on special offer and there is a kindle up for grabs on the site if you sign up to the readers club. So if you want to win one, just nip over here and sign up.

Or you can click on the lovely animated gif below (which says it rather more succinctly than I have).

aia_99_relaunch

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Amazon Recommended Reading.

No, really! Look! Mwah hahahargh!

Check out Number three!

Check out Number three!

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Excellent books at knock down prices

Just a quickie. Awesome indies is doing another promotion – it’s well worth checking out. You can find it here.

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