Sunday, 11 December 2016

Ye OldEbook Shoppe Pt4: Fantasy V Reality


Yeah I know, the only thing I’m consistent about is starting things and leaving them half-done.

It’s been a while since I pressed on with this bucket list of the best self-published/small press books to read before you either die or go and buy another book from a big publishing house; given you some time to check the ones I’ve already covered didn’t it?

If you can cast your mind back to the last part, I was rapping about the fantasy genre. Advice from established authors can often be “write about what you know,” but with fantasy that’s not so simple; you can adapt the reality you know but you’re going to have to imagine too, you have to capture a dream.

My advice for this is to pretend you’re a child again; if you’re a writer you were probably one of the kids who could take themselves out of reality and stage an epic story through play; a natural talent most lose through the journey to adulthood. I say “sod adulthood,” train your mind to return to a juvenile state when your imagination held no bounds, just stop picking your nose and fidgeting at the dinner table.

Still, you can forget all that and write about a real situation if you like; I enjoy non-fiction too. With big publishers you need to adopt a certain style, close in on a genre and stick to it. With self-publishing you can experiment, change your style, genre, and write about whatever the heck you want to. So this episode we’ll look at fantasy and reality and then straddle the border between them.   
American born Kevin Kato lives in Japan, he wrote humour, generally. His book I want to mention is set wholly in reality. “For Now; After the Quake-a Father’s Journey,” is a journal of his family during the fourth strongest earthquake in recorded history.



Living  in Fukushima, Japan around March 2011 Kevin witnesses the monstrous tsunami pound the north-eastern shores, reducing towns to splinters and leaving 20,000 loved ones dead or missing. Two days later, fifty miles from his family and home, the reactors at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began to explode.

Poignant and moving, Kevin Kato delivers fact and fear of the emotional events and the legacy it left upon the city. He tells the tale first hand in periodical form describing the hell that his family went through and how the population of Fukushima dealt with the issues.

“For the sake and safety of my two young sons there was no decision to be made, just get them away,” Kevin writes as his blurb. “For myself, the choice was much less clear. How can I run away when so people, right down the road, are in such dire need - of food, of shelter, of the helping, caring hands of another human being? The urgency of the moment made it impossible to do both - and left me feeling capable of neither.”

You can read all the news you want to about natural disasters but a books like “For Now,”  gives it a certain reality and that extra dimension; It is quite breath-taking and should be filed “a must read.”
Kevin dedicated the book “to the memory of those lost and the courage of the affected that remain.”



Some fiction though is so close to reality it can be a poignant as “For Now.” For this you need to be one remarkable writer, come on down Jonah Pierce. There’s a series of versions of this story but the one I read was “Anissa of Syria,” subtitled, “A Christian Refugee’s Saga from the Syrian War to The American Dream,” and it is part of a series called “The Love of Antioch.”

Phew, one paragraph just to tell you the title, which has an alternative “ruder” version by Jonah’s alter-ego Mr Zack Love called “The Syrian Virgin: A Young Woman's Journey From War in Syria to Love in New York (The Syrian Virgin Series Book 1.)”

Trust me to pick the clean version, not that I’m into reading erotica. Neither is the romance genre usually my thing but I am not one to mark a book down due to my personal tastes, I mean I picked it right? I picked it because of the plot that surrounds the romance elements, a young girl fleeing the horrors in Syria; touching and topical.

For the first half I got what I came for, Jonah’s writing is strenuous and flows wonderfully, it’s intelligent and operates above the regularity of the romance genre. Once the protagonist has successfully made the journey to New York the narrative concentrates more with the personal aspects of the girl’s life, her understanding of social etiquette in the city, her education and campaigning for her cause but mostly, her love life.

One may fairly label it as a modern Anne Frank’s diary; it is certainly set out in diary form and follows a similar line; if you came looking for action, you have to remind yourself that this is the diary of a teenager and it deals with pubescent issues equally as much as the horrors of the war-torn predicament she resides in. The only difference here is that Anne Frank’s diary is real but Anissa is fiction. If there was a reason I could give for knocking that star off it would have been this one, and as the story warms towards her romantic activities and distances itself from the troubles in Syria. However, I then considered how believable the character is; at times I thought I could reach into the book and pull her out of there (which is why I should have read the ruder version) and that, to me, deserves all my acclaim.

So all in all I enjoyed this read but if it is all-out-action, boy’s stuff you’re searching for you may be disappointed. This is thoughtful, moving and gratifying.



Truth told, as much as I admire a well-written non-fiction or reality-driven story, nothing enchants me more than to be imbibed into the imaginary world of someone skilful enough to execute a realm of total fantasy and more importantly make it funny too. My newfound friend from across the pond Antonio Simon Jnr, of who I’m honoured to share a contribution to the horror anthology Shadows and Teeth with, fulfils this need more than anyone.

The book is called “The Gullwing Odyssey,” winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award in the category of Humor and Satire, yeah, I know the missing U annoys me too but this is without doubt one of the finest reads, like, ever.

It follows Marco Gullwing, a messenger who stumbles into a case of mistaken identity and his adventures which follows. Stranded in foreign lands within this fantasy realm Marco is “constantly outrunning pirates, embroiled in international intrigue, and attacked by a hummingbird with an appetite for human brains – that’s just the start of his misadventures.”

Lovers of Jeff Smith’s “Bone” will be a home here. If the Monty Python team wrote Gulliver’s Travels in the spirit of Don Quixote you might be close to just how awesome this is. The goodness arrives from the realm and the quirky misadventures, but mostly from the sheer quality of the characters. Marco is a lucky sprite, with the blessing from a god he has no faith in; he humorously survives scrapes most would perish. He’s no fool but no hero either; an everyman.

Marco is surrounded by equally resolute and intelligently grafted characters, a princess dragon who takes a shining to him, the brash indestructible Latino female pirate and the overzealous knight Barclay who, despite his foreboding of dragons, follows on not as friend but for reimbursement for saving his life.

With amusing ways of doing battle there’s silliness abound and I guarantee you’ve not read anything quite like this.

So ending there brings our bucket-list to ten but there’s still more to come: (in no particular order)




And in previous blogs:
Khe by Alexes Razevich
Shadowline Drift by Alexes Razevich
Speak Swahili Dammit! by James Penhaligon
Judas by Roy Bright
War of the Never (series) by Colin Rutherford
The Order of the Anakim (series) by Cecily Magnon

Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Ye OldE-Book Shoppe 3





Let Me Be Your Fantasy…..No okay, maybe not; I understand.


The fantasy genre is like Marmite; you either love or hate it. I break this company slogan; I can take Marmite or leave it without fuss. Blows their whole advertising campaign out of the water huh? Well, fantasy is the same, when its written well it absorbs me, pulls me into its unique world but often, geeks write fan fiction or else a poor pastiche of the classics; pass the pipe-weed Ent, I’m off to Gondor.




While the others offer original worlds, Kyrathaba Rising is Tolkienesque but in an ingenious and unusual way. Principally though, it’s a dystopian sci-fi crime thriller; taking a while to lift off but when it does the layers pile higher. Sheltering from a hostile alien race in an underground compound, a commune face invasion or else, the protagonists plan to save the human race by entering a virtual reality world whereby they can access a new life.

Anyone intelligent enough to program such an intense alternative world, the author theorises, stands to reason they’d be a geek and every geek loves a bit of “Lord of the Rings.” Therefore the world they enter is inspired by Middle-Earth with preprogramed representations of the many creatures from Tolkien’s world.

It’s obvious its author, William Bryan Miller, is as massively influenced by Tolkien as the programmers in his book, and while he’s not afraid to show it, he’s found a unique angle and reason in which to use it.

Others take to fantasy in a more direct way and provided it is carved out with creativity and originality then I cannot get enough. The next two books I think are similar in that, the protagonists both come from our world and find themselves delving into their respective other-worlds. The first is the world of the Never, shaped by the astounding CJ Rutherford.



Now, both Mr Rutherford and Cecily Magnon use the hook of a free prequel to suck you into his realm, its fair game and a great way for you taste their offerings before devoting yourself to the series. I guarantee now though, if you stick your little toe in either waters, you’ll want to dive right in.
How do they do this? Through a website called Smashwords, a wonderful cyber-bookshop where, if you want to avoid the one which sounds like a rainforest for your own reasons, you need look no further. Check it out and support the authors on there.

Back to Never though, defined as YA in genre, (young adult) but I pretend I’m young enough, it’s the duty of us big kids. It’s a world full of dragons and other archetypical creatures but the way it has been presented is engaging. Rutherford knows how to weave a fascinating story; the prequel starts in the fantasy world and leaves you hanging. Then book one plonks you back on Earth, in Ireland, where a couple of girls in university begin to analysis the dreams that haunt them, suspecting they’re becoming real.

Unlike Tolkien we are not expected to just be plonked in the middle of Never without a map; Colin is crafting his universe before us, opening our mind and pouring in the rich narrative and creative descriptions with ease. The multi-universe theory comes into play and the adventure unfolds; nothing particularly original in this but, and this is a big but, it’s charm is within the courageous wordplay, the real life conversations and situations that make this something very special. It reads beautifully, it does not confuse and it implements all we need to know to enter his world confident that we are no stranger.

It reminded me of Cecily Magnon’s amazing series, “The Order of the Anakim,” with its perfect mixture of rich portrayals and everyday conversation pieces and this, coupled with the modern scientific theory that melds our world to that of the Never this book keeps you beyond entertained and when it is over, dripping for more. And there is more, after you’ve downloaded the FREE prelude, Origins of the Never, there’s three novels; Souls of the Never, Worlds of the Never and War of the Never.

 Prelude to a storm

“The Order of the Anakim” also has three books after the FREE, Prelude to a Storm; Gathering Storm, Dark Skies and Tempest Dawn. The similarities are endless, it’s also YA but enjoyable for an old fart like me!

Two young and rather naïve American Girls venture across the Mexican border. Life is a breeze for them, not taking heed of warnings they find themselves biting off more than they can chew in a rundown café. There is something in the mist of the mood, something not quite right but it would seem they are in good hands when a strong willed young Greek man assists them with the undesirable cautions of his boss Rosa, owner of the café. With their suspicions they’ve found something unworldly and demonic they leave under the protection of their saviour.

Intrigued by the whole incident one of the girls returns and in turn the protector seems to become obsessed by her, locating her in San Francisco. However her relevance in all this is far from circumstantial as she is about to discover her role in a world of ancient magik.

Cecily tackles this fantastical unwinding narrative with certain ease, the words flow through you as if they are magic themselves; there is no mistaking the environment that you are imaging, it sucks you in and tosses you right into the eye of the action. With beauty and precision the wording is expressive, it is funny when it wants to be fun, scary when it needs to scare you; basically it’s astonishingly realistic.

Prelude to a Storm is literally as moreish as melting chocolate and the only thing you will want to do after reading it is liquefy into the series.

With the fuller books greater depth and narrative sustain the quality; they deliver this in abundance. At times the descriptions gave us rather a lot to digest, building up into a world that has the potential to remain exciting through a whole series and thus, Gathering Storm takes some time to develop. 

However there is a reality through the dialogue and such a wonderful expression in the writing that it never bores you. Then, when Cecily does take you off for the action it is truly breath-taking and exhilarating either dramatic in its fantastical battles with demons or else in the magnificently crafted erotic interactions. If this was a movie, your popcorn would be all over the floor of the cinema and you wouldn’t have even noticed.





Thursday, 20 October 2016




Return to Slapam Down




Having been busy enjoying writing, among other things (other disgusting things) my regular column and articles for Index;Wiltshire, It's been a while since I released a new book, sorry but that's about to change my friends.

If you've not read A Chip off the Old Block, what are you waiting for, a sequel, Christmas, or the country to come to its senses? It's FREE on Smashwords here.

You need to read this, your life may depend on it and what is more, the sequel really is coming faster than a fast thing being fast; you have been warned.



Now I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but this is officially certified the funniest thing you might read this week in accordance with the board of the funniest things you might read this week cooperation of Slough, Berkshire; if an elaborate tale of knob jokes is up your street.

So for your reading displeasure I humbly present the first chapter in a desperate attempt to lure you in, and if by some miracle it works, well, my work is done. Enjoy!



 1.


Big mouthed bigot, Jeremy Clerkscum, famous TV presenter and all-round knob-jockey, flicked through the menu and smiled. “Amazing, they do not have a single dish here that hasn’t had…. an animal callously butchered.”

It was obvious his signature presenting routine, of pausing midsentence, deepening his voice before continuing, was no gimmick for television; he really was stupid enough to think using it all the time gave him an air of superiority.

A shallow looking drip in a suit far too expensive for him looked nervously at Clerkscum from the other side of the table and advocated, “Oh, surely they have at least one vegetarian option available?” He took a quick scan of his own menu, using it as shield to shy behind when he observed, “I did not realise that you are a….ermmm…vegetarian Mr Clerkscum?”

The TV presenter was a gigantic man, twice the size of his dinner colleague, maybe even three, and he spat out some saliva when he barked. “I think all veggies should be hung, drawn and quartered at birth!”

“Oh,” the drip cowered.

“Along with any Jesus-creeping, work-shunning, left wing driblets that support the NHS, the BBC and, god forbid, them….them fucking tree-hugging, pikey hunt saboteurs; slay the fox I say, slaughter the stag now!” Jeremey raised his volume with every word until he bellowed in an insane giggle. He noticed a group of men staring at him, gathered at a table just two down from his own. “Isn’t that so Prime Minister?” he asked them.

One man nodded his approval, “Here, here, Mr Clerkscum; see you at the hunt what-what!”
“So,” his nerdy chum dared to peek over his menu, “this restaurant meets with your, ermm, satisfaction then?” His teeth chattered with the fear of Jeremey’s response.

Clerkscum took his time to answer, when he did he projected it with his trademark deep booming voice and the random little pause he did for effect, “This restaurant is the best restaurant…….in the world.”

“Oh good, I’m so glad. Now about your, ermm, about your contract with the BBC in connection with the comments you made on the Cbeebies show Out and About, you know, ermm, yes, the ones concerning, ermm, immigrant disabled children, Rottweilers, chainsaws and ermm, ethnic, ermmm, cleansing?”

Clerkscum downed his pint of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru in one and let out a ground-shaking burp. “What about it?”

“Well, in….in….ermm…in light of, of ermm, recent complaints…..” stammered the chaperone.

“Complaints?” Clerkscum bellowed, forcing his dinner partner to grip the table cloth in fear of being blown back in his chair. “For the love of Thatcher, what can you say on the BBC these days if you can’t give a sly little joke about some towel-headed disabled kids meeting their maker, huh?”

“Well…….” The nerd slithered snake-like down his seat until only the topper most of his hair was visible over the table-top.

“Fuck this,” he bellowed. Clerkscum stood and took half of the cutlery with him, “I’ve gotta take a piss.” The nerd quivered as the plates and glasses crashed to the floor.

Bold and brash Jeremey Clerkscum waddled to the door of the gents and pushed the thing off of its hinges. He forcefully stepped inside; his hands already fingered his flies. He strode over to a urinal and gave a relaxing sigh.

He causally undone his button, slid down the zip of his trousers and straddled the urinal. At ease he looked to the wall and attempted to hoist out his great length of penis, “arghh, the best penis…….in the world….” he muttered deeply to himself with a grin.

As he fumbled some more an expression of shock and confusion flushed over his sweaty face, wiping it clean of the previous smug grin. No one outside the gent’s washroom heard his monumental cry, no matter how much volume he conducted it with. The toilets in this establishment were sound-proofed better than the recording studios of Abbey Road.





  

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Ye Old-eBook Shoppe 2





Contented upon finishing “Lord of the Rings,” I told a doughnut of a friend. They replied I was “a big girl” to have read it as they’re making a film. Peter Jackson made a fair attempt but I defer, for only those who read know the idiocy of his statement. Still authors dream their works would attract a film producer, but to see your narrative ripped apart can be disheartening. Guess you just lie back and think about the money.

Last week I mentioned the ease of movie adaption with Alexes Razevich’s astounding novel “Khe,” this can be an attraction for readers. So the couple of books I’ve picked this time contradict each other. While “Judas” is an all-action, popcorn munching Hollywood dream, I feel “Speak Swahili Dammit!” is quite the opposite, both breathtakingly brilliant but the latter book remains something to be digested in literature form.



“Judas” I discovered as a friend (Barry Renshaw) designed the cover. Yeah I know, don’t judge a book blah, blah. But when I read the synopsis I gasped, wondering why no one had thought of this simple but awesome plot before.

Judas Iscariot, yeah him, the disciple who grassed up Jesus in the bible, is paying for his crime. God has made him immortal, to walk the Earth forevermore, never to love, unable to die and so, obviously, he’s turned into an all-American action hero out to protect a forthcoming prophet! The likes of Bruce Willis or Vin Weasel would not look out of place playing Judas……if it would be snapped up by Hollywood.

Although I fear with its Christian connotations Middle-America would hail blasphemy. It’s exactly the shock-tactic its author, Roy Bright tells me he was aiming for. Expect a plague of locusts in his hometown of Burnley.

While some chapters, such as the biblical flashback sequences, are deadly serious, others have a tongue-in-cheek feel about them; both equally wonderfully written and engaging.
Its location is a movie caricature of New York, where demons choose to take the form of Japanese businessmen. Dripping with wry “Terminator” and “Die Hard” pastiches, it’s all very comic-book; Bright makes no attempt to hide this fact. Not just the gung-ho narrative but often referencing comic, manga or action hero movie media in the narrative. And in true Hollywood fashion, Roy is currently bashing out a sequel as we speak.

“Judas” may not be up everyone’s street. It’s highly addictive, chockful of fury-paced pulp fiction, aching for John Woo to direct. In contradiction, I believe the author of “Speak Swahili Dammit!” considered the possibility of movie adaption but it’s one of those things, I feel, which is best remaining as it is; a both inspiring and amusing masterpiece novel.



Quite lengthy, “Speak Swahili Dammit!” is autobiographical. Cornish author James Penhaligon’s family migrated to Tanganyika in the 1950s when he was six. This then is the story of white kid “Jimu” growing up in the African bush, being accepted by the Watu and it ends with his dawning of adolescence.

It describes life there, its history and culture in colossal detail, ventures off into gorgeous character portrayals, and amusing anecdotes of his interactions with the ingenious people, the other colonists, and a few deadly animals.

Covering the fullness of childhood; prepubescent love, friendship and general mischievousness, “Speak Swahili Dammit!” meanders through emotions cogitating through the eyes of a child.

This truly is an inspiring and witty read; a self-published stroke of genius which makes you wonder why the heck it is isn’t in every bookshop worldwide. But hey, that’s the domain of self-publishing, there’s greatness lurking down rabbit holes. You just have to take the leap… or wait for me hand more to you on a silver platter, as I did last time spotlighting Alexes Razevich.



Based on the excellence of “Khe,” I had high hopes for her second book, “Shadowline Drift.” Offering to be different Alexes again outreached my expectations. This book captivated me until the end. It’s not a turn of phrase when I say “I couldn’t put it down;” might as well have superglued it to my fingers.

When the protagonist delves into the Amazon rainforest to make a trade with a nomadic tribe for a plant which can solve the world famine problem, he gets much more than he bargained for. This believable fantasy sprints, with rich storytelling and careful research through the culture and wildlife of the rainforest and whisks into supernatural enigmas with a killer plot line.

So with three more added to our bucket list; an unspecified amount of self-published books to read before you either die or go buy another book by a big publishing house; lock in this feature for we have more to come.

I’ve put a Facebook group together called Ye OldE-book Shoppe, please join for more coverage of great books and meet the authors:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1606699399605659/






Saturday, 8 October 2016

Ye Old e-Book Shoppe






Buy a book at the supermarket? Job done, but surely you’re getting jaded with the humdrum of celebrity autobiographies, keep-fit and cook books?

Perhaps you’ve bought yourself an e-reader, you simply download books; easy innit? You download a virtual Bibliotheque of classics free but, it’s thorny hunting something different. Someplace though, there’s a wealth of aspiring authors, begging you to open a page of their humble outpourings but it’s a needle in a haystack.

There’s been an explosion of self-publishing; any Tom, Dick, Harry or Harry’s pet dog can throw a perfunctory novel together complete with more grammatical errors then a day on Twitter and a plot so weak it couldn’t interest a primate. So you avoid plunging into the depths of this ocean, without the recommendation of a billboard or Guardian reviewer you worry you’re going to waste your hard-earned pennies on some pile of uninspiring codswallop.

I feel your pain, but fear not oh fearless one; I’m here to rumble through the haystack and find you the perfect needle. The concern is those untrusting, namby-pamby customer-propelled reviews on the big book sites. There may well be twenty-eight five star reviews on the book you’re pursuing, but they all seem to be from the author’s mum.

The issue for the author is the world of self-publishing rarely peaks its head out of its own backside and so ranting to friends on social networks means preaching to the converted; plus, they have their own torrents to endorse. If an author doesn’t promote themselves ain’t nobody gonna see their stuff, shamelessly over-plug and they get accused of “spamming,” by people who will quite willingly succumb to a large poster on the wall advertising a big publisher’s book.

So here I stand, or lounge, hoping to attract a new audience to this world, longing to tug you away from Katie Price’s tenth autobiography. Tune in every week where I’ll spotlight a few self-published books that may be up your street but you didn’t hear tapping at your door. You can expect honesty, at last; I won’t call in on those which do not meet a standard of distinction.

Think of it as a bucket list; An unspecified amount of self-published books to read before you either die or go buy another book by a big publishing house… or something like that.

Maybe you haven’t given in to the technological revolution; you favour the feel and smell of a real book; I don’t blame you but you might be surprised to note many self-publishers do release books on paper too.

One trick of the eBook trade is to look out for free promotion days; this way if the author is bad you’ve lost nothing. Never think for a second though only rubbish authors run such promotions; anyone wanting to further their appeal will. You may pick a dreadful one but, you might just stumble on some greatness.

In fact, this is the way I discovered possibly my favourite self-published author…like, ever. From Orange County, Alexes Razevich attended California State University, earning a degree in creative writing. A former editor for Electronic Engineering Times, her work has appeared in Rolling Stone among others.

I downloaded her sci-fi epic, “Khe.” Within just a few short chapters Razevich creates a believable but complex alternative world which would have taken other authors a hundred pages or more to immerse the reader into its unique fantasy realm.


The adventure takes you on a journey unlike anything I could try to compare it to. If you forced a comparison out of me; I’d say like Frank Herbert, with a feminine angle. This totally original page-turner wouldn’t look out of place as an advert on the walls of a multiplex. If I was James Cameron I’d snap it up but, well, I’m not. Its narrative is easy despite the vast cultural differences between our world and that of Khe’s.

From the absorbing plot to the smaller elements, such as the species emotion spots that glow a different colour to represent their moods, this book had me hooked. I could see a thousand possibilities for other equally interesting plots using the universe Razevich calls “The Ahsenthe Cycle.” Since I read this the highly anticipated second part of the series, “Ashes and Rain” has been released and it’s burning my kindle as we speak. But there are so many other authors I need to tell you about; stay tuned.

There cannot be many better places to start out on your self-publishing expedition then Alexes Razevich. We’ll look at her other offering next week along with a couple more. So, pop to my virtual bookshop column next time when I’ll try to reduce the rambling and random tangents….. I said “try!”


          

I’ve put a Facebook group together called Ye OldE-book Shoppe, please join for more coverage of great books and meet the authors:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1606699399605659/

Friday, 23 September 2016

Application Form


  
 

 

Alex picked up the manila piece and got back on the bus. He held tightly onto the envelope and sat down. When it was his stop, he thanked the driver and sauntered down the street.
“Hi honey I’m home! Put the kettle on please love,” he proudly requested as he opened his front door and stepped into the kitchen.

His wife was anxiously awaiting his return, pacing the room. “Did you get it?” she asked.

Alex sat at the kitchen table and produced the manila envelope, “Ta-rah!” He tore the flap, to his wife’s eager stare, and flipped it so the open end faced the table top. He wriggled the package and frowned, wriggled it some more and repeated the process a couple more times.

His wife was lost for words as he tore open the thing to find it empty. “Where are the forms then?” she gasped.

“T…t….they was inside when I left, I swear they were,” Alex stumbled.

His wife swung around to face away from him, “I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it; you’ve lost them haven’t you?”

Alex gave it some thought, “I’m sorry love, I errmmm….”

“You fool, you complete and utter turnip!” she screeched at him, “what do we do now? Marjorie and Roy next door have filled in their forms and sent them off, what if they’re selected, huh; what then?”

Alex pondered aloud, “I must have lost them on the bus; it was busy. I was squashed through the door by a right hippo; she wanted to get out as I was getting on and knocked me right back into the street! I’ll bet that’s when they fell out! I’ll nip down the bus depot and see if anyone handed them in.”

“Seriously,” she quipped, “do you think anyone in their right mind is going to hand them in, you crazy old fool?!”

“Have you put the kettle on yet love?”

“For crying out loud Alex,” she smashed her head on the cupboard door in annoyance. “This is the end of everything, and all you’re concerned about is a cup of tea!”

He stayed sitting at the table, looking glumly at the table-cloth, “I think you’re exaggerating slightly love, we don’t need to go on a cruise anyway.”

“A cruise did you say?” she turned back to him in disbelief, “It is far from a cruise Alex, you saw the man, you heard what he said.”

“Man?”

“The man on the tele, with the beard!” she continued.

“Oh, him; they always say the worst, to cover their back,” offered Alex.

“He doesn’t work for the Met Office Alex; he had a message, from God!”

“A message from the bottom of a bottle more like!” complained Alex, “listen honey, calm down, it’s not so bad.”

“So bad?” his wife screeched, “it’s going to wipe out everything, and we had the one chance of survival, the one chance and you, you lost the flipping application forms!”

“Misplaced,” Alex corrected.

“No one is going to hand them into the bus depot!” she repeated.

 “I’m sorry love. Anyway, I don’t think it’s going to flood, really.”

“They only take two you know?” she reminded him but Alex continued to stare blankly at the tablecloth.

His wife returned to pacing the room, her anger at boiling point. There was a silence in the kitchen that could be cut with a knife. She tried to compose herself and turned to him once again, “I suggest Alex, you be a giraffe about it for once in your life, call that Noah bloke personally, to apologise, and pray he’ll see sense and let us on his ark before it’s too late!”

Alex sighed, stretched out his long yellow neck and switched the kettle on with his left ossicone.

 

    

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Coastal Path




The Coastal Path

Darren Worrow



“Morning love,” my wife says cheerfully as I open the door, “where have you been?”

“I thought I might take a stroll along the coastal path,” I inform her, “you know, just a stroll.”

“Did you get out of the park?” she asks.

“No, I was tired and turned back at the gate.” I take my shoes off and thank her for the cup of tea she hands me, jiggling on a saucer. I sit at the table and smile at her. She smiles back.

 It’s so nice here on the holiday park, yes it’s a big place, far bigger than we are used to but we enjoy every minute of it. We’ve been here a while now, to be honest it’s such a carefree place I never stop to think just how long; must have been three weeks or more.

Upon my retirement we visited some foreign countries you know, saw a bit of the world. But now, we like coming here, it’s not just for old people, oh no, there’s young and old, a good mix of people. I guess it reminds me of holidays we took when the kids were little; the best days of our lives.

Of course after the accident we couldn’t get around so easy, the thought of sitting on a plane for ages wouldn’t agree with my posture. No, we’re happy here. When we took holidays in such parks, when the children were little, they were always smaller places; you weren’t just a number, the staff got to know you and the other holiday-makers would chat and you made friends.

Here it’s different, such a big place, like a city of caravans. People come and go, you never see the same person twice. I admit it’s not as social but we like it. I’ve done my years of being sociable; we like to keep ourselves to ourselves.

The accident had an effect on us no doubt, times were hard to begin with, you know, getting over the shock, we were lucky to be alive. But we stuck together and came out the end as a very happy couple. It was quickly after that, I cannot even recall when exactly, the man approached us and sold us this caravan. I know he was just a salesman, I’m no fool, but the way he sold it to us, he had real charisma, a really kind, genuine guy; and we got a good deal.

The caravan was lovely, we didn’t even need any decorations or furniture from home; it was all here when we arrived. The salesman made sure we were pampered. Since that day we never looked back, sure the letting agency let us down. They say it’s a recession, I never check the news but the young these days just don’t have the funds for a holiday. I understand; it’s tricky for them to find people to lease it to. It doesn’t matter, I never went into this as an investment; we wanted somewhere familiar we could take a break and being as it’s always free, we stay here for long periods of time. Like I say, I cannot even recall how long we’ve been here!

We have some sandwiches and I pop over to the camp shop. People are coming and going, buying gifts and toys, posing for photos, eating ice cream and playing ball games on the patches between the caravans. It’s nice. I consider stopping off for a beer at the bar, just a half. I do so and as I sit there the barman is the only person who talks to me; it’s okay, I like it this way.

People are watching football on a big screen, playing pool or wandering through on their way to the arcade or one of the big halls where there is entertainment for the children. I can people-watch here to my heart’s content; just the half though, that’s plenty for me and I’m beginning to feel a little lightheaded. I get up to leave and the barman doesn’t even notice; he is busy serving a young couple at the other endo of the bar.

I take a slow, unsteady stroll back to our caravan. My wife smiles, presents me with a simple dinner which we eat in silence. The evening is spent watching the television. We could go to the club but to be honest, I’m not in the mood for the noise. We tend do this, the club is noisy and, well, not for us.

Still we like it here and as the sun sets over the sea we get ready for bed.


*******************


It’s the next morning and I’m up before my wife, I used to work early so my body clock is set for this time and doesn’t seem to revert. The sun is rising over the sea again; I give one of those “another day” sighs.

I think I might try and take a stroll along the coastal path today. I often contemplate this, just to get out of the park for a while. Honestly, feels like we’re here so often it’s funny, like nowhere else exists! I just like to see the cliff face and the waves crashing into the rocks below me. You can see the path crossing the cliffs and stretching for miles. It’d be nice to follow it for a little way, to see what is outside the park.

I get my shoes on and pick up my cap. Grasp my walking stick and leave the caravan, my wife still sleeping. She will wake but know I’m out for one of my strolls. I often do but, just as I’m leaving the gates of the park I tend to feel tired and turn back. I used to be quite the rambler but, if it makes me out of breath then it’s not worth continuing.

Today though, as the fresh seaside air hits me and the other campers are still dozing in their caravans, I start my walk. Lovely it is too. I feel exhilarated, as if I can wander for miles and I intend to try this time to make it to the brow of hill I see every morning.

The caravans facing out towards the path and the cliffs beyond are far more luxurious than ours. Some doubled up caravans, with verandas and tables outside. It’s a splendid view to behold and although I envy them a little, I’m content with what we have.

I stroll along and note their curtains are all closed; no one is around but me. I can do this; I can wander free from the park for once. I reach the gate and I’m overcome with determination but also, foolishly, I feel some butterflies in my stomach; don’t know why. I used to walk for miles and I know I can stop and rest before returning if I want. There are benches as far along as I can see.

I clasp my hand on the kissing gate at the very end of the park. The last caravan is adjacent; all that follows is breath-taking countryside, bracken to my left and grass verge on my right, leading down to those steep cliffs. The sun in the distance is rising fast now, turning twilight into day; how can people sleep during these hours? This is the most beautiful time of the day.

With that thought I push the kissing-gate open and smile, here we go. I walk along the path carefully, looking down through most of the beginning. I don’t want to risk losing my step on a stone and tumbling towards the edge but, hey, the risk is worth it, driving me to continue.

I must have been walking this way for five or ten minutes now and I stop to take a look around. I long to see the caravan park in the distance, to know I’m out of there for a while. I love it there, it’s the kind of place we’d wanted to go to when we were young, and now it’s everything we wished for, well, sometimes I admit it gets a bit much. You know; it’s all fine, just, I don’t know; feels like we’re trapped in there. I laugh at the notion and take a deep breath. I stare out to sea and watch the sun’s reflection as ripples in the water; breath-taking.

Although, I note the formation of the cliffs is the same as when I left the kissing-gate some distance away. I cannot be as fast at walking as I used to be! I turn to check my progress and my heart stops. Something here is wrong, definitely wrong. I’m still standing at the edge of the kissing-gate.

I look around, the surroundings are familiar but that is eerie, I mean, knowing that I’ve been walking for ten minutes or more. I should be quarter of a mile along the path.

I touch the gate, as if it’s my imagination.  I nervously giggle as I feel the wooden post under my fingertips. I claim to myself; must be going mad and to prove myself wrong I intend to continue walking.

Now, with more vigour and haste I wander, maybe sprint, as far as a pensioner can. I can see movement in the pattern of the rocks locked in the dry mud path, so I know I am covering ground. But still, when I stop and look behind me, the kissing-gate is still within arm’s reach.

The last caravans on the site sit in the same place, confirming it’s not the gate that is moving with me. It’s as if I’ve not moved at all, although I know I have. This time I wander backwards so I can still gaze at the gate and surroundings; still it is stagnant and gets no smaller to my eye. I look forward, the scenery beyond is so wonderful, so idyllic; I long to be there but it seems, weirdly, unattainable.

But how can this be? Why can I not make progress, as if it is all but a dream, as if this world beyond the park gate is just a picture? Surely not, what kind of game is this? I ponder all this; my arm stretches out into the air. I reach as far as I can until my hand touches something invisible but solid in thin air, it’s indescribable to the touch, moist, maybe, like a wet wall, but sticky too, as my hand is immersing in it. I note, with horror that my hand is indeed melding with the blue sky and I move my arm down though the bracken. Still, it’s not really there, only this sensation of moistness, of sticky, translucent substance, slowly sinking my hand further into it.

Quickly with fear I retract my hand and it comes into view, as if I lifted it out of oily liquid. The image of the bushes and the deep blue sky sticks to it for a fraction of a second and then, it bounces back, like a stick being pulled from molten rubber. I check my hand with amazement, it is fine. I am fine, but, I have to admit, despite seeing some stuff in my life, some really nasty experiences, I never felt as scared.

I took three steps back, through the kissing-gate and back into the park, I raise my arm again and it is as if nothing happened, the air reacted how it should, how it always has, just glides your hand through it. There was no, like what I would deem a force-field, as if the world beyond this point was merely an illusion, but I know, rationally , that is not possible.

I’ve seen enough, I don’t want to think any more about it until I’ve told my wife. We look after each other and she will ease my mind. I had a senior moment she will tell me, and to stop being so silly. I will agree, knowing it’s true. But really, I have to know what it was.

I stop, contemplate going back beyond the gate, I don’t know, to experiment, see if I can pass through it. This sends my imagination wild with theory, can I pass through, what will be there if I do but most importantly, why and how can this be?

Now I’ve thought about it I know I have to go back, I have to have confirmation what just happened was real. I have to test the ideas racing through my mind.

Before I do a sudden voice breaks my wandering mind and snaps me into reality. It is a male voice, strong and abrupt, “morning!” it bellows confidently.

A young man, of average build and height, wearing average clothes, is walking his dog. I was so wrapped up it seems I didn’t even notice him approaching and now, he is opposite me, trying to get through the kissing-gate. He is so close I can smell his breath.

“Oh!” I cry, “You made me jump!”

“Sorry!” he cheerfully jests and he raises his arm towards me, to touch me on the side of the face. I wrench back. “It’s okay!” he cheerfully smirks but I’m not sure I can trust him. I saw a plug in his fingers, like a computer USB cord.

Without warning he lunges at me and inserts the plug into my hearing aid. I struggle for a brief second, then; well, it felt okay. I feel this man is trustworthy, I cannot remember why I flinched; must have just made me jump. I should be getting back to the caravan.


************************


“Morning love,” my wife says cheerfully as I open the door, “where have you been?”

“I thought I might take a stroll along the coastal path,” I inform her, “you know, just a stroll.”

“Did you get out of the park?” she asks.

“No, I was tired and turned back at the gate.” I take my shoes off and thank her for the cup of tea she hands me, jiggling on a saucer. I sit at the table and smile at her. She smiles back.

  

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Hold the Turkey; it's Santa's first vegan Christmas!!


Santa's First Vegan Christmas  by Robin Raven.
 
 
Starting out with the line, “Twas the night before Christmas,” you might be fooled into thinking this children’s book was a run-of-the-mill story of yule. Indeed its charming illustrations of Santa high-fiving a reindeer and the following on pictures of said reindeer frolicking and dancing in the snow-blessed woods might make you feel this is going the way most children’s Christmas books should. But check the title, ingeniously, this is not going to be any normal Christmas.

It’s not just the turkey dinner getting interrogated here, the book, while continuing to charm, brings to question all which may be over commercialised about the season. Dana the reindeer is quite the alternative thinker and convinces Santa to change the issues with Christmas that many may criticise it for; the treatment of all god’s creatures should be respected during the celebrations.

Santa takes heed and attempts to change his ways, setting caged animals free and presenting pets with gifts too. Even the reindeer get promoted to ride in the sleigh rather than pull it! It’s all rather nice and thoughtful and with beautiful illustrations, it’s sure to make your children think about the treatment of animals whilst also enjoying the spirit of Christmas. What a refreshing change from the norm and for this, I recommend it.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30751633-santa-s-first-vegan-christmas