Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the category “Guest Bloggers”

Author Interview: William D. Holland

Today I’m thrilled to have a chat with my very good blogging friend and fellow author, Bill (William D. Holland). This is a return visit, as Bill was also my guest storyteller in January of this year, when he shared an excerpt from his paranormal crime thriller Shadow Over the Hangman’s Noose, the third book in his “Shadows” series.

Welcome back to my blog, Bill…

Very exciting, being interviewed by someone I respect greatly, so thank you Sarah, and hello to my new friends across The Pond.  Sarah has tossed a few questions my way, some softballs, some very hardballs indeed, so I’ll try to answer them all with my trademark bluntness and honesty.

My pleasure, Bill, the respect is mutual and may you gain many more friends from over my side of The Pond 🙂 Now for those softballs and hardballs…

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Bill, was there a defining moment when you decided to become a freelance writer, or did life decide it for you?

Oh my goodness, Sarah, let’s see.  I had always wanted to be a writer, dating back to my college days, but as trite as it may sound, life had other plans for me . . . and then I managed to get in my own way for a number of years, blocking any possible progress.  So the turning point you are asking about came eight years ago when I realized that the teaching profession, after eighteen years, was not what I envisioned it being.  It was moving in a direction I could not live with, and so one day I tossed my keys to the principal of the school and told her to have a good life.  The next day I declared myself to be a writer.  I had no financial safety net and not one clue how to actually be a freelance writer, but by God that’s what I told the world . . . I am a writer!!!

Before you started your blog “Artistry with Words”, you had a blog titled “The Happy Life as an Alcoholic” and 5 years ago you self-published a 52-page eBook titled Loving life as an alcoholic. Why did you equate the words “happy” and “loving” with the alcoholism and what made you decide to kick the addiction?

The second question is the easy one to answer: I decided to begin recovery because I was miserable and I didn’t want to die.  It’s been over ten years now and I still don’t want to die.

Happy and loving?  Without alcohol dictating my every move in life, I am now free to enjoy life and love myself and others, and that’s what I try to do daily.  I love life; always did when I was younger, and now that I’m not drinking I love it again.

As a side note, I no longer write in that “alcohol” blog because I don’t want to be known as a writer who only writes about addiction.  I’m so much more than a recovering alcoholic.  I’m not a writer who writes about addiction, nor am I just a writer who is recovering.  I prefer to think of myself as a spiritual being having a human experience.

You’ve self-published 15 full-length books, although I counted 26 publications in all, if you include the shorter publications. Did you ever submit any of your works to traditional publishers, or did you decide to self-publish from the start?

No, I didn’t start out self-publishing.  When I began writing novels, my goal, and my dream, was to be picked up by a major publishing firm, and then fame and fortune would follow shortly after that.  My first three novels were pitched to many, many publishers, to no avail.  After that I decided the publishing game had changed, and my best chance at any exposure was to simply self-publish.  I have no regrets, by the way.   I love writing, so even if my circle of followers is relatively small, and sales are modest, I still get to do what I love doing, and that is writing and telling a story.

And without trying to sound all Pollyanna, if I didn’t make a penny on my novels, I would still write them.

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So far I’ve read and enjoyed (in a nail-biting sense of the word) your novel Shadows Kill, which you describe as “Death Wish” meets “Silence of the Lambs” and is the first book in your Shadow Thriller series. Why does someone as mild-mannered, peace-loving, and gentle as you choose to write such dark and visceral fiction?

There are two influences, actually.  When I was a child the famous serial killer, Ted Bundy, was our paperboy (he delivered newspapers to homes in our neighbourhood).  Once it was discovered that he was a serial killer, it was only natural to become fascinated by the dynamics of an evil human being appearing so normal, and Bundy did, in fact, appear very normal.

I then became fascinated by the concepts of “Good and Evil.” What if there is a real entity of Evil?  What if it invaded the bodies of humans and guided them on evil lives?  And what if there were those among us who are chosen to fight Evil?

That is the basis for my Shadow Series of novels.

With which of your literary characters do you identify the most and why?

That would be Tobias King, the main character in Resurrecting Tobias.  It is as close to an autobiography as I am likely to write.  Toby is me and I am Toby.  A great deal of the story is fictional, but the spirit of the story, and the spirit of Toby . . . well, read it and you’ll catch a glimpse of me growing up, maturing, falling, and finally finding happiness.

Are all of your novels set in your home town of Olympia near Washington? If so, how much artistic license do you take with the setting; in other words, would locals recognise the locations? And (you don’t have to answer this last bit) are your literary characters composites of people you know, plus bits of yourself?

I would say 90% of my novels take place in Olympia. The only exception, really, was Resurrecting Tobias, which takes place in a number of different locations, but they are all locations I have visited or lived in.  And really, I take very little artistic license with Olympia at all.  Locals would most definitely recognize streets and actual businesses that I write about.

Characters are definitely composites of people I have known, or do know.  I’ve mentioned this before: I am basically a lazy writer when it comes to inventing characters and doing research for locations.  I write what I know about almost all of the time, and that includes people.  I’ve lived sixty-eight years and during that time I have met some fascinating people.

This year you’ve taken a break from novel-writing to concentrate on self-publishing 3 colouring (coloring) books, which I believe have yielded some healthy local sales, especially at the farmers’ market where you also sell quails eggs and herbs. Why have you diversified into producing colouring books and would you advise other novelists to diversify rather than focus on one area of creativity?

There were a few reasons for the coloring books. I wanted another item I could sell at the markets, so I did one for each of the two cities where the markets are located (their histories) and one about urban farming.

The second reason was because I had spent the better part of the four previous years writing novels that were dark and gloomy, and it was affecting me in a negative way.  I could sense my mood darkening and that is not a good thing for this boy.  Alcoholics should not spend too much time in the darkness if it can be avoided.

Finally, I switched gears because I felt my novel-writing was getting a bit stale.  I needed a break from my characters and I suspect they needed a break from me.

Would I recommend diversification?  Definitely if you are a freelance writer who needs the income from your writing endeavours.  And truthfully, I recommend a switching-of-gears for any writer from time to time. I think it helps a writer to grow when a new challenge is faced, and I think it helps a writer to remain fresh in his/her writing. Staleness is an easy trap to fall into, and a comfortable place to be.  I’ve seen quite a few well-known authors fall into that trap, when they should have retired five years earlier.

Who in your life has inspired and/or influenced you the most?

You said “in your life” so my answer is about life in general, and that person would definitely be my father.  He died many years ago, when I was nineteen, but the lessons he taught me are still with me today.  I still miss him greatly and it’s almost been fifty years since I saw him last.

His influence?  Hard-work….focus….treating others with respect….never complain….find answers, not excuses….family and friends are treasures and should always be protected….get the most out of your talent and then push for more….these are things which will be with me until I join him in the next realm.

Who is your favourite author?

There are three who have influenced me greatly: Harper Lee, James Lee Burke, and John Steinbeck . . . master storytellers, exquisite creators of scenes, and an ability to see the grimy, gritty underbelly of life, in very realistic ways, without glorifying it.

What is your next project?

I’m currently on the second draft of my next “Shadows” novel, this one called “Shadows Fall on Rosarito.” That will be the fourth in that paranormal-thriller series.  And I’m halfway through the fifth in that series.  The working title for that one is currently “Shadows Embrace Mary and Her Little Lamb.”  Once those two books are finished I’ll get to work on a “coming of age” story about my life during the 60’s with my best friend Frank.  It will be dedicated to Frank because, well, he’s dying of cancer right now and it’s important, to me, that he be immortalized.  Good people always should be, don’t you think?

Thank you so much for the questions, Sarah.  I hope others find my answers interesting.  If they want, they can find me on my blog at www.artistrywithwords.com, and all of my novels can be found on that blog as well as at Amazon under the name William D. Holland.

Again, thank you!

— April’s Guest Storyteller — Robert C. Day

In 2013, Robert began to write. He produced his first short story since he left school many years ago. In 2014, he read every single book on Creative Writing he could get his hands on. In 2015, he wrote two novels. In 2016, he started his blog (www.memymine.co.uk) and to date has over 26,000 hits and 1,100+ followers. He writes a new story, thought, article, poem or writing tip every day and he lives to chat. In Oct 2016, he started an MA in Creative Writing and he now has a 2-year writing plan and a 20-year writing plan that includes 23 published items — at least. Robert is currently undergoing treatment for narcissistic tendencies and expects to be far, far better in the very near future.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome a fellow eccentric Brit as my guest storyteller this month.  Like me, Robert C. Day (otherwise known as Levishedated), writes quirky fiction of a speculative kind.

Post Script: With regard to my statement above, I’ve just had a most surreal experience. Never have I had guest storyteller do a disappearing act on me. I’ve just been over to his blog and discovered a post titled THE END and the words “This is the Last post on this blog”. Only yesterday we were exchanging emails and he never said anything about his intention to abandon ship. Either this is a most odd April Fool’s joke, or he’s serious and has gone back to whichever planet he came from. I thought I was eccentric, but… 😉 

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The story hook in Robert’s words…

A charming tale of manners and … no, I lie – it’s a sad story about the ending of a relationship in the most unusual of locations.

MAY BE SOME TIME

“You know, you don’t have to go. Not if you don’t want to.”

She stopped and gave me a long, searching look, as if she were trying to swim into my eyes. To gauge my mind from the inside.

Of course, I said nothing. She knew that I wouldn’t. She knew me that well.

We used to be more talkative. When we first met, we would spend weeks, hours, days together – just talking. We talked whilst we ate and drank, talked whilst we walked and worked. We even talked in the middle of movies. But the time we loved to talk the most was after making love.

Ah, the fun we had whilst in the throes of slippery romps and shivery thrills. Our talking then took the form of squealing, yelping and occasional joyful ululating. Forget about anyone hearing us, we were too far gone for that to bother us and too caught up in our own delicious minglement of love and lust to care.

Those days are long gone. Who knows where they went? A year ago, we began to talk in murmurs. A month ago, I stopped talking altogether. Last night, she asked me if I wanted to leave.

Of course, she had every right to ask. It is her place after all. Sure, we’d decked it out together and decided on colours that matched our moods, but at the end of the day – it was her home.

I don’t blame her. The time we had together was longer than most managed. I read the other day that the average partnership was now only three years, and we’d already managed over four by the time I stopped talking.

It’s funny, but I couldn’t tell you what made me end up that way.

My parents were good to me. She was good for me. Life was good. But so what? When it’s time, it’s time.

I was a long way from … well, from anywhere. When I stepped out of the door, I didn’t take anything with me. There wasn’t much point. More for me would have been less for her, and she’d need it much more than I would.

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I feel the cold immediately. It embraces me like a thousand birds of prey – ravenous and cruel. I turn and look back. She stands at the window, her face a blank. I am able to blink, once, before my tears freeze over, sealing my eyes open.

I exhale and the crystalline fragments of my breath obscure her just before the spin of my body takes her face from me. By the time my body rotates to face her again, the sub-zero of space has blackened my vision, and a bare moment later, I am gone.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

 

March’s Guest Storyteller, Björn Rudberg

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Björn Rudberg is a blogger and a poet hailing from Stockholm Sweden. He has a PhD in physics but works with businesses in the tech-industry. He writes flash fiction and is a regular contributor to Friday Fictioneers. He manages an online community for poetry, dVerse (http://dversepoets.com), and is also one of the contributing toads at Real Toads (http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com). He is a member of a writing community in Stockholm that has produced one collaborative collection of short stories, Keyhole Stories, and is in the process of producing its second collection.


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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome Björn as my guest storyteller this month. I first met him through Friday Fictioneers, where his almost weekly contributions have always impressed me. He’s an adventurous writer, who is happy to experiment with various techniques of storytelling, sometimes combining poetry and prose. Whatever he produces, he always manages to surprise and intrigue me, whether it’s dark, satirical, or on a subject he feels passionate about. Do visit his blog, Björn Rudbergs Writings  after you’ve finished here, and I’m sure you’ll agree with what I’m saying.    

But enough from me. I’ll hand you over to Björn now, who will tell you what his story is about, and he has provided us with a soundcloud recording of his story too!

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Björn says: Writing flash-fiction is very much like writing poetry to me, I try to keep a rhythm in my language (actually it’s often close to iambic meter). I have chosen a story from last year that represents the writing I like best. The story is actually a parable about human trafficking where I have chosen Charon the ferryman as the trafficker.

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PAYING THE FERRYMAN

My boat is ready when they come in groups. Orphans, elderly, unshaven men and teenage girls.

The mica in their eyes reflect the river; fear; and in their hands they clutch my fee. But there are those I leave behind. They sleep in tents, and call for help.

They try in vain to trade their goods for coins.

I have a small collection, bribes and trinkets, and my bed is always warmed by girls believing they can melt my granite soul.

I am Charon and my fee is fixed; and worse than Hades is the nothingness of being left behind.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

       

January’s Guest Storyteller, William D. Holland

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William D. Holland is the author of five full-length novels, one non-fiction book about the craft of writing, and five novellas in the “Billy the Kid” chronicles.  He can be found hanging out on his website https://artistrywithwords.com/ when he isn’t tending to his urban farm in Olympia, Washington.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome as this month’s guest storyteller, one of my newer blogging friends, William (his WordPress username Billybuc). I really look forward to his weekly Tuesday posts that are always packed full of interesting and informative things.

Time to hand over to him now,  for a two-sentence hook, followed by an extract from his latest novel, Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose…   

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HOOK 

Eli Baker has dreams, and Melanie Hooper has visited him in one, along with four other orphans who are also missing.

The search is on, and Eli Baker is the right man to delve into the case of the missing orphans; however, Eli soon finds that evil acts are not only performed by evil men, but by Evil itself.

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EXCERPT

“I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist.  I don’t know a damned thing about how the human mind works, why one abuse victim will become a counselor while another will become an abuser, why serial killers snap and feel a need to destroy innocence, or why one day a soccer dad buys an AR-15 and unloads a magazine in a crowded mall.  All I know is the aftermath stains us all forever, and the whys will visit us in our dreams until the day we draw our last breath.

The second case I had as an army investigator was a child abuse case, a little nine-year old girl in the hospital for a broken arm, doctors and nurses suspicious about bruises on her upper arms.  They made the phone call that dragged me out of bed at two a.m. on a muggy night near Fort Hood, Texas.  The girl, curly blond locks pasted to her forehead, her mother holding her good hand, her two sisters standing nearby, told me she fell down the stairs and she was so sorry she bothered everyone, and mom nodding and saying her daughter was just clumsy like her mommy, laughing with a little too much nervous energy to appease me.

I coaxed an address out of the mother, drove to the off-post housing and found dad, a master sergeant, sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  He wasn’t too happy, me waking him up, and he was even less happy when I mentioned the bruises on his daughter’s arms, and he was downright pissed when I asked him if he had anything to do with those bruises.  He pulled his right arm back, fixing to turn out my lights with a massive punch, and I snap-kicked his kneecap.

That was ten years ago. The master sergeant is still in prison on three counts of child abuse, a history of beating his three kids in some confused attempt to quiet the demons only he could see and hear.

No, I’m no psychiatrist.  All I know is the stain never goes away, and rabid dogs need to be shot.”

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From “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” the third in the “Shadows” series, available in hard copy and Kindle at Amazon.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

December’s Guest Storyteller, Sherri Matthews

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Sherri has been writing full-time since 2011.  Currently working on her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, she has been published in a variety of national magazines and two anthologies.  Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief gardening, walking and snapping endless photographs.  Her garden robin muse visits regularly.

You can find Sherri’s links of interest at the end of this post.

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Sarah says: I’m thrilled that Sherri  has agreed to make a return visit to my blog as guest storyteller with a seasonal story to delight us all. Some of you might remember her Christmas-themed story Chocolate Umbrella from December 2014. This story received 54 likes and 79 comments, which was a fantastic response, considering my blog had about a quarter of the followers it does now! I’m guessing that Sherri brought along some of her fans with her,  from her wonderful blog A View From The Summerhouse.

In June 2015, we met up for the first time and got on so well, we’re now firm friends and try to get together as regularly as our busy lives permit. We also have long telephone conversations with each other, as we’re both very talkative.

Sherri & Sarah 

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A Blue Coat for Christmas

Grey, angry waves smashed into the pier. A gust of sea air whipped Piper’s hair into a salty slap across her face. A short walk to the beach had taken longer than she had anticipated, but she was wearing her new coat, and nothing was going to keep her indoors today.  Especially not babysitting her brother.

‘Look what I’ve found,’ Max shouted as he skipped across the sand.

The sight of her brother’s skinny legs poking out of his shorts made Piper laugh.  “I told you to wear jeans. Your knees have turned purple with the cold!’

Max stopped, looked down at his knees, and shrugged. ‘I don’t care. See, I found this!’ Piper stared at the dead starfish in her brother’s wet hands as she pushed her hands into her pockets.

‘Can I bring it back to show Dad?’

‘Yeah, why not…think of the stories he’ll tell us about it,’ Piper said with a wink.  ‘C’mon, it’s getting dark already and your legs might drop off if we don’t get back soon.’

They climbed the stairs leading up from the beach and walked along the promenade, the wind catching their breath.  Piper made sure to take the long way back through the side streets, wanting as many people as possible to admire her in her coat.

When she had opened her present on Christmas Day, she couldn’t believe her eyes.  It was just what she wanted, a blue, military style wool coat with brass buttons and red piping along the collar and sleeves. At twelve years old, all legs and no curves, she felt like a fashion icon in it.  Heck, maybe even the up and coming new Twiggy.

Piper and Max watched cartoons and when their father came home, he made beans on toast while he drank beer and made them laugh at his funny story about the starfish and his hermit crab friends.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered to Piper later as he kissed her forehead.  “Keep an eye on your brother, I’ll be back in a jiffy…” Piper nodded with a half-smile, knowing it would be hours before he staggered in through the front door.

‘Nice coat,’ their mother said back home. ‘Surprised your father can afford such a thing…’ she trailed off.  Piper didn’t know either, but she was happy prancing about the place in her beloved coat.  One thing she did know: she wouldn’t breathe a word about her father’s late night visits to the pub.

© Sherri Matthews 2016

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Connect with Sherri
Blogwww.sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts

Memoir Book Blurb
http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/memoir-book-blurb/ )

Heart Whispers: A Poetry Anthology available at
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

November’s Guest Storyteller, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Kansas City native Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is a woman of Jewish descent and the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants. She has a close personal connection to Jewish history, which has been a recurring theme throughout much of her writing. Growing up, she was heavily influenced by the Sholom Aleichem stories, the basis for Fiddler on the Roof. Her novels Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can were born of her desire to share the darker side of these beloved tales—the history that can be difficult to view, much less embrace.

She is also the author and illustrator of This, That and Sometimes the Other, an eclectic anthology of short stories.

Before becoming an author, Rochelle attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied painting and lithography. Her preferred media are pen and ink, pencil, and watercolor. Her artwork is featured on the covers of her books and within them as well. Her coffee table companion book to her trilogy which will feature character portraits, A Stone for the Journey, is due out in the spring 2017.

Rochelle maintains a blog called Addicted to Purple where she facilitates the internationally popular flash fiction challenge known as Friday Fictioneers. She and her husband, Jan, raised three sons and live in Belton, Missouri. When she takes a break from writing and illustrating, Rochelle enjoys swimming, reading and dancing.

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Sarah saysI’m delighted to welcome Rochelle to my blog as this month’s guest storyteller. I know her as a  person of great talent, both on the writing and artistic front, and have read her two published novels, both of which I’ve awarded 5 stars (links to my reviews below, plus links to the books on Amazon). She’s also known to me for her inexhaustible commitment to running Friday Fictioneers on a weekly basis, which I can only imagine is a huge but rewarding undertaking.

It’s now time to hand you over to Rochelle for a beautiful, tender, and haunting piece of storytelling…        

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DREAM GIRL

The splintered sign above the door hung by a single nail.  The red paint boasting “Miller’s Burger Barn” had faded to pink. With his handkerchief Neil brushed a layer of dust from the window and peeked inside. The counter where he used to chow down on grilled cheese sandwiches and grease-laden Suzy-Q fries was piled with trash. Broken chairs littered the chipped linoleum floor. Hard to believe this ramshackle building was once the hub of youthful activity.

He took a step back and stared at his mottled reflection. A spindly old man with thick-lensed glasses and stringy white hair returned his stare.  His rumpled suit and skewed bowtie wanted for attention. He shrugged. What difference did his appearance make now?

His mind backtracked to his senior year in high school. 1955. That’s when the Millers moved to town and opened the diner. Their curvaceous daughter Evalyne served up sodas and snacks three afternoons a week and all day Saturday.

Every muscled athlete in school hung out there to compete for the pretty blonde’s attention. Neil didn’t stand a chance. Myopic and thin as a barber pole, he was a straight ‘A’ student and captain of the debate team. What chick would want to be seen with a square like him?

He’d accepted his lot until one Saturday the object of his secret fantasy asked him for help with her geometry homework. After dinner on Sunday, his sweaty hands shook as he rang the Miller’s doorbell. Evalyne opened the door, displayed a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and flashed a timid grin. “I baked them myself.”

While geometry was not her strong suit, she excelled in chemistry and biology—a goddess with a brain. For the next five years they studied together, sharing complex equations, chemical formulas and dreams. Like brother and sister.

Music from inside the deserted building brought him back to the present. The Platters sang “Twilight Time.” Evie’s favorite. How could it be? It had to be in his addled, grief-stricken head.

He pushed open the door. The air smelled of hamburgers and onions. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Balloons and streamers hung from the ceiling. It was June 1961 again. The day of their college graduation.

Hands on her hips, Evalyne tapped her saddle-shoed foot. “Neil, where have you been? I called your house three times. Your mom’s worried sick.”

“I…I went for a walk…to clear my head. I’ve been accepted to Harvard Law School.”

“Terrific! I’ve been accepted to NYU’s med school. That’s not too far from Boston. Isn’t it exciting?  I’m going to be a doctor!”

“Of course! You were…are… I mean…will be a cardiologist. One of the nation’s best.”

Her aquamarine eyes glittered. “Neil, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tears fogged his glasses. “Your…funeral. It was…today, Evie. We were married for fifty years. We have three sons, four grandkids and a great granddaughter.”

“It was just a dream and this silly thing is always crooked.”  She straightened his tie with both hands and pressed her lips against his. “Married? Us? Oh, darling, I thought you’d never ask.”

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Available in print and on Kindle

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 amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

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amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

Review: Please Say Kaddish For Me

Review: From Silt and Ashes

And not yet published but on its way, the last part of the trilogy! 

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

— October’s Guest Storyteller — J. S. Strange

j-s-strangewinter-smithJack Strange, or J. S. Strange, is a Welsh author who writes fiction. His début novel, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, is a zombie apocalypse novel and is available on Amazon. London’s Burning is the first in a zombie apocalypse series, but there are twists that make it different from your typical zombie story. Jack is twenty-one, and lives in Wales. He is currently working on the second instalment of Winter Smith.

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Sarah says: Welcome to my blog, Jack, and I can honestly say that you’re the youngest person to have guest-posted here. I’m in awe of you having already written and published your first novel; a most exciting read it is, too. When I was your age, I just wrote naff poetry that was meant to contain profound truths but was probably a load of twaddle. It’s wonderful that you have so much direction and ambition, plus a whole creative life ahead of you following a decent head-start. 

The story below is a write-up of a project Jack may be working on in the future  a collection of short stories following other people during the zombie apocalypse in London, at the same time as Winter is escaping. 

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I Take Thee

A wedding day is something special, especially a wedding taking part in the middle of London. My wife had arranged it, completely blowing our budget on a venue that was a step down from where Princess Diana had married Charles.

But I was excited. Five years with the beautiful girl and I was about to become her husband. It was all I wanted. My friends told me I was too young. We had met at twenty, now we were twenty-five, but when you know, you know.

The venue was magnificent. Tall arcs of grand stone, moulded by people whose talents were incomprehensible. Rows upon rows of pews lined behind me, and I was surprised that we had managed to fill out most of them. Everyone looked beautiful. It really was going to be a great day.

I turned to my best man besides me. A man who had been in my life since I was twelve years old. We didn’t like to talk about it, but we both loved each other greatly.

“You ready for this?” He asked me, a grin across his face. “It isn’t too late to turn back.”

I held up my middle finger at him, and we laughed.

The vicar stood before me adjusted his position, and I knew that we were about to start. I heard the heavy church doors open behind me, and the music began to play. I heard everybody standing, murmuring with excitement, getting ready for the main ceremony.

The bride walked down the aisle. She held her flower bouquet in her petite hands, a smile on her veiled face. When she came to stop next to the man she was about to marry, she seemed to be afraid of looking at him.

I turned to her. She was stunning. I knew this wasn’t a mistake. This was the girl I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. Someone coughed behind me, and someone whispered something in response, but I didn’t care about that.

“We are gathered here today, to welcome…”

There was a cry behind us. At first, I thought it might be a baby. But it sounded manly. It sounded pained. The vicar looked over our heads, at the source of the sound, and visibly paled.

Then someone screamed. I turned and saw a man rising out of the crowds. It was an uncle of my soon to be wife’s. He wore a charcoal suit, and had gone a dark shade of purple. He opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the woman in front of him, her beige dress soon stained with her own blood.

In seconds she was convulsing. Her skin tightened and cracked. Her eyes became bloodshot. She had changed before everyone’s eyes.

In that time, the uncle had bitten others. People were scattering, forgetting the wedding and prioritising their right for survival.

I took my wife’s hand and tried to pull her away, but she remained rooted to the spot. I looked at her, confused. She lifted part of her dress, revealing her leg. I gasped. She had been bitten.

“When?”

“When getting ready.” Was all she said.

Her skin was turning a nasty shade of purple. I wanted to vomit. I could hear people calling my name. I could hear them calling her name, too. I didn’t know what was happening, but the girl I loved had died before my eyes.

But she hadn’t fallen. She didn’t lie still in death. She stepped forwards, rather rigidly, and came for me.

I moved out of the way, so she took the next best thing: my best man.

He screamed as he was bitten. I was pulled away from the altar by my dad. Blood stained the stone floor, the decorations falling off walls as people ran by.

The vicar stood where he had stood when he had been about to marry us. My sister was biting into him. He was mid prayer.

I ran up the aisle at the end of the church, joining guests that had been invited. I recognised the odd cousin, an aunty from my childhood.

We burst out of the church, and my world fell apart. The wedding cars were left open, a body on the grass nearby. The photographer was in the middle of turning, into whatever the hell these things were. London was burning all around. It seemed the end had finally come.

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Winter Smith: London’s Burning is available at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

To receive updates about the Winter Smith Series, you might like to check out J. S. Strange’s Website and his Goodreads Author Page or follow him on Twitter

My review of Winter Smith: London’s Burning

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

July’s Guest Storyteller, Allie Potts

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I’m delighted to welcome as my guest storyteller this month, fellow blogger and author Allie Potts.

When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day or chasing after children determined to turn her hair gray before its time, Allie enjoys stories of all kinds. Her favorites are usually accompanied with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand.

Allie is a self-professed science geek and book nerd. Today, she’s going to share a companion story to her novel, The Fair & Foul (Project Gene Assist Book One), which, as the title suggests, is science fiction of the cyberpunk/genetic engineering variety.

The following scene takes place a few weeks after Dr. Juliane Faris and three others have taken part in an experimental procedure granting unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over their bodies, but this same procedure could also very well cost them everything.

FairandFoulFullwebHQ_02

SYSTEM TIMEOUT

Error code 598: The stream is not a tiny stream. Chad snorted, Duh, as he bypassed the message and accessed screens of data. Music selected purely at random blasted through a pair of wireless bone conduction headphones. So in the zone, he hadn’t noticed Dr. Juliane Faris enter the lab until she was standing in front of him. She was always stunning, but when angry she could kill with her looks as easily as her temper. Chad cringed as he buried the thought deep down. His girlfriend, Nadia had a way of picking up what he was thinking and he definitely didn’t want to risk her picking up that particular observation. Although it wasn’t as if she had anything to worry about. Juliane may be his boss, but Nadia was his everything.

Juliane raised one manicured eyebrow. Chad waited. She tapped her ear with one finger. He cocked his head in confusion. As the meaning behind her gesture bloomed across his awareness, he pulled the headphones down. He felt his cheeks blaze, sure the color of his face now matched the color of his hair. “Sorry Dr. Faris.”

She sighed and shook her head. “I still don’t understand why you have so little faith in what we are doing here. If you’d only get the upgrade like the rest of us, you wouldn’t need all these extra . . .” she pointed at the headphones now draped around the base of his neck “. . . antiques.”

“What if something went wrong?”

“During the procedure?” Juliane paused, likely thinking about her own procedure. She, her research partner, Dr. Alan Dronigh, and the company’s acting CEO, Mr. Louis Evans, had all decided to act as guinea pigs one night. Chad fought to keep his hand from shaking. Even the thought of such a spur of the moment activity made him sick to his stomach. “I keep telling you, Betty and I recalculated the dosages. You’ve been pre-screened. The risk is negligible.”

“What about after?”

“After?” Juliane repeated. “It’s been weeks since our upgrade and I’ve never felt better.” Her lips tightened as her brow knit in thought. She’s thinking about Mr. Evans again. Chad’s muscles clenched as he glanced at her face, praying that his expression betrayed none of the pity he felt for his boss. Juliane suffered pity like a cat suffered being drenched in water. An accidental splash too much, and you risked getting your eyes clawed out.

“You aren’t reading the gossip pages again? I thought I’d made my opinion of that garbage perfectly clear.” At first Chad was relieved at the change of subject, but then he looked over to where her gaze fell. He’d left his reader out and he could only guess what headlines would be featured on the front page. He searched her expression for any indication she’d seen more than the magazine’s logo and found nothing but her usual steel determination.

He ran to the desk and scooped up his reader only to stuff it into his backpack with his notebooks and personal belongings. The corner of one of her lips turned up. “Well, if you are in a running mood, would you mind running to get a cup of coffee for me?”

Chad grinned as he bobbed his head and raced out of the room thankful to avoid more questions that were better off without answers.

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Fair & Foul (Project Gene Assist Book One) is available to buy at Amazon

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

May’s Guest Storyteller, Catherine Ryan Howard

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome novelist and blogger Catherine Ryan Howard as this month’s guest storyteller. Throughout May she’s on a blog tour to coincide with publication of her crime thriller Distress Signals, a tantalising extract of which she’s going to share with us today. My intuition tells me that this super-talented author has a long and successful career ahead of her.

ABOUT CATHERINE

Catherine Ryan Howard by City Headshots Dublin

Catherine Ryan Howard by City Headshots Dublin

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.

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After his girlfriend mysteriously disappears from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, Adam Dunne’s every waking thought is dominated by one question: ‘Where is she?’ To get the answer he must fight an industry with dark secrets to hide and outwit a serial killer who’s discovered the perfect hunting ground.

 Extract

I jump before I decide that I’m going to.

Air whistles past my ears as I plummet towards the sea, dark but for the panes of moonlight breaking into shards on its surface. At first I’m moving in slow-motion and the surface seems miles away. Then it’s rushing up to meet me faster than my mind can follow.

A blurry memory elbows its way to the forefront of my thoughts. Something about how hitting a body of water from this height is just like hitting concrete. I try to straighten my legs and grip the back of my thighs, but it’s a moment too late. I hit the water at an angle and every nerve ending on the right side of my body is suddenly ablaze with white-hot pain.

I close my eyes.

When I open them again, I’m underwater.

It’s nowhere near as dark as I expected it to be. Beyond my feet, yes, there is a blackness down deep, but here, just beneath the surface, it’s brighter than it was above.

It’s clear too. I can see no dirt or fish. I twist and turn, but I can see no one else either.

Looking up through the water, the hull of the Celebrate looms to my right, the lights of its open decks twinkling. I have a vague idea where in the rows of identical balconies my cabin is, and I wonder if it’s possible for two people to leave the same spot on such an enormous ship, fall eight storeys and land in completely different places.

It must be because I seem to be alone.

I drift down, towards the darkness. Pressure builds in my chest.

I need to get to the surface so I can take a breath. So I can call out and listen for the sounds of legs and arms splashing, or for someone else calling out to me.

I move to stretch both arms out—

A hot poker burns deep inside my shoulder. The pain makes me gasp, pulling water into my throat.

Now all I want to do is to take a breath. I must take one. I can’t wait any longer.

But the surface is at least ten or twelve feet above me, I think.

I start to kick furiously. My lungs scream.

I’m not a strong swimmer; I go nowhere fast. My efforts just keep me at this depth, neither sinking nor ascending.

The surface gets no closer.

The urge to open my mouth and breathe in is only a flicker away from overwhelming. I start to panic, flailing my left arm and legs.

I lift my face to the light as if oxygen can reach me through the water the same way the moon’s rays can, and that’s when I see a shadow on the surface.

A familiar shape: a lifebuoy.

Someone must have thrown it in.

I wonder what that someone saw.

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ABOUT DISTRESS SIGNALS:

Standalone crime/thriller

Published May 5 by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the UK, June 2 in Australia and New Zealand. Details of North American publication later in 2016 coming soon.

Did she leave, or was she taken?

The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…

Advance praise:

“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver

“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home

Read a preview of the first three chapters here:

https://catherineryanhoward.com/access-your-exclusive-preview/

Amazon.co.uk link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Distress-Signals-Incredibly-Gripping-Psychological/dp/1782398384

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

April’s Guest Storyteller, Cee Tee Jackson

Cee Tee Jackson

Cee Tee (Colin) Jackson is an ex-bank manager turned professional dog walker from Houston, Scotland.

He’s a bit of a short arse, with a short attention span. No surprise then, that his first book, ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee’, at just one hundred and eleven pages, is also a little on the short side.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome Cee Tee as this month’s guest storyteller. Recently, I had the pleasure of reading the book mentioned above, which falls into the category of non-fiction that is at times stranger than fiction! Seriously, I really enjoyed this book, based on his true experiences as a pet professional, and awarded it five stars on Amazon and Goodreads.

Today, Cee Tee is going to regale us with a tale (tails) from his book.

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The Dangers (Extract from ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee.’)

I was with three dogs, all from the same household: Ozzie, a bouncy, athletic and energetic bearded collie cross; Gem, a lovely-natured little Staffordshire bull terrier; and Sam, a rather overweight, but ultra-sociable Cairn terrier whose short, stumpy legs struggle to keep his belly from trailing the ground.

In a country park, high in the hills that overlook Paisley and Glasgow, we were following our regular route. As normal, I checked each field for sheep and cattle before entering. Except, on this occasion the cattle were not apparent from the entrance and were actually ensconced in an obscured dip, around a bend.

The three dogs were off-lead and slightly ahead of me as they charged through the open ground. Well, Ozzie and Gem, at least – Sam was mooching his way around as usual, searching for scraps of discarded picnic food and leaving his scent-mark on just about every raised tuft of grass that he passed.

I knew something was wrong the instant all three stopped what they were doing and stood still. Gem threw me a look from over her shoulder which I loosely translated as:

“We’ve got a problem …”

Confronting us now, and quickly rising to their feet, were about twenty cows. Worse – they each had their young with them.

I returned Gem’s look, hoping she’d interpret it as:

“Keep calm, and walk slowly towards the woods.”

At least in there, I reckoned, the cattle would have no room to charge us, and if we were seen to be walking away from them, hopefully they’d realise we intended no harm to their calves.

The most vociferous of the herd was by now no more than four metres from me. She was snorting and stamping her front hooves on the ground. The others were becoming more animated and vocal as they circled us. I shot a look towards the wooded area, some fifty metres away.

The alarmed baying of the group in front of us had alerted a splinter-herd, who had been resting-up in the shade of the very same woods.

Gem slowly turned her head towards me, a quizzical look on her face. I think she was saying:

“What now, wise-guy?”

‘What now?’ indeed.

Well, Ozzie, being of nimble foot, had already made himself scarce and scarpered towards the bottom end of the field. Gem, ever so trusting, was still awaiting instruction.

Sam, completely unaware of any possible danger, decided he’d like to make friends with the cattle. This was not helping, at all.

A car stopped on the road that bisects the park, and the driver came to the fence around a hundred metres away. From his vantage point, down the slope from where we were cornered, he could see a gap forming in the herd. He shouted to me and pointed to where we should run.

And run we did – Gem close by my side.

It was, as I’d read in magazine articles, ‘every man and dog for themselves,’ as we, the faithful Gem and myself, raced through the break in formation. Sam, however was still dithering around with his new ‘pals.’

“Come on Sam” I hollered. “BISCUITS!”

That did the trick. His little legs were a blur as he tried to catch up, more afraid of missing out on a treat than the danger of being trampled and kicked to death by an irate cow or two.

We quickly reached the sanctuary of the road, where Ozzie was waiting:

“What kept you?” I could imagine him panting.

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Damp Dogs and Rabbit Wee is available to buy (Kindle and Paperback edition) from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

Cee Tee’s links
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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

 

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