Author Feature: ‘Austin Wyrd’ by Steve Curry

An extract from a new urban fantasy Austin Wyrd Book One of Valhalla AWOL and the first novel from Steve Curry.

 “Ok that’s pretty plain. Honestly I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything like it. Not that I doubt you Doc, but are you sure it was a straight line spelling my name? That hardly seems likely.”
“I tell you lad” Surprisingly he’d stayed away from a lecturing tone so far. “I was as skeptical and shocked as you. Spit a currant clear across the room. I dare say boy; let that be a lesson to you about reading of the runes while breaking your fast. There were oats and red currants all over the table. Of course, I couldn’t leave it at that and did a second casting. That’s the one that came up with death and waves of red.”
With the coffee brewing, we sat and discussed the exact orientation and location of each of the runes in his spread. That discussion was interrupted once when I realized that Grimmrr was dozing on the bed again. I swear it’s his bed more than mine. And a second realization was that the damned fox was gone. “Doc where’d the damned fox go? He’s not in there trying to eat my bird again?”
I was already at the doorway peering in to see Rafe stalking one of the grasshoppers when the professor answered. “What fox?” 
That’s one of his games I hate. I’ve seen that fox dozens of times, always with the professor, and he has never once admitted that it exists. 
“Besides he only grabbed one flight feather. Rafe is already flying again. No harm done.” Consistency was never part of conversations about the fox. I had no doubt that if I tried to follow up the inconsistency of a nonexistent fox only taking one feather, Eachan would once more reply with “what fox?”
Enough is enough. I shook my head and grabbed a couple of thick stone mugs. Filling each with the rich aromatic coffee, I placed one in front of the professor and sat down with my own. Brown sugar and a smaller pitcher of heavy cream were already on the table along with some scones the prof had brought along. That occasioned a lengthy and pleasant lull in conversation as the scones and red-brown coffee with cream required a certain level of commitment and concentration. It left me just enough free will to divert my thoughts to the runic revelations as well as Eachan’s restraint in questioning me.
Eachan knows I have a strange and shadowed history. He’s always had the courtesy not to press me too much about it though. Perhaps his old-world manners come from being a modern pagan and educator. The curiosity probably ate at him on a minute by minute basis. Would it have surprised me to find out he’d been delving into my past with his runes? Not particularly. Would it have upset me? Again, not particularly. However, it might have surprised me if he’d uncovered anything too deeply hidden.
I’m no slouch with those same runes. That’s possibly what had drawn us into our odd little friendship. We’d bumped into each other at a coffee shop and he had noticed and remarked on a bit of runic work in one of my earrings. Normally I’m better about concealing runes, tattoos, symbols and identifying marks you know? I guess Verdandi or one of the other two Norns had given me a little nudge. I mean, I doubt I’m completely hidden from those three. All seeing goddesses of destiny are hellaciously hard to hide from. Norns have an unfair advantage just like ancestral watchers called Disir or a couple of Ravens I don’t even want to think about much less name and a similar pair of wolves. The only reason I don’t worry about the Big Eye-patch in the sky is I’m probably not really worth his time.

A Bite of… Steve Curry

Q1: If you could take your main character out for a drink where would you go and what would you most want to talk about? 

That is a very good question indeed. I had to stop and actively consider. You would think it would be easy. Magnus is top “Security” guy and assistant manager at a heavy metal and Goth themed bar in Austin Texas. Helstyxx would seem to be the instant choice. However the bar seems to be a magnet for trouble so we’ll skip that for a conversation. I considered a few cups of coffee and the mega-breakfast deal at Waffle-shack, (a chain comprising of perhaps three locations thus far and all of them are somewhere in my head.) But finally, Magnus, in my current WIP, is in the “Big Easy”. Perhaps, if he extricates himself and everyone important from whatever havok is about to occur we can go to a zydeco dive and enjoy the obligatory buy-one-get-three buckets of beer, Abita Amber would be the logical choice. Once there we’d have to talk about Runes, and what it might take to get Freja or maybe Asa Thor to intervene and get a skaldorly inclined fellow into one of their domains rather than the primal machismo of Valhalla or the plain boredom of Hel.


Q2: What were the high and low points of writing your first book? 

We’ll start with the low point. I never had any confidence in writing. My wife pushed me at it for a couple of decades after various RPG games and sessions but I was highly resistant. Once I started writing during downtime at a regular job, well it took me two years to knock this book out. Another year of dithering about it, and perhaps most of a fourth year to finally pull the trigger on this puppy. The high point? Pulling that trigger and sending messages to a bunch of friends and family with the Zon page and pre-order status. Not for sales, but more of a “Hey! Look what I finally did!”

Q3: If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Right now my hometown in Lubbock, TX is top of the list. My mother is ageing, my kids are grown and starting their own families, and my first granddaughter is about to start kindergarten. I wouldn’t miss these years for the world. After that though? I’ve travelled a ton and my wife still thinks about it. A nomad life would fit either of us, if it weren’t for a mongol sized horde of cats and a couple of oversized and worthless hounds. To settle someplace else? We both loved the energy in Sedona AZ, or Taos New Mexico and I personally fell in love with the people, the geography and  much more in Utah. 

Steve Curry is a fledgeling author just beginning to use a spread of experiences and careers. His current forays into writing are Urban Fantasy infused with Culinary tidbits from a decade as a Le Cordon Bleu chef. Military weapons and protocols plus realistic medical and physical descriptions abound from his work with Uncle Sam’s Army NBC branch and time as a Licensed Respiratory Therapist in ICUs across the nation. Toss in lots of mythology, new age religion, supernatural goodness and real world history along with a soupcon of Jim Butcher’s humor, and a few pinches of Robert Parker’s character building traits to see how he’ll entertain you.
He currently resides in West Texas under the management of a yellow hound dog with claims on most of a large bed. Others in the hierarchy are an imperial princess and rainbow unicorn riding granddaughter, his wife, the imperial queen and mistress of eyerolls, and an uncountable horde of invading mongrel cats. You can find him on Facebook and his own website.




Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Seventy-One

The child was born dead, and it was as if the ice of that winter settled into her heart. 

Her husband watched her slipping away with hopeless eyes and a heart that feared she would never make the spring.

But she did, barely, walking through the new growth like a wraith. 

The garden drew her, and as the flowers put up their shoots and the trees began to wear a haze of green she forced herself to face the hurtful truth. 

The tender violets were lifting their faces to the sky on the first day she allowed herself to cry.

©jj 2019

Sunday Serial – Dying to be Roman XI

Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook is a whodunit set in a modern day Britain where the Roman Empire still rules. If you missed previous episodes you can start reading from the beginning. You can listen to this on YouTube.

It had got dark and by the time Dai had picked up Bryn it was well past time for the evening meal.
“Don’t worry, Bard, we’ll grab some chips and garum when we’ve done this,” Bryn said cheerfully. “So this woman is a real patrician and she was married to one of the sleaziest of sleazebag bad-boy Romans you could ever come across? You have to wonder how that could happen. I thought them families had all kinds of laws that said unless the entire gens agreed, three augurs all peed purple piss on the kalends and the lares farted ‘Salve Oh Divine Augustus’ in harmony, the marriage wasn’t valid?”
Dai grinned. After the day he had just been through it was good to have Bryn’s caustic humour.
“Something like that,” he agreed. “But maybe our friend Rufus just bribed, conned or blackmailed them all.”
“Poor bloody bitch, if so. Would mean she’d been sold off to a wrong ‘un, a real bad boy.”
This apartment block was almost the twin of the one Dai had visited with Julia earlier that day. The same placid exterior, the same mosaic floors with the same designs. It was like having a bad repeating dream. Except this time there was no corpse to welcome them at the door.  Instead, there was a slightly sleepy looking, extremely beautiful girl. She had light brown hair piled up in a very fashionable style, and the most exquisite blue eyes which were set off by the lapis jewellery she was wearing. Dai regretted that so far they could only see her face on the screen by the door.
“Vigiles?” She barely glanced at the ID Dai offered and did not even ask their names. Dai had the feeling this was something of a routine event in her life. “What’s Roo-Roo done now?”
“Can we come in please, domina?” Dai asked politely. “This is something we need to talk about in person.”
“Well, you could,” she said smiling and then put a ripe strawberry in her mouth and licked the juice off her fingers.
“Uh, thank you,” Dai said, a little uncertain when the door remained closed. The face on the small screen smiled at him.
“You could,” she repeated, “but Roo-Roo would kill me if I had any men in the house when he was away.” She looked very serious.
“This is a very important matter concerning Roo-Roo – concerning your husband, domina. Please let me in, or if you insist I can send for a female vigiles to speak with you?”
Her expression changed and she screwed up her nose as if the very idea disgusted her. It seemed an extreme reaction.
“I’d better hope Roo-Roo doesn’t come home whilst you are here then.”

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook 

My Face

My face in the cold light of morning looks
Creased and deeply bemused
Like the crumpled leaves of a very old book
A novel that’s been harshly used
Like a discarded paper bag
Or an unwanted Christmas gift
The years have caused the skin to sag
But the fear of the needle precludes a lift
My chins in the morning number
Three and sometimes four
As into the bathroom I lumber
And lean against the hard door
Refusing to look at my reflection 
I step into the shower
Where the comfort of steam and recollection 
Gets me through this hour
I know how my face in the morning appears
But not for the rest of the day 
I have been practising all of these years
Just keeping my eyes turned away

©️jj 2019

Dying to be Innocent is out Today!

Out today, Dying to be Innocent is the ninth Dai and Julia Mystery from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook. You can listen to this on YouTube.

Idibus Augustus MDCCLXXIX Anno Diocletiani

Julia Llewellyn was on her way home from the Asclepieion on Ynys Mon at last. She had been there, or thereabouts, for most of the last two months and hard as it was, she pushed down the turmoil of emotions which revolved in her stomach every time she thought about that and focused hard on the future.
 Firstly, she had endured a very difficult pregnancy from mid-term on, requiring extensive bedrest and the inevitable boredom and frustration that had meant. Despite all that, her son, Rhodri, had still been born six weeks early needing to be hailed off to an incubator. Then he was discovered to have a hole in his diaphragm requiring immediate surgery. Several sleepless nights followed with herself and her husband keeping watch over his tiny form, before he was declared on the mend. And then Julia had to wait for him to grow big enough to leave his incubator and come home…
She was glad for more than the obvious reasons. Her husband, Dai Llewellyn was a Submagistratus for the region of Demetae and Cornovii and she knew he was keeping something from her, holding back to protect her, as he would think. It was hard to pin him down in his brief visits, once home she was sure she would get to do so.
At last the great day had come and she was seated decorously in the back of a burly all-wheel being piloted by her friend and bodyguard, Edbert. If she had been an expecting sort of a woman, she would have expected Dai to be sitting beside her.  But he was conspicuous by his absence. She sighed a tiny sigh and kissed the downy head that rested on her breast.
“Not his fault.” Edbert’s unfeasibly deep voice broke gently into her reverie.
“What’s not who’s fault?” Julia kept her voice even for fear of waking Rhodri.
Edbert laughed softly. “It’s not Dai’s fault that he isn’t sitting beside you, you cross-grained little person.”
Julia found herself relaxing. “Catch a hot case did he?”
“Nope. Having refused to see or speak to Dai, or either of his Senior Investigators – Bryn or Gallus – for the best part of a month, Magistratus Sextus Catus Bestia called a meeting for this morning. Messaged just before we were setting out to fetch you.” His voice dripped sarcasm. “If I didn’t know better I’d think it was timed to cause maximum inconvenience.”
Julia sighed again. “He is such a petty man. I keep hoping things will improve. But it’s not likely.”
“Isn’t. And his attitude to ‘servants’ is beyond despicable.”
Julia held the baby carefully as she leaned forward and put her hand on his shoulder. 
“Bestia really is a piece of work, isn’t he? But he is just petty and that can’t hurt us.”
“I wouldn’t place any bets on that.”
“Me neither, honestly. But I can’t afford to think like that.”
“No. Nor you can. My bad. How is the little one standing up to the journey?”
“He’s fine. Had his prandium before we set out. Sleeping now. The medica said something to me just before you rolled up that was very comfortable. ‘Rhodri Ddu is a fighter and as tough as they come’. She says not to treat him any different to any other baby now. He’s all healed and a hundred percent fit.” One tear escaped and ran down her cheek, but it was a tear of thankfulness not sorrow. Her precious baby was well and could take his place in the nursery where he and his sister Aelwen would be in the care of the nursery maid Luned, who was as brave as a lioness and as tender as the touch of silk. All things considered, Julia thought today was a good day, even if the pinpricks from Dai’s boss were getting sharper and less disguised. She wondered if they were what was behind her beloved’s withdrawn mood.
The rest of the ride home passed in silence, save for Rhodri’s tiny snore. 
Just before they were due to turn onto the private road to the Villa Papaverus, Edbert stopped the car and screwed around in his seat to look at Julia with deep wisdom in his winter grey eyes. 
“A word of warning. There’s about half a hundred people waiting to greet you. If I was you I’d wait in the all-wheel and hand the little one off to Luned before you get out. What with dogs and in-laws, and that madwoman Domina Lavinia, it would be easy for you to take a tumble. Luned and me put our heads together and she has found a big old high-wheel baby carriage so everybody can see young Rhodri without crowding.”
For a moment, Julia didn’t know what to say and she felt her throat constricting. Edbert smiled and touched her cheek with the back of one huge hand.
“All a bit overwhelming ain’t it?”
“It is. And thank you my friend.” 
“Always got your back small stuff.”
“Always got yours, you big ape.”
With the shoals of emotion successfully navigated Edbert started the engine again.

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

You can keep reading by clicking here to snag a copy of Dying to be Innocent!

Glossary of Latin and Other Terms
Please note these are not always accurate translations, they are how these terms are used in Dai and Julia’s world.
Asclepieion – healing spa, hospital
Demetae and Cornovii – Wales and several English Midland counties including Shropshire
Ddu – dark, as in hair and/or skin
Domin-a/us – Ma’am/Sir. Used to superiors both in rank and social status
Magistratus – senior official with legal jurisdiction over an area
Medic-a/us – doctor
Prandium – brunch or lunch
Submagistratus – a more junior official with legal jurisdiction over an area, under the authority of a Magistratus
Villa Papaverus – Poppy House. Dai and Julia’s residence.
Ynys Mon –  or the Isle of Anglesey

Through My Window

If I look through my window
I can see the world outside
Where children play and workers work
And lovers love and chide.
A world where trees have leaves of green
And sky has clouds of white,
A world whose day is lit by sun
And then by moon at night.
A world I see behind the glass
A world that seems so true
A world that once belonged to me
But now belongs to you.

And if you hear me speaking
Of the times that were before
Of ‘yesteryear’, the ‘good old days’
And even ‘days of yore’,
Then please don’t you remind me
That those times have long since fled.
To me, they are as much today
As in that history book you read.
The sands of time have drifted by
And drifted right past me,
So much has changed, but I’m the same
Beneath the skin you see.

So when I get to sit outside,
My moment in the sun,
You’ll understand if I don’t stand
That I can’t walk or run.
I used to storm the barricades
Then dance until the dawn,
I let my lips be kissed so much
But left them all lovelorn.
I love the world with all my heart
My world, when it was new,
A world that once belonged to me
But now belongs to you.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV reviews ‘1984’ by George Orwell

You can listen to this on YouTube.

I come across books to review in a variety of ways. Some cross my path, I find them in the hallway where Mumsie has dropped them after imbibing one too many. Some impact me deeply, like those that she has hurled at me in one of her moods. Some I trip over, usually on my way to bed where it has been left prominently placed by my parent in the hope I might read it. A few,  however are recommended to me by Adoring Fans.

1984 was one such. I shall not name and shame the one who suggested it was suitable reading material, but it is enough to say I have struck their name from my list of those who I shall be sending signed copies of my next book.

So to the review.

A rather boring office worker has a love affair disapproved of by the authorities. The lovers think they are keeping it secret but it turns out they are not. They are punished for having the love affair by being put in prison and having to endure endless boring lectures. Then they are released. The end.

This book seemed determined to play on the popularity of a couple of television series I have had the misfortune to watch ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Room 101’. I am surprised the author could get away with such blatant plagiarism. The title puzzled me too. Why 1984? Why not 2013? That would have sounded much more sinister.

I failed to find much in this book to merit further comment.

One star for effort.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Seventy

He wanted her to call him ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’ and to kneel for punishment. She was bored with the game, but in the end it was easier to please him than argue.

She settled to her knees with a straight back and her hands held loosely palm upwards on her thighs. Although she kept her eyes downcast she knew he would be smiling foolishly, even as he reached for the instruments.

Nothing happened for some time and her concentration drifted.

When he screamed she stood up quietly and left the room.

Sometimes electrical flex can be connected to the mains…

 ©jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – The Pirates of Sector 85

A flash fiction by Jane Jago. You can listen to this on YouTube.

If they hadn’t abandoned us none of this would have happened. But they did. Right on the edge of Sector Eight Five, a couple of parsecs from home planet and within spitting distance of the asteroid they had mined dry. They patched up the best of the ships and went  home. Leaving us in a junker that was sort of halfway orbiting a lumpy looking planetoid whose ‘seas’ boiled and whose atmosphere was more or less pure ammonia.
None of us is quite sure how long the miners had been gone when we awoke, and it didn’t matter anyway. What did matter was the increasing randomness of our orbit pattern and how close we were coming to a lump of rock whose prime aim seemed to be to kill us by melting our ship with its poisonous atmosphere.
We got to work, jury rigging and making do until we could fire up the engines and hope. Luck, or the deity that cares for the abandoned, was on our side that day and the ugly old cruiser fought its way out of the gravitational pull of Planet Hungry. Once in the relative calm of space proper we made a few more repairs and limped towards where the miners had built their station in the hope there would be more abandoned machinery we could cannibalise.
As we made our painful way towards the space station it came to us that we were actually free. For the first time in our existence we were beholden to nobody but ourselves. It was a heady feeling. One battle-scarred veteran summed it up for all of us.
“From this day forward, we serve none but ourselves.”
The sorts of agreement all but burst the frail skin of our limping ship. We came from behind the dark side of the asteroid that anchored the space station. To our chagrin somebody was there before us. There was a sleek-looking battle cruiser, with planet markings none of us had seen before, guarding two scavenger craft that were systematically plundering the station for metals and components. 
Our senior chuckled. “Lambs to the slaughter. Get us alongside the battle cruiser, pilot.”
Almost without thinking, our pilot cut the engines allowing the junker to drift towards the scurrying activity. She was so rusty and misshapen that nobody thought her any more than a random piece of space trash. Pilot carefully tinkered with our trajectory so the crippled ship bumped gently against the hull of the gleaming battle cruiser. Second officer immediately magnetised the hull so we stuck to the quarry like some misbegotten brat at the breast of a beautiful woman. Nobody needed to be told to be silent. We sat, unmoving and unspeaking, awaiting developments. We didn’t have long to wait. Something metallic banged against the battered outer skin of our junker.
We picked up the comms wavelength with ease to hear a harshly unaccented voice speaking Basic. “Ensign Kronk reporting sirs. It’s just a lump of trash. Stuck because it’s magenetic. No life signs. Will I try to lever it off? No? Very well.”
We communed silently, and a plan of action grew from our communion. It was beautiful, and as simple as it would be devastating to the occupants of the battle cruiser. 
Artisan 3 hefted the high-powered laser and headed for the bent doors of the forward air lock. 
Sadly for Ensign Kronk, who was floating at his ease above the junker, a laser is as devastating when used against living flesh as it is at cutting metal. Even as the portions of flesh floated aimlessly about the cruiser, 3 attacked the hull with the high-intensity beam cutting a huge and ragged hole in the sleek duralumin and through the vacuum wall to the interior of the ship. As luck would have it, the breach in the hull was right in line with the command deck, as the oxygen rich air rushed out we bullied our way in.
There was no need for killing. All we had to do was open all hatches and wait for oxygen deprivation to do the rest. It didn’t take long.
When we had shoved the last limp body out into the cold of space, the engineers among us began the business of repairing the cruiser. The rest of us made double sure we had left none of the original crew aboard. 
Two turns later, our beautiful cruiser nudged her way out of the gravitational field and turned her smooth flanks towards the more populous areas of the Sector.
The Pirates of Sector 85 were on the hunt. And, being a force of robots, computers, and android engineers, we had the advantage of needing no oxygen to exist.

©jane jago 2019

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