Coffee Break Read – Praise from a Child

Breakfast was French toast and bacon, and it was delicious. I found myself sitting next to Ellen, and she engaged me in conversation. Out of politeness at first, but she was much keener to chat when she found out that Stan and Ollie actually belonged to me.
‘How did you get them?’
‘They were a birthday present from my family. My old dog, Vera, died, so my uncle got Stan and Ollie from a friend of his whose dog had just had puppies.’
‘How old were they?’
‘They were nine weeks old when I got them. They were about as big as Sian’s pink teddy bear.’
Ellen’s eyes were round and her cheeks quite pink.
‘How old are they now?’
‘They are two-and-half, so they are still just playful babies sometimes.’
‘Do you mind them playing with us?’
‘No. Of course not.’
She thought for a minute. ‘Benny is yours as well isn’t he?’
‘No love. We don’t own people. Ben and me are married and we love each other, but that don’t mean I own him or he owns me.’
Her smile was as bright as the sunshine. ‘You mean like me and Mummy and Daddy and Sian. We all love each other, but we mustn’t be jealous.’
‘Just like that.’ Ellen regarded me steadily for a minute, before she put out a small hand to pat me on the arm. ‘You are a nice lady’ she said, then applied herself to her breakfast. To my surprise, I found myself blinking back a tear. Praise from a child was something I had never experienced before, and it felt sweet. I caught Ben’s eye across the table and he winked his understanding.
Sian caught the wink. ‘Benny’ she said somewhat severely ‘it isn’t nice to wink at ladies at the breakfast table.’
He grinned unrepentantly. ‘It is when the lady is your wife.’

From Who Put Her In? by Jane Jago

Granny’s Thirty-Second Pearl

Pearls of wisdom from an octogenarian who’s seen it all

Click-Bait News Headlines

Nothing new with this.

I recall the local paper decades ago trying to boost its sales by declaring ‘Rape Up Fifty Percent Countywide’ and then presenting its readers with an analysis of field usage as more farmers were switching to growing oilseed rape.

It gave us all a giggle in those non-PC days.

Today in otherwise quite reliable newspapers or online newsfeeds, I see headlines like ‘Planet-Killing Asteroid heading for Earth’ or ‘Robocop Police Now on the Streets’ then I read them to find that the asteroid is heading towards us but going to miss by the astronomical equivalent of a country mile and the police robot is simply a glorified smart speaker on wheels there to give advice to tourists.

My advice is if a headline sounds like it’s meant to overexcite, ignore it. If the news in it matters you can be sure you will get to hear it very soon anyway and I don’t know about you, but I have have much better things to do with my day than reading non-news dressed up to look like it matters.

Perhaps if we all ignore it they will stop doing it…

Mrs Jago’s Handy Guide to the Meaning Behind Typographical Errors. Part XIX

…. or ‘How To Speak Typo’ by Jane Jago

admaant (adjective) – specifically of politicians – sticking to the party line no matter how immoral, or illogical

buttre (noun) – sheep with large horns

degssting (adjective) – looking as if one has eaten a bee

eggsistentialism (noun) – the belief that we are all lizards and hatched in  secret laboratory

gerryatrick (adjective) – having the appearance of being cocky and unreliable

littke (adjective) – fecking useless at typing

looing (verb) – waiting in line for the ladies’ toilet

migth (noun) – small biting insect found in gyms

nuon (adjective) – naked and very pink

relaly (noun) – pink ice lolly shaped like a penis

octover (noun) – the eighth set of balls in a village cricket match

sexcription (noun) – the writing of financially successful erotica

tusinghem (descriptive noun) – of playing a musical instrument, having more enthusiasm than skill

wueer (noun) – waterfall with very little water coming over it

zume (noun) – online conference where nobody can hear anybody else and at leat three separate toddlers are tantrum-ing in the background 

Disclaimer: all these words are genuine typos defined by Jane Jago. The source of each is withheld to protect the guilty.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Sixty-Three

“If I’d known it was going to end today I’d have done my nails and put on a dress.”

Adam looked at Eve in disbelief. “Today we are going to wink out of existence and all you can think about is now you look.”

“What else is there? There’s only you and me left and I kind of think it would do you honour if I died looking pretty.”

He thought about that one before wrapping her in his arms.

“I reckon you will die like you lived. Looking beautiful.”

They turned to face the dying star hand in hand.

©️jj 2020

Coffee Break Read – The Dragon and Leek

The Dragon and Leek was a small but substantial wayside cupona on a narrow, but well-travelled, road skirting through the foothills of the mountains. It seemed to lack any kind of village and stood, half-hidden by the forest in its deep valley. Here the road tracked the path of a brook which locals considered worthy of being considered a river. Used to the Tamesis, Dai was not convinced.
It was mid-morning as the vigiles piled out of the all-wheeler in the car park which doubled as a stableyard and were met by the worried landlord. Blaen Aderyn was a man who looked past the age of retirement and leaned on a stick to walk, but had a fierce briskness which defied anyone to consider him too old for his role.
Introductions made, Dai sent Bryn and his team with one of the staff to begin the usual investigation preliminaries and let himself be coaxed into the warmth of the lounge area, by Aderyn. A few locals, presumably from the hill farms around, were gathered at one end watching a game of harpastum on a big screen. Now and then the image broke up or the screen blanked, but the small audience didn’t seem to mind. Aderyn found them seats well away from the sports fans. The two of them were served with mugs of honey sweetened mulled wine that Dai only agreed to when assured it was mostly just spices and water – and on the promise a tray would be provided for Bryn’s team as they worked.
“This is a terrible shock to us all, I don’t know how it could be. They were fine when they arrived early evening, ate quietly – the men here and the lady upstairs in her room. It is not anything we have had happen here before and I can’t imagine how it could be. This is so very, deeply disturbing.”
Dai nodded along sympathetically and brought the topic to the point.
“So they came in last night, rooms were pre-booked in the name of,” he checked the entry in the book – handwritten. “Deliciae Parnassa Devotius?”
The man nodded. “Yes. She came all cloaked and hooded. Could barely see her face beneath the fur.” “And her escort were Roman – are you sure?”
“As sure as I can be. They spoke like it and they both wore one of those.” He gestured to the broad silver ring of citizenship on Dai’s index finger. “They ate their food and went up to their room soon after.”
“Did they say or do anything you recall whilst they ate?”
Aderyn frowned and shook his head.
“Not aside what you might expect – the weather, having to travel at Saturnalia – that kind of thing.”
“Anything about their employer?”
“Not a word as I heard. I can ask the staff of course, or you can.”
“Did they talk to anyone else? Any other guests?” “Well, it being Saturnalia and all they were the only guests. Most of our trade comes from those who have business at one of the medical or care facilities on Ynis Mon. Romans don’t like to stay there overnight and we make a good stop-over before they run back to Londinium. But trade has not been so good lately, what with the latest economic downturn and -”
Dai cut across him.
“Did they talk to any locals?”
The old man shook his head again, a worried frown on his face.
“Not that I know. You lot are going to pin it on me though, aren’t you? Just like the last Submagistratus did over the contraband they they found in the cellar of The Fox and Radish. You don’t care who gets the blame long as someone can be tried for it. They took Geddy Haps and had her executed for it within the week. And she was as innocent as they come.” His voice was rising in pitch as he spoke and some heads turned from the game towards them.
“Won’t happen,” Dai said in the brief space when Aderyn paused to draw breath. “The man you speak of is himself disgraced and dead. There will be no miscarriage of justice on my watch. You have my word.”
“The word of a Roman?”
“The word of a Llewellyn – and a citizen.”
The old man reacted to his name, which was not so surprising. The family was very well known throughout Cornovii and beyond.
“A Llewellyn you say? And a citizen? How can that have happened?”
“When this is all dealt with I will happily come back, sit by your welcoming hearth and buy us a jug of your finest ale to share as I tell you the tale of it. But for now I need your honesty – so we can find who did this and what has happened.”

From Dying as a Druid, a Dai and Julia Mystery by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

Granny’s Thirty-First Pearl

Pearls of wisdom from an octogenarian who’s seen it all

Silly Rules

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for health and safety. I lived in a time when if you got your fingers cut off by a machine you were working with because your employer was too much the tight-wad to have proper guards fitted, it was all on you.

But things can go too far.

One of my friends, who can’t get around like she used to, has a carer in most days and they are most obliging and helpful, she tells me.

Except when she asked if one, a strapping young thing in her mid-twenties, would be kind enough to stand on a step ladder and get a meter reading for her.

No.

She hadn’t done the training. She was due to have it next week.

So. My fellow octogenarian, wobbly on her feet, went up the step ladder herself. 

Said carer reported back on the stepladder training. Apparently they were not even allowed to step on a step ladder during it as they hadn’t been trained – health and safety, you know…

Author Feature: Tales from the Pirate’s Cove. Inklings Press

Tales From The Pirate’s Cove is the latest anthology from Inklings Press – and it’s all about pirates. Now you might think that’s all the Jolly Roger flying, people walking the plank, treasure maps and all of that – and there certainly is some of that, but we threw the gates wide open for submissions. As long as it could be understood to be about pirates in some fashion, we considered it. That brought us such a… forgive me for saying it… treasure trove of stories. There’s space pirates, time pirates, cosmic horror pirates and more. There really are some great stories in there – it’s an absolute pleasure to be alongside them. It’s out now, on Amazon.

The beginning of ‘To The End of the World’ by Leo McBride

A tale of cosmic horror and pirates on an island that should not be…

She ran, and I followed.
Up the path she went, laughing as she skipped ahead of me, while I struggled behind with my pack and my sword. On she went as I faltered, around the bend and out of sight. Still, I gave chase, following the sound of her laughter.
She was waiting for me at the top of the hill, standing in a small cemetery with a view out across the sunset ocean. I gasped, partly from the climb, partly from the beauty before me.
“It’s wasted on the dead, isn’t it, Ben?” she said, folding her arms as she watched me approaching.
I shrugged. “Everything is wasted on the dead, Kate.”
I tossed my pack to the side by the entrance to the cemetery as I entered. High above somewhere, a raven cawed.
“I thought you were never going to catch up,” she said, a smile on her lips and fire in her eyes as I approached.
“You always did run further and faster than me,” I growled.
She laughed. “That or you’re just getting out of shape. Too much rum, Ben?”
“Is there such a thing as too much rum?” I asked as I reached her and scooped her into my arms. We kissed roughly there in the sunset.
She broke the kiss, her fingers pulling at the ties on my shirt. “Still, you followed me, Ben.”
“I always will,” I said.
“Always?” she asked as she pulled off the shirt.
“Always.” I kissed her again, my fingers in the dark curls of her hair.
“Until the end of the world?”
I smiled at her, at the wild look in her eyes. She broke away, peeling off her own shirt. Her skin glowed in the evening sun.
“Aye,” I said, “until the end of the world.”
And she pulled me down, down beside the dead, down into her embrace, sealing a deal I didn’t know I was making.

A Bite of… Leo McBride

Q1: Facing your demons? How much of what you write could be classed as therapy?

You know, there’s probably a chunk of truth in this. I’ve always used writing and fiction as escapism. As a kid, it was roleplaying games that got me away from a world that wasn’t always that nice to be in. I’d still be playing those if there was a local group! Writing was part of that too, an outgrowth of writing for scenarios for friends. These days it’s probably less about therapy really but certainly it is an outlet for that escapism and creativity all at once. Plus it’s darn fun.

Q2: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?

I’m going to fudge a little on this question by saying yes and, um, maybe? Look, the world has all shades of belief and sexual orientation so if you want your book to be representative of the world, then yes, you want to include it. But if you’re going to do it, make sure you do it right. I’d say worse than exclusion is inclusion but getting the details wrong, that’s misrepresenting those communities. As for the maybe, well, sometimes a book isn’t about the world as it is, and there might be very specific reasons not to include certain aspects of that world in the story. Always worth asking the question, though – why are you picking certain beliefs, orientations, nationalities, cultures and so on and not others, what is it that shapes those choices? It can make a big difference – look for example at the kinds of cultures in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series that consciously moved things away from the very white European kind of fantasy of its day. As ever, it’s all about what choices the author feels suits their book, but asking yourself why you’re making those choices can challenge you to make the book better.

Q3. Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?

Well… I kill everyone in my books so survival chances are better in this one! Plus there’s more rum and beaches nearby here.

Leo McBride is a writer of speculative fiction – spanning the fields of horror, science fiction and fantasy. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is based in The Bahamas where he is an editor for the country’s leading newspaper.
He has published several ebooks – although Quartet is the first of his own writing. He has also been published in other anthologies from Inklings Press.
You can find out more about his work on his blog, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.




Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Sixty-Two

“But Mum. Teacher says the dead can rise.”

“No hon, he said given a very specific set of circumstances they could possibly leave their graves…”

Mum looked sternly at the twins.

“He also said the risen dead would last less than a breath out of their earthy beds.”

“So there’s nothing to worry about?”

“Not a thing.”

“And all that stuff about rocks having consciousness?”

Mum stopped the car and rotated her head to look into the back seat.

“Well we know that’s bollocks, don’t we.”

As one child the twins nodded.

“So they haven’t rumbled us then?”

Mum laughed.

©️jj 2020

Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 24

‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

After everyone had gone, Em picked up the phone and called the young man who had so enjoyed the batshit madness of the vicar. The phone was picked up at once, but she found herself speaking to a young woman with an attitude problem.
“I don’t know where you got this number, madam, but Tristram is far too busy to be bothered with random callers.”
“I got the number because he gave me his card. Now just be a good girl and put him on the line.”
“I can’t do that. Tristram only takes calls between eleven and midday.”
Em sighed. “He told me to call at any time. I do a rather nice line in batshit crazy vicars.”
“Oh are you Mrs Van der Velt?”
“No. I’m Emmeline Vanderbilt.”
This took a bit of processing but eventually got Em passed to the man himself.
“Sorry for the delay.” He apologised perfunctorily. “What can I do for you?”
“You can answer a question to start with.”
“Fire away.”
“Is Ronald Dump newsworthy?”
“Depends what he is doing. Opening another of his dreadful leisure facilities is nasty but not news.”
“I’m rather hoping for not opening and consequently losing his shit in public.”
“For even a chance of that happening I’ll have a camera crew wherever whenever.”
“Right. So can you have the dim bird, who I assume must be pulchritudinous in the extreme to keep her job, put me straight through when I call because there may not be too much notice.”
His laughter sounded genuinely amused. “Pulchritudinous isn’t a word one normally hears used in conversation around here. Although it perfectly describes Amanda.”
He stopped speaking and Em could hear scrabbling in the background.
“Sorry,” this time he even sounded it. “There’s no good trying to get anything as revolutionary as putting someone straight through into Amanda’s head. You can text this number and I’ll get right back to you.” He reeled off a string of figures and Em wrote them down.
“Okay. I’ll call you if I can make this happen.”
“I look forward to that call. And. Mrs Vanderbilt. Good hunting.”
Em put the phone down, thinking how the idea of discomfiting Dump seemed to be able to bring together the most diverse of people – the unprincipled and deeply selfish Tristram, and Ginny, the newest and most PC of vampires, being a case in point. Whatever. There was no time for wool gathering – she had a tenants association to sort and an unprincipled lawyer to contact.
By the time she was done, Agnes’ army of granddaughters and great-nieces had mined the seam of council paperwork to some effect. The email was long, rambling and informative. There was indeed a planning application on the books. It postulated an eighteen-hole golf course, a boutique hotel, a restaurant, a range of holiday homes, and a range of shops. Access was, of course, to involve the demolition of the housing association properties.
None of that surprised Em. What was surprising, though, was that the applicant (and the owner of the land) was quoted as being DumpCorp.
“Got you you bastard.”
Em’s smile, could she but have seen it, was a feral thing. She called Agnes.
“You still got a girl in the Land Registry?”
“My great-great niece, Morwenna.”
“Right. I need to know two things. Has Harmful Gums actually sold his land to DumpCorp? Also has the housing association done, or tried to do, anything with the land the estate sits on?”
Em could almost hear Agnes thinking. “Okay. Can do. But I may not be able to get hold of her until tomorrow. What has just come in. From Jamelia. Is a full copy of the agreement the tenants have with the housing association.”
“Good. That was what Ishmael wanted.”
“Em! You have never called in Ishmael.”
“Why not? He’s a very good lawyer and just as slippery as anybody they might have.”
“But Ishmael is a demon.”
“So are most of the legal profession.”
Agnes sighed and Em could picture her throwing up her hands in despair. “Okay. Have it your own way. But who is paying him? As if I didn’t already know.”
Em put the phone down and made herself a cup of blood tea. When she got back, Agnes was still talking. Erasmus stood beside the phone with his face arranged as close to a smile as a bat can get.
He spoke in Em’s head. “Nothing new. Except that she wonders how DumpCorp expected to get away with downright illegality.”
“Me too.”
“In a moment I will tell you. For now, finish your conversation with Agnes.”
Placating Agnes took a good ten minutes and left Em feeling worn and scratchy. She had also committed to an emergency Nest meet the following day to discuss the problem and to introduce their new sister.
“Why do I listen to her, Erasmus? I mean she wears plastic clogs and loud floral printed smocks. Her idea of tasteful is chintz and shag pile. And she eats takeaway burgers…”
Erasmus actually chuckled. “You listen to her, Emmeline, because she is your oldest friend and she has always had your back no matter what. But now. Do you want to hear what the vespertilian community knows about DumpCorp?”
“I’m all ears.”
He sighed. “That is a singularly inept piece of human phraseology. But I digress. DumpCorp expects to get away with overt law breaking for a number of reasons. One. It always has. Two. It effectively owns two High Court judges and a Law Lord. Three. It will have its fall guys lined up. Probably Harmsley-Gunn, the chair of the county council, and your local MP.”
Em sat down with a bump. “That’s masterly Erasmus. Do they have us beat then?”
“No. Not with the supernatural community against them. This time I reckon the corporation has bitten off more than it can chew.”

Part 25 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

Blazing

There never was a better time
Nor yet a better place
To make your play, up your game
And thus win every race
Today is always here, but look
Tomorrow comes apace
You need to make your mark right now
Or vanish with no trace.

You can’t procrastinate too long
Time will catch you lazing
Posterity won’t hang around
You’ve got to be amazing
You have to stand out from the crowd
No time to sit a gazing
You’ll be forgot unless the world
Follows the trail you’re blazing.

So then your comet brightly flares
But when it’s course is run
You can’t sit back, relax and chill
Or take time to have fun
You have to keep on pumping up
Keep on, keeping on
Or someone else will steal your place
And your day will be done.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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