Coffee Break Read – Breaking

“Man up,” I said briskly. “We need to know all you know about your little friend.” I threw him a wad of paper tissues and waited for him to get his stuff together.
“I met him about six months ago. At a wine tasting in the Napa Valley. He was the only other person there who didn’t talk like he had a stick up his ass. We had dinner.” Weaver’s voice was thready but he had himself in hand. “Wasn’t until we had met up a few times that I even found out he worked for Blue Ess. He’s only ever been here once other than today. That time we went to the guest house over by the western border of the property, so he has never been in the main house.”
“He ever ask you any stuff about the boss?”
“No. Never. We never talked about his work. Or mine.”
“Any other way he could’ve gotten info from you? Codes or the like?” Cyrus was less tactful than I maybe would have been but the question had to be asked.
Weaver shook his head. “No. I carry my codes in my head. And I don’t see how he could have got them from there.”
Cyrus grunted. “So why’d he pick you up then. Or was it just coincidence?”
Weaver looked truly miserable. “I don’t see how it can have been. I’m not a great believer in coincidence.”
I was thinking as hard as I had in a very long time.
“Lab,” I said curtly, “and we need to be quick.”
Cyrus fairly sprinted. Weaver was half a pace behind. And I kept pace as best as I could. Both men seemed to have caught my urgency as they had me in the computer lab with the doors locked behind us quicker than I would have thought possible. I went to a familiar tool chest and, swallowing a burst of nausea as I worried about the good, kind man in whose house I stood, I grabbed a handful of items.
“Weaver. Gimme your phone. Now.”
He was too surprised to do anything but accede, handing over a brand-new Galaxy. I opened the back and he paled.
“Don’t be a wuss Weaver,” Cyrus growled at him. “If she effs your phone up, I’ll buy you a new one.”
I showed them my teeth. “If I do break it, I’ll buy you a new one. Now shut up and let me work.”

An extract from ‘Vicious Reality’ a short story featuring Alysson Kowalski from Jane Jago’s novel Jackdaw Court. You can find it in Challenge Accepted an anthology of speculative fiction focusing on people with disabilities rising to the challenge. 

Granny’s Eighth Pearl

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

Excessive Gentility

Ladies of a certain age/type get right on my norks. You know the ones I mean, those whose sneezes sound like a tiny cricket chirping, and who would die of embarrassment if they farted alone in an empty room.

I know I scare the snot out of these mimsy little ladies and doing so is a source of constant delight.

If you don’t believe what fun it can be, sneak up behind a maiden lady in a queue and announce that your arse itches.

Cruel. But deserved for every uncharitable thought she will have hidden behind her lace hanky…

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

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

almunus (adjective) – deeply fond of charity shops and dime stores

amborsal (adverb) – of sleeping – making noises like a bathtub emptying

bearst (adjective) – of ursine appearance

chacater (noun) – small marsupial of the genus ventus conputrueruntus best known for the pungence of its farts

catcomba (noun) – feline trichologist 

dinga (noun) – one who hits first and asks questions after

ephelant (noun) – elderly woman with very wrinkled skin

fiender (noun) – particularly inept ghost hunter 

gnnat (adverb) – of speech – gruff and without charm

krean (adjective) – of women airheaded, entitled and unable to spell

lunimous (adjective) – pale, dull and vaguely unsatisfactory

mitger (noun) – very stingy person

psrson (noun) – priest with bad skin

ragrine (noun) – complex dance form practiced by thin men in leotards

revtim (noun) – me time for catholic priests

streuggle (noun) – apple cake with the addition of egg noodles (for no apparent reason)

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 Fifty-Three

Enticknapp was sitting among the cabbages considering his options. He knew he had been a bad puppy and he rather thought a spanking might be on the cards. 

Maybe he should just run away.

But if he ran away he would never see the small human again, and he loved her.

He cried a puppy tear and crept out of the cabbage patch to face his punishment.

Boss man spied him and bent to pick him up with gentle hands.

“Never mind, puppy,” he said. “It was my fault. I didn’t let you out when you woke up.”

Enticknapp smiled.

©️jj 2020

Coffee Break Read – Aspirational Living

If ever he could afford to buy a proper house in Central, Grim reflected, this would be the kind of place he would most want to live. It was not one of the elite suburbs. Those incredible places where you had a neat patchwork of huge mansions set in massive gardens and anything that was not automated was dealt with by discreet servants all with the same universal smile and self-effacing manner. He had been in such places on occasion in the course of his investigations. They always made him feel like a mangy stray walking in on the life of pampered lapdogs. It was not the kind of lifestyle he could ever imagine himself having or even wanting to have.
But this was a bit more real.
More his scale of aspirational.
The houses were all large, but not so big you needed more than normal amounts of automation to live comfortably in them. The gates were low enough to see over and he liked that on the other side of the narrow roadway was what looked like a public park. The road was designed to be just wide enough for PTVs or delivery drones to land. These were more like real homes and less status-symbol fortresses.
Like everywhere else in Central, transport was discreet, automated and instantly available on request. But he landed the PTV at the end of the roadway so he could walk up. He wanted to do some thinking and get a feel for the locality.

Much as he admired it, this was a very different environment from any he had ever lived in. He could only wonder what it must be like to feel belonging in this sort of place. The sense of security and even entitlement that it must bestow. But maybe that was ungenerous. There were some people here who took a very active role in trying to right some of the wrongs in broader society. People like the mother of the person he was here to visit. But the majority, he suspected, took all this tranquillity, security and beauty for granted and never questioned it.
The metropolis was called Sungold and this suburb was Fairweather. It did indeed seem to have the advantage of a wonderful, sunny, climate. He suspected the weather was controlled, with the necessary rain only being permitted to fall in the sleeping hours so as not to disturb the perfect lives of the local inhabitants.
It was just a bit different from the place he called home. That was a two room, eightieth-floor apartment that he shared with Mabs, in one of the recently built sprawling townships on a ‘new’ Central world. New because it was not one of the first settled Central planets, but one close enough to be drawn in a few generations later and made to serve as a kind of holding bay and access gate for those unable to afford a more traditional Central lifestyle. The kind of traditional Central lifestyle these beautiful houses in Fairweather, Sungold typified.
Grim stopped by the house he had come to find. It looked little different to any of the others. Each might have its own unique addition and styling to distinguish it very slightly from the neighbours, but they were all enough of a type for their uniformity to be visible even through the remodelling and the repainting of the facades. Lovely as they were, they were all still mass produced by construction gantries, to the same key design from identical materials. It was just a few whistles and bells and a bit of cosmetic tinkering that made one any different from another.
This particular one was styled in simple, classic stone with rimmed pillars by the door and supporting the small porch. There was even a privately owned PTV parked up under the protection of a pillared canopy beside the house. A mark of wealth and status in a place where the norm was to link for an auto-ride.
He tried the gate and wasn’t surprised when it didn’t open. It was low enough that he could have vaulted over it easily, but that would have been a bit intrusive so, instead, he used the link-point on the gate post.
“Can I help you?” A polite, cultured, Central accent replied almost at once. Grim smiled to show he was pretty harmless. She could see him even if he could not see her.
“Sorry to disturb you, I was wanting to speak with Var Sweetling, if she is available.”

From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook

Granny’s Seventh Pearl

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

Fat old men in budgie smugglers

I’m as fond as the next woman of a honed, tanned and tattooed young male body (although the effort necessary to achieve it argues a worrying level of narcissism). What pisses on my strawberries big time is the unlovely sight of a fat, sweaty pensioner dressed in nothing but a snot rag and a cheese wire.

These guys are inevitably a weird shade of magenta and liberally endowed with white body hair. Their bellies precede them like sweat stained battering rams, and their pendulous breasts swing with each step of their bandy little legs.

If I could get a shotgun…

The Rabid Readers Review Fated Encounters by Stephanie Barr

The Rabid Readers Review Fated Encounters by Stephanie Barr

In this little volume of prequels, Stephanie shows us how, chance, ethics and the prompting of conscience shapes the futures of her characters. In each of the five tales, the lives and fates of the characters turn on the choices their consciences – or even the consciences of others – have them make.

We come to understand that being ‘different’ may be a burden, but it is also a privilege, and the finding of one’s tribe can give even the most downtrodden the courage to move out of a bad situation with their head held high.

The writing is excellent, being taut and undecorated but also taking us into the hearts and minds of the characters. A big thumbs up there.

As prequels they work in that they make us want to follow these characters and find out how their fates cross.

Four stars and a recommendation.

Jane Jago


Giving Fate a Hand…

This collection can stand alone as individual stories or as a connected collection in its own right. But they are also a great introduction to the work of Stephanie Barr and in particular to her multi-world, paranormal romance novel Catalyst.

There are two stories exploring Raven’s predicament and his world and two about Chloe and her rise from an oppressive relationship to confident independence. the last story is about Lucy and a troubled boy called Remy. All the stories seem to have a theme related to the issues of being different and outcast and the need to find those with whom one can be oneself.

The author’s writing style is easy to read, with very few moments that broke my reading immersion. She manages to make a few words do a lot of work in a good way. The characters are all well-shaped as individuals and their issues and strengths shine through, transforming them from paper people to real-feeling characters.

Whether you are just interested in an intriguing and well written short read, or in finding out more about the characters in Catalyst before (or after) reading the book, there is a lot to enjoy here.

A solid 4.5 stars from me, rounded up as I enjoyed the ride.

E.M. Swift-Hook


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

Smelly bigger was having a ‘gap year’. Backpacking in Asia apparently.

The female called mummy snivelled for a few days, but recovered with the aid of a new car.

Then the strange thing happened and even father bigger expressed concern, before announcing that he had fixed it and smelly was on a ‘flight’ home.

He brought two things with him. A visibly pornographic gnome and an invisible STD.

He plonked the gnome beside the sundial and strode indoors. 

Edna Foregnome wasn’t having exposed dicks on her watch…

When morning broke, there was something else broken: the newcomer’s little pink willy.

©️jj 2020

Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 12

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

“We may have a problem or do have one?” Em asked, knowing Agnes was seldom that precise in her use of words.
“Okay. Do have. The vicar has a visitor.”
“A rat catcher. Didn’t stay long, but he took in a box of stuff and he came out without it.”
“Oh bother the man. I’d better keep an eye on the church hadn’t I? “Hadn’t we. I’ll be there in twenty.”
“I’d be glad of the company. I just wish we could watch both sides of the church. I can only see the back door from here.”
“Can’t you get that pesky bloody bat of yours to go and keep an eye from the lych gate?”
“Yes. Of course I can. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“It’s being close to the church does it. I find I’m thinking a lot clearer over this side of the village. But right now I’m on my way.”
Em felt comforted by the thought that Agnes would be with her, and she rather despised herself for those feelings. In an effort to reassert her normal control, she brushed herself down briskly and went to collect certain things from a large tin trunk in the attic. Once she had assembled what she thought she might need, she dressed in camouflage trousers and a neat khaki vest. Carrying her booty downstairs she loaded the pockets of the ancient poachers gilet that hung behind the back door before lacing her feet into the Doc Martens that Agnes had persuaded her into last winter. As by now the sun was turning the evening sky a lurid orange picked out with purplish storm clouds it was time to persuade Erasmus to cooperate. 
“Are you awake my friend?”
To her surprise he answered immediately. “I am. What do you require of me?”
“Agnes and I can watch the back of the church from here, but we can’t see the front.”
He was ahead of her. “I will hang in the lych gate. It’s high enough so I won’t be seen.”
Em felt him leave, just as Agnes slipped in via the back door. “I left the car in the pub car park.”
There not being too much else to say, they took themselves upstairs to where a window seat on the half-landing offered a perfect view of the back of the church. They sat down, comfortable in their silence, and Em looked at Agnes with an inward grin. She also wore camo, although hers was less tailored than Em’s and her pockets bulged with various things as Agnes was always one to be prepared for any eventuality. 
It occurred to Em that there was one vital piece of information she hadn’t passed on to her friend. “I just remembered what I haven’t told you. Erasmus says the vicar is a were.”
“No. And we don’t know what. Erasmus tells me the bats say he’s rodent.”
Agnes gave a humourless chuckle.
“A rodent? Then my money’s on him being a wererat. I can just see him fitting in well with those cunning, sneaky supes.”
“But a wererat becoming a vicar?”
Agnes shrugged. “They have their exiles, rogues and outcasts same as the rest of us, but the traits always run true.”
Em wasn’t convinced, there was something distinctly un-ratty about the man that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.”
“You got the silver bullets?”
“I have. If necessary.”
Agnes’ phone bleeped. She listened for a moment.
“Thanks. Can you follow him?”
She listened some more. “Right. See you.” Agnes put the phone carefully back in her pocket. “The vicar is on the move. Dressed like he thinks he’s Clint Eastwood I’m told. Arnold is following on his motorbike, but he has to keep well back. Oh, and Arnold has Petunia riding pillion.”
Em sighed. “But you never know, she might even be useful for the first time in her life.”
They resumed their study of the churchyard in the lurid light of a Disneyesque sunset. A movement at the edge of the little coppice that backed onto the churchyard caught Em’s eye. She stared and then as her eyes became accustomed to the half light under the trees she realised who it was.
“Agnes. Why do you suppose the Cropper woman is sitting in Dead Man’s Wood watching the church?”
“Azriel knows. But she is just about bound to get in the bloody way. I’ll go send her home.”
But before she had even got up from her seat, a strange looking figure slipped into the churchyard by the back gate. It was the vicar, loaded for bear and heading towards the church.
The two women ran down the stairs and down the garden path to where a low wall separated Em’s garden from the churchyard. Em was thinner and fitter than Agnes but even she wasn’t fast enough to stop Ms Cropper who ran into the church shouting incomprehensibly…

Part 13 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

I Wrote A Book

I wrote a book, it took me ages
For it has a lot of pages
Worked until my fingers bled
To get the words out of my head
The edited until I ached
Eradicating my mistakes
It is a tale of derring-do
Aimed at you and you and you
So pop along and have a look
Within the covers of the book
And if you like the things you see
Chuck a couple of quid at me
And that is all I have to say
Support a sad old bat today

©️jj 2020

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