This is a story I wrote back in mid-2015 as my contribution to an anthology of short stories by members of the IASD Indie Author Support and discussion fb secret group …
(see: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com for our group website).
It was an idea first suggested by IASD member and author Eric Lahti who also has a superb blog and review site at: www.ericlahti.wordpress.com.
The Indie Author Support and Discussion Group proudly presents Holes: An Indie Author Anthology.
Starting with the theme of holes of any kind, an international group of indie authors put their writing minds to work to come up a collection of stories that will make you laugh, cry, shudder in fear, and want to clap your hands. Inside you’ll find stories about:
A twisted story about innocence and revenge.
A young woman racing for her life and her love against the age of clockworks.
A man who lost his life in a traffic accident and discovers the afterlife is being stuck in a classroom.
A young African schoolteacher who tackles a band of ruthless, marauding terrorists.
A Russian mobster who made a deal and thought he’d found a loophole to get out of it.
A cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for…you just may get it.
A place where life disappears to when you’re not watching.
A question about whether we are really the dominant species and masters of our own future.
A reader-interactive comedy of errors.
An anomalous client demanding something written from the soul, a soul he is threatening to take
An Inspector Winsford murder mystery.
A legacy gift that just goes on giving.
Slapstick comedy with a touch of British buffoonery (my contribution)
A pretty tease who toys with her theology professor until dark revelations stop her in her tracks.
Some stories are full of sorrow, others full of joy, but all of them will leave you wanting more.
Well it ain’t my hole…
The man from the council stood looking at it, scratching his head in a stereotypical fashion that so perfectly betrayed his utter bewilderment. This was surprising because if there was ever anyone who knew about holes it was Adam Wiggly; what Adam Wiggly didn’t know about holes could be written on the back of a postage stamp, but this one had him baffled.
“Well it ain’t my hole.” Adam said.
“Nor mine,” agreed Karl Rockley, the man from the gas board. He too was scratching his head, almost in sync with several others who were standing around, all with about as much idea what to do as a eunuch in a harem.
“Could be one of Smiffy’s I reckon. I mean, it’s hardly the biggest I’ve ever seen.” Karl suggested.
Adam sniggered at the tail-end of Karl’s remark, but on this rare occasion resisted the temptation to say something crude in reply.
“Nah, not his style, I’ve seen Smiffy’s work, this ain’t one of ‘em.”
“What? What d’ya mean, not his style? It’s a just a friggin hole for Christ’s sake!”
“Nah, ain’t no such thing as just a hole, each one’s different, got its own character, like.” Karl turned towards him with one of those ‘what the f…’ looks.
Adam continued. “Like I says, they’re all different… ya got yer belly holes, slit trench type holes, and then there’s the sort of hole yer get from an entry wound from a small firearm, which is quite different from the hole it leaves the other side. There’s a real science to it, like.”
Karl shook his head in feigned disbelief, though inwardly acknowledging the absurd logic in what Adam was saying. He quickly dismissed the thought from his mind for fear of actually getting sucked into what was fast becoming a ridiculous conversation on the topic of the character of a hole. By now of course, one of the local plod, Police Constable Bill Witherby, had also turned up, equally puzzled but determined to bring a semblance of order to all the confusion.
“Stand back, stand back please, nothing to see here, it’s just a hole in the ground,” the young plod was declaring to anyone bothering to listen.
“I’d hardly say that mate, I mean, there’s no paperwork for it, and the council know sod all about it, not even a B41 stroke 252 for it,” Adam replied.
“And you are?” Asked the plod.
“Adam Wiggly, Chief Roadside Excavation Officer.”
“What he means is, he watches and stands around, drinking tea and scratching his arse,” Karl added by way of explanation of the important sounding title. “Other people dig the holes, and then he tells ‘em what a shit job they’ve made of it.”
Adam turned to give him a scouring look. He would have preferred punching him but there was already enough animosity between the council and the gas board as it was, so had to content himself with the curt response: “Ya fookin’ twat!”
The plod had now been joined by a second plod, Police Constable Hilary Jenkins. Adam and Karl both switched their attention to the shapely young lass. The uniform really suited her, Adam thought, reminding him of a fantasy he had about Angie Dickson, the actress who played ‘Police Woman’ in the TV series.
“Soz about the language luv,” Adam hastily added. Karl smiled, feeling smug at Adam’s obvious embarrassment, unaware that it was due more to a ‘below the waist’ reaction than his having sworn in front of a female police officer.
“No need, me dad was Navy so there’s nowt you or anyone could say that I ain’t likely to have heard… or seen… before,” PC Jenkins replied. To emphasise her point she gave Adam a sly wink and a smile while momentarily glancing down at his crotch area. For some reason Adam’s face now resembled a beetroot.
“Now, what’s being done about this ‘ere ‘ole then?” PC Jenkins asked in a gruff voice that was totally at odds with her small but shapely stature and good looks.
“That’ll be for me to decide,” said the latest arrival at the scene, a short squat little man wearing a cheap ill-fitting pinstripe suit and a Laurel and Hardy style bowler hat. Karl and Adam just sighed, knowing exactly who he was:
“I’ll take charge now, now stand aside you two so I can assess the situation,” the bowler-hatted little man demanded with about as much authority as a toddler demanding an ice cream.
“And your name is?” Asked PC Jenkins, her tone making it clear she had no intention whatsoever of letting the little man take charge.
Taken aback by the petite looking blonde haired PC’s authoritative manner, the little man partially delegated his response to Adam Wiggly in the vain hope of soliciting some support in asserting his imagined importance.
“Mr. Wiggly here can confirm my identity and status, I’m Mr. Dibble… Dibble of the Council.”
It was hard for anyone in earshot not to piss themselves laughing at the pomposity of the way in which he declared it. It brought to mind the likes of Gideon of the Yard or Scott of the Antarctic… and now added to those illustrious names… Dibble of the Council. Somehow though it didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Adam and Karl shrugged their shoulders in a half-hearted manner, nodding in the affirmative, though their disdain for Dibble couldn’t have been more obvious, something the pretty young PC picked up on.
“Well, Mr. Dibble,” PC Jenkins replied, adding as an afterthought, “of the Council… What exactly do you intend doing about this ‘ere ‘ole?”
“That’ll depend, first thing’s first…” It was a typical Dibble response, to say a lot but mean absolutely nothing, particularly when he was out of his depth. Given that he’d probably be out of his depth at the shallow end of a toddler’s paddling pool, that was more often than not.
“I don’t get it?” Karl said.
“Get what?” Adam asked. “What you on about now?”
“Y’know, what Dibble said… ‘First thing’s first’… what’s all that? I mean why would anyone say that? It’s not like you might decide to go with second thing first or third thing second. It don’t make sense. Everyone turned to look at Karl, baffled as to what he was rambling on about. Knowing however that the subtleties of the English language weren’t likely to be one of his few strong points, no one really felt up to the job of trying to explain.
“And that first thing is, Mr. Dibble… of the Council?” Asked PC Jenkins.
“Assess the situation, establish the facts, and decide on a course of action,” Mr. Dibble replied, ignoring the obvious sarcasm in the PC’s voice.
In the meantime, a couple more plods working under PC Jenkins’ direction were doing exactly that rather than just talking about it. Barriers were being erected to divert traffic from the busy junction close to where the hole was, while the first officer on the scene busied himself with keeping back the growing number of curious onlookers, many of whom had their own thoughts on the matter:
“What a carry on, I wonder if it’s one of those hidden camera shows?”
“Nah, can’t see any.”
“Well you wouldn’t would you, not if they were hidden, stands to reason.”
“Ha ha, I hadn’t thought of that…”
“Maybe there’s a serial killer on the loose and they’re looking for bodies?”
“What? You think someone’s been digging up the road, tarmac and all, burying bodies then fixing up the road again, and all without seeing or noticing owt, nah, don’t be so bloody daft.”
“Reckon it’s a remake of that film, you know, the one where a load of inept workmen make idiots of themselves, oh what was it called again..?”
“You know, the one with Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper in it and all them others…” “Oh I know the one you mean, yeah, what was it… The Plank!”
“It’s the aliens, same ones as that keep making them there crop circles,” suggested yet another. Admittedly it was the most far-fetched of the speculations, but it was probably the most justified considering the old fella spouting the latest theory was pissed as a newt.
With all the attention the hole was getting from all and sundry, no one seemed surprised when the TV guys appeared in one of their vans. First thoughts were that it might be some sort of news crew. Already the assorted parties were jostling for position, for their five minutes of media fame should they be approached for their thoughts on the mysterious hole that had appeared from nowhere. Maybe the theory that someone was filming a remake of The Plank wasn’t that far off the mark after all…
“Hi guys. So tell me, what’s the story here?”
Adam was about to speak up, well, that’s what Adam did most of the time, speak a lot when not filling his gob with beer that is. He was quickly silenced by the interruption of his bowler-hatted boss.
“I’m the one you’ll be wanting to speak to on that matter I imagine,” Adam’s bowler-hatted boss declared. “Mr. Dibble’s the name, Dibble of the Council.”
Adam and Karl, and even PC Jenkins couldn’t help but snigger at the repetition of how he introduced himself. Mr. Dibble ignored them, pretending to be oblivious to their contempt.
No one noticed the approach of the tweed-jacketed, corduroy trouser wearing man wheeling a bicycle. Had he still been riding it as he approached the police barriers no doubt he would have been stopped, but the crafty bugger had dismounted by then, and stealthily approached unchallenged in a manner your average rucksack carrying kamikaze terrorist could only ever dream of hoping to get away with…
“Ermm… Hello. Might I enquire what you’re all doing standing around and trampling through our excavation site?” The latest addition asked.
“Your excavation site? You mean this is your bloody hole?” Adam exclaimed.
“Well of course it’s mine, well my department’s I should say.”
Once again, it was the little Napoleon Dibble – of the Council – who sought to take charge, shuffling his way through the assorted workmen and other departmental officials. I say shuffling on account of his lack of height and presence preventing him from barging his way through in the way he would have liked, and genuinely believed his imagined importance should have allowed. In reality he was forced to apologetically plead to be allowed to pass and squeeze through the crowd in much the same way some suited civvy might try and squeeze unnoticed through a bunch of drunken squaddies to get to the bar…
“Which is… and you are?” Dibble of the Council asked.
“Henry Michaels… of the Ministry for endangered indigenous species and habitats.”
It was at that point Adam and Karl nearly spat out the tea they were drinking from the polystyrene cups they were both clutching. It was yet another illustrious name to add to Dibble of the Council, Gideon of the Yard, and Scott of the Antarctic – Michaels of the Ministry no less.
“This has gotta be some kind of fookin’ Candid Camera prank,” Karl was saying to Adam.
“Nah, can’t be. They’d need a F69 stroke P Form for sommat like that.” Adam replied without a trace of irony. The only thing that even came close to what Adam knew about holes was his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the myriad of paperwork needed to dig one within the borough limits. Karl was more inclined to think he was taking the piss and probably making it up as he went along…
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Michaels of the Ministry said. “This hole is definitely not a television prank. It is a serious endeavour to preserve the Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroach. The creature was long thought to be extinct until its albeit yet to be confirmed rediscovery when the electricity board were laying some cables here.”
“That’s all very well but who gave you permission to dig the entire street up? My department never authorises anything bigger than a six by eight hole without a committee meeting first.” Mr. Dibble replied in his haughtiest tone.
“I can assure you Mr. Dibble, my department did acquire the emergency requisite permissions as per Form B209 stroke 4b.”
Mr. Dibble was now glowering and his cheeks were turning crimson. For once Adam came to his rescue without any need for prompting.
“Ahh right,” Adam interrupted. “Yeah, that would allow the excavation of a hole this size, but only over the weekend or a long bank holiday. What you actually needed was a D59 dash 3b Form to cover weekday emergency excavations.” Adam explained, delighted to embarrass his boss with his superior knowledge of council rules and procedures…
“Which I would have had to authorise… If I decided to!” Mr. Dibble added, determined not to be outdone by his subordinate.
“Hey, I’ve just had a thought,” Adam piped up.
“Really?” Remarked Karl in mock surprise with a sly grin sprawled across his face. Adam once again felt a desire to punch the little git for the implied sleight on his ability to think, but since it was probably no different to what everyone else was thinking, he decided Karl could wait, turning instead his attention to Michaels, the man from the Ministry.
“No offence mate.” Adam said. “But ya don’t exactly look like the sort of fella who earns a living digging holes, mate?”
Michaels of the Ministry laughed: “You’re right, I didn’t dig any holes personally, I just arranged for a more specialised firm to take over from the original excavation, though I can’t for the life of me remember who was in charge of that?”
“Actually, that would be me,” yet another new arrival to the merry band announced: “Smiffy’s the name, Arnold Smith if we’re being all formal.”
“Ha! ‘Ello Smiffy, you ain’t gonna tell us this is down to you are ya?” Karl said. “Ya see Adam, I told ya it might one of Smiffy’s but oh no, you knew better, reckoning it were too big or weren’t his style or some other bollox.” Karl added, eager to take the opportunity to prove Adam wrong.
“Yes and no is the answer to that.” Smiffy answered.
“Uh?” Adam grunted.
“I might have known the electricity board would be at the bottom of this!” Mr. Dibble huffed.
“If I may,” PC Jenkins interrupted, “If you could shed some light on this, I’m all ears?”
“Sure,” Smiffy said. “Me and my crew were called out on a rush job to replace a faulty cable last night. Not long after, some fella walking past stopped and told us he’d spotted some rare insect or bug I think he said, scurrying up along the sides of our hole. They just looked like regular bugs to me but what do I know?”
“About entomology? Probably about as much as I know about digging holes I suspect.” Michaels of the Ministry said.
“Ento…Uh? What was that?” Asked Smiffy, not being used to that many syllables in an entire sentence let alone a single word.
“Entomology.” Michaels repeated, “The study of insects.”
“Could start with taking a look at Dibble them.” Adam chipped in. Karl did his best to supress a snigger. Dibble on the other hand wasn’t so amused. PC Jenkins took a deep breath.
“Can we please let Mr. Smith continue with his account?”
“Ahh right.” Smiffy said, forgetting all about entomology: “Well, next thing I knew, half a dozen official looking bods were crawling all over the site, ya man here included. Before I knew it they were in charge with their own diggers, hence the ruddy great fuck off hole we got now.”
“And why wasn’t I made aware of all this earlier, and where have you been in the meantime, we could have had all this cleared up ages ago,” Mr. Dibble said.
“Out of my hands now, speak to the organ grinder over there,” Smiffy answered, pointing in the direction of Michaels of the Ministry.
“That’s absolutely right,” Michaels agreed. “This entire area is now under the jurisdiction of my department.”
Needless to say, Mr. Dibble took umbrage at seeing his authority and control of the situation fast disappearing: “Make no mistake,” Mr. Dibble said. “I shall be having words with the mayor about this I can tell you!”
As per usual, despite his official position in the council, no one was paying much attention to the officious Mr. Dibble, and even less so when Adam made his latest observation.
“Eh up!” Adam announced. “Can anyone make out that bit pointing out at the bottom at the far side of the hole, it looks like some kinda shell…”
Silence descended on the collective chatter for a few moments as the seriousness of the last statement dawned on everyone.
“It might well be,” said PC Jenkins as she stepped to the very edge of the hole and peered down at where Adam was pointing. Strangely enough the others were more inclined to edge themselves in the opposite direction…
“When you say a shell Mr. Wiggly, are you saying it might be some sort of bomb?” Michaels of the Ministry asked, who oddly enough now seemed to have lost some of his authority and confidence. Suddenly people were taking a little more notice of the oafish Adam.
“Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying Mr. Michaels… and you there Miss, PC Jenkins, might be an idea not to be getting too close.”
“Yes, I agree, perhaps we should all move a little further away and pass this onto someone better equipped to deal with the new situation.” Mr. Dibble urged. For once, he and Adam finally agreed on something. If truth be known, Mr. Dibble was probably more worried at Adam later being credited as the first one to alert everyone to the danger and acting decisively in the matter… Mr. Dibble had no intention of letting Adam challenge him for his job on the strength of that…
“Way ahead of you guys,” PC Jenkins replied prior to getting on her radio to report the latest development.
“Ermm, Mr. Wiggly, if it is a bomb, or even just a suspect one, what’s likely to happen now?” Michaels of the Ministry asked.
“Controlled explosion of some sort I’d guess,” Adam replied. Karl nodded his agreement with Adam.
“Whoa, now let’s not act hastily, there’s already way too many people involved and contaminating the site.” Michaels of the Ministry said: “Contaminating the site? It’s not a crime scene you know.” PC Jenkins interjected.
“I know that but this site has been designated as a one of special importance. You do know the Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroach hasn’t been seen in over two hundred years, and that the ones residing in this hole might be the last living specimens in the world.” Everyone’s jaw just dropped at that, including Mr. Dibble’s. Until that point he had been unrivalled in his capacity for stupidity, but Michaels of the Ministry’s concern for some rare bugs over all their safety eclipsed even his capacity for coming out with complete and utter bollox.
“Err, hello up there, but I think something’s ticking down here.” Called a voice from just a few feet away from where Adam had first spotted what he was now sure was an unexploded shell, probably a souvenir of the last war.
Whilst they’d all been discussing who the hole belonged to, and then the current danger, some of Michaels of the Ministry’s lab staff had clambered down into the hole to take soil samples in the hope of collecting some live specimens of the rare bug Michaels was so excited about…
“Sorry, false alarm, it’s stopped now…” The voice called again a second or two later.
“I don’t care, you guys get yourselves back up, now!” PC Jenkins shouted down at them.
“PC Jenkins.” Said Michaels of the Ministry. “Let me remind you I’m in charge here, and I won’t have you or anyone jeopardising our preservation work here.” Before she could respond, Michaels had already turned his attention elsewhere:
“You chaps down there, carry on collecting the samples I asked for.”
“Suit yourself, on your head be it then.” The pretty PC answered.
“Might be an idea if you and your lot get everyone cleared from the area, luv.” Adam said. “If that thing down there’s started ticking once, it might start again, what with them twats down there with their digging and whatnot,” Adam was telling PC Jenkins. Again, Karl was nodding his agreement.
“Well we don’t know that for sure, and they did say it was a false alarm. And yes I think it needs to be investigated, but I’m not going to authorise a full scale evacuation of the area just on the say so of a council hole-digger and a man from the gas board.” PC Jenkins replied.
“Chief Roadside Excavation Officer, if ya don’t mind, luv.” Adam corrected her. “Gas Infrastructure Site Surveyor.” Karl added.
This time it was Adam’s turn to give Karl a ‘what the f…’ look, knowing damned well he’d just made that up.
Mr. Dibble was staying on the fence on this; he didn’t want to openly agree with PC Jenkins just in case she was wrong, but he thought Adam and Karl were probably exaggerating the danger and he didn’t want to share in the bureaucratic fall-out by endorsing their advice if that turned out to be the case.
“Thank you PC Jenkins, a voice of sanity at last,” Michaels of the Ministry declared. He was relieved he and his team of could continue their bug collecting and that no one was going to deliberately blow them up, or at least not until they had enough of their precious specimens.
“Sod this for a game of soldiers.” Adam huffed: “I’m off to the pub until the bomb disposal mob declare this a safe zone, you joining me Karl?”
“Too bloody right mate, this lot are off their heads, mate.” Karl agreed.
“Hold up, wait for me.” Smiffy shouted after them. It wasn’t that he was worried about being blown up but he knew the local pub served a mean bacon buttie.
They really should have listened to Adam and Karl. They were both ex-military and knew only too well the dangers of an unexploded bomb.
It took seconds for the immediate surroundings to feel the full blast of the explosion, though it took considerably longer for the resultant fires to be put out and for the dust to settle. Any life within the immediate vicinity was now toast. The one exception was the previously thought to be extinct colony of Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroaches, who were now happily scurrying away to find another hole to enjoy a well-deserved nap in after having been kept awake by a lot of silly humans. Considering cockroaches will probably still be around long after the last of the human race has been irradiated under an atomic mushroom cloud, Michaels of the Ministry really shouldn’t have been too worried about them.
Adam and Karl, who had sensibly decided they’d be better off supping a quiet pint in a nearby pub rather than gabbing away around a ruddy great hole with a ruddy great bomb at the bottom of it, continued where they’d left off in their previous discussion on the character of a hole…
Pablo the Storytelling Bear
By Penny Luker
14 December 2017 … Verified Purchase
Having already read a couple of Penny Luker’s previous books it was no surprise to find this latest offering too had its own touch of friendly magic about it. When a little boy gets a different birthday present from the one he wanted his disappointment is short-lived when he discovers that his present is a magical storytelling talking teddy bear. The book is divided into seven bite-sized chapters which although flowing quite seamlessly from one to the next, each tells a different story thus making them perfect for the classic five minute bedtime story for younger children, saving the next one for another night, though slightly older children, say seven up to ten or eleven might well want to read them all in one go. Running through the stories there are little snippets of advice for children relating to being kind and thinking of others that I suspect are more likely to be taken on-board coming from a talking teddy bear than if they came from an adult. There’s also a gentle exploration of wider issues that slightly older children may pick up on and ask questions about such as a subtle reference to climate change and how it’s affecting the polar bears.
If I had but one minor criticism it’s that with a children’s book I would have preferred a physical copy available on Amazon rather than the Kindle edition, especially when it’s for a child under seven but apart from that this was a lovely book to read with my grandson and I’m pleased to say most of the author’s other children’s books are indeed available in print formats. Since reviewing this book I have learned a print format is available from Lulu and that the author hopes to make it available in the same print format on Amazon in the near future.
Overall I would say Penny Luker has set just the right tone in style and vocabulary for a younger readership in producing a book that entertains them in a safe and gentle manner while at the same time adding just enough detail and subtle wider references that will intrigue children who are ready to start reading independently and old enough to pick up those subtleties that pre-school little ones will happily be oblivious to. Highly recommended!
About the Author
Penny Luker used to spend her time working as a teacher and Head Teacher and then as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University. She now spends her time writing stories and poems. She has been writing for the last few years and loves reading and writing poetry and also enjoy playing the piano and ukulele and painting in watercolour.
Penny also works as a volunteer for the e-zine All Things Girl as a contributor and was the Writings’ Editor for five years but now wants to concentrate on her own writing for a while. ATG is a showcase for women’s writing and has four themes a year. Check it out: www.allthingsgirl.com
She is currently in the middle of writing two novels. One is a fantasy novel, the sequel to The Truth Finder and the other is a whodunnit, and has for awhile been collecting new stories for a fourth book of short stories, but is debating whether to change this to a book of ghost stories.
Penny is also a keen member of the Winsford Writers, a local writing group. They welcome new members so, in Penny’s own words, ‘if you live in the area do get in touch. It’s challenging and great fun.’
Penny Luker is also a regular and valued contributor to the IASD fb group and its associated web/blog site at www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion
……………………..Children’s Books…………………………………...Short Stories
Amazon blurb: On a mixed up rainy, sunny day, The rainbow monsters love to play. Jump on a cloud and join the rainbow monsters in their fun and games. Come and meet each of the monsters and learn the colours of the rainbow.
By Sylva Fae
A super charming book that parents and grandparents will enjoy reading time and time again with their little ones … 14 December 2017
I read this book with my six-year-old grandson. He loved that the rainbow monsters were called different colours and that the descriptions of them all rhymed, and they gave me lots of scope to have him chuckling at all the different granddad voices I put on with each new monster. On every page there are bright colourful illustrations which strike just the right balance between professionalism and the way a young child might draw themselves. As an extra treat and surprise, there’s lots more fun to be had with some super educational games and puzzles at the end.
Overall a delightfully charming book that parents and grandparents will enjoy reading over and over again with their own ‘little monsters, ideal for young children between say three or four up to about six or seven. Well worth the money, but the smiles and laughs it will bring your little ones is beyond price.
About the Author
Sylva Fae is a married mum of three from Lancashire, England. She grew up in a rambling old farmhouse bordering onto the moors, with a slightly dysfunctional family and an adopted bunch of equally dysfunctional animals.
As a qualified lecturer and verifier, she has spent twenty years teaching literacy and numeracy to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. Sylva owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days.
She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. Her husband busies himself making fire and chopping logs while she takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles.
Adventures in the woods inspired her to write stories to entertain her three girls. Now she hopes to publish some of these stories. Sylva writes a blog, Sylvanian Ramblings and has a short story published in the IASD anthology in aid of MacMillan Cancer ‘You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology.’ She has several rhyming stories aimed at four to six year olds, ready for illustration, is in the process of writing three books for early readers and a woodland activities book for parents. I’m also proud to say Sylva Fae is a member and Admin of the IASD Indie Author Support and Discussion fb group and its associated blog/website at: https://indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com/
When not writing or chasing three muddy girls through the woods, Sylva likes to geek out on cryptology puzzles and ciphers. She has won the US Navy cryptology challenge two years running.
Many thanks to Tom Benson for this latest update on the IASD website, a group and site which I’m proud to be a member and part of …
Well, that happened fast, didn’t it – November already!
We had two aims, apart from the ongoing appliance of our collective target (our group’s initials).
First, we wanted to maintain our monthly Featured Author.
Secondly, we had new anthologies we wanted to create.
When we got the idea underway (two years ago), the author was selected by a secret ballot. Next came my use of a ‘randomiser’ program, which entailed me listing every member’s name. Early this year, thanks to Sylva, I started using the Sociograph program to see who our most active members were in a month. This third method works well and will continue for the foreseeable future.
When the year was but young we had good intentions and aimed to produce three more collections as a group.
– another anthology of short stories and this time…
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Some great insights into the whole Amazon vs Kobo question from Tom Benson ….
The aim of this piece is to look at the two systems as a writer, and not a reader.
When it comes to eReaders there is a wide choice, and the prices reflect that choice.
As a writer, I first published with Smashwords, but apart from learning a lot about formatting, and how difficult it was to be paid for my sales … well, let’s not go there.
I moved on to Amazon and tried the KDP route. It took an hour to read the Terms and Conditions, but at least I knew where I stood by the time it came to ticking, or un-ticking little boxes.
Sales were reported, and hey, I was paid regularly. I continued to publish my work through Amazon, and when it was offered, I ventured into the KDP Select programme to gain from the many benefits offered … yeah, whatever.
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Following on from the success of his debut novel, this post is to introduce Ian D. Moore’s forthcoming book, Salby Evolution. First though, a little about Ian himself: Ex-soldier in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, internet entrepreneur, and truck driver, Ian D. Moore has a vast and varied array of life experience to draw on in his writing. Regular readers of my blog and book reviews will remember my first mention of him when I reviewed Salby Damned back in August 2015. Since then he has become an established and well-respected figure in the world of Indie writing and publishing, having been the driving force behind You’re Not Alone, an anthology of short stories by Indie Authors from around the world who graciously and freely contributed stories in aid of the cancer support charity Macmillan Nurses. In addition to the Salby series of books, Ian D. Moore has had a short story featured in Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie author Anthology. He is also an avid reader and book reviewer, an admin for a popular Fb author group and a founding member and admin of its accompanying website at: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com
Salby Evolution is the eagerly awaited soon to be published sequel to Salby Damned. Salby Damned was a fresh and innovative take on the Zombie genre, combining elements of science fiction, big business, and the controversial topic of ‘fracking’ to produce an intelligently written eco-thriller with a zombie (with a small ‘z’) themed backdrop. It has been well received, accumulating impressive reviews on both sides of the atlantic, and on Goodreads …
In Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby series, the devastating virus that gave rise to the zombie deadheads of the first book is once again sweeping the country… In the author’s own words…
One man holds the key to our future. One man holds the key to our extinction.
The merciless Salby viral strain, sweeping across the country, spawns a new breed of predator.
Simon Lloyd, borderline alcoholic, must vanquish the demons of his past and change his single-minded ways.
Filled with resentment, he enters a world far removed from his own. He must choose to take a stand or risk losing his estranged wife and children forever.
Against overwhelming odds, unethical science and the prospect of eternal exile, the decisions he makes will shape the future of mankind.
Intrigued so far? If so then read further the exclusive preview …
Available August 1st(kindle) / (paperback TBA ): for pre-order at: Click here:
Chapter 1 – Rude Awakening
Salby, North Yorkshire, 0100 hours, three hours before the viral outbreak.
The medicinal bottle, positioned in the middle of the table, beckoned me once more. The glass, my favourite crystal tumbler, specifically set aside for such occurrences, called to me. I couldn’t though, not before work. I wiped the back of my hand across two days of growth—satisfying the itch—removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. My routine, unchanged since the split, trudged onwards in an endless cycle of work, eat, drink, and sleep. The sorrows simply refused to drown, no matter how deep the liquid I immersed them in. After five years, you’d think I’d have snapped out of it by now, and yet as I sat here contemplating those very thoughts, the burden remained.
My bag contained an unappetising sandwich, a limp, soggy ham and cheese, a flask of tea that usually carried an undertone of the contents before it mingled with plastic, and a book for the long nights spent waiting.
For the last few years, I’d done little but walk the moors, aimlessly looking for something, only to return ‘home’ empty-handed. This wasn’t home, at least, not the home I recalled.
In effect, my sentence was to serve the mundane, the flame inside me thwarted, extinguished to monotony with only the barest glimmer of hope in retirement for the future.
This would do no good—it never did. I hauled my self-pitying bones from the chair, pushed it neatly back under the table and grabbed the workbag. I winked at the bottle.
“I’ll be back for you, later.” I muttered.
My day started normally—as mundane as the rest of the week, really. It wasn’t until the early hours that things began to get a little strange. I worked the graveyard shift as a railway junction box operator and signalman for a major rail freight company. While a lot of the signal boxes and crossings were being made electronic, controlled by computers and machines, the company still had certain places that required the presence of an actual body. Me.
I was on shift at a rural, local signal box, one I’d done many, many times before, one that was usually just a two-operation night. The 2159 from Salby came out of the power station, across the junction heading south for more coal, and then it returned from Leeds railhead at 0509 the following morning with a full load. That would pretty much be it as far as the actual traffic was concerned.
Last night, it hadn’t happened that way—at least not entirely. Sure, the 2159 rumbled through with a honked horn from the driver as it passed. The locomotive ambled its way from the power station terminus to pick up the mainline route south, pulling the usual fifty behind it.
I counted each and every one, just as I always do.
The phone rang five minutes before; the railhead operator at Leeds Central let me know the train was on the way through, a safety procedure just in case any of the mainline trains had been diverted for any reason. That would allow me time to stop the train until I was given the all clear. There were no such concerns last night, and the train passed as usual, without incident.
After it had gone, I settled back down in the worn, threadbare easy chair to watch a little TV. I’d maybe finish another chapter of the current book I was into, an indie author novel from an unknown writer, werewolves of all things. To be fair though, the book was very good.
As usual, my mind wandered back to the break-up of my marriage. This ritual became my nightly, futile attempt to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what the future held. There hadn’t been much contact with my ex-wife since the split; what dialogue there had been, usually ended in bitter arguments. The filing of divorce papers hadn’t helped matters much either, let alone what I thought were vastly over-calculated maintenance payments for our two children.
Although I visited my son when he was little a few times, lately there hadn’t been much in the way of quality time with either him, or his sister, whom I had yet to meet. This was something I planned to resolve, and I’d reached a point where rationality dawned. It told me that no matter what, it could never be the fault of the children for the break-up. I was, and would always be, their father.
Now, marginally calmer having reached this conclusion, I pulled the plug on the TV and turned on the small radio to listen to the news bulletin. It was usually all doom and gloom, but there were some uplifting stories, sometimes. The music they played was a little more to my taste, too, given the hour. I sipped at the tepid tea from the stainless wrapped plastic of the flask lid.
At 0400, the radio presenter announced that an additional “breaking news flash” would interrupt the usual programming. I turned up the volume a little, listening intently as the newsreader reported an explosion, close to my home on the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a million miles away from where my wife—stupid—ex-wife and children still lived.
I thought nothing of it. The report was pretty vague: people missing, presumed dead at some sort of gas drilling site. From the beginning, it was vehemently opposed by the residents of Salby anyway. Hell, I signed the petition against it myself.
When the 0509 to Salby failed to arrive, that was breaking news, at least as far as my job was concerned. It never failed to turn up, nor, if I remembered correctly, had there never been a phone call from the main rail office to let me know that it wasn’t coming. Very strange. The procedure was simple from here on in. Dial the number to the rail office, which was only a small control centre on the tracks that passed Salby town, inform the controller, and log the call. No response. The phone rang and then rang some more. I dialled again, this time, the central rail control office in Leeds.
The fact that the train hadn’t been seen would have to be reported; then it could be left in the hands of people who got paid a whole heap more than I did to worry about such things. Today, of all days, this had to happen. Why, oh why can’t people do their jobs properly?
If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s slackers.
The merciless, nicotine-stained clock on the wall jeered on— it must have been there for years, the same uncaring, unknowing regulatory professor of time. Tick, tick, tick, tick!
At 0600, I would be turning the points back over to remote control at Leeds. The power station line only operated during the night hours, due to the length of the trains. I began to pack my night bag ready for the sedate ride home.
It was only a few miles, usually no more than twenty minutes. All of the roads were national speed limit, 60 mph stretches, and at that hour, I usually missed the first of the early commuters heading in. Despite trying to call for half an hour without response, I transferred the signal box back to the main signalling offices at Leeds.
With a last look to the grimy interior, I closed the door to the raised cabin and locked it with the master key—just in case there should be any curious kids playing near the lines later in the day.
Once the proud owner of a shiny 4×4 with a whopping 2.8 litre V6 in the front, I found its days were numbered after the separation. It had cost me a pretty penny to get new furniture, not to mention the sizeable deposit on the rented house, now called home. The badass, gas-guzzling monster had to go, replaced with a more efficient, but slightly-the-worse-for-wear Vauxhall.
That was another of the niggling grievances in my mind. Every time I drove it, I always felt that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that it wasn’t fair, and more to the point, that it wasn’t my fault.
I got behind the wheel and slammed the driver’s door a little too hard, forcing the ignition and revving the engine a little too much as the car rattled into life. The dust and gravel track road leading to the points’ office proved no match for the tyres as they kicked up plumes of chippings. I vented my angst on the accelerator, and took out my frustrations on the car itself, before mounting the blacktop main road with a distinct squeal as the traction changed.
“Screw it, and screw you for leaving me!” I snarled at the windscreen. The stressed, furrowed face glared back without compromise. I fumbled in my jacket for the crushed pack of smokes. With a well-rehearsed tap on the centre console, the filter rose just enough for me to get a hold with my lips and pull the cigarette clear. I dropped the pack as the car lighter clicked its indication of readiness, pulled out the glowing red-hot implement, and seared the tip of my fix.
That first long, slow, deep drag was always the best one, and it calmed me down a little. The familiar tingle as the toxins hit the back of my throat, despite the constant angel at my shoulder, which waggled an ethereal finger along with the words: ‘You really should quit,’ felt comforting. The wisps of smoke curled up around my face as I blew out through my nose, slowly, revelling in the moment and in utter defiance of my impromptu celestial saviour.
There were some nasty turns as you got out towards Salby—if you didn’t know they were there, they could take you by surprise. With a certain sense of ‘I told you so’, I noticed a car at the side of the road, the front end embedded in the drainage ditch. Skyward tail lights created a luminescent beacon in the surrounding mist. The driver, not used to the road, must have lost control. I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed the stranded vehicle, which didn’t look like it had been there for very long. Curled smoke from the tailpipe suggested that it had only recently come to an abrupt stop. No sign of the driver; perhaps they had gone for help to the small-holding nearby, in the hope that the farmer might tow them out to continue their journey.
Given the weird night I’d had and the dark mood I was in, I decided to carry on home and pushed down on the accelerator once more. The front end of the car rose slightly as the power surged through the front wheels.
My focus shifted back to the road, just in time to round a sweeping bend, but too late to avoid the sickening thump as something bounced off the bonnet. In my wing mirror, I saw it catapulted to the roadside by the impact of my car, nudging 60 mph. Unsure of what I’d hit, I slowed and pulled over, the engine still running as I sat for a few seconds just staring into the rear-view mirror, hoping it was just an animal that had run out of luck.
The undulating mist obscured my vision as I peered into the murky half-light. The sun began to warm the morning dew from the grassy fields on both sides of the main drag, which sent ethereal, spectral formations floating up and over the hedges. I looked back over my shoulder towards the car, the gesture more to reassure myself it was still there, rather than anything else. An odd, uneasy, churning sensation in the pit of my stomach urged me to turn tail, return to the car, and flee—but I couldn’t though, it wouldn’t be right would it? I mean, what if they, or it, were still alive, lying there injured? I had to know. I had to find out. I popped the door and walked back towards the location of the body.
“Uh—hello, is anyone there?” I called out sheepishly. I prayed for a clear window through the rising vapour or any chance of an unhindered view.
“H—hello. Are you hurt? I have a phone. Do you need an ambulance?” I was conscious of the waver to my voice.
A shape forming in the swirling maelstrom just up ahead made me stare first in disbelief, and then in horror, as a gap in the mist shifted between us. No more than thirty feet in front of me, the grey, boiler-suited form of a man, but that wasn’t what made me tremble.
The impact of the car had caught the victim at his right knee-joint, literally spinning the man’s leg and foot around 180 degrees. His left foot faced forwards, and his right foot faced directly behind him, yet the man still attempted to stand and miraculously, made it to his feet. He began to limp towards me. His twisted leg dragged behind him as he drew closer.
I could see the expression on his face, which sent a cold chill running through my whole body. It pushed the boundaries of my resistance to the fear welling inside me to the absolute limit.
“Jesus Christ! Your leg, mate! How can you possibly stand?”
The wounded man staggered towards me. His face appeared distorted by a grimace that I could only put down to the agonising pain of his injury, enhanced by a low, guttural growl that came from between his tightly clenched teeth. When he was less than ten feet away, the piece of wood protruding from his chest registered in my brain. It was all I could do not to double over, instead gasping in a lungful of air in amazement as my gaze locked onto it, clearly able to see that it passed right through his body.
When my car hit him, he must have been flung into the air and landed upon the wooden fencing which ran alongside the fields, shrouded by the hedgerows. I deduced that the impact must have sheared off part of the fence which he had become impaled by, piercing him a fraction below the breastbone, which surely must have missed his heart by mere millimetres. Yet here he is, limping ever closer.
“Stop! Get away from me, dammit. How the hell are you still alive?” The question, I knew, was utterly ludicrous.
No response from the approaching figure, no cries of pain, and no visible blood trail either despite the horrific wounds to his chest and leg. His right foot dragged uselessly across the ground every time he moved forwards, the sound chilling me to the core.
He struggled to maintain balance, which caused him to veer off farther into the centre of the wet, misty road. I kept my eyes fixed upon him, unable to break my compulsive stare towards the fence stake, which rose and fell as he advanced. I had the good sense to take slow and measured steps backwards and to the side, in an attempt to get to the relative safety of the grass verge. This road had a reputation for high-speed at the best of times, an accident blackspot, in fact.
I heard the rumbling diesel engine a matter of seconds before two bright, white eyes pierced the mire. The bulk grain wagon ploughed through the swirling mist. It hit the staggering, overall-covered man full on. The impact caused his body to fly past my position, held by the inertia of the truck before the driver punched the brakes. In a surreal moment, my head instinctively turned to follow as the truck screeched past me, missing my car by a hair’s breadth. My eyes followed the grain wagon; I cringed when I saw the sickening sway of the chassis as the wheels passed over the body. The truck lurched forwards as the brakes finally brought it to rest. Several haunting hisses, followed by one long exhale, saw the truck roll no farther.
The driver’s door opened and I could just make out the figure of a burly looking trucker. He rubbed his eyes and forehead with a bit of rag in disbelief at what had just happened, stuffing the torn piece of cloth into his back pocket, where it dangled as he walked. Both of us stared at the crumpled pile in the wake of the truck, the mangled mess almost indistinguishable as ever being human.
The embedded fence post stood vertical, akin to a stunted flagpole, which marked the spot where the body lay. Roadkill.
The truck belched hot steam from its punctured radiator, merely adding to the swirling mist.
“Don’t go any closer if you know what’s good for you. Just get back in your cab and drive. I’m out of here! There’s some weird shit going on,” I barked, as the man began to edge closer.
“I had no chance to avoid him, did you see? He was in the middle of the road, I had no chance to miss him. You … you must have seen,” the flustered trucker babbled.
“I saw everything, graphically. Get back in your truck, light a cigarette to calm yourself, and then get the hell out of here. I gotta go, this is some freaky shit,” I reiterated, already moving towards the car and fishing in my empty pockets for my cigarettes.
“Here, buddy, take one of mine,” the trucker offered—his hand shaking as he held the pack. “What the hell should I do? I mean, I killed him, right? He’s gotta be dead. I need to call someone, the police, ambulance—someone.”
“Just hold on there—um—” I began.
“Oh, Jack—the name’s Jack.”
“Well, Jack, just hold on there before you do that. You see, I hit him first. Just like you, he came from nowhere, in the middle of the road. He should have been dead, his leg was—and he’d been impaled through the chest, a piece of wood musta gone clean through him.”
It poured out of me, to this trucker I’d only just met, in as big a mess as I was. I took a deep breath in, matched Jack’s earlier brow wiping pose and offered up a solution. “Okay, we need to see if he’s still alive, though I don’t know how he could possibly be. I thought I was having a bad day but—I’ll get my phone from the car first,” I resolved, as my senses began to return.
I flopped into the driver’s seat. What made me check the rear-view mirror just then, I’ll never know, but I did. The mist began to rise slightly, and I could see the crumpled pile just behind and to the side of the large truck. I noticed the fence post, which should have been vertical, was now horizontal. The impact had pushed the post back through the body of the man, so it stuck out even farther from the front of him.
“Shit, no way, man. No way! Screw that, it can’t be—there’s no way.”
The sight sent me into panic overload. My hands fumbled with the ignition keys as I yelled over my shoulder through the open window.
“Jack, get in your truck and drive—now!”
I didn’t hang around to witness more as the car spluttered into life. I rammed it into first before I popped the handbrake, revving the engine enough to make the tyres deposit a layer of burnt rubber as they fought for traction. I slammed the car into second and my foot to the floor. I was heading for the centre of town. I had to pass through it to get home.
I came across only one other vehicle for the remainder of the journey, a sporty-looking Ford parked up in the lay-by, opposite Salby’s one and only pub on the main drag. It wasn’t easy to see in the early morning light as I approached. The hazy, halo hue faded to reveal the car more clearly. My gaze on the road ahead faltered, drawn to the vehicle, and I peered through the driver’s window. Empty.
“Stuff stopping again. Wherever you are, you’re on your own.” I stated, resolutely.
The town centre, eerily quiet as I drove through and minus the usual steady trickle of cars city-bound, was also a little strange. Was it a national holiday? Did I miss something? I didn’t know and couldn’t focus. My mind raced over the imprinted images, trying to figure out what could possibly have allowed that man, that thing, to live after so much damage. He/it was either very lucky, or very unlucky, whichever way the coin landed. I drew too hard on the fresh fix. The hot ash fell from the tip, landed between my legs, and onto the seat. My eyes followed the rolling ember as it disappeared under my crotch, and I frantically tried to get to it before it could burn a nice, round hole in the cloth covering.
The first thing to hit me was a pungent, singed material smell; the next was the bee-sting pain on the inside of my leg. In what can only be described as borderline panic and unable to see clearly, I anchored on, pushed open the driver’s door, and practically fell from the vehicle. As a matter of instinct, my hands shot to my burnt inner thigh, swatting and patting even though the heat had gone. Anyone watching would have thought I’d finally flipped out. Content that I wasn’t actually on fire, annoyed, and in shock, I resumed my journey, cursing the tobacco angel.
I pulled up outside my rented property, scanned through the windows, and half-expected to see the mashed body of the man crawling towards me as I surveyed the street. I could almost hear the scrape of the wooden fence post on the ground as he moved closer—but there was no such thing, only my mind playing more vivid tricks.
Could it have been a weird dream? I’d been doing a lot of overtime hours lately; could I have imagined the whole thing? Being a thinker didn’t help matters. That was a personality trait of mine—as well as being analytical, logical, and direct, just like my father was. He was a draughtsman in his day, precise and reasoned.
‘Everything in its place, a place for everything,’ he’d said.
I remember his forefinger, stressing the importance of his imparted wisdom, waggled inches from my adolescent, acne-rife face.
I locked the car before walking around to the front. The shallow dent to the corner of the wing provided visual confirmation. On balance, I resolved to deal with it after some sleep. It was just too much to think about right now, and the prospect of trying to explain it to a desk sergeant at the police station didn’t seem too appealing. Besides, I had twenty-four hours to report an accident and I wasn’t the last person to run over the guy.
After a good few minutes of mental debate on my way into my second-floor apartment, I’d argued myself into a plausible plan, and finally, at 0730 as the sun broke through the veil, I pulled the blinds and fell to my bed.
It took over an hour of tossing and turning before my mind committed to rest, and then only for a couple of hours of short, fitful sleep.
For further links to Ian D. Moore and his writing see:
Blog: The Quill Pen Writes
Amazon: Author profile
Goodreads: Author profile
Tony McNally served in the British army as a Royal Artillery Gunner. At 19 years old he was sent to fight in the Falklands War as a Rapier missile operator where he shot down two enemy jet aircraft. After serving in Northern Ireland he left the forces and was diagnosed with PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and told to go away and write down his thoughts and feelings.
This lead to him writing his No1 best selling book Watching Men Burn. He now lives in the tranquil English Lake district with his wife Linda and their two Labrador dogs, where he continues to write, especially poetry, which he finds very therapeutic and helpful with his PTSD. His other interests are Rugby League and enjoying his family. He has now published his page turning new book of Trauma poetry and a short story about World War One titled Screaming In Silence as reviewed below, and is working on his first eagerly anticipated military thriller fiction novel about terrorism and the Special Forces.
For further links to the author’s writting see:
Author website: www.tonymcnally.co.uk/
Tony McNally is a Falklands War veteran and the best selling author of Watching Men Burn. A tireless campaigner for better understanding and treatment of servicemen and women suffering from mental health problems like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
After leaving the forces he was diagnosed with PTSD by a civilian doctor and was at first unable to talk about his War time experiences, he was told to go home and try and write down his thoughts and feelings. He soon realized that writing was therapeutic and began to write poetry and short stories, Screaming in Silence is his first book of poetry and a short story about the First World War. Written from the heart this is a powerful collection of works that can only be written by someone that has experienced the brutality of War and mans inhumanity, which is apparent with his colorful and brutal and then at times beautiful, poignant and gentle words. He covers a wide range of subject matter, Politics, murder, homelessness, divorce, Religion and obviously War, McNally hits the readers with the ferocity of an exploding grenade then the gentleness of a poppy petal blowing gracefully in the summer breeze.
By Tony McNally
(Available from Amazon in eBook & Print formats)
.As accurate an insight into the mental trauma of front-line service you can get short of actually suffering it yourself…, 12 Jun. 2016 – By Rudders
There are many books and websites that describe and address PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from a clinical or diagnosis perspective but none that bring home the true reality and potentially devastating long-term effects more effectively than the words and thoughts here of someone with personal experience of it. Screaming In Silence is a collection of poetry high-lighting the grim reality and after-effects of being on the frontline of modern warfare. With over a hundred poems here the author covers every aspect of his personal experiences in both ‘The Troubles’ of Northern Ireland and the much shorter but equally violent and horrific conflict of the Falklands War. There is also a very personal introduction outlining the author’s childhood, early training experiences as a sixteen year old ‘boy soldier’ recruit in the British army, and his subsequent marriage break-ups and suicide attempts, all of which hints at and sets the tone for the poignant poetry to follow. In this introduction Tony McNally also emphasises, almost apologetically, that he is not a professional writer, that his reasons for writing this collection was to help him and others deal with their war-related PTSD. There are a few grammar and typo issues in the introduction but beyond that the quality of writing in the poetry is nothing short of superb.
The poems here are relatively short but every word is carefully chosen to convey the author’s feelings and thoughts, snapshots as it were of his experiences. Tony McNally doesn’t choose his words to contrive a consistent succession of rhymes simply to entertain or produce what we expect from more traditional poetry, but those which most aptly portray his feelings and what he’s trying to say. In some of his poems there is a prose style to relate a story such as in ‘Sticks and Stones’ where he tells of being a six-year-old boy with a pretend gun to a cadet with a rifle, and then from firing a Howitzer at sixteen to shooting down an enemy plane with a missile at nineteen, to finally looking back on being a little boy again. Some also reflect on his and others’ post army careers, alluding in once instance to the contrast between the pride of being a British soldier only to find oneself homeless or in a prison cell for shooting the enemy, an indirect reference to the highly publicised and controversial case of Marine ‘A’ now serving a prison sentence for a supposed war crime. In others he pays poignant and humbling tribute to the fallen of such conflicts. In parts there is understandable regret and bitterness about his experiences, condemning both governments, politicians, and religion for the needless loss of life, as well as the lack of care and treatment of those who return home from such conflicts, often ill-equipped to cope with the trauma they’ve suffered or the transition to civilian life. In contrast to the poems the author concludes his book with a moving and tragic short story about a young man serving at the front during the First World War.
If I were to compare Tony McNally to any of the more historically well-known poets it would have to be Wilfred Owen rather than the more romanticised works of Robert Brooke, perhaps not in style or technique but certainly for impact; and of the more current war poets, some of the poems compare with the more prose style of Tom Benson’s equally emotive collection Military Matters.
For those who have served, particularly in the same theatres of war as the author this collection will no doubt be a difficult read, likely bringing back painful memories of their own experiences. Despite this warning I have no hesitation in recommending it; in his writing the author has confronted and come to terms with many of the demons that form an integral part of his own PTSD, and if his words help others do the same I can only applaud the author on producing such a thoughtful, powerful, and well-written collection here.
A Life of Choice by Tom Benson is the first part of a five part series about a young recruit to the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army. There are many authors who have drawn on their past military experience to write both fictional and non-fiction accounts of their military careers and quite a few who have relied purely on research and their imagination. Quite often, though by no means always, such books will either lack the authenticity of genuine military experience or be steeped in realism and authenticity yet be let down by the execution of the writing. A Life of Choice falls into neither category having been written by a man with not only over twenty years experience as a soldier but who has also been perfecting his writing skills for nearly the past ten years, having read and written in multiple genres. Regular readers of my blog will know from past posts that as well as being a prolific writer, book reviewer in his own right, and contributor to a number of online writing groups but is now an Admin for the Indie Author Support & Discussion site, highlighting and supporting new and established Indie authors. In addition to his own short story collections, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of other author’s collections too:
Further links to Tom Benson’s writing:
A teenager feels there must be more to life than a dead-end office job and no social life. During his lunch-break one day in 1969, while walking the city streets, he stops to look at the pictures in an Army Careers Information Office window. How far might he go?
A Life of choice: Part One
By Tom Benson
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
From what I understand this is the first of several parts to an ongoing saga of the life of a young serviceman. When Jim Falkner joins the Royal Corps of Signals he does so as a shy and quiet teenager with little experience of the world beyond his native Glasgow. Through this story the reader is immersed in the young would-be soldier’s training and those first tentative friendships formed, many of which would last a lifetime. It’s often claimed by those who served that joining the army is what made a man of them, and for many that’s true but what the author shows with equal emphasis is that it can just as easily lead to ruination; just as the young Jim Falkner grows in confidence and into the man and soldier he wants to be, we also see the him being drawn into the services drinking culture and hints at the problems that might bring with it in later years. There is also an excellent preface and first chapter that proceeds the start of our young character’s military career portraying a family background and life that might well have played a part in Jim Falkner’s decision to join the British Army, a background that was indeed shared at least in parts my many of the young recruits of the day.
Written in the first person, the story has very personal feel to it, enabling the reader to get to know Jim as a real flesh and blood person rather simply as a well-constructed character. The dialogue is entirely natural and the chronological way in which it’s portrayed and divided into twelve easily digestible chapters makes the story fluid and easy to read. There are many good things about being in the army as the author clearly shows but he doesn’t shy away from the negatives and hardships along the way. Another thing that impressed me was the author’s honesty in the events he portrays; he doesn’t exaggerate or sensationalise in pursuit of a more exciting or gripping story or try to give the impression that Jim is on course to be another Andy McCabe or other such well known military figure.
Although this is a fictional portrayal of Jim Falkner’s early military training and experiences, the author has drawn heavily on both his own life and those of his immediate comrades of the time, making ‘A Life of Choice’ as authentic as any entirely factual biography. I was pleased to discover when reading this that it wasn’t just another ‘pull up a sandbag’ type account relying on the legendary squaddie humour and colourful language for it entertainment but actually a thoughtful and well-written account of those times; yes those elements are present but they are not exaggerated or over-emphasised, though when they are alluded to it’s done to perfection…
“… The creases in his green denim trousers were sharper than the razor I’d used only the day before for the first time…”
“… Where I came from a steam iron was used to settle domestic disagreements…”
Anyone who has served as a regular in the army, or even one of the other services will from the beginning see familiar elements of themselves and their own experiences and might well read this like a trip down memory lane, bringing back happy and sometimes not so happy times. For others, particularly those who may have had or have friends or family who served, this book provides an honest and, true to military life, humorous insight into army training and life and just a few of the many colourful characters. Beyond that though this is also a compelling coming of age story, of the journey from boy to man, accelerated by intense military training along with all the usual landmark experiences of a young man growing up fast – being away from home for the first time, the pain of first love and its loss, learning to drive (in a land rover as opposed to the usual little bubble type cars that most people learn to drive in), and trying to fit in with his peers and all the pitfalls that entails. The heart of this story commences from 1969 through to 1971 when the army then was a very different thing to what it is today, and again, Tom Benson portrays that here to perfection. By the end of this first instalment, Jim Falkner has long since completed his basic training and is now a fully-fledged Signalman en-route to his first overseas posting to Germany. I look forward to reading of his further training and adventures…
Further works from Tom Benson: For further information on any of these books please click on the link to the author’s Amazon Author page:
Short story collections:
Been eagerly awaiting. .. Tom Benson’s latest short story collection, this time with the joint themes of courage and the military
I’m delighted to report the publication of my fourth anthology of short stories. The primary theme is of course military, but as suggested in the title, ‘courage’ is the underlying feature of this collection.
In some cases how the character deals with adversity is fairly obvious, but in other tales the conflict and solution is more subtle.
Here I have created 12 stories using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge, together with specially created pieces to highlight the peaks and troughs of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.
Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf…
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The Fifth Seed is the sequel to Senan Gil Senan’s superb debut Sci-fi novel, Beyond the Pale. Science Fiction is a genre that allows the writer’s imagination to run wild, possibly more so than in any other and Senan Gil does not waste that opportunity. The prequel to this took me completely by surprise, being very different to what I had expected but one that I nonetheless enjoyed from start to finish. This time I wasn’t quite so surprised but I was no less intrigued and entertained.
Senan Gil Senan is another author I discovered via my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, and his own writing has proved every bit as good and insightful as his reviews of many other authors. In the spirit of science fiction and the new and exciting ways of presenting supplementary material, further information about the author, and some fascinating background to both this and his debut novel can be found at his blog:
In addition to this review, there is also a link below to the author’s recent interview by fellow blogger and book reviewer Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi thriller The Alexandria Project.
Further links to Senan Gil Senan’s writing:
Amazon.com: Senan Gil Senan – Author page:
A young outlander begins a spirit quest, which is not expected to exceed a handful of days. In this coming of age ritual, he must spend time alone in the wilderness and forego food, water and shelter. He has to learn to place trust in his inner spirit and intuition, and follow wherever it leads him. It leads him to New Denver, a somewhat dystopian metropolis that is a showcase for a transhumanist future society. The young truth seeker expects personal revelation, and change. What he encounters instead is an adventure that brings change to all around him. Unfortunately, it also brings danger to the people he loves, and threatens the existence of the outlander community that supports him. A chain of events follows one another in a synchronistic fashion, which introduces action, romance and intrigue. These events are also the catalyst to a Machiavellian struggle between three major protagonists. One is an emerging sentient artificial Intelligence born out of the surveillance culture. Another is a controlling ancient subterranean race, and then there is the spirit-questor himself. His human physiology is so special that it represents an evolutionary leap forward for humankind. All three, potentially provide a blueprint for the future of humanity. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future.
The Fifth Seed: Volume 2 (Beyond the Pale)
By Senan Gil Senan
(Available from Amazon in both print & eBook formats)
A skillfully crafted blend of traditional sci-fi and the esoteric… 22 March 2016
Set in a not too distant dystopian future, The Fifth Seed leaps slightly forward in time from where its prequel ends not long after the birth of Ethan, the central character’s son. Ethan is now a young man and largely replaces River, his father, as the central character here. I won’t reiterate too much of the plot from the previous book or the amazon description for this one. What I can say is that this book is every bit as entertaining and thought-provoking as its predecessor. Although a sequel, this also reads very well as a stand-alone book; there are plenty of flashbacks and references to the past that ensure the reader isn’t at a disadvantage not having read the prequel, though I would still recommend reading Beyond the Pale first to make for a more complete reading experience.
In addition to the divided society of the first book, namely the technologically advanced walled-in cities surrounded by the more spiritually motivated tribes that inhabit the world outside, the author introduces some more good solid science fiction concepts here in the shape of sentient artificial and non-human intelligence, mental and physical enhancements, both technologically advanced and tribal dystopian societies. In contrast though the author skilfully blends these concepts with the past into a wider story, encompassing man’s physical, mental, and spiritual evolution. Apart from such classics as 1984, Logan’s Run, and The shape of thing to Come, the author draws on many less obvious different sources for inspiration that have echoes of Ron L. Hubbard and to lesser extent a more coherent putting together of some of some of David Icke’s theories of Reptilian races. As in the first book, much of the science has its roots firmly in the science of today. Likewise with the more esoteric aspects of the book, i.e. the spirituality and the alien reptilian races are rooted in Native American spirituality and folklore as well many of the fringe theories of past civilisations, so even without a detailed knowledge of these things, there is still a believable familiarity in the writing and elements of the story.
On a slightly negative note the author does occasionally over explain some of the science and spiritual aspects of the book, though having said that, I prefer direct explanation over that of trying to show things by overly long and contrived dialogue. Explanations aside, the dialogue and writing flows easily and naturally. The story is divided into a large number of chapters, the lengths of which are dictated by their content rather than the author trying to maintain an artificial consistency.
This is an excellent sequel to Beyond the Pale, different enough to read as a separate story entirely yet sufficiently tied into the prequel to make for a more complete story. Towards the end it’s easy to see parallels between Ethan and the inhabitants of the dystopian New Denver and that of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, and the way in which the author portrays this is nothing short of story telling at its near best. Although firmly placed in the sci-fi genre, The Fifth Seed is as much a story of human beings of any time or setting and the problems they and society face as it is of a sci-fi defined dystopian future. The blend of hard science, spirituality, religion, along with the all too human concepts of love, greed, power struggles, and a host of other familiar themes create an enthralling story that will have sci-fi fans coming back for more. As I’ve said, a superbly entertaining stand-alone book, but an ongoing story that will be all the more enhanced by reading the prequel first, especially given the likelihood of more to follow in this excellent series.
See Amazon link below for my review of Beyond the Pale
The author was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.