Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Great Pretendo #flashfriday #sparklybadgers

He’s a fast-talking, dishevelled inventor trapped in a world he never made. She’s a transdimensional renegade magician’s assistant trying to make a difference in a man’s world. Together, they fight crime! (inspiration: http://theyfightcrime.org)

(Flash Fiction, written for the Sparkly Badgers.)

***

The audience oooh’d as Pretendo circled the wooden crate, his final sword raised. Bend, flick, recoil… The blade flashed under the spotlights and plunged, piercing the lid, dead centre. As one, the audience gasped and held their breath.

Beneath the crate’s false floor, Shula waited out the seconds, knowing she’d be stuck a good while yet. Pretendo loved to drag out the sword removal part of his act even though the audience was only interested in seeing his ‘assistant’ emerge unscathed.

He was a fake. All magicians were, but that was beside the point. Pretendo wasn’t actually a magician. He was a thief on the run, and he shouldn’t have made it this far. Shula had flagged his passport with the portal authorities, but some…idiot had let him through. So, Shula did the only thing she could: downed a couple of TT pills, sent a 10–43 to the division, and hopped on the bus with him.

Now, they were here: Earth 6424/12bf4a with its bizarre and frankly illogical gendered hierarchy, which she’d discovered firsthand within minutes of arriving and before she could secure a stable 4G–HTL connection that would have forewarned of her instant demotion to second-class citizen.

Pretendo had leapt clear of the bus before it stopped and darted into the closest building, tripping over a sandwich board in his haste. The sign was still wobbling as Shula raced past.

Wanted: Illusionist + Illusionist’s assistant. Auditions today.

There was little difference in the tech from one world to the next, but theirs was strange, new… Magic. Guaranteed to get them the gig.

Illusionist.

Illusionist’s assistant.

Damned infuriating, not to mention degrading, cramped, boring…and itchy. Shiny, stretchy fabric that barely covered her mammary glands and genitalia—and the women here wore weapons on their feet. Still, with her holo-shield activated, it was good cover.

Whoosh. One sword down. Only seven more to go.

Thud, thud, thud…

“Hello?” Male voice, unknown.

Whoosh. Whoosh.

Thud, thud, thud.

“Where am I?”

Thud, thud, thud.

Whoosh.

What the…

Shula gripped the handles and pulled, opening a six-inch gap. Shafts of light cut across the upper section of the crate. The whoosh of another sword’s removal was followed by a muted curse from the silhouette above.

“Stay down!” Shula hissed.

Whoosh, whoosh…

The silhouette jolted violently. “Wh-who said that?”

“How did you get in here?”

“I, erm…” Whoosh. “Ouch! What the hell is this?”

That was the final sword. “Hold tight, I’m coming up.”

With the man’s weight, it took a fair bit of effort, but the clanks and rattles of the padlocked chains had stopped, and the lid was rising.

“Quick!” A clammy hand grasped Shula’s and pulled as she pushed, hoisting her upwards as Pretendo threw the lid aside, and, like jacks in a box, she and her crate-crasher sprang to their feet.

“Thank you, thank you!” Pretendo gushed and bowed to his whooping audience, oblivious to the added extra in his act.

Shula held her grin and curtseyed, muttering to her unwitting sidekick, “There’s a bar across the street. Wait there. I’ll find you and explain. Go!”

With her help, he scrabbled free and stumbled away, just making it offstage as Pretendo turned around.

“For my next trick, I will take this beautiful lady—” he lifted Shula’s hand to his greasy face and squelched out a kiss “—and saw her in half!”

***

By the time Shula reached the bar, she’d figured it out. Aside from the man’s dishevelled, shell-shocked appearance, he was pale, shivering and sweaty. It could’ve been flu, she supposed—the virus thrived on Earth 6424/12bf4a—but she didn’t think so. He raised his head, offering a weak nod.

“Here. Take this,” she instructed and popped a TT pill from the packet onto his quivering palm.

“What is it?” he asked, but not before he’d swallowed it.

“For travel sickness.”

“I don’t get travel sickness.”

“This kind, you do. We all do. So, who are you?”

“Tim Cox. Professor of…erm, well…” He rubbed his scruffy head in fake bewilderment.

“Quantum physics?” Shula guessed. Tim’s jaw dropped. “How did you get here?”

“Are we in London?”

“We are,” Shula confirmed. “But not your London.”

He perked up. “No way! It worked?”

“How many moons are there?”

“Orbiting Earth? Two, obviously.” He laughed like it was a ridiculous question.

Shula got up and beckoned him to follow her outside, where she pointed up at the sky and its solitary moon. “I think it’s safe to say it—whatever ‘it’ is—worked.”

“I was right! Wormholes are stable—”

Some are,” Shula interjected. “However, yours is connected to a magician’s prop, which is not in the least stable, particularly given who the magician is.” She hooked Tim’s arm and marched him back across the street, but he broke free. “Professor, you must leave before it’s too—”

The theatre doors burst open. Pretendo emerged, puffing and panting, and hauled the crate into his stolen van. That was when he spotted Shula. He scrambled into the van and took off.

“Damn it! My shield’s failed.” She hailed a passing taxi and jumped in—as did Tim—and ordered the cabbie, “Follow that van!”

Well, this was a mess. Every twist, turn and bump, the crate rattled closer to the swinging, open back doors, and now she had not one, but two transdimensional trespassers. It was far from ideal. Although…

“Can you collapse your wormhole, Professor?”

“How will I get home?”

“Good point.” But she could figure that out later. “I’m with the Transdimensional Crime Division, and I need your help. So, the wormhole…?”

“Transdimensional—” Tim uttered, awestruck.

“Can you collapse it or not?” Shula snapped.

“Of course, but—”

“Do it.”

“Now?”

“Soon as you like.”

“If you’re sure…” Tim pulled a device from his pocket, poked the screen a few times and shut his eyes. “Here goes nothing.” He pressed the screen one last time.

Up ahead, the van briefly expanded, and then shrank to non-existence.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The WAG and The Scoundrel - 99c limited offer



To celebrate the release of Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2) on June 21st, The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1) ebook is available for 99c (or thereabouts. Amazon, you know... Usual price is $3.99).


Buy The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1):


Preorder Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2):


Friday, May 18, 2018

What A Scorcher! #flashfriday #sparklybadgers

A Hiding Behind The Couch flash fiction, written for the Sparkly Badgers. Theme: extreme weather (British style ;)).

***

A pink straw sunhat dropped onto the patio table.

Iris glanced up from her magazine as Pauline passed between her and the sun—not that it mattered when she was under an umbrella. Pauline gingerly lowered herself onto the other recliner and lifted the hat, revealing a bottle of sun lotion—no, make that oil. “Bloomin’ hot, in’t it?” she said. She flipped the lid and upended the bottle, generously greasing her left arm, then her right.

“Here we go. Back in 1976, we was frying eggs on’t car bonnets…

“Well, we was!”

“Aye. You told me last time we had a heat wave.” About ten years ago, if memory served.

Pauline squinted with one eye shut, checking her arms were well coated before she squeezed dollops onto both thighs. “Nowt wrong with making the most of it.”

“You could’ve just had a barbecue, love.”

“I don’t think they was invented then, but that weren’t the point. If you’d had cars round your way—”

“Eh, we did have cars, ta very much. We just weren’t as daft as you lot. Who in their right mind thinks ‘Bloody hell, it’s hot today. Think I’ll get the eggs out’?”

“Just a bit of fun.”

“You could’ve had one of them balls on a stick.”

“A what?”

Iris mimed throwing a ball sideways and batting it.

“Oh, you mean Swingball. Did you have one?”

“We did, love. Only the dog played with it, mind. Kept him occupied for hours, once he got hold of that ball.” Iris smiled to herself, remembering how she’d had to bribe him with cheese to let go or he’d just hang there all day. She missed Nero. He’d been a smashing dog, even if he was a vicious little sod.

“Do my back?” Pauline rolled onto her side. It would leave greasy fingerprints all over Iris’s magazine, but they were on their holidays, so she obliged, slapping the magazine down on the table as noisily as she could to let Pauline know she was doing it under duress. Not even a slight breeze ruffled the pages, which was a good thing, as it meant next door’s wind chimes were quiet too.

Iris eyed the white straplines over Pauline’s bright-pink shoulders and wrinkled her nose. “You realise you’re already burnt to buggery, don’t you?”

“Tanned, love.”

“Burnt. To buggery.”

“It’ll take more than a couple of days of our piss-weak sun to burn me. I’ve got that sort of skin, you know. What’s it called…olive?”

“Like Popeye’s girlfriend?”

Pauline chuckled and wriggled. “Get on with it, then.”

“All right, mardy.” Iris tipped some oil into her palm and spread it over Pauline’s back and shoulders. They were red-hot, but she was the same every summer. The sun only had to poke its head out from behind the clouds and she’d be stripping off as if her clothes were on fire. “You’re done.”

“Ta, love.” Pauline rolled onto her back and stretched for her hat but couldn’t quite reach. With a sigh, Iris passed it to her and exchanged the bottle of oil for her magazine. “We should go away somewhere proper,” Pauline said.

“Like where?”

“I dunno. Blackpool?”

“Christ, no.”

“Have you ever been?”

“I have, love. Four years on the trot with our Georgie and that fucker. He had the poor lad up and down the beach on them bloody donkeys like I don’t know what.”

“Are they still there, the donkeys?”

“No idea. It’s cruel, though, in’t it? Poor buggers, trudging through the sand all day in that heat.”

“Aye. Like that lickle donkey what took Mary to Bethlehem,” Pauline mused. Iris gave her an old-fashioned look. Pauline grinned back. “How about Conway?”

“Always rains in Wales.”

“Scarborough?”

“Too bloody windy.”

“Margate, then.”

“It’s down south.”

“And?”

“Have you got a passport?”

Pauline frowned. “Give over.”

“Watford Gap border control…”

“I’m not that daft.”

“Says she who’s covered herself in oil. Eh, mebbe we should fry you on a car bonnet. Mind, you’d slip off and bash your daft head on’t bumper.”

Pauline pulled her hat down over her face, ignoring Iris’s mockery, but it didn’t stay there for long. British summers were too short and unpredictable for Pauline to waste on sulking under her sunhat.

Iris lit a cig and sat back, appreciating the quiet while it lasted. No cars or lawnmowers, just the occasional coo of a wood pigeon in the trees at the bottom of the garden and the buzz and flutter of bees and butterflies passing through. Aside from the trail of a distant jumbo jet, the sky was an unbroken expanse of blue.

“We don’t need to trek all the way to the seaside for a proper holiday,” she said. “Besides, you know what’ll happen if we do. We’d spend God knows how long squashed up like sardines in a sweating-hot coach only to get there and have it bloody rain all week. No, love. I’m happy here. It’s me home from home.” Iris glanced over at Pauline and sighed. “Talking to meself, then. Right, I see.”

She got up to adjust the umbrella so it still covered her and then nearly jumped out of her skin when Pauline gave a loud snore. “Watch it or I’ll impale you on the bloody thing,” she muttered. Pauline didn’t even stir.

Iris returned to her chair and staring at the sky. She’d bob in and make a cuppa soon. She couldn’t be doing with the heat, and it was cooler in the house, which was where Blue and Monty were hiding. Not a mad dog or Englishman in sight, she started to doze herself.

***

Pauline snorted and sat up with a start. “Is that Mr. Whippy?”

“Trust you to hear that.” He had to be a mile away, but he was getting closer.

“I’m buying,” Pauline said, already on her feet. “Strawberry Mivvy?”

Iris smiled. “Aye, love. Why not? But don’t go chucking it on a car bonnet, eh?”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Upcoming Release: Curtain Call, by C H Clepitt

Blurb:
C H Clepitt has a knack for creating real, relatable characters, who face adversity with humour and humanity, and Curtain Call is no exception.

“Possibly the best thing I’ve read by C H Clepitt so far.” - Murray McLean

When an assistant to the director role turns into P.A. to her favourite film star, Jen can’t believe her luck. Eleanor Francis is charming, kind and funny, but she has a secret, and when tragedy strikes, things threaten to unravel at an uncontrollable pace. Despite being out of her depth Jen has to adapt to her new role quickly, to protect Eleanor, with whom she is rapidly falling in love.

This is a sweet, understated story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. If you’ve enjoyed C H Clepitt’s other books then this is not to be missed.


Reviews:
“The story is very well written and flows nicely... I would love to read more about the two main characters in future books.” - Simon Leonard - Black Books Blog

“Love blossoms in an unexpected place in this emotional short story. A change of direction for Clepitt but delicately written and heartfelt.” - Claire Buss - Author of  The Rose Thief  and other novels.

“The story's optimism that makes it such a joy to read and leaves one feeling there must be hope after all.” A.M. Leibowitz - Author of  Keeping the Faith  and other novels.

Preorder Link:
Kindle:  relinks.me/B07CKFLYW6
Get in touch via  chclepitt.com  to order paper
 
A Word from the Author:
This started as a short story, prompted by an anthology call by friend and colleague A.M. Leibowitz. I was at the maximum word limit, and felt the characters still had more to say, so, when it turned out my submission was 4 times longer than all of the other submissions, I withdrew it, expanded it and this novella was born. I am really proud of what I have achieved here, and think it might be some of my best writing to date. I really hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Contact:
If you would like to arrange an interview or spotlight, you can contact C H Clepitt via her website.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Newish Release: Hiding Behind The Couch Box Set Two


I haven't had time to blog properly on a Monday for a few weeks, so my apologies if you're a regular reader. I'm doing my best to get back in the swing of it.

This is just a quickie to announce the release of Box Set Two of Hiding Behind The Couch, which is available on Kindle only (and Kindle Unlimited).

BOX SET ONE

  • Beginnings
  • Ruminations
  • Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One)
  • No Time Like The Present (Season Two)
  • The Harder They Fall (Season Three)
  • Crying in the Rain
  • First Christmas


BOX SET TWO

  • In The Stars Part I (Season Four)
  • Breaking Waves
  • Chain of Secrets
  • In The Stars Part II (Season Five)
  • A Midnight Clear
  • Red Hot Christmas


BOX SET THREE (sometime in 2018/9)

  • Two by Two (Season Six)
  • Hiding Out
  • Class-A
  • Those Jeffries Boys
  • Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium
  • The WAG and The Scoundrel


NOVELLAS/SHORT STORIES BOX SET

  • Beginnings
  • Class-A
  • First Christmas
  • Breaking Waves
  • Chain of Secrets
  • A Midnight Clear
  • Red Hot Christmas
  • Hiding Out
  • Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium
  • To Be Sure
The novellas/short stories box set is also available as a paperback - readers asked for print editions of the novellas and short stories, so here they are. Note: these stories will all appear in the numbered box sets.

The novels are also available in paperback editions. :) Visit Beaten Track Publishing for all purchase/download links


Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - No Filter: Very Odd - #lgbtqia

But I have news! I submitted a story for Upstaged—the upcoming anthology from Supposed Crimes—and it was accepted! Woohoo! :) It was nerve-racking, I won’t lie. It’s the first time I’ve submitted a story anywhere since my first novel. This writing malarkey never gets any easier. I’ll post more about the anthology nearer publication time.

Anyway, it’s WIPpet Wednesday. I’m allegedly writing No Filter for CampNaNoWriMo. I haven’t managed much writing, but it’s coming along slowly.

Brief story info:
No Filter is a crossover novella of the Hiding Behind The Couch and Checking Him Out series(es), featuring Libby (and others) from HBTC, and Matty (and others) from CHO.

This week’s snippet is from Libby’s point of view; it follows from last week’s snippet, where Libby was scheming. Note (and also a spoiler for anyone reading HBTC who hasn’t got as far as Season Six): Josh and George are Libby’s foster/adoptive parents. Highlight to read.

WIPpet maths for 11th April:
9 sentences, 2 paragraphs… 9+2=11.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Only Josh was home, so she wouldn’t get a definite yes or no until later, but she could still sound him out. She’d have preferred to talk to George first—it made sense to wait until he got in from work, but sense and patience were not playing on the same side this afternoon. Plus George would say ‘who?’ and then she’d have to tell the whole story to remind him, whereas Josh would remember exactly who she was talking about the second she mentioned the name. Possibly even before.

Pocketing her phone, Libby clicked the remote control to lower the stairs from her attic bedroom into Josh’s office, drawing breath as she descended, her speech at the ready, but she’d have been addressing an empty room. Very odd. She reached the bottom of the stairs and cocked her head, listening. He usually called up to say if he was going out, but she couldn’t hear much of anything, although…it sounded like the TV was on, which was even odder. She went to investigate.

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?
WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - No Filter: No Patience - #lgbtqia

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks because of workload, which hasn’t lessened any, if I’m honest. Uni work, publishing…there are not enough hours in the day/days in the week!

Still, it’s WIPpet Wednesday. :)

Brief story info:
No Filter is a crossover novella of the Hiding Behind The Couch and Checking Him Out series(es), featuring Libby (and others) from HBTC, and Matty (and others) from CHO.

This week’s snippet is from Libby’s point of view; this is the start of chapter two (the previous snippets were from chapter one).

WIPpet maths for 4th April:
4x4=16 paragraphs.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Libby jiggled her leg impatiently to the FaceTime bleeps. It never took Poppy this long to pick up. In fact, Libby was quite sure if she added up all the seconds of waiting from all of their calls in the two years since they’d become friends, it wouldn’t come close to the hours she’d been waiting this time. She gave up.

And called again. On and on it rang. “Come on…come on…what is she do— At last!”

“What?” Poppy’s puzzled frown appeared onscreen at too-close range, like she was stuck inside the phone.

Libby backed off in mock-horror. “Nothing.” Objectively, it probably hadn’t taken Poppy any longer than normal to answer, but Libby was desperate to share.

Desperate, but not stupid.

She mouthed, “Is your mum there?” then, after Poppy’s nodded confirmation, said at a normal volume, “Did you ask your mum about coming over to do the project?”

Poppy’s eyebrows shot up into her hair. “Um…no…not…yet?” Her panic-stricken expression, along with excitement, almost set Libby off giggling. Poppy mouthed, “Project?”

“I dunno. Make something up!”

Poppy shrugged helplessly—“OK”—and tilted her head back to shout, “Mum, can I go to Libby’s to work on our project?”

“What project?”

“One for…sixth form.” Poppy shrugged again. She didn’t look optimistic.

“You don’t start sixth form for another month.” Her mum’s voice was closer now, and she appeared in the background, in rubber gloves, viciously attacking a baking tray with a scouring pad.

“We want to make a head start.”

A brief silence followed, in which Poppy was turned mostly the other way, but Libby saw her cheek lift a split second before her mum answered, “I suppose so. It’s only your summer holiday you’re wasting.”

“Thanks.” Poppy turned back to Libby with a grin and talked on the move. “The bus is due in two minutes and I need to get my trainers on.”

“OK. See you soon.” Libby ended the call. On to the next stage of her scheme.

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?
WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Book Review: In The Present Tense by Carrie Pack

Title: In The Present Tense
Author: Carrie Pack
Publisher: Interlude Press
Published: 19th May, 2016
ISBN: 9781941530788

Blurb:
Miles Lawson goes to sleep dreaming of a future with his boyfriend Adam, but wakes to find he is married to Ana, an acquaintance from high school. When he learns he has been time traveling, Miles is consumed with finding a cure for his rare condition—and finding his first love.

Traveling more frequently, Miles assembles the puzzle pieces of his life and, in doing so, alienates his wife. As he loses control, Miles must realize that sometimes fixing your past mistakes means changing your future. But will he be able to convince Adam he is telling the truth before it’s too late?

Review:
In The Present Tense isn’t literary fiction. I appreciate this is a curious way to start a review – what the book is not – but most novels I’ve come across that take on topics of an intellectual/political nature in the way Carrie Pack does are, ultimately, vessels through which the author can show off their leet writing skills through a complex story arc, spectacular vocabulary and their ability to come up with the most convoluted sentences ever. It’s nice – if they’re aiming to appear on the A’ Level English Literature syllabus at some point in the future – but there’s too much clutter between execution of concept and the reader’s ability to just enjoy the story.

In short, Carrie Pack cuts the crap – which makes this book accessible to a wide range of readers – and gets straight down to the storytelling. And wow, what a story this is. It tackles issues around mental health and illness, and I’ve got to say, as someone who has worked/teaches in the fields of psychology/psychiatry, it is wonderful to read realistic depictions of mental ‘disorders’ such as dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia.

I also want to applaud the author for portraying the horror of enforced psychiatric incarceration. The way it’s done is not ‘thrilling’ in the typical thriller novel sense, but it is thrilling. My heart was hammering so fast at times, and I felt nauseous – the same reaction I get to real-world oppression. I’ll admit, my worldview incorporates an anti-psychiatry stance, and I sense the author’s sentiments are not incongruent. We might have left behind the vast asylums of the past, but a diagnosis of an acute mental disorder is, for some people, tantamount to throwing away the key. We need to see these people in our stories if for no other reason than they are invisible in the real world.

That’s only part of the story, albeit a very significant part. The time travel is done so well, but there’s little more I can say about it without either repeating the blurb or giving away key elements of the plot. I, like most readers, have a brain that skips past chapter headings and subheadings, so I generally had to hop back a few lines and read the author’s helpfully included dates. Truthfully, I was too desperate to keep reading the story, so mostly I gave these a cursory glance before once more submerging into Miles’s world.

While Miles is most certainly the main character, we do get a few different points of view, and again, these are all clearly marked by subheadings, but they’re also easy to identify if you do just keep reading, like I did, into the night. I forced myself to stop at 92% to squeeze an extra day out of this story. It’s so good.

Finally, the characters…well, this is where the author has really hit it out the park for me. LGBTQ+ main character, the politics of mental health, time travel and damn fine characterisation. There’s no sweetness and light in here; all of the characters have huge flaws, like real people. Some situations cast them in a poorer light than others, and the emotional impact on the reader is the same roller-coaster ride we get from our interactions with people we know. The only character I was 100% onside with was Miles, even though at times I wanted to give him a good talking-to or simply remove him from the situation. The traits/behaviours distinct to Miles at different points in time were also a nice touch.

I loved In The Present Tense from beginning to end, and the sequel is out this summer (2018)! I’ll be at the front of the queue.

Received through NetGalley.