For all scifi fans here’s a teaser

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     There was a time when mankind’s only means of exploring the Universe either meant sending unmanned probes to various locations across our solar system, or exploring beyond its borders using powerful telescopes parked in stationary orbit above the Earth, as well as the hundreds of observatories dotted across the planet. That all changed in the twenty-second century when fusion powered propulsion became a reality, along with a way of keeping a human being alive for the duration of any flight farther than the inner limits of our solar system.

Chapter One

The mission commander took one last look at the beautiful blue planet he and the crew called home as the ship prepared to leave Earth orbit. Now was the time for its crew to enter their stasis units. “If there are any problems at all Céleste, please don’t hesitate to wake me.”

“Understood David,” was the reply that echoed all around him.

Not only the ship but its small crew and the mission itself were in the care of the ship’s state of the art artificial intelligence. For the several decades it would take to achieve their goal, she was in complete control whenever the crew were held in stasis. Once she had ensured he and the rest of the human crew were in a safe state of suspended animation, she uploaded the complicated course with its numerous way points into the ship’s computer. Each waypoint must be reached in a specific order for them to ultimately arrive at the mission’s destination – the exoplanet designated Beaumont 61, located at the absolute outer extremity of the Orion Spur, the same spiral arm in which our own solar system is situated, part of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.

~~~

     Launch day had finally arrived. The ship was given the name Apkallu, the collective term for the pantheon of gods worshipped by the ancient Sumerians and Akkadians, thousands of years earlier in man’s chequered history. Until Apkallu arrived at the first waypoint, all of the technology and materials used, together with the method of its construction would remain unproven.

Apkallu’s crew consists of the twenty-eight year old mission commander, David O’Leary, who had gained a first in deep field astronomy at University College Dublin. The next crew member is the totally bewitching twenty-five year old Flávia Blanco with two Bachelor of Arts degrees to her name, one in plate tectonics and the other in geomorphology. Given her privileged background, whether or not she actually earned them was another matter entirely. Only time would tell. The third member of the crew is the forty year old self-taught Belgian electronics genius Lukas Gossens. His other talent as a gifted amateur chef negated any need to recruit anyone for the post. The fourth member of the crew is the diminutive thirty-five year old Japanese bio-scientist, Rieko Mori. She earned her two honours degrees, the first in horticulture and the other in exobiology, from Osaka University. Lastly, at fifty-six, the extremely dour doctor, Andreas Georgiadis had graduated thirty years earlier from The School of Medicine at the University of Thessaloniki in Greece. He had been chosen from a list of thousands of highly qualified doctors from across the planet. His field experience with Médecins Sans Frontières in various hotspots, particularly in the Middle East where civil war fuelled by religious intolerance and control over the area’s vast oil deposits still persisted in the twenty-second century, was the deciding factor for his inclusion as part of the crew.

~~~

     Apkallu’s artificial intelligence was christened Céleste by the youthful team of highly gifted bio-electronic software graduates responsible for her creation. The ship’s Fusion reactor was designed and developed by a team of lateral thinking nuclear engineers from China, Korea, Germany and Japan. Lastly, the crew’s individual stasis units were conceived, designed and constructed in India. On reaching the first waypoint situated at the closest position possible to the Andromeda galaxy still within the spiral arm, Cèleste would wake the crew.

She engaged the Fusion powered propulsion system, gradually building up its output to a nominal thirty percent to achieve maximum sub light speed. Even though in theory it was capable of propelling Apkallu at the speed of light, given that it was still untried technology, whether or not it was safe to do so was considered a risk too far by its designers. They believed it was far better to err on the side of caution, unless Apkallu’s crew found the need to use its theoretical maximum speed to extract themselves and the ship from some as yet unforeseen circumstance.

~~~

     Apkallu finally arrived at the first waypoint, five years after leaving Earth orbit. How their bodies would react to being in stasis for an extended period of time was yet another unknown. Céleste had constantly monitored each one of them for any sign of medical problems throughout the entire time it took to get here, paying particular attention to David for reasons which will soon become apparent. Before they could go about their duties, Andreas would have to give each one of them a full medical after first checking himself over.

“David, how do you feel?” she asked with a tinge of concern for him in her voice.

“Lethargic,” he groggily replied, trying with some difficulty to shake off the effects of his unnaturally long period of sleep. “God I’m hungry. I need proper food, not substitutes. How is everyone else?” he asked while he unplugged himself from the unit’s intravenous system that had supplied him with nutrients essential to his wellbeing.

“I’ll check for you.”

“Thank you. While you’re at it can you please ask them all to assemble in the observation lounge, once they’ve been given the all clear by Andreas?”

“Of course David, it will be my pleasure.”

While the crew were slowly recovering from the effects of years of physical inactivity, they took in the magical sight of our sister galaxy, Andromeda, floating in the star filled cosmos beyond the lounge’s vista windows. “Ok people,” David began. “While we all recover from our first taste of being in stasis we’ll remain here for a few days. Once we’re back to normal, we have a couple of tasks to perform before we head for the next waypoint. By that I mean we will be placing the first of a series of listening stations and optical observatories here. In the meantime get as much rest as you possibly can. Always providing of course that the good doctor here is not too insistent upon all of us taking part in some kind of punishing fitness regime he has dreamt up that is.” His last comment drew smiles and laughter from everyone with the exception of Andreas who failed to appreciate David’s joke at his expense. “That’s it for now. Lukas what’s on the menu, I don’t know about the rest of you but I need real food, not those damned stasis unit nutrients?”

“If Flávia and Rieko will consent to give me a hand I’ll rustle up something in a half hour or so,” the Belgian replied as his own belly began grumbling. With that David left to head to his private quarters for the first time in the mission.

~~~

     Even before she spoke, David’s sixth sense told him that Céleste was about to say something. “David, may I have a word please?”

“Of course you can. What is it?” Even though she was nothing more than a disembodied presence to her human crew mates, her creators had given her voice a delightfully seductive French accent, which he found extremely pleasing to the ear.

“I’m curious about something. Can you tell me what is it that attracts a man to a woman?”

David was completely caught off guard by her question. “Well, I can only speak for myself. For me it’s a mixture of her intelligence, personality, attitude and looks, combined with how relaxed she feels in my presence. Take Flávia for example. Her mix of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese ancestry has manifested itself in a typical example of South American womanhood. Unfortunately, she appears to exhibit all the signs of becoming a total pain in the backside at some point in the future given her petulant manner and the arrogant way she reacts towards other women like Rieko. I put that down to the fact that she is the only child of very rich parents, and therefore was, and probably still is, spoilt. It strikes me that she is the kind of shallow creature who uses her looks to get her own way. It would not surprise me in the least if her parents had secured her degrees in return for a large donation to the university she attended. We’ll see if she actually did earn them when we arrive at Beaumont 61 when she is called upon to do what she was hired for. Until then I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that score.

Rieko on the other hand couldn’t be more different. While she is also extremely pleasing to the male eye, she gives the impression of having been brought up in the traditional Japanese manner. Which means that like all of her countrywomen, she was taught from birth how to entrance anyone she meets by the way she exudes femininity, gentleness, intelligence, grace and charm, while rarely speaking unless spoken to. I hope that helps to answer your question?”

“Yes – thank you. May I ask you other questions when they occur to me?”

“Of course; is there anything else you want to know at the moment?”

“Yes there was one other thing, forgive me for asking but who is that in the image on your bedside table?”

David picked up the framed photograph with a faraway look in his eyes. “I never knew her name. But that didn’t stop me falling in love with her in my teens when I first came across her photograph on the Internet. It’s the only personal possession I brought with me. Quite honestly Céleste, I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. I really wish I could have met her…”

“I’m sorry for prying. I thought she might be your fiancée.”

“Sadly no, as far as I can make out she lived at some time during the twenty-first century,” he replied, with a sad expression on his unshaven face and the merest hint of a tear beginning to well up in his eyes, which affected Céleste to the point where she dearly wished that she had a physical presence so that she could comfort him. “Is there anything else you wish to ask me?”

“Not at the moment David. Thank you.”

“Then it’s time to take a familiarisation tour of Apkallu. Would you care to join me?”

“You forget, wherever you are in the ship I’m always by your side David,” she quietly reminded him.

~~~

     Over the next seven days he and the rest of the crew explored their giant new home. Rieko was in the scientist’s equivalent of seventh heaven as she wandered around her brand new laboratory and its adjoining seed banks and cryogenic storage lockers. Situated next to the laboratory, she found a state of the art hydroponics unit. Beyond that, a hothouse containing compost rich beds lit and heated with overhead UV sunlamps.

Andreas closely inspected Apkallu’s medical department, paying particular attention to the operating theatre and the recovery ward, plus the airtight contagion unit, necessary should anything hazardous to their health be contracted by any of the crew once they arrived at Beaumont 61.

For his part, David thoroughly familiarised himself with the ship’s on-board astronomical observatory on the upper deck and its adjoining workshop.

On the other hand, Flávia had to force herself to briefly enter her assigned workspace. When she saw its drab décor and utilitarian furnishings, she wrinkled her nose in utter disgust. Closing the door behind her she returned to the comfortable loungers in the observation lounge to daydream like a lovesick schoolgirl about being in David’s arms, having decided she wanted him.

As well as being the one responsible for Apkallu’s complicated electronics, Lukas was charged with maintaining its Fusion reactor, which powered literally every piece of equipment aboard from the propulsion system through to the cracking unit designed to create fresh water and a breathable oxygen rich atmosphere, plus the ship’s composting system that ingested all organic waste. In the latter’s case instead of the end product being jettisoned into space, it was to be used in Rieko’s hothouse as a source of fertilizer. Had his workshop been based on Earth, undoubtedly it would be the envy of literally every electronics and mechanical engineer across the entire planet.

On the last day of their stay at the first waypoint, Céleste and the rest of the crew watched as David piloted one of Apkallu’s shuttles, capable of reaching the surface of Beaumont 61 without burning up in its atmosphere, to a position approximately half a mile away to enable Flávia and himself to launch its payloads. No one was surprised in the least when she volunteered to help him. What she felt for him was blindingly obvious by the way she always sighed whenever anyone mentioned his name, or when he entered any area where she also happened to be at the time, the way she looked at him with a burning sexual hunger in her eyes, leaving the casual observer in no doubt whatsoever as to her physical intentions where he was concerned. No one had the heart to tell her that he simply couldn’t stand her. But because she had begged to be allowed to assist him, he took it as a golden opportunity for her to actually do some work for a change instead of merely lazing around.

The first of the telescope arrays with its mix of optical and infrared telescopes, each fitted with its own camera, was placed in position. While he left her to follow his instructions to the letter on how to check that it was fully functional, while at the same time paying particular attention to the links between the array’s cameras and their sender units, he flew the shuttle to the other side of Apkallu to set up the first listening post. In effect it was nothing more than a series of radio dishes and antenna, each specifically tuned to a preselected frequency that fed their individual signals to a powerful transmitter aimed at Earth. Having satisfied himself that it too was fully functional, he picked up Flávia before returning to Apkallu’s main shuttle bay.

Once back on board they joined the rest of the crew for their last meal together at the first waypoint. Three hours later while they once again slept in their individual stasis units, Céleste engaged Apkallu’s propulsion system. Satisfied that all was well, she could now devote all her energies to a research and development task she deemed to be of the greatest importance from her point of view. This leg of the journey would take fifteen years. More than enough time for what she had in mind.

~~~

Interested? Then if you live in the US and want to read the rest of the story, you know what to do. Click on this link to buy your own copy. UK readers should click on this link.

 

An Extract For You

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By now, you all know the quality of my writing from the short stories of mine which you have had the pleasure of reading over the past few weeks. It’s now time for you help me out by first of all reading a short edited extract from my latest novella, which by the way is not just another run of the mill scifi tale but also a love story, and then by buying yourselves a copy…

~~~

The mission commander took one last look at the beautiful blue planet he and the crew called home as the ship prepared to leave Earth orbit. Now was the time for its crew to enter their stasis units. “If there are any problems at all Céleste, please don’t hesitate to wake me.”

“Understood David,” was the reply that echoed all around him. Not only the ship but its small crew and the mission itself were in the care of the ship’s state of the art artificial intelligence. For the several decades it would take to achieve their goal, she was in complete control whenever the crew were held in stasis. Once she had ensured he and the rest of the human crew were in a safe state of suspended animation, she uploaded the complicated course with its numerous way points into the ship’s computer. Each waypoint must be reached in a specific order for them to ultimately arrive at the mission’s destination – the exoplanet designated Beaumont 61, located at the absolute outer extremity of the Orion Spur, the same spiral arm in which our own solar system is situated, part of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.

~~~

Apkallu’s artificial intelligence was christened Céleste by the youthful team of highly gifted bio-electronic software graduates responsible for her creation. The ship’s Fusion reactor was designed and developed by a team of lateral thinking nuclear engineers from China, Korea, Germany and Japan. Lastly, the crew’s individual stasis units were conceived, designed and constructed in India. On reaching the first waypoint situated at the closest position possible to the Andromeda galaxy still within the spiral arm, Cèleste would wake the crew.

She engaged the Fusion powered propulsion system, gradually building up its output to a nominal thirty percent to achieve maximum sub light speed. Even though in theory it was capable of propelling Apkallu at the speed of light, given that it was still untried technology, whether or not it was safe to do so was considered a risk too far by its designers. They believed it was far better to err on the side of caution, unless Apkallu’s crew found the need to use its theoretical maximum speed to extract themselves and the ship from some as yet unforeseen circumstance.

~~~

Apkallu finally arrived at the first waypoint, five years after leaving Earth orbit. How their bodies would react to being in stasis for an extended period of time was yet another unknown. Céleste had constantly monitored each one of them for any sign of medical problems throughout the entire time it took to get here, paying particular attention to David for reasons which will soon become apparent. Before they could go about their duties, Andreas would have to give each one of them a full medical after first checking himself over.

“David, how do you feel?” she asked with a tinge of concern for him in her voice.

“Lethargic,” he groggily replied, trying with some difficulty to shake off the effects of his unnaturally long period of sleep. “God I’m hungry. I need proper food, not substitutes. How is everyone else?” he asked while he unplugged himself from the unit’s intravenous system that had supplied him with nutrients essential to his wellbeing.

“I’ll check for you.”

“Thank you. While you’re at it can you please ask them all to assemble in the observation lounge, once they’ve been given the all clear by Andreas?”

“Of course David, it will be my pleasure.”

While the crew were slowly recovering from the effects of years of physical inactivity, they took in the magical sight of our sister galaxy, Andromeda, floating in the star filled cosmos beyond the lounge’s vista windows. “Ok people,” David began. “While we all recover from our first taste of being in stasis we’ll remain here for a few days. Once we’re back to normal, we have a couple of tasks to perform before we head for the next waypoint. By that I mean we will be placing the first of a series of listening stations and optical observatories here. In the meantime get as much rest as you possibly can. Always providing of course that the good doctor here is not too insistent upon all of us taking part in some kind of punishing fitness regime he has dreamt up that is.” His last comment drew smiles and laughter from everyone with the exception of Andreas who failed to appreciate David’s joke at his expense. “That’s it for now. Lukas what’s on the menu, I don’t know about the rest of you but I need real food, not those damned stasis unit nutrients?”

“If Flávia and Rieko will consent to give me a hand I’ll rustle up something in a half hour or so,” the Belgian replied as his own belly began grumbling. With that David left to head to his private quarters for the first time in the mission.

~~~

Even before she spoke, David’s sixth sense told him that Céleste was about to say something. “David, may I have a word please?”

“Of course you can. What is it?” Even though she was nothing more than a disembodied presence to her human crew mates, her creators had given her voice a delightfully seductive French accent, which he found extremely pleasing to the ear.

“I’m curious about something. Can you tell me what is it that attracts a man to a woman?”

David was completely caught off guard by her question. “Well, I can only speak for myself. For me it’s a mixture of her intelligence, personality, attitude and looks, combined with how relaxed she feels in my presence. Take Flávia for example. Her mix of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese ancestry has manifested itself in a typical example of South American womanhood. Unfortunately, she appears to exhibit all the signs of becoming a total pain in the backside at some point in the future given her petulant manner and the arrogant way she reacts towards other women like Rieko. I put that down to the fact that she is the only child of very rich parents, and therefore was, and probably still is, spoilt. It strikes me that she is the kind of shallow creature who uses her looks to get her own way. It would not surprise me in the least if her parents had secured her degrees in return for a large donation to the university she attended. We’ll see if she actually did earn them when we arrive at Beaumont 61 when she is called upon to do what she was hired for. Until then I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that score.

Rieko on the other hand couldn’t be more different. While she is also extremely pleasing to the male eye, she gives the impression of having been brought up in the traditional Japanese manner. Which means that like all of her countrywomen, she was taught from birth how to entrance anyone she meets by the way she exudes femininity, gentleness, intelligence, grace and charm, while rarely speaking unless spoken to. I hope that helps to answer your question?”

“Yes – thank you. May I ask you other questions when they occur to me?”

“Of course; is there anything else you want to know at the moment?”

“Yes there was one other thing, forgive me for asking but who is that in the image on your bedside table?”

David picked up the framed photograph with a faraway look in his eyes. “I never knew her name. But that didn’t stop me falling in love with her in my teens when I first came across her photograph on the Internet. It’s the only personal possession I brought with me. Quite honestly Céleste, I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. I really wish I could have met her…”

“I’m sorry for prying. I thought she might be your fiancée.”

“Sadly no, as far as I can make out she lived at some time during the twenty-first century,” he replied, with a sad expression on his unshaven face and the merest hint of a tear beginning to well up in his eyes, which affected Céleste to the point where she dearly wished that she had a physical presence so that she could comfort him. “Is there anything else you wish to ask me?”

“Not at the moment David. Thank you.”

“Then it’s time to take a familiarisation tour of Apkallu. Would you care to join me?”

“You forget, wherever you are in the ship I’m always by your side David,” she quietly reminded him.

~~~

“How do you feel David?”

“My god Céleste, is that really you?”

“Yes of course it’s me silly,” she replied with a sweet smile on her beautiful face.

“But how is this possible?” he asked, utterly delighted, yet totally baffled. Before him stood the woman whose photo he had fallen head over heels in love with all those years ago.

“While you and the crew were in stasis, and when I was not attending to various maintenance issues and altering Apkallu’s course to avoid colliding with numerous sizeable examples of cosmic debris, I decided to research the woman in the image on your bedside table who completely stole your heart. It took me several years of searching the Internet before I eventually found out that her name was Gabriela Cabral, as well as everything I could find concerning her tragic life story.

Like Flávia she was born in Brazil, but at the end of the twentieth century. Because of what she was, combined with her personal circumstances, at twenty-two she had to flee her homeland. She got as far as London where she constantly lived in fear for her life due to the number of other Brazilians living there. Inevitably she was recognised and betrayed by someone who came from the same favela as her in the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro. Then in twenty twenty-five, she tragically died at the hands of the man who had made her life a living hell. Back in the favela he often beat and raped her before dragging her out to work the back streets of Rio as a prostitute to support his drug habit. At his trial, when he was asked by the prosecution why he had murdered her in cold blood, he told the court that as far as he was concerned she signed her own death warrant when she escaped from his clutches in the dead of night. At the conclusion of the trial the jury didn’t need to deliberate the evidence David. Instead they immediately returned a unanimous guilty verdict, asking the judge to impose the death penalty.

Once I had found out all there was to know about her, by using several more photographs that I came across during my search I was finally able to reproduce her form. I hope my new body pleases you.”

“I don’t know what to say except thank you for bringing the woman of my dreams to life,” David replied with a huge grin on his face “It’s completely tragic that such a beautiful human being as her was forced into prostitution, beaten and raped, and then murdered for taking her chance to escape her former life. By the way, what did you mean when you said what she was?”

Céleste said nothing. Instead she briefly turned her back, giving him the chance to see her from behind while she began to slowly unzip the crème body suit she was wearing, who’s extremely thin fabric literally clung to every curve and intimate detail of her body like a second skin, leaving very little to the imagination. When she turned round to face him, his suspicions were proven correct. She was wearing nothing beneath it. She proceeded to slowly unzip the suit even further, allowing his eyes to take in her magnificent cleavage and her stomach. When the zip finally reached its fullest extent, what she ultimately revealed was something he was definitely not expecting…

~~~

Well people, if the above heavily edited extract from my scifi novella caught your interest, and you want to know what happens next, not only between Céleste and David, but also the rest of the crew of Apkallu, don’t put it off. Buy a copy at:

Amazon.com

and

Amazon.co.uk

PS – don’t forget, if after buying and reading your copy, you enjoyed reading it, tell your friends and please review it on whichever Amazon site you bought it from.

Conversely – if you didn’t, then don’t. There are far to many negative reviews out there as it is. Not just for my books but everyone else’s…

😉

A Few Further Thoughts

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I’m still engaged in working out chapter two of my new science fiction novel The Guardian. Because I need some more serious thinking time to solve a particular problem, specifically how I go about introducing more characters, how many, and the gender ratio, I thought I might say something about a few things that tend to happen when we write, and some which get overused, not just by newbie writers I might add. A lot of what I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts. For my long time followers, please bear with me. This is mainly for any and all newcomers to my blog with dreams of one day becoming a published writer.

***

Some of the novels and novellas by first time writer’s I have read recently, seem to rely solely on descriptive prose, while others believe that narrative and nothing else is all you need to tell the story. Neither of these techniques should ever be used on their own. Then there are a few who commit the sin of being verbose. To them I simply say, why use fifty words when ten or twenty will get across what you want to say?

But what I really want to get across to you is why descriptive prose should be used only when appropriate, and preferably not relied upon as a few writers tend to do – Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge 2000BC springs to mind as a book doubly cursed. It is mainly descriptive prose as well as being longwinded, i.e verbose. What was he thinking when he wrote it I wonder? Was it an experiment? Perhaps it was…

I saw this excellent quote on a writer’s Q&A site recently – Descriptive prose is simply writing that describes or gives a picture of a scene.” To give you an example, here is a short extract of mainly descriptive prose from my current WIP. To set the scene for you, remember that the story is set in the twenty-second century. Things are hotting up between my two main characters. Lynne loves wearing what she thinks of as vintage clothing from the twenty-first century. In this brief scene she has deliberately dressed in a specific way to get the attention of my male lead Adler while they are back on Earth. Up until now he has only ever seen her in her baggy flight suit, appearing indifferent towards her. Consequently she is determined to change his mind.

“Hi boss. God you are a hard man to track down.” Adler looked up to see Lynne standing before him. For a few seconds his eyes devoured the vision before him. Her makeup was perfect. The top half of her body was barely concealed inside a flesh coloured translucent Dolce and Gabbana tank top that clung to her breasts, leaving nothing to the imagination. As she slowly spun around for effect, the thought occurred to him that her perfectly formed rear was not so much covered by the Teal blue silk Artigiano miniskirt she wore, as lovingly caressed by it. Her legs were clad in a pair of Filodoro fishnet stockings. On her feet she wore an expensive pair of Marino Fabiani bright red stilettos. To complete the ensemble, she had an expensive Gucci bag slung over one shoulder. “Buy a girl a drink soldier?” she demanded rather than asked, giving him a smouldering look while deliberately sitting down directly opposite him to reveal the briefest hint of cream coloured silk underwear barely large enough to cover what now lay tantalisingly hidden from view when she crossed her legs. Yet again she was playing him. His wide eyed reaction told her she now had his complete attention.

What can I say, Lynne is sexually attracted to him. While there will inevitably be some prudish individuals who consider the above as bordering on the indecent, most will accept it as part of the story and move on.

Another point for you new writers to consider, even some of the old hands need to as well, is never state the obvious. What do I mean by this? Think about how many times while watching a film or maybe a play on television, that at some stage in the film one or more of the characters has said something like “we’re taking fire” when it is plainly obvious to you while watching it from the sight and sounds of ricocheting projectiles, part of the noise of any battle. Another absolute classic example is when a character states the obvious – “someone turned off the lights!” when the lights go out. Duh, really? Even screenplay writers don’t always get it right.

Of course when you are writing a book, unless you make a point of telling your readers what is happening by stating something maybe a little like the two above examples, how else would they know what has just happened. What I’m saying is think before you write!

Any story is always a delicate balance of many writing techniques. Each has its place. None should ever be solely relied upon. There are three or four other points for you to consider. Some of today’s writers see nothing wrong in the endless use of expletives. Don’t do it! Nor should you be explicit when it comes to sex scenes. By all means allude to whats going on, just don’t spell it out.  

Another thing is try to avoid using words in common use in your local vernacular. In the US, the made up word ‘gotten’ gets used on a daily basis. If your intention is for your book to only be sold in your country, then usually there will be no problem using such words. However, if you want your book to appeal to the rest of the world stick to English English and English spelling. In short if it doesn’t appear in the English version of the Oxford English Dictionary, avoid using it like the plague.

Lastly, avoid using the same old words all the time. By all means use them when writing the first draft of your WIP. But when it comes to editing it, make full use of a Thesaurus in conjunction with the synonym function common to all writing platforms. After all, that’s why they exist.

Now it’s back to thinking time for me, while I consume a Pomegranate for breakfast which I bought yesterday as a special treat. At my age, I deserve the odd pleasure from time to time. It’s a fruit I haven’t tasted since I was a child. Can’t wait…

PS – As for whether or not Lynne gets her man? Wait and see.

😀 😀 😀

The Guardian Begins

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Well, it’s New Year’s day in my other home – New Zealand, even though it’s still December the thirty-first here in the UK. So I have begun to write my new science fiction novel. I have settled on The Guardian as the title. For the few who bothered to at least read https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/the-first-version-of-the-hook/#comment-3442, let alone the six who I am indebted to for offering their opinions, and whose advice I took note of, here is my New Year’s gift to you – the reconstructed Hook and a short extract.

***

The guardian’s dark pitiless eyes surveyed the scene one last time. Satisfied that the threat was finally eliminated, it returned to its duties while awaiting the return of its masters. Three weeks later, while on patrol, something on one of the video screens in the mine operations centre got its full attention. More trouble was on the way. Intruders had just arrived. Until they were dealt with, the guardian could not even begin to repair the damage they had caused. But at least it could finish sealing the entrance to the inner sanctum.

Chapter One

“Why us?” Lynne grumbled, once they had arrived at the Space Port in stationary orbit above Mars. Even though she already knew the answer, she still needed to vocalise it, if only to emphasise her displeasure at being volunteered. She had driven her new boss crazy with endless questions like this during the month long journey aboard the robotic solar-wind powered transport. They both knew that this was likely a suicide mission. “What’s so all-fired important about an automated mining operation on Mars?” she continued, “and why the hell did we have to put up with that stinking ancient transporter. Why didn’t the cheapskates get us seats on something more luxurious for the trip?”
“For Christ sake woman will you give it a rest, quit bellyaching! At the moment I’m guessing that the bastards have downed tools over pay and conditions. You’ve read the brief from Earth Corp, therefore you know as well as I that we are to establish why the Olivine mining has stopped. Even though the system is automated, techs are still needed to keep an eye on the machinery and fix things when they break. Plus the ore has to be brought up here to the Space Port to be loaded aboard unmanned transporters like the one we just arrived on for the return journey to Earth. Which means someone like you has to fly the damned cargo shuttles back and forth. Until we get there, we’re only speculating. The first thing we have to do is talk to the mine boss, David Malcolmson. He and everyone else is housed in an accommodation block just inside the mine in Ganges Chasma, an eastern branch of Valles Marineris.
If you are wondering what Olivine is used for, it is the principal component in the carbon dioxide sequester process back on Earth. You know how bad our atmosphere is, thanks to heavy industry. According to Earth Corp, the last load to arrive back home was six months ago. Before that the mine was sending regular monthly consignments. Any more questions? No? Good. Now quit complaining and get us the hell down there!”
Adler shook his head as he strapped himself into the seat behind Lynne. Why the hell he had to be saddled with this totally unpleasant woman was beyond him. Surely there must have been other pilots to choose from?
As far as Earth Corp was concerned, being ex-military, both Major Adler Stevens and Lieutenant Lynne Crawford were the obvious candidates for the job, and therefore expendable. The CEO of Earth Corp saw no good reason to send one of her own on such a hazardous mission. If they managed to work out what had happened, fix it, and send back a report to say that everything was back to normal, all well and good. If not, someone else would soon be sent in their place. After all, since war was declared illegal, there were plenty like Adler and Lynne to choose from. They had been given precisely one week after their arrival to investigate before they must send that report to Earth Corp.

~~~

The guardian watched the shuttle descend to the loading bay airlock inside the mine entrance from inside the inner sanctum. It heard the unmistakeable sound of the outer door closing, sealing off the mine from Mars’ atmosphere, which is one hundred times thinner than that of Earth, being mostly carbon dioxide, and the hiss as the now sealed loading bay automatically pressurised as oxygen was pumped in to allow whoever was inside the shuttle to enter the mine reception centre. It watched as Adler and Lynne walked across to the door connecting the airlock with the living quarters.

***

So, there it is. With this one, I’m in no steaming hurry. I just want it to enthral the reader all the way through to the end. That requires hours of thought and endless rewriting on my part. To achieve my aim, I’ve given myself the whole of two thousand and fifteen to complete the task.

I’ll keep you all up to date as I progress. Have a happy New Year.

😀 😀 😀

Enter Gerald the Egg

Here for your further delectation is another of Glob’s tales, this time concerning Bejuss and his attempt at parenthood…

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), and especially Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, discover that the path of parenthood is a decidedly rocky one.

***

It had been a whole moon since the goblin brothers returned home after their abortive attempt to rescue Yathle’s cousin Ariadne, when her insatiable curiosity tragically ended her life.

Both Glob and Neo had taken simpleminded Byz to one side and told him that under no circumstances was he ever to play the beautifully haunting tune which unlocked the barrier between the world and the one beneath ever again, no matter how tempted he may be.

While they were all helping Yathle, Bejuss had flown off in search of a mate in the southern woods, desperately wanting a son of his very own. He would soon come to regret his decision in more ways than one.

***

“Rarrk – wake up yer lazy good for nothin slovenly apology for a raven, jus look at the state on yer!”

Bejuss opened his one bleary eye and peered across the nest to where his mate tapped one foot, glaring angrily at him. He was about to be subjected to yet another headache inducing outburst by the poisonous harpy who had made his life a total misery. For a brief moment he wondered where the beautiful young raven he had wooed three weeks earlier had gone. Surely this couldn’t be her could it?

“Oh the shame on it; me mother warned me bout the likes on yer. Why I took yer on as me mate I’s will never know; yer disgust me! I mus have been out on me mind. Yer are hardly the catch on the year are yer? Just look at the state on yer smelly feathers – euww! By the holy egg on the great raven, smarten yerself up at once; yer is a disgrace ter our kind. As for this shambles yer call our nest. It has so many holes in it, it’s a wonder I’s haven’t fallen through one by now. Repair it at once d’yer hear me, yer flee ridden bag on bones. Why I’s has put up wiv yer I’s really don’t know. Yer’ve brought me nothin but shame n torment. I’s cannot hold me head up in polite raven society thanks ter yer!”

“Pity yer didn’t fall through one on them yer old nag,” Bejuss muttered under his breath as his headache grew in intensity, before he replied to her latest tirade. “Yeth dearetht, me’ll make repairth immediately dearetht. Anything elthe dearetht?” he added sarcastically, wishing he were dead.

“Mind yer sit on yer future halfwit’s egg, I’s most certainly have no intenshun on doing so. When it is hatched I’s shall deny all knowledge on it, do yer hear me! If yer must insist on bringing it inter the world, then yer will hatch it on yer own. On secon thoughts, I’s is leavin yer n goin home ter mother ter get over the shame – rarrk!”

After she had flown away in high dudgeon to her mother, Bejuss breathed a sigh of relief as he reflected on how his circumstances had taken such a nightmarish turn for the worse.

***

The day he had set off from the home he shared with the five goblin brothers, he was in the highest of spirits. Spring was in the air and the mating urge coursed through his old veins.

As he flew from one raven colony to the next in search of a mate, the raucous laughter and derision heaped upon him by the available females when they set eyes on him hurt him deeply. Far from seeing a battle scarred heroic raven, all they saw was a tattered, deformed apology for one. When he tried to woo them with one of his love poems, they all laughed at his lisping speech and his twisted beak, cruelly mocking him behind his back.

And then at the very last colony on the western edge of the wood, one stunning young raven touched his heart with her gentleness and beauty. Her name was Eunice. Unlike the rest she liked his poetry and his company, forgiving his speech impediment, his tattered feathers, deformed beak and one eye. She even laughed at his jokes. As an impressionable young female caught up in the fever of the mating season, for her it was true love. Bejuss would be her first mate. In her mind she saw him as a worldly-wise raven; a raven’s raven if you like. Certainly an adventurous, battle scarred and brave raven.

Over the next two weeks, Bejuss told her of his life and adventures with Glob and his brothers while they gathered twigs together for their nest. She often feigned a fainting fit, falling against him and sighing while fluttering her eyelashes at this tough, yet kind example of the noble order of ravens.

Then came the day their idyllic relationship quickly soured when she found herself with egg. From that moment on, nothing old Bejuss did or said was good enough anymore for young Eunice.

As her time drew near she grew more demanding, insufferable and vindictive towards him. The day finally came when after an hour of absolute agony she finally laid their egg. Bejuss was over the moon with joy. Eunice definitely was not. As far as she was concerned in her post egg laying state of mind, she had been violated. Worse, to her mind she had been taken advantage of by a despicable old flea bitten scoundrel.

During the agonising hour the egg took to appear, she shifted herself painfully around in the nest desperately trying get comfortable as she strained and bitterly complained. Twice she almost fell through the gaping holes in the nest Bejuss had built for her. It wasn’t his fault that the nest was imperfect. After all, as he said later to his friend Glob, “yer try buildin a perfect netht wiv one eye n a twithted beak!”

***

Bejuss felt the faintest movement in the egg beneath him. He shifted his weight and fluffed his feathers to keep it warm. “It’th time we woth headin home Gerald lad,” he said to his egg. Carefully he stood up, stretched himself and then gently picked up the precious egg in his beak and flew back home to Glob.

Two days after the pair had arrived home the excitement of the imminent hatching gripped all who lived in the goblin brother’s household. None of them had ever been surrogate uncles for a birdy hatchling before.

Glob had made a cosy nest box lined with dry sphagnum moss and hung it on the wall above his bed, with a perch on the outside for Bejuss to take a break from egg sitting. By the time the chick finally emerged, like Bejuss, they would all live to regret the fact that he hadn’t simply dropped it on the way home.

***

After breakfast on that second day, Neo peered in through the hole in the nest box at Bejuss before he went on his daily visit to Miranda the mare and her new foal. “I’s wos jus wonderin why yer calls yer egg Gerald. Wot if it aint got a boy birdy in it, wot if it’s got a girl one instead?”

Bejuss looked back out at the goblin brothers from inside the snug nest box as they gathered around Neo, all wondering the same thing. “Rarrk – courth it’ll be a boy birdy, wot elthe wud it be? Me hungry, can me have a pickled worm pleath? Me got cravinth yer know, after all me pregnant n …”

Gerald the egg began violently shaking beneath the old raven, cutting its loving parent off in midsentence.

Bejuss endured several more hours of being bounced around inside the nest box, banging his head several times on the box’s oak bark roof, giving him a pounding headache into the bargain. In the end he could stand no more. He emerged bruised and battered to take a much needed rest on Glob’s shoulder by the window, where the old goblin fed him all manner of juicy worms, slugs and snails, especially pickled for him in mead, while Byz kept a close eye on Gerald. Eventually the simpleminded goblin younger got bored and nodded off.

***

Inside the nest box the faintest sounds of eggshell cracking began. Gerald bounced and rolled around and around. First one leg appeared through a hole in its shell, followed shortly by a second. Gerald stood up, dazed and disoriented. If Byz had been awake, he would have seen it charge across the inside of the nest box and head-butt the box’s wooden sides in its attempt to free itself from the rest of the eggshell.

Make sat outside their door warming himself in the sun, smoking his bestest briar pipe with Mous happily dozing beside him. Neo was inside the stable feeding the new born foal, grooming its mane through his long bony fingers, lovingly watched over by Miranda. Glob and Bejuss were gazing at the wooded world outside their home through heavy, sleep deprived eyes. Eventually the sun’s warmth sent them both to sleep.

Gerald felt around with its feet and found the opening to the nest box, hopped up and fell out onto the floor, after bouncing off Byz’ head.

***

“Rarrk – hath anyone theen Gerald, where’th me egg gone?” Bejuss screeched at the top of his voice, after he had flown back to the nest box to resume sitting. “Me egg hath run away from home! Gerald, Gerald, where are yer lad, it’th me yer daddy, pleathe come home.”

Bejuss’ anxious cries woke everyone up from their nap in the sunshine. Glob instantly organised a complete search of their home, after scolding Byz for failing in his duty. The simpleminded soul immediately burst into tears and hid under his bed furiously sucking his thumbs.

“Gerald where ith yer lad, come home, pleathe come home. Daddy won’t be angry, me promithe – rarrk,” the old bird sadly cried out as a tear welled up in his one eye.

***

Gerald had struggled to stay upright as it staggered around on the ground below the goblin brother’s home. Even when it had fallen off the oak’s great bough outside the door, the remainder of its tough shell still held firm. Several times Gerald had deliberately walked straight into a rock, trying to smash itself. It even rolled down a small slope hoping to break open at long last. Then it felt itself being picked up and turned over with its legs in the air, making it dizzy.

“Look mummy I’ve found a birdy egg,” Ylesse happily announced, as she ran inside to show her latest find to her mother, Agnitha. Between them they carefully cracked the rest of the eggshell and at last the chick inside was free.

“Rarrk!” the chick said indignantly, stamping one tiny foot and glaring angrily at them.

At that moment Glob appeared at Agnitha and Mica’s door out of breath, and politely knocked. “Mornins Agnitha, mornins Ylesse. Has either on yer seen an egg? Bejuss has lost his n he’s worried sick.”

They both stood to one side revealing the minute angry raven chick standing amid the broken eggshell fragments on Agnitha’s table. “Here she is Glob. You had better take her home to her father,” Agnitha smiled, gently handing the chick over, “she desperately needs feeding.”

Glob chuckled to himself as he carefully carried the irate raven chick home. “I’s can’t waits ter sees the look on yer old dad’s face when he finds out he’s gots hisself a girl birdy n not a boy. Gerald indeed; more likes Geraldine I’s thinks eh lass?” Geraldine failed to see the joke and pecked one of Glob’s thumbs.

When he walked through the door with Geraldine now angrily sitting on his shoulder furiously pecking his earlobe and glaring at everything in sight, Bejuss’ face briefly lit up. But his happiness and relief was short lived. “Ylesse found her n gots her out on her egg,” Glob announced, barely able to suppress his laughter despite the pain from his bleeding ear.

“Yer mean me got a girl birdy chick?” Bejuss spluttered as his face fell. “Oh no, it can’t be,” he said looking in disbelief at his daughter. Geraldine was the spitting image of her mother, despite the fact that her feathers had not yet appeared. There was that same baleful look in her eyes; the same indignant cock of the head. Even when she impatiently tapped her tiny foot, Bejuss saw a miniature Eunice glaring back at him.

“Fraid so old friend, meets yer daughter Geraldine,” Glob replied, with tears of laughter in his eyes, as he carefully set her down beside her shocked father on the back of his chair.

Geraldine instantly pecked her father hard on his feet, legs and wings. When he lowered his old head to peer closely at her, she furiously pecked it, raising painful lumps and rattling his brain, demanding to be fed.

Over the next several days, he worked tirelessly bringing his angry young daughter food. At one point, he seriously contemplated committing chickicide. All he had to do was decapitate this miniature angry incarnation of Eunice with his razor sharp twisted beak, and his nightmare would end.

But his inbuilt instincts insisted he did his fatherly duty. By the time she was fully fledged, she had grown into a full size carbon copy of her mother in every way possible. While she would undeniably turn a young male raven’s head with her good looks in the future, like her mother, once she had accepted him she would make his life hell on wings.

***

At long last the day finally arrived when Geraldine flew the nest, much to the relief of Bejuss and the five severely pecked goblin brothers. Being constantly harangued by Eunice was bad enough, but for Bejuss to endure it for a second time from a pint sized version of her, was truly unbearable. “Good riddance yer hellion. Me hope all yer featherth fall out, it’ll therve yer right!” he muttered to himself while watching Geraldine climb into the air without a backward glance, on her first solo journey into the world.

Everyone inside the oak tree heaved a collective sigh of relief. Glob gave Neo a knowing wink. “Cheers up Bejuss lad, it cuds have beens worse,” he said nudging Neo to join in on his little joke.

“Worthe, how cud it be worthe?” the old bird grumpily replied while preening his tattered feathers.

“Simple lad,” Neo replied, with a mischievous look in his crossed eyes, “yer egg Gerald, might have been a double yoker. Jus think on it for a moment. Instead on one Geraldine, yer cud have hads two on them ter plague yer for the rest on yer days. Three, if yer include yer mate Eunice.”

Bejuss hung his head wincing at the nightmarish notion. Neo winked at Glob as he quickly left to see Miranda and her foal.

Glob sat looking out the window for a long time with a grin on his old face. Make and Mous took Byz outside onto the bough to stop his constant giggling. Even he got the joke. For a few moments they left poor old Bejuss alone in the rafters with his thoughts. He had had a lucky escape after his brief encounter with domestic bliss. “Never agin, never ever agin,” he muttered to himself, shaking his old head and feeling decidedly sick in the pit of his stomach.

Glob turned and looked up at his feathered friend. He couldn’t resist one last good natured dig at the old bird’s expense. “Of course she cuds jus comes back yer knows Bejuss lad. She’s probably gone ter fetch her mother. Wants me ter make yer nest box big enuff fer three? It’s no truble honest, I’s only thinkin on yer family n their happiness yer knows.”

Bejuss cursed and glared angrily at the silly grin spreading across Glob’s face. “Rarrk, juth thhuddup n leave me be can’t yer!” he lisped angrily.

Glob joined his brothers outside in the sunshine where they all roared with uncontrollable laughter. The day Gerald the egg had entered their lives would be the subject of much hilarity for many evenings to come.

***

Want to read more? Simply click on the cover picture at the top of this post to take you to Glob’s Tales at Amazon.com

Another Teaser from the fantasy book I’m currently writing – The Time Before

PW in Oak Forest Darker Bark 3A HR w font

At the moment I’m working on Chapter Two, in which we find out more about the early years of my heroine pictured above – Persephone Witchclaw.

” From her sixth summer until her fifteenth, she led an idyllic life. For many summers she could never bring herself to speak about Crellan. She returned the love showered upon her by her adoptive Humin parents Alene and Caerwyn Witchclaw tenfold. She had never been as happy as she was here in the village. The greatest delight for her was when she and her mother spent time together each summer, gathering berries on the edge of the woods that surrounded the village, spending endless hours gossiping. Equally she loved to help her father make hunting bows and arrows. Caerwyn quickly appreciated that his daughter was naturally gifted. So he taught her the arts of fletching and flint knapping. She soon gained a reputation for producing the finest arrows.

First she selected the best willow wands for the shafts. Next she made the nock out of a mixture of beeswax and pine resin which quickly hardened once she had fixed it to one end of the shaft. She then fletched the arrow with a mix of carefully selected Swan, Goose and Duck feathers held on by twine made from the tough hair from along the spine of a Boar’s back. She soaked the twine in hot beeswax before carefully winding it through the feathers and around the shaft below the nock. Finally she split the other end of the shaft before inserting a flint arrowhead into it, and once again, she secured it into place using more of the beeswax soaked Boar twine. Young Persephone’s arrows soon became much sought after by every hunter and warrior throughout Goblindom, no matter whether they were Goblin, Humin, or Elf.”

 

More later, if you’re good…

Another Goblin Tale

Grandfather goblin

Grimefleet Binglenook (Bingle), last of the elder goblins, in his younger years

Take No Notice on Him

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz) and Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), and Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, try to cheer up curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo).

***

For reasons completely known only to himself, ever since he got up this morning Neo had been in an extremely bad temper, far, far worse than normal. His brothers had learned over the years if they didn’t want a pounding headache, to completely ignore him when he got into one of his black moods. At one time or another they had all been hit on the head with his club when Neo took extreme exception to something one or other of his brothers had said, or done.

While they went about their business putting away the breakfast mugs, bowls and plates, good naturedly arguing among themselves, burping, breaking wind and generally relaxing after breakfast for a few moments as the day grew just that little bit older, Neo continued to fume. In other words, except for his particularly foul mood this morning, today was starting out as just another typical one in the lives of the goblin brothers. There was nothing to make it stand out from the rest, or was there?

***

Neo sat in the corner with his back to all of them growing increasingly agitated. He smashed his bony fists together and muttered continually under his breath, thinking dark thoughts. As his bad mood increased in intensity, his eyes angrily crossed themselves even more than usual. “Right that’s it, this is the last straw! I’s fed up wiv the lot on yer, fed up d’yer here! I’s goin ter live wiv Miranda!” he shouted angrily, storming outside in a blind rage.

When he slammed the door behind him, the resultant tremor dislodged the picture hanging above his bed, causing it to fall. All of the mugs, plates and bowls in the tiny kitchen fell to the floor as well.

“Wot’s gots inter him all on a sudden?” Make wondered, as he concentrated intently on the delicate, if slightly painful process of picking a scab on his head with one of his long sharp pointed finger nails in between refilling his pipe and lighting it.

“Take no notice on him brother. Prapz he’z gotz a touch on bringleworm belly,” Mous suggested, before adding, “I zeed him eatin a bunch on murgle berriez lazt night affor bedtime; everyone knowz how bringleworm grubz do live in them. Nazty they iz; alwayz tryin ter eat their way out on yer body if yer zwallow one by accident like.”

Glob sat thinking for a long time before he suddenly smiled and slapped his thigh. “I’s does believes he feels we dont’s likes him enuff brothers. Let’s us organize a surprise feast for him!” Glob declared, congratulating himself for coming up with such a brilliant notion.

“Can’s we’s have honeycomb, dried fish, mead n pretty glow-worm lights hanging in the trees Glob, huh can we’s, can we’s – pleez?” simpleminded Byz pleaded in his childish way, dancing a merry jig at the thought of it.

“Rarrk – don’t forget, me like’th grubth n thlugth mathter Glob thir. Can me have thnailth ath well?” Bejuss lisped, winking his one eye at Glob, happily hopping from one foot to the other on his perch, not wishing to be left out of the proposed festivity for one moment.

“Course, it cud jus be the time on year. Like yer says Mous, praps we’s shud jus takes no notice on him,” Make suggested, puffing contentedly on his pipe, filling their home with thick clouds of honeysuckle flavoured smoke.

“Whaddaya mean brother? Haz he got zumink different fromz bringleworm belly then?” Mous inquired, wincing in pain, as he tried desperately to prize out a troublesome piece of dried toadstool, stuck firmly between two of his back teeth, with a sharp thorn.

“Maybe’s he’s jus gots a touch on the seasonals cos winter’s comin fasts Mous. We’s all get a bout on it from time ter time. Some on the trees is already feelings it n droppin their leaves.  The north wind is gettin up sumink fierce on late as well.” Make replied, knocking out the spent makings of his pipe into his hand, before refilling it once more from his baccy pouch.

A gloomy silence descended in the goblin brother’s home as they all, Bejuss included, remembered how winter’s icy fingers dug deep into their old bones causing all kinds of mischief  – aches, pains, sore throats, raven’s crop, sneezing fits, blocked or runny noses, and the worst of all goblin winter ailments – the dreaded goblin hack.

Glob sighed as he picked up the fallen picture and looked at it for a moment. “Look brothers, I’s gots it! Let’s us gets his old friend Bingle ter comes ter the feast as a special surprise,” Glob suddenly suggested, lifting the sombre mood as he showed the picture to Bejuss and his brothers.

***

Grimefleet Binglenook was Neo’s oldest and dearest friend in the whole of Goblindom. When Neo was nought but a sullen, rebellious, pimply youngling of barely five hundred summers, Bingle had taken him under his wing, acting as a stern but just father figure and mentor in all things goblin.

Bingle is the last of the elder goblins, and also the last living goblin survivor of the great battle of Blaxhorn between good and evil, when the black wizard Crellen sought to rule the world, during the time before. He lives on his own in the second oldest hollow oak tree in the valley to the south of the humin village. Because of the esteem in which he is held by all within Goblindom’s borders, he currently enjoys the exulted position of secretary to the wise council, responsible for maintaining and updating the great book of law.

The picture of Bingle that Glob held in his bony hands, hangs in pride of place on the wall above Neo’s pillow. Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, had commissioned it for Bingle’s two hundred thousandth birthday. But not being one for fancies such as the painting, Bingle gave it as a parting gift to Neo when he sent him out into the world. On that momentous day he told his protégé that he had taught him all he could, and it was now time for him to strike out on his own.

As the brothers all gazed in reverent silence at the painting, the likeness of the venerable old goblin was truly lifelike to behold. It showed a very distinguished and learned balding elder goblin, in the prime of life with the most luxuriant red side whiskers. He was dressed in the sombre brown clothing traditionally worn by all goblins from the time before, leaning on his ornately carved bejewelled walking stick. However, what the picture did not show to the casual observer was that Bingle was now practically deaf, half blind and decidedly short tempered due to his great age.

Glob carefully re-hung the painting while his brothers cleared up the mess from when Neo stormed out. Then they began the preparations for his surprise party.

***

Glob summoned Yathle, asking her to fly across the land carrying invitations to Brilith, Morweth, Lox the friendly female wood elf, Hermione Fingletook, the mother of all, and her first born, a much better behaved Obadiah Fingletook, and especially Grassnit Thimblefoot (Hermione’s chief scout) who Neo deemed to be a truly worthy goblin.

Make, Mous and Byz went into the humin village to ask Mica for help in organising the feast. He rallied his fellow humin villagers. Soon the smell of food being cooked filled the air as preparations were made. Even the humins fancied a hearty feast before winter really took hold.

Glob had asked Bejuss to spy on Neo. If he showed any sign of leaving Miranda’s stable, Bejuss was to report back immediately to Mica, who would waylay him. Meanwhile Glob set out on the long journey south to Bingle’s home.

***

Feeling his great age as the bones in his bent back creaked whenever he shifted his weight on his stool, Bingle sat at his desk with the great book of law open before him. He had just spent an hour scratching out an entry he had painstakingly made, before ruining it with a large ink blot. He was decidedly unhappy with his mistake.

The law covering the rules of war, which all goblins must strictly observe, was now hopelessly out of date. He and his colleagues in the wise council had endlessly debated the question for almost two moons before a final agreement was reached. Now in his capacity of secretary, it was up to him to write it down in the age old goblin cursive script used for all important official documents.

Each velum page of the massive tome bore witness to countless scratchings out over the thousands of summers since its first pages had been written after the great battle, which ended the time before.

Bingle sighed and reached for his wren feathered quill pen to begin again. A loud knock on his front door startled him just as he was about to dip his pen into his ink well. He knocked it over, spilling its blackberry juice and soot contents all over his desk. “Bothers, blasts n drats it!” the old goblin cursed, “wots a body ter does around here. I’s can’t gets a moments peace these days for constant interrupshuns – drats, bothers n blasts it!”

Glob knocked once more on Bingle’s front door.

“Blasts it, goes away can’t yer, I’s busy. Shoo be gone!” he croaked, trying hard to mop up the spilt ink with his kerchief.

“Begs pardons master Grimefleet, buts it’s a matter on great import.” Glob shouted back.

“I saids go away!” Bingle yelled, not intending to open his door to anyone, hoping whoever it was would give up and go away.

Glob knocked loudly and shouted at the top of his voice, “It’s bout yer friend Neopol Stranglethigh master Grimefleet sir, we needs yer helps if yer please.”

“Eh, Neo d’ye says? Wot’s wrong wiv him thens? He aint ailing for sumink is he?”

“Please opens yer door sir,” Glob insisted, growing embarrassed at having to shout so loud, “yellin privates conversations through a locked door aint good goblin manners now is it sir?”

Bingle grumbled to himself, muttering something about, “dratted whippersnappers’ n time wasters,” as he shuffled painfully towards his front door. Glob stood back as the door slowly opened.

The last of the elder goblins was much, much older in appearance than the one in the portrait above Neo’s bed. Standing in the doorway, leaning heavily on his ornately carved and bejewelled walking stick was a stooped very ancient goblin. Bingle had an equally ornate snail shell ear trumpet, stuck permanently in his one still barely functioning ear. His luxuriant side whiskers were no longer red, but snow white. His old grey cataract filled eyes blinked furiously as the bright daylight almost totally blinded him. “Speak up, wot about Neo – speak up cant’s yer. Stops whisperin, speak up!” The short tempered old goblin was clearly in no mood for trivialities, as he turned his ear trumpet to hear Glob’s reply.

Glob explained the reason for his visit in great detail, often finding he needed to repeat himself on Bingle’s insistence, due to his worsening deafness. In the end he convinced him to accompany him back to the village. Bingle still held a fond place in his old heart for his young pupil Neo.

***

By the time they arrived in the humin village as dusk fell, everything was in readiness for the feast. Now all anyone had to do was get hold of Neo and bring him to his feast, forcibly if necessary. Mica drew the short straw. He soon returned with a cantankerous Neo gagged and blindfolded across his shoulder, heavily trussed up and angry at being kidnapped.

Bejuss was in a huff and feeling decidedly queasy. Mica’s baby daughter Ylesse had just grabbed one of his fat juicy slugs and briefly stuck it in her mouth before spitting it back into his bowl. The old raven lisped angrily to himself as his stomach churned. “Thomeone really needth ter teach thith humin chick thome mannerth; takin liberty’th wiv a birdy’th food n coverin it in thpit, ith not nice – rarrk!”

A long trestle table had been set up, groaning under the strain of all the dishes, bowls and skillets laden with delicious foods of all kinds, along with heavy barrels of mead. Above the table glow-worm lanterns hung from the branches of the trees illuminating the scene, much to Byz’ childish delight.

A place at the head of the table was reserved for the guest of honour. Seated to its left were Glob, Make, Mous and Byz with Bejuss perched on his shoulder, still complaining bitterly about Ylesse playing with his food.

When Mica removed the blindfold, Neo was about to blast him for taking such liberties. But, his vile temper instantly melted away when he suddenly took in the sight before him. The old curmudgeon cracked a seldom seen smile at the sight of his oldest and dearest friend Bingle, seated to the right hand side of the empty chair, next to baby Ylesse, who was now happily chomping on one of Bejuss’ snails. Next to her sat her mother Agnitha, Hermione, Obadiah, Nit, Brilith, Morweth and Lox. Miranda and Yathle stood behind Neo’s chair, completing the happy picture.

Neo was totally overcome. Tears of pure happiness and joy flowed from his crossed eyes as a toast to him was proposed by Bingle. Cries of “speech, speech” rang out after the first of many toasts was proposed.

The old curmudgeon stood on the seat of his chair so that all of his friends, be they goblin, raven, humin, elf, wyvern, mare, wizard or witch, could see him plainly. He cleared his throat and wiped a tear from his old crossed eyes. He thanked them all for remembering today was his eleven thousand and ninetieth birthday, saying how sorry he was for being so grumpy, and begged them for forgiveness.

Everyone fell silent for a few moments feeling embarrassed. None had realised the importance of the day to their old bad tempered goblin friend. After all, most goblins don’t celebrate their birthdays. Then a loud rendition of “Happy birthday dear Neo” filled the air as fond wishes for him were sung by all.

Mous struggled drunkenly to his feet to stand on his stool. He began clearing his throat to say a few words. Sensing it was probably going to be something silly, Bingle rose and leaned across the table whacking Mous on his head with his walking stick, making him see stars much to everyone’s great amusement.

For the rest of the evening as the food was eaten and the barrels of mead were emptied, the humin village was filled with drunken laughter, burps and foul smells, bad jokes, joyful singing and dancing.

While Mous sulked, nursing a sore head, Byz enjoyed loud applause for each fine tune he played on his pipes. Neo danced happily on the table top with baby Ylesse cradled in his arms. She smiled and gurgled happily, munching on yet another slug from Bejuss’ bowl, much to the old raven’s great annoyance, while sticking her fingers up her uncle Neo’s nostrils.

Today had not just been another day in the lives of the goblin brothers after all. But then again, when did they ever have one that could be called ordinary or uneventful? Glob filled his mug to the brim with mead and drank deep, smiling at the sight of his oldest friend Neo so blissfully happy. Now if only he would just stay that way, life in the goblin brother’s home would be much more peaceful from now on. “Fat chance on it happenin anytime soon,” Glob thought to himself as he smiled, burped, and broke wind once again.

If you live in the USA, get your copy here :-

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If you live in the UK, get your copy here:-

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You’ve got to love Goblins

Glob the Paperback

For your enjoyment, here is just one of the thirty tales in Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults

Fell Whispers on the Wind

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) and Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, encounter a frightening beast from goblin legend.

***

As the last days of summer gave way to the cool windy days of autumn, Mica’s wife, the fair Agnitha, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who she named Ylesse after her grandmother.

In the first three months of little Ylesse’s life, the goblin brothers were invited by Agnitha and Mica to be her guardians. Needless to say they took their duties to ensure her safety and happiness very seriously, especially grumpy old Neo, who she immediately crawled to when Mica and Agnitha brought her to visit them in their oak tree home for the first time.

The normally bad tempered old goblin’s heart completely melted when the humin youngling clung to his neck, gurgling happily while she stuck a chubby finger into one of his nostrils, making his crossed eyes water.

From then on, whenever Agnitha needed babysitters, she always knew that her precious daughter would be safe and sound in the goblin brother’s tiny home, being lovingly watched over by her five doting guardians and Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven.

***

When winter finally took hold, knowledge of the child’s birth had reached the ears of Geraint, the brother of the black witch Cazophen, killed so long ago by Glob and his friends.

By midwinter’s eve the valley was completely transformed into a picture of frozen, silent tranquillity under a thick blanket of snow. But all was not well. Mica and the rest of the humins were on edge. The howls of recently arrived timber wolves echoed throughout the woods surrounding the village. The humins knew that sooner or later the wolves would come in search of an easy meal among their cattle, swine, goats and sheep.

One particularly crisp winter’s morning, Brilith arrived at the goblin’s home unannounced, accompanying an elderly white wizard named Morweth, friend and teacher to all in the craft. Morweth’s sense of Geraint’s plan to do evil had been the reason for him leaving his home in the east.

The ancient wizard sat down half frozen on a root of the goblin’s oak tree home, exhausted by the arduous ordeal of their long trip. “Glob, you must talk to Mica and ask him to convince his father-in-law, Yestin, to accompany him to the sacred glade. I have much that they both need to hear. Should either of them reject the suggestion, tell them that little Ylesse is in mortal danger, now go my friend.” Then he turned to the rest of Glob’s brothers and sent each one on an errand, simple minded Byz included, summoning all who dwelt in the southern wood to the meeting.

Glob left immediately for the house of Mica and Agnitha, while his brothers departed in different directions on their various missions. On hearing that baby Ylesse’s safety was the reason for the old wizard’s journey, Agnitha urged Yestin to accompany Mica and Glob to the glade, brooking no argument from him. Her father’s hatred of all things magic was legendary, but faced with his determined daughter, he relented.

When the trio appeared at the edge of the glade, they saw before them a strange assortment of Goblindom’s inhabitants. Elves, southern woods, plains, and mountain goblins, all assembled round the outer edge of the stone circle. Standing at its centre beside the oval alter stone, leaning heavily on Brilith’s shoulder, was frail Morweth. Yestin’s deep loathing of wizards and witches prevented him from drawing too close. But, for the sake of his precious granddaughter’s safety, he prepared to listen.

Morweth cleared his throat, shifted his weight from Brilith’s shoulder onto the staff he carried and began. “Friends, I felt it my duty to come here today to tell you of the fell whispers on the wind. Good Yestin, while I know of your hatred of all magic, both black and white, I beg you to listen without prejudice. Your granddaughter Ylesse is in the gravest of danger. Even as I speak Cazophen’s vengeful brother, Geraint, is preparing to steal her and make her his own. He is coming himself this time, sending no agent to do his bidding.

Because Ylesse was born in autumn Yestin, like me, Geraint knows she will one day be a powerful healer, as his sister would have been if you had not falsely declared her a witch. He plans to turn her power for good towards the black arts instead. Ever since you condemned Cazophen he has planned his revenge against you and your family. He is conjuring great evil to fulfil his evil quest. Make no mistake Yestin, this time he means to come himself in a terrible guise! I see clearly what form he will take.” Morweth staggered uncertainly on his feet, due to his great age and the effects of the freezing temperatures on his ancient frame.

Brilith assisted him by taking his arm and gently guided him to sit on a small stone beside the altar. The white wizard’s speech had brought back to all who were involved, the terrible memories of the day when Lungwort, the mountain gremlin had arrived the summer before Ylesse was born, employed by Geraint to murder fair Agnitha.

Mica went to the centre of the circle. “Friend Morweth, how long before he comes?”

Morweth lifted his head and looked at Ylesse’s father for a few moments before replying, “even now he has sent his scouts to spy upon you and your family Mica. You have been hearing the howls of timber wolves in the hills surrounding this valley of late. He sees all through their eyes, hears all through their ears. How long before he comes? Soon – very soon. Certainly it will be by the end of this current moon, two days from now.”

Glob, Neo, Make, Mous and Byz sat listening intently in silence, fearing yet another foul beast was about to enter their peaceful valley. Neo rose and climbed on top of one of the smaller upright stones of the circle so that all assembled could see him. “Begs pardons yer worship,” he began, bowing low as his eyes frantically crossed themselves, clearly nervous about what was going to happen, “we’s wood goblins wos jus wonderin wot kinds on beasty he mights transforms hisself into?”

Morweth’s pale lined face darkened as his vivid blue eyes held nervous Neo in their steely gaze. “He means to transform himself into a giant wargob.” All of the goblins and elves assembled there gasped and trembled in fear at the revelation.

Make nervously tottered towards where the old wizard sat. “B-b-but a wargobs is a mythical beasty, tolds bout in bedtime’s stories ter scares yung goblins n elves if theys beens naughty sir,” he managed to stammer before wetting himself and shaking with uncontrollable fear.

Morweth placed his bony hand on the tiny goblin’s shoulder, trying to comfort him as he replied. “Sadly lad, it’s no myth. Wargobs were real in the time before. In the great battle of Blaxhorn, twixt good and evil before peace reigned, the evil black wizard Crellen created a great and terrible army of wargobs, half bloodthirsty mountain goblin – half wolf, to conquer the world. I know Geraint has sought him out to learn how to transform himself into one.”

All of the kinds living in Goblindom with the exception of the humins firmly believed the widely held and oft spoken legend about the wargobs. Among all goblins and elves whether they were from wood, plains or mountain tribes, tales were told of a pack of ferocious wargobs nearly wiping out all their ancient forbears during that terrible battle. Only a precious few survived the wargob attack to continue the many ancient bloodlines.

Mica and Yestin soon realised by the frightened reaction among the goblins and the elves that Morweth was indeed telling the truth. All who had assembled quickly left the sacred glade in silence to prepare for the forthcoming inevitable battle.

***

Geraint sat in his workshop checking all of the ingredients for his transformation one last time. Crellen had warned him of the repercussions should he go through with the spell. But Geraint was so obsessed with his evil quest to seek revenge for his sister that he brushed aside the black wizard’s dire warning. By nightfall his transformation was complete.

***

Yestin immediately called a meeting of the humins. Soon lookouts were dispatched to the borders of the village and beyond, covering the hills surrounding the valley along with all the many paths leading to it.

Glob summoned Yathle and immediately went to demand that Obadiah Fingletook, the grand high goblin, join the fight. Should Obadiah object; Glob would expose to all in Goblindom who the real ruler was. He demanded that Obadiah immediately recruit an army of mountain, wood and plains goblins and lead them into battle.

The ornately adorned throne room where Obadiah sat echoed his shrilled reply to Glob’s demand. “NEVER, DO YOU HERE ME – NEVER! This is a humin affair nothing to do with goblins.”

Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, on hearing the loud argument, entered the room like a ship of war under full sail, ready to fire her broadside. “You may stay here and hide like a coward if you wish Obadiah Fingletook. But your brave brother Glob and his friends need our help!” she fumed, glaring angrily at her first born. Obadiah sat on his throne with his head lowered; tears welled up in his eyes. His bottom lip quivered like a naughty goblin youngling who had just been found with his hand stuck in the honeycomb jar.

Hermione immediately took charge of the situation. “Dearest Glob I shall raise you an army and lead it myself. How soon before the wargob appears?” Much relieved that their mother Hermione had taken charge, Glob told her that they expected the beast before the end of the moon.

On his return to the valley, the welcome news that a goblin army was on its way did much to cheer the humin, goblin and elf occupants of the valley.

Not wishing to be left out, Bejuss had flown off to summon his avian cousins. Eagles, hawks, owls, crows, rooks and ravens all soon arrived, taking up station in the tree tops of the woods surrounding the village. Yathle flew off to summon her many sisters to add to the aerial armada after Glob had summoned her and told of the battle to come.

With the arrival of the magnificent Hermione, dressed in her finest goblin armour at the head of her army, made up in equal measure from plains, wood, and fierce mountain goblins, the most warlike within Goblindom, the valley was soon filled to overflowing. As night fell the glow of countless campfires could be seen in all directions.

Mica ensured that each group consisted of equal numbers of humins, goblins and elves, charged with guarding a specific path, road or pass. Each group was supported by a wyvern and its attendant squadron of birds.

On the ridges on either side of the valley, encampments were quickly set up to house the many legions. Heavily armed elves and wood goblins guarded the forest paths to the north and south. The whole valley lay protected under the watchful gaze of thousands of vigilant eyes.

But Geraint had a trick up his devious sleeve. He knew of a long forgotten path through Athol’s Pass beyond the eastern bank of the Great River, which Crellen had told him about. It was to that pass that he now ran in his new and terrible form at the head of his army of timber wolves, griffins and mountain ogres, promising them their fill of fresh goblin and humin flesh when they won.

Morweth sensed the beast’s evil intent, and accompanied by Brilith with one full legion of heavily armoured mountain goblins marching in close formation behind, after crossing the river via Hermione’s naval galleys, they sought out the hidden entrance to the valley. Above the advancing armoured column, Yathle and her attendant squadron of eagles flew overhead, acting as the ancient wizard’s eyes.

The howls and war cries of Geraint’s army grew louder as they sensed fresh meat. Then a cry more terrible and spine chilling than any had heard in living memory, drowned out those of the wolves, ogres and griffins. Geraint and his army halted for the night, temporarily camping at the eastern end of Athol’s Pass until dawn, still believing their location was undetected.

***

Yathle and her eagle squadron circled constantly all night.  Then in the misty gloom of early dawn she finally saw the beast at the head of its army.

Geraint, covered in a shaggy silver coat of thick course fur in his new guise as a wargob, was twice the size of a humin’s draught horse. His huge grotesque face with its tiny lidless slanted red eyes and pointed ears, with a mouth full of cruel fangs that constantly gnashed together, dripped foul slobber on the ground beneath his feet.

He sniffed the morning air through his hideously deformed snub nose; his humin like hands with their razor sharp talons flexed in anticipation. He sat on his heavily muscled back legs for a moment, swishing his bushy wolf tale from side to side, while his deep chest heaved wildly as he prepared himself for what was to come.

Neo excused himself and rapidly returned to Agnitha and baby Ylesse’s side to guard them both with his life, where they hid in the hay loft of Miranda’s stable. He instructed Miranda that should the wargob succeed in crossing the Great River and drew near, she was to stomp her hooves and neigh loudly, warning of its approach. Morweth and Brilith joined Glob and the rest of his brothers at a safer vantage point behind the second goblin legion.

The vast army on the western bank of the Great River, consisting of mountain and plains goblins, humins, wyverns, birds, wood goblins and elves, quickly re-assembled, drawing a tight heavily armed shield wall of goblin blades, humin flint weapons and elven bows around the village in three ranks.

Mica had organised the digging of many pits close to the western bank of the river each filled with sharpened stakes covered by lightweight grass mats. Behind the pits he arranged a killing ground where fire pots full of burning pitch would be catapulted, should the enemy break through and cross the river.

***

Yathle cried out her warning alerting the whole valley, as Geraint and his army slowly began their advance. The battle of Athol’s Pass was about to begin. Battle horns blew when Geraint charged at the head of his army through the pass, urging them on with his bloodcurdling howls.

The forward legion of mountain goblins on the eastern bank of the river drew up in three shield wall ranks, one behind the other, armed with the finest razor sharp, magically forged, blue metal goblin blades at the ready, completely blocking off Geraint’s progress.

Hermione led her army from the front, quickly taking two more goblin legions to stand ready on the narrow path leading from the pass.

Morweth and Brilith accompanied by Glob, Make, Mous and Byz sat in the branches of a mighty oak that faced towards the eastern entrance of the pass, giving them an excellent view of the battle as it unfolded.

High above on each side of the narrow pass, companies of elven archers stood ready with their stocks of poisoned arrows, ready for use.

At Yathle’s signal her sisters and their attendant squadrons of birds flew off on both sides of the pass, immediately attacking, and soon dispatching, Geraint’s griffins. Then they turned their attention to attacking the lumbering ogres bringing up the rear, making short work of them, before finally concentrating on the rear ranks of charging timber wolves.

When Geraint and the front ranks of his army got within bowshot, they were subjected to a deadly shower of poison tipped arrows raining down upon them from the elven archers above.

By the time Geraint crashed headlong into the first shield wall at full gallop, there were barely twenty survivors of his mighty army left alive. In the heat of battle he made a fatal mistake as he lashed out at the nearest ranks of goblins.

To gain a physical advantage over the tiny goblin soldiers, he reared up on his hind legs and slashed at them with his razor sharp claws over the top of their shields, decapitating some of the front rank. At the precise moment when he stood up, accurately thrown flint headed spears delivered from the hands of the humin warriors pierced his chest. The second shield wall closed quickly with the remainder of the first.

Now that his army was dead, the elven archers turned their attention to Geraint. Within the space of two heart beats he suffered no less than fifty arrows burying themselves deep alongside the flint spears within his grotesque form.

Morweth and Brilith conjured a freezing spell of terrible power, merging Geraint’s feet into the rocky ground, amid the bodies of the dead from both armies. Unable to move, he bit and slashed at any goblin foolish enough to close with him, while howling with fury.

This was the cue for Yathle and her sisters to deliver their fiery assault. Each wyvern formed up one behind the other, before diving down to deliver their fireballs, setting Geraint’s thick shaggy fur alight.

Then it was the turn of the squadrons of eagles, hawks, owls, rooks and ravens to dive in their thousands, pecking bloody clumps of burnt hair and flesh from Geraint’s terrible head and powerful shoulders.

At a blast of her battle horn, Hermione summoned the front ranks of her goblin legions to rapidly retreat behind the remaining third shield wall. She beckoned forward the humin fire pot launchers and directed their fiery assault on the still breathing monster.

By now even Geraint realised the battle was lost. He attempted to revert back to his normal self to enable his escape by disappearing from view. But it wasn’t to be. Crellen had repeatedly warned him that once he transformed there was no going back.

As more and more fire pots full of burning pitch fell on him, elven arrows and humin spears rained down. Now mortally wounded, Geraint found just enough strength to emit his terrible wargob howl one last time before he finally succumbed, totally consumed by the flames.

***

“Well my dears,” Hermione began, several hours later as she sat at the head table as the guest of honour outside Agnitha and Mica’s home, holding baby Ylesse in her arms, “you have a truly beautiful daughter.”

Between the roundhouses, trestle tables had been hastily erected with benches for all to sit, eat and drink their fill. The mead flowed freely. Songs of the battle of Athol’s Pass, quickly composed, were being sung loudly in drunken voices by all. Despite the cold of the night, the adrenalin of battle still flowed through their veins, warming them.

Mica and the goblin brothers made their way among the victorious army thanking each of them for saving the day.

Yestin, determinedly urged on by his daughter Agnitha poking him sharply in the ribs, made a point of seeking out Morweth and Brilith to apologise for being so wrong about them, and to shake their hands.

Neo sat beside Hermione. Ylesse smiled and gurgled as she stretched out her tiny arms towards him. Seeing the bond between her goblin son and the humin baby, Hermione handed her over. He gently held her in his arms as she once again stuck a finger in one of his nostrils, making his eyes water, much to the amusement of everyone. Even old Neo managed to crack one of his rare toothy smiles, while gazing through tear filled cross eyes, with love flowing from his heart for the tiny humin child. Thanks to innocent Ylesse, he finally understood the deep instant friendship Glob felt for Mica on the day when he had rescued him from the she-wolf all those long summers ago.

Want to read more? To get your own copy go to:

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or

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More from The Next Age

The Next Age 2

Yet again here is another snippet, as before out of context and sans dialogue – there’s no point in my giving away the plot now is there. After all, at this stage of the proceedings my job is simply to intrigue you the prospective reader. Oh, one other thing, before my American cousins chastise me for the way certain words are spelt, I must point out one tiny detail – I am an Englishman. Consequently I write using the original form of my native language, English English and no other. 

Now read and hopefully enjoy…

***

Prior to the suffering inflicted by the meteor bombardment, various political commentators were often to be heard quoting the hackneyed phrase – a week in politics is a long time, when referring to the fast growing anti CEDF movement which was still gathering momentum at an alarming rate within rebellious political circles across the entire planet when the fleet returned.

As for the men and women serving alongside Glen, the last two months spent defending humanity from extra-terrestrial threats in the depths of space, far from their love ones and the reassuring sight of the Solar System’s planets, not to mention being able to see the constellations once more in their familiar configurations as viewed from Earth, seemed like an eternity.

So much had changed at home during the time they had been away. The world’s infrastructure had ceased its struggle to repair itself after the destruction caused by the meteors. Or to put it another way, what was left of the world of big business finally had to admit defeat, collapsing never to be revived in the immediate future, or indeed ever again under the present set of circumstances.

By now the number of dead had risen to well over five billion worldwide. Still not buried or cremated, their rotting corpses were fast becoming a major health hazard as they slowly broke down. Inevitably bodily fluids entered the water table. Feral dogs and cats picked through the remains looking for a morsel of flesh after wild carnivores had fed from the countless piles of bodies.

Clouds of flies and mosquitos were attracted to them by the gut wrenching odour; passing on many diseases to mankind when they laid their eggs on freshly killed meat products, which were already a major health hazard that normally would never reach the consumer markets, because of the radioactive particles still being broadcast via the winds, that were inevitably ingested by the unfortunate animals as they grazed, prior to them being butchered to feed the hungry masses.

Circumstances could no longer be described as normal by any stretch of the imagination. By now mankind had also begun killing and consuming its household pets, simply to stave off hunger. Daily life for those still fit enough to forage consisted of only one thing, seek out the location of your next meal and kill anyone you deemed to be in competition with you for that meal.

When something like the meteor bombardment destroyed vast tracts of our planet ending civilization as we know it, it had taken a surprisingly short period of time for us to revert from what we previously thought of as a normal, cultured, advanced society living in the thirty-second century, to an existence comparable to that of our cave dwelling ancestors from thousands of years in the dim distant past.

No living creature was deemed to be safe from our re-awakened primeval inbuilt natural instinct for predation when it came to our survival. When you are dying from starvation as countless millions undoubtedly are, it matters little where you obtained your next meal, or what it had previously been when alive. Nor does it matter that the water, beer, milk, wine, bread, meat, fish, fruit, rice and vegetables you are consuming is contaminated, providing you get to live for one more day.

Rather than risk being infected themselves, armed gangs of survivalists shot on sight anyone they deemed to be disease ridden whenever a group of strangers were seen approaching from the direction of a known location of bodies, hoping to join a community. Survival at any cost had replaced any former humane feelings towards the sick, the starving and the dying.

***

Meanwhile in Washington, as a consequence of the political revolt and with no effective backing from the senate and congress, Brewer had been forced from his post as Commander in Chief of the CEDF in what amounted to a bloodless coup by the world government alliance, after information about his presidential directives to Glen was leaked to what now passed for the international press.

This revelation had not been broadcast via the use of computer links, radio, or television satellite broadcasts, because they no longer existed since the technology they depended on was destroyed in the initial meteorite bombardment. Instead it had been passed to the world’s remaining politicians via the hastily resurrected, antiquated nineteenth century wireless telegraphy system, utilizing long forgotten submarine cables that still crossed the world’s oceans.

When the alliance learned about what had happened on Sekker and what was about to happen on Orune, they immediately demanded Brewer’s resignation, crossing a line in the sand between what was necessary for humanity’s survival, tragic as it undoubtedly was, and sheer political cowardice. In short, all they wanted now was to sue for peace. The fact that it was already too late, simply did not register with the thousands of politicians involved who had been totally against the formation of the defence force right from the start, particularly since they were prohibited from any form of control by Brewer’s shoot on sight order. Forthcoming events would soon end any further thoughts of an honourable peace between mankind and the rest of the universe for the foreseeable future.

I’m almost at the end of the novella. More later if you are good  😉

Another Teaser

The Next Age 2

Once again, here is another brief excerpt from my forthcoming Science Fiction novella, taken completely out of context. Enjoy…

***

Stuart carefully piloted the tiny vessel through the constantly revolving tangle of colliding rocks and icy conglomerate, both large and small, which make up the Kuiper Belt. Michael and Sergei kept a weather eye out for imminent collision on either side of the shuttle, while Moshe and Howard did the same thing looking for anything liable to collide with them from above and below via cameras mounted in the shuttle’s outer skin. As for Des, he kept his eyes glued to the miniaturised scanner before him for any sign that the enemy had detected their presence. Until they finally emerged from the belt, merely being able to successfully negotiate this nightmare of ice and rock was their only immediate concern.

As they drew ever closer, the sheer size of the gargantuan ship totally overwhelmed them. What they saw was a mathematically perfect example, according to Euclidean plane geometry, of a six sided three dimensional rectangle, similar in shape to a common shoebox. It had no protuberances of any kind indicating secondary weaponry or any form of scanner. No main weapon was immediately obvious. Standard viewing ports were non-existent. In fact the only break in the vast ship’s otherwise seamless exterior was the easily identifiable airlocks. Because of an outer membrane used to cover the ship’s hull, it did not reflect light, unlike the CEDF corvette’s metallic hulls. Neither was it immediately apparent which end was its bow or stern as there was no obvious outward sign of a propulsion system’s exhaust vent.

For its part, the giant ship began a detailed sweep of the vast debris field directly ahead, created when the Solar System was originally formed billions of years in the past when the universe was still in its infancy. Despite the inevitable natural collisions occurring within the Kuiper Belt, it sensed that something was amiss even though it could not yet detect what it was. As a precaution it increased the power to its forward defence shields. It saw no need to wake its crew for something which may prove to be nothing after all.

Several hours went by as the shuttle’s Claymore Ion-drive relentlessly propelled it towards the ship at sub-light speed. As the distance steadily reduced, what bothered the shuttle’s pilot Stuart the most was how long it would be before the emissions from its drive unit were detected? On arrival alongside the giant ship, it took fully an hour and a half for him to fly the shuttle along all four sides of the giant ship in turn, searching for possible entry points other than the obvious massive airlocks.