Here is another short story of mine…

I wrote this fully intending to include it as a chapter in my novella Cataclysm. In the end I went without it…

~~~

Wuffa’s Sword

A month had passed since Dr Gilbert Briggs became the first human ever to travel back in time; in his case, to witness the battle of Hastings. As the new director of the UK Advanced Science Institute based in the city of Norwich, Gilbert had demanded that he be the first. Not for selfish reasons as his detractors within the Institute would have the academic world believe, but merely because he was not prepared to gamble on anyone else’s life. He was the one responsible for designing the Teleportation Gate and the minute homing chip, designed to be inserted beneath the observer’s skin; therefore in his eyes, it was his responsibility to test it.

Many lessons had been learned during that first use of the Gate. As far as Briggs’ nemesis Professor Malcolm was concerned; under no circumstances should anyone who may be a direct descendant of the people existing at the target be sent through the Gate ever again, citing the narrow escape Briggs had experienced to back up his argument, secretly hoping the whole programme would be closed down.

Malcolm was the senior academic Briggs had replaced as head of the Institute. He led a small number of the more senior academics within the Institute determined to block Briggs’ every move. The majority of the scientific community in the know largely ignored his protestations, preferring to back Briggs.

The trouble with Malcolm’s argument is that the further you travel back in time, the more likely you are to be related to the people you have been sent to observe, particularly if the target is anywhere within the UK and across the Continent and parts of the Near East.

~~~

While Malcolm and his cronies continued their pathetic attempts to disrupt the programme, Briggs, was taking a break from his own personal research regarding his Norman ancestor Gilberte de Brige who had nearly killed him that day during the battle of Hastings, when he suddenly thought of another historical figure worthy of observation. He was fascinated by the man since his early childhood growing up in a small market town in north Suffolk on the border with Norfolk, not forty miles south of the Institute.

Ever since he first read about the discovery in May 1939 of the ship burial beneath Mound One at Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in southern Suffolk, four months prior to the opening gambit of the Second World War, commonly referred to as the phony war, he had often wondered about whether or not its occupant was indeed Rædwald, the legendary king of the East Angles (the Scandinavian people who occupied what is now Norfolk and Suffolk at the time) as the world had been led to believe, long before the amalgamation of the Angles and Saxons into one people, and later the Vikings.

In his early teens whenever he accompanied his parents on their annual visit to his mother’s relatives in London, Briggs usually waited until they were all deep in conversation before sneaking away to catch the bus to the British Museum, spending many happy hours wandering around the room where all the rich grave goods found during the Sutton Hoo dig were displayed, marvelling at the seventh century workmanship.

In particular what got his attention was the gold belt buckle, the equally exquisite garnet encrusted cuirass clasps, and the remains of a plated iron helmet and face mask with its magnificent modern day replica mounted alongside for comparison purposes, produced for the British Museum by the artisans of the Royal Armouries, showing how it must have looked on the day of the burial when it was carefully placed alongside the body.

Then there was the garnet cloisonné pommel of the deceased’s sword, equally as exquisite as the buckle and clasps, not to mention the pattern-welded blade still within its scabbard, with superlative scabbard bosses of domed cell work and pyramidal mounts, and the remnants of a once magnificent shield. Were they the sword and shield of Rædwald’s legendary grandfather Wuffa? Briggs was determined to find out one way or another.

~~~

Gilbert’s choice of Lars as his observer was inspired. The long haired, well-built young Scandinavian was currently engaged in a post-doctoral study of the University of East Anglia’s precious copy of the saga of Beowulf. With his extensive knowledge of the ancient Geat language which quickly developed into Old English, a Germanic language at the time, who better to send through the Gate? After all it was widely believed by historians that Rædwald’s ancestors, the Wuffing dynasty, originated in Lars’ home country of Sweden.

The only real decision left was where to send him – Rendlesham, the hypothesised seat of Rædwald’s power, not far from Sutton Hoo, or to the site of the decisive battle at the River Idle, flowing through what is now Nottinghamshire, between Rædwald and his arch enemy at the time, Æthelfrith of Northumbria. In the end Briggs took a calculated guess by deciding on Rendlesham, even though he had no definitive proof that the hamlet actually was Rædwald’s powerbase. It may even have been at nearby Gipeswic (Ipswich), the East Angle’s predominant port at the time.

The other problem was the date. Although it is generally accepted by historians that the king died sometime in 624AD, what month was anyone’s guess. Nor was the actual date of the battle at the river Idle actually known, except that it occurred either in 616 or 617AD. If Lars appeared on the scene too late or early he may miss Rædwald altogether. And so after much discussion between Briggs and his historical section, the twenty-second of September, 616, was decided upon. If their calculations were out, Lars could always travel back again at a different date and time.

~~~

They were in luck. When he arrived in Rendlesham it was night time. The king’s great wooden hall, surrounded by the guarded walls of a wooden stockade, dominated the hamlet. On entering the hall Lars saw that it was filled to capacity. At the hall’s centre, surrounded on three sides by long wooden tables and benches, stood the great brazier. Above it, suspended by a chain from the hall’s ridgepole, was a large iron cauldron from which slaves fed the ever hungry assembly. The thick wattle and daub walls were lined with expensive, richly coloured wall hangings made by the finest artisans.

He marvelled at the sight before him from his vantage point in the shadows beside the doors at the opposite end of the hall facing Rædwald the undisputed king of the East Angles, seated below what Lars had been sent here to find – Wuffa’s mighty sword and shield. To the king’s right were his two sons Rægenhere and Eorpwald and their uncle Eni (Rædwald’s younger brother). Lars said later that finally being able to put actual faces to names from dusty history books was initially unsettling. And yet here he was and there they were…

On Rædwald’s left was his wife Eabæ, a daughter of the royal house of Essex, who Rædwald had originally married on the death of her first husband, to seal a peaceful alliance between her people the Saxons and his. The mother of his beloved sons was still a beauty despite being in her late thirties – which was old for the time.

Rædwald had become king of the East Angles at the age of twenty on the death of his father Tytila, inheriting his crown and his badge of office, Wuffa’s great sword and shield. Later the venerable Bede would contemptuously dismiss Rædwald as nothing more than a mere footnote in England’s history and therefore of no real importance, by simply observing: filius Tytili, cuius pater fuit UUffa (son of Tytil, whose father was Wuffa).

The cleric could not have been more wrong!

Barely a month since, Rædwald had driven out Eabæ’s firstborn son Sigeberht by her previous husband, who’s claim to the East Angle throne was at best tenuous since she had produced two rightful heirs for her new husband.

Rædwald’s desire to kill him soon forced the young man to seek exile in Gaul. Thanks to his loyal thanes and ceorls, Rædwald learned of his stepson’s treacherous plot to murder young Rægenhere and his infant brother Eorpwald in order to take his place as next in line to the throne. Under the circumstances, the usurper was extremely fortunate to escape with his life.

~~~

Lars followed the king’s gaze as he now glowered at the cause of his latest dilemma seated with his thanes and ceorls, to one side of the hall. Edwin, the true heir to the throne of Deira, brother in law of Æthelfrith of Northumbria, had sought Rædwald’s protection after attempts were made on his life at Æthelfrith’s command.

At first Rædwald had been in favour of either killing him, or simply returning him. But his wife Eabæ and Paulinus, a monk and member of the Canterbury mission had reminded him of his recent religious conversion in Kent and his new Christian duty to honour his gift of sanctuary.

Reluctantly he sent Æthelfrith’s ambassadors back to their lord empty handed after Eabæ had pleaded with him to listen to the monk, reminding him that he now served two sets of gods, the new Christian god and his old ones Tiw, Wodin, Thor and Freya.

Completing the picture before Lars’ eyes, Rædwald’s faithful wolfhound Ceolwulf lay at his master’s feet gnawing on a cow’s thigh bone, snarling should any other hound stray too close. While his master was still king, Ceolwulf was the leader of the pack both here in the hall and on the battlefield.

Because of Edwin, Rædwald now had no option but to answer Æthelfrith’s declaration of war. He had already sent his most trusted thane Egfrid to spy on Æthelfrith’s army near the River Trent at the western boundary of the kingdom of Lindsey, two days earlier. When Egfrid returned, plans would be made for a surprise attack.

~~~

The massive carved doors of Rædwald’s hall swung open, noisily striking the wooden poles on either side of the doorway, making Lars jump. Egfrid, together with his ceorls entered; he motioned for his men to go and eat, as he strode forward to the high table where his old friend the king sat.

Rædwald stood to greet him. “What news of Æthelfrith’s army?” he demanded.

“My lord, Æthelfrith has an army already assembled near the River Idle. He is not there yet; he tours his kingdom gathering more to his banner. His thanes are thirsty for blood.”

“Then we have no time to lose. Lord Edwin, will you fight for your birth right or will you cower here in my hall?” Edwin instantly stood up knocking back the bench he had been seated on. Drawing his sword, he strode to the centre of Rædwald’s hall beside the brazier. “Great king I stand by your side ready to do battle with my brother-in-law Æthelfrith and his army. He sought to kill me, denying me Deira. Now it is his turn to die.”

Rædwald nodded. Within the hour he had sent word to all his thanes along the route north to the River Idle to prepare for battle. The two day march began almost immediately. Lars insinuated himself into the ranks of the long column of warriors not far behind Rædwald.

~~~

The king of the East Angles rode at the head of his steadily growing army dressed in his magnificent ornately decorated helmet, with its protective cheek pieces and cranium ridge overlaid with gold, beneath which his protective face mask with its prominent gold brow ridges, who’s ends were decorated with tusked Boar’s heads, together with a nose and moustache inlaid with gold, hid all but his piercing blue eyes from view. His rich cloak was held in place by smaller versions of the garnet encrusted solid gold clasps fixing his cuirass. His belt was adorned with its ornately worked solid gold belt buckle.

From where he marched in the column, Lars recognised the sword sheathed at the king’s back. Only days earlier he had stood beside Gilbert in the British Museum closely studying its pommel and hilt guard in preparation for this very moment.

The sword was a work of art rather than a weapon of war, expertly forged by Swedish artisans in the middle years of the sixth century from pattern-welded rods of iron, edged with steel, which created a beautiful shimmering wavy effect along its entire length, with its pommel and hilt guard of solid gold, both inlayed with garnets.

Striding effortlessly beside his king’s horse was his faithful thane and shield bearer Egfrid proudly carrying his king’s mighty circular wooden shield with its outer covering of thick hide. Its edge was covered in ornate gold filigree work depicting writhing serpents; at its centre stood a gleaming gold plated shield boss. Lars also recognised the mighty shield’s finely crafted adornments after seeing them close up at the Museum. At least one thing was abundantly clear, the sword and shield did belong to Rædwald. Whether or not they actually first belonged to his grandfather Wuffa was not immediately clear.

Rædwald’s faithful wolfhound Ceolwulf trotted in front of his master’s horse, closely followed by his own army ready to rip Northumbrian throats.

 ~~~

When dawn broke on the mist covered east bank of the River Idle, a little known event in England’s history began to unfold before Lars’ eyes as Rædwald formed up his considerable army into three columns across the river’s floodplain, following the long established tactics last employed on this island by the Roman legions, two hundred years previously.

To the left Edwin stood ready with his men. To the right Rædwald’s oldest son Rægenhere and his men prepared for battle. Rædwald sat motionless astride his horse at the head of the central column with his old friend Egfrid ready to protect his back.

Across the marshy meadow ahead of his army, the mist began to lift as the September sun slowly burnt it away, revealing Æthelfrith’s encampment. At Rædwald’s command, the three columns formed their shield walls and began shouting “Out, out, out!” while banging their iron tipped spears against the back surface of their shields as they purposefully began advancing in the characteristic crablike manner of warriors with shields locked together.

Lars stood a little distance away in low scrub behind the advancing columns, unsure quite what to do next, praying he would be forgotten in the heat of the forthcoming battle. Briggs’ account of his own near fatal experience at Hastings still registered vividly in his mind, reminding him of the dangers of personal involvement.

~~~

Æthelfrith’s more seasoned fighters attacked the three shield walls in a ragged open formation, believing that their superior numbers and skills would win the day. With each charge at Rædwald’s shield walls, Æthelfrith’s crazed warriors fell in great numbers. His men, who were attacking Rægenhere’s shield wall, believed they were fighting Edwin. In the ensuing carnage, they succeeded in killed Rædwald’s much loved son.

Ceolwulf and his brethren joined the battle with canine relish, savagely tearing flesh from bone, ripping Northumbrian throats in their own frenzied attack.

The tide of battle slowly turned in Rædwald’s favour as his three column’s shield walls relentlessly drove forward to where Æthelfrith stood surrounded by his most faithful thanes. Despite the danger, Lars followed on behind. The excited, inquisitive small boy in him wanted to get closer to the action.

On hearing of the death of his son, Rædwald with Egfrid at his back, sought out Æthelfrith and slew him with the great sword. With his demise the battle of the River Idle simply petered out rather than end decisively. No one bothered to give chase as the few survivors of Æthelfrith’s Northumbrian army rapidly fled the scene.

Soon after the battle, Edwin succeeded Æthelfrith as ruler in Northumbria which also gave him control over the lesser kingdoms of North Deira and Bernicia. He later became the first Christian king of the Northern English. His now considerable military strength enabled him to conquer the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, and also to lead his army to victory as far south as the Saxon kingdom of Wessex. As for Æthelfrith’s sons, they went into exile among the Picts and Scots, vanishing from history.

Grief stricken over the death of his son Rægenhere, Rædwald sheathed the great sword and returned home a broken man. A few years later in 624, he died aged forty-four.

~~~

On returning to the Institute Lars asked to be sent back. He wished to attend Rædwald’s funeral out of his deep respect for a great warrior. Briggs agreed and asked to accompany him. They watched through the early morning mist of the November day when Rædwald was laid to rest with his belongings including his sword, helmet and shield on a simple cot within a purpose built wooden chamber aboard his recently repaired longboat,which had been brought overland from nearby Gipeswic. The boat was then buried beneath the tumulus at Sutton Hoo, now known as Mound One.

England would never see his like again. Barely a generation after his death the East Angles ceased to be a separate people when the inevitable intermarriage between Angles and Saxons forged a new nation.

Thanks to Lars’ extremely detailed written account, many gaps in the sketchy history of Rædwald’s East Angles had been filled in. Briggs now knew beyond any reasonable doubt that the remains of the helmet, sword and shield in the British Museum exhibit were indeed formerly owned by Rædwald. Whether or not they actually belonged to Wuffa would probably never be known…

~~~

 Don’t forget – if you want to read Cataclysm, click on the word in red at the top of the page…

🙂

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Are you writing a book?

Liz-S-Writing-Workshop-101Over the past couple of months on several Internet sites for writers, I’ve read many questions and queries plus suggestions and comments regarding the use of correct grammar and speech.

The academically minded among us, plus the vast majority of editors still cling desperately to the fervent belief that a book sans correct grammar will inevitably never make it. While that may be true for books of a historical, biographical or academic nature i.e text books, when it comes to fiction the real key is whether or not the writer can actually tell a story, not if he or she adheres to the accepted rules of English.

When your characters speak, by insisting that they do it correctly you will do yourself no favours. In fact these days it almost guarantees that your book will be lucky to sell more than a dozen copies. In essence, the story and the way your characters converse in a mix of correct speech and common parlance is the key, not the use of perfect English as rigidly laid down by close-minded professors within the English departments of universities worldwide, or even the majority of editors come to that.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the comments in favour of correct grammar are contributed by people from countries whose native language is not English. It’s not their fault. They are merely echoing what they were taught by their teachers.

Think about today’s best selling writers. Do they stick rigidly to the rules of grammar? Most don’t. Gone are the days when the likes of Emile Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe et al wrote to entertain the educated elite minority. And yet they are still held up as the ideal in literature.

Why when today’s writers must write for the majority. In fact you must know your target readers better than they know themselves. I write specifically for the US market for two reasons.

1. The greater majority in the US are brought up on soap operas, reality shows and film, not literature.

2. Because they are more switched on than any other people, I also only publish my books in Kindle form (Ebooks)

They are my readers, not my own countrymen (the English) and certainly not academics. They will be yours as well if you are brave enough to break away from the idea of literary rules. As my good friend and fellow Antipodean Derek Haines has stated on numerous occasions – when it comes to writing there are no rules…

Writing this article is one example of using correct English. But if I had written my books in the same way, I would not now be enjoying my regular monthly royalty income from them.

If you feel strongly one way or another about the subject of correct English and grammar, don’t just read this article and tut-tut under your breath. I don’t bite. Be brave. Write your comments below.

😉

Plot, characters or both? Which is the most important element?

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For me its a no brainer. I was brought up on plot driven books. Consequently I far prefer them to the character driven variety. Why? Simplicity itself. You can have the most appealing/ intriguing/ baffling characters ever dreamt up. But unless the plot is strong and compelling, your characters are going nowhere. Remember that you are writing a book not a screenplay!!!

Whether you like it or not, plot is king!

I’m criticised ad nauseam by the same pair of writers masquerading as self-styled experts on Amazon, whose own works have yet to sell more than a couple of dozen copies in any given year, over the fact that my books are purely plot driven. In that regard they are perfectly correct. Consequently the individuals concerned constantly whine about a lack of emotional depth to my characters.

To them I say – tough!!!

If like them your idea of a good book is driven by the need to have every nuance and character flaw spelt out for you, instead of allowing your imagination free reign, I suggest that you stick with movie and television programs…

I’m a bloke. I write what appeals to me. If you don’t like a strong story, then clearly my books are not for you. Were I ever to produce the kinds of books those two wanted, quite frankly I would deserve to be locked up. If like them, you are looking for endless mind numbingly boring deep and meaninful dialogue between the characters in my books, so that you can figure out what makes them tick – I’m sorry it won’t happen! While it is true that my books do contain various intriguing characters, as far as I’m concerned they are secondary to the story.

The proof is in the pudding. What do I mean by this? Easy – its the regular monthly royalty payments to my bank account. Proof that my books sell and that I know what I’m doing. Finally, to those two individuals, all I can say is that if your own books aren’t selling, then perhaps its high time you asked yourselves why?

PS – I’ve only ever written one character driven book – a fantasy anthology entitled Goblin Tales. I’m lucky if it sells one copy a year…

😉

One of my favourite short stories…

…from my much heralded but rarely bought anthology of Goblin Tales

What's next on the agenda?

Obadiah Fingletook – Grand High Goblin

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), set out on a quest to rescue the grand high goblin, Obadiah Fingletook.

***

A loud knock on the goblin brother’s front door an hour before dawn, one day in early spring, woke Glob from a deep sleep. He leapt out of his bed in such a panic that he stubbed his big toe on the chamber pot beside his bed, sending it clattering across the floor, spilling its contents.

He limped painfully towards the front door muttering and cursing under his breath, unbolted it and angrily flung it open. Leaning heavily on the old oak’s trunk, totally out of breath, was a purple faced plains goblin wearing the Fingletook family crest on his courtier’s jerkin, clutching a rolled up piece of parchment sealed with the beeswax facsimile of the grand high goblin’s face.

“Wot’s it yer wonts at this hour? The world’s still sleepin!” Glob growled as his bruised toe began throbbing terribly.

“Begs pardons master Glob sir, but I’s comes wiv a message from her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook,” the messenger began, briefly bowing low before handing the message over. “She requires yer helps. She asks that yer all travel ter the ancestor oak for a confid – private discushun of the greatest import if yer please sir.”

Although being hugely annoyed at being woken at such an hour, Glob calmed down just a little. He thanked the messenger through gritted teeth and sent him on his way to tell Hermione that they would soon join her.

He tried hard to ignore his painful throbbing toe when he sat down on his chair beside the window. The first weak light of dawn began to break through the gloom as he settled himself, lit a rush-light to illuminate the missive, and broke the seal. He looked at it for a moment marvelling at the fine quality of the batwing parchment, the neatness of Hermione’s writing, and the rich purple ink she used. Then he began to read.

Dearest Globular Van der Graff, my most cherished son,

I have the gravest of news to impart. My Obadiah has been taken prisoner. Yesterday I found the need to scold him for his arrogance and stupidity once again. As a result, he ran away from home. Ordinarily he normally slinks back when he gets hungry, and goes to his room to sulk. But my dear when he did not return last night I began to fret as only a mother can.

I dispatched scouts to find him. Eventually one of them did locate the cave where he had sheltered from a terrible storm during the night, just beyond our borders to the north. But the scout in question, Grassnit Thimblefoot, found nought but Obadiah’s fine clothes and boots. Pinned to his best jerkin dear Globular was a note.

It simply said that if I wished to see him alive and well, I must deliver a ransom of one thousand rubies to the mountain top abode of Baron Cragwit Grimbledoff before the next moon begins.

Cragwit thoroughly despises my first born for his petulance and weaknesses, which I can entirely understand; I don’t like him much myself. Obadiah does tend to upset everyone with his arrogance and childish outbursts.

Cragwit believes he should be grand high goblin. After the wise council decreed that only I could rightfully be called the mother of all, his mother, my sister Sherazid, undertook to create a rival dynasty when he was born.

The wise council decreed that Sherazid be put to death immediately for her highly treasonous act, charging her with bringing a usurper into the world. Since her death, Cragwit has made it his mission in life to undermine the house of Fingletook.    

Please help me dearest Globular. I am beside myself with worry.

Your affectionate mother,

Hermione Fingletook

Glob quickly roused his brothers. After breakfast they all set out on the long journey to the ancestor oak riding on the backs of Yathle and two of her sister wyverns – Maeve and Iolanthe.

Glob led the way through the vast expanse of rooms within the great tree to Hermione’s royal apartments and knocked courteously on the door. Hermione dried her reddened eyes, delicately blew her nose and then opened the door. “Oh my dears, I’m so glad you are here,” she said as tears of happiness flowed, when her face lit up at the sight of her five wood goblin sons.

“Mornins mother on all,” Make said, bowing low in her presence.

Hermione beckoned them all to sit.

Bejuss flew to her and sat on her outstretched hand. “Rarrk – we’th all here ter therve yer in any way we’th can majethy,” he lisped as he bowed low, almost falling off her hand in the process. Hermione smiled and kissed the old raven on his head. “Thank you all for coming so promptly my dears.”

“Begz pardonz majezty,” Mous began, “I’z wuzz juzz wonderin why Cragwit callz hizzelf baron if yer pleaze?” Glob, Make, Byz and Neo nodded, all equally curious to hear the answer to the question. Bejuss was too.

Hermione sat for a moment in silence, composed herself as best she could under the sad circumstances, cleared her throat, delicately blew her nose once more and then replied. “Even though Cragwit is illegitimate dear Eponymous, he still has a modicum of noble green goblin blood flowing through his rebellious veins. The wise council decreed that because Sherazid was my sister, Cragwit was to be entitled to the lowest possible title.”

“Pity he weren’t strangled at births,” Neo muttered under his breath as he crossed the room to where Hermione sat on the side of her bed. His eyes frantically crossed themselves as his leathery old face took on a look of total puzzlement. “So, if he’s a Fingletooks majesty, whys he callings hisself Grimbledoff?”

Hermione’s sweet smile broke out once more, gladdening the hearts of all. “Dearest Neopol, Grimbledoff is the family name of Sherazid’s old wet nurse. No one but a legitimate member of the house of Fingletook may take the name, not even you my dear son,” she explained as she gently stroked his leathery ears, making old Neo blush deeply.

Glob sat for a few moments, like all of his brothers, trying hard to digest what their mother had just revealed. “We needs ter gets started then if we’s goin ter finds Cragwit’s lair afore dark. I’s heard tell on terrible creatures wot inhabits the lands beyonds our northern borders. We don’t wants ter be out after dark!”

Hermione smiled at her favourite wood goblin son. “A fresh start at first light tomorrow morning will suffice Globular dearest. It won’t hurt Obadiah to be out all night long. It may just be the making of him. Besides, it will take time for my court scribe and his assistants to gather the ransom of a thousand rubies together. Meantime you should speak with my chief scout, Grassnit Thimblefoot. I have instructed him to lead you to the cave and to point out the best route to take. From there my dears it is up to your courage, eyes, wits and noses to follow the trail.”

***

The next morning after eating a hearty breakfast, the five goblins and Bejuss bid farewell to their mother Hermione, and ably led by Grassnit, they set out on the first leg of their journey.

Because Make and Mous were the strongest, they had been entrusted with carrying the heavy acorn chest containing the ruby ransom with its beeswax Fingletook seal. Byz with Bejuss perched on his shoulder was tethered to Neo, much to the old curmudgeon’s great annoyance. Glob walked a pace behind Grassnit as the scout’s keen eye followed the fast vanishing trail of footprints.

By noon they reached the north western border of goblin held territory within Goblindom. From now on the rest of their journey was into relatively unknown lands. Soon Grassnit saw the cave mouth in the distance. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains to the west, the brave party of goblins made themselves at home in the cave for the night.

Glob and Make first hid the chest containing the ransom and then built a fire at the back of the cave. Neo dragged Byz behind him, complaining bitterly about being bounced from rock to rock. Between them they made a communal bed for all to share out of bracken and moss.

“Me’th hungry,” Bejuss declared.

“I’s is ter,” Make added as his stomach grumbled.

“N me,” Byz chipped in, reaching inside his pocket to give Bejuss a juicy slug.

“I’z gotz lotz on honeycomb,” Mous announced, offering a large leaf packet for all to share.

After they had eaten, Glob sat at the cave mouth in the moonlight talking to Grassnit. Make got out his bestest briar pipe, filled and lit it, before relaxing with Mous while Byz played a merry tune on his pipes. Bejuss hopped up and down on Byz’ shoulder, doing a raven jig as the sound of the pipes entranced him. Even Neo tapped his foot in time to the tune.

“Wot’s this ere Cragwit like thens Nit, ever seed im afore?” Glob casually enquired.

Nit puffed on his own clay pipe blowing a large perfumed smoke ring. “Aye, I’s seed him once when he raided for supplies, two summers back Glob. Not sure he’s a goblin though,” Nit replied, knocking the spent makings out of his pipe into the palm of his hand, before blowing through its stem to clean it.

“Wot makes yer says he ain’t a goblin?”

“Yer shud seed the size on him. Taint natural. No goblin is that big!”

“Whaddaya mean, is he fat?”

Nit shook his head. “Nah – Obadiah’s fat. Cragwit is tall as a humin n heavier built than an ogre’s mother.” Glob sat for a moment and then asked Nit to describe the baron to him as best he could.

Nit thought for a long time as he filled his pipe once more with a plug of his violet flavoured tobacco, lit it, and drew deep on the pipe’s stem, tasting the sweet smoke before replying. “Cragwit has a fat belly wot hangs over his belt see. He wears a long chainmail skirt wot drags on the ground, held up by a strap across one shoulder. His arms n his chest is always exposed. Heavy muscled he is. He carries a war club topped wiv a carved skull, n a sharp mountain goblin war axe. He wears his favourite weapon for fightin goblins on his bonce. It’s a blue metal hat wiv two griffin teeths stickin out on it. When he charges at yer, he always lowers his head ter spike yer. So wotch out, cos them teeths is fierce sharp! On his arms he wears blue metal plates for protecshun gainst blades n the like.”

Glob sat quiet for a few moments, yawned, and then asked one last question of Nit. “How many goblins have he gots in his army then?”

Nit burst out laughing. “Why bless yer Glob. He may fancy hisself a fierce baron n leader on a terribles army ter fright those as don’t knows him, but he’s only gots one goblin wiv him, if yer can calls Snidely Grossbundle a goblin. He’s his servant n general factotum. At the moment he’s likely Obadiah’s gaoler. Yer name it n Snide does it for Cragwit. Yer’ll know when Snide is about believes me.” Nit held his nose at the thought of being downwind of Snide. “The smelly little grotkin do stink so foul cos he’s covered in greasy hair froms the top on his pointed bonce ter the filthy black toenails on his feets. Plus he only eats bats. So his breath do stink sumink awful.” Nit shivered in disgust; even merely talking about Snide, made him feel ill. Glob thanked Nit, and turned in for the night alongside his brothers.

***

Obadiah was a pitiful sight to behold. Stark naked and shivering uncontrollably, sitting in a mixture of his own filth and discarded bones from his meagre daily meal of one small dried bat, he was feeling decidedly sorry for himself.

The only source of light for his dank cell came from a missing stone in the ceiling above. Water constantly dripped on him through it. Obadiah blubbered uncontrollably in his nakedness. His only item of clothing was a moth-eaten short and damp wool scarf, which he had found in one dark corner, and wound round his thick neck. Cragwit had taken great delight in humiliating his royal cousin by removing the grand high goblin’s clothing before leading him in chains back here to his lair.

Cragwit charged his smelly servant Snide, who he forced to live in the dungeon of his lair because he couldn’t stand his foul smell, with guarding and feeding his prisoner. Compared to Snide, the stench in Obadiah’s cell was so unbelievably bad, that even when the hairy goblin gaoler unlocked the heavy door each day to throw his prisoner’s daily meal on the cell floor, the grand high goblin didn’t notice Snide’s foul odour at all.

Obadiah heaved a heavy sigh and continued to sob pitifully; to think that he had come to this. A hungry beetle bit one flabby cheek of his large, fat, naked backside, making him yelp in pain. “Oh mother, please send someone to rescue me, please!” he bleated in between floods of tears.

***

The perilously steep path to the summit of Dragon Tooth Mountain, which Nit had pointed them towards before returning home, was constantly subjected to dangerous rock falls.

As the goblin brothers and Bejuss steadily climbed towards Cragwit’s lair, none dare peek over the edge of the path. For a tiny wood goblin to fall down the sheer mountainside would mean only one thing – certain death. Eventually they saw their objective looming out of the clouds that hung permanently over the mountain top.

They all stood on the path not far from the heavily armoured door of Cragwit’s home. Glob signalled for Make and Mous to place the acorn chest in plain sight, and then he ordered his brothers to stand behind it in a line while he went to ring the bell. Bejuss flew off to perch above the door. Glob reached up and grabbed the chain, pulling it twice, before rapidly retreating to take his place beside his brothers, standing behind the ransom.

Cragwit was roused from his nap by the sound of his door bell echoing loudly through his home. He went to his front door, opened it and surveyed his tiny visitors.

“Wot’s yer wonts?”

Glob cleared his throat and began. “We’s broughts the ransom for the grand high goblin hisself yer mightiness,” he said, bowing low.

Cragwit’s beady eyes focused on the acorn chest. “Open’s it! Shows me quick now, else it’ll be the worse for yer,” he growled. Make broke the seal and opened the lid.

Cragwit’s eyes glistened with tears of joy at the sight. He began drooling uncontrollably. “Brings it ter me NOW!” he commanded.

Glob crossed his fingers behind his back. “Sorry’s but we’s cant’s does that I’s afriads yer worship. We’s all tired after carryin it up here. Yer’ll jus have ter come here n gets it yerself!”

Cragwit erupted in anger. “WHY YER STINKIN GOBLIN POTSCRAPES, I’SLL TEACH YER TER ANSWERS ME BACK, SEE IF I’S DONTS!” Totally enraged and losing all sense of reason, he charged head down directly at Glob and his brothers.

Gathering all his strength at the last possible moment, Glob snatched the chest away as all five goblins rapidly stood aside, removing themselves from the path of the angry charging humin sized goblin. Cragwit tripped over the hem of his chainmail skirt and disappeared from view, plummeting to his death. What he had forgotten in his blind rage was that the brothers had been standing with their backs perilously close to the edge of the path.

***

After they had all recovered from their near death experience, they began to make a plan to rescue Obadiah from his cell. “Right Byz me lad, yer stays here guardin the chest, here me! Bejuss make sure he does stay. No wanderin orf now Byz, else yer’ll wind up alongsides Cragwit downs below,” Glob began, “the res on yer, comes wiv me. Neo gets yer club ready, n don’ts forgets ter hold yer noses cos Snide stinks terrible fierce.”

They entered through the large door and found the staircase leading down to the dungeon. The passage leading to Obadiah’s cell was easy to locate. All they had to do was follow the stink. Neo led the way holding his nose, ready to do battle with his war club at the ready.

Snide was busy picking his nose looking for a snack. He carefully examined each disgusting bogey stuck on the end of his finger, before eating it. Neo crept up on him with tears flowing from his eyes from the foul stench of the hairy goblin, and quickly bashed him on the head. He removed the key to the cell from Snide’s unconscious body and led the way followed by Glob, Make and Mous to unlock Obadiah’s door.

They all fell about laughing at the spectacle of Obadiah’s wobbly fat naked flesh, despite the foul smell that greeted them. Back to his old arrogant self once more, he stood up with a look of deep indignation on his face, failing to see anything to laugh at. After the rescuers had locked Snide in the cell and thrown away the key, they emerged once more into daylight and sweet fresh air.

***

With Obadiah forced to lead the way back down the mountain path, constantly prodded in his fleshy backside with Neo’s club and Bejuss’ razor sharp beak, to keep him down wind of them, and also for their great amusement at the sight of his fat body wobbling as he walked, they eventually returned him and the ransom safely back to Hermione.

She immediately demanded that Obadiah scrub himself clean with a large prickly thistle stem in a tub of ice cold water, well beyond the confines of the ancestor oak, much to the amusement of all the courtiers, Glob, his brothers, Bejuss, and Hermione herself. It would be a very long time before Obadiah Fingletook flounced off in a huff again.

As they all flew home courtesy of Yathle and her two sisters, Maeve and Iolanthe, peals of goblin laughter, combined with raucous raven caws filled the air above Goblindom.

All writers need to use a thesaurus

Chris-Lonsdale

For any writer, no matter whether or not you are new or seasoned, one thing we all have to take into account when writing a book is the use of appropriate words. There is always a danger of a writer opting for a limited vocabulary.

Instead of using certain words simply because your are familiar with them and likely use them whenever conversing in you’re daily life, believe me it’s far better to make use of a Thesaurus. Always be on the lookout for acceptable alternatives.

What do I mean by this? To illustrate my point the following part of a sentence in a book I am currently re-reading by one well-known author, quite literally puts words into the mouth of his chief character, which simply were not in use during the time period the story is set in. “They came swarming downstream, transports filled with palace servants and slaves and all their accoutrements and paraphernalia.”

To begin with the book is set during the time of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Words like accoutrements and paraphernalia were not in use.

Let us take a look at paraphernalia first. Here is its definition: miscellaneous articles, especially the equipment needed for a particular activity. Using it in the book concerned is incorrect as it didn’t enter the English language until the 17th century, making it unknown in two thousand five hundred BCE.

Ok fine so it wasn’t in use back then clever clogs. So what? Who cares? How about using a word like trappings in its place?

You could, but once again it wasn’t in use at the time. It first appeared during the period of language development known as Late Middle English. What the author should have considered using is the word belongings. In this case it is highly appropriate as it refers to ‘movable possessions’. More importantly it is a word which has been around forever.

Now for accoutrements. Once again here is its definition: an additional item of dress or equipment. It sounds acceptable right? Not in this case. It didn’t appear until the 16th century, originating from the French word accoutrer which simply means clothe or equip. So once again the author is putting words into his character’s mouth that simply weren’t in use in the time period the book is set in.

Well, in this instance perhaps he should have considered using the word device.

Once again you could. But device didn’t appear until the period of Early Middle English.

Then what about using equipment?

Sorry but it didn’t appear in our language until the early 18th century. The word is French in origin – equiper. Now, are you beginning to see what a minefield the English language is for writers?

~~~

In the author in question’s case he simply gets away with it for two reasons, the first being that he is highly successful and loved by his readers. The second reason is that most people, by that I mean ordinary book lovers, wouldn’t consider questioning his choice of words, merely because they accept and understand the words he uses.

Writers have no excuses! Take a moment when you are writing a book to ask yourself if the words you are using are appropriate? Invest in a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus, and please make sure the words you employ were common during the time period your book is set in, as far as is practicable. Take a tip from me, try to simplify the reading experience by striking a sensible balance. Above all, refrain from the use of overly long or obscure words where possible.

But does all of the above really matter these days?

Damned right it does! Just wait until your next novel appears in the market. There are pedants out there who take great delight in pointing out things like the above in public as well as spelling errors, all under the guise of offering a legitimate review or critique of your work. To survive you must become super critical of your own work to protect it and your reputation as a writer…

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Trolls – what is their problem?

internet-troll

As far as I can make out, all internet trolls have an enormous chip on their shoulder. Despite never actually managing to produce a book the general public enjoyed reading in their thousands, they feel it is their duty to tear apart any and all other books who did, always providing they get their claws on a free copy of course!

What do you learn from this? If you wish to be left alone by today’s trolls, don’t give your book away!!!

These days more and more of these loathsome individuals no longer bother to hide behind pseudonyms. Preferring instead to hide in plain sight on various writing sites on Facebook. One of my more recent books has been targeted by two of these individuals – one here in the UK. The other a writer of my acquaintance in the Eastern Mediterranean…

I can only surmise that because of their own inadequacies, people like that see those of us who enjoy some modicum of success as the enemy. They dare not attack their agent, editor or publisher for fear of retaliation, so they vent their spleen by attacking someone they’re not – the successful writer.

Here are a few verbatim examples of typical troll reviews. I have deliberately left out the title and author of each book, to focus your attention entirely on the sheer vindictiveness of the troll involved.

~~~

“The author has based a character on a teenage girl he is obsessed with. He has used her real name without her permission. If that wasn’t bad enough, the quotes in the spoiler tag below show how absolutely disgusting the whole thing is. The only other notable thing is how poor the writing is; the author doesn’t even seem to know the meaning of some of the words he uses. It would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This book makes me sick.”

“Perhaps one of THE worst books in the history of literature…..this history or any other! I WANT MY MONEY BACK! Any egyptian national would be offended by this book and any person of average or above intellect (clearly not the author) would be offended by this book. Even within the realms of fantasy this “work” would NOT be considered worthy or considered at all. Perhaps it should come with a clearly stated warning that readers beware of impending rubbish upon purchase? Have i already said I WANT MY MONEY BACK!? And while we are doing that please can i have all reference of this book cleansed from my memory? I will even put thought to financial contribution to the author never self-publishing any future “works” as clearly this would benefit mankind’s future.

“My expectations kept drooping as I read the book until I could stand it no more. I felt like I was reading a narrative put together by a 7 year old without the pleasure of a 7 year old’s breathless enthusiasm. What a waste of time!”

“The story dosent really pull the reader in. The writing is ment for a very young reader. The story line is rather boring.”

“i find myself struggling to like authors who come up with those strange surnames as well as other worlds.don’t claim to be any better at tho.this bunch of aliens were real sob’s do they get their comupance(sp)?read it & you will find out even if some of the protaganists don’t quite measure up more water could have solved the problems handily”

“This has gotta be the worst book I’ve purchased from Kindle – even at 99c it’s way overpriced. Meandering storylines that just peter out and the ending is pathetic. Best advice I can give you is DON’T!!”

~~~

Blaming others for their own failings does nothing to endear trolls to the hard working writers they positively hate…

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Race Against Time’s Reviews

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Not one dissenting voice among them!

“Race against time” is an outstanding example of how an author can turn extensive archaeological knowledge into a superb adventure story, chock-full high-caliber entertainment. With the abrupt ending of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, and the prediction that the Solar System will be annihilated in that very year, as a starting point, Jack Eason tells a gripping tale that spans the world, that is often funny but at the same time suspenseful, and that is populated by characters we love to love or to hate. At the end, when the reader thinks that everything will collapse, Eason provides an ingenious, surprising end. An adventure story that also is instructive, a mix of genres that also is a fast-paced and highly entertaining yarn….Eason succeeded in forging all these elements seamlessly together.
on September 23, 2016
A Race Against Time by Jack Eason is a fast paced adventure story which grips you from the first paragraph and doesn`t let go until the end sentence. A race to activate an ancient shield takes our characters all over the world. They are chased by adversaries which are as ancient as the device and have an underground group which are hell bent on killing our characters. They gain allies from unusual quarters and then ensues a wonderful adventure which kept me captivated. I couldn`t put this book down. See for yourself buy a copy, I promise it is an adventure you won`t regret.
on November 18, 2016
From the dawn of mankind until twenty-five thousand years ago an alien race still lived alongside our ancestors. Then, because humanity rebelled against them, they left. However, two of their race stayed, one cared about humanity and one hated humanity.
They also left behind a network of powerful artefacts which were counting down to the destruction of Earth and all it’s inhabitants.
Zero hour happened on 21st December 2012!
So why are we all still here?
Read and find out.
Note: This is an updated version of this author’s previously published book ‘The Seventh Age’.
on October 4, 2016
If you like geography, archeology, science fiction and you can handle a cat called Dragon that is an incorrigible hunter, then you will like this book. Two familiar characters from The Seventh Age, Nick and Ithis return in Race Against Time as the clock ticks down to the end of 2012, and according to the Mayan calendar, it will be the end of time for the Solar System. Will Nick, Ithis and Dragon get to see 2013?
A fast paced read for sci-fi and archeology buffs.
on September 13, 2016
Highly recommended
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