Voices in Your Head?

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My first book, The Ninth Life came into being mainly because I became intrigued by the notion that most of us hear voices in our heads at one time or another.

From Pinocchio to Joan of Arc, people have been hearing things and sometimes a little voice can change history, and not always for the best.

Kate Devereau, the ageing artist in my book, has been hearing a voice all her life. Never sure if this is good or evil, she makes a point of ignoring everything it says. Would her life have turned out differently if she hadn’t?

Some people call this the voice of our conscience, a bit like Jiminy Cricket, but how many of us really listen or even obey its commands?

I personally don’t hear any voices, but sometimes I just know I should have done things differently, and have suffered the consequences…

When I researched this topic, I was amazed by just how many famous people have heard voices, going back as far as Moses. Some of these people were convinced they were hearing the voice of God; some thought a heavenly host had visited them. Whereas, on the other side of the scale, if a voice talked you into committing a crime, they usually lock you up and throw away the key.

Personally, I like the idea of a wise voice, advising and helping us with life’s problems. Pointing out the error of our ways would be very handy in our house.

But how many of us would dare to trust it?

 

Excerpt from The Ninth Life

… as the pain rolled on and on, Kate just wanted to die. She knew no one was going to rescue her, they never had before and it was a little late to start believing they would now. For some reason, she knew it was her lot in life to suffer, to be alone and be miserable, no matter how hard she tried to make her life any different. Surely, it was time for the curse on her life to stop? The voice in her head had said otherwise, apparently, there was much worse to come. But what could be worse than this, she thought.

Once the pain started to make her want to push, it all became a little more bearable. At least she felt more in control of the situation, not just lying there helplessly, being tortured.

The baby, a boy, was born that evening and nobody could have been more pleased it was over than Kate herself.

Throughout the ordeal, the voice had kept up a running commentary about her life being ruined. How she had wasted every opportunity and how sorry it was. The last bit surprised her, for she had always thought it disliked her. It had never said anything with any hint of kindness in it before. If it was simply trying to depress her even more than she was already, it had succeeded…

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#Free on Kindle!

Today, and until Monday 2nd October, The Broken Life is #free on Amazon Kindle!

Please show it some love everyone, and then maybe tell me about it!

 

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DI David Snow has a serial killer to catch, a killer as mysterious as the crimes he commits.

Snow is due to retire, but not before he discovers why someone killed his sergeant and is now coming after him.

The killer seems to have a personal vendetta against Snow, but he is determined that no one else should die because of him. His efforts are hampered by the arrival of a new sergeant, ‘ruthless’ Ruth Winton, for she is not what she seems. Alarm bells start to ring when Snow realises she is after more than just his job.

… It was almost midnight, the cold rushing wind the only sound in the empty, deserted streets. The detective was unaware that someone had been following him ever since he left the public house. This had not been a social visit, he had been looking for information, seeking to loosen a few tongues with the help of the local brew.

It had been another waste of his time, and his mood was as black as the night around him.  He heard a sound behind him and stopped walking, waiting for the person to come into view. When no one appeared he knew he was alone and more than a little drunk and frustrated.

As he stood in the middle of the road, something hit the side of his head, something hard and painful. He had been right, after all. Someone had been following him, and they had just thrown something at him. His senses began to fail as the pain intensified, his sight the first to go. As his knees buckled, he reached up, his fingers touching the alien object that was protruding from the side of his head.

The shock of realising what was happening accelerated his system failure, and he collapsed, his head hitting the road hard. As he lay dying, someone walked up to him and knelt down beside him. He couldn’t see who it was, or whether they were friend or foe, but he had the feeling it didn’t matter anymore anyway. The last thing he felt were the icy cold fingers on his face…

Amazon Universal Book Link:  myBook.to/BrokenLife

 

 

Not So Simple?

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Excerpt from Simple…

Walking towards Gran, I could feel the blood draining from my body, trying to find some place to hide.  It felt as if it had all gathered in my feet, making each step I took the hardest thing I had ever done.

Gran got up from her rocker and I watched it continue to move, as if she had left some part of herself sitting in it.  She walked inside the cabin and waited for me. She had never done more than cuff me across the back of the head, but I figured I had to be in for more than that this time.  I was trying to think of the worst she could do.

It was cool inside the cabin.  Gran was sitting at the big wooden table grandpa had made.  She might as well have been the town judge, sitting behind the high bench.  She didn’t move or look at me as I sat opposite, waiting for judgement.  I knew better than speak first.  I couldn’t have, even if I wanted to, my mouth had dried up.  Gran finally spoke, her voice hard, as if she had eaten gravel.  ‘You’ve done a bad thing, Leanne. Taken our trust and pissed it in the wind.  Jimmy says he should be the one to punish you, says you had no right taking Simple anywhere near the Spiers. Reckon I should turn you over to him, save my words for someone who can hear them.’

I said, ‘I can hear real good,’ with more grit in my voice than I intended.

Gran fixed me with one of those looks that made me wish I could turn to stone. ‘Seems to me, young lady,  if your ears still work, then your brain’s gone soft like Simple’s. Fancy interfering in business that aint yours. You know right enough, he needs telling more times than the sun wakes us and then some. You want him took off for takin’ town young’uns?’

‘Course not, Gran.’  My voice came out as a whisper. ‘Simple was hurt real bad.  I couldn’t just leave him . . .’

 

Amazon Review

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Disturbing, but compelling and heartwarming

By Rivergirl

5.0 out of 5 stars

This is a story about some very tough and mean people somewhere in the backwoods and mountains of America. It is told from the perspective of a young girl whose mission in life is to protect her big, but simple-minded brother from harm. The story is compelling, frightening and sometimes brutal in the manner of the film Deliverance, but it is also a heartwarming story of loyalty, love and deep affection. It was not what I was expecting, but I’m glad I read it. It has an unforgettable quality about it and the characters are complex but convincing. It really is a great story and unputdownable.

Universal Book Link:  myBook.to/mySimple

 

Simple…

Anita thought our books needed a bit of an airing!

Simple is another one of Anita’s books, written in the same West Virginian theme as Bad Moon. The story of a backwoods family and the way they treat their mentally challenged son, Ethan. Or Simple, as he is called. A story of love and caring, of living with fear and brutality; and how the love of one person can make a difference.

excerpt from Simple…

Gran stormed across the clearing, bending to pick up a stick from the ground without breaking her stride.  Simple, sitting against the wood pile, was in for another of her beatings.  I yelled for him to run, but he didn’t hear me.  Lost in one of his daydreams I guessed.

I watched in silence as Gran repeatedly swung the stick hard against the side of her son’s head.  There were no words to describe Simple’s pain, or the pain of watching.  He probably didn’t even know what it was for and I hated her for making me feel all the things he couldn’t say. He didn’t move or look her in the face, not until she let the stick drop from her bony fingers did he feel safe enough to close his eyes.  He slowly put his hands to his battered head, blood pushing its way through the gaps in his dirty fingers…

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Universal Amazon Link:  myBook.to/SimpleS

 

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The Dying of the Light…

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The Dying of the Light

Part One

The trick is to avoid all the things she knows she cannot do anymore, but this is easier to do than keeping her hands out of the biscuit tin.

She is becoming an expert at ignoring the elephant in the room. She sees him, watching her with that wise knowing look in his eyes, but if she doesn’t acknowledge him or admit his presence to anyone, she can go on pretending that everything is fine.

Pretend that the painful, spiteful remarks don’t slice her soul to the bone, making her want to curl up and die in a corner, or scream louder than the pain, in an effort to keep her temper from overwhelming and drowning her.

Somehow, she maintains a humorous attitude, something she has carefully cultivated. Smiling at her tormentors, even laughing at their cruel jokes and the things they say. She has learned that to show the damage they do only increases their enjoyment at her distress.

She knows they are waiting for her to die, to be finally rid of her and the elephant in the room, the constant reminder that they too will grow old.

She must ignore them, for she cannot find the will or the strength to walk away from them. One of these days she hopes she will manage to summon some vestige of effort, before her time runs out. She dreams of spending her last days in peace and tranquillity, far from all the hatred and cruelty and the critical gaze of the large grey animal in the corner of the room…

Paper Paradise…

I was a lonely child, and London was a lonely place to be when I was growing up there after the war. All around me, people were busily trying to put their lives and homes back into some kind of order.
I remember walking around the streets, confused by all the chaos that still had to be dealt with. All the piles of dusty bricks and rubble, all that remained of so many people’s lives might be what made me such a melancholic child, and the reason I retreated into the world of books.
My favourite book was a copy of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte and I would love to have that particular copy back in my possession. I remember it as being illustrated, full of hauntingly beautiful but tortured imagery that managed to scare the living daylights out of me (I was only eight years old)

I often wonder if my memory is at fault. Was this book really illustrated, or did the words simply conjure up what I thought I saw?
I do love a good book and I must have read thousands of them in my lifetime. One of my favourite authors of all time is Stephen King.  He wrote about everything, from a crazy car to a tormented child and just about every scary subject in between. I have spent so much time in his company.
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Which brings me to one of my favourite authors, Anita Dawes. You meet her here most weeks as she shares this site with me,  and she is not yet getting the recognition I think she deserves. I can see a similarity with Stephen King in everything she writes, for horrible things happen to her characters too, but you can’t help but love them anyway.
What follows is an excerpt from Bad Moon, my all time favourite…

“Watching the truck coming towards us seemed to take forever, like Pa was going deliberately slow. We waited for Pa to get out of the truck and I could see from his dirt streaked face that it weren’t good. Nathan’s face looked worse.
Ma tried to stop me from running to the truck, but couldn’t hold me. I climbed on the back and didn’t see Nathan getting out. Suddenly he was there beside me. I remember kneeling and touching the blue check shirt that covered Josh’s face. I remember the touch of Nathan’s hand on mine and the gentle way he said, ‘Don’t look, Annie please. Just let Pa bury him.’
 But I had to see for myself, had to know if it was the tree falling on him that had killed him. My eyes were wet, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I pulled the shirt back and a scream tore at my throat, trying to find a way out.

No sound came as I looked at what was left of his face, dark gaping holes looked back at me. Gone were his blue grey eyes, the very thing I had like most about him had been gouged away.
His face was torn and bloody. Dried blood matted his hair and dead leaves were sticking to him.
Nathan tried to take me away, saying I had seen enough. I felt myself being lifted slowly from my knees and as Nathan carried me away, that’s when my mind registered what it had seen.
The torn flesh on his face hadn’t been caused by the fall. The skin standing away from the bone and all the dried blood made it hard to read, that was why my mind didn’t see it right off.
They had cut Pa’s name down one side of his face, as if taking his eyes weren’t enough.
The scream that wouldn’t come before finally broke through and shut down my brain like an axe blow…”

See what I mean? See you next week…

Universal Amazon Link:  http://myBook.to/badmoon

Who is Tallis Steelyard?

Today we welcome Tallis Steelyard to our blog. He has kindly come along with another of his lovely stories.

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This image is a painting by the great Frank Frazetta, an artist my son adores and tries to emulate, and suits the story very well.

Over to you, Tallis!

Officers and gentlemen?

In a world of bitterness and evil where gross unpleasantness is rife, it is good to talk occasionally about the decent people one meets. Thus I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of my patrons. Now anyone would think that all my patrons are ladies, and to be fair a considerable majority of them are. But there are still gentlemen who feel the finer arts are worthy of support.
Two of them, Sir Stee and Sir Regald, lived together in a pleasant enough house on the edge of Dilbrook. They lived alone save for their
cook/housekeeper Solia and a handful of other staff who didn’t live in.
As patrons they knew what they wanted. Sir Stee liked something with a good steady rhythm and a strong rhyming pattern. He also felt that poems should commemorate stirring actions. I confess that whilst I could write what he liked, after a while, you run out of convincing rhymes for ‘gore’ or ‘slaughter.’
Sir Regald, on the other hand, liked something more lyrical. He appreciated the melody within the language, and for him, rhyme and rhythm should be subordinated to this. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy combination to achieve, and to be fair, they tended to accept this.
Solia on the other hand, I frankly adored. She was almost a surrogate aunt to me. The gentlemen kept a good table, and when you dined there with them, you dined heartily and well. Solia would always send me off with ‘a little something for your Shena.’ This little something would feed the pair of us for a couple of days.
What always irritated me over the years was the gossip that seemed to
circulate about this household. There were all sorts of unpleasant rumours, including one that claimed that the two gentlemen remained in the same house because of their common passion for Solia.
Now that the last of that household has taken their final journey I can
reveal the truth. They were three siblings. Their mother was a chambermaid who fell in love with a common soldier. Not even a horseman, but an infantryman. He marched south before they realised she was pregnant and with no sign of him returning it was arranged that the child, a boy she called Stee, would be adopted by a childless family nearby. The errant father returned, and when it was explained to him what had happened, he swore he would marry his beloved. Alas, there was trouble in the south, and he was swept away to the wars, leaving another child to be born. This boy, called Regald, was adopted by a second local family. When the father returned he
married the mother on the day he got back, got his discharge and became a cobbler. Their third child, a girl called Solia was born a year later. All three children knew of their siblings and to some extent grew up together.
The boys went for soldiers and not long after Solia, sharing their love of adventure, followed them. For many years they worked in Partann, signing on with this company or that company, or working directly for petty warlords.
This saw the brothers acting as sergeants and their sister in great demand
because of her command of logistics.
One story worth telling came from when the three of them were travelling in Partann, having finished one contract and whilst they were looking for the next. They arrived at a small village to find it in uproar. It seems that the minions of a local mage had arrived in the village to kidnap one of the village maidens and after something of an affray had taken not merely the girl, but also a young man who had been passing through and had got caught up in the fight. The three siblings put their heads together and in return for board and lodging, promised to see what they could so.
Now, in the best traditions of storytelling, I will transport you to the
dungeon in the tower of the mage. The tower was a simple affair with four stories above ground and a cellar which acted as a dungeon. Each storey was a single large round room. The cellar was illuminated by lanterns hung around the walls, with a burning brazier near a long work table. In the very centre of the room was a pit and over the pit dangled the maiden and the young man. The pit was of unknown depth, and from above could have been mistaken for a narrow opening to some fiery hell. Both the two potential victims were stark naked and hanging upside down, with the mage busily writing cabalistic symbols across their naked bodies in blue ink. A score of
the mage’s lickspittle henchmen clustered around, watching the process with unnerving attention.
From upstairs came a hammering sound, four sharp blows. A senior minion made its twisted way to the Mage.
“There is someone outside Master, they demand entrance.”
“Ignore them.”
There was another flurry of heavy blows.
“They are hammering on the door Master.”
The mage impatiently gestured around him. “Then take these upstairs. Then when the intruders enter, slay them.”
The senior minion made his limping way up the spiral staircase that ran around the outside of the tower. He was followed by a shambling crowd of twisted and misshapen creatures, clutching a selection of implements having blades, points, or both. Once the malformed brutes had left, the mage started marking out two pentangles on the floor. One enclosed the pit, the other the brazier next to the workbench. From above came another flurry of heavy blows.
The mage cast a handful of powder onto the brazier. The flames flickered green and purple. From the pit came a yammering and howling. The mage checked his pentangles. From above came an explosion.
Above the two brothers had exploded the petard which they’d fastened to the door. Shattered fragments of wood had scythed through the deformed guardians waiting for them so that when Sir Stee and Sir Regald burst into the hallway, they found no-one in any fit state to dispute their passage. With Solia close behind them, they headed down the stairs. The mage was waiting.
Tackling a prepared mage in his own workroom is not a task for the faint-hearted, but the siblings were also prepared. Even as the mage raised his hand, Sir Stee hurled a piece of the door at him. Instinctively the mage flinched, and the missile disintegrated into grey powder. As Sir Stee dropped down from the stairs onto the floor, Sir Regald hurled his piece of timber and then sprinted down the stairs. The mage was forced to duck the timber to conserve his powers and then rose to face the two soldiers. He raised both hands and started chanting. At this point, a heavy steel crossbow bolt, fired by Solia, tore through his chest and buried itself in the wall behind him.
The mage was hurled back by the blow, and Sir Regald leapt after him and struck off his head with his sword. Then, fastidiously and at sword point, he dropped the still chanting head into the brazier and waited until the flames had entirely consumed it.
After that, it was purely a matter of freeing the prisoners and letting the local peasantry loot the tower. Then they cleansed the tower with flame, burning it so that it collapsed, burying the dungeon.
Looking back, the three siblings never told this story to anybody. I often wonder how many more of their deeds have been forgotten. As it is, I can recount this one only because I was the young man dangling naked upside down over the pit with esoteric symbols scrawled across my buttocks in blue ink.
I am reliably informed that it took months for them to wear off.

At this point, it might be an idea to mention the publishing of another
collection of stories from Tallis Steelyard. Some have been on the blog, but some are completely new. Now you can acquire more of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. This work includes the unexpurgated account of the Mudfold and Cockeren feud, the dangers inherent in light music, and how Tallis first met and wooed Shena.

It is available from

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-harsh-winter-stories-ebook/dp/B071LH1THB

and

https://www.amazon.com/Tallis-Steelyard-harsh-winter-stories-ebook/dp/B071LH1THB

Tallis has come to the attention of a world not entirely ready for him through the actions of a mutual friend, one Benor Dorfinngil. Benor is a friend and one-time tenant of the Steelyards, and it is my unworthy self who has been fated to chronicle some at least of Benor’s career. (This is career as in ‘the coach careered downhill’)

It was when I sent some of my labours to Mike Rose-Steel he noted a snatch of verse from Tallis and toyed with it.

The results, which represent the sole example of Tallis’s work published in our time can be found at

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lambent-Dreams-Jim-Webster-ebook/dp/B01278WPWI

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Further tales, including details of how they met may be found in ‘Flotsam or Jetsam.’

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flotsam-Jetsam-Jim-Webster-ebook/dp/B011VHS21Y

Obviously any lover of literature or even art in general will insist on acquiring copies, so I suggest you purchase now to avoid disappointment.

At this point Tallis has graciously allowed me, that is, Jim Webster, to mention some of my own work. Admittedly there is too many books to mention without trespassing too far on the generosity of mine host. Still if you wish to read the story in which Tallis is first introduced to modern literature I would recommend ‘Flotsam or Jetsam’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/