Coming Soon… Grinders  by  Craig Boyack @Virgilante

Announcing a new release from the master of speculative Fiction!

Over to you, Craig…

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I’m here to reveal my newest cover and talk a bit about Grinders. This time, I’m tackling a cyberpunk world. It’s one of those worlds where the Internet and being connected too much controls our lives.

One of the things I like about science fiction is the ability to project current events into the future. I call this, “Poking things with a stick.”

I poked a lot of things in this book, but most of them are in passing. Some of them show up in advertisements, which are invasive in this world. Others might just be a news blurb. There are times when I dive a bit deeper, and not everything is negative. Here is a small list of things that show up in the story:

  • Global warming
  • Plastic pollution
  • Helicopter moms
  • Cyber shut-ins
  • The energy crisis
  • New ways for package thieves to operate
  • Police who can’t carry guns until they are five-year veterans
  • Homeowner associations

There are a lot more, and most of them are pretty subtle. Cyberpunk is not known for deep plots, but I wanted one anyway.

Grinders is set about a hundred years in the future, in San Francisco. The main characters are cops assigned to the Grinder Squad. This is the duty nobody wants, and you almost have to screw up to get this assignment.

Grinders exist today, but I ramped them up for this story. These are people who surgically modify themselves, or each other, in basement surgeries, beauty salons, and tattoo parlors. Real world examples are those who implant chips under their skin to allow themselves to unlock doors or start cars without a key. There has even been one who injected dye into his eyeballs in an attempt to see in the dark. In that example, it actually worked but the results were temporary.

My story involves the downside of these modifications, why they’re illegal, and most of them are a bit more extreme than the real world versions. For example, you’ll meet Brandi, who has moth-like antennae implanted into her forehead. They aren’t just cute, they allow her to taste virtually everything. She’s almost like a bloodhound, only using the sense of taste.

Grinder Squad rarely ever does anything, but the new girl on the squad, Jimi, wants to bust a grind shop in the worst way. She feels like it could be her ticket off this crap detail and on to better duty.

One of my silly goals was to release the book in time for Chinese New Year. I’m not going to make it. I still need to finish my final pass, send it to the formatter, and get my promotional posters. It’s going to need a blurb, too.

I targeted this date because in the story, it’s the Year of the Rat. An important part of the story takes place at San Francisco’s annual parade. There are even a couple of rats in the story that play a pivotal role. Aside from that, I was born in the Year of the Rat.

Readers won’t actually care about my silly target date, and it’s more important to give everything the final polish. What I did get in time was cover art. So Gong Hei Fot Choi, everyone, and enjoy the cover. The story will be available before you know it, and I’ll announce that on my blog.

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We are really looking forward to this one, for the story is unbelievably imaginative. That’s always the case with Craig’s work, so I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for news of Grinders release. I know we are!

 

The Outsider…

 

The Outsider…

 

When I found out that one of my favourite authors had written a new story, and that it was being serialised on tv, I knew I had something good to look forward to. Having to wait for each episode might stretch my patience into a wafer, as I don’t like to stop reading when enjoying a good book, but I was already hooked.

 

Stephen King is best known for horror stories like Carrie, It, and The Shining.

Based on the first two episodes, The Outsider is a classic King story and in structure and tone, it feels more like a murder mystery than a horror story. Mild spoiler alert: it’s both.

What’s the story about?

The Outsider tells the story of the gruesome murder of a young boy in the fictional town of Flint City, Oklahoma. Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) investigates, though it’s not a tough case to crack as mountains of forensic and eyewitness evidence point to beloved local teacher and baseball coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman, who also executive produced the series and directed its first two episodes). But Maitland has a solid alibi for the crime, which means that it looks like Frankie was murdered by a man who was somehow in two places at once.

 

The series is loyal to the novel’s dryly grim tone, with Mendelsohn perfect as the weary but honourable small-town cop and Jason Bateman coolly moving as a man who’s watching his life explode in front of him. The first two episodes play out pretty much like the beginning of the book, slowly unfurling the mystery: after the discovery of Frankie Peterson’s body, witness after witness can tie local coach and family man Maitland to the crime. He was spotted offering the kid a ride in his van, and then later seen covered with blood. The crime scene is finger-painted in his prints, his blood type was present, too. But Maitland was also captured on video in a totally different town at the time the crime was committed, attending a teaching conference with countless colleagues who can all vouch for his presence. And his fingerprints are found at the conference site, too.

It would seem that the coach was in two places at the same time, but this can’t be possible, even for Stephen King.  The title begs a question too, who is this outsider?

 

I will be reviewing The Outsider when the series ends…

 

 

#Tuesday Book Blog: Blue Lake Christmas Mystery (Blue Lake Series)  by Cynthia Harrison #RomanticSuspense @CynthiaHarriso1

 

All Holly wants for Christmas is to prove to her parents that her pricey college education was worth it. When she lands a reporting job in tiny Blue Lake, where the chill winds blow off Lake Huron all winter long, and a guest dies at a dinner party, she isn’t sure she can meet that goal. Holly has a second writing gig as a true crime reporter in mind, but there’s only one problem: the new love interest keeping her warm is determined she should not write about the one thing her heart desires.

Bob has one goal: to get his life back on track after a train wreck of a relationship with a fragile first love named Lily. Oh, it would also be nice to feel excited about work again. Not to mention Christmas. Holly’s new in town and she stirs something cheerfully seasonal in him, but when he realizes she’s willing to take down Lily for her own purposes, he decides a holiday romance is the last thing he needs.

 

Our Review

 

Towards the end of last year, I noticed the arrival of several seasonal books on the run up to Christmas. Most of them a fun, light-hearted read for the holidays.

Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is so much better than that.

A clever, well- written mystery that twists and turns, with a fast-moving complicated plot that I couldn’t put down and I loved how the last chapter sorted out all the loose ends!

Holly Fass is ambitious, devious and hopeless at getting what she wants out of life in this Hollywood style romcom/detective novel, but she gets top marks from me for trying!

This is book four in the Blue Lake series, and I was late coming to the party as I hadn’t read any of the others. (something I will be catching up on soon)

I have also read and thoroughly enjoyed Cynthia Harrison’s brilliant detective thriller, Lily White in Detroit.

 

A word from the author… Along with a twenty-year career as an English teacher, I have been a staff reviewer for Romantic Times and Publishers Weekly and written features for popular magazines, including Woman’s World. BLUE LAKE CHRISTMAS MYSTERY is my fifth novel for The Wild Rose Press. I live in metro Detroit with my husband, Al. We have two grown sons. Since 2002, I’ve blogged at http://www.cynthiaharrison.com. Email me anytime at cindy@cynthiaharrison.com. http://www.cynthiaharrison.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Masked Singer…

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The Masked Singer

 

Our family had been looking forward to ITV’s exciting new game show, as it looked hilarious. A surreal singing contest where heavily disguised celebrities in some of the most amazing costumes proceed to drive everyone crazy trying to guess who they are.

Such a brilliant idea, but the arguments in our house have reached epic proportions, bordering on insanity as we try to outguess each other.

Personally, I needed subtitles for the cryptic clues as I couldn’t hear what the celebs were saying, as their voices were electronically distorted.

In the first show, we were introduced to Queen Bee and Duck; Unicorn and Butterfly; Chameleon and hedgehog.

The Butterfly turned out to be Patsy Palmer, Bianca from EastEnders, but none of us had guessed that!

In the second show, we met Monster and Fox; Tree and Pharaoh; Octopus and Daisy.

The Daisy turned out to be the politician, Alan Johnson, a former Home Secretary. We wouldn’t have guessed that one in a million years!

My family are convinced they know who the tree is, and I think the Unicorn is John Barrowman. I’d know those sexy legs anywhere!

The fox has to be Nicole Scherzinger…

Only one mask comes off in each show, so the suspense will rise substantially while the waiting (and arguing) continues.

Despite almost causing a meltdown in our living room, we cannot wait for the next show, as it’s absolutely brilliant!

©Jaye Marie 2020

Have you seen it? I love comments, so please scribble a thought or two!

#Tuesday Book Blog ~ Doggerel by Sue Vincent #HumourousVerse @SCVincent

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The relationship between Ani, the inimitable Small Dog and her two-legs, first came to light in ‘Notes from a Small Dog: Four Legs on Two’. Their poetic adventures continued in ‘Laughter Lines: Life from the Tail End’. In this new collection of poems, their daily life together takes centre stage. From the perfidy of humans who insist on bathing dogs, to the unpunctuality of writers at mealtimes, the relationship between two legs and four is explored in verse. The Small Dog reveals her continuing fascination with chicken, tennis balls and the compulsion to re-write Shakespeare, while exposing her two legs’ misdemeanours to the world.

 

We first met Ani when we started blogging nearly seven years ago, along with Sue, her long suffering two legs and all the other wonderful people we have discovered along the way, and they have changed the sometimes-lonely life of two writer/bloggers into a delightful journey.

Doggerel, this wonderful book of poems will introduce everyone to the inimitable charm that is Ani, the four-legged poet extraordinaire, whose touchingly beautiful face adorns many of the pages.

All the poems are a delight to read, but my all-time favourite must be ‘The Small Dog Suffers…’  describing the many ways Ani has of trying to get around Sue for more food, ending with this last line…

‘and by the way, for afters, I shall help you eat your dinner…’

Sue Vincent’s poems always manage to make me smile and make my day a lot brighter!


About the Author

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer currently living in the south of England, largely due to an unfortunate incident with a map, a pin and a blindfold. Raised in a spiritually eclectic family she has always had an unorthodox view on life, particularly the inner life, which is often reflected in her writing, poetry and paintings.

She maintains a popular blog, https://scvincent.com and is currently owned by Ani, the inimitable Small Dog, who also writes.

Sue lived in France for several years, sharing a Bohemian lifestyle and writing songs before returning to England where the youngest of her two sons was born. She began writing and teaching online several years ago, and was invited to collaborate with Dr G. Michael Vasey on their book, “The Mystical Hexagram: The Seven Inner Stars of Power”.

Since then she has published a number of books, beginning with “Swords of Destiny”, a magical tale set in the ancient landscape of Yorkshire. Her retelling of the Egyptian myths, “The Osiriad”, came shortly afterwards along with her collaboration with Stuart France. Together they have written the Triad of Albion, the Doomsday trilogy and the first books in the Lands of Exiles series.

These books tell a true adventure in a fictional manner. They are at once a journey into the ancient and sacred landscape of Albion and the story of a growing and rather oddball friendship.

The Triad of Albion was followed by the Doomsday trilogy and France and Vincent are now working on the three books in the Lands of Exile series, where the adventures of Don and Wen stray down the paths of fiction.

They have also published a number of graphic works together exploring folklore and legend, as well as writing independently. https://franceandvincent.com/

Sue, along with Steve Tanham and Stuart France, is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, an international modern Mystery School that seeks to allow its students to find the inherent magic in living and being. https://thesilenteye.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog Review for Examining Kitchen Cupboards by Stevie Turner @StevieTurner6

 

 

Jill Hayes discovers that not all is as it seems in her new post as a college examinations administrator. When she turns whistle-blower and tries to report her findings to the authorities, she is horrified to discover that some people will stop at nothing to ensure her silence.

 

Our Review

Starting a new job is always fraught with tension, you worry whether you will be liked, and more importantly, are you able to convince them of your competence?

Jill Hayes is met with total disdain from her new superior, so when she questions something that doesn’t seem right, she is met with hostility on many levels.

If you discover something is wrong, could you be a whistle-blower, or would you hope that someone else would do it instead?

This story has it all, corruption and greed, and an interesting cast of fascinating and true to life characters. Although Examining Kitchen Cupboards is a work of fiction at its finest, you could be forgiven for thinking it seems far too real to be comfortable, and I’m sure some of it must be based on fact, which of course, makes it all the more chilling…

 

About the Author

Stevie Turner is a British author of suspense, paranormal, women’s fiction family dramas, and darkly humorous novels. She has also branched out into the world of audio books, screenplays, and translations. Most of her novels are now available as audio books, and ‘A House Without Windows’ gained the attention of a New York media production company in December 2017. Some of Stevie’s books have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Stevie can be contacted at the following email address: stevie@stevie-turner-author.co.uk
On her website http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk you can find a free suspense novella to read so that you can check out her writing style. You can also find her blog at the following link: http://www.steviet3.wordpress.com and you can sign up to her mailing list at http://eepurl.com/dvNklL

 

 

 

Shattered Figurines… (Det. Jo Naylor Series Book 1) Our 5* review for Allan Hudson’s brilliant new #Adventure Story @hudson_allan

 

 

Detective Josephine Naylor receives an email telling her where to find the last body. The messenger tells her “only you can stop this madness”. Discovering a shattered figurine on the corpse, she’s overwhelmed by the possibility it might be the one she sold in a yard sale. If so, she knows who the killer could be. She prays that she’s wrong…

Our Review

The opening chapter presents the detective, Jo Naylor, with a very important question. One she didn’t really want to answer but knows she must.

The next chapter, one year later, hits you square in the face with full on complicated and violent action as we discover what this story is all about.

Shattered Figurines is a surprisingly unusual detective story in that it doesn’t follow the usual plotline for this genre and the characters aren’t run of the mill either. The author has captured a very real element in both the story and the characters and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I love a good detective mystery story and Shattered Figurines is one of the best I have read this year. I shall be first in the queue when the author writes another one in this series.

Smashing Smashwords!

Feeling mighty proud of myself today, as I have beaten the dreaded meatgrinder!

For those who don’t know, this is the complicated system that all books must go through to be included on Smashwords.com and Silent PayBack made it on the second attempt!

The first time, the cover image was too small and that was easily fixed.

Now, you don’t have to buy a copy, just read a bit and say what you think. Pretty please?

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https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/992834

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More Reviews Wanted: Serang by Craig Boyack #Adventure & Action @coldhandboyack

We are running this post again to try and encourage some more reviews for Craig’s wonderful adventure story. We loved it and know a lot of you did too, so if you have been meaning to write a review, just a few words will do, please show Serang some love?

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Monastic life is all about duty, service, harmony. For Serang, a young girl abandoned at the temple by her mother after the death of her father, that life becomes all she knows. The monks give her purpose and become her new family.

When political upheaval causes chaos throughout the land, Serang again loses everything and everyone she loves. Alone, she struggles to survive. She convinces a wandering monk to take her under his wing and complete her training. Thus, begin her adventures through strange lands and her trials to become a confident, capable, independent adult.

This is a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. It’s filled with monsters and martial arts, difficulties and dangers. The serious situations preclude the story from the levity of its predecessor, Voyage of the Lanternfish, but it provides a compelling look at the origin of one of the saga’s most fascinating characters.


 

Today, we are delighted to host Craig Boyack, the author of so many of our favourite books, many of which have been reviewed here on our website.

Serang, the main character in this new book, was first introduced in The Voyage of the Lanternfish, the very popular and amazing adventure story.

While Craig is here today, I am sure you are dying to know how he came up with such an unusual idea!

Over to you, Craig!

 

Thanks for inviting me over today to talk about my newest book. Serang is a supporting story for Voyage of the Lanternfish, which is destined to become a trilogy.

Lanternfish, and therefore Serang, is set in a fantasy world, but that isn’t descriptive enough. This isn’t one of those medieval fantasy tales like you might be used to. Lanternfish is a pirate adventure, so there are tall ships, sea monsters, and magic. I’ve heard the term “flintlock fantasy” before, and that’s a bit more accurate.

I touched upon Di Guo Qishi in Lanternfish. This is the country Serang was born in. The area intrigued me as I wrote it, and I wanted to explore more of it myself. This bodes well for Serang, because it’s an interesting place. I’m not even trying to hide the fact that it’s based upon China. China is huge and covers many different climates and ecological zones. In Serang we get to explore some of those, from Bamboo forests to mountainous areas, to frozen deserts.

Wildlife is part of a setting like this, too. There are some creatures you might expect, like monkeys. There are some that I twisted a bit, like the night parrots. I don’t really delve deeply into many of these things, but they enhance the setting greatly. I used a few real creatures that live in Asia today. There are some strange creatures that didn’t need a lot of manipulation, like the saiga antelope or the goonch catfish. I ramped up some creatures, like camel spiders. In this story they’re deadly poisonous. This isn’t to say a couple of fantasy creatures don’t play larger roles. The child of the dragon came across quite well, I think. I also came up with some unique creatures like saltwater moles who live along the beaches, and the bearcoon. Then there are the Fu Dogs.

The political climate in Di Guo Qishi is that of war. A new emperor ascended the throne, and he’s hell bent on westernizing. This means the introduction of firearms to a culture that never had them before. He is waging war on the Island Prefectures, and it isn’t going well. He’s pressing men into military service, impounding things like food for his armies, and making life pretty miserable. I’m not hiding the concept that the Island Prefectures are based upon Japan. We don’t get to visit them, but I may do that in the Lanternfish trilogy.

The other part of this request was for supporting characters. Young Serang is raised in a monastery by some militaristic monks. She learns to read, write, and perfect her martial arts skills. In this segment of the story, she has a couple of masters, and a few youthful friends.

When she leaves the monastery, she is fleeing for her life. She runs across a wandering monk named Yong. He is a grouchy older fellow who has no desire to take on a student. He soon comes to the conclusion that Serang has no other options and takes her under his wing. His methods are brutal, but efficient. Yong has a certain charm about him, and I think readers will enjoy him.

There are other characters involved, but they come and go from the story. There is a doctor and her daughter who help our wandering monks at the edge of the frozen desert. This was fun, because I got to explore some ancient medical techniques, like using honey as an antibiotic.

They join a camel caravan along the Silk Road, and it’s led by the brother of a man who appeared in Lanternfish. There is no requirement to read Lanternfish first, and Carlos Velasco carries his own weight without meeting Don Velasco first.

There is also an elderly monk who is from the Island Prefectures. She plays a pivotal role in Sarang’s journey.

Serang is a coming of age story involving one of the more interesting characters from Voyage of the Lanternfish. I hope your readers will give it a chance.

 

Wow, that was some introduction, Craig!

Thank you so much for coming along to tell us all about Serang. I am sure everyone will want to read about her!

 

Purchase Link http://mybook.to/Serang

Social Media:

Blog My Novels  Twitter Goodreads Facebook Pinterest BookBub


 

Our Review

I first encountered Serang in Craig Boyack’s thoroughly enjoyable adventure story of pirates and monsters, The Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Serang was one of the crew and although she was a fascinating albeit enigmatic character, I jumped at the chance to get to know her better.

The daughter of a fisherman, her life changes dramatically after he is lost at sea.

She ends up in the care of an elderly monk called Yong, to learn the ways of the monastery. When the monastery is destroyed, to escape persecution, they begin one of the strangest of adventures.

Outspoken and a nimble footed ninja, Serang is fiercely loyal, but also addicted to something called Huangjiu, which I suspect is Saki, or something equally lethal. Her escapades while under the influence are hilarious!

 

This review fails miserably to convey the brilliance of this adventure, and it deserves to be made into a film, for the fight scenes are some of the best I have ever read.

 

Tallis Steelyard, Bringing The Joys Of Civilisation #BlogTour

Yesterday was our turn to present Tallis Steelyard’s last story in this book tour, Getting to the bottom of it all, but due to unforeseen confusion on someone’s part, it was posted very late in the day. So, in an effort to finish this amazing blog tour in style, we are posting it again!

These wonderful stories are a lovely way to introduce three new novellas from Jim Webster, the man responsible for most of Tallis’ adventures…

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Getting to the bottom of it all.

I now had a task to perform. I had to arrange a pie eating contest in which Flobbard Wangil could participate. My problem was that I hadn’t the funds just to buy the pies and organise one, so I needed a patron to support it.
Unfortunately my patrons are not the sort of people who normally run that sort of contest. Indeed to be fair, many would look askance if I introduced Flobbard into their house.
Then I had a stroke of luck, Flobbard’s sister, Malinflua, whom I’d not seen since we arrived back in Port Naain, got in touch with me. She had very recently purchased a rather large house, number eighteen, on Grettan Walk. This is a pleasant street in the Merchant quarter. She wanted a word with me about possibly working together.
I walked up to the house I glanced at the abandoned building site that was number sixteen. Out of curiosity I peered between the boards that screened the location from view. Somebody had obviously started work again. I could see large piles of fresh spoil. Perhaps they were already working on new foundations? Here in Port Naain, given the soil is largely the clay of the estuary, we take foundations very seriously. I continued on to Malinflua’s house and discovered that she had already had her ground floor converted into a restaurant. It was open for business and there were quite a few diners. She showed me round with genuine pride in what she had created, and then we went into her office and she poured us both coffee.

I had been doing some thinking. Malinflua had spent a lot of money.
Now nobody ever recovered the three gemstones that had disappeared from Slipshade keep, and I did wonder about them. Now I knew I hadn’t taken them. I was now pretty certain that Flobbard hadn’t taken them, so really that only left Malinflua, who had suddenly come into funds. So as I stirred my coffee I asked the obvious question. “So I assume you got the three stones out of Slipshade?”
“Oh yes, it was easy enough.”
I raised both hands in front of me, palms up, to show my bafflement.”
“So how did you do it?”
“As I joined you, I dropped them into your jacket pocket. Then after they searched me and before they searched you, I took them back again and kept them in a pocket in my skirt.”
All I can say is that I’m just glad I didn’t know at the time. Still I think she was pleased by my expression.
“Anyway the reason I called you here Tallis, is that I’ve an idea to do something new. If I just run a restaurant then I’ll do reasonably well. Yes, I’ll struggle to keep a good cook, and I’ll have to join in the game of stealing a cook off somebody to replace the cook somebody just stole off me. Well I want to break out of that.”
It seemed entirely reasonable to me.

She continued, “So what I am going to do is to put on shows as well. I will walk amongst the diners doing magic tricks, pulling coins out of their ears or whatever, but I don’t want to
have to do that all the time. So I’ll have musicians and singers, and various other performers.”
I shook my head. “Make damned sure they’re house musicians, paid on a regular basis and reliant upon you, or you’ll find yourself dealing with crisis after crisis as they get drunk, fight, seduce your customers, or whatever.”
“And that’s why I invited you here, Tallis. You’ve a lot of experience in the field and I wondered if you would organise things, at least until we get properly up and running.”
It was then I had my idea. “And of course you’ll need a pie eating contest.”
She looked at me as if I had suggested she open as a bordello serving the cheaper end of the market. “Are you serious?”
“Yes.”
“What sort of establishment do you think this is.”
“Exactly. You’re aiming to be the best. So you’ve got to do things others don’t. So you put on the finest pie eating contest. The very best pies. A waiter on hand to top up your glass as you eat. Another waiter serving you pies, whilst a third ensures you have the appropriate condiments. The
contest would be on a long table down the centre of the dining room whilst your other guests could eat at tables spread around the periphery. They could then eat, watch, and bet; all at the same time. Not only that but it’ll keep both me and your brother out of jail.”
That did it.

Malinflua was genuinely fond of her brother. I believe that when they were both children, he used to regularly get beaten up protecting her. All he achieved was to give her a head start and time to find somewhere to hide, but I don’t think she’d ever forgotten his actions.
Now I had to set about organising the event. I needed a small group of performers, but they had to be carefully chosen. I contacted Old Jerky and asked him to fetch three reliable musicians and a competent singer. Unlike my usual patrons, Malinflua was not going to be daunted by Old Jerky’s battered appearance. She knew him and valued him. Similarly I could rely on his ability to pick players who could be relied upon to remain sober.
Then I needed somebody else. It chanced that as I sat in the Misanthropes, Illus Wheelburn was holding forth about his time in Prae Ducis. His tale was amusing, self-deprecating and he interspersed it with a few short verses that were both thought provoking and droll. I had a discussion with him after he’d finished and asked him if he could work his tale up into a fifteen minute performance. He was certain he could, and I booked him.
Then there was the pie eating competition. The pies I discussed with Malinflua’s cook. Out of a sense of duty towards Flobbard, I suggested the pies be large enough to be held easily in two hands thus allowing for perhaps four or five good bites, and not too heavily spiced. Also the meat would be well chopped up with no bits of bone. The cook could see no problem with this and ordered in plenty of well hung horrocks. This she intended to marinate in ale for at least a full day.
When it came to getting competitors, I allowed word to circulate amongst the gentlemen who attended upon my patrons. Whilst they would never admit to it in polite company, I suspected several of them fancied themselves to be redoubtable trenchermen. A number of them discreetly let me know that they would compete. Indeed I think they were glad of a chance, after all a well-bred individual rarely gets the opportunity to take part in such things. I also suggested to Flobbard that he find a couple of competitors as well. I stressed to him that I wanted people who were neat in their person and delicate in their eating habits. I stressed we didn’t want any of those competitors who claim to have eaten a pie but actually have left at least half of it spread in a thin layer over the table, their shirt front, and their neighbours.
Less than a week later, everything was prepared. I helped Malinflua’s kitchen staff rearrange the dining room. We had a long table for the competitors down the middle. The other tables around the edge and a small stage for performers at one end. As the guests (tickets only and sold out) arrived, we had the musicians play. Once people were gathered, I had Illus tell his tale and give his verses. It helped create an atmosphere and allowed people to order drinks to their tables and get comfortable. Then I announced the pie eating competition.
This is where I hit the first snag. Old Gaffer Alfen, one of the spectators, asked about rules. I confess this had never occurred to me. I rather assumed people just knew what to do. As it was, Gaffer admitted that he wasn’t taking part, even though in his youth he’d been an occasional competitor, but it struck him that the rules ought to be set out plain and simple for everyone. I turned to Flobbard who suggested that the entire pie must be eaten, that there must be no physical contact with other competitors, and anybody feeling nauseous must move at once from the table. This seemed entirely reasonable and they were agreed by all the competitors.
Old Gaffer, rather diffidently, then asked about the counting of the pies. He explained that when he had been in competition, everybody ate their first pie, then their second, but at the same time. So if you had finished your fourth, you waited for the others to finish their fourth before you started your fifth.

Thus because everybody had eaten the same number of pies, everybody knew the score. Finally if you could eat no more, you took off your napkin and folded it in front of you so the waiters knew. They would write your total on a piece of paper and give it to you. There was some discussion amongst the competitors about this as some felt that this might stop them getting into their routine. But others felt it meant that you did at least get time to belch before eating the next. So this too was agreed.
Finally Gaffer asked about the chant. We all looked a bit blank, so he explained that during the competition everybody would clap their hands to create a rhythm. It was slap, slap, slap, with the third slap being by far the loudest. So a lot of competitors would follow the beat with bite, bite, swallow. The competitors were intrigued by this idea and they agreed this as well. Gaffer was thanked for his wisdom and his contribution and I asked Old Jerky if he could do something with that sort of beat.
I gave the order to the waiters, Old Jerky picked up a drum, the first pies were served, (to diners as well as to competitors) and battle was commenced. To be fair to Gaffer, his system worked really well and I would recommend it to everybody running a pie eating contest. Those watching got caught up in it, clapping in time. The singer dredged something suitable from his repertoire and regaled us with what was probably a Partannese pirate shanty.

At the table, the competitors set to work with a will. One or two complimented the staff on the quality of the pies. Apparently, one normally tries not to taste them. After four or five, some of the competitors had to fold their napkins. They were largely the men who had last done this sort of thing two decades before or who had never done it. But they stayed at the table and joined in the clapping. Nobody had yet had to flee to the jakes. By the time we got to ten pies, there were only three competitors still in the game. Flobbard, the Partannese chap who won at Slipslade, and a sailor called Diggan. By now people were not merely clapping, they were standing up and stamping their feet. Even those who had folded their napkins were stamping in time, but from a seated position. The excitement was intense, and the three men reached for their twelfth pie. Even I was on my feet and was walking around the competitors’ table, encouraging them to greater efforts.
At this point I was certain I heard a creaking, but it was difficult to be sure over the hubbub. Then on the third great stamp, the floor started to fall away beneath me. I ran towards the side and jumped onto the main entrance where the stone doorstep showed no signs of moving. I clutched the door and looked behind me. The section of the floor under the competitors’ table had sagged about six feet, below me it had torn away completely and I was looking into a ragged hole. Four men, holding shovels and standing next to a wheelbarrow looked up at me. I hung over the lip of the hole to get a better look. Next to them was a battered table. On the table there was a lighted lantern illuminating what I recognised to be the map that Illus had drawn and that I had further annotated.
It was at this point that I became aware of the shouting and shrieking. Some of the diners were beginning to panic as they too started to slide down the hole. To be fair, it was unlikely they  were going to come to much harm, if only because when they hit one of the well upholstered pie-eaters, they would come to a safe, if somewhat inappropriate, halt.
Others were moving now, Malinflua was at the kitchen door shouting for a rope so they could pull people out and evacuate them through the scullery. The four men with shovels had fled, probably back along the tunnel they had dug from next door. Illus had slid down the slope and was examining his map in great detail. I noticed one or two of the Partannese were exchanging comments and were glaring at me in what I felt was a significant manner. It was obvious that any number of people were going to come to what I felt were unwarranted conclusions. I quietly left, closing the door behind me.
On mature consideration I decided not to go back to the barge but wrote a note for one of the street children to deliver to Shena explaining the situation. I decided against a season in Avitas or elsewhere in Partann. There were doubtless too many people on the roads of Partann who had no reason to remember me fondly. I decided to make my way to Oiphallarian, and managed to board one of the smaller steamers, even as the gangplank was being pulled aboard.
A somewhat offensive petty officer asked, in what I felt was a menacing fashion, if I intended to pay for my passage. I put my hand in my britches pocket and at that point remembered that Malinflua had already paid me. I took this as a sign that matters were not as bad as they could have been. I paid him for deck passage, with meals and a chance to root through the slop chest. Thus dressed in a manner befitting an ordinary seaman, I could preserve my good clothes for when I arrived in Oiphallarian. There I could seek out new patrons, renew my acquaintance with old ones, perform my work and wait for time to pass. In due course, Port Naain would grow forgetful and I would return home. In the meantime, it was surely my duty to bring the joys of civilisation to Oiphallarian.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster.
So here I am again with another blog tour. Not one book but three.
The first is another of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection. These
stories are a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories. You can read them in any
order.

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On the Mud. The Port Naain Intelligencer
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mud-Port-Naain-Intelligencer-ebook/dp/B07ZKYD7TR
When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a
problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important
artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral
people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times
when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as
reassuring as you might hope.

Then we have a Tallis Steelyard novella.
Tallis Steelyard and the Rustic Idyll
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKYMG1G/
When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten
Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have
finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of
his generation.
Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too
much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail
and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful
countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.

And finally, for the first time in print we proudly present
Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKVXP24/

In his own well-chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of
Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her
bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the
difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We
enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation,
and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh
yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.

All a mere 99p each