Ye banks and braes

To my astonishment and enormous delight, several people have enjoyed “Mrs Lillicrop Investigates” and it is possible the story will see the light of publication in the not to distant future. More later.

It has inspired me to write another tale about my lady occult detective. It is very much work in progress, but the working title is “Mrs Lillicrop Goes to Scotland.” The cast of characters so far includes a handsome laird, a nervous wife, a difficult mother-in-law and batty sister-in-law in need of a good slap, several manifestations of a disruptive nature and a very drafty castle. Add over cooked venison, under cooked mutton, porridge, lashing of single malt and some shortbread and all the components of the occult are present.

Why Scotland I hear you cry…okay I don’t, but bear with me I’m in composition mode and its hard to turn it off. Two reasons…first,  my BFF has just up sticks from Kent and the roar of planes overhead for the tranquil beauties of Argyll and sea loch views. She tells me she is still getting used to the lack of noise, except for when the dog considers it is his duty to bark at all passing boats in case they are carrying invaders.

And second, because I fell in love with the Highlands when we visited a few years ago and I wanted to set a story there. And this is in spite of nearly being killed by a gentleman who’d had a liquid breakfast and decided to sleep it off while driving along the A96 straight at me. We left our written off car at a garage by Culloden, which some how seemed appropriate.

Even this excitement didn’t put me off and I really wanted to write something set in this beautiful land, but until now, nothing came to mind. I admit that Fara in “The Lord of the Farans Hills” is a thinly disguised Scotland, but it isn’t the real thing.

Its not just the beauties of the Scots scenery which calls to me, it is tradition and one particular tradition more than any other. More years ago than I like to remember, I married a military historian and got corrupted by The British Army. I was a little corrupted already, having been seduced by Regency Romances into reading up on the Peninsula War and falling for such characters as Johnny Kincaid, Sir John Moore and Harry Smith…there will now be a brief pause while I and the previously mentioned military historian who is reading this over my shoulder have our usual fight over what he has the audacity to call “a bunch of cocky little bastards in green jackets” and I call my beloved Rifle Brigade…hang on, there maybe hitting.

Back to Scotland…you can guess where I’m going, all those glorious regiments with their wonderful names…The Black Watch, The Gordons, The Cameronians etc etc.

Someone once asked me if I was going into battle (please god it never happens, read military history, it will make you a pacifist faster than anything else) who would I want surrounding me. Membership of my army has changed over the years, but one choice always remains, I want Highlanders in front.

Who goes on the right and left flank…go for it Macaulay!

Then out spake Spurius Lartius,—

A Ramnian proud was he:

“Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,

  And keep the bridge with thee.”

And out spake strong Herminius,—
       
  Of Titian blood was he:

“I will abide on thy left side,

  And keep the bridge with thee.”

I’d apologise for that if I had any restraint or a grain of conscience.

So who will be on the flanks or even bringing up the rear? My adored Rifles, any regiment of Sikhs or Gurkhas you care to name and the Brigade of Guards…all of them, we aren’t doing this by halves. With a Highland regiment advancing, pipes sounding, I think there would be a good chance of surviving the day.

The Highlands, the mountains and the lochs, the forests and the heather, it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and if you have never seen it, you should. Robert Burns said “My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,” and English as I am through and through, I think he might have been right.
   

Muskets Are Here

Hi everyone.

I am very pleased to say my next book “The Lord of the Faran Hills” will be available on Amazon Kindle in the next few days (possibly hours).

When Aulay Fitzgellis allowed himself to be talked into rebellion against his brother the king, it never cross his mind he might not win.

Now the only thing keeping his head on his shoulders is the leader of the mercenaries who defeated him.

Lord Darach of the Faran Hills is willing to save Aulay, but he also has a few other things on his mind, there’s the possibilities of a new weapon called a “musket” and there’s also the problem of stopping the bagpipers from assaulting his ears with their so called music.”

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this, loads of research on muskets and how an army works on the march. I also got to play a wargame while I worked out how a siege. I must thank my lovely husband for the loan of his model castle – yes, -I know I moaned like hell when you monopolised the dining room table while you were building it, but I didn’t know then how useful it was going to be.

If you give the book a try, let me know what you think, I love to hear from readers.

 

Author Torture 1: Justin Lee Anderson

I thought it would be fun to interview a few fellow authors.

Actually, I thought it would be more fun to torment a few fellow authors, so welcome to the torture parlour ( its a bit like a torture chamber, but with cushions, chintz and shag pile carpets).

My first victim is Justin Lee Anderson author of the highly original and very amusing “Carpet Diem”.

HERE WE GO

You are marooned on a desert island and find a magic lamp. You get the traditional three wishes, but keep in mind I’m not letting you off the island, so don’t start pleading or trying to escape. You can only have one practical item, other people will not be allowed and will be taken away and dumped on an island far, far away and the wish forfeited. Smut is permitted if it makes me laugh.

Hmmm. What constitutes “practical”? Can I have a fully-fitted smarthouse? Because, at that point, I’m probably good. Oh, wait, I’m going to want internet. And a laptop. Will Sainsbury’s deliver?

Your library is on fire and you’re only going to be able to save three books, name them. And as your own are save on the memory stick in your dressing gown pocket, the books in question will have to be someone else’s work J

Credit will not be given for naming my books, but there may be cake.

Yikes! I think my beautiful, old leather-bound copy of Wuthering Heights has to come. After that, it’s two signed books, I think, since I can replace the rest. So Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and the first run version of Jasper Fforde’s First Among Sequels, which was accidentally printed without footnotes (which are essential to the plot!).

You are going to be hanged in the morning, what would your last meal be if money was no object? Please don’t ask for something which will take three years to grow or six days to cook, because at 6am the trap door will open under you.

A fillet steak, with whisky-cream sauce, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes and asparagus tips. For dessert, home-made apple crumble with Luca’s ice cream. And if I’m off in the morning anyway, a bottle of Lagavulin – why die sober?

(You and I could share a last meal, Justin, although I’d swap the asparagus for mushrooms and there should be cheese after the pud.)

Pets. While I agree that a cat or a dog or a guinea pig is probably best in the modern home, what, if anything, would you house if you had the chance. Points will be given for anything extinct, but not for anything mythical, because that would be cheating.

Annoyingly, I love animals, but am horribly allergic to them. So I’d actually just love to be able to house a cat or a dog! But in the absence of an allergy cure, maybe a dolphin? They’re pretty smart, I’m sure they’d make great conversationalists. Plus, no hair on the sofa. Bonus.

Driving. We all do it, we all bitch about the traffic and by and large most of us drive what we can afford, not what we would like. What would you like to drive, points will be deducted for excessive petrol head indulgence, I expect more imagination from an author, but will be added for greener alternatives.

This obviously excludes a desire for a red Ferrari, because if you don’t want one of those, you need help.

I have always wanted a Jag. I imagine I will always want a Jag! A nice, racing green one. They’re such elegant machines. I’d also quite like a Tesla. Great looking car, but saving the world at the same time. Either one would make me very happy. Is there an electric Jag, yet?

Now from some “either” “or” questions, mainly because I like picking the eithers and the ors, but also because I like to see which of the lesser of two weevils you pick. (Small Jack Aubrey joke there, indulge me, I have these moments.)

Gouda or Gorgonzola?

Gorgonzola – especially on pizza, with spinach and walnuts.

Star Wars or Star Trek? (Careful here, much could depend on your pick)

Both, please. If I *have* to pick one, then Wars. But I resent having to pick.

Lychee or kumquat?

Flumhoo or blipblop?

 

(Ah, poor little kumquat, I fear you are not loved)

Winnie the Pooh or Paddington?

Probably Winnie the Pooh, for his philosophical insights. Plus, I hate marmalade.

Whelk or Oyster?

Never had whelk. Don’t mind oysters. Prefer mussels, if that’s all right? In garlic, white wine and cream. With fries.

Now I’m hungry.

Vampires or Zombies?

Both! Stop making me pick between things I love!

Laver bread or Hovis?

I don’t eat bread. It doesn’t agree with me. The fights go on for days.

Light sabre or phaser?

Light sabre. I’m all about the elegant.

Moving on…yes, I know the laver bread one was evil, but I did say I was into torture…book titles. Speaking for myself, book titles are the hardest part of writing, it took me six months to come up with the title of my first book, “Jabin”.

What is your favourite book title? Pick one of your own and one by someone else. Mine is

“Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade.”

And no, I didn’t just make that up.

Well, Carpet Diem being my only finished book so far, that’s an easy choice. Someone else’s? I like The Shadow of the Wind. Even before I read it, that title drew me in. It’s just so evocative – and I don’t even know what of!

Because you have been very good and not screamed all that much, you tell me what you are currently working on and when we can expect to see it in print.

I’m currently writing a sequel to Carpet Diem, working title: Discombobulated and Befuddled – but that will probably change – though I might keep it as an alternative title. It *should* be out by the end of the year – muse permitting. (My muse, not the band. They’re happy to let me write.)

Thank you for being a victim of my interrogation parlour. I hope you had a bit of fun.

You’re welcome. I did, thank you!

Carpet Diem is available here

“A Solemn Curfew and Other Dark Tales” is BACK.

After the self-inflected hiccup the above is back on Amazon.

A Solemn Curfew and Other Dark Tales.

dark-tales

Purchase or read with Kindle Unlimited here:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Story Time

I’ve been having a few problems with this self publishing business. While I don’t believe computers are worked by the magic fairies who live in the back of the hard drive and live on the biscuit crumbs they find stuck in the key board, I am inclined to push the wrong buttons, panic, push even wronger (yes, I know that isn’t a word, but I like it) buttons and then spend the rest of the day sobbing into said key board, possibly providing salty goodness to the fairies I don’t believe in.

It is all being sorted, but the anthology will be down until 23rd of this month, BUT I will get you “The Tattooed Tribes” on time (6th March) as promised, provided I don’t have another button moment.

As I am now forbidden to press anything without supervision, it should all go smoothly.

In the meantime, here’s a short story for your Wednesday. I call these short pieces “coffee time stories” because they should fill the time it takes to drink a coffee, no more.

This one is about a couple of my great aunts. Jean emigrated to Canada back in the 1920’s, but the family never lost touch and this is about one of the times she came home to England. The very last time.

 

The Last One Left

 

They were playing “do you remember” and I listened, rapt, as they recalled lives and names that were little more than twigs on the family tree of my knowledge.

Even the passing of many years could not keep the whisper of South London from Jean’s Canadian accent, an echo from their childhood which still rang clear and true in May’s voice.

Here at the end of the twentieth century I sat in the airport and listened to stories from its beginning; and to others from the nineteenth century told to them and now told to me, while overhead the great jets that had not even been thought of when they were born, thundered the news of their arrivals and departures.

They sat side by side, one arm around the other’s waist as they had in those sepia pictures I had of them as children. They were the last two of my great grandmother’s long brood to arrive and now they were the last remaining. As I watched them it seemed as if years fell away and, for a moment in time, two very old ladies faded away and were replaced by two little girls in identical white dresses.

The demands of the announcer brought the stories too an end and I helped Jean to the wheel chair.

“Damn thing,” she snarled.

“You’ll drop your scotch if you try and walk,” I warned.

Her eyes sparkled as she cuddled the bottle.

The moment had come at last and they took each other’s hands. Cheeks with skin transparent with age touched. They whispered something to each other; then kissed. The tears were mine.

May and I watched until the plane was no more than a point in the sky.

“We’ve made a promise to each other,” she said.

“Next time in Canada?” I suggested.

“No” she replied calmly. “To never see or speak or have news of each other ever again”

“Why!” I demanded, appalled.

A tear rolled down her wrinkled cheek.

“Because that way neither of us will ever know we were the last one left.”

© Bev Allen 2017

 

 

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