#Bookreview – Mr Fox and the Green Man

book reviews

Sue VincentMister Fox and the Green Man Kindle Edition

What Amazon says

“Foxes, Welch!”
When Special Agent Tommy Welch is called into Tee’s office, he has little idea of the perils of his latest assignment. Accompanied by the sensuous Miss Hunnyfludd, Welch believes he is to investigate an outbreak of mysterious Foxes. Instead Tommy finds himself flung far back in time, to the court of King Arthur, where a Green Knight is about to extend a deadly challenge…

Within the humorous spoof that frames the story, the reader is transported to Camelot to witness the confrontation of Gawain and the Green Knight. Based upon the story that lies deep at the heart of Arthurian lore, the threefold nature of the ancient myth unfolds…

My review

This is a most unusual book which presents three concepts from English mythology in the form of a graphic novel. It was not what I originally expected but I did enjoy this unique idea. The book starts with a humorous spoof on the well know British spy, James Bond, and his secretary, fondly referred to in this book as Miss Hunnyfludd.

The spy travels back in time at the instance of the Green Man to the court of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. The Green Man challenges the knights to a duel and offers them the first strike. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and decapitates the Green Man, who picks up his severed head and tells the knights that in one year’s time, Sir Gawain must enter into another duel with him. This time the Green Man will have the first strike which will end in certain death for Sir Gawain.

Sir Gawain sets off on a quest into the Enchanted Forest to try and find a way to save himself. He encounters an enchanted hind who tells him a riddle which he must solve within the year in order to avoid death. Sir Gawain meets adversity during his quest to find the answer to the riddle in the form of, among other things, a hag who wants to marry him and the wife of Lord Verdant.

A year later Sir Gawain faces the Green Man in a duel and a single drop of his’s blood is spilled, conjuring up the dancing foxes of ancient times. What happens to Sir Gawain? Do the dancing foxes have a message for him? Does the British spy travel safely back in time? Read this book to find out these answers. At the same time you can enjoy the lovely illustrations.

Purchase Mr Fox and the Green Man

Advertisements

The monk’s murder

This is one of the pieces I have cut out of my book, Through the Nethergate, as part of the editing process. Maybe I will it into a short story, who knows. It is not easy to remove pieces of writing that you like but I know it needs to go to make my story flow better.

IMG_3921

The monk’s murder

They had been travelling all day on the rough, dirt tracks that served for roads. James had not travelled since he entered the Abbey at the age of ten years old. If he went anywhere, it was a relatively short distance and he used “shank’s pony” and not a horse. His legs and back ached terribly and he felt hungry and freezing cold.

A glance at his companion confirmed that Thomas was also exhausted. His plight was worse as he was leading the pack horse carrying the pannier. Every now and again they dismounted and walked to warm themselves up. A bitter wind blew heralding the first snow of the season.

They had set off yesterday afternoon on the three to four day journey from Glastonbury Abbey to Greenwich Palace.  King Henry VIII liked to spend Christmas at his birthplace.

The palace would be specially decorated for Christmas with seasonal greenery, dried fruit, berries and candles, James reflected. He had heard about the lavish Christmas celebrations enjoyed by the King and his guests during the Yuletide season.

Before leaving the Abbey, James and Thomas had watched in silence as the Abbot cut open a giant Christmas pie and replaced the filling with the deeds of twelve manor houses. He meticulously covered the papers with the bottom pie crust and applied a thick syrup to hold it in place. The cut was not obvious to the careless eye.

The Christmas pie was placed in a large wooden box and carefully packed into a pannier for transportation.

James and Thomas knew this was the Abbot’s final effort to save the Abbey from destruction at the hands of Thomas Cromwell’s henchmen.

They had travelled as far as they could yesterday before night closed in and they were forced to stop for the night.

Today had been much more wearisome for James. He was used to the strict routines of prayer, reading and work at the Abbey. He was looking forward to finding an inn to rest at for the night.

I hope the King will accept this pie, thought James. He is known for keeping the feast of Christmas with much nobleness and an open court. His table is said to feature all sorts of festive culinary treats; traditional boar’s head, peacock, larks, partridges, quails, roast beef and prawn pasties. A Christmas pie might be too ordinary.

***

James ate a simple supper of two cooked dishes made from cereal and vegetables with a bit of added fish. It was not dissimilar to the meal he would have enjoyed at the monastery.

“Goodnight, Thomas,” he said, climbing the stairs to the bed chambers. His words sounded loud to his ears, James did not speak often.

James spent an uneventful night. The pannier containing the Christmas pie rested against the wall in his bedchamber.

James woke at 5 A.M. as was his custom. He would normally be preparing for the early morning service of Lauds. Thomas sat on the wooden floor, surreptitiously pulling papers from the bottom of the Christmas pie.

***

The chamber maid approached the closed door and knocked. There was no answer. She leaned close to the door, her hand to her ear.

No sounds came from the other side of the door. She cocked her head.

Is he definitely gone? I don’t want to disturb him if he is still sleeping.

She reached out and grasped the door knob, turning it slowly. The door creaked open a tiny crack. She could see a shape in the bed and drew back, ready to close the door again, when the dripping sound caught her attention.

Drip …. drip … drip. It sounded like water leaking from an overturned jug. The sound was loud in the stillness of the dark room.

She pushed the door open. She would quickly right the jug and then leave.

Her shriek brought the Innkeeper running.

The monk lay on the bed, white faced with glazed eyes. The wound from the narrow blade was small but it had entered his heart. Rivers of blood flowed across the bed and mattress, dripping over the edge and pooling on the floor below. Other than the body, the room was completely empty.

Book cover – Through the Nethergate

Although it will still be a while before Through the Nethergate is ready for publication (I am aiming for early September), I am so excited about the cover that I thought I would share it here and see what you all think of it.

This is the blurb (which will help you understand the relevance of the cover):

Can you destroy evil or is it a manifestation of human behaviour?

Margaret has a unique talent. When any ghost has contact with her it reincarnates and acquires a physical presence and selected human characteristics.

Following the death of Margaret’s parents in a car accident, she goes to live with her grandfather in an ancient inn in the small town of Bungay in East Anglia, England. The cellar of the inn is haunted by the depraved spirit of Hugh Bigod who died in the 12th century and has assumed the form of a ferocious black dog. For hundreds of years the black dog has stalked the streets of the town leading the unfortunate victims of unnatural deaths away from Heaven’s white light and enslaving them. The unhappy ghosts can sense Margaret’s power and start to congregate at the inn in the hope that she can help free them from their lives of servitude. When Hugh Bigod becomes aware of Margaret’s power, he plots to use her to overthrow Lucifer and take his place as the master of Hell.

NEVERGATE draft 1

 

#Bookreview – Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming

book reviews

What Amazon says

As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.

My review

Martin Gates suffers from a recurring nightmare. In the dream his 8-year old self is awoken by the call of the drums. He follows the sound to a clearing in the woods in his home village where he is confronted by a horrific and traumatic sight. Unfortunately, Martin is never able to identify the source of his horror. He has experienced the dreams, on and off, throughout his life but recently they have become more and more frequent. Martin feels he is being called back to his home village.

Martin travels home and is not given a hero’s welcome by either the people of the village or his own family. In fact, he is actively rejected by his family who do not want to see him. His unexpected arrival coincides with a terrible accident by a physically disabled member of the community and he becomes a suspect in the case.

Martin meets Tanya, the attractive but bored and resentful wife of an older man who bought one of the local farms and is building houses to sell on the land. Tanya invites Martin to stay in their guest accommodation. Martin’s presence in their home has the unfortunate result of drawing the unhappy couple into his investigation into the source of his dreams and the reason he felt compelled to return to his home town.

Martin is not the only recent arrival in the village. Someone far more evil has arrived and he is determined to carry out his own agenda and make the villagers suffer as much as possible.

I loved this book of just over 500 pages. I thought this was a well-written, entertaining and unique storyline and I was impressed that I did not get bored or skip pages throughout my reading of this book.

Martin is an interesting character and the author certainly leads the readers on a bit of a song and dance before revealing Martin’s more admirable character traits. I grew to like Martin more and more as the book progressed. Tanya was a spoiled and silly woman but, when the chips were down, she responded most sensibly and showed loyalty and love for her estranged husband.

This book is not for people who are sensitive as there are parts of this story that are very brutal and almost depraved. All in, I thought this was an excellent read and would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good horror story.

I rated this book five out of five stars on Amazon.

Purchase Ravens Gathering

#Flashfiction – Sign

IMG_0477They had missed the signs completely. By the time the cause of Aron’s increasingly hyperactive, excitable and erratic behaviour had become clear, it was too late to save him.

Mary berated herself. She had been so foolish. When the squirrel bit Aron, he had come straight to her for help. His eyes were shiny with panic as his numerous fears for his health overwhelmed him. His hysterical ravings had irritated her so much that she had not considered the possibility of rabies.  Now he was dead and he had taken some of their friends with him to the grave.

This 99-word flash fiction was written for Charli Mill’s flash fiction challenge: February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

You can join in here: https://carrotranch.com/2019/02/07/february-7-flash-fiction-challenge/

PS, for those of you that read my flash fiction post from last week, this has something to do with the death in the mist.

The path to atonement

IMG_9043

I can’t share any more of A ghost and his gold at the moment. I have made some changes to the story and don’t want to share any more until I am finished adding to and editing this story. It is no longer a short story and is likely to end up a novella. I am really enjoying the historical research required for the changes and additions to the story.

I thought I would share an extract from another story I am writing called The path to atonement.

“Juliet examined the gun in her hands for the umpteenth time. It’s heaviness still surprised her. The metal looked sleek and shiny. Her eyes focused intently on the hole at the end of the barrel.

That is where the bullet emerges.

As always, the hole blurred and enlarged forming itself into a gaping mouth.

“You are a failure, Juliet,” it whispered. “What if you never pass? What then?” The words bounced around her mind, like an out of control Ping-Pong ball. “Go on, do it, you pathetic failure. Finish your miserable existence.”

Failing the second part of her board examinations had been devastating for her. She had never failed an examination before. She had passed both her degree and her honours degree in accounting science with distinction. Her board course lecturer was terrible, leaving out chunks of the study material and focusing only on topical issues. When she learned of her fail, she had blamed him, her heart black with anger. Her smoldering anger and extended to her employer. The learning and development team at the firm had recommended this man. They were equally to blame for her failure. In fact, they were more to blame as they should have known better and been more careful in their recommendation.

Her counselling manger had been so glib about it. “Never mind,” she said, “you can retake the examination next year.” As if it was that straight forward.

Juliet had always studied part-time. Her family did not have the money to send her to full-time university. Working full time at an auditing firm during the day and studying every night had been her way of life for the past four years. Juliet was determined and goals driven. She had managed to maintain her full academic scholarship at the long-distance university she attended and complete her assignments timeously and effectively. She never attended any social functions because she needed to study to maintain her top grades. She never went out with her work peer group as she didn’t have any extra money for recreational activities. She had been looking forward to the endless studying ending and to getting a nice increase that would make her life a bit easier and maybe even a bit more fun. Her failure had ended this hope. Another long year of struggling to make ends meet on her measly salary and studying countless hours in the evenings and over weekends faced her. There were no guarantees she would pass either.

What if I never pass.

The anger had passed, replaced by a feeling of utter hopelessness. The gray veil did not lift as it had in the past when depression had claimed her. It remained for weeks, swaddling her in a blanket of despair, sapping her usually high energy levels and plunging her into a fatigue so intense her very bones ached, and her memory and concentration evaporated before its searing intensity.

She glanced at the clock on the wall. It’s old fashioned round face measured out the seconds, minutes and hours of life in this orderly and well-run firm. She had chosen one of the training rooms at the firm when she worked as an articled clerk because it seemed the most fitting place for her to end her dream and her life.

Juliet carefully placed the leering mouth into her own mouth.

The idea of her eating that despicable mouth brought a slight smile to her full lips.

She tilted the gun slightly upwards as directed by the research she had done on the most effective way to commit suicide using a gun.

This way the back of her brain would be destroyed instantly when she pulled the trigger. The fact that her face would remain intact pleased her. She always liked to look neat and tidy.

Juliet pulled the hammer back and pulled the trigger.”

A bit heavy going, I know, but I am experimenting with ideas.

Have a lovely week.

Roberta

 

#Writephoto – Blade

IMG_3403

“Margaret finally drifted into a fitful sleep and she had a vivid dream.

She was in a great courtyard surrounded by a thick, stone wall. Dense crowds of people lined the inside of the walls leaving a circle of rough grass in the centre. Two men stood in the centre of the circle, facing each other with their heavy swords drawn. One knight was dressed in silver chain-mail covered with a white tunic. Golden crosses adorned the front and back of the tunic and a cross wrought of a shining, golden metal topped the knight’s silver helmet.

The opposing knight wore a black suit of armour covered by a long, red cloak that touched the ground behind him. A plume of red feathers decorated his black helmet.

The faces of both knights were covered by visors.

The knights launched into fierce fighting. Swords clanged heavily against each other as the two knights swooped, dived and lunged, each waiting for an opportunity to out manoeuvre the other. Margaret watched as the black knight forged forward in a show of extraordinary strength and crashed his great sword into that of the white knight. Both swords flew up into the air and landed with a crash at Margaret’s feet.

“Give me my sword, Margaret,” the black knight extended his leather gloved hand towards her.

“Everything you could ever want will be yours if you give me my sword, Margaret.”

In the dream Margaret had a vision of the future. She saw herself in a lovely cottage near the ocean. She had a husband whom she loved and two sweet little children clinging to her skirts.

In a daze, Margaret took a step toward the black knight and extended her hand towards him. She heard raucous cheers from the crowd. The sound was unpleasant, like fingernails scratching a chalk board.

As her hand neared the black knight it entered an ice-cold pocket of air. It burned her hand like touching dry ice and she withdrew it quickly. The cheering turned to hisses and boos. The memory of the black cat she had encountered in the cupboard at the Inn entered her mind at the sound.

She jerked backwards. The vision was enticing. Margaret desperately wanted the love and security of a home with a devoted husband and beautiful children. She wanted what she had lost when her parents had been taken away from her earlier that year.

The black knight was facing her. His eyes burned behind the visor like smouldering coals.

“No!”

Margaret shouted the word. The black knight was evil. Anything he gave her would come at a high personal price.

She picked up a sword and turned towards the white knight.

As she stepped towards him, she was enveloped in warm air. It smelled of freshly cut grass in the summer time and the strong scent of jasmine flowers.

In the dream, she had a memory of her younger self gathering armfuls of the newly mowed and sweet-smelling grass and depositing it into her father’s wheelbarrow. The sky above was pale blue, unmarred by a single cloud as the sun shone down.

She handed the white knight the sword. As his gloved fingers closed around its jewelled hilt, the blade of the sword started to glow with a white light so pure and bright she had to look away.”

Sue Vincent made it really easy for me this week with her photograph prompt, Blade. The above is an extract from my forthcoming novel, Through the Nethergate.

You can join in Sue’s challenge here: https://scvincent.com/2019/02/07/thursday-photo-prompt-blade-writephoto/