Our Saxon Life book 2 free sample

A free sample (about 5%) of book two of my historical horror series Our Saxon Life.

An ancient and brutal Anglo Saxon civilisation has been revived in the same village in England which the original Saxons invaded centuries ago, by a ruthless professor of history who believes that the the Anglo Saxons possessed certain values which are lacking in modern society, and he has ruthlessly imposed those values on the modern inhabitants of the village, but some of them are willing to rebel against his harsh, intolerant rule.


Professor Wulfgar: Saxon, created settlement after being badly beaten by students at university after giving a controversial lecture called Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism.

Gebmund Sutham: Saxon, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws in the settlement

Cassie: young Angelcynn female, discovered settlement with her boyfriend, who dies in book 1.

Jack Webster: young Angelcynn teacher

Eadyg Duning: 9 year old Saxon girl, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws.

Haeddi Duning: mother of Eadyg Duning.

Einhard Achby: 12 year old Saxon boy, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws.

Godwin Turner: 9 year old Saxon boy, timid, afraid of Wulfgar’s laws.

Chris Sanders: Angelcynn, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws.

Miss Waerburh Deorlaf: Saxon, head teacher, enforces Wulfgar’s laws.

Miss Ethelred Stewart: Saxon, teacher, secretly opposes Wulfgar’s laws.

Chris Blake: Angelcynn photojournalist, investigates the settlement

Alice: Angelcynn journalist who also investigates the settlement

Eilderman Llanmere: Saxon, local councillor and farmer.

Chapters And Scenes


5 am Tuesday Saxons flee from Angelcynn ‘spy ‘plane’ 

5 am Tuesday Angelcynn Carl Sanders sees ceremony begin

5 am Tuesday Cassie and Jack after Saxon ceremony

6.0 am Tuesday Jack Webster puzzles over Saxon settlement

6.30 am Tuesday Jack and Cassie reach lagoon

6.30 am Tuesday Carl Sanders sees Cassie and Jack cross lagoon

6 am Tuesday Saxon lovers argue about Saxon rule 

6 am Tuesday Saxons return to their homes

6 am Tuesday Haeddi Duning after arriving back from ceremony

6 am Tuesday Eadyg Duning led to place of torture

6 am Tuesday Eadyg Duning at place of torture

6.15 am Tuesday Professor Wulfgar watches as Eadyg tied to mast

6.15 am Tuesday Godwin Turner decides to rescue Eadyg

6.20 am Tuesday Eadyg suffers on mast

6.20 am Tuesday Einhard Achby fears dangerous wild boar

7.29 am Tuesday Wulfgar plans new Saxon settlement

12 noon Tuesday Ethelred Stewart awakes

12 noon Tuesday Gebmund Sutham in workshop

6 pm Tuesday Professor Wulfgar re-lives anti-Saxon terrorist attack

8 pm Tuesday Gebmund Sutham in Saxon Great Hall


2 am Wednesday Ethelred Stewart awakes

2.30 am Wednesday Ethelred Stewart at workshop

3 am Wednesday Gebmund Sutham steals motor home

3 am Wednesday Professor Wulfgar sees lights switched on in workshop

3.30 am Wednesday Professor Wulfgar with Stewart in workshop

4 am Wednesday Wulfgar looks at paintings in Great Hall

4.15 am Wednesday Wulfgar in Great Hall

5.00 am Wednesday Jack Webster goes to motor home

5 am Wednesday Gebmund Sutham scouts Endelîf Eard for new Saxon settlement   

5.15 am Wednesday Jack Webster sees motor home missing

5.30 am Wednesday Jack Webster sees motor home is missing

4am Wednesday Stewart after leaving workshop

4.15 am Wednesday Ethelred Stewart dreams about Eadyg Duning

8.30 am Wednesday Webster crosses lagoon

9.00 am Wednesday Chris Blake plans to investigate Saxon settlement

9.30 am Wednesday Webster returns to Cassie

9 am Wednesday Eadyg writes letter to dead Angelcynn teacher

9 am Wednesday Eadyg plans to speak to dead Angelcynns

9 am Wednesday Cassie looks for grave of murdered Angelcynn teacher    

9 am Wednesday Jack Webster at site of motor home

9.30 am Wednesday Eadyg sees dead Angelcynn girl in Endelîf Eard

9.30 am Wednesday Saxon Miss Deorlaf confronts Cassie at grave

9.30 am Wednesday Alice sees Eadyg

9.30 am Wednesday Eadyg decides  to steal food from Sutham’s pick up truck

9.30 am Wednesday Gebmund Sutham senses spirits of dead Angelcynn 

9.30 am Wednesday Eadyg escapes from pick up truck

10 am Wednesday Chris and Alice hear scream from  Endelîf Eard 

10 am Wednesday Chris and Alice lost in Endelîf Eard

10 am Wednesday Eadyg plans to speak to dead Angelcynn girl

10 am Wednesday Gebmund Sutham sees spirit of little Angelcynn girl 

8 pm Wednesday Cassie and Jack consider becoming Saxons) 

10.00pm Wednesday Chris Blake remembers track across field


3.15 am Thursday Chris Sanders sees body on mast

4 am Thurs Einhard on guard at Great Hall hears Sanders breaking into it

4 am Thursday Carl Sanders at house

Einhard hears boar moving around

4.00 am Thursday Einhard at Mrs. Duning’s house

4.15 am Thursday Wild boar escapes

Carl Sanders attacked by boar

4.10 am Thursday Wulfgar interrogates Sanders

4.15 am Thursday Haeddi Duning tends to injured Sanders

4.25 am Thursday wild boar escapes

4.30 am Einhard after boar attack

4.30 am Thursday Sanders being interrogated

4.35 am Thursday wild boar escapes through settlement

8 am Thursday Body on mast removed

8.30 am Thursday Deorlaf and Stewart plan to make Webster disappear

9 am Thursday Deorlaf and Stewart in long boat

9 am Thursday Blinded Carl Sanders appears

The End


7 am Tuesday Eadyg Duning plans to visit grave of Angelcynn teacher

The End


5 am Tuesday Saxons flee from Angelcynn ‘spy ‘plane’ 

Professor Wulfgar drove his four wheel drive car across the fields that led back to Havensea after hehad been forced to cancel the ceremony that was to take place on top of the sand dunes, because a micro light ‘planehad suddenly appeared.

Behind him was a convoy of other four wheel drive cars and pick up trucks which were packed with the other Saxons who were to take part in the ceremony.

The pilot of the micro light plane was undoubtedly an Angelcynn – English, enemy agent whohad been ordered by the Angelcynn police and security services to spy on the ceremony.

Why else would he appear at the exact moment that the ceremony was due to arrive at its climax?

But more importantly, how did he know that it was to take place at that exact moment?

The answer to that question was obvious – there was a traitor in the settlement, an informer, a spy, whohad informed the Angelcynn that it was to take place at that exact moment.

Unless…unless the Angelcynn whohad camped their motor home on the marsh were the spies.

Was that possible?

Did they have a contact in the settlement – a renegade Saxon, whohad informed them that the ceremony was to take place?

Carl Sanders – ithad to be him!

He was the only inhabitant of the settlement whohad refused to change his Angelcynn name to a Saxon name!

Unless…no, surely not.

The male Angelcynn who was the new teacher at the school, whohad been on the causeway with the female Angelcynn, the owner of the motor home. Miss Deorlafhad told him that it was him, hehad never seen him before.

Was he an Angelcynn spy?

No, hehad only been teaching at the school for a few days, hehad hardlyhad enough time to discover the secrets of the settlement.

He steered his car around a deep rut thathad suddenly appeared in the dry soil and glanced back in his rear view mirror, the vehicles that were following him might not see it because of the cloud of dust that hehad created, but when he glanced in the mirror a few yards later he saw that the pick up truck that was following himhad also avoided it.

This consideration for the other Saxons in his tribe, this concern for their welfare, was an essential quality for a Saxon chieftain like himself, he mused.

He shifted uncomfortably in his long Saxon robe, it was becoming quite hot although it was probably only about 5 am. The other Saxons must be feeling the same, but no matter, they would soon be back in Havensea where they could change into their normal clothes.

Normal in the sense that the jeans and T shirts which they usually wore, for everyday use, not normal in the sense that it was right to wear them.

They should be wearing traditional Saxon clothing,  but hehad not persuaded them to do that yet.

His thoughts returned to the possibility of there being a renegade in the settlement, and the possibility of the Angelcynn in the motor home being spies.

There was also the threat posed by Eadyg Duning, he reminded himself.

Shehad tried to sabotage the The Ride Of The Valkyries being played during the ceremony, by escaping from the other Saxons and trying to reach the vehicle which was relaying it to the Saxons on top of the sand dunes via its outdoor sound system.

Luckily, Einhard Achbyhad beaten her to the ground before she could do any harm,

She was now in a car which was being driven by Miss Deorlaf, a Saxon Eilderman who was also the head teacher of the school which she attended.

The nine year old was also a keen member of the Young Saxons organisation which hehad founded, with the goal of encouraging everyone to embrace the Saxon culture.

Or rather, shehad been, until this morning.

He would decide her fate later.

Miss Waerburh Deorlaf drove her four wheel drive car across the dusty rutted fields that led back to Havensea from the top of the sand dunes where the ceremonyhad been held until ithad been so cruelly  interrupted, and glanced in the rear view mirror at her passengers in the rear seat.

On the left hand side was Gebmund Sutham, and on the right hand side was Einhard Achby, while squeezed in between them was Eadyg Duning.

In theory, Gebmund Sutham could have sat next to her in the front passenger seat, to allow Eadyg more space, but Professor Wulfgarhad ordered her to have a guard at each side of the child in case she tried to escape.

Hehad yelled the order to her when he was leading the Saxons back towards their vehicles – and back to Havensea, after the ceremonyhad been interrupted.

She was slightly uneasy about having a child in the rear seat without being secured by a seat belt, shehad a vague notion that it was illegal.

But then, that was an Angelcynn law, and  so many of their laws were ignored in Havensea. And in any case it was unlikely that she would be stopped by a police car on the road back to the settlement, and the law enforced, because the police rarely if ever patrolled the road.

She shifted uncomfortably in the long Saxon robe that she was wearing, the day was already hot although it was only about an hour after dawn.

But uppermost in her mind was the question: why was Jack Webster on the causeway with the Angelcynn woman?

Eadyg Duning sat in the back of Miss Deorlaf’s four wheel drive car between Einhard Achby and Gebmund Sutham and wondered what would happen to her after shehad tried to stop the Saxon music that was called The Ride Of The Valkyries from playing when everyone was on top of the sand dunes.

She didn’t think that it was her fault that whatever was going to happenhad been cancelled, it was the fault of the thing thathad flown over them.

A micro light ‘plane, it was called, the only reason she knew that was because Einhard and Gebmund Suthamhad been talking about it.

But no-onehad talked to her, not even Miss Deorlaf, who was her head teacher and was supposed to be her friend.

But there were other things that she could get into trouble for, if someone found out about them.

Shehad put a cross on the grave of Miss Parker, the Angelcynn teacher whohad been a teacher at the school before the new one, Mister Webster,had arrived.

Shehad been made to disappear, because shehad asked too many questions about the Saxons, and was buried in the grave.

But she wasn’t supposed to know about that.

The other bad thing that shehad done was shehad gone to the Endelîf Eard, theplace of the dead, where the first Saxonshad buried the Angelcynn children that theyhad killed, when they first came to Havensea, andhad said sorry to them.

Suddenly the car swerved – there must have been something in the way, and she was thrown against Einhard’s body.

He pushed her away irritably and continued to stare straight ahead.

She glanced over Miss Deorlaf’s shoulder and saw that they would soon finish driving across the fields and would reach a bunch of trees.

That meant that they would soon turn onto a proper road, the road that led into Havensea, not a bumpy one which like this that made her bump into Einhard.

Suddenly she was struck by a terrible thought.

Did he think that shehad done it on purpose, because she wanted to be closer to him?

She couldn’t move away from him because that would mean getting too close to Gebmund Sutham, a grown-up Saxon, who was sitting on her left hand side.

She wondered why hehad a rifle propped between his knees – she knew the difference between a rifle and a shotgun.

And why was he riding in Miss Deorlaf’s car instead of in his pick up truck?

Who was driving it back to Havensea?

One of the other Saxons whohad been at the…ceremony, as it was called, must be driving it back.

Then another question sprang into her mind.

Is he sitting next to me so that he can guard me?

A big grown up man to guard a little girl?

Surely not.

Gebmund Sutham stared moodily out of the left hand side passenger window of Miss Deorlaf’s car as she drove it across the fields towards the road that led back to Havensea.

He could think of better things to do than sit in the back of somebody else’s car and guard a kid like Eadyg Duning.

Especially a girl like Eadyg Duning, who was probably only about nine.

But Professor Wulfgar had ordered him to do it just before he got into his pick up truck and hehad been forced to let somebody else drive it.

He glanced sideways at her and wondered why shehad tried to stop The Ride Of The Valkyries from being played at the ceremony.

Luckily, it didn’t stop the ceremony because the micro light ‘planehad stopped it, instead, by flying overhead.

Luckily for her, too.

If shehad stopped it she would be in big trouble, she could even be made to disappear.

Even so, she would have to be punished in some way; Professor Wulfgar wouldn’t let something as serious as that go unpunished.

Whathad got into her?

What was wrong with her?

Shehad been fine at the road block, the day before, when hehad stopped the Angelcynn car driver from coming into Havensea.

Einhardhad killed the Angelcynn, it was true, but shehad tried to kill him by firing her catapult at him, as Professor Wulfgarhad ordered her to do.

He was thrown against her as the car suddenly swerved to to the left to avoid something that was in the way, and his rifle slipped from where hehad been lightly holding it between his knees.

He quickly retrieved it and began to stroke the breech, like someone might stroke a much loved pet who has slipped of their reach. It was a point 222 calibre weapon, light enough to carry around allday but powerful enough to kill an Angelcynn.

Hehad bought it illegally when he was working as a truck driver in south west England, the one time hehad ever been away from the settlement, and even then it was only for two years.

I’ve spent twenty years of my life here!

Was he supposed to use it to kill the Angelcynn who were camped in their motor home on the marsh?

He would never know, hehad been waiting for Professor Wulfgar to give the order when the micro light ‘planehad appeared.

That was the problem with Wulfgar – he liked to be the only one who knew what was going on.

Einhard Achby stared out of the window of the car that was being driven from the ceremony back to Havensea and sensed that Eadyg, who was sitting next to him, wanted to say something about what had happened at the ceremony, because she kept shifting and glancing at him.

But he ignored her.

Why did she try to stop the ceremony from going ahead?

It was even worse than when she had tried to stop the Kill The Angelcynn game, that the kids were playing on the village green, a few days earlier.

He couldn’t understand her.

They had grown up together, although at twelve he was three years older than she was, and had joined the Young Saxons together.

What had made her change?

He wondered why Mister Webster, the new Angelcynn teacher, was on the causeway with the Angelcynn woman whohad camped there in her motor home.

Was he supposed to be part of the ceremony?

Only Professor Wulfgar knew the answer to that question, but he wouldn’t say anything about it, at least not to him.

If he was the chieftain, he would have killed the Angelcynn woman with his sword, and burned the motor home to the ground.

He glanced at the floor of the car guiltily, in case the others could read his thoughts.

Professor Wulfgar is too old to be the chieftain.

I should be the chieftain.

Ethelred Stewart drove behind Miss Deorlaf’s car and glanced through the car’s sun roof at the sky in case the micro light ‘plane appeared again, then glanced in the rear view mirror in case it was pursuing her from behind the car, at a very low level.

But all she could see was the cloud of dust that her carhad thrown up as it was driven across the field, she could see nothing of the convoy of cars and pick up trucks that she knew was behind her, filled with other Saxons who were fleeing from the ‘plane.

Was Jack Webster standing on top of the sand dunes, watching the Saxons drive away, or was he still with the Angelcynn woman on the causeway?

What was he doing there, anyway? 

Shehad no idea who was in the car behind her, therehad been no time for them to get into the vehicles theyhad arrived in, theyhad just been ordered to get into the nearest available vehicle.

She knew that Miss Deorlaf’s car was full of passengers because shehad caught a fleeting glimpse of them before the car was accelerated away.

Then she realised.

Miss Deorlaf’s passengers hadn’t been bundled into her car at random, like the ones in everyone else’s cars – theyhad been carefully selected.

To guard Eadyg Duning.

That was why Gebmund Sutham was sitting on one side of her, and Einhard Achby on the other side of her.

She glanced at the passenger who was sitting in the front seat next to her and saw that he was staring sternly ahead, while the mother who was sitting on the back passenger seat with her young son bothhad terrified expressions on their faces.

She knew them both, but knew him better, he was called Godwin Turner and was a pupil at the Havensea primary school, where she taught.

He was a timid frail boy whohad been selected as the victim at the Kill The Angelcynn game which was played on the village green, last Friday evening.

Eadyg Duninghad tried to protect him buthad failed, hehad been beaten up despite her unwarranted interference.

She desperately wanted to loosen the Saxon robe that she was wearing, so that she could cool down, but wasn’t sure that this would send the wrong signal to Eilderman Llanmere, although as he was twice her age-he was seventy six, she was probably safe enough.

“A sad day for our Saxon cause, Eilderman” she said to him.

“If only the Angelcynn would leave us alone” he said bitterly.

“Perhaps the pilot wasn’t spying on us, perhaps he was just interested in what was going on” she ventured.

“No, he was spying on us because the Angelcynn who are among us informed him about the ceremony” he said emphatically.

She wondered who he meant. Did he mean Jack Webster, her new co-teacher at the school, or the woman in the motor home on the marsh?

Both of them?

Suddenly he leaned forwards and thumped his fists on the dashboard.

“But they’ll pay for it!” he yelled.

“With their lives!”

Suddenly she realised that Godwin Turner and his mother who were in the back seat were probably listening, but decided that it didn’t matter.

Mrs. Turner was a committed Saxon, who probably agreed with Eilderman Llanmere, while Godwin was too young to do anything about it, even if he disagreed with Llanmere.

Godwin Turner slumped in the rear seat of the car, only half-listening to the talk about the Angelcynn micro light ‘plane spying on the Saxons.

He was more interested in the talk about the Angelcynn spies who were supposed to be in the settlement, as it was now called.

The only Angelcynn that he knew about was Mister Webster, the new teacher, but he hadn’t been in the settlement for long enough to know what was going on.

He didn’t even know what the Saxon long boat that was in the school playground was used for, he thought that it was just part of the playground.

He had tried to find out, on the last day of school, just before the holiday started, but Einhard had stopped him.

Mister Webster had better watch out, or he would be made to disappear, like Miss Parker, the other Angelcynn teacher who was at the school before him.

He really liked her, she was nice, and helped him with his maths, but it was no good being nice and a good teacher if she wanted to find out what was going on in Havensea.

He was glad that the ceremony had ended, it was far too hot standing in the sun in his tunic with his sword in his hand.

And what was supposed to happen to the people in the motor home?

The couldn’t be made to disappear, not both of them, not on the marsh where everybody could see what was happening.

People were made to disappear in private, where nobody could see what was happening to them.

That was how Miss Parker had gone.

One day she was his teacher, the next day she had gone.

Nobody asked what had happened to her, because Professor Wulfgar had come to the school the next day and talked to them, in an Our Saxon Life lesson.

He said that the good Saxon doesn’t ask questions when people disappear, because it means that the settlement is better off without them.

Sometimes he wondered if he had helped to make her disappear.

She got talking to him one day, in the playground, because the other kids were bullying him, and had asked him about the Saxon long boat.

Mister Webster didn’t get a chance to ask any questions about it, he didn’t even get a chance to look at it, because Einhard had stopped him.

A kid-stopping a teacher from doing something!

But it was okay, because Einhard was a Saxon and Mister Webster was just an Angelcynn.

“What does it mean, Godwin?” she had whispered to him, so that the other kids wouldn’t hear her.

He didn’t tell her, because he would be in trouble if he did.

He had reported it to Einhard, instead, and the next day she had disappeared.

Suddenly he realised that his mother had turned around and was staring into his face, the way she always did when she knew that he had done something bad.

“Don’t!” she suddenly hissed.

He knew what had happened – she knew what he was thinking.

She wasn’t a magician or anything, she always seemed to know what he was thinking.

“I’m sorry” he muttered, and hoped that she wouldn’t tell anybody else that he had been thinking about Miss Parker.

It wasn’t fair.

The Saxons had made her disappear, but he kept thinking about her.

Why didn’t they really make her disappear?

Make her disappear so much that nobody could remember her, or anything about her.


Our Saxon Life book 1 free sample

A free sample (about 5%) of book two of my historical horror series Our Saxon Life.

An ancient and brutal Anglo Saxon civilisation has been revived in the same village in England which the original Saxons invaded centuries ago, by a ruthless professor of history who believes that the the Anglo Saxons possessed certain values which are lacking in modern society, and he has ruthlessly imposed those values on the modern inhabitants of the village, but some of them are willing to rebel against his harsh, intolerant rule.


Angelcynn: English, anyone who is not a Saxon.

Endelîf Eard: End Of Life Earth, or cemetery.

Eallwealda: God.

Eilderman/Eildermen: local councillor.

The location

Havensea: an isolated village on the east coast of modern – day England, which was originally a Saxon settlement.

It has now been transformed into a modern Saxon settlement.

The characters

Professor Wulfgar: Saxon, created settlement after being badly beaten by students at university because he gave a controversial lecture called Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism.

Gebmund Sutham: Saxon, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws in the settlement

Cassie: young Angelcynn female, discovered settlement with her boyfriend Rob.

Jack Webster: young Angelcynn teacher

Eadyg Duning: 9 year old Saxon girl, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws

Einhard Achby: 12 year old Saxon boy, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws.

Godwin Turner: 9 year old Saxon boy, timid, afraid of Wulfgar’s laws.

Chris Sanders: Angelcynn, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws.

Miss Waerburh Deorlaf: Saxon, head teacher, enforces Wulfgar’s laws.

Miss Ethelred Stewart: Saxon, teacher, secretly opposes Wulfgar’s laws.

Eilderman Llanmere: Saxon, local councillor and farmer.

Chris Blake: Angelcynn photojournalist who investigates the settlement

Alice: Angelcynn journalist who investigates the settlement with him.

Chapters And Scenes


Thursday 9.00 pm Cassie and Rob arrive in Havensea

Thursday 11.45 pm Saxon woman Ethelred Stewart sees them in sea


Friday 9.00 am Ethelred Stewart with Miss Waerburh Deorlaf


Friday 12.30 am Rob puzzled by Anglo Saxon words


Friday 2.15 pm Webster forced back from Saxon long boat

Friday 3.30 pm Our Saxon Life lesson

Friday 2.35 pm Jack Webster finds Saxon runes

Friday 3.45 pm Professor Wulfgar with Miss Deorlaf

Friday 4 pm Carl Sanders after clash with Einhard


Friday 7.50 pm Kill The Angelcynn game

Friday 7.55 pm Carl Sanders watches game


Friday 8.00 pm Cassie and Rob forced back from Havensea


Friday 8.10 pm Kill The Angelcynn game

Friday 8.10 pm Miss Deorlaf watches Kill the Angelcynn game

Friday 8.30 pm Jack Webster goes to Havensea

Friday 8.30 pm Brechtled Spencer flirts with Einhard Achby


Friday 8.40 pm Rob and Cassie on beach


Friday 8.45 pm Jack Webster forced back from Havensea

Friday 8.50 pm Miss Deorlaf at Saxon Great Hall


Friday 8.55 pm Jack Webster puzzled by Havensea

Friday 8.50 pm Jack Webster sees Miss Deorlaf at Saxon Great Hall

Friday 9.00 pm Miss Deorlaf enters Saxon Great Hall

Friday 9.10 pm Jack Webster finds tripwire

Friday 9.05 pm Professor Wulfgar at Saxon Great Hall

Friday 9.10 pm Jack Webster finds sinister Saxon doll

Friday 11.00 pm Professor Wulfgar tries to decide fate of Eadyg Duning

Friday 11.45 pm Professor Wulfgar’s nightmare


Saturday 9.00 am Eadyg Duning at grave of murdered teacher

Saturday 9.00 am Jack Webster finds revolutionary Saxon history book

Saturday 9.10 am Eadyg finds revolutionary Saxon history book

Saturday 9.30 am Eadyg Duning thinks about revolutionary Saxon book

Saturday 9.45 am Eadyg Duning interrogated by Einhard Achby

Saturday 9.30 am Miss Deorlaf goes to Jack Webster’s cottage

Saturday 9.00 am Professor Wulfgar in Great Hall


One year earlier, murdered teacher suspicious about Havensea


Sunday 2.30 am Gebmund Sutham traps Cassie and Rob with excavator


Sunday 10.05 am Eadyg Duning at grave of Angelcynn murdered by Saxons


Monday 3.30 am Jack Webster plans how to escape from Havensea


Saturday 7.55 am Professor Wulfgar sees microlight spy ‘plane

Saturday 8.00 am pilot of microlight ‘plane spies Professor Wulfgar in field

Saturday 8.10 am Professor Wulfgar after pilot sees him

Saturday 10.00 am microlight ‘plane pilot lands


Monday 3.30 am Wulfgar plans Saxon ceremony


Monday 8.00 am Eadyg and Einhard at Saxon road block

Monday 8.15 am Angelcynn driver killed at road block


Monday 3.30 am Cassie meets Jack Webster

Monday 7.00 am Ethelred Stewart goes to cottage

Sunday 10.00 pm Wulfgar plans to kill pilot


Monday 12.00 noon pilot decides to fly over Havensea

Twenty One

Monday 11.00 pm Cassie helps Webster to create an escape route

Twenty Two

Tuesday 2.45 am Carl Sanders sees body in Saxon long boat

Twenty Three

Tuesday 3.30 am Saxon ceremony on sand dunes

The End


Thursday 9.00 pm Cassie and Rob arrive in Havensea

I didn’t like the idea of driving the motor home off the main road and turning along a farm track that was in the middle of nowhere.

But my new boyfriend Rob was at the wheel and we hadagreed that whoever was driving could decide which road to take; it was his turn to drive, I hadfinished my turn about an hour earlier.

We were heading towards a place called Havensea, a small seaside village in the East Anglia region of England.

It was my idea to come here, I’d seen on the internet that an extremely low tide was forecast for Havensea, which might reveal an ancient settlement that hadlong ago been submerged by the sea, and I wanted to see it.

I glanced at the fields of crops on each side of the farm track and wondered why I couldn’t see a farm anywhere, or any tractors in the fields.

The sun was setting, it would be dark in about an hour– at about ten pm, we hadto find a place to park the motor home and spend the night in it before then.

It hadbeen a long hot day, the hottest day of the summer so far, and I was looking forward to taking a shower in the motor home.

“Any idea where we’re going?” I said.

“It’s okay, Cassie, we’ll find a good place to camp pretty soon” he said confidently.

In a way, it was a good idea to drive along the farm track.

If we hadkept going into Havensea we would have to drive around looking for somewhere to park,

which isn’t always easy with a twenty – foot long motor home.

I’ve been driving around the country and camping in motor homes for several years, sometimes with boyfriends but often alone.

I don’t automatically sleep with these new boyfriends, I make them sleep in the motor home’s second bedroom while I sleep in the main bedroom. If anything happens after this, it happens, but so far it hadn’t happened.

We’re both from Cornwall, in south western England, he’s a freelance mechanic and I work as a secretary on my dad’s farm, which is why I can take time off from work and travel around the country, whenever I want to do.

I know from experience that the best time to arrive in a strange town or village is early in the morning, before all the parking places have been taken.

In fact it’s often better to avoid parking in towns and villages altogether, and park a couple of miles outside of them.

Ideally this should be somewhere that’s secluded, often hidden among a bunch of trees, where I’m safe from prying eyes.

I use my mountain bike which is locked in its rack at the back of the motor home to bike into these places, although there are two of them now because Rob’s bike is there, as well.

motor homes are usually a bright white colour which can be seen from miles away, but I had mine sprayed with a dark green colour to merge into the background.

But it was getting too late to look for somewhere secluded that was a couple of miles outside of Havensea, the light was fading fast and it would soon be dark.

That meant we would be driving around with our headlights switched on, which would draw attention to us.

We hadplanned to arrive now– on a Thursday night, to avoid any weekend holiday traffic that might be heading to Havensea.

We bumped and jolted along the farm track for several miles, passing more fields of vegetables, which were just dark blobs now that it was almost dark.

But about a mile ahead I could see a low ridge of what looked like sand dunes.

Pretty soon we reached the foot of them and saw that we were at a dead end – except for one thing.

There was a gap in the sand dunes that was just about wide enough to drive the motor home through.

But what was on the other side of it?

“Let’s take a look” Rob said.

He switched the engine off and we walked through the gap, sometimes stumbling in the soft sand.

When we got to the other side I saw that we were looking at a marsh, a wide expanse of mud that was broken only by a few clumps of grass, and sometimes by what looked like tidal creeks.

About a mile to the north the marsh vanished and became what looked like a flat sandy beach, it was difficult to be sure in the darkness, and about a mile further north were the lights of a village which hadto be Havensea.

“That’s a good place!” Rob suddenly said excitedly.

I knew what he was talking about, I hadalready seen it, it was a causeway – just a grassy track, that was about a quarter of a mile long and led across the marsh towards the sea.

But it was only about ten feet wide, which was only just wide enough for the motor home, and I couldn’t see anywhere at the end of it to turn it around, that meant that we’d have to reverse it all the way back along the track, when it was time to leave.

“Are you sure?” I said doubtfully – then another problem occurred to me.

“What if there’s a high tide, and the sea comes over it?”

“It’ll be perfect” he said confidently.

I looked around at the monotonous fields of crops and decided that maybe he was right, I’d rather look at the sea than look at them.

He engaged the motor home in a very low gear and we slowly drove through the sand in the gap in the sand dunes until we reached the track.

We stayed in low gear and cautiously drove along it using the faint light from the moon to help us avoid accidentally driving off it and plunging into the marsh.

Finally we reached the end of the track, and switched off the engine.

“We’ll be safe enough here” he said confidently.

But I wasn’t so sure.

“Let’s go for a midnight swim” I suddenly said.

I like to do this, whenever I’m campingon the coast, and whenever I have a boyfriend with me.

It’s a bit too risky if I’m on my ownbecause there are sometimes some pretty strange people on the beaches at night.

So far we’ve done it all way up from Essex, through Suffolk, and Norfolk, but we haven’t hada chance to do it in this part of East Anglia yet.

There was just one thing.

I cut my right ankle when we were driving on our way to Havensea, I got out of the motor home in my sandals and slipped on some broken glass.

I washed it with antiseptic and put a stick – on bandage on it but it was still bleeding.

But as we’d be swimming in the open sea I don’t suppose that mattered, it would be different if it was a swimming pool of course.

I put on a one piece bathing suit (chaste, rather than revealing, because so far it’s been that kind of relationship) while Rob turned his back to me and put on his swimming shorts.

We also decided to take a pair of warm wool shirts with us because I know from experience that it can be cold when you come out of the water.

We didn’t take our ‘phones with us, in case someone stole them while we’re in the sea.

There was only one problem.

We hadto cross the marsh to reach the beach.

Not the entire marsh, just a short stretch of it that was probably three or four hundred yards wide.

Suddenly I felt something wet on my right foot.

It was blood.

I knew what that meant.

The bleeding from my cut was too profuse for the bandage, it hadsoaked through it and was dripping from the ankle down to the foot.

I hesitated for a moment and tried to decide whether to change it for another one, but decided not to bother, surely the sea water wouldn’t hurt it.

We decided that I should lead the way, because I’m lighter than he is and if I got stuck in the mud he could maybe pull me out.

But if he got into trouble I could never pull him out.

I was testing the ground with a walking stick, it’s one of those portable ones that you can collapse into a length of about six inches and put it in your pocket.

I use it pretty often, but not for walking, I use it to test the ground when I’m planning to park the motor home there, in case it’s too soft and I can’t drive out of it again when it’s time to move on.

I was too busy studying the ground to look around at the dark marsh, and I sensed that behind me he was doing the same.

We finally crossed the marsh and reached the beach.

We kicked off our sandals and walked into the shallow water.

The tide was out and there were hardly any waves, just ripples that barely covered our ankles, which made me hesitate for a moment.

“At this rate we’ll have to walk out there for half a mile before it’s deep enough to swim in” I said.

“You sure you’re okay with that?” he said.

I didn’t know if he meant because of the long walk or because of the cut on my ankle, maybe it was both.

“I’m fine with it” I said.

“Let’s try to run through it and get to the deep water quicker” he said.

I knew what he meant by ‘tried.’

It’s nearly impossible to run through water, it takes too long to lift one foot out of it, because you’re fighting against the weight of the water.

By the time you’ve managed to overcome that you lose your balance and your entire body lands in the water.

I threw my hands out to balance myself and leaned forwards like a sprinter at the start of a race but he suddenly said something else that made me stop.

“Maybe we’ll reach the ancient settlement.”


“You said we’ll have to walk out to sea for half a mile before the water’s deep enough to swim in, right? Well, the ancient settlement’s about half a mile out at sea, isn’t it?”

“Are you serious? It’s only visible at extremely low tides.”

But maybe he was right, maybe this was an extremely low tide, we hadonly been here for a couple of days, we hadno idea what an extremely low tide was supposed to look like. Not here, anyway, because we weren’t familiar with the tides. If it was Cornwall, where we were familiar with the tides, we would know exactly what one was supposed to look like.

“I’ll race you to it” he laughed, and plunged through the water.

For some strange reason I glanced at an area of the sea that was about half a mile away, instead of the nearest hundred yards or so of it, which is what you usually do when you’re going for a swim.

I thought that I saw a disturbance in the water out there, like a whirlpool, but of course that was impossible.

The Eoten moved around uneasily among the rotting timbers which were submerged under the sea two miles from the modern village of Havensea, and which were all that remained of the ancient Saxon settlement of Hafensee, the Saxon word for the village.

As a sea creature its senses were highly attuned to the tides, and it sensed that they were beginning to change.

It sensed that a new kind of tide was approaching – one that might threaten its existence among the ruins, although it did not have sufficient intelligence to understand exactly how it might threaten it.

A human being, with access to the tidal patterns, would probably realise that the new kind of tide was a particularly low one, which could expose the ruins.

The Saxons were aware of the Eoten’s existence, because it had threatened the settlement for several hundred years.

They also believed that for some reason it was attracted to blood, because all of its previous victims had been suffering from some kind of wound before it took them.

It was suddenly alerted.

It haddetected the scent of blood in the water, from somewhere at the place where the water became more shallow, until it finally ended.

It rose from the ruins to the surface.

And moved towards the source of the scent.

Thursday 11.45 pm Saxon woman Ethelred Stewart sees them in sea

Ethelred Stewart walked along the beach and anxiously scanned the sea for any signs of the Eoten.

Shehadvolunteered to check it for two nights each week – including tonight, which was Thursday night, while other volunteers checked it on the other nights.

The system hadbeen organised by Professor Wulfgar, the leader of the Eildermen, the Saxon elders of the village, after the creature hadbeen sighted in the area.

He had warned that the exceptionally low tide which hadbeen forecast sometime in the next few days was responsible for its appearance.

He said that he possessed the complete annals of the settlement, since it was founded by the early Saxons in the 5th century, and the phenomenon was mentioned in the annals.

But for the first time in its history, it hadbeen spotted on the marsh, instead of out at sea.

Eilderman Llanmere, who was patrolling the beach a few days earlier, had walked up to the place where it merged into the marsh, and was emphatic that he had seen it ‘crabbing’ across the marsh in the moonlight, about fifty yards away.

He called it ‘crabbing,’ because it moved like a crab.

“But it was much faster than a crab” he had said.

“It could probably keep up with a man – even if he was running.”

Sheoften stumbled and fell in the soft sand but quickly recovered; at the age of thirty five shewas young and fit enough to recover from something like that.

Her long straw coloured hair hadgot into her face but shequickly put it back into place so that shecould see what was happening out at sea.

Suddenly shestopped.

About a mile away, on the marsh, and only just visible in the moonlight, was a strange shape.

She studied it intently for a few moments, trying to work out what it was, until it finally came to her.

It was a motor home!

But how didit get there?

Then she realised – it must have been driven along the causeway that led from the sand dunes across the marsh.

But it was only a few feet above it and could be flooded if there was an exceptionally high tide.

Didn’t the people who had driven it there realise that?

About a quarter of an hour later shesaw that there was something on the beach, about a hundred yards away.

It didn’t look like driftwood – like a piece of wood that had been washed in the tide.

As she drew closer she saw that it was two objects, which were piled close together and when she reached them shesaw that they were a couple of wool check patterned shirts, and two pairs of sandals.

One pair of sandals looked as if it belonged to the man because it was a pretty basic design, while the other probably belonged to a woman, because it was much smaller and had a pretty pattern on it.

Suddenly shesaw that one of the woman’s sandals hadwhat looked like blood on it.

“Oh, Eallwealda!” shemuttered, instinctively using the Saxon word for ‘God.’

Two people were swimming out there!

While the Eoten was in the area!

She stared into the darkness and tried to see the splashes which would reveal how far out at sea they were.

A few seconds later she spotted them; they were about a hundred and fifty yards from the beach, which meant that the water was only about six feet deep.

Who were they?

They weren’t Saxons, because they wouldn’t go swimming at night – or at any other time, in the presence of the Eoten.

If they weren’t Saxons who were they?

They were Angelcynn, of course–English people, but what kind of Angelcynn were they?

Were they harmless motor home travellers?

Or were they spies, that the Angelcynn had sent to spy on the settlement?

Professor Wulfgar constantly warned the Saxons to be aware of this danger, and, as he put it, to ‘take all necessary counter – measures against them.’

That’s why he had ordered road blocks to be set up on the road leading into the settlement.

What would shesay to them if they came out of the water?

Shecould hardly explain that it was too dangerous out there, because of the Eoten, they wouldn’t understand what she meant by that.

Shehesitated for a few moments – then finally decided.

Shecupped her hands around her mouth and yelled out in their direction.


But there was no response – they didn’t yell anything back at her.

Suddenly she hadan idea– one that might persuade them to get out of the water without having to explain about the Eoten.

Shegrabbed hold of their shirts and sandals and held them high up in the air in the hope that they would see them.

If they did see them they would reason that it could only be their shirts that shewas holding because there were no other clothes on the beach.

Shewaited for a few seconds until shewas convinced that they hadseen the clothes then yelled again.

“Hey! Do you want these!”

The splashing stopped–they hadstopped swimming and were treading water, shedecided.

Suddenly a man’s deep voice yelled back.

“Leave our stuff alone!”

Then the woman yelled something.


But sheignored their pleas and started to run along the beach with the clothes held high in the air.

I must have waded for about a hundred and fifty yards before it was deep enough to swim.

Rob had to wade out even further, because he was a six footer so was at least a foot taller than me.

Suddenly I heard a shout from somewhere behind me – it sounded like a woman’s voice, and quickly stopped swimming and turned around.


Someone’s on the beach!

Rob yelled a warning at her.

“Leave our stuff alone!”

“We have to go back” I said urgently.

Rob began to head back to the beach, half-wading and half-swimming, I did the same and soon caught up with him, I wanted to get out of the water fast, not just because of our missing clothes but also because the cut on my ankle was hurting like hell, the bandage must have come off in the water.

But a few seconds later I watched disbelievingly as sheran off with our clothes into the darkness and disappeared.

Who was she?

And what was shedoing on the beach at midnight?

Ethelred Stewart ran along the beach with their shirts held in her right hand for about a hundred yards then suddenly thought of something, and hesitated.

What if the two Angelcynn didn’t come out of the water?

Could she attract it to her, instead of to them?

The Eoten was attracted to blood, according to Saxon legend.

Shesuffered from eczema, but luckily the skin condition was confined to her left leg so far.

Although there was no blood the skin was raw, despite the creams that she had put on it.

Would this rawness be enough to attract the Eoten?

Could shesomehow attract it to her skin instead of to the blood of the woman in the water?

Sheglanced behind her to make sure that the man and woman weren’t following her then took off her shoes and jeans, to expose her legs.

Sheran into the sea until the water came up to the top of her legs, then splashed around in it.

It was her duty to save the Angelcynn from the Eoten.

But she prayed to Eallwealda that it would notbe attracted to her.

I splashed through the shallow water towards the beach next to Rob but pretty soon he overtook me until he was about fifty yards ahead of me.

I felt pretty vulnerable on my ownand thought about yelling out to him to slow down and let me catch up with him, but I knew that I would feel stupid if I did.

Suddenly I heard a new kind of splashing sound coming from somewhere behind me and I stopped to turn around, puzzled.

But the sea was calm, apart from the gentle waves, that hardly made any sound at all.

Then I smelled it.

A smell of decay, like rotten meat.

I stifled a scream and tried to reach the beach.

Etheldred Stewart splashed around in the water for a few more minutes until she decided that she had done as much as she could to distract the Eoten from the Angelcynn in the sea.

She got out of the water and put her clothes back on, then began to walk back along the beach towards Havensea, about a mile away.

She thought about the Angelcynn again.

How did they manage to enter Havensea?

Not by the usual route, by driving along the main road, which was the only road that led into Havensea.

Although it wasn’t exactly a main road, it was just a narrow country road – almost a lane, that was riddled with lumps and pot holes.

It was guarded by Saxons by day and by night, and they would have reported any Angelcynn incursions to the Eildermen.

And if they had tried to enter the settlement when the Saxons were holding a special celebration such as the Our Saxon Life day, they risked being killed.

Then sherealised.

They must have sneaked into it by using the only another route that was possible, an obscure farm track that led from the main road to the sand dunes, and from there to the causeway.

But how did they get find it?

By accident?

Or did they already know about it?

If that was the case, they were spies.

And they would have to die.

Rob came out of the water and looked around the beach indecisively, trying to decide out which way the thief had gone.

But the moonlight hadvanished behind a cloud and he was surrounded by darkness.

Then he saw what he was looking for.

Shoe prints, just one pair of them, so there was only one person, a woman, because it was a woman’s voice that had yelled out to them.

It looked as if she had come from the direction of Havensea, and had gone back the same way.

A few minutes later Cassie splashed ashore.

“It’s no use, we’ll never find her, let’s go home” he said to her.

I walked back along the beach towards the marsh with Rob by my side, feeling pretty vulnerable with just my bathing suit on.

It’s one thing to wear a bathing suit when you have a choice whether to wear one or not, but it’s another thing when you wear one because you don’t have any other choice.

Correction, I was limping, not walking, because of my cut.

I decided not to mention the strange splashing sound that I hadheard, and the disturbance in the water that I hadsensed.

At least not at the moment, maybe I would do it later on.

We quickly crossed the marsh and got back in the motor home.

I changed my bandage and put on some warm clothes while Rob made some hot tea to revive us.

I wondered how long the leisure battery would last, it was nearly out of charge, but I couldn’t charge it for a while, because I wasn’t planning to drive anywhere, to charge it up.

I switched on my mobile ‘phone while the water was boiling and he turned around to watch me.

“Any updates on the extremely low tide?” he asked, meaning had I visited the website that had supplied the information.

“No, there’s no internet connection.”

“You sure?”

“I swear it” I said tersely.

I couldn’t understand it.

The ‘phone wasn’t the problem, it was working perfectly before we got here – and it could connect to the internet.

I knew that because there was an internet data package on it which I used when I was travelling around, and there was no free internet access available.

“What do you think happened when we were swimming out there?” he suddenly said.

“Someone took our stuff” I shrugged.

I hesitated for a moment, unsure whether to tell him what had happened to me when I was alone in the water.

Would he laugh at me?

Finally, I decided.

“There was something… you know how when you’re swimming you move your arms and legs and you make the water splash.”

He nodded puzzledly.

“Well… at one point I sensed that something else was moving around in the water and making it splash.

“How can that be?” he said.

I closed my eyes tiredly.

“Why didthat woman on the beach yell at us in a foreign language?” I suddenly demanded.

“Maybe she’s foreign” he said dismissively.

“Are you serious? She’d yell out a warning in English, because she’d assume that we were English.”

“You know what it sounded like to me?” he said.

“No idea. What?”

“Well, you might smile at this, but…”

“You promise not to laugh…?”

“Get on with it!”

“It sounded like Old English” he finally said.

“You mean, Anglo Saxon?”

“Same thing, just another description for it.”

“That can’t be right, no-one has spoken Anglo Saxon for…” I hadto think for a while, back to my school days, and my history lessons.

Slowly, it came back to me.

Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

They were ancient tribes from… Germany? Denmark? Or both, I couldn’t remember.

They invaded England sometime in… when was it? The year 500? Or did they invade it continually, from AD 500 to AD 1100?

What else didI know about them?

Not much.

Oh yes.

They settled in East Anglia, among other places.

And that’s where Havensea is, of course.

Rob interrupted my thoughts.

“There’s a problem” he said.

“I know what shesaid– something that sounded like Eoten, but I have no idea what it means.”

“So how do you know if it’s Anglo Saxon?”

“Ah” he said mysteriously.

I sipped my tea while he explained.

I knew that he hadbeen to university, and I knew that he hadstudied Ancient British History there.

It emerged that during his studies, a visiting professor who was a leading authority on the Anglo Saxon language hadgiven a lecture.

But that wasn’t all.

This professor was so familiar with the language that he could read and speak it fluently, and he had recited the Lord’s Prayer, the centuries old Christian prayer, in Anglo Saxon, to Rob and his fellow students.

That’s why the word Eoten that the woman had yelled at us sounded familiar to him, it was because he hadheard words that sounded similar to it.

I knew what he meant.

I speak pretty good French, and I only have to hear a word that’s spoken in French to know that it’s French. I might not always understand what it means, if it’s an obscure word, but I know which language it is.

He went on to explain that the professor had been involved in some kind of incident at his university – something to do with his teaching something that was too controversial, and his contract had been terminated.

Apparently, the controversial topic was called ‘Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism,’ which meant that the Anglo Saxons were special in some way.

This angered some of the students, who claimed that it was ‘racist,’ and they had beaten him up, pretty badly.

But I was hardly listening, I was more interested in which language the woman had been speaking.

“That just leaves one question” I finally said thoughtfully.

“Why does someone living in modern East Anglia speak the ancient language of Anglo Saxon?”

In love with a plague doctor part 5

Plague doctor and San Francisco bridge with In love with a plague doctor title and heart

Finally, the plague doctor orders the coach driver to turn the coach into a long imposing drive, with a grand house at the end of it.

A lantern is flickering in a window on the top floor, but otherwise the house is in darkness.

I wonder who lives there, and the plague doctor answers my thoughts, almost as if he can read them.

“His Lordship the Duke of Earldom is one of my most important patients” he said worriedly.

“If he dies because of leech failure it will be the end of my career.”

“I will never be allowed to practise medicine again.”

“What?” I say incredulously.

“The World Wide Medical Association Of Plague Doctors will revoke my licence to practise” he explains.

Oh my God!

If he isn’t allowed to practise medicine it could be the end of my dream!

Which is marry a successful plague doctor and live in a nice home in a nice area where other successful plague doctors live.

And perhaps discuss my husband’s successful career with the wives of other successful plague doctors, over afternoon tea.

I’ve heard that there’s a very nice development of new homes on Hampden Hill.

In fact it’s so nice that the people who own homes there don’t put their body waste – urine and excreta, in a bucket and throw it out of the window.

They have to agree not to do this before they can purchase a property there, it’s something to do with maintaining property values; if people throw their body waste out of a window it can have an adverse effect on the value of the properties.

It’s high above the city, so the air is fresh and clean, unlike the plague-infected air that festers around the smelly hovels of the poor, where the plague is rampant.

Oh my God!

If I don’t marry the plague doctor I’ll also have to live there!

I won’t let that happen!

Suddenly I have an idea.

What if His Lordship the Duke of Earldom doesn’t die of leech failure?

What if he dies of something else?

That way, no-one can blame the plague doctor for his death.

Then I’ll be able to marry him and live in a nice house on Hampden Hill and never have to throw buckets of body waste out of the window!

It’s every young girl’s dream come true!

But if the Duke doesn’t die of the plague, what else can he die of?

Suddenly the coach comes to a halt and I realise that I have to think fast.

Then the solution comes to me.

There’s a hat pin pinned to my hat.

What if I can somehow stick it into his heart?

Maybe it will be mistaken for a heart attack.

There’ll just be a small puncture wound, which will hardly be visible.

But to do that I’ll have to be by his side, along with the plague doctor, when he’s trying to cure him.

Will the plague doctor allow me to be with him when he’s trying to cure him?

And if he does allow it, will he see me when I stab him?

I have to think of a way of distracting him – just for a few seconds.

Maybe I could distract him by using my feminine skills, by whispering in his ear and touching him.

But he seems to be impervious to that kind of thing.

I have to do something!

Suddenly the coach door is opened and the plague doctor is standing there.

Will he allow me to come with him when he is trying to cure the Duke Of Earldom so that I can kill him and live in a nice house on Hampden Hill which is so nice that the residents don’t have to throw their body waste out of the window?

In love with a plague doctor part 5

tIn love with a plague doctor part 4

In love with a plague doctor part 3

In love with a plague doctor part 2

In love with a plague doctor part 1

Rebel Liar free sample

A British Special Forces unit in the American civil war
with a mission to deceive both the Confederacy and the Yankees.

A free sample (about 10%) of the novel.


Google Play

by Paul Gresham

What happens when

Chapter One: ‘the same Anglo Saxon people…A Negro overseer’

Chapter Two: ‘imitating a Confederate Colonel’

Chapter Three: ‘he had reverted to his true identity’

Chapter Four: ‘custom in the South…a yellow ribbon tied around a tree’

Chapter Five: ‘I am in Yankee land – Virginia is Yankee land!’

Chapter Six: ‘probably meant the Confederate Secret Service’

Chapter Seven: ‘sympathetic to the Confederate cause’

Chapter Eight: ‘the New York Times’…’a Yankee newspaper’

Chapter Nine: ‘other Confederate agents’

Chapter Ten: ‘the Libby prison in Richmond’…‘admit that he was a Union spy’

Chapter Eleven: ‘you like Yankees?’…’you fuc-ing Yankee traitor!’

Chapter Twelve: ‘the British aristocracy to stop supporting the Confederacy’

Chapter Thirteen: ‘some nonsense about a British plan to help the Confederacy’

Chapter Fourteen: ‘lost their loved ones at the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg’

Chapter Fifteen: ‘if he really was a Confederate officer, and not a Confederate agent’

Chapter Sixteen: ‘attack…when they will most likely be sleeping’

Chapter Seventeen: ‘Confederate soldier why die for General Lee?’

Chapter Eighteen: ‘like a fuc-in’ outlaw he smiled to himself’

Chapter Nineteen: ‘slip past the Confederate brigantine’

Chapter Twenty: ‘she had not forgotten about him… she had tied a yellow ribbon’

Chapter Twenty One ‘the Negro…hoped that he was working for the Union Secret Service’

Chapter Twenty Two: ‘maybe he was a Confederate spy…a Union spy’

Chapter Twenty Three: ‘sail her to New York, or another Yankee port’

Chapter Twenty Four: ‘taken up arms against both governments…Confederate and Union’

Chapter Twenty Five: ‘Yankee sympathisers…drew certain things’

Chapter Twenty Six: ‘deeper into Confederate territory’

Chapter Twenty Seven: ‘my grand daddy burned the White House down’

Chapter Twenty Eight: ‘to avoid being seen by a Confederate warship’

Chapter  Twenty Nine: ‘the South will soon be back…in the United States’

Chapter Thirty: ‘if he was a Confederate Colonel’

Chapter Thirty One: ‘a Confederate…a patriot, but of a different kind’

Chapter Thirty Two: ‘flying the Stars and Stripes! It was a  Union ship!’

Chapter Thirty Three: ‘people…South…use the drug opium of morphine’

Chapter Thirty Four: ‘conceal the ship from any passing Yankee warships’

Chapter Thirty Five: ‘“My God, I feel uncommonly poorly” she whispered’

Chapter Thirty Six: ‘like a Confederate soldier …returning home’

Chapter Thirty Seven: ‘Yankee warship hard astern!’

The End


Chapter One: ‘the same Anglo Saxon people…A Negro overseer’

He finished his breakfast and glanced out of the window at the front of the plantation house, then looked closer at the end of the long sweeping drive.

A horseman had passed through the sturdy wooden entrance gate with the ‘Buckley House’ sign on it, and was riding at a leisurely pace towards him, probably grateful for the intermittent shade which the live oak and magnolia trees cast over him.

As he drew nearer he saw that he was wearing a grey Confederate uniform, including a grey slouch hat with the yellow tassels around the brim that signified he was a cavalry officer.

He was also armed with a pistol that was holstered in a gun belt around his waist.

While he was waiting for him to arrive he limped towards the side table and glanced at the ‘Richmond Examiner’ newspaper which was lying there.

It was dated the 10th. of July 1863, and a long article in the centre column described the battle of Gettysburg which had been fought just over a week earlier.

Apparently it was a Confederate victory, but an indecisive one for the Confederacy had suffered considerable losses, although so had the Yankees.

He felt a moment of regret.

If he had not been wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville a few months earlier he could have led his men into battle at Gettysburg and maybe helped transform it into a decisive victory.

But much could have happened since then – General Lee could have advanced and defeated General Meade’s Yankee army, he consoled himself.

However, he had no means of knowing this for the newspaper was three weeks old, he had bought it on a visit to Hampton Landing, a sea port on the Virginia coast that was about twenty miles away.

He waited for his Negro servant to open the door and announce his visitor, and wondered what business the army had with him.

He overheard a few words being exchanged and a few seconds later the Negro appeared in the doorway of the dining room.

“Somebody to see you, Mister Blunden” the Negro said.

“Show him in please, Afra.”

“Yes, Mister Blunden.”

He stood up and waited in the centre of the dining room to receive his visitor, wincing from the pain in his thigh where the Yankee musket ball had struck him at Chancellorsville.

Suddenly the visitor was standing in the doorway. holding his hat in his hand.

He was a big square jawed man who was around forty to forty five Blunden guessed – ten years older than himself, and he had a short cropped beard and the ruddy complexion of a sailor.

He reminded him of the British ships’ captains that he had sometimes seen on his trips to Hampton Landing, when their ships were tied up at the waterfront there.  

There were three gold stars on his collar, so he was a Colonel.

“Captain Blunden?” his visitor asked in a soft Virginia accent.

“Yes. And you are?”

“Honoured to meet you captain. I’m Colonel Robert Burrows of the Confederate Army Of Northern Virginia.”

He looked at Blunden appraisingly and saw that he was aged about twenty five, and was about six feet tall, with a boyish face and fair hair which was rather long.

“How’s your wound? You’re recovering well, I hope” he said.

“I have few problems riding, but walking is rather different, sir” Blunden answered.

“May I enquire about the purpose of your visit, sir?” he added.

“That will become evident in a few moments, when we can discuss it in private.”

He glanced at the open door and raised his eyebrows quizzically, so Blunden went to the door and closed it.

“Not here – outside” Burrows ordered.

“Very well.”

He ushered the other man through the entrance door and led him towards the stables, a couple of hundred yards away at the rear of the house.

“This will be fine” Burrows said, when they were standing a few feet from the stable doors.

He inclined his head towards the building.


“No, nobody’s in there” Blunden assured him.

Afra was still in the house, he presumed.

“Very well” Burrows concurred.

“This matter is so private that you are not to discuss it with anyone else. Do you give me your word on this, as an officer and a gentleman?” he said.

“Yes, sir” Blunden agreed.

“Before I continue, I’m required to show you this Letter Of Authority” Burrows said.

Blunden looked at the letter curiously and saw that it was made from heavily embossed paper with a seal, a kind of mark or stamp which was often used on  official documents, at the top of it.

“It’s the Great Seal Of The Confederate States Of America” Burrows explained.

Blunden looked at it curiously and saw that it was a circular shape which depicted General George Washington, the hero of the American Revolutionary War, and the first president of the United States, in military uniform prancing on a horse.

He was surrounded by a wreath which depicted the most important crops that were grown in the Confederacy, such as cotton, tobacco, wheat, corn, sugar cane and rice.

It also bore the motto ‘Deo Vindice,’ which meant ‘God is our Protector,’ at the bottom of it.

He read the Letter Of Authority and saw that it stated: ‘I the undersigned do hereby grant Colonel Robert Burrows, of the Confederate Army Of Northern Virginia, the right to command any person whatsoever in any matter whatsoever and without hindrance from any person whomsoever.’

‘Signed By My Hand On This Day The Fifth Of June 1863’

‘Robert E. Lee’


‘Confederate Army Of Northern Virginia’.

He looked closely at the signature and saw that it was written in an italics style, with the letters slanted forwards and with loops in some of them.


“Is this the general’s signature?” he suddenly asked.

“Of course. Why do you ask?”

“It just seems…”

“What?” Burrows said sharply.

“Well…the letter and the signature, it all seems rather… grand” he finally said.

“That’s because you aren’t accustomed to seeing Letters Of Authority which have been signed by General Lee” Burrows snapped.


Burrows raised his eyebrows.

“My apologies, Colonel, you’re quite correct” Blunden said hastily.

Burrows nodded.

“We’ve wasted enough time, we must now discuss the matter at hand” he said.

He looked around and lowered his voice.

“The General believes that Great Britain can be persuaded to help us fight our valiant Confederate cause.”

Blunden looked at him incredulously.

“Why? I mean why would the British want to do that?”

“Kinship, for one reason.”


“We are the same Anglo-Saxon people, are we not?”

“I guess so, but –”

“Captain Blunden do not, I repeat do not, constantly question your orders” Burrows said irritably.

He looked around suspiciously, then continued.

“Your wife is English, and has connections with the British parliament” he said knowledgeably.

“A very slight connection” Blunden said evasively, for he sensed that he was being manipulated.

Burrows nodded agreeably.

“Her half-brother is Lord  Calverton, an influential Member of parliament” he said.

Blunden reluctantly concurred.

Sarah had mentioned his new role as a politician in the British government  some time ago, after she had received a letter from him.

“He’s heavily in debt. Gambling debts mostly, but he’s also made some unwise investments on the London Stock Exchange” Burrows continued.

Blunden looked at him incredulously.

“How do you know all this?” he said.

“Because we have friends over there” Burrows said quietly.


“Let’s just call them sympathisers.”

Blunden looked thoughtful.

“Your wife hasn’t told you about the debts, has she?” Burrows added.

“That’s irrelevant” Blunden said angrily.

He tried to remember what else she had said when she had received the letter from her half-brother.

Then it came to him.

“He has only limited powers, he can do nothing without the consent of parliament” she had commented.

“He cannot authorise military action alone, only parliament can do that” he said.

“He can influence parliament though” Burrows said flatly.

Blunden shrugged disinterestedly.

“She is a wealthy woman, she can easily afford to pay his debts” Burrows said.

“I think she will do anything for him, because the family honour will be at stake, that kind of thing, unless he pays them” he added.

“What if I refuse to allow her to do it?” Blunden said.

“And hinder me? Have you forgotten the General’s order already? ‘Without hindrance from any person whomsoever?’”

“This is what will happen next. You will persuade your wife to travel to England” he  ordered.

“England? Why?”

“How else can she make contact with the British parliament?” Burrows said.


“No, you will accompany her.”

“My overseer. I would prefer him to travel with us.”


“Afra, the Negro who opened the door for you, he also acts as my servant.”

“Why do you want him to go with you?”

Blunden did not feel inclined to discuss the nature of the relationship between himself, his wife, and Afra, with a complete stranger.

“Because he is…loyal to us” he finally said.

“A Negro overseer – that’s unusual” Burrows said thoughtfully.

“My previous overseer, a white man, was killed at Sharpsburg last year.”

Burrows nodded soberly.

“Yes,  tell him to go with you” he said.

“I can’t, he’s a free man, I’ll have to ask him.”

“He’s free?” Burrows said surprisedly.

He was aware that Negro slaves could purchase their freedom, or be granted it, but it was unusual.

“Do whatever the hell you want with him” he finally said irritably.

He paused thoughtfully.

“No, do your best to persuade him, he might be useful, it’ll show the British that we don’t treat Negroes as badly as the Yankees say we do.” 

He could no longer contain his curiosity.

“I will not enquire why you did not employ another white overseer” he added coyly.

“You may enquire as much as you wish sir, for I will freely appraise you of the reason.”

“Please continue.”

“Very well. The plantation is hardly profitable and I cannot afford to employ a white overseer; in fact I cannot afford to employ anyone apart from Afra, which is why you did not see anyone working in the fields when you arrived.”

Burrows nodded attentively, but wondered why he had hired an overseer when there were no field hands to oversee.

He also wondered why he claimed to be suffering from financial problems, when his wife was a wealthy woman.

Surely she was willing to spend her money on the plantation. Maybe she was, but he was too proud to accept it.

“As you’re aware, the Yankee blockade has ensured that there is a relatively limited market for our cotton and tobacco crops” Blunden went on.

“However, it is not entirely effective for the British send ships to pass through the blockade and trade with us” Burrows interposed.

“True” Blunden agreed.

The blockade runners, as they were called, were fast sailing ships – although sometimes they were steam powered, that supplied luxury items, which were much in demand, to the Confederacy, in

exchange for a handsome profit.

“But why are we discussing this?” he added, puzzled.

“The fact that the British send blockade runners proves my point. They are already supporting our Confederate cause in an economic sense, so there is every reason to suppose that they will be willing to support us in a military sense, as well.”

He was not exactly being truthful, he admitted to himself.

The British government did not finance the blockade runners, they were financed by British private investors who were only interested in making a profit from the Confederacy’s financial woes, they did not necessarily support the Confederate cause.

However, he doubted if Blunden knew this.

“May I discuss this with my wife?” Blunden finally said reluctantly.

“Of course, I understand that it cannot proceed without her consent.”

He shook hands with Blunden.

“That will be all for now, captain.”

“Today is the…” he had to think for a moment, for he had little use for dates, then it came to him.

“Today is the first of August” he finally said.

“Let us agree to meet here at the forenoon in seven days time, on the seventh of August.”

He hesitated.

“There is just one further matter; do not make enquiries about me and do not enquire about my position in the Confederacy, or you will jeopardise the…‘undertaking,’ let us call it.”

“Furthermore,  do not speak about this matter to anyone else, except your wife, of course.”

“You may simply tell the Negro that you have to travel to England.”

“And he may accompany you if he wishes” he added distastefully.

“That will suffice for him” he finished.

Blunden watched thoughtfully as Colonel Burrows rode along the drive towards the gate and disappeared from view.

Burrows was apparently unaware of the fact that his wife was not an ardent supporter of the Confederate cause.

In fact she was opposed to the South’s secession from the North, and was not afraid to make her views known.

He turned away from the window and sat down in a soft cushioned chair, for his leg was becoming painful again.

There was something unusual about Burrow’s accent; it was a Virginia accent but sometimes it almost sounded like a British accent.

However that wasn’t important.

The Letter Of Authority from General Lee was more important.

Was it genuine?

Afra left the back of the house and walked across to the stable, a couple of hundred yards away.

It was a small low building with sun bleached clap board walls, a shingle roof and a strong double door at one end that was secured by a sturdy bolt.

The drawing room where Mister Blunden and the officer were talking was at  the front of the house so they couldn’t see him.

It was better if he kept out of their way, so that nobody could say that he was listening to whatever they were talking about. 

He unbolted the stable doors and opened them, they swung shut when he was in the stable because the hinges were loose.

He went towards the stalls where the two mares were kept, each in their own stall, then forked fresh hay into their hay racks and picked up a couple of buckets so that he could take them to the well and fill them up with fresh drinking water.

They should be outside in this weather, maybe Mister Blunden would tell him to exercise them later.

While he was forking the hay he thought about the officer who had called on the Blundens.

Where had he come from?

He couldn’t have stayed with a bunch of other soldiers in the area because there were no other soldiers around – he was sure of it.

As far as he knew the nearest soldiers were further up north, where the fighting was.

Maybe he had come from Richmond, because that was where the Confederate headquarters were, everybody knew that.

No, he couldn’t have come from there because it was a hundred miles away; it would take four or five days to ride that kind of distance.

Unless he had come from Richmond and had stayed at some places on the way, maybe at a few plantations.

His horse, a gelding, hadn’t been ridden very far, he could tell that by looking at it – it was too fresh.

So where had he come from?

He thought about it.

If somebody asked him – not that they would, he would say that the gelding had been ridden for about fifteen miles, maybe less.

What was there that was around fifteen miles away?

There were no more plantations, the nearest plantation was fifty miles away.

The only places that he could think of were a couple of farms, both in the direction of Hampton Landing. One was about five miles away and the other was about ten miles away, but that was abandoned so he couldn’t have come from there.

Suddenly he heard voices outside; one was Mister Blunden’s and the other was the officer’s, he guessed, although he had only heard him speak a couple of times when he had showed him into the house.

He tried to decide whether to make a noise to let them know that he was in the stables or whether to just keep quiet.

But it was too late because they had already started talking.

He started to move towards the stable doors so that he could hear them more clearly, there were plenty of gaps between the doors and the wall.

But he suddenly changed his mind – if they saw something moving in the gap they would know that he was in there.

He moved towards the wall instead where there were no gaps and pressed an ear against the wood.

“This will be fine” he overheard the Confederate officer say.

“Unless?” he added.

“No, nobody’s in there” he overheard Mister Blunden say.

He kept very quiet and listened to their conversation.

She put the paint brush down in the brush tray of the easel and looked critically at the water colour picture of  the house that she was painting.

She had not quite captured the afternoon sun on one of the columns, she decided, the light was softer than she had interpreted it.

She had rather optimistically given the picture a title, which was ‘Sun On A Plantation Home.’

‘Optimistically’ because it implied that she was finally satisfied with it and was ready to show it to her friends in Richmond, or perhaps even display it in one of the art galleries there.

Although it would be a long and arduous journey to achieve that, for Richmond was over a hundred miles distant, and several days ride away.

At the foot of it she had signed it with her name, ‘Sarah Blunden,’ in small copperplate handwriting.

Below this she had written ‘Buckley House Plantation, Hampton Landing, Virginia, 1st. of July, 1863.’

Edmund would like it of course, but he knew nothing of art, he would like it because he thought that this would please her.

He had once suggested that she should paint a self portrait but she had said that it would probably be too self flattering.

“It would not be so if it captured your beauty” he had said gallantly.

“You are a true Southern gentleman, Edmund, however perhaps your compliment should be paid to someone who is younger than I” she had replied.

At the age of thirty two she was beginning to be sensitive about her age, especially as she was seven years older than he was.

A few mornings ago when she was sitting at her dressing table she thought that she had seen a strand of grey hair among her normally fair hair.

But she could not find it in the brush when she had brushed her hair so perhaps she was mistaken.

In any case, she was not beautiful.

Her features were pleasing, certainly, she had no doubt about that, she had no false sense of modesty about it, but she was not a beauty.

She glanced around the garden and suddenly through a gap in the trees  saw someone riding towards the house.

It was a man, a middle aged man with a cropped beard who  was wearing a grey Confederate uniform.

He was an officer – a Colonel, judging by the three stars on his collar.

She was tempted to abandon her picture and go to the house to discover who it was, but decided to make one more attempt to capture the light on the column before the sun moved around the building.

No doubt Edmund would enlighten her when she returned indoors. 

She mixed some more paint in the palate and tried to capture the light again.

As she lightly brushed the picture she thought about the officer’s visit.

Perhaps it was something to do with Edmund’s wound, although she could not imagine why a senior officer such as a Colonel would visit him about that.

In fact they hardly received any visitors, for their home was fifty miles away from the nearest other plantation.

When they lived in Petersburg, and later Richmond, they had hosted  many social gatherings.

But now with so many young men fighting in the war their social life – and the social life of the entire South she supposed, had been disrupted.

In truth she did not miss the social gatherings that much  for they had become what could only be described as celebrations of  anticipation for the impending war.

She loved Virginia and the South but in recent years it had changed, it had become poisoned by hatred – by hatred of the ‘Yankees’ as some in the South

called those that lived in the North.

One of the plantation owners – they were usually called ‘planters,’ had even held a celebratory party with fireworks and champagne when the ‘Confederacy,’ as it described itself, had fired on the ‘Yankee’ government fort of Fort Sumter.

The planter was quite drunk and had said something about ‘teaching the Yankee scoundrels a lesson they wouldn’t forget.’

He had raised his glass to her and invited her to drink what he called ‘a toast to victory’ but she had declined.

“You are mistaken, sir, the ‘Yankees,’ as you call them, are not scoundrels, they merely do not wish to divide the nation” she had said coldly.

However, her husband was an officer of the Confederacy and it was her duty to be loyal to him, which meant that it was her duty to be loyal to the Confederacy.

She put the paint brush down and pursed her lips disdainfully.

She would do her best to be a good Confederate.

She would try to hate the Yankees.

She glanced at the picture again – and blinked with disbelief.

The sun was no longer shining on her home, it was grey and sombre as if a cloud was passing over it.

But when she looked up at the sky there were no clouds, it was a clear sunny day, as it had been a moment ago.

She felt a moment of unease, almost a superstitious dread.

Was it a portent of the future?

No, she decided, she had imagined it.

Blunden walked thoughtfully around the garden, partly to exercise his injured leg and partly to think about the visit by Colonel Burrows.

He carefully avoided the area around the magnolia tree where his wife was painting for she disliked being disturbed when she was engrossed in her art.

Several things were puzzling him.

He had not dared ask Burrows where he had set out from in order to visit him because he would probably regard it as impertinence.

Even so, it was rather puzzling.

Perhaps he had travelled from Hampton Landing, the nearest town, and a sea port, but it was twenty miles away and he did not seem to have travelled that far, his appearance was pretty fresh and his horse was only slightly jaded.

He paused to look at the rose garden and noticed that the leaves were wilting in the summer heat; the bushes required watering, he would mention it to Afra.

The notion of neglect, of something being abandoned and uncared for, made him think about the plantation.

Who would care for it while they were absent, if they complied with Colonel Burrow’s order?

They could hardly ask another planter to do it.

In more certain times other planters might offer to buy it, but these were uncertain times and the market for plantations was probably depressed.

In any case there would not be enough time to sell it because Colonel Burrows would be calling on them in a weeks time, on the seventh of August, when he would be expecting them to decide whether to take part in the ‘undertaking,’ as he called it.

Even if there was enough time, a prospective purchaser would invariably ask awkward questions, such as “Why are you selling?” and “Where are  you going?” etc.

They could hardly explain that they were selling because they planning to travel to England to try to persuade the British to help the Confederacy.

In any case, Colonel Burrows had made it clear that they were not to discuss the undertaking with anyone else.

He walked along the drive to the entrance gate, a few hundred yards away and paused in the shade of a live oak tree.

But the effort of walking had cost him dearly, his leg began to throb with pain.

Would he have to resign his commission in order to take part in the undertaking?

Burrows had not mentioned that possibility.

If so how would his fellow officers and men react?

Would they suspect that he was a coward who was deserting them because he was afraid of being killed, or because he had lost faith in the Confederate cause?

No, surely not, he had often proved his courage in battle, and his faith in the cause. 

He would be absent from his duties for quite a while, regardless of the consequences, so Burrows must have a considerable amount of power if he was able to withdraw an officer from his duties.

Unless General Lee had approved it.

If so, maybe he had been wrong to be suspicious of the Letter Of Authority which had apparently been signed by him.

Then there was Sarah – how would she react?

She loved Virginia but was openly opposed to secession, so much so that word of her opposition had reached his commanding officer.

He had made his disapproval known when he had visited him as he was lying in the makeshift field surgery tent after he had been wounded at Chancellorsville.

He had first expressed his sympathy, then changed the subject.

“Captain Blunden, I expect my officers to have the correct attitude towards the war” he had said.

“This means that I expect them to have complete commitment to our Confederate cause.”

Blunden had nodded weakly.

“However, they cannot have the correct attitude if they are married to someone who does not have the correct attitude.”

“You must speak to your wife, and order her to abandon her rebellious attitude.”

Blunden looked away thoughtfully.

‘Her rebellious attitude.’

Was that so terrible?

Surely the Revolutionaries who had fought for independence during the Revolutionary War also had a ‘rebellious attitude.’

“She is English, is she not?” the officer said accusingly as if that was sufficient evidence of her disloyalty.

“Yes” Blunden concurred.

“Her father was a Virginian and his father fought the British during the Revolution” he added wearily.

“I’m aware of that.”

Blunden found new strength and looked at him defiantly.

Did his English wife who had a rebellious attitude prevent him from leading a cavalry charge during a raid against the Yankee Army Of The Potomac the year before?

Of course not.

Did her rebellious attitude prevent him from slashing the throat of the Yankee sergeant who had tried to kill him at the battle of Chancersville a few months ago?

Of course not.

“Speak to her about it,” his commanding officer had ordered.

But of course he had not done so, for she was entitled to her opinion, however misguided it was.

In any case she was not alone, there were others in the South who were also misguidedly opposed to secession, and were willing to surrender to Yankee oppression.

Finally his thoughts turned to Afra, their overseer.

Maybe he would refuse to go with them to England, maybe he would prefer to seek other employment rather than embark on the uncertain and possibly dangerous ‘undertaking’ which Colonel Burrows had proposed.

Or maybe he would agree to the undertaking and promptly join the Yankee army when they reached the North.

However, that could be dangerous too, because he had heard that Negroes in their army sometimes fought on the battle field, although they were usually only given menial tasks.

Apparently Negroes sometimes fought for the Confederacy too, although he had not personally encountered any Negro Confederate soldiers.

But Afra was a free man so he was different to the slaves that had escaped from the South and had joined the Yankee army.

Maybe he would decide that he had no reason to fight for the Yankees.

Why should he? To gain his freedom?

No, he was already free.

He did not consider the possibility that the Negroes who had joined the Yankee army had done so not because they thought that it would help them, but because they supported the Yankee Union.

He thought a little more about Afra’s sense of loyalty.

Why did he stay with them at the plantation?

Was it because he was loyal to them?

Or was it only because they provided regular employment for him?

Or rather which Sarah provided for him, for it was the regular remittances which she received from England that paid his wages.

In truth he relied on the remittances too, for he had no funds of his own and his captain’s pay was not sufficient to maintain a plantation, especially in these difficult times.

Suddenly he thought of something.

If Afra came with them he would probably need the document which proved that he was a free man, or he could be in trouble.

He had given it to them for safe keeping and it was stored in the…what was it called – the cabin trunk which Sarah had brought with her from England, along with their own personal documents.

He had shown it to them before they agreed to store it for him, and as he recalled it stated that ‘Afra Hunter a free man of color aged twenty one who was heretofore registered in the’ etc., he couldn’t remember the rest.

But he did remember that it had been issued by the ‘Clerk of the Hustings Court in The City Of Petersburg, Virginia,’ sometime during the year before, in 1862, and that it had the red seal of the state of Virginia at the bottom left hand corner of it.

He had not asked him how he had acquired his freedom, but he remembered thinking that it was unusual for a Negro who was so young to be free.

In any case, even if he had asked him he would probably not be given a truthful answer.

But he could not blame him for that.

He would speak to him later, after he had spoken to his wife.

He walked back along the drive to the house, sometimes pausing to rest his leg and sometimes to admire the live oak trees that were on each side of it.

He went through the front entrance door and walked into the drawing room where there were some comfortable chairs to rest his leg on.

He found that she was seated at the roll top desk under the window, writing a letter.

“Edmund” she murmured without looking up.


“We’ve had a visitor” she said matter of factly.

“Yes, a Colonel Burrows” he said.

“Oh? Was it a social visit, or was it about your return to duty? If it was the latter I hope that you advised him that you’re barely fit enough to walk.”

“Colonels don’t pay social visits to captains, and soldiers don’t walk – they march.”

“Don’t be pedantic. In any case at the moment no-one is doing any…marching, as you put it, thank goodness.”

“According to the ‘Examiner,’ following the battle of Gettysburg, General Lee with his Army of Northern Virginia, and General Meade with his Army Of the Potomac, are encamped on the opposite banks of the Rappahannock River” she added.

“Hopefully, that is where they will remain, and there will be no further unnecessary bloodshed” she finished.

Blunden looked away, it was impossible to reason with her on the subject of the war.

In fact, General Lee wasn’t sitting around doing nothing, as she implied.

He was consolidating his army in readiness to successfully attack the Yankees again, and lead the South to victory.

He was convinced of it.

“However, what was the purpose of his visit?” she asked.

“Sarah, would you like to see a speedy conclusion to the war?”

“Of course. The sooner this madness is over the better.”

“Surely you mean the sooner the Confederacy achieves victory the better.”

“If you say so.”

“Yes, I say so” he said angrily.

“Would you prefer to be ruled by the Yankees?” he went on, still angry.

“Would that be so terrible, compared with the terrible cost  of this war?” she said.

“Yes it would, and I would rather you kept your opinions to yourself.”

He began to pace up and down.

“The Yankees are an alien creed, they have nothing in common with the South” he said passionately.

“Did the British not fight the French in their war against Napoleon so that they would not be ruled by an alien creed?” he added.

She was not surprised by his knowledge of Britain’s war against the French emperor Bonaparte Napoleon, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803 to 1815, because he had several books about military history in the study.

“That was a nation at war against another nation, not a nation at war against itself ” she countered.

She turned to face him.

“My dear grandfather would…what is the common expression? He would turn in his grave if he could see what is happening to his beloved country.”

“Shut up!”

“I will not shut up!” she said defiantly.

“Do you think that he fought the British – and I am British of course, so that father could fight father, and brother could fight brother, in a futile war that will destroy the South and will leave a festering wound between North and South that will linger for generations?” she said, her voice rising.

He turned away uneasily.

“Sarah, I have something to tell you” he said after a few moments.

She put the pen down and turned around to face him.

“Very well.”

“Colonel Burrows has approached me with a proposition.”

“How’s your brother – your half-brother, I should say?” he suddenly added.

“William? He’s quite well, I believe” she said calmly.

Was she reluctant to mention his debts because she had a sense of loyalty to him? he wondered.

“Sarah, Colonel Burrows has proposed that we do something to further our Confederate cause.”

“Really? What is it?”

He described the ‘undertaking’ which Burrows had put to him, mentioning her half-brother but omitting his supposed financial problems.

“Do you believe that Great Britain will help?” she said bluntly.

“I don’t know” he admitted.

“This Colonel Burrows – what do we actually know about him?” she suddenly said.

“Nothing,” he admitted. “His orders were that we should not enquire into his background.”

“Really? How convenient.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true.”

“No matter, I have a friend in Richmond who is familiar with the Confederate higher command, perhaps she is acquainted with him, perhaps I should visit her.”

“I would rather you didn’t” he said quickly.

“I dare say you would. However that is irrelevant, for unlike you I am not subservient to any orders from General Lee.”

“Unfortunately, you are.”

He repeated Burrow’s warning that no-one including his wife and overseer should speak to anyone else about the order.

“Nonsense!” she scoffed, throwing the pen down on the floor and turning to face him angrily.

 “Let us consider the matter dispassionately” she said.

“Someone in Confederate uniform, who may or may not even be a Confederate soldier, let alone a Confederate Colonel, gives you an order which may or may not be genuine,  and you jump to attention.”

They looked at each other in an angry silence for a minute.

“My friend in Richmond is very discreet, I assure you” she said softly. 

“Your friends are chatter boxes, they are incapable of being discreet.”

“That’s not entirely true, Edmund.”

“It would assure us of his bona fides” she added thoughtfully.

He looked at her uncomprehendingly.

“It’s Latin, it means his credentials – it will assure us that he is genuine.”

“No! I absolutely forbid it!”

“You aren’t in a position to forbid anything Edmund, you would be penniless without my money.”

“Please, Sarah, I beg you.”

“It makes perfect sense to investigate his background. Why are you so opposed to it?”

“Can’t you see?”

She looked enquiringly at him.

“Because a Confederate officer does not question his orders, whatever he might think of them” he said tiredly.

Afra waited until he was pretty sure that Mister Blunden and the officer had finished talking, then casually strolled out of the stable.

The yard was deserted, they must have gone.

He started to walk towards the barn, that was about fifty yards away, planning to get some gardening tools out and tidy up the garden.

But suddenly a voice called out from behind him.

He turned around and saw that it was Mister Blunden.

Where did he come from? Had he been watching the stable?  Did he know that he had been hiding there?

“Afra,” he said calmly.

“Mister Blunden,” Afra answered equally calmly.

They looked at each other for a moment without speaking.

“Quite soon we – Mrs. Blunden and myself, might have to leave Buckley House” Blunden finally said.

“Mind if I ask where you goin,’ and what you’re fixin’ to do, Mister Blunden?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Afra looked away thoughtfully, and Blunden decided that he deserved a better explanation.

“This journey, I don’t think that you’d approve of it” he said hesitantly.

“You could give me a chance not to approve of it, Mister Blunden.”

He was correct but…

“If you were aware of its purpose I doubt if you would wish to accompany us.”

“Some folks say that maybe England can help the South win the war” Afra suddenly said.

Blunden searched his face. 

Where had he heard that?

Was he hiding in the stables when Colonel Burrows was talking to him? Had he overheard their conversation?

Probably, he decided, but there was nothing he could do about it.

“Yes, I have heard that too” Blunden said casually.

“Maybe the North will win the war” Afra suddenly said.

Blunden stiffened with anger.

“I doubt that very much” he said harshly.

“What would happen if the North did win the war, even though you doubt it very much?”

“You’re being insolent!” Blunden said angrily.

“Just curious, Mister Blunden.”

Blunden became calmer.

“Nobody knows what would happen, in that unlikely event. But if you’re concerned about your future I surmise that the North would view Negroes very favourably.”

“How would the North treat you, Mister Blunden?”

“Probably not so favourably” he said evenly.

He had long ago decided what would happen if the Yankees won the war.

They would want their revenge, and they would be particularly vengeful towards plantation owners, whether they were slave owners or not.

Afra looked thoughtful.

“You’re a free man, it’s your choice, what do you want to do?” Blunden said.

But before he could answer he decided to tell him some more.

“If you came with us on this journey you would have to go to England” he said.

Afra looked surprised.

“What would I do there?” he said.

Blunden had to think for a moment, for he had never been to England.

“Mrs. Blunden has sometimes mentioned the Negroes that are in London, and this is how she described them” he began to explain.

“In London the Negro is employed by certain gentlemen as a ‘companion,’ which is a kind of friend.”

Afra looked puzzled.

“Why? Don’t these gentleman have any friends of their own?” he asked curiously.

Blunden laughed.

“Yes, they have plenty of friends, but if they have a Negro companion it makes them more interesting to their friends” he said.

“So I’d have to be interesting” Afra said soberly.

“No, you would just have to be a Negro, that would be interesting enough for them.”

Afra nodded understandingly.

“Maybe I could sing a song or dance for them” he suddenly offered.

“I don’t think that will be necessary” Blunden said irritably.

“Go on, Mister Blunden” Afra urged him.

“They share their gentleman’s house, they are present when he is entertaining his friends and associates at his home, and they accompany him in his carriage whenever he ventures abroad on the streets of the city.”

He tried to think of the word that Sarah had used when she had been describing them.

Then it came to him.

“They are regarded as a ‘novelty’” he said.

“Are these Negroes happy, bein’ treated like a…novelty Mister Blunden?”

“I don’t know” Blunden admitted.

There was a short silence.

“I’ll think about this, Mister Blunden” Afra said.

Blunden nodded and walked back to the house, and Afra watched him for a few seconds.

“Would you be happy, bein’ treated like a novelty, Mister Blunden?” he muttered.


Google Play

The Pic

A free sample (about 10%) of the novel.

Google Play

Negative strip ande black and white font used in book cover for novel about Press photography.


Paul Gresham

Former Special Forces soldier Luke Cutler must use all his powers of cunning and deception if he is to successfully complete this mission.


1 Glen worries how his readers will react to pic

2 Glen plans to get rid of Luke after he has taken pic

3 Jade schemes to stop pic

4 Luke decides to take pic, unaware that Jade hates the idea

5 Alan Jones denies dogging a problem in Havensea

6 Luke decides to scout possible dogging area so can take pic

7 Alan Jones concerned that dead holidaymaker will result in negative publicity for Havensea

8 Girl advises Luke of a possible place to take pic

9 Jade resentful towards Glen about pic

10 Jade warns father about pic

11 Glen hires extra photographer to take pic

12 Andy avoids mentioning nature of pic to wife

13 Alan Jones warns Glen not to publish pic

14 Jade tries to persuade Luke not to take pic

15 Jade urges father to stop pic being taken

16 Jade tries to persuade Luke not to take pic

17 Alan tries to attract the ‘American’ market to Havensea

18 Homeless people ask about dogging

19 Andy practises by taking pic of woman in bikini

20 Andy’s kids ask awkward questions about pic

21 Alan tries to campaign against pic

22 Homeless people at ‘Doggers Welcome’ hotel

23 Alan has problems with dog poo

24 Glen criticises Jade’s ability as journalist

25 Jade investigates missing person

26 Alan decides to stop Andy from taking pic

27 Luke gets ready to meet Mad Axe Demon

28 Alan’s new ‘American’ friend angry with him

29 Luke meets Mad Axe Demon

30 Alan’s latest scheme to stop pic

31 Alan tries to have Luke killed

32 Luke with sexy but treacherous Cindy

33 Cindy finds dead body in marsh

34 Leo falls into tidal creek on marsh

35 Cindy plans to dump metal detector

36 Leo hopes tide will lift him out of tidal creek

37 Luke sees Cindy in car with metal detector

38 Cindy tries to dump metal detector in creek

39 Alan hoping Leo has killed Luke

40 Leo escapes from creek but trapped on marsh

41 Cindy thinks she sees something moving on the marsh – could it be Leo?

42 Leo crawls across marsh

43 Luke has idea how to fake pic

44 Cheryl recalls shooting tragedy on marsh

45 Alan protests about doggers

46 Luke assaults Andy at wedding photography photoshoot

47 Cheryl wonders if she can make Luke lose his job

48 Alan in secret service mode

49 Luke gets ready to shoot fake pic

50 Luke and Zanna interrupted by bird watcher

51 Andy goes to marsh to take pic

52 Zanna tries to make sex dolls look like doggers

53 Andy decides to cross marsh

54 Glen gets tip off about doggers

55 Luke and Zanna trapped on Buck Island

56 Andy trapped by tide on marsh

57 Glen advises Luke that doggers are meeting near marsh

58 Glen buys newspaper tip off about doggers

59 Jade and boyfriend drive to marsh

60 Ship’s water tank washed overboard

61 Andy tries to grab hold of ship’s water tank

62 Tide disturbs body on marsh

63 Jade hears about Luke’s sexy romp  in gondola

64 Andy grabs hold of ship’s water tank

65 Dogger tries to pick up Jade outside pub

66 Luke and Zanna watch doggers arrive

67 Jade drives to marsh

68 Luke and Zanna see Jade intercepted by doggers

69 Cheryl searches for Andy alone at night

70 Andy trapped by tide on marsh

71 Cheryl accosted by crazy clown

72 Luke and Zanna plan to use sex dolls to escape across marsh

73 Cheryl trapped in sand dunes by homeless man

74 Luke and Zanna try to paddle on sex dolls across flooded marsh

75 Andy plans to paddle across flooded marsh on ship’s water tank

76 Cheryl trapped in sand hills by homeless man

77 Glen concerned about circulation figures at meeting with group editor

78 Alan mentions dead body found in marsh

79 Zanna comforts sea-battered sex dolls

80 Cindy risks betrayal

81 Jade and Luke after pic

1 Glen worries how his readers will react to pic

Glen Bowman, the editor of the ‘Hailer’ local newspaper, looked across the editorial office and tried to decide whether to brief his freelance photographer to take a pic of the doggers – the people who were having group sex at the local nature reserve.
It would dramatically improve the terrible circulation figures – people would buy a copy of the newspaper just to look at the picture.
At least in theory.
In reality it might completely alienate the Hailer’s readership, so much so that they would never buy a copy of it again.

Havensea was a small, family-oriented seaside town and the ‘dogging pic’ as it might be described would hit it like a tidal wave.
He glanced at the circulation figures on his computer screen and looked across the office again, this time more appraisingly.
Jade, his junior reporter, was looking at her computer screen and Luke Cutler, his freelance photographer, was doing the pics diary.
Each Monday morning he called at the office to copy the list of pictures that he had to take for the Hailer from the office pics diary into his own pics diary, which he always carried around with him so that he could check the time, date and place of every picture that he had to take.
Another problem was, could Cutler actually take the dogging pic? Was he capable of it?
When he’d applied for the job he’d said that he had been a photographer in the army and had served in Afghanistan. He had an excellent portfolio of photographs, including some that had been taken in action.
If anyone could take it, he could, he supposed.
It would be quite a challenge for him, though, he would have to find out exactly where and when the doggers met at the nature reserve, hide somewhere nearby and take a snatch shot of them, so that they didn’t realise that he was taking it.  
What if they caught him?
The Hailer mustn’t be involved, not officially anyway.
If they asked him why he was taking the pic he would have to say that he was working for himself rather than for the Hailer.
What about Jade?
How would she react?
It would be quite a shock for her – it would probably shock her as much as it would shock the readers.
She had grown up in Havensea and was proud of the resort, she might not like the idea of it being exposed as a dogging venue.
He could never understand why a pretty blonde eighteen year old girl should be so loyal to a place that was essentially decrepit. It was popular with families but not the kind of families that had any money to spend.
No, it was better if she didn’t know about it.
He got up and went over to the window, hardly noticing the holidaymakers who were strolling along the street on their way to the beach.
He looked at his reflection, instead.
At fifty five he was probably too old and too old fashioned to be manipulating the circulation figures by publishing a photograph of people having sex, even though it wouldn’t be explicit and would only hint at it.

But he would have to do it if he wanted to keep his job.
He would have to do it quite quickly, too, he had a meeting with the group editor on the 27th. of June, which was only about three weeks away.

He would almost certainly complain about the low circulation figures, and he might even hint that it  was time for him to take early retirement.
Finally he turned around to face his freelance photographer.

“Luke, could I have a word with you please?”

Luke copied the pics from the pics diary into his own diary and looked at the next pic. ‘Wednesday, 6pm, Scout hall, pic of Mayor presenting Scouts with new gas barbecue.’
It was a non event, like most of the  events   that happened in Havensea, but on the other hand there was one thing he liked about the place.
Nobody was trying to kill him.
He could walk around it at any time of the day or night and be pretty sure that he wouldn’t have to suddenly throw himself to the ground with the safety off and the weapon aimed because somebody was shooting at him from a compound or an irrigation ditch.
From a Taliban fighter with the crossed swords of the holy warrior tattooed on the back of his hand to a small town mayor with a hamburger in his hand.
It was bizarre – probably too bizarre for somebody like Glen.

That’s why he had decided not to tell him that he had been in the special forces – that’s why he had told him that he had just been an army photographer instead.
He looked up from the diary and wondered where Jade was.

She was probably in the side room where the previous editions of the Hailer were stored, he decided – she must be because she hadn’t gone out of the office.
Suddenly he sensed that Glen was looking at him.

Glen turned around from the window and looked around the office, feeling slightly guilty that he had been away from his desk for so long.
Luke was still updating the pics diary but it looked as if Jade had gone out.
Good, this wasn’t for her ears.
“Luke, could I have a word with you, please?”
Luke stopped writing and looked across the room at him. It must be pretty important, he didn’t usually speak to him when he was doing the pics diary – or at any other time.
He got up and went his desk.
Glen cleared his throat, it looked as if was embarrassed about something.
“We’ve had a tip off that there’s been some dogging activity at the nature reserve, and I want a photograph of it” he said.
Luke nodded calmly, he would try to work out why he wanted a pic like that later.
“Okay” he said.
Glen looked at the papers on his desk for a few seconds, considering Cutler’s reaction. Any other ‘snapper’ – photographer, would have expressed surprise – shock maybe, would have asked how he was supposed to do it.
But Cutler was different for some reason.
“I don’t want their faces to be in the photograph, and they must be at least partly dressed, for obvious reasons.”
Luke nodded again but was planning ahead. He would have to take it from a hiding place close nearby, or as a long range shot with a zoom lens if there was nowhere to hide.
“Also, I don’t want you to say anything about this to anyone else. And I don’t want the photograph to be associated with the Hailer. When you take it, you aren’t taking it for us, you’re taking it for yourself.”
“I understand.”

In other words, if anything went wrong he would get the blame, not Glen.
“That’s it then.”

“Oh, and I need it in less than three days’ time, before the deadline for next weeks’ ‘paper” he casually added.
“One last thing. Anyone else includes Jade, don’t talk to her about it.”
“I understand.”
He had a pretty good idea why she wasn’t supposed to know about it – it was because it would hurt Havensea, and she loved the place.

Even so, Glen could have trusted her. It was pretty bad when an editor felt that he couldn’t trust his junior reporter to keep a secret.
He went back to his desk and looked at the pics diary again.
Glen hadn’t seen Jade go into the side room, he guessed.
Jade looked through the previous copies of the Hailer in the side room, searching for an article about the Brownies’ latest fund raising campaign.
They had completed a charity walk along the beach from Havensea to Pebble Point, which was about two miles further up the beach. They had taken their teddy bears with them and had had a teddy bears’ picnic there.

She thought that it would be rather nice if the teddy bears could say something about how much they had enjoyed the picnic after their long walk.
Obviously the Brownies would have to speak for them, and she would have to persuade them to do it, but persuading people to talk was part of being a journalist.

She wondered when she would be promoted from writing about teddy bears’ picnics to writing more important stories.
She was eighteen now and had two years experience as a junior reporter, surely it was time that she was given a chance to write the really important stories, such as the new one-way traffic system story for example.
Suddenly she heard Glen ask Luke if he could have a word with him.

That was unusual because he hardly ever spoke to him when he was doing the pics diary, in fact he hardly ever spoke to him at all.
She wondered if she should cough or make a noise to let Glen know that she was in the side room, but she was too late.

“We’ve had a tip off that there’s been some dogging activity at the nature reserve, and I want a photograph of it” he said.

She listened with shock as he discussed the picture with Luke – but it was his last sentence that shocked her the most. 

“One last thing. Anyone else includes Jade, don’t talk to her about it” he said.

She turned the pages over mechanically, the stories hardly registering with her.
A story about dogging?
In the Hailer?

Has Glen lost his mind?
She found the story about the Brownies’ charity walk and looked at the innocent young faces holding their teddy bears up to prove that they had completed the walk with them.
This was Havensea – nice people doing nice things.

Dogging wasn’t Havensea, dogging was about people doing horrible things, things that would hurt Havensea.
Why wasn’t she supposed to know about the pic?
Didn’t Glen trust her?
No, he didn’t.
That hurt.
Suddenly she decided.
She would do everything she could to stop Luke from taking the picture of the doggers.

2 Glen plans to get rid of Luke after he has taken pic

Glen glanced up as Jade came back into the office and sat down at her desk. She had probably been in the reception office downstairs, listening to someone who had a story for them, he decided.

Cutler must have left, he had been too absorbed in the story on his computer screen to realise that he had gone.
He looked at the circulation figures again, and thought about the meeting with the group editor.
What the group editor didn’t realise, or refused to accept, was that the Hailer now had a competitor.
Several competitors, in fact. 

They weren’t other newspapers, they were web sites, or rather social media pages, all run by so-called citizen journalists and all purporting to report the local news.
There was nearly as much news on these pages as there was in the Hailer.
Well, it wasn’t exactly news – much of it was uncorroborated rumour and speculation, and sometimes malicious libel.

But even so it had an immediacy which the Hailer couldn’t match. 
By the time the Hailer had sifted the facts from the rumour, speculation and malicious libel, and was ready to run the story it was old news – no-one was interested.
He doubted if the Hailer would exist in five years’ time – and then he would be out of a job.
However, he had to keep it for the next five years and the only way of doing that was to do something about the circulation figures.
Or rather, persuade the group editor that he was doing something about them.
He went back to the window again.

Suddenly he had an idea.

What if he didn’t use the dogging photograph in the Hailer?

What if he just showed it to the group editor and told him that he was so desperate to improve the circulation figures that he had considered doing something as bizarre as that?
It would be quite a gamble – the group editor might question his editorial judgement, in fact he might decide that it was time he took early retirement.

That would rather defeat the object of the exercise, of course.
However, it was a calculated risk that he would have to take.
Obviously, he wouldn’t tell Cutler that he had changed his mind – that he didn’t intend to use the photograph, or he wouldn’t try very hard to take it.
He tapped his desk thoughtfully.
It would reflect rather badly on him if it ever emerged that he had ordered a photograph of people having sex outdoors.
Cutler would be the only witness to this.
It might be a good idea to get rid of him when he had taken the photograph.

Wipe the somewhat tainted slate clean. 

3 Jade schemes to stop pic

Jade sat on a park bench during her lunch break and thoughtfully nibbled a cheese and tomato sandwich – then tried to decide how to prevent Luke from taking the pic of the doggers.
She would have to discover how he was planning to take it first, she realised.
Firstly he would have to find out where and when exactly the doggers were holding their meetings at the nature reserve.

It was quite a large area of about five square miles, he couldn’t just walk around the place all day hoping to be in the right place at the right time.
What if she sent him an anonymous tip off telling him where and when they were meeting, and he turned up and wasted his time?

If she did it often enough he would soon become discouraged, and might tell Glen that it was impossible to take the pic.
Suddenly she had another idea.

The doggers had to use their cars to get to their meetings, maybe she could sneak up on them and let the air out of their tyres.
It would be pretty risky, though. If they caught her they would…well she didn’t know what they would do to her.
In fact she had no idea what kind of people the doggers were, she admitted to herself.

Finally she had the idea of persuading Luke to take her with him when he was taking the pic – yelling out to warn the doggers that he was hiding nearby.

A bit like a hunt saboteur, she smiled to herself.

He wouldn’t be very pleased, she imagined, he might even become violent towards her, if he was a violent kind of person.
Was he?
She didn’t know.
In fact she didn’t really know him at all, she realised. All she knew about him was that he was single, twenty four, his hair was a bit too long, he dressed a bit too casually and he had been in the army.
She tried to think of another idea and looked around the park at the bandstand, the children’s play area and the duck pond for inspiration.
Then it came to her.

Suddenly she knew what to do.

4 Luke decides to take pic, unaware that Jade hates the idea

Luke came out of the Hailer offices and walked into Haven avenue, Havensea’s main street, weaving past the sauntering holidaymakers with their kids in pushchairs and dodging the faster moving senior citizens on their mobility scooters.
Most of the holidaymakers were heading to the beach, he guessed – quite a few of the kids had buckets and spades in their hands.
He stepped around a dog that was taking a shit on the pavement and thought for a minute.
Why did Glen want a picture of the doggers?
The Hailer was a small town family-friendly newspaper, not a tabloid, and the only thing he could think of was, it was something to do with the circulation figures – it was a way of trying to improve them.

It still didn’t make sense.
It wouldn’t improve them, it would make them worse, it would alienate the readers.

They didn’t buy the Hailer to read about dogging – they bought it to read the local news.

He smiled to himself. Really, dogging was the local news – but it wasn’t the kind of local news that they wanted to read about.

Another thing.
Glen hadn’t mentioned how much he was going to pay him for taking the pic.
He had given him three days to take it, but was he planning to pay him for spending all that time on it? And if so, how much?
It could take three days just to find out where and when the doggers were meeting at the nature reserve.
The usual fee for a pic was £15.00 plus travel expenses. He could often take one in five minutes so effectively he was being paid £15.00 for five minutes’ work.
What if he refused to take the pic? What if he told Glen that it wasn’t worth it?
He would probably fire him and get another photographer to do it.
He had a pretty good job, did he really want to risk losing it?
He didn’t have a choice.
He would do everything he could to take the dogging pic.

5 Alan Jones denies dogging a problem in Havensea

Luke got out of bed and had a shower and shave, put a pair of shorts on and looked out of the front window of his flat.

It was wide open, it had been another hot and humid night, too hot to even sleep under a bed sheet, and the heatwave was forecast to last for at least another couple of weeks.
He looked down into the street below as a teenage girl with a baby in a pushchair came out of one of the Victorian houses and pushed it towards the Promenade, about three hundred yards away.

She probably lived in a flat or a bedsit, he guessed, the big Victorian houses had been converted into flats and bedsits long ago.

He glanced at the wheelie bins that had been pushed onto the pavement and realised that it was Tuesday, rubbish collection day.

His gaze drifted towards the Promenade. It was a wide road that was lined with bars, pubs, amusement arcades and fast food places on one side, and the Pleasure Gardens, the Happy Days amusement park, the Boating Lake and the Model Village on the other side.

It was already pretty busy with holidaymakers although it was only – he checked his watch – just after 9 am.

Suddenly he realised that he would have to shoot from about 300 yards away if he had to take a long range shot of the doggers.

He took the zoom lens out of his spare camera backpack, took the protective caps off it, mounted it on his camera and aimed it at the Promenade.
He was looking for some people to shoot, as substitutes for the doggers.

The people on the Promenade were about the same distance away as the doggers would probably be, when he took the pic, he guessed.

Suddenly he saw that a man and a woman had stopped outside the Happy Days amusement park and were pushing each other and arguing about something.

They didn’t look like holidaymakers, though, they looked like homeless people.

They were poorly dressed and had a couple of battered suitcases with what looked like sleeping bags tied on top of them, and were probably aged about twenty five to thirty.

Maybe they had been evicted from their flat for non- payment of rent, it happened all the time.

He focussed the camera on them and took six shots of them in rapid succession, using the camera’s continuous shooting mode.
Suddenly somebody that he recognised came into the camera viewfinder.

It was Alan Jones, a local Councillor, although with his tan-coloured suit, floral tie and straw hat he didn’t look like a Councillor, he looked more like a character in a film which was set in the tropics.
He had met him a few times at various events, he was a kind of ambassador for Havensea, he liked to walk around the place and help the holiday-makers.
He was probably about fifty and always seemed to be smiling, it was his ‘Welcome To Havensea’ smile, he guessed.

He stopped and smiled at the couple when he saw them arguing, but they didn’t smile back at him – they scowled at him instead.
Alan Jones decided to try to help the two young people that he had seen arguing with each other.

They were probably looking for something to do, that’s probably why they were arguing, there were so many exciting attractions in Havensea that it could be difficult to decide which one to choose.
“Is everything all right?” he said to them.
They turned around and looked at him – then the young man took a step towards him.
“You what?” he said.
“Is everything all right? Can I help you with anything?” “There’s plenty to see and do, you know” he added.
“Like what?” the young man growled.

Jones indicated the nearby  ‘Static Owls Display,’ a group of owls which were secured on perches and were having their photographs taken with the holidaymakers.

The display had been put on by the ‘Blink Of An Owl’ wildlife charity, a rather clever play on words, he felt, and it had proved to be very popular with the holiday-makers, there were several pushchairs and mobility scooters parked nearby.
“The static owls, for example” he said.
“He’s a fuckin’ nutter” the woman said.
The young man moved closer to him.
“Are you taking the piss?” he said threateningly.
“Don’t hit him, Jez” the woman warned.
Jones smiled nervously at him.

“The young lady’s quite right, don’t hit me” he pleaded.
“Why not? I like hitting people” Jez grinned.
Suddenly she pushed herself between them.
“So who the fuck are you?” she said to Jones.

He flinched momentarily at the use of a profanity by a young lady but decided to answer the question.
“Councillor Alan Jones, of the Havensea town council, and chairman of the council’s publicity committee.”

He paused portentously for a few seconds, then added “twice re-elected.”
She looked away disgustedly but the young man wasn’t listening, he seemed to be deep in thought.
“Come to think about it, there is one thing you can help us with” he suddenly said.
“Oh? What’s that?”
“You know everything there is to know about this place, right?”
“I like to think that I’m reasonably well-informed about our warm, welcoming, family friendly seaside resort with its golden sands and – ”
“Okay, what do you know about dogging?” the man interrupted.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Dogging, people shagging each other outdoors, it’s a big thing around here, from what I’ve heard.”
Jones was momentarily embarrassed, but quickly recovered his composure.
“I think you’ve been misinformed” he said, trying to remain calm.

He had heard the rumours about the so-called doggers, too, and was dismayed by them.
“You sure about that?” Jez said.
“I assure you -”
“Where’s this nature reserve?” Jez suddenly demanded.
“I really don’t think you’d want to go there” Jones said anxiously.
“Why not?”
Jones smiled nervously.
“You don’t want us to go there, do you?” Jez growled.
“Why on earth not?”
“‘Cause that’s where the doggers meet, innit?”

6 Luke decides to scout possible dogging area so can take pic

Luke was relieved when he saw that Jones had escaped unharmed; he had a pretty rose-tinted view of the kind of people that visited Havensea, but it wasn’t always justified. 

He started to make a cup of coffee in the kitchen and while he was waiting for it to brew he thought about the picture of the doggers, or the dogging pic as he guessed it could be called.
He decided to start by taking a good look at the nature reserve to try to identify any likely places where they would meet.

It could be that they had left a few traces; used condoms maybe – assuming that they used condoms.
He had all day to do it, there was nothing in the pics diary until 8 pm when he had to take a pic at a charity fashion show, followed by pics of a darts presentation at 10 pm.
The nature reserve was only a couple of miles away and in theory he could drive there, but there was a problem with that.
It was popular with walkers and bird watchers, who were sometimes called ‘twitchers,’ and a lot of them knew him, or at least they knew his face.

Like all local press photographers he was something of a well-known local figure.
If he drove there and parked his car in the nature reserve car park – there was nowhere else to park it – somebody might recognise him and ask him what he was doing there.
The dogging pic was supposed to be a secret so it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell them the truth – that he was twitching an entirely new species that had been attracted to the nature reserve.
There was another route to the nature reserve but it was across the marsh, a wide expanse of mud flats and tidal creeks that flooded when the tide came in.
He had never been there but Jade had told him about it when they were talking about somebody who had gone missing on it a few months’ ago.
She had said that it was never really safe to go on the marsh because the mud could still be soft and treacherous even when the tide had gone out.
He shrugged to himself.
He would just have to take a chance on it.

7 Alan Jones concerned that dead holidaymaker will result in negative publicity for Havensea

Alan Jones stepped outside ‘Wayne’s Seaside Rock, Candy Floss and News Store’ on Haven avenue and waited for a family with a couple of young children and a baby in a pushchair to pass by.
But suddenly they stopped and looked around, as if they were lost.

Holidaymakers, he guessed – the kind that didn’t have much money to spend.

The man was wearing track suit bottoms that had a hole in them and the woman was wearing shorts that looked as if they could do with a wash.
But at least they were a family, at least they were respectable – unlike the doggers.
“We’re not going to the beach that way, it cost me enough money in the amusement arcades last time” he said to her.
“Well, I don’t know what we’re going to do then, it’s the only way of getting there” she said.
Jones decided to introduce himself.

“May I help you? I’m Councillor Alan Jones, of the Havensea town council, chairman of the council’s publicity committee…twice re-elected.”
They looked at him suspiciously for a few seconds then the man decided to say something.
“We want to get to the beach without passing the amusement arcades, they cost a fortune when you’ve got kids” he said.
“There is another way there, but it’s quite a walk ” Jones said.
“How much of a walk?” the woman said truculently.
“It’s about a quarter of a mile. You go to the Promenade, turn right, go past the putting green and the boating lake and you’ll see a road on your left going through the sand dunes. There are no amusement arcades there, I assure you” he smiled.
As they walked off he suddenly thought of something.

“Watch the marshes – the beach turns to marshes after a while” he called out to them.
The man turned around.

“Just keep to the sandy part of the beach and you’ll be fine.”
He had behaved appropriately by warning them about the marshes, he decided, even if it had meant portraying Havensea in a slightly unfavourable light.
It would be a tremendous blow to the resort if a family of holidaymakers were drowned in the treacherous mud; the resulting negative publicity would be most unwelcome.
He wouldn’t advise anyone to go on the marshes.

8 Girl advises Luke of a possible place to take pic

Luke walked along Haven avenue, glancing at the gift shops, fast food places, amusement arcades and seaside rock places.
He looked like a holiday maker in his shorts and T shirt, he guessed, but they didn’t usually carry camera backpacks over their shoulders.
He had decided to pack an extra lens – a 10 mm to 24 mm wide angle lens. It would be useful for capturing any likely hiding places and the approach routes to them, in a single shot.

Sure, he could take pics of the hiding places and the approach routes separately, but this was the best way of doing it, it avoided any confusion over which approach route led to which hiding place.

He didn’t want to be stumbling around unfamiliar approach routes in the dark, if he had to take the pic at night.

pic reconnaissance, paparazzi style, he smiled to himself.

He had also checked the tide tables and had found that it would be low tide at 10.17 am, which was in about an hour.

It would probably take him about half an hour to reach the marsh, he guessed.

Jade had explained how to reach it when she was talking about the guy who had gone missing on it – the missing person, they called him.
It was easy to find it, she had said, in fact he could remember her exact words.
‘Turn right at the end of the Promenade, walk past the putting green and boating lake and you’ll see a sandy lane on your left.’
‘That leads to the beach. Turn right when you get to the beach and the marsh is about a mile further along, you’ll know that you’ve reached it because the sand turns to mud.’

He stopped for a minute to look at some holiday-makers who were having their photos. taken from behind a life-size model of a buxom lady in a bathing costume on the beach.
There was a hole where her face should have been and they were sticking their heads through it so that it looked as if they were her.
pic manipulation, seaside style, he smiled to himself. Crude but effective. From a distance and in bad lighting they could be made to look like the buxom lady.
Suddenly something caught his eye.
It was a poster in a shop window – and it was about the missing person.
He stopped and glanced at it, then looked inside the window. It wasn’t a shop, he realised, it was a hairdressing salon, called ‘Crazy Cuts.’
Didn’t he know a girl who worked there?
Kind of, he had met her in the Laughing Sailor pub one Saturday night.
She had been celebrating her 18th. birthday with her friends and had said something to him. They had got talking and cracking jokes and she had finished up kissing him.
He took a closer look at the poster. It looked like a newspaper story, it had a headline, sub headings, and in the centre, a pic.
The headline was ‘Missing Person’ and the pic was of a man who was aged thirty nine who was balding and wearing specs.
He was called Derek Fletcher and he had last been seen heading towards the marshes carrying a metal detector, apparently.
So he was a treasure hunter – he used his metal detector to scan the ground for buried treasure.

What buried treasure was there in Havensea?

Some early Anglo-Saxon amusement ride tokens?

Something didn’t make sense.
Why did he go metal detecting on the marshes?

Didn’t treasure hunters usually go metal detecting on the beach?
He was just about to turn away when a face appeared in the window and he saw that was the girl that he had met in the Sailor.

She smiled at him so he smiled back at her and tried to remember her name. Was it Kerry or Kelly?
She disappeared from view and a few seconds later was standing by his side.
She was quite pretty with a slim petite figure and short cropped blonde hair.
He smiled at her and she lightly touched his arm.
“Hello Luke.”
Kelly, he decided – her name was Kelly.
“Hello Kelly, how’s it going?”
“Kerry, actually. Not bad – waiting for you to take me out.”

 “So, what’s it like being eighteen?” he said, ducking the question.
“Great, I can do what I want now.”
“Didn’t you before?”
“Now, now” she giggled primly. “So when are you going to take me out?”
“Saturday night, I thought we’d go bird watching at the nature reserve, just the two of us – and the birds, of course.”
“Oh yeah, it wouldn’t be the same without them.”

She looked at the camera backpack. “What’s the rucksack for?”
“Just some beach stuff, got the day off. Listen Kerry, If you wanted to be alone with your boyfriend -”
“I haven’t got a boyfriend” she said quickly, “I’m waiting for you to take me out.”
“Listen, if you wanted to be alone with your boyfriend on the nature reserve, where exactly would you go with him?” he persisted,
“There’s nowhere you can go, if you’re in a car. There’s only the car park. Oh, there’s Buck island, but I wouldn’t go there.”
“Buck island?”
“It’s just some sand hills, across the marsh.”
“Why wouldn’t you go there?”
“It’s too risky, you get cut off when the tide comes in.”
“You mean, you and your boyfriend would have to spend the night together?” he smiled.
“Yeah and I don’t want to spend the night with him because he’s boring, that’s why I want you to take me out.”

Suddenly he closed his eyes and pretended to snore.
“What’s up?” she said.
“You’re boring me.”
“Fuck off” she laughed.
Suddenly a middle aged woman tapped on the window and gestured her to go back into the salon. Her boss, he guessed.
She reached into the top pocket of her white hairdressing coat and pulled out a ‘Crazy Cuts’ business card.
“Give me a ring sometime, my mobile number’s on the back.”
The voice came from somewhere behind him and when he turned around he saw that it was Alan Jones, looking out of place as usual among the holidaymakers in his tan suit, brightly coloured tie and straw hat.
“Where are you off to?” he said cheerfully but inquisitively, looking at Luke’s backpack.
“Just having a day on the beach, Councillor Jones.”
“- Alan, please” Jones corrected him with a smile.
“Going to take some photos?” he added.
“I might.”
“Excellent, we could use some good publicity photos.”
Bad publicity – that’s what we don’t want” he added.

“You’re right, Alan, the last thing we want is bad publicity” Luke said sincerely.

He wondered how he would react if he knew about the dogging pic.


Google Play

Mind the gap!

London underground train system sign 'Mind the gap' sign used in article about formatting an e-book

Mind the gap!

Naturally, I’m referring to the gap between the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new chapter, in an e-book, if you’re writing a novel and are planning to format it in the epub format, and self-publish it.

I’m not referring to the famous sign on the London underground (tube) train system.

Some writers (and readers) don’t mind the gap – don’t object to it, they’re quite happy to finish the end of a chapter and be confronted by a half-blank or almost blank page which they have to scroll through until they reach the beginning of the next chapter.

As a writer, I was one of those people, until it began to irritate me, and I looked for a solution to the problem.

So how did I overcome the problem, and how can other writers do the same?

Let’s start at the beginning, with word processors.

I use several word processors, I’ve found that some are good for some things but not so good for other things; more about that in another post.

But whichever one I use, I almost always export the completed word processor file into Calibre, a free open source e-pub reader and html editor.

But first, I always save these files in the docx format, because I know that Calibre can open files in this format; it can open other formats but I don’t bother with them.

I then use Calibre to convert the docx files to the e-pub format, which isn’t too difficult to do, just click on the convert button and select which format you want to convert it to, e-pub or PDF.

When it’s finished converting I view it, using Calibre’s viewer button.

So far so good.

Except for the gaps.

If you’ve got this far, you’re doing fine, because some people find Calibre too challenging, and have to pay someone to format their novels into e-pubs.

You’re at least halfway to the stage where you can avoid this expense.

In the next post I’ll explain how to solve the problem, and don’t worry, it isn’t as challenging and technical as it might seem.

In love with a plague doctor part 4

Plague doctor and San Francisco bridge with In love with a plague doctor title and heart
In love with a plague doctor story cover

As the coach rattles and bumps along the rutted road towards the emergency case my body is accidentally thrown against the plague doctor’s body.

I glance at his mask to see if he has reacted in any way but he just stares straight ahead.

Finally, I sum up the courage to ask a question.

“What kind of emergency is it, doctor?”

“Leech failure” he says tersely.

“Oh my God!” I exclaim, although I have no idea what it means.

Does he mean that a leech has become unwell?

How can an unwell leech possibly be an emergency?

He seems to read my thoughts.

“The leech has failed in its duty to cure the patient” he explains soberly.

“In what way?” I ask.

“That need not concern you” he says haughtily.

“The science of leech failure is a matter only for those who are learned in medicine, such as myself.”

“Fortunately, however, I have an emergency supply in my bag” he adds confidently.

An emergency supply?

Of what?

Then I understand.

Leeches, of course!

I stare at him puzzledly.

When I packed his bag he didn’t say anything about including an emergency supply of leeches.

“You did remember to place them in the bag, didn’t you?” he says slyly.

I look at him blankly.


Suddenly it becomes clear.

Oh my God!

He’s sprung a trap on me!

He knows that he didn’t tell me to pack the leeches, and he’s trying to make it seem as if it’s my fault.

“Let’s turn back” I urge him.

“No, it’s too late” he says bitterly.

“We’ll have to treat the patient without leeches.”

“Won’t that be risky?” I venture.

Very risky.”


I’m not only in love with a plague doctor!

I’m in love with a plague doctor who isn’t afraid to be a pioneer in the field of medicine!

In love with a plague doctor part 5

In love with a plague doctor part 3

In love with a plague doctor part 2

In love with a plague doctor part 1

In love with a plague doctor part 4

Nice or nasty Anglo Saxons?

In my novel ‘Our Saxon Life’ I portray the Anglo Saxons as ‘brutal,’ but isn’t that being rather unfair to this ancient civilisation?

Surely all ancient civilisations were brutal.

The ancient Incas sacrificed children to their gods. And of course they in turn were brutally enslaved by the Spanish conquistadors, who conquered much of what is now South America.

The ancient civilisation of the Romans effectively brutalised their slaves, by forcing them to take part in gladiator contests. At least, according to the movie ‘Ben Hur.’

Finally, the ancient Egyptians brutally forced their slaves to build their pyramids.

Yet as far as I can gather, the Anglo Saxons didn’t do any of these things.

They were quite nice, really.

Or were they?

According to some historians they might have been guilty of what we would now describe as ‘ethnic cleansing.’

This usually means exterminating the population of one civilisation and replacing it with the population of another civilisation.

According to these historians, they exterminated much of the original population of the British Isles, the parts which they conquered, and replaced it with their Anglo Saxon population.

In the novel, the Saxons buried the Angelcynn (their word for the English) that they had killed, in a place which they called the Endelîf Eard, meaning End Of Life Earth, or cemetery.

Nearby is a village which is entirely populated by modern-day Anglo Saxons.

What if the ghosts of the Angelcynn that their ancestors had killed were still angry with them?

Would it really be a good idea to build a new Anglo Saxon settlement at the Endelîf Eard?

Professor Wulfgar, one of the main characters in the novel, thinks so.

But strange things happen when he tries to build it.

People get hurt.

How to avoid ruin with Anglo Saxons runes

Saxon rune

You know how it is, you want to use some Anglo Saxon runes but don’t know how to do it.
A common problem…
According to runer, oops, rumour, the original Anglo Saxons created their runes by using a hammer and chisel.
Or something very similar, it might have been a rock and another rock, except the second rock was a bit sharper than the first rock.
However, technology has moved on since then, and we no longer have to use a couple of rocks to create runes.
We now have drawing, or paint, software.
Using this, we don’t have to use a couple of rocks to create runes.
I spent quite a while trying to work out how I could use a couple of rocks to create runes on my computer, but every attempt failed.
Yes, you guessed correctly – the computer was runed – oops, ruined.Let’s be sensible.
Anglo Saxon runes consist entirely of straight lines.
There are no curves, loops, or bends, so obviously ‘special characters’ such as the @ or % symbol for example are out of the question.
Well, the @ special character is, but with a little dexterity the % might be do-able, because there’s a straight line in it.
I wanted some runes that meant ‘death,’ for a novel that I was writing,* and after a little research I found the ones that I wanted.
I could have just copied them – copied the original ones, but they might have been copyrighted material, so I created my own.
Here’s the best way of doing it, in drawing or paint software.
But first, make sure that the software has a ‘grid’ option.
This just means that it has a series of lines that run from top to bottom and from side to side.
You can switch the grid option on or off, the lines can’t be seen when you’ve finished, they’ll be invisible in the finished product, even if you inadvertently leave the grid option on.
Start the first line of the first rune on a fixed point on the grid, on the left hand side.
This fixed point might be 1500 pixels, for example.
This first line of the first rune might be a vertical line.
Place your cursor on the top of this vertical line, and draw another straight line, at an angle (45 degrees is ideal.)
Finish this line about halfway down from the top of the first line.
Keep hold of the cursor and draw another line upwards at a 45 degree angle.
Finish this line on the same small square as the top of the original vertical line.
Keep hold of the curse and draw a vertical line.
Finish this line on the same grid (small square) as the bottom of the first line.
If all went well, you have now created a Saxon rune, like the one above, which is an authentic one, i.e it was originally used by the Anglo Saxons. Use the same system for any other runes which you might want to create.

*For my Anglo Saxon horror story, ‘Our Saxon Life.’

Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism

We sometimes hear about ‘American Exceptionalism,’ but what about ‘Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism?’
And what does the word ‘exceptionalism’ mean in this context?
In very simple terms, exceptionalism means ‘exceptionally competent.’
For example, perhaps America can be said to be exceptionally competent in the field of invention.
Is there such a thing as Anglo Saxon exceptionalism?
Were the Anglo Saxons exceptionally competent?
Yes, they were – at least according to the main character in my current work in progress, which I’ve nearly finished writing, and has the working title of ‘Anglo Saxon horror story.’
He is so convinced of this that he creates an Anglo Saxon society, in an isolated village in East Anglia, England, which is also the main region where the Anglo Saxons arrived.
However, is it acceptable in this age of political correctness to claim that a certain race is exceptional?
How would his students react if he dared to teach ‘Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism’ at the university where he teaches?
Would they accept that it’s free speech, the discussion of all kinds of ideas, including some which may not be acceptable? After all, surely the purpose of universities is to disseminate ideas.
Or would they react in a hostile way?
Or even in hostile violent way?
As in the following, which I’m considering writing:
‘The angry students attacked him with insults and blows.
“Fascist scum!”

Anglo Saxon horror story prequel

Anglo Saxon runes
Anglo Saxon runes

This is a possible prequel to my current WIP (work in progress) which has the working title ‘Anglo Saxon horror story.’

I’ve written the novel, which is 75000 words long, and am currently editing it.

However, it’s a modern horror story which is of course set in the modern age, not in the Anglo Saxon age.

This means that there is no historical content, there are no scenes or sub plots that are set in that age.

This made me wonder whether I should write a prequel to the story which does contain some historical content.

It might or might not be a good idea to do this; if someone reads a horror story they expect to read horror fiction, not historical fiction.

On the other hand if I decide not to use it as a prequel maybe I can use it as a short story, novella or even a full length novel.

One other thing.

It occurs to me that the Anglo Saxons were pioneers, that they suffered the similar hardships as for example the pioneers of early America, or early Australia, New Zealand or Canada.

On second thoughts maybe they suffered greater hardships than these pioneers.

They rowed, not sailed, across hundred of miles of what is now called the North Sea, in open boats, with no shelter from the elements.

One absolutely last thing.

I wonder what it was like for the women and children in these conditions; maybe I’ll try to capture some of these harships in the next episode.

Anyway, here it is.

Wulfgar adjusted his fur robe and waded through the waves which broke along the shores of East Anglia, England, with his sword in one hand and his battle axe in the other hand.

Beyond the breaking waves lay the Saxon longboat which had conveyed him and his people across the North Sea from their homeland, in Saxony.

It was packed with heavily armed Saxon warriors who had rested on their oars and were waiting for his order to land on the shore.

But there were also a few women and children among them, and even some livestock – six chickens and three pigs, lying trussed up in the belly of the boat, together with some primitive farming tools.

Like their chieftain, the warriors warily studied the sand dunes beyond the shore, in case the foreigners, the ‘Angelcynn,’ their word for the English, were lying in wait, ready to ambush them.

He turned around and looked at them appraisingly.

Were they sufficiently fit to fight a battle?

They were cold, wet and exhausted after rowing the long boat across the Great Northern Sea from their homeland, and some were sick from the constant motion of the boat.

Yet it was impossible to turn the boat around and return to their homeland now, they lacked the strength to row any further, and they did not have sufficient food and water for the long voyage.

They had no choice.

They would either defeat the people of this hostile land or they would die in the attempt.

Finally, he decided.

He shouted out a command to the warriors in the boat and after hesitating for a few seconds they reluctantly agreed.

He turned around and waded through the waves until he was standing on the shore. But he could not properly stand upright for a while.

His body was accustomed to the constant motion of the long boat and it had to accustom itself to the lack of motion of the land.

His warriors would have the same problem, when they landed on the shore, he realised, they would also be unsteady on their feet for a while.

If they were unsteady on their feet they would not be able to defend themselves against an attack by the ‘Angelcynn.’

He had not considered that possibility until now, he admitted to himself.

He could order some of them to come ashore with him, so that they could also accustom themselves to the lack of motion of the land.

Then they would be able to defend themselves against an attack by the ‘Angelcynn.’

But if they were killed there would not be sufficient warriors to row the long boat further out to sea, where they would be safe, at least for a while, until the ‘Angelcynn’ launched their boats.

There was only one thing to do.

He would go into the sand dunes alone.

If he was killed it would at least give the rest of his people a chance to escape.

He was now becoming accustomed to the lack of motion of the land, he realised.

He whispered a prayer to his god and began to walk towards the sand dunes with his sword and battle axe held high in his hands.

How to use an ancient language in a novel part 2

Anglo Saxon runes
Anglo Saxon runes

This is part two of a series called ‘How to use an ancient language in a novel.’ and it includes a practical example of how I’ve sometimes used the ancient language of ‘Old English’ in a novel that I’m writing.

It’s a horror story which is set in a coastal village in modern East Anglia, England, where the inhabitant are entirely descended from Saxon settlers.

Saxons were a Germanic tribe that came from what is now known as Germany, centuries ago.

They spoke a language which eventually became Anglo Saxon, or Old English. 

They are proud of their Saxon heritage.

In fact they are fanatical about it, they are so fanatical that in order to defend it they are willing to kill anyone who is not of pure Saxon heritage.

This means that they are willing to kill just about everyone else in England, because hardly anyone else is of pure Saxon heritage, most are of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

If you’re of Anglo Saxon heritage, relax, you’re safe, it’s only fiction.

So how do you use the ancient language of Old English in a modern novel?

This is how I’ve done it.

I’ve discovered that the Old English word for God is ‘Eallwealda,’ and that the Old English word for monster is ‘Eoten.’

They might not be entirely accurate; a scholar of Old English might decide that it’s slightly inaccurate.

But it’s reasonably accurate.

This is how I’ve introduced the concept of someone using an ancient language.

‘He sometimes used words from the ancient language of his forebears – the language of Old English.’

This is how I’ve used this concept in practice.

‘The men dare not take their boats out to sea to fish lest the monster which they call the ’Eoten’ seizes them.’

Here’s another example of how to introduce the concept and use it in practice.

This time, a young Saxon girl uses two words which are in Old English.

‘She placed her hands together and looked up towards the sky, which was hidden by the sea mist.’

‘“Eallwealda!” she pleaded, using the Old English word for ‘ruler of all.’

“Save me from the Eoten!”’

You might also enjoy:

How to use an ancient language in a novel part one

How to use an ancient language in a novel

This series of articles explains how to use an ancient language when writing a novel in modern English.

Anglo Saxon runes
Anglo Saxon runes

Why would any writer want to do this?

Why not just write the entire novel in modern English?

Here’s why.

Maybe you want to write about a character who is so proud of his/her heritage that he sometimes uses ancient words from that heritage.

If you live in the United States, you could have a Native American character, or an African American character, who is so proud of his heritage that he sometimes uses ancient words from that heritage.

If you live in Canada, you could have a character who is so proud of his Native Canadian heritage that he sometimes uses ancient words from that heritage.

If you live in Australia you could have a character who is so proud of his Aboriginal heritage that he sometimes uses ancient words from that heritage.

If you live in New Zealand you could have a character who is so proud of his Maori heritage that he sometimes uses ancient words from that heritage.

What other reasons are there for doing this?

It’s fine for these characters to feel proud of their heritages, but there has to be another reason for doing it.

You want to get something out of it, too!

After all, you’ve spent a certain amount of time to research these ancient languages, which is time that you could have spent writing.

Okay, here’s another reason.

I believe that it makes your characters more credible, more authentic, if you sometimes use words from the language of their heritage.

In the next article I’ll explain how I have sometimes used words from an ancient language to make a character more credible and authentic.

You might also enjoy:

How to use an ancient language in a novel part two

A free spy

In my novel ‘Rebel Liar,’ a novel of British spying during the American civil war, one of the characters wonders how Afra, another character, who is a freed Negro slave, managed to acquire his freedom.

There wasn’t sufficient space in the novel to explore this in any depth, so I’m starting to explore it now, by writing a few flash fiction stories about him here on my website.

First, some background.

Slaves were usually freed only by paying a fee to their masters or by performing a valuable service for them.

It probably cost less for older slaves to purchase their freedom because they were nearing their end of their useful lives.

Or, if they performed a service, it was probably less valuable to their masters.

But Afra is young and fit, and intelligent, so presumably he had to perform quite an important service to gain his freedom.

This other character is a British ships’ captain, who is looking at Afra’s Certificate Of Discharge, a document which proves that he is a free man.

As he muses, when he is trying to decide what kind of service it was:  ‘it must have been a considerable service…’ (for his master to grant him his freedom)

What kind of service could Afra perform, to gain his freedom?

As the theme of the novel is British spying during the American civil war, maybe he could perform some kind of service that relates to spying during the American civil war.

Maybe as a spy.

Who would he spy for? The British? The Union? The Confederacy?

Let’s see what happens.

You can take a look at ‘Rebel Liar’ here at Amazon Kindle


Or here at Kobo Books





In love with a plague doctor part 3

My eager lips move towards the plague doctor’s beak and for a moment I hope that I might kiss him.

Is it my imagination or does it open slightly?

Does this mean that he’s also becoming passionate?

But my moment of love and tenderness, the moment that I’ve been waiting for all my life, the moment when I will fall in love with a plague doctor, and he will fall in love with me, is not to be.

Suddenly the door bursts open and someone is standing there.

It’s Hanson, his coach driver.

“Doctor – an emergency!” he yells.

“Oh my God!

A plague doctor emergency!

I’m not only in love with a plague doctor – I’m in love with a plague doctor who treats emergencies!

Does this mean that I might marry him, and as the wife of a respectable and respected plague doctor, enjoy a nice comfortable middle class lifestyle, in a nice suburb?

A nice suburb where other professional doctors live?

Neurologists, people like that?

Will I chat with their wives at parties while the plague doctor discusses  matters of a serious medical nature with his fellow professionals in the field of advanced medicine?

The plague doctor interrupts my day dreams.

“I must leave you” he says tersely.

“I have a patient to attend!”

I’m distraught at the thought of being alone without him.

In love with a plague doctor part 5

In love with a plague doctor part 4

In love with a plague doctor part 3

In love with a plague doctor part 2

In love with a plague doctor part 1

How to avoid writing about a ‘banned’ topic

Here’s one way of ethically avoiding mentioning the corona virus if you’re writing a novel.

‘Ethically’ means not being sneaky, not filtering it into the story in the hope that no-one will notice.

Why would you even want to avoid mentioning it?

Because apparently at least one publishing platform is frowning on the practice, and depending on whose opinion you believe, is even banning any mention of it.

Again apparently, a leading search engine has taken the same attitude.

The reason for all this is, there is too much fake news and even fake cures about it being peddled on the internet.

I have to admit, I mentioned it in a novel that I’m writing, before I heard about the ‘embargo’ on it.

But luckily it wasn’t the main theme of the novel.

I just needed the main character to be isolated, so naturally the pandemic, and ‘lock down,’ sprang to mind.

But it was pretty easy to edit it out of the story, I created an accident which left her isolated in her home.

Apart from the ‘embargo’ on mentioning the pandemic, it might make sense to avoid mentioning it for a practical reason.

It might be too topical.

Who knows, hopefully in a year or so it will all be over.

This might mean that any mention of it will seem dated, and irrelevant.

What kind of accidents could you create to convey isolation, without mentioning it?

Or without mentioning any other kind of global and national disaster?

This is how I did it.

I created a scenario in which the main character slipped and cut her leg on a sharp farm tool.

This meant that she couldn’t walk or drive to escape from her isolated home.

Not over-exciting maybe, but at least it’s durable, at least it will never date, become old fashioned.

People will be having accidents like this long after this current crisis has ended.

One last thought.

Maybe it’s too hurtful to write about the coronavirus pandemic, because so many people have been affected by it, have lost their loved ones.

Why cause hurt, when you don’t have to do?


When it isn’t okay to say okay

Writing Plague Doctor Three (and Plague Doctor Two) created a few problems.
Linguistic and cultural problems.
Rylee, the main character, is lured back in time from modern San Francisco to 17th. century London.
So far so good, could happen to anyone…
The linguistic problem is, she is from San Francisco so she uses modern American expressions.
But the plague doctor who lures her to 17th. century London uses 17th. century English expressions.
The other 17th. century English characters do the same.
One of these problems is the use of the modern American expression ‘okay.’
This wasn’t in use in 17th. century England so it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a modern American character use it.
Unless you’re a pretty terrible writer who has no idea about  linguistic and cultural differences.
To solve the problem I decided to have Rylee use it and have the 17th. century English characters question it.
The following hopefully explains what I mean.
It’s from a scene in ‘Plague Doctor Three,’ but the problem also occurs in ‘Plague Doctor Two.’
I’ve managed to solve it in both stories.
‘She (a 17th. century English character) looked at me suspiciously.
“I’m sure – okay?” I added, to re-assure her.
They laughed when they heard that expression.
“What does okay mean?” the youngest one demanded.’
Rylee then explains what it means.
I’ll explain how I solved the problem of cultural differences between modern San Francisco and 17th. century London in a later article.

In love with a plague doctor part 2

I look across the desk at the plague doctor in his study and he gazes back at me through the mask with the bird’s beak that covers his face.

I desperately want him to love me but he doesn’t seem to be interested.

“I have no need for love, I already have someone” he says dismissively

“Oh” I say disappointedly.

“May I ask her name?”

“You may, but it will achieve nothing, for she does not have a name.”

“Would you like to meet her?” he suddenly says.

I look around the study but no-one is there.

He goes to a clay jar with a tightly stoppered cork lid and opens it, then puts his hand inside it.

He is holding something between his fingers but I can’t see what it is.

“This is the only one that I love” he says tenderly.

He holds it close to his face and smiles.

Then I see it.

It’s black and slimy and looks like a slug.

But it isn’t a slug.

It’s a leech – they suck the blood from humans, plague doctors tried to cure their patients with them during the Great Plague of London in the 17th century.

“I love her more than I could ever love a human being” he says softly.

Oh my God!

I’m in love with a plague doctor who’s in love with a leech!

In love with a plague doctor part 5

In love with a plague doctor part 4

In love with a plague doctor part 3

In love with a plague doctor part 2

In love with a plague doctor part 1

In love with a plague doctor

Plague doctor and San Francisco bridge with In love with a plague doctor title and heart
In love with a plague doctor story cover

 A girl is determined to fall in  love with a plague doctor.

Can she succeed?

What’s he really like under that dark forbidding mask and bird-like beak that covers his face?

Is he a monster?

Or is he a normal human being who is also looking for love?

I look at the plague doctor in his long black coat and hat and mask with a beak at the end of it and wonder what it would be like to fall in love with him.

I think that it’s his presence, his power, that attracts me.

He moves towards me with his cane in his hand and I wonder what he’s planning to do with it.

But he just kind of waves it around my body as if he’s searching for something.

It isn’t something that I would normally allow someone to do – except when I’m passing through airport security, of course.

And it especially isn’t something that I would allow someone to do on a first date, which I guess this is.

But I feel strangely powerless to stop him.

When he speaks it’s with a cultured English accent.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am” he says politely.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, doctor” I answer.

“Did you find anything?” I suddenly ask.

He seems puzzled.

“With the cane” I explain.

“Actually, it isn’t a cane, it’s my detection apparatus” he says.

“It looks like a cane to me” I say.

“Are you a member of the medical profession?” he suddenly demands.

“Well, no, although I did successfully complete a first aid course when I was a Brownie.”

“Ah, that perhaps explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“I very much doubt if your…how do you describe it – your first aid course as a Brownie, whatever that might mean, sufficiently qualifies you to practise in the use of the detection apparatus.”

“We learned how to tie a bandage” I explain hopefully. “I have a framed certificate to prove it.”

“That might be” he says dismissively.

I, however, have a framed certificate to prove that I am qualified in the use of the detection apparatus.”

“Okay” I say sadly.

“I guess I’m too ordinary for you.”

“No, no, not at all, in fact I find you rather interesting” he insists.

“Me?” I marvel.


“A plague doctor finds me interesting?”

“Oh, wow!”

But his next words dispel any notions of romance – he just wants me for my body.

He lightly touches me with his cane – oops, detection apparatus.

I tingle with…pleasure?

“Mmm, there are certain strange airs inside your body” he says thoughtfully.

“Maybe it’s love” I say hopefully.

“Love?” he said.

“I know not this word.”

I know that I shouldn’t do this, it isn’t something that I’d normally do. I mean, we’ve only just met.

But I can’t help it.

I gently caress his beak.

And I enjoy the sensation…

“Maybe I can explain love to you” I say softly.

In love with a plague doctor part 5

In love with a plague doctor part 4

In love with a plague doctor part 3

In love with a plague doctor part 2

In love with a plague doctor part 1

How to chill to an ambiguous word

That embarrassing moment when you realise that you’ve written a word that can also mean something else.

For example.

This was a sentence from story two of my new series of stories called ‘Plague Doctor.’

At first I wrote the following.

‘The king was cold.’

Then I thought ‘hey, that’s boring, let’s try something that’s more evocative, that’s nicer to look at, that’s prettier.

(This is a personal view, but some words are prettier and nicer to look at than others.)

So how can we improve on ‘the king was cold?’

How about this, instead?

‘The king was chilled.’

That’s much better.

‘Chilled’ is far more evocative, is much nicer to look at, and much prettier than ‘cold.’

So can we use ‘chilled’ instead of ‘cold’?

Oh, oh, there’s a problem.

You have to be pretty young, a teenager or in your twenties, or ‘young at heart’ to understand why there’s a problem.

In modern English usage, ‘the king was chilled’ doesn’t necessarily mean that he was feeling cold.

It can also mean that he was ‘chilling,’ or relaxing.

You can use a pretty word such as ‘chilled.’

But it might not be interpreted in the way that you intended it to be interpreted.

And if it’s interpreted in the wrong way, it might make you look pretty foolish.

A scenario like the following springs to mind.

The scene is a medieval disco and the king is grooving along to the music.

But after a while he’s deafened by the loud pulsating beat of the lutes and flutes that the band is playing.

So he decides to chill.

Later on he feels fine, maybe the music wasn’t so loud after all.

In other words…

Yes, you guessed correctly…

The king was chilled.

First, do no harm

It’s easy to be contemptous of history, contemptous of historical figures, to mock certain military generals for their mistakes, for example.

It’s also easy to be contemptous of advances in medicine, to mock our knowledge of medicine in previous centuries.

For example, during the Great Plague of London in 1632 it was believed that the disease could be cured by leeches.

I’m currently writing a novel which is partly set in London during the Great Plague, and partly set in the modern age.

Its working title is ‘Plague Doctor’ although that might change.

It’s easy to be contemptous of this leech treatment, and to be contemptous of the doctors who practised it.

But it’s also a mistake, a mistake which at first I made.

I portrayed a doctor who was practising the leech treatment as incompetent.

But after a while I decided that this was unreasonable, disrespectful, maybe even cruel.

He was doing his best, he was trying to cure the disease, in fact he was trying to save civilisation, because the plague was a threat to civilisation.

It’s also better writing, from a novel writing point of view, to have a character who is confronting a challenge.

An ‘incompetent’ doctor as a character has no novel writing value.

But a doctor who is trying to save civilisation has plenty of it.

To my horror

This piece of writing seemed fine at first but when I edited it I saw that it didn’t make sense, so I changed it. But was this really necessary? Am I just being pedantic?

It’s from a novel that I’m writing, a horror story in which the main character time-travels back to the Black Death, sometimes called the Plague, in London, in  the 1300’s.

You’ll have to read the story to understand the connection between this and modern-day Market Street, San Francisco.

At first I wrote the following.

‘I looked around to see why he had stopped me and nobody else but Market Street seemed to be deserted, it was as if the entire population of San Franciso had decided to avoid it.’

Does this mean that he stopped me and he also stopped someone called ‘somebody else?’

Let’s try this, instead (the italics are just to highlight a different way of writing it.)

‘I looked around to see why he had stopped me instead of somebody else but Market Street seemed to be deserted, it was as if the entire population of San Franciso had decided to avoid it.’

Alternatively, there’s this.

‘I looked around to see why he had stopped me but nobody else but Market Street seemed to be deserted, it was as if the entire population of San Franciso had decided to avoid it.’

There’s a problem, a repetitious writing problem.

By using ‘but nobody else but’ we’ve used ‘but’ twice, in the short space of a few words.

Eco warrior warfare

Funny newspaper title

A prominent eco warrior is to swim across the Atlantic instead of flying in order to avoid harming the planet by increasing carbon emissions when she attends a conference in New York about global warming.

But she has been criticised by other, even more dedicated, eco warriors who claim that swimming across the ocean is also harmful to the environment.

The eco warrior, Greta Thunberg, said tearfully ‘What more can I do?”

She pointed out that she had originally planned to sail across the Atlantic on a solar powered boat.

But fanatical eco warriors claimed that this was a waste of the sun’s valuable rays.

“Those rays which she is selfishly using to power her boat could be helping crops to grow, instead” one warrior claimed.

However, another warrior disagreed.

“Not so. Those rays which she is using to power her boat could cause a drought.”

So how can swimming across the Atlantic possibly harm the environment?

“In order to swim she has to thrust her arms into the water, and kick with her legs” the most fanatical eco warrior said.

“What if a fish was passing by?” he said indignantly.

“What if her swimming disturbed the fish – traumatised it?”

“Has she even thought about this?”

Scene breaks overkill

Scene breaks are a way of separating scenes in novels, to distinguish the end of one scene and the beginning of another. This is convenient for readers because it gives them a chance to pause, and maybe reflect on the last scene, before reading the next one.

They are also convenient for writers, because they also give them a chance to pause, and reflect what they have written so far, and what they should write next.

What kind of scene break should we use?

Some writers just leave a blank line between their scenes, and really, this should be enough to make it clear that it’s a scene break.

Others use asterisks, which of course look like this *, to separate them. You can just use a single one, like this *, or two, like this **, or three, like this ***. 

Another idea is to use a line of dots.

But how many dots do you use?

Are you supposed to count them every time, to make sure that you have used the same number of dots on each line?

No, of course not, you would just copy and paste  each line of dots.

Other writers use an image, instead.

But the problem with this is, it can be irritating, and distracting.

I discovered this when I used an image of a musket to separate the scenes in my novel ‘Rebel Liar.’

At first, it looked fine, but after I proof read the novel a few times the musket became irritating.

Let’s face it, everyone knows what a musket looks like, it isn’t necessary to display an image of one between every scene.

For some strange reason, asterisks aren’t irritating.

This might be because they are smaller than muskets so are less intrusive.

Or it might be because we are familiar with them, because they are part of our computer keyboards, so we are more willing to accept them.

Are you ready now?

Or are you now ready?

This was a pretty interesting exercise in how to use your writing skills, and it includes an example that might be particularly useful to someone who is interested in the various journalism skills and qualities, because it includes an example how to write a newspaper article.

It also explains why it isn’t always necessary to check your grammar by using grammar checking software, although they can be very useful.

It involves the use of the word ‘now,’ more specifically where to place it in a sentence.

I encountered the problem when I was writing a page of text for a promotional video that I’m shooting for my novel ‘Rebel Liar.’

At first I wrote this.

‘The American Civil War has been raging for four years now, and the Confederacy seems to be defeated.’

But on second thoughts I preferred this.

‘The American Civil War has now been raging for four years, and the Confederacy seems to be defeated.’

In the first version, the word ‘now’ seems to be out of place, almost lost.

But in the second version it fits neatly into place.

Obviously, we wouldn’t usually discuss the civil war in normal everyday conversation.

This being the case, let’s look at another example, one that is in a different context, that is relevant to journalism writing skills.

Would we write this.

‘The conflict in the middle east has been raging for several years now, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.’

Or would we write this.

‘The conflict in the middle east has now been raging for several years, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.’

Again, the second version, with the ‘now’ neatly in its correct place, seems to be the better option.

Let’s keep in mind that none of the above constitutes a grammatical rule, none of it justifies a grammar check.

English is a very flexible language, and where you place your ‘now’  might be entirely a matter of personal preference.

Or it might be entirely a matter of someone else’s personal preference.

I’ll explain what I mean by this in another article.


Turd or spy submarine?

Funny newspaper title

A huge turd has been spotted floating off the coast of Sweden – but defence experts fear that it might be a Russian spy submarine.

The turd, said to measure a huge one hundred feet long, was spotted in the vicinity of a Russian ship, called the ‘Constipationov.’

Thanks to Western technology it is now possible to monitor the bowel movements of sailors on suspicious foreign ships.

The technology is so secret that no-one is supposed to know about it.

However, the technology did not detect any unusual bowel movements on board the ‘Constipationov’ before the turd was detected.

If  anyone on board the ship had spent an unusually long period in the bathroom it would have been noticed by Western intelligence agencies.

This seems to suggest that, as feared, it is a spy submarine.

A Western intelligence expert is convinced that this is the case.

“It’s far too hard to be a turd, for one thing” he told the Ridiculous Times.

“If it’s a turd, why hasn’t it broken up by now?”

And he added the following piece of information.

“The ‘Constipationov’ has not always been known by that name.”

“It’s quite possible that the Russians have re-named the ship the ‘Constipationov’ to convince the West that the sailors on board suffer from constipation.”

“And to convince the West that it is just a harmless turd.”

Shooting a promotional video for a historical novel

Just a few thoughts on shooting a promotional video to publicise a historical novel and posting it on social media websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., with a view to attracting a wider audience, although these ideas might also be useful for someone who wants to publicise another kind of product, as well.

Firstly, it doesn’t have to be a video in the usual sense of the word.

I was of the impression that you had to shoot a full length video, with a cast of thousands, and maybe with someone like Meryl Streep in a starring role.

Not so.

It doesn’t even have to have any moving images.

Instead, it can be a series of still photos, which gradually appear as a slide show, with one photo. slowly fading out and another one replacing it.

This might seem pretty challenging if you don’t have any experience of film making or photography.

But there’s plenty of free software out there to help you.

One called VLC springs to mind, but there are plenty of others, just search for ‘photo editor with slide show’ (without the quotation marks.)

So how to shoot a promotional video for a historical novel?

Keep in mind that I haven’t done this before so am no expert, but here are a few thoughts.

Include a few historical scenes, maybe old sketches or illustrations,  from the period you are writing about.

Include a few very short scenes – just a few words, from your novel.

Here’s another thought.

Instead of using the same typeface that you’ve used in your novel, which will probably be a pretty boring (but easy to read) typeface, why not use a more decorative one?

Instead of using  the 11 or 12 point Arial typeface that you might have used as the body text in your novel, why not use a larger size more decorative one? 

Maybe you could consider including some music from the period you are writing about.

For example.

In my case, with my novel ‘Rebel Liar,’ which is set in the American civil war, I might have the Confederate song ‘Dixie,’ and/or the Union (‘Yankee’ song ‘John Brown’s Body,’  playing in the background, when I finally get around to shooting the promotional video.

And instead of using the same typeface that I used in the novel, I might use the same font that was used in the title, what is called a ‘display’ font, but in a smaller size.

Here’s a thought.

What about the music for a promotional video for a novel which is set in the medieval era, probably in England but it could also be used in a medieval European setting.

How about the medieval English song ‘Scarborough Fair?’ (it might be spelled differently, maybe ‘Scarboro Fair.’)

How effective are these promotional videos?

I honestly have no idea.

The one that I looked at, which gave me this idea, has had 120 views on YouTube.

How does this compare with other ways of publicising a novel, such as posting articles instead of a video, on social media, or on your website?

Again, I can’t help.

But maybe we should keep in mind this old saying.

‘Any publicity is good publicity.’

The role of the Confederacy in World War 2

Epitaph originally used during World War 2 used as an epitaph for the Confederacy in the American civil war

This epitaph, ‘for your tomorrow we gave our today,’ was published on a Confederate page relating to the American civil war, on a social media website.

It was originally written by a British soldier during World War 2, during the Allied (but American dominated) war against the Japanese.

In the original epitaph the message was that the generation which fought the Japanese did so for the survival of future generations.

But by adapting it to the Confederate cause in the civil war, the person who posted it seems to be inferring that the soldiers of the Confederacy also sacrificed their lives for the survival of future generations.

Of Southerners, presumably, and presumably only white Southerners, although he doesn’t make this clear.

Let’s take a look at the circumstances around the original epitaph.

The war against the Japanese was a reaction to Japanese aggression, which culminated in the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.

So is this person saying that the Confederate cause in the civil war was also a reaction to aggression.

But to ‘Yankee’ aggression?

This isn’t true.

At least, not in a military sense.

In a military sense, the Confederacy was the aggressor, when Confederate forces attacked the United States government fort at Fort Sumter, in 1861.

(From that point, it became the Union government fort, not the United States government fort, of course.)

Let’s look at it from a different perspective, from a non- military perspective.

‘Aggression’ can mean several things, can be used in several different senses, it doesn’t have to be in a military sense.

It can mean cultural aggression, or religious aggression, for example.

One of the characters, a die-hard Confederate officer, in my ‘Rebel Liar’ novel, refers to this alleged cultural aggression.

He describes the United States government, aka the North, aka the Union, aka the ‘Yankees,’ as an ‘alien creed,’ and vehemently swears that they are trying to impose this creed on the South.

Whether this was true or not is open to debate.

What might also be open to debate is, did the soldiers of the Confederacy really sacrifice their lives for future generations?

The new look Hunchback of Notre Dame

Funny newspaper title

Hunchback of Notre Dame for use in funny news

The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be given a completely new body make-over when the cathedral is re-built, following the recent devastating fire.

Thanks to pioneering new surgery which was not available in the 11th. century when he climbed (pun kind of intended) to fame as he swung around the roof of the building he will no longer have a hunched back.

He will now be known as the Upright of Notre Dame.

The Ridiculous Times interviewed the marketing director of the cathedral.

“Surely, when people visit Notre Dame they will expect to find the Hunchback of Notre Dame” we asked.

“Not the Upright of Notre Dame.”

“They want  to see deformity, not normality.”

“Yes, there will be a few problems marketing the new brand” he said smoothly.

“But people are now more aware of physical disabilities, more sympathetic towards the disabled.”

We interviewed a typical cross-section of the public to find out what they thought about it.

We also tried to avoid asking questions which might appear to be biased, in keeping with our high standards of impartial journalism.

“Would you pay good money to see someone who looks perfectly normal swinging around the rafters of the Notre Dame cathedral?”

“A feat that just about anyone can perform.” 

“Or would you prefer to see a hunchback, who is of course more far entertaining than a normal person, doing it?”

The results of the survey will be published soon.

Hanging around with the Upside Down Coat Hook movement

Funny newspaper title

A new political movement has been launched which could solve the urgent problem of ‘coat hook poverty, ’ a condition which results in there not being not enough coat hooks available for everyone to use.

The ‘Upside Down Coat Hook’ movement, as it is known, does not have any other aims, so it might not appeal to everyone – only to those who are interested in solving the problem of coat hook poverty.

Those who are seeking a solution to the more urgent social problem of, for example,  where to hang one’s hat when entering one’s home, will have to look for another political movement.

The movement states: ‘the problem with normal coat hooks is that people tend to place too many coats on them.’

‘Inevitably, this results in ‘coat hook poverty’ –  in there not being sufficient coat hooks for everyone.’

‘Someone who is looking for their coat has remove several coats in order to find the coat which he or she is looking for.’

‘However, fixing coat hooks upside down solves this problem.’

‘This way, no-one can hang their coat on the coat hook, which of course means there is no coat hook poverty.’

Upside down coat hooks are available in a variety of shapes and styles.

The illustration above shows a typical upside down coat hook.

To view it as a conventional style coat hook, simply turn your laptop screen upside down.

How to avoid repetitive writing

This article explains how to avoid repetitious writing by not using the word ‘then’ too often, and it includes a few practical examples.

The problem with using this word too often is that it looks as if you’re telling a story.

You are telling a story, of course, but you don’t have to make it obvious; why not try to be a little subtle, instead?

Here’s an extreme example of the over-use of ‘then.’

‘She went to the store then bought a book then returned home then started to read it then lost interest in it then decided to do something else.’

Why not sprinkle a few instances of the word ‘and’ in there?

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read it then lost interest in it then decided to do something else.’

Or better still, let’s also include the word ‘but.’

Let’s look at this.

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read it but lost interest in it and decided to do something else.’

Over-use of the word ‘it?’

No problem, this will solve it.

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read a few pages but lost interest in it and decided to do something else.’

It looks as if it’s pretty easy to avoid over-using the word ‘then.’

Just use ‘and’ and ‘but.’

Why not sprinkle a few instances of the word ‘and’ in there?

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read it then lost interest in it then decided to do something else.’

Or better still, let’s also include the word ‘but.’

Let’s look at this.

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read it but lost interest in it and decided to do something else.’

Over-use of the word ‘it?’

No problem, this will solve it.

‘She went to the store and bought a book then returned home and started to read a few pages but lost interest in it and decided to do something else.’

It looks as if it’s pretty easy to avoid over-using the word ‘then.’

Just use ‘and’ and ‘but’ a few times.

How to avoid repetitious writing

This is a pretty good way of solving the problem of repetitive writing, or using the same word too often, and it includes a few practical examples of how to solve it, using a scene from one of my novels.
Firstly, how do we define ‘too often?’
Is it repeating the same word in the next few words, or in the next sentence, or in the next paragraph, or what?
Probably everyone has their own ideas about this.
Some people might be irritated if they see the same word used repetitively a few words later.
This is reasonable.
But if they are irritated when they see the same word repeated in the next sentence, or in the next paragraph, it isn’t reasonable, it’s nit picking.
Obviously, this is a personal view.
Anyway, this is how I solved the problem.
It’s a scene from my novel ‘Rebel Liar’ and the problem was, repetitive use of the word ‘and.’
Let me elaborate.
A woman, a plantation owner during the American Civil War era, is painting her plantation home.
‘She put the paint brush down and looked at her home thoughtfully, and realised that she had not quite captured the afternoon sunlight on one of the columns.’
This is repetitive use of the word ‘and.’
Or maybe I’m nit picking, lol.
What happens if we change the second ‘and’ for ‘then?’
Let’s take a look at it.
‘She put the paint brush down and looked at her home thoughtfully, then realised that she had not quite captured the afternoon sunlight on one of the columns.’
What happens if we use another ‘and’ after ‘then?’
Let’s look at it.
‘She put the paint brush down and looked at her home thoughtfully, then realised that she had not quite captured the afternoon sunlight on one of the columns, and decided to start again.’
This is fine, because the second ‘and’ is some distance away from the first ‘and.’
I don’t like to use the word ‘then’ too often, for a reason which I’ll explain in another article.
But it can be pretty useful, if you want to avoid repetitious writing.

How to get started in freelance journalism and photojournalism

This article explains how to get paid by a newspaper or magazine for an article of yours which they have published, and it includes a pay statement for an article which I sold to a tabloid newspaper.

Firstly, you have to make sure that you have sold your article.

This might seem pretty obvious but if you are supplying several different articles to several different publications you have to check them all to find out if they have published your article.

They won’t advise you whether they have published them or not.

This isn’t because they are trying to steal your fee from you, it’s because they don’t have the time to do it.

As a matter of interest, some journalists and photojournalists work for agencies, as freelances.

These agencies  check the various publications to see if they have used anything which their freelances have supplied to them.

This system works well, because freelances often don’t have time to check them.

Naturally, this isn’t a free service, the agency deducts a fee from their earnings.

But in return for this fee, they market their freelances’ work, which isn’t always easy.

Assuming that you aren’t working for an agency, you next have to send an invoice to the publication which has used your work.

Don’t supply a reference number, they will supply their own reference number.

In your invoice, state the title of the story.

This is the title which the publication has used, not any title which you may have used to describe your article.

Also, state the date on which it was published, and the page on which it was published.

You can also state the number of words in your article, and the published size of any photographs which were used.

But this isn’t essential, and it can be counter-productive, because it can give the impression that you don’t trust the publication to pay the correct fee to you.

There has to be trust, you have to trust each other.

Finally of course you supply your contact details; your address and ‘phone number.

There’s an insight into the life of a freelance newspaper photographer and photojournalist in my novel ‘The Sex Doll Solution.’

Pay cheque\check\receipt from national newspaper for freelance work supplied by journalist and photojournalist.

The South as an English country estate

In my latest novel ‘Rebel Liar,’ which is set in the American Civil War, one of the characters describes the Confederacy as being a ‘replica of an English country estate, with its fine homes, beautiful gardens and fine parks.’

‘But in a kinder climate, and on a much larger scale.’

Why would prosperous Southerners wish to replicate an English country estate?

Because they were mostly descended from English settlers, is the obvious answer.

If they were descended from, let’s say Roman settlers, the South would be dotted with Roman villas.

That present-day visit to a lovingly preserved Southern plantation home would be a visit to a lovingly preserved Roman villa, instead.

Perhaps it would also include a ‘meet and greet’ by someone – maybe a Roman centurion, who was wearing a toga and who also had a few hot tips for the winner of the next chariot race.

Seriously, perhaps the word  ‘replica’ suggests that it was not a very convincing replica, that it was just those early settlers’ notion of what an English country estate should look like.

But that was not my intention.

It’s easy to sneer, and it’s particularly easy to sneer at the South, because of its connotations of slavery.

Let’s look at this argument.

If you visit the Tower of London, in England, you don’t think too much about the prisoners, who were effectively political prisoners, who were held in the dungeons for many years, without a trial.

Similarly, if you visit present day North Korea you don’t think too much about the human suffering which exists there.

So perhaps we shouldn’t think too much about slavery, when we look at these beautiful Southern plantation homes.

In fact, as I’ve described in my novel, which includes a few scenes from a non-slave-owning plantation, not all plantations were slave plantations.

How to solve an awkward, long winded and old fashioned piece of writing

Just a use of English problem and how to solve it, that might be useful for someone else who is writing a novel.
It’s about a sentence that doesn’t seem right; that sounds awkward, long winded, and old fashioned.
This is just a personal view, of course; someone else might not have a problem with it.
By the way, probably the best way of handling ‘problem’ sentences like this is to write them even though you are not entirely happy with them.
Otherwise, you can too much time trying to solve the problem; time that you could spend more usefully on being creative.
You can always return to it later.
Let’s take a look at the problem.
“Who are you?” she demanded of him.
‘Demanded of him’ is the problem.
It seems a little awkward, long winded, and old fashioned.
How can we solve it?
‘She demanded’ is fine.
The problem is, ‘of him.’
What if we try the following.
What if we get rid of ‘him’ in this sentence. and place it in a new sentence, instead, as in the following.
She looked at him angrily.
“Who are you?” she demanded.

Human eats alligator!

Funny newspaper title

A human being has eaten an alligator in an area which is known to be a habitat of dangerous human beings.
The innocent victim was walking through the area when it was seized by the human and dragged into its natural habitat, a car park.
Thankfully the human released the alligator almost immediately, explaining that he is just a normal, happy go lucky, but somewhat short-sighted kidnapper, who mistook the alligator for one of his prey.
An alligator’s advice
An alligator had this advice for other alligators.
“Alligators should be cautious when approaching humans in car parks, particularly when they are feeding” he snapped.
‘If you see a human being feeding, do not approach them, they might interpret the friendly snapping of your jaws as a threat to their food supply” he snapped again.
“Can’t you just speak normally, instead of constantly snapping?” the Ridiculous Times inquired.
“No” he snapped
“They can also be dangerous places after dark, when humans are often mating” he added.
“What are the tell-tale signs that humans are mating? the Ridiculous Times inquired.
The alligator seemed rather embarrassed, but tried to answer the question.
“From a safe distance, observe their vehicle” he snapped coyly.
“Is it still?”
“Or is it moving?”
“A gentle undulation of the vehicle’s rear springs usually signifies that they are mating.”


Wife to divorce ‘most boring man in the world’

Funny newspaper title
The ‘most boring man in the world’ is being divorced by his wife on the grounds that he is no longer boring.
The man, who was born boring, and who somehow managed to bore his mother when he spoke his first words, has been diagnosed by experts as being incapable ot saying anything interesting.
The photo. below portrays a typical boring baby.
His former wife has this to say about him.
‘Even his proposal was boring’
‘When he proposed to me his proposal was so long and boring that I had to take a nap halfway through it.’
‘When I woke up he still hadn’t finished so I decided to go home.’
‘I’ll never forget what he said to me, as I was trying to say goodnight.
‘He said “Are you going already?’
‘I hope I haven‘t bored you.’
What went wrong?
So why did you marry him? The Ridiculous Times inquired.
‘I thought that it would be interesting to marry someone who was so boring’ she admitted.
‘All of the boys that I had met so far were fairly boring, but after a while I realised that this wasn’t enough.’
‘I wanted to meet someone who was completely boring.’

In love with a Zombie

Funny newspaper title

A young woman has spoken of her love for a Zombie after she went for a check up at her dentist as a precaution due to the threat of a Zombie invasion.
Our reporter, from The Ridiculous Times, Not Exactly News  24/7 Zombie News Room, asked her to tell her own story.
“It was just a routine dental check for symptoms of Zombie-ism; bleeding gums, loose teeth, that kind of thing ” she said
Can I trust my doctor?
“There are other symptoms of becoming a Zombie, of course; a dull voice, an unsteady walk, an urge to bite non zombies, but my doctor assures me that I have none of these symptoms.”
“I assume that I can trust him – that he isn’t a Zombie…”
Feelings for other women
“I walked into the reception room at the dental surgery, and…”
She hesitated for a few seconds.
“I have…certain feelings, for other women,” she said shyly.
“The receptionist was beautiful…”
“The dentist couldn’t see me for a while so we talked together, sometimes smiling at each other.”
Zombie bite?
“That’s when I saw it.”
“What did you see?” asked the reporter from The Ridiculous Times, Not Exactly News. ‘
“It was covered with a cosmetic cream, the kind of stuff that’s sometimes used to conceal skin problems.”
“But it couldn’t conceal this.”
“It was horrible.”
“What was it?” the reporter demanded to know.
“It was a bite – I could see the teeth marks in her skin.”
“She’s so beautiful, but…”
“Am I in love with a Zombie?” she sobbed.

American civil war spy problem solved

How do you describe someone who is the next up in the chain of command for a spy, or several spies, if you are writing a novel which is set in the American civil war and involves spying?
The modern description is ‘handler,’ or ‘controller,’ but I suspect that these were not in use during the civil war; in fact I doubt if they were in use by any government secret service around the world during this period of 1861 to 1865.
Spying expressions in World War 2 and the Cold War
I believe, but can’t be sure, that they might have been in use during World War 2  and the Cold War, and the current age of spying.
But even that isn’t guaranteed; it’s quite possible that they are not used by any modern secret service – that they only used by authors who are writing spy novels!
Whatever the case, I have to describe someone who is the next up in the chain of command for a spy.
How to solve the problem
So, how to use a description which might or might not have been in use during the period which I’m writing about?
This is how I got around the problem (in fact I devised a couple of ways of getting around it.)
This is one way.
‘He was his controller, he supposed he could be called.’
This is another way.
‘He was his controller, he supposed was one way of describing him.’
Obviously, substitute ‘handler,’ if preferred.
Note the expressions ‘he supposed he could be called’ and ‘he supposed was one way of describing him.’
This way, the character doesn’t use the expression ‘controller’ as if he is familiar with it.
He can’t be familiar with it, because it is not in use.
Instead, he uses it as if it has only just occurred to him to use it.

Slob rejected for work from comfort of your own home job

Funny newspaper title

A self confessed slob has been rejected for a job which entailed ‘working from the comfort of your own home.’
He was rejected because his home was not considered comfortable enough to satisfy the ‘comfort of your own home’ criteria, which states that people who wish to work from the comfort of their own home must have a comfortable home.
‘Reasonably’ comfortable
The C.E.O of the W.F.C.O.H corporation, aka the ‘Work From the Comfort Of Your Own Home’ corporation, said that homes had to be at least reasonably comfortable before he could give people a job. status.
He said “I have to consider my clients -the people that advertise their job vacancies with me.”
“They are entitled to expect that the people who work from home for them have a comfortable home..”
“Otherwise, there is no point in employing them from the comfort of their own homes.”
Slob defiant
But the slob who was rejected for the job was defiant.
He said “It’s my decision to decide what is the comfort of my own home.”

Are you ready for a Zombie invasion?

Funny newspaper title

Are you ready for a Zombie invasion?
You know how it is; you’ve mowed your lawn, cleaned your car, maybe you’ve taken your medication, etc.
But are you ready for a Zombie invasion?
It’s easy to overlook this possibility in today’s busy world, where the chances of an invasion by the, let’s call them the ‘not quite dead,’ seems so remote.
You might look around you and decide that everyone seems so normal; no-one is staggering towards you with a drunken expression on their faces, and blood all over their bodies.
Unless you live in a pretty rough area with a high crime rate, of course, in which case this is probably normal.
But appearances can be deceptive – Zombies are all around us!
So here’s my number one tip for spotting the first signs of a Zombie invasion (there’s only one tip but I’ve called it number one anyway.)
Tip #1.
Regularly inspect the gums of your loved ones for signs of bleeding, because if they are bleeding even slightly this could be a symptom of their transformation into a zombie.
Obviously, try to be discreet about this.
For example.
Ask them to give you a big smile, and while their mouths are wide open with disbelief check their gums for signs of bleeding.
Alternatively, tell them that due to tough new government legislation which massively infringes on their civil liberties you have to check the bristles of their toothbrushes.
While you are checking them, surreptitiously produce a magnifying glass and inspect the bristles for signs of blood.
Alternatively, suggest they see a dentist.
But can you really trust your dentist?
Are you sure that he isn’t a Zombie?

Writing about horses in historical fiction

Writing historical fiction can involve taking a step back in time to an earlier age of transport, such as travelling on horseback.
It’s easy to forget, as I did a few minutes ago, that horses have to be cared for.
For example, at first I wrote the following.
‘He rode his horse across a small stream and continued on his journey.’
But after a couple of minutes I remembered that the horse had been ridden for fifteen miles without a rest on a hot summer day and would probably need a drink of water.
So I changed it to the following.
‘He came to a small stream and allowed his horse to drink before continuing on his journey.’
It seems that it isn’t enough to be familiar with the lives of your characters; you also have to be familiar with the needs of their horses.
This aspect of writing historical fiction – a familiarity with horses, will probably come to me naturally after a while.
Having said all this, did famous writers such as Emily Bronte, who of course lived in the age of transportation by horse, write about the need to give her horse a drink of water?
If so, I can’t find any record of it.
It’s a nuisance (in my view) to have to include information like this.
But on the other hand it adds detail to the story, which perhaps makes it more credible.

The Confederate flag in book cover design

I can’t decide whether to use the American civil war era Confederate flag on the book cover for a novel which is set in the civil war.
Probably the strongest argument in favour of it is that it is a visually powerful image, it is bright and colourful, like most national flags.
On second thoughts maybe I shouldn’t have used the expression ‘national flag,’ because the Confederacy might or might not have been a nation. depending on your point of view.
There are other reasons for either using or not using the Confederate flag on a book cover, but they are historical, social and political reasons.
Maybe I’ll look at these in a future article.
The point is, a visually powerful image like this is more is more likely to attract readers’ attention than a less powerful image.
A couple of novels that I’ve seen which are set in the American civil war use civil war era cannon as the main image for the book cover.
These aren’t visually powerful images, because they are a dull colour, usually black.
Obviously this is for historical and military reasons – they had to be black.
Maybe it doesn’t matter what the main image on a book cover looks like; maybe it’s a fallacy that a powerful image is more likely to attract readers’ attention than a ‘dull’ image, let’s call it.
Let’s face it, if you are searching for a book on one of the online book selling websites you don’t search for an image – you don’t search for a visually powerful image.
You search for the subject matter of the book.

Flat Earth News!

Funny newspaper title


An exciting compromise has been reached between those who say that the Earth is round (let’s call them ‘Round Earthers,’ and those who say that the Earth is flat (they are commonly called ‘Flat Earthers.)
At a meeting which was held between the two opposing parties it was agreed to describe the earth as ‘Sometimes Round And Sometimes Flat.’
Logically enough, from now on they will describe themselves as ‘Sometimes Round And Sometimes Flat Earthers.’
The meeting was held on a piece of land which, after careful inspection, was deemed to be neither round or flat.
It was a bit flat and a bit round
The photograph of the plate above shows what the earth would look like if it was flat.
It would look like a plate.

It would look like a plate.
If it was round, on the other hand, it would look like a ball.
There’s no photo. of a ball because everyone knows what a ball looks like; in fact, come to think about it, everyone knows what a plate looks like.
How will this affect space travel?
Well, the photographs from space will look slightly different, of course, they will show a sometimes round and sometimes flat earth instead of a round earth.
That just about wraps up the latest scientific news for now.

To be or not to be pedantic

t’s easy to be concerned about people who are pedantic – who are constantly finding minor faults, when you’re writing.
For a while I was concerned about this, but I’ve now overcome it and write whatever I want, within reason.
I think that it’s a matter of commonsense.
You can either write something which is ‘pedantically correct,’ let’s call it, i.e something which would please someone who is pedantic.
Or you can write something which although it might not be pedantically correct, pleases you and your readers.
Let’s take a look at the following.
‘She put the paint brush down in the brush tray of the easel and looked with a critical eye at the water colour of the house that she was painting. ‘
I wrote this a few weeks’ ago, and it looked fine to me at the time, because I couldn’t see that there was anything wrong with ‘critical eye.’
But now, a few weeks’ later, I’m editing the scene which contains this sentence and suddenly it’s no longer fine.
What went wrong?
I suddenly became pedantic, that’s what went wrong.
I asked myself: ‘If she looked at the painting with a critical eye, does this mean that she only has one eye – her critical one?’
However, in reality everyone knows that a ‘critical eye’ doesn’t mean this, i’t just an expression, it’s just a convenient and rather pleasing way of explaining that she looked at it critically.
In that case, why not just say so?
Why not write something like the following?
‘She put the paint brush down in the brush tray of the easel and looked critically at the water colour of the house that she was painting. ‘
This is ok but really I prefer to use ‘critical eye,’ because I like the way that it looks.
But I’m afraid to do so because someone who is ‘pedantically correct’ might make a stupid comment about her having only one eye – her critical one.
At least I was.
I now realise that it’s better to use my commonsense and write something which is aesthetically pleasing rather than write something which is pleasing to someone who is pedantic.
Let’s take a look at the following.
‘She put the paint brush down in the brush tray of the easel and looked with a critical eye at the water colour of the house that she was painting. ‘
I wrote this a few weeks’ ago, and it looked fine to me at the time, because I couldn’t see that there was anything wrong with ‘critical eye.’
But now, a few weeks’ later, I’m editing the scene which contains this sentence and suddenly it’s no longer fine.
What went wrong?
I suddenly became pedantic, that’s what went wrong.
I asked myself: ‘If she looked at the painting with a critical eye, does this mean that she only has one eye – her critical one?’
However, in reality everyone knows that a ‘critical eye’ doesn’t mean this, i’t just an expression, it’s just a convenient and rather pleasing way of explaining that she looked at it critically.
In that case, why not just say so?
Why not write something like the following?
‘She put the paint brush down in the brush tray of the easel and looked critically at the water colour of the house that she was painting. ‘
This is ok but really I prefer to use ‘critical eye,’ because I like the way that it looks.
But I’m afraid to do so because someone who is ‘pedantically correct’ might make a stupid comment about her having only one eye – her critical one.
At least I was.
I now realise that it’s better to use my commonsense and write something which is aesthetically pleasing rather than write something which is pleasing to someone who is pedantic.

Honey I shrunk the comma!

Sometimes using a comma in the wrong place can create an unintended and pretty humorous result, which is what happened to me when I wrote this sentence as part of a novel which I’m writing.
This is what I originally wrote.
‘They quietly walked past the few palatial homes which had been built undisturbed except for the barking of a vigilant guard dog.’
It looks as if the palatial homes had been built undisturbed by the barking of a vigilant guard dog.
Let’s try this, instead.
‘They quietly walked past the few palatial homes which had been built undisturbed, except for the barking of a vigilant guard dog.’
This makes more sense; the builders can now build the palatial homes without being disturbed by a vigilant guard dog.
I’m very pleased for them; it must be pretty un-nerving trying to push a wheelbarrow with a vigilant guard dog snapping at your heels, demanding to know what’s going on.
The following version is better, though.
We don’t have to use a comma and the sentence flows more easily, without any interruptions by pesky grammatical bling such as commas.
‘They quietly walked past the few palatial homes which had been built and were undisturbed except for the barking of a vigilant guard dog.’
It’s interesting how the phrase ‘and were’ replaces the comma; it seems that if you use a suitable phrase you don’t have to use commas.

Choosing a road name in American civil war era Virginia

Selecting a name for a road or street in Virginia during the American civil war created a pretty interesting problem.
It might have been possible to use the grid system of naming streets and choose something like ‘6th. street,’ or ‘120th. street’ etc., but there’s a problem with this.
The setting is a seaport in Virginia in 1863 and I’m not sure if there was a grid system in use during this period in rural Virginia.
In any case streets which are named after numbers in the grid system aren’t very colourful or evocative.
They are efficient, though, it’s easier to navigate them.
It took a while but finally the solution came to me.
Like much of Virginia, the seaport was founded by English settlers during the colonial era.
The colonists often named settlements after the places they had left behind.
For example, the place name Hampton, Virginia, and its variants, is probably derived from the village of Hampton, England.
I needed a name that had a colourful, evocative, 17th century English feel to it, that the English settlers might have used in colonial Virginia. and which might have still been in use two hundred years later during the civil war.
Finally I chose the word ‘Pudding,’ and as I’m describing a road that has a hill on it, called the road ‘Pudding Hill road.’
I’m pretty sure that this is safe, historically accurate, because according to some historians the Great Fire of London started in a Pudding Lane, London, in 1666.
The early English settlers would almost certainly have heard of the fire, and of Pudding Lane, and might have taken the name with them to the Virginia colony.


The hold part 3

The story so far.
Hans Werner, a Union secret service agent, is more-or-less trapped in the hold of a British ship in a Confederate port during the American civil war.
Ostensibly his mission is to spy on Confederate shipping in the Chesapeake bay, but in reality it is to spy on the captain of the ship.

Werner shifted in the hold of the ship and dozed off for a while.
Suddenly he awoke.
Something was on his chest, something pretty small because it didn’t weigh very much, he could have probably pushed it off with his hands if he’d had the energy.
There was also a smell, a rank smell of maybe rotting food, or meat that had gone bad.
He must have dozed off again because when he woke up the weight had shifted further up his body – it was now under his chin.
Tiredly he tried to reason why.
If it had moved up his body it was alive, an animal of some kind.
And the smell had got worse, it was so bad that it had got into his nostrils; it was so overpowering that whenever he took a breath he had to inhale it.
Finally, he became fully conscious and alert.
He irritably tried to brush the thing – whatever it was, off.
An angry squeal and a sharp stabbing pain on his lower lip!
No, two stabbing pains!
A rat – he’d been bitten by a rat – and the stabs were from its two front teeth!
He screamed and struggled to his feet with the rat’s teeth still embedded in his lower lip.
He tried to pull it away but it refused to let go until it finally relented and dropped to the floor.
He dabbed his bleeding lip and his incessant screams echoed around the empty hold,
They were not heard by captain Bowen, on the top deck of the ship.

Previous episodes.



Writing description by using an image in your word processor

This is a pretty good system for writing description if you’re trying to describe something but aren’t quite sure what it looks like. I’m using it in an historical novel but it could also be used in a modern situation.
I want to describe the former Bowery Theatre in New York City and have downloaded an image of it and stored it in the downloads folder so that I can refer to it when I’m writing about it.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to describe it in my word processor.
So far so good.
I start to write something like ‘ The theatre was built in the classical style
I haven’t described it as the Greek classical style or the Roman classical style mostly because I have no idea what the difference between the two is.
Maybe there isn’t a difference; maybe the Romans copied the Greeks, or vice versa.
So I write something like this:
‘The theatre was built in the classical style; the facade consisted of four fluted columns – ’
Wait a minute! Did it really consist of four columns? Or did it consist of five or six columns?
I’d better get it right or sure as hell some nit picking historian with an in depth knowledge of fluted columns will complain about it.
I’d better check the image in the downloads folder.
So I minimise the word processor and open up the downloads folder, then take a look at the image.
Sure enough, it has four fluted columns.
Phew, what a relief!
I’ve escaped from the nit picking historian with an in depth knowledge of fluted columns!
At least for now, he added with a sense of trepidation.
After doing this for a while it finally dawns on me that this was a waste of valuable time.
Instead of constantly switching from the word processor to the downloads folder and back again, why not just import the image into my word processor?
This way, all I have to do is scroll up the page to look at it.

Writing character description: introducing a character by name

This is a pretty good way of writing character description, or more specifically introducing a character by name.
I call it ‘introducing a character by incorporating it into an action which he or she is performing.’
I’m planning to use it in my American civil war novel, which is partly set in the former Confederate commonwealth/state of Virginia.
A woman, an amateur artist, is painting her Southern plantation home, and I want to give her a name.
It would be pretty easy to introduce her name into the story like this: ‘Susan Jones put the paint brush down and looked at the picture of her home that she had just painted.’
Easy, but predictable, and boring.
It might, just might be that if your system of introducing a character by name is boring, someone – a reader or literary agent, might decide that the rest of your novel is boring, and decide not to read it.
I’ve tried something different, instead.
I’ve written something like this: ‘She put the paint brush down and glanced at the previous attempt that she had made at painting her home, and had signed with her name, Susan Jones.’
Does this system only work with a female plantation owner who is painting a picture of her home during the American civil war?
Phew, let’s hope not!
How about this?
‘She signed the letter with her name, Susan Jones.’
Does it only work with a female plantation owner who is either painting a picture of her home or who is signing one of her letters during the American civil war?
Not at all.
Take a look at this, it’s a completely different gender, setting, and period.
‘He went to the check in desk and looked at the clerk.
“I’m Tom Garrard, I have a reservation for room 106″ he introduced himself.’

Writing description: the Confederate Secret Service

I’ve encountered a problem when describing the Confederate Secret Service in the American Civil War novel which I’m writing. I’m not sure whether to even describe it as a secret service because that gives it an importance which might not be justified.
The Confederacy staged a few missions, and operated a few spies, but that seems to be about it. Apparently there was no central control, no co-ordination, and no central command structure.
The Northern or Union secret service wasn’t much better, apparently, so it wouldn’t be right to criticise the Confederacy unduly.
In fact we shouldn’t criticise either the North or the South for their alleged inefficiency; it’s wrong to judge a mid nineteenth century situation by modern standards.
The problem is, I have to describe the Confederate Secret Service as a secret service, even though it wasn’t really a secret service, at least, not in the modern sense.
I’ve described it like that, but it’s pretty embarrassing,
For example I have a character who at one point has to introduce himself, which he does like this: ‘Colonel Samuel Burroughs, of the Confederate Secret Service.’
It’s like someone who has a one man internet trading business which he operates out of a back room at his home introducing himself like this: ‘Samuel Burroughs, of International Global In Fact The Entire Planet Internet Trading Solutions.’
At the moment I can’t think of way around the problem, maybe a solution will come to me.
I have had one small success, though.
Rather than write that the Confederate Secret Service wasn’t that great, I’ve got a character to say it.
I’ve written: ‘The Confederate Secret Service, as it might be described, was fairly efficient, he decided.’
Note the ‘he decided.’
It means that he thinks this, not me; it’s someone else’s opinion, not necessarily my opinion.
If he’s wrong he’s wrong, it’s nothing to do with me, I’m just a writer, I’m not responsible for what my characters say.
This gets me out of trouble – covers my ass, as the Americans say.

The Hold part 2


Captain Bowen decided that he had punished the Union agent who was imprisoned in the hold of his ship quite enough.
He had been imprisoned down there for forty eight hours, which was a long time to be trapped in a wooden box – the hold, in the heat of the Virginia summer.
It was a just punishment for his rude outburst about the British supporting the Confederacy, Bowen felt.
However, the agent was not entirely to blame for his outburst.
His master, Mister Lincoln was to blame for it.
If anyone should be imprisoned in the hold, it was Mister Lincoln.
He had ordered the Union blockade, and he should be punished for it.
It was Mister Lincoln who should be trapped down there, sweltering in the heat and suffering from the early stages of scurvy.
He gripped the weather rail of the ship tightly and clenched his jaw.
By God, it would be wonderful to see his sanctimonious face alter in appearance, it would be even less attractive when his hair began to thin and his teeth began to fall out.
He looked at the ships out in the Chesapeake bay; their masters were free to sail wherever they wished, while he was trapped in port.
He had changed course – he had changed his mind,
He would confine the Union agent in the hold for a further twenty four hours.

Continued from The Hold part 1 and continued in The Hold part 3

The Hold

Captain Samuel Bowen, master of the schooner ‘Harbinger,’ moved across the deck and opened a door which revealed a flight of steps that led below deck, first to the lower deck and then further down into the hold.
He lit the lantern that was hanging on a hook by the door and began to descend down the steps, wrinkling his nose at the stale smell of the unwashed sailors’ bodies that still lingered there.
He passed through the lower deck and went down the steps into the hold, where the odour was a not unpleasant blend of tobacco and cotton. He listened for the scurry of rats, but heard nothing, perhaps they had deserted the ship’s empty larder for a more nourishing diet ashore.
He whispered the agreed code softly into the darkness.
“The smell of the hold reminds me of more prosperous days.”
“They will return” someone in the darkness whispered back.
A few seconds later a match was struck, and a few seconds later a lantern was lit.
Werner looked pale, Bowen decided – paler than when they had last met in the hold six weeks’ earlier. Some of his hair was beginning to fall out, and he seemed to have lost a tooth.
“How are you?” Bowen asked, somewhat unnecessarily
“Pretty good, considering I live in a dungeon” Werner said wearily.
“Oh yeah, and I feed the cat” he added.
“A ginger tom, whose starboard ear has been lost at sea?” Bowen asked anxiously.
“He’s Nelson, our formerly prolific but now sadly unemployed ship’s cat and rat catcher, “ Bowen explained.
He studied Werner carefully.
“The glamorous life of a Union agent, spending his days in the hold of a British ship in a hostile Confederate port, feeding the ship’s cat and only emerging at night in order to spy on any Confederate shipping movements which might take place under cover of darkness” he said sardonically.
He didn’t believe that the Union secret service had placed Werner in the hold to spy on Confederate shipping in the Chesapeake bay, for there was hardly any shipping to spy on.
He suspected that he was spying on him, instead.
“It was good of you to lend us your ship for such a noble purpose” Werner said, with a forced smile.
“I had little choice, as you’re aware, it was either that or antagonise the Union government” Bowen said resentfully.
Werner smiled to himself.
As the captain of a British ship in a Confederate port, Bowen was at the mercy of the Union government.
If he tried to sail from the port he could be intercepted by Union navy ships which were enforcing the Union government blockade of the Confederate ports.
“As you’re aware, we have a good relationship with the Union, and we would like this good relationship to continue, we have no wish to damage it” he said diplomatically
“Then stop your blockade runners from trading with the Confederacy” Werner said harshly.
Bowen shrugged his shoulders helplessly, as if the mostly British-owned ships that slipped through the Union blockade to secretly trade with the Confederacy were nothing to do with him.
He paused thoughtfully.
Werner was suffering from the early stages of scurvy, as a result of his unhealthy living conditions and poor diet.
Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because of the long hours that he spent alone in the hold in complete darkness, he was losing his composure.
In a few weeks, when his health and state of mind had deteriorated even further, he would become more agreeable.
“I’m disappointed with you, Mister Werner. And I think that if your President Lincoln was here, he would be disappointed with you too.”
“I will visit you again when you are feeling more amenable” he finished.
He climbed up the ladder that led to the lower deck and watched while the armed British sailor who was guarding the hold shut the hatch tightly.
“Do not allow him out of the hold for the next twenty four hours” he ordered him.
“Aye aye captain.”
Bowen went up the steps to the top deck thoughtfully.
Werner must be taught a lesson.
If Mister Lincoln confined his ship to the port, he would confine Werner to the hold.
Far below in the depths of the ship Werner licked his lips thirsty, for it was punishingly hot in the heat of the Virginia summer.
His tongue touched something and it moved slightly.
He was losing another tooth.

Continued in The Hold part 2 and The Hold part 3

Writing description: Yankee or Union?

It’s interesting how description can determine what a character is like, what his attitude is, as I discovered when I was describing a character’s viewpoint of the Union blockade also known as the Yankee blockade during the American civil war.
At first, he supported the Confederacy, so he described the blockade as the Yankee blockade, because to him the Yankee was the enemy.
But later it evolved that he was indifferent to the Confederacy, so he didn’t call it the Yankee blockade, he called it the Union blockade.
This wasn’t because he particularly supported the Union; he was just as indifferent to the Union as he was to the Confederacy.
It was just more convenient to call it the Union blockade.
Probably an alternative would be to call it the ‘Northern blockade.’
In fact, just thinking about it, this is more neutral than ‘Union,’ because ‘Northern’ is just an area of land that happens to lie to the north, it isn’t a political or governmental entity.
As a matter of interest, he is a British ship’s captain who doesn’t particularly care who is responsible for the blockade, in fact he doesn’t particularly care who wins the war.
He is trapped in a Confederate port and just wants to be free to sail through the blockade – whoever owns it.

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Writing description versus action

I’m not quite sure whether I’ve written too much description in this scene from a novel which I’m writing; maybe I should have written more action instead.
The scene is set in the Chesapeake bay during the American civil war and I’m trying to describe the ships which are tied up to the waterfront and anchored out in the bay.
Here’s the scene which I think has too much description.
‘He strolled along the waterfront, sometimes glancing at the ships that were held captive to the shore by mooring ropes which were lashed around the sturdy iron bollards on the shore.
Sometimes he glanced at the ships which were anchored out in the bay, with their sails furled in the yardarms.’
(Yardarms are the timbers that are fixed horizontally to the masts. Sailors call them yards rather than yardarms, but I’m writing for non sailors rather than for sailors; for landlubbers who don’t like to get their feet wet)
I just wonder if I really have to describe exactly how the ships are tied up or whether it’s enough just explain that they are tied up.
I mean, does anyone really care how they are tied up? Is anyone really interested in the fact that they are tied up with a bit of rope that’s wrapped around a bit of iron?
Here are a couple of views, both conflicting.
View #1 People like to read description, so it might not be a good idea to remove too much of it.
View #2 Too much description can get in the way of the action.
Let’s see how it looks with most of the description removed.
‘He strolled along the waterfront, sometimes glancing at the ships that were tied to the shore and sometimes at the ships which were anchored out in the bay, with their sails furled in the yardarms.’
I suspect that the scene is better without all the description, because it speeds up the action.
I vote for view #2.

A long and winding gently curving way of writing description

‘Long winding’ staircase or ‘gently curving’ staircase or both? Or don’t bother to describe it?
As in: ‘The two doctors parted company and the younger one went down the staircase to the floor where his surgery was located.’
The scene is the former lunatic asylum on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) in New York City.
The problem is, it was quite an attractive building, and really deserves some description. Some buildings are like that, they’re almost pleading to be described. And if you describe them you’re kind of congratulating the architect who designed them.
Even though he’s dead.
You never know, he might be looking down at us thinking ‘I wish someone would describe something that I designed.’
On second thoughts maybe not.
Maybe the lunatic asylum wasn’t his finest piece of work, maybe he was even ashamed of it, because of the ‘terrible’ purpose that it served.
Let’s face it, ‘long winding’ is a pretty over-used way of describing certain places. Just about every road, highway, footpath or track that deviates from a straight course, however slightly, is described as ‘long winding’ or ‘long and winding.’
The Beatles ruined it with their ‘Long And Winding Road’ song. Before that, you could get away with using ‘long and winding’ and no-one would realise that you had no idea how to write description.
‘Gently curving’ isn’t as bad, it isn’t as over-used as ‘long and winding,’ but it would be great to find an alternative to it.
How would it look like if you used both?
As in: ‘The two doctors parted company and the younger one went down the long and winding gently curving staircase to the floor where his surgery was located.’
Four adjectives in rapid succession.
Someone, maybe an editor, who knows about these things, or is supposed to do, might think: ‘Hmm, looks like his Over-Used Adjective Creation Tool (if there is such a thing) was set to automatic rapid fire.’

Historical accuracy versus common sense

Sometimes you have to use your commonsense instead of being super duper historically accurate, as this article in my ‘writing a historical novel’ series explains.
I’m describing a scene which is set in the West Side Line freight train yard in New York City in 1870.
The railroad was owned by the New York Central Railroad, a company which had only been in existence for about three years.
It was an amalgamation of several other railroads, including ‘The Tonawanda Railroad,’ the ‘Mohawk and Hudson Railroad,’ the ‘Atica and the Schenectady Railroad’ and the ‘Auburn and Rochester Railroad.’
As it was effectively a brand new railroad I thought about writing something like the following:
‘She looked at the line of freight cars and saw that most of them had ‘New York Central Railroad’ lettering on the sides.’
‘The paint looked fresh, as if it was a new company, or a new company had taken over the railroad.’
This would be historically accurate, but it wouldn’t be common sense.
Would a railroad company really go to all the trouble and expense of removing the previous railroad company lettering from their freight cars and replacing it with their own lettering, in the short space of three years?
Personally, I don’t think it would, so this is what I finished up writing:
‘She looked at the line of freight cars and saw that they had lettering including ‘The Tonawanda Railroad,’ the ‘Mohawk and Hudson Railroad,’ the ‘Atica and the Schenectady Railroad’ and the ‘Auburn and Rochester Railroad’ painted on their sides.’
But just in case the company did bother to change the lettering on some of its freight cars, or built some new freight cars, I added this, to cover my ass:
‘One of them looked newer; it had ‘New York Central Railroad’ lettering on the side in what looked like fresh paint.’

Diagnosis: over-dependent on Wiki

I recently realised that I’ve been entirely relying on ‘Wiki’ aka Wikipedia for my research into historical facts instead of looking for them by entering my query in the search box of my computer, but maybe this isn’t a good idea, especially if you’re writing a historical novel.
For example, I’m currently writing a scene that is set on Blackwell’s Island in the 19th. century (1870 to be precise.)
Blackwell’s Island, in New York City, which is now called Roosevelt island, was the site of a lunatic asylum and a penitentiary during the 19th century.
How do you escape from it?
Pretty easy, really, just find a boat and row it to the mainland, it’s only a few hundred yards away.
Hmm, on second thoughts maybe it isn’t so easy, because I now find that the island was guarded by prison guards, and the river between the island and the mainland was regularly patrolled by prison patrol boats.
But this possibility didn’t occur to me, so according to my reasoning it didn’t exist, because there was nothing in Wiki about it,
Or rather, according to my over-dependence on Wiki it didn’t exist.
I can’t remember exactly how I discovered that it existed, which route I took, which search terms I entered, but I found it on this corrections history website:
Thanks to this website I now know that ‘Sentinels are (in the 19th. century) stationed along the water fronts, and the guard-boats patrol the river to prevent the escape of convicts.’
It seems that I’ll have to re-write part of this scene and at least mention the possibility of the escapees being caught by prison guards.
Wiki is a useful resource, and I’m grateful for it, but it isn’t a good idea to become over-dependent on it.

Could this solution to the problem of ‘writer’s block’ work for you?

Here’s a possible solution to the problem of ‘Writer’s block,’ which occurs when writers can’t think what to write next. It might not work for everyone, but it’s better than looking at a blank screen, which is the usual way of trying to solve the problem.
The disadvantage of  it is, it’s a bit messy, it can interrupt the flow of writing, but in my view the advantages easily outweigh this.
Here goes.
I write my ideas in the middle of the text, in capital letters, so that I can’t forget them and can easily refer to them.
I think that this is far more practical than writing my ideas in a notebook or in a separate file called ‘ideas,’ or something similar.
Here’s an example.
It’s from a novel which I’m writing and the scene is a lunatic asylum in 1870. Two female inmates are escaping from it, with the help of the asylum administrator.
The writing is somewhat disjointed because I haven’t edited it yet.
‘The most difficult part was extracting them both from the dormitory, for few of the inmates slept soundly and were instantly awake at the slightest disturbance.
The administrator would not unlock the doors for them and lock them again when they had gone. He insisted on being with them at all times, unlocking and locking the doors himself before leading the way to the next door until they were finally standing outside the asylum.’
The administrator turned to them with a slight smile on his face.
“You are free to go” he said.
Sarah looked into the darkness,
“What about you?”“ she said suspiciously.


Five reasons to hate articles with numbers like five in the title

Five reasons to hate those articles with numbers in their titles such as ‘five reasons/ten reasons/twenty reasons/fifty reasons’ to do something.

You know the kind of thing: ‘twenty ways of learning how to count to twenty,’ or ‘twenty four ways of learning how to tell the time by using the twenty four hour clock.’
Why are these articles numbered?
Maybe it’s because the idea is to create a sense of anticipation, of impending value for money.
‘Wow, if I read this I get a whole twenty reasons for reading it.’
Plenty of other articles might have twenty reasons for reading them, but they’re more modest,
they don’t tell you this in the title.
Or rather they don’t advertise it in the title.
Maybe they should; it pays to advertise, as they say.
But what if you don’t want to read twenty reasons for doing something?
What if you’re so lazy you can’t even be bothered to find one reason for doing something?
‘I hate taking a shower, do I really have to look at twenty reasons for doing it?’
Or how about ‘Fifty reasons to mow your lawn now!’
What if there’s only one reason to mow my lawn, and that’s to stop the army from using it as a training ground in jungle warfare?
Maybe the best solution to the problem is to swap five, ten or twenty for example for ‘several.’
This is fine – it isn’t too challenging.

Catalonia ‘declares war’ on America in Declaration Of Independence

Catalonia is more independent than America and is far more qualified to issue a Declaration Of Independence.
Catalonia, the province in Spain which is seeking independence from the Spanish government, is more independent than America and is also more independent than Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries.
Let’s call this group of countries the Anglosphere, and let’s describe the Anglosphere as countries which are Anglo Saxon in origin and are former British colonies.
This is basically what the Anglosphere means, although it also means that these countries have more or less similar attitudes and values, particularly towards freedom and democracy.
However, let’s also keep in mind that because of mass immigration in the nineteenth century and more recently, immigration from the Latin countries (Mexico etc.), the population of the United States is no longer primarily of Anglo Saxon origin.
This is irrelevant, because the United States is still the guardian, the custodian of the Anglosphere.
It’s a bit like a half brother that feels that it has to defend the family, although it is not entirely related to the family.
And of course, it’s also the paymaster of the Anglosphere, because without American defence spending it would not be possible to defend the Anglosphere.
Next, let’s conduct a comparison survey, similar to the kind of survey which consumer organisations use to decide which supermarket offers the best value for money, the best service to its customers, etc.
Let’s start the survey with Catalonia, and let’s put an item called ‘own language’ in its shopping basket.
It’s already nearly full, because Catalonia has its own language.
Now let’s look at the Anglosphere, and put ‘own language’ in its shopping basket.
We can’t, because it doesn’t exist, because the Anglosphere doesn’t have its own language, it uses English, which it adapted from the early English settlers.
Let’s look at Catalonia again, and let’s look at an item called ‘own customs,’ and let’s put it in the Catalonian shopping basket.
It’s filling up fast, because Catalonia has its own customs.
Let’s look at the Anglosphere, and let’s look at ‘own customs.’ and let’s put it in the Anglosphere’s shopping basket.
We can’t, because the Anglosphere doesn’t have its own customs. Mmm, on second thoughts this isn’t entirely true, because it does have a few of its own customs. The American custom of Thanksgiving Day, for example.
Hold on a minute, this isn’t true either. Thanksgiving Day is derived from the custom of ‘Harvest Thanksgiving,’ a custom which has been observed in England for many centuries.
Let’s face it, the Anglosphere’s few meagre customs are nowhere near as extensive and as embedded in society as Catalan customs.
If we regard independence in this sense, in the sense of language and customs, Catalonia is far more independent than America and the rest of the Anglosphere.
However, the ultimate measure of a nation’s (or a region’s) independence must surely be its ability to defend itself. If it can’t defend itself the fact that it has its own language and customs is irrelevant.
Here, the Catalan shopping basket is empty, while America and the Anglosphere’s shopping basket is full, because it can defend itself.
Or can it?
America can defend itself, but can the rest of the Anglosphere defend itself? Can Canada, Australia and New Zealand defend themselves?
Maybe the Anglosphere’s shopping basket isn’t so full after all.

Warming to the idea of a second ice age.

The world will become a lot colder in about a hundred million years, according to somebody who knows what it’s like to become a lot colder in a hundred million years.
The expert, who lived in the ice age, but found it too cold, emerged from his freezing home in a freezing cold glacier (there are no warm glaciers) to make his amazing prediction.
His teeth still chattering, and his testicles a frozen dinner for two, he could only communicate with the outside world by speaking his simple ice age language, called ‘simple-ice-age-ish.’
His first attempt to communicate was a disaster because when he tried to call for help he couldn’t work out which button to press.
“Which button do I press for simple-ice-age-ish,” he muttered to himself, in his simple-ice-age-ish language.
“Is it after ‘Press Ten For English’ or what?”
For those who aren’t familiar with simple-ice-age-ish, and I know that are a few of you out there (let’s face it, we can’t all speak a foreign language, especially one that’s a hundred million years old) it isn’t really that difficult to learn.
Simple-ice-age-ish speakers basically communicate by using their chattering teeth.
One chatter means ‘Yes,’ and two chatters mean ‘No.’ Obviously, it gets a little bit more complicated than that, but that’s enough to get you started.
So when I asked the simple question ‘Will America become a lot colder in about a hundred million years? his teeth seemed to hesitate for a moment.
Obviously they didn’t completely stop chattering, because they can’t, but I thought I detected a change in the rythm, a subtle new nuance, that only an expert in simple-ice-age-ish can detect.
Maybe my attempt at making light conversation was too much for him, or maybe this wasn’t the right time to ask a question like that – maybe he just wanted to get warm.
But luckily I was wrong, because he finally answered the question (it took a while because there is no easy way of saying it in his language)
“Only if you believe in global warming” he said through his chattering teeth.

Happy Certain Time Of The Year, Mr. President Donald Trump

As that ‘certain time of the year’ approaches, I’m preparing my ‘Certain Time Of The Year’ card for President Donald Trump, because as I understand it Donald (if I may address him in such a familiar manner) has called for the return of the use of the ‘C’ word, the one that ends in ‘mas,’ at this time of year.
I call it the ‘Cmas’ word.
At the moment I’m busily amassing alternatives to the Cmas word, alternatives which by a process of deduction make it clear to the reader that I am referring to Cmas but don’t actually mention the word.
Not in full, anyway – not the complete raw, naked, uncensored version.
I feel that when Donald receives my ‘Certain Time Of The Year’ card he will, by employing his considerable powers of deduction, realise that I am referring to Cmas.
However, I do have backup, a failsafe mechanicism, checks and balances, in case he doesn’t ‘get it,’ to use a popular euphemism.
For example, I also plan to use the message ‘Warmest Greetings’ in my Cmas card to him.
However, at the moment I can’t decide whether to use this before or after ‘Certain Time Of Year’ – whether to use it as a headline or as a sub headline.
Let’s see how it looks.
Warmest Greetings!
At This Certain Time Of Year!
Alternatively, if that doesn’t work, how about this:
At This Certain Time Of Year!
Warmest Greetings!
However, I have to admit that ‘warmest greetings’ might create a problem, because it hints at ‘heat,’ as in the heat generated by an inter continental ballistic missile, and I don’t Donald to think that it’s a card from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un referring to a seasonal ICBM attack by North Korea.

My writing a historical novel experience #1

One thing I’ve discovered since I started to write a historical novel is that it’s very easy to make a mistake.
Not just some nit picking historical error, such as for example: ‘The cavalry charge lasted for ten minutes and fifty nine seconds.’
Meanwhile, a historian, who is something of an expert on cavalry charges, might correct me by pointing out: ‘No it didn’t, it lasted for twelve minutes and fifty nine seconds, because someone’s horse stumbled and they had to start again.’
No, this was a commonsense error – something that my commonsense should have warned me was wrong.
Here’s the scene that I’m writing.
It’s 1868 and a sailing ship is anchored in the East river in New York City (a sailing ship wouldn’t normally be anchored in the East river, it would be tied up at the shore, or anchored further out in the bay, but for the purposes of the story it’s anchored in the river.)
Oh, and it’s after dark.
I have this character on the ship say to another character on the ship something like: “Look, there’s the Stars and Stripes, on top of the main mast.”
So far so good. I mean, all he has to do is look up and there’s the Stars and Stripes, on top of the main mast. It should be easy enough to see it, even though it’s probably eighty feet up.
So I finish writing the scene and move on to another scene.
A few days’ later I realise that I’ve made a terrible mistake.
How can he possibly see the Stars and Stripes, which is probably eighty feet above the deck – when its dark?
Do the ‘bright lights of the city,’ or a similar phrase, illuminate it for him? For example: ‘He looked up and sure enough illuminated by the bright lights of the city was the Stars and Stripes.’
Duh, how can they illuminate it?
This is 1868, not 2017, and there were no bright lights in New York City in 1868.
Well, there were, but I doubt if they were bright enough to illuminate a flag on top of a ship’s mast in the middle of the East river.
I managed to circumvent or ‘write around’ the problem, and in a few future articles I’ll explain how I did this and how to solve a few other writing a historical novel problems.

Other articles in the Writing a historical novel series.

Historical accuracy versus common sense

My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 2.

I finished up designing my own book cover, as well as using a cheap book cover designer.

This might seem pretty pointless, why become involved in book cover design and simultaneously pay someone else to do it?
Well, the fact is, I like a challenge. I also like to be busy, I like to stimulate my mental faculties. By the way, this isn’t a bad attitude to have, according to the medical profession.
Anyway, because of this I’m now in the strange position of having a book cover that I designed and a book cover that a professional book cover designer has designed.

The question is, which one to use.

I have to be careful here, it would be easy to reject my book cover design on the grounds that it can’t be any good because I’m not a professional book cover designer. Conversely, it would be easy to use the design that has been designed by the professional because he is a professional.

Here are a few thoughts.
My book cover design has a more prominent ‘main image,’ the image that mostly fills the book cover.
His book cover design has two images, there is no main image. Obviously, two images can’t be as prominent as a single image.

However, one of his single images is more original than my single image; he has merged one photograph with another photograph.
So really, the ‘competition’ is between size (my image) versus originality (his image.)

I still haven’t decided which book cover design to use. If I use my own design I’ll have the satisfaction of using something that I’ve created. It won’t cost much if I don’t use the professional book cover design because it only cost five US dollars.

If you do choose either of these two routes please keep in mind the advice (not my advice, by the way) mentioned in part 1 – that you should be prepared to pay quite a lot of money to a professional book cover designer.

In fact, I might finish up doing this myself.

Articles in the ‘My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience’ series.

My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 1
My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 2

My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 1

Do you really have to have a good book cover for your novel? Or could you still sell it even if it just had a plain cover without any illustrations to attract your readers?
It’s generally recommended that you spend quite a lot of money on book cover design, that you don’t hire a cheap book cover designer.
The reasoning for this is, a good book cover design is essential to help you sell your book, a good quality book cover design reflects good quality writing.
However in my view it’s debatable whether this is true. I have seen quite a few good quality book covers that don’t reflect good writing inside the book.
Also, quite a few years’ ago a publisher called ‘Penguin’ published a series of classical novels, among other novels.

There was just the publisher’s name, the title, the author, and an image of a penguin on the front cover (see left.)
It could be that back in the days when Penguin books flourished, there was no need for ‘fancy’ book covers because people were so desperate to read a good book that the cover was irrelevant.
The reason they were desperate to read a good book was probably because there was only a limited supply of good books available.
Self publishing has changed that; there are now plenty of good books available.
This might explain why it is necessary to have a good book cover.


Articles in the ‘My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience’ series.
My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 1
My cheap book cover design for self publishing experience part 2

Writing with smart quotes aka curly quotes

I think that my quest for a free Linux and Windows word processor that can create smart quotes, sometimes called curly quotes, has come to an end, and I can concentrate on my writing again because like other writers I would rather be writing a novel than searching for software.
Firstly, why bother with smart quotes?
Why not just use the ‘couple of upright ticks’ that most word processors and text editors provide?

One argument is that smart quotes ‘look prettier’ than a couple of upright ticks. I can understand this, let’s face it a couple of ticks does look rather computer generated. Smart quotes are computer generated too, of course, but they just don’t look quite as computer generated.

The reason why I decided to look for a word processor that could create smart quotes was, I downloaded a few novels from the internet and noticed that they had smart quotes.
That was it! I was in love! Smart quotes are my kind of girl.
Anyway, here are the word processors that I’ve used to create smart quotes so far: Libre, aka Apache, Abiword, and Focus Writer.
The bad news is (or maybe it’s just me,) they all have problems creating smart quotes.
Libre/Apache will create them, but only after you’ve worked your way through what feels like a million menus and sub menus. ~And even then I have problems with it.
Focus Writer will also create them but that blank screen that tells you you’d better get focussed on your writing or else is too challenging for me. In fact I find it quite dictatorial. “Ve haf vays of making you focussed.”
Abiword is probably the easiest way of creating smart quotes, but even then they tend to be the wrong way around. For example, it can create closing quotes (the ones at the end of the word or sentence) when you want opening quotes, and vice versa.
In my experience it’s difficult to create smart quotes aka curly quotes successfully, and it’s better to avoid using them if you can do.

How to write a novel using a note taker or note taking software

This series of articles explains how to write a novel using note taking software, sometimes called note takers, using the software to plan the chapters and scenes, write them and view them.
In other words, it explains how to use note taking software as novel writing software.
This might raise the question of why not just use novel writing software?
Well, I have used novel writing software and found that it was too ‘remote.’ To explain, I could easily view the scenes and chapters but it wasn’t so easy to view the entire novel.

To use an analogy, the novel writing software that I tried allowed me to see each brick but didn’t allow me to see the house. This is what I meant about it being too remote.

However, with note taking software I can do this, I can easily view the scenes and chapters and the entire novel.

You can of course view an entire novel by just writing it in a word processor and scrolling down the document from beginning to end, i.e. from the first chapter to the last chapter.

However, this is a pretty cumbersome way of doing it compared with using a note taker.

It’s also too remote, like novel writing software. However, it’s remote in the opposite sense.
It allows you to easily view the entire novel but it doesn’t allow you to easily view the scenes and chapters. To go back to my analogy, it allows you to view the house but not the bricks.

In my view a note taker aka note taking software is an excellent compromise
between novel publishing software and a word processor.

Articles in the How to write a novel using a note taker or note taking software

How to write a novel using a note taker or note taking software part 1
How to write a novel using a note taker or note taking software part 2
How to write a novel using a note taker or note taking software part 3