Still Need to Do Day

I look on the calendars a lot. Not to see what I should be doing or when an appointment is due. I just look to see what sort of day it is. I don’t mean Mother’s Day or Father’s Day but something more fun, like National Flip a Coin Day in the USA on June 1st. The world is a strange and wonderful place, and I love finding strange corners like that. Besides, flipping a coin is a useful way to make a decision. You find out what you really wanted when the coin lands and you are pleased or disappointed. Then you can go away and do what you actually wanted because the coin flip wasn’t legally binding.

If you go on the right sites, there are often a list of things that the day is for, some more serious than others. Today, 29th December, is the celebration of the Constitution of Ireland, which is important. It is also a day to celebrate Pepper Pots, which some may argue is also significant as it isn’t about the containers for pepper that are put on tables as I first thought, but about the soup, Pepper Pot, which is said to have won the American War of Independence. I found a recipe for it here, on I’m not going to make it. The last thing I need in my life is to start cooking tripe.

It caught my eye, though, that today is National ‘Still Need to Do’ Day and Tick Tock Day, both of them a subtle, or not-so-subtle, nudge to clear your ‘to-do’ list, and get moving to clear the decks for the New Year.

This is a great idea. I fully support it. I’m not acting on it today, though. If I sat down and wrote a list of all the outstanding tasks, half finished projects and looming deadlines, it would run to several volumes. I may spend the day making a start of a list…

One thing that I am learning, slowly and the hard way, is that it is easier to avoid entries like ‘sort out the disaster area called the dining room’ and instead have separate entries like, ‘clear one of the book shelves in the dining room’, ‘find a use for that cute tin or throw it out’ and ‘sort out the socks’.

I wonder about any ‘to-do’ list that my characters may have written. I wouldn’t touch any written by Mrs Tuesday or Lady Freydis. I think the ‘to-do’ list of Lord John Farnley could be full of engineering stuff and very short on things to do with his home or title. I may add ‘write to-do lists of characters’ to my to-do list.

One of the entries on my ‘to do’ list is learn Instagram. It’s mainly pictures and I don’t have the right way of looking at the world, so I struggle. However, in the spirit of the day, I have taken a picture of a to-do list, shown above. It is an authentic, true to life representation of the way I use to-do lists and my awful handwriting. Wish me luck on getting my list moving, and I would love to hear what you think about lists and your experience of them.

Only the Bravest

The faerie domain underneath York where Lady Freydis, Prince of the non normals, ruled, was not the most stable of places. Like all homes of the elfen, it reflected the mind and the mood of the ruler. This was a problem as people kept giving Lady Freydis lifestyle magazines. There could be minimalist and boho in the same issue. Lady Freydis would read articles on ‘twenty ways to use yellow in your decorating’ and the next day her hall would be like the inside of a buttercup.

Today was relatively calm with a ‘Handmade, Homemade House’ feel. Dave and Steve crossed the strewn rag rugs, passed the beautifully upholstered, throw covered sofas and joined Lady Freydis in her private study (‘use books as accents to give a calming feel’) where at least the chairs were comfortable. Dave nodded at Martin, Jack and Kadogan standing next to Lady Freydis. This looked serious. They sat down warily.

“Thank you for joining us,” Lady Freydis said. “You are under my protection while in my domain and can walk where you will without fear.” Dave and Steve exchanged worried glances as she turned to Martin. “I blame myself. But there was so much confusion. You weren’t here, you don’t know what it was like.”

“I saw some of the aftermath,” Martin said grimly. He looked over to Dave and Steve. “Apparently a vampire called Rey made a play for the throne of York while I was sleeping.”

Steve nodded. “He tried to get to us through Fiona. I dealt with it.”

Dave still had nightmares about Steve’s destruction of Rey. “But that was years ago.”

Lady Freydis waved a hand. “There was a lot going on at the time, if you remember, and then there was all that dreadful darkness infecting everywhere, and the disembodied hands. So no-one really checked the station. Besides, the elfen can’t get there easily. There’s too much iron.”

“What has happened?” Steve asked. “I thought Rey’s little domain under there collapsed when I killed him.”

Lady Freydis shifted a little in her pink, overstuffed armchair. “The part of his little patch that was underneath the station mostly collapsed, but there were still loose ends that overlapped into the faerie domain under York. We didn’t really get near there because all the iron nearby made it hard for us to notice.”

Martin’s expression was dark. “We thought that we had unravelled all of the dark essence left behind, but someone or something seems to have found that small pocket and it’s let loose again. It’s spreading through the domain.”

“Fortunately I’m in charge now,” Lady Freydis said, “But I need help with this.” She looked at Steve. “I would owe favour and gratitude to someone who could brave the iron and close the connections to my land. I do not feel comfortable having an entrance that I can’t guard.”

“What is more to the point, someone has got in there,” Martin said. “We could have anything or anyone wandering around.”

“I’m mobilising my defences, but it’s a tricky part of the realm,” Lady Freydis said. “I’m doing my best with aid from the werewolves, but even Mark is struggling with the conditions.”

“Um,” said Jack.

“I can see if I can get in from the station end,” Steve said. “Perhaps I can bring in a couple of werewolves with me from there. It sounds like we need to move in numbers.”

“Um,” Jack repeated, shifting uncomfortably where he stood.

Lady Freydis nodded. “I can only think of it being a fierce and powerful enemy, finding a weak spot and entering my domain from a hidden entrance – one that is full of dark, distorted power. It is not a safe place. Only the bravest can travel there.” She turned to Dave. “There is a chance that it is an unknowing normal, and you may be needed to explain things. That’s why I invited you.”

“Um.” Jack was looking more uncomfortable by the second.

“I’ll take Ian and Callum in with me,” Steve said. “Callum has some experiences of Rey’s paths anyway. We’ll start from the station…” He stopped and looked hard at Jack. “Anything that you want to share?”

Suddenly Jack grinned, bubbling over with mischief. “Do you remember that amateur vampire hunter? The one who saw Martin feed? Damned indiscreet, by the way.”

Martin stared at him as he saw the implications. “You are kidding.”

“You see, he found out about vampires when he got hold of a second-hand camera that used to be Rey’s. Apparently Rey liked to take pictures of his food.” Jack shrugged. “Everyone seems to take pictures for their social media, but Rey’s images were a little specialised.”

“So there is now proof vampires exist all over the internet,” Martin stared in horror.

“I don’t think that they’re out for general release,” Jack said, “Just safe, in several places. But it made Alex rather keen to fight vampires.”

“Trust me,” Dave said, “Rey would make anyone want to fight vampires.”

“He’s terribly clever,” Jack said. “The vampire hunter, I mean. He’s not a great warrior, or even a fighter, but he worked out where Rey lived and broke into the apartment.”

Martin turned to Lady Freydis. “You didn’t think to check where Rey lived?”

Lady Freydis shrugged. “There was a lot happening, and I wasn’t in charge.”

“Your little friend broke into someone’s flat?” Dave asked.

“Well, sort of,” Jack shrugged. “He used lockpicks. I was quite intrigued. He wasn’t fast, but he was remarkably skilful. We found quite a few bits of useful information. And some truly dreadful clothes. The man had no style.” He looked around. “There was a lot of mail as well. Apparently there was enough money in an account to cover the direct debit and so the rent was still paid. The landlord left him alone. But there was so much dust. It took a while to dig out the information.”

“Would the information include how to get into an elfen domain through the passages underneath York station?” Martin asked with dangerous calm. Jack shrugged again.

“And what are his chances of survival?” Dave asked.

Jack lost his smile. “His chances are quite slim. And that makes me sad, because although he is quite weak and very scared, he just wants to do the right thing. That is something that should be praised and protected.”

“You can come in with us, then,” Martin said. “From the sound of it, we will need all the help we can get.”

“I have an address for his other vampire hunter,” Jack said, “Though I haven’t met him yet. I’ll fetch him.” He hesitated. “The vampire hunter, he’s Alex Poole, the young man you hired for the White Hart. He wanted to find information on vampires.”

Steve looked appalled. “He’s only a young lad. I was worried that he’d not be strong enough for the warehouse!”

“I remember him,” Lady Freydis said. “We may be able to reach him. I remember that there is a strength inside.” She took charge. “Martin, use the information from Jack and his vampire hunter to get into the domain from the station side. Steve can go with you as well as Ian and Callum. I’ll lead a rescue party from my side, but I don’t know how far in we can get. And it’s been at least twelve hours. We can’t waste any time.”

“I’ll pick up Darren as well,” Martin said. “He knows the vampire hunter and hopefully the young lad will trust him – if we can find him in time. Dave, you had better go with Lady Freydis in case she meets him first. Jack, I’ll meet you at the War Memorial at the corner of Station Rise in thirty minutes.” He caught the eye of his wife and nodded.

“And I’ll leave now,” Lady Freydis said, the glamour around her shifting from an elegant cocktail dress to utilitarian leather jacket and jeans. She glared at Jack. “And then you and I will be having a long conversation.”

You can read the story of Alex from the start here

Christmas Tradition

It’s that time of year. People are dusting off their Christmas traditions and huddling inside away from the cold, dark days. In Iceland, there is a tradition of Jolabokaflod where people give each other gifts of books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them straight away. The more I hear about Iceland, the better it sounds.

Mind you, knowing how people are, those books may be read with different degrees of enthusiasm. I honestly think that there will be lots of happy people curled up with their favourite author, or a favourite genre, or even a completely new type of book that is perfect for opening up new ideas and thoughts in a wonderful and well-received way. I also suspect that there will be people muttering in corners, ‘My mother-in-law got me a book on Swedish Death Cleaning and I know exactly what she means by that!’

We don’t have that tradition in our family, mainly because my lovely husband has mostly audio books and I read a lot of books on a reading app, so we don’t usually buy physical books. Son reads in fits and starts and I just let him get on with it. Besides, he’s old enough to raid our bookshelves now when he feels like it. I also don’t want to force reading on him because he is overloaded with schoolwork and I would feel guilty trying to make him do anything more.

Speaking of schoolwork, son has been blessed by some amazing texts for his school syllabus, and one of them is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We don’t have many Christmas traditions, but one of them is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol every year. We snuggle in, have the room nice and toasty with a scented candle, pile up snacks and drinks and enjoy. It’s years since I read the original, but I dipped in again the other night. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the original work made it into the Muppet version. I have watched dozens of versions over the years, but I think that the Muppets get it the closest. Drop a comment if you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what you think.

One thing that struck me was the original story, written in nineteenth century London, doesn’t have much to do with religion. It refers to Christianity, but that was natural for a nominally Christian writer in a nominally Christian country. However, it doesn’t really bother with theology. It talks about people, and a reminder that people are important. That it is worth cherishing the bonds of love and friendship. That it is a human duty to look out for others who cannot look out for themselves.

The language of the original is dated. Some of the expressions are unfamiliar to a modern reader. It’s a cracking story, though, and the dozens of films inspired by it (some a lot better than others) take up the sentiment. It seems that there is a deeply ingrained impulse to have a celebration at the darkest time of the year and to remember those who need a little help. I have watched A Muppet Christmas Carol so many times I can practically repeat the dialogue along with the film. I’m still looking forward to it though. It’s not a bad Christmas tradition.

Pictures on a Wall

This is the sixth in a series of short stories and you can find the full story here

Alex spread out the photos. “I got all the pictures from the camera printed out,” He said. “These ones show the…” He hesitated for a moment. “The ones that look like vampires.”

“It’s okay,” Rhys said quietly. “You saw one feeding. You know that they are real, and so do I. I’ve known it in my bones for a while.” He looked at the pictures spread across the wall of Alex’s bedsit. “This is well thought out.”

“Thanks,” Alex said. “I’ve watched a lot of crime shows.” He pointed to the central picture. “That’s the most obvious one. You can see a lot of details.” He swallowed. It wasn’t a pleasant picture. “But I don’t think that it’s the most important. If you look at this picture,” Alex pointed to another feeding picture slightly above the centre, “you can see a little of the window. And here there is a reflection in the glass door of a cabinet.”

Rhys leant forward. “I never thought of looking like that.”

“That’s the Minster, there. I’m pretty sure of it. But if you look at the reflection there, it’s a hotel. I think this picture was taken in a flat on Tanner Row.”

Rhys opened his phone and pulled up a street map of York. “Yes, I think you’re right.” He frowned. “But not the ground floor. It’s at least two floors up.”

“There’s some student housing around there,” Alex said. “It could be one of their flats.”

“Or someone who has a flat among them,” Rhys said. “I mean, it’s good cover. No-one is going to be around long enough to keep track on who lives where. And there is likely to be people coming and going all the time.”

“We need to visit,” Alex said. The implications of that hung in the air.

“We need to be prepared,” Rhys said. “There could be anything there.”

“Or nothing,” Alex said. “I’m not sure when these pictures were taken, but it must be a while ago. There’s no sign of any masks or anything, even in the background.”

“I wonder who that is?” Rhys pointed at a picture of a dark haired woman. “She seems to be important.”

Alex nodded. “I made a whole section of her pictures,” he said, gesturing at a spray of pictures. “I don’t think that she’s a vampire, though.”

Rhys looked closely. “She looks ill in most of them,” he said. “You can almost trace the way she is fading. She looks quite well here, but she’s paler here, and she looks really ill in this one.”

“I wonder if the vampire had an obsession with her,” Alex said. “Perhaps she was a victim, like the woman I saw a few weeks ago.”

Rhys leaned back. “I think it’s a little more sinister. The woman you saw was obviously consenting. This doesn’t look like she is enjoying herself.”

“I wonder if she is okay,” Alex said. “I mean, the last picture is pretty bad.” He tapped on the picture on the extreme left. The woman was looking almost colourless, and the hollows and shadows on her face were an unpleasant contrast to the bright expression on the first picture.

Rhys swallowed. “I hope so. Perhaps she escaped. Perhaps they killed the owner of these pictures. Perhaps we are chasing a ghost.”

“But I saw that one feeding,” Alex reminded him. He shrugged and hesitated. “You weren’t around, and I saw an opportunity.”

Rhys’ heart sank. He couldn’t bear the thought of his friend risking himself. “What sort of opportunity?”

“I was browsing jobs, and I saw that they needed a new staff member at the White Hart,” Alex said. “I called in, went into the interview an hour later, and they gave me the job.”

Rhys shook his head. He could feel his fangs lengthening with the shock and fought it back. Alex did not need to find out that his vampire fighting comrade was actually a vampire. “It’s too risky!”

Alex shook his head. “I need to know. I can’t get that picture out of my mind. Besides, it’s good money and it sounds interesting. I could be helping in the café, the warehouse, making local deliveries, stocking the shop, and they even included ‘other duties as required’ which makes me think that I could end up doing anything. It would be a nice change from the old place. I gave in notice this morning.”

“There are a lot of pictures of the place,” Rhys said, waving his hand at the wall.

“So it’s even more important for me to work out what’s going on,” Alex said. “There may be some talk I overhear, some sort of group or network. I’ll have a chance to spot any subtle signs.”

Rhys swallowed. “Okay, I suppose it’s a good idea. But you need to be careful. I got this for you.” He carefully handed over a silver crucifix on a chain. “Perhaps you could see if that priest would bless it for you.”

Darren frowned at Alex. “It’s not like a slot machine,” he said. “You don’t just insert prayer and have a blessing shoot out of the bottom of a dispenser. You can’t order the divine around.”

“Please,” Alex said. “I could really use the job, but there’s a lot of scary stuff in there.”

Darren drummed his fingers on his immaculately polished table. “There are plenty of jobs around,” he said. He sighed and stood, pacing up and down the sparse study. “I never feel comfortable refusing a blessing, but you have to understand, it isn’t a magic spell. It isn’t a film or a computer game. It’s about faith.” He frowned and held out a reluctant hand. “If you’re still worried about vampires, then perhaps a blessing will help. I’ll pray over this, but in return I will ask that you come to me if you think that a crime is being committed. Predators come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and keeping within the rules can be a form of protection in itself.” The priest sighed heavily as he took the necklace. “I call in to the White Hart quite often, and they’re a good bunch.” He sighed again as he arranged the chain in his hands. “If you are worried about vampires, it’s perhaps not the best place to be, though.”

“I thought it would be a good place to be,” Alex said quietly. “There must be a lot of stuff that fights against darkness there.”

Darren thought about his friends at the White Hart. “Well, a couple of the staff come to Bible study here.” He hesitated. “You’re welcome to come as well, if you like, if you feel that you need the protection of faith. I’ll still bless this crucifix no matter what you decide, but you need to think. Ask yourself why it is so important to you to have this blessed by me.” Darren shook his head. “Let us pray about this.”

Jack took his time studying the wall of pictures in Alex’s room. “I think that this is a remarkable work of art,” he said. “And you are starting work at the White Hart next week?”

Alex nodded. “They want me to start training in the warehouse,” he said. “The current staff are moving to a new location.” He hesitated. “The priest blessed my crucifix, just in case.”

Jack glanced at the crucifix. “That was a good idea, if it works,” he said, as if he couldn’t see the vivid holy aura surrounding it. “I know a few people at the White Hart,” he said. “They’re okay.” He pointed to the pictures of the woman. “That is Fiona Adderson, and I am very fond of her – in a non-romantic way!” he added quickly. “Her husband, Steve Adderson, is someone I think neglects her, but they are happy enough. Mrs Tuesday is a scary old lady. Never take alcohol from her. And the Tarot reader, Dave Kinson, doesn’t believe in Tarot.”

“That sounds a little unusual,” Alex said.

Jack shrugged. “Better safe counsel than true divination,” he said. “Oh, and the priest’s girlfriend works there as well. She is a beautiful blonde lady, called Jasmine. Don’t try and romance her.”

“She doesn’t sound like my type,” Alex said stiffly.

“You don’t like blondes?” Jack asked.

“I’m not into ladies,” Alex said quietly.

Jack shrugged. “It won’t make much of a difference at the White Hart,” he said. “Anyway, I must leave. I have an appointment. But I will be back soon. We can perhaps find the flat of that vampire together.”

Jack almost danced out of the flat and down the street. He wouldn’t even need to tempt Martin to meet the vampire hunter. Martin called into the White Hart at least once a week. All Jack needed to do was to be there when Alex met Martin and enjoy the fireworks.

Feeling Poetic

My son is coming up to his GCSEs. For those who are unaware, GCSEs are the national standardised exams, usually taken at the age of 16 by everyone. Schools are marked on how well their students do, and funding is allocated accordingly. Students have access to further courses limited by their GCSE scores. I sometimes think that there is more pressure on these classes than the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

With most of the subjects I just nod, smile and encourage. It’s all changed since I was sitting the equivalent, back in the eighties, and I was never much good at the STEM subjects that my son enjoys. The only time that I would venture a slight opinion is on English Literature. I am deeply envious of the works that he has to study. My son has Macbeth (a lovely, meaty play), An Inspector Calls, A Christmas Carol and a selection of poetry.

I don’t head to poetry regularly. I have old-fashioned and, I suspect, shallow tastes. I do enjoy it, though. Years ago I had a huge tome of poetry that was mainly nineteenth century English poetry with a few outliers. It got me fascinated by Shelley, gave me an appreciation of Byron, and made me very comfortable with rhyming poetry – not necessarily a good thing. I suspect that I miss out on a lot.

However it did give me a few pieces that will always warm my heart. The first poem in the book was called ‘My Cat Jeoffrey’ by Christopher Smart (1722-1771). I believe he wrote it in a lunatic asylum, and he later died in a debtors’ prison, so it wasn’t the most logical poem to come out of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, it is awesome for all those owned by cats. The poem doesn’t rhyme, doesn’t scan and doesn’t entirely make sense. In other words – it’s perfect for cats. For me, the best line is – ‘For he can spraggle upon waggle upon the word of command.’ Every cat owner knows exactly what that means and it is a wonderful way to describe a cat turning itself inside out for the sheer pleasure of it.

I hope that you feel able to click on the link above, and perhaps even browse around the poems on the site. The poem is a little long for me to put on here, so I have made do with a link and added my somewhat inferior contribution to cat poetry. And thank you for visiting this page. After browsing around the poetry, I feel encouraged to spend an evening expanding my poetic knowledge, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to be inspired.

My Lion

My little lovely tabby is looking rather sweet.
The elegant and tabby tail is curled around her feet.
Expressionless she looks at me with bland and secret eyes,
Assured the plate of sausages was dinner in disguise.

I want to read the paper but my lap is occupied.
A tabby cat is dozing so I’ve put my read aside,
And though it’s really painful as the claws are sinking in,
The sound of cat contentment keeps me tickling her chin.

It’s as if a dozen devils are fighting on the floor,
And a screwed up piece of paper is tossed from paw to paw.
It’s thrown, bit and fought and then chased across the stairs,
Then the tabby runs in panic from a fright that isn’t there.

My cat lies soft in sunlight and her fur is golden bright,
Her eyes are slits of slumber as she turns into the light,
She stretches like a lion sprawled who drowses in the heat,
And dreams of Serengeti mice are twitching at her feet.

My tabby’s meditating and her limbs are all tucked in,
Her head is nodding forward as she draws herself within,
And. who knows, if she meditates to the fire’s gentle hum,
Her focus will reward her and a lion she’ll become.

Over Coffee

cup of coffee on white ceramic saucer
Image from Unsplash, taken by Emre

This is the fifth in a series of short stories and you can find the full story here

“What do you mean, you know where the vampire hunters are?” Martin asked the nature spirit seated across the café table from him.

Jack grinned, his eyes bright with mischief. “I know where one is, and I’m not telling you.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Jack,” Martin said. “This isn’t time for games.”

“Oh, I think it is,” Jack said. “Just think of all the fun I can have, leading them a merry dance to chase you and Dean.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Martin said. “And it’s not fair on them. What if they find something that’s actually there?”

“Wouldn’t that be delicious?” Jack said. “It would be quite irresistible.”

“Resist it,” Martin snapped, before looking around the White Hart and lowering his voice. The supernatural supply shop wasn’t busy, but there were a few tourists hanging around the fairy figurines. The last thing that they needed was to be overheard.

“He’s soooo earnest,” Jack said. “He’s taking exercise to better fight off the evil fanged foe.”

“I’m warning you,” Martin put down his coffee cup and loomed over Jack.

“It’s not like you’re going to get a mob waving poorly made stakes,” Jack said. “The most I could hope for is a run on garlic in the supermarket. I wonder what they’ll try next?”

“It could drive them mad,” Martin said. “You need to send Darren over to them.”

“He’s already spoken to Darren,” Jack said. “The padre is a marvellous exorcist, but he isn’t much of a shepherd to his flock, is he? It sounds like he made quite the mess of it.”

Martin narrowed his eyes. “It’s the one that tried to rescue Kayla, isn’t it?”

“I heard all about that!” Jack’s eyes glinted with laughter. “I don’t know. But I know he has pictures of Rey, your wife’s former lover from before you woke up.”

What?” Martin stared at him.

“He was a vampire as well, you know. It seems that Lady Freydis has a taste for necking-”

Martin hauled Jack out of his chair and punched him hard with the speed that only a vampire could manage. Jack was slow to read it and caught the full force, sailing over the counter and bouncing into the floor in the back room. “Do not speak of my wife like that!” Martin snarled, striding towards the counter, fury in every inch of him.

Rhys slouched over the car park of the White Hart towards the door. He had avoided it so far. There had been receipts around from the store, and it looked like there could be a connection. He had to risk it, though. It seemed to be the best source of occult books and paraphernalia so perhaps vampires shopped there. Maybe there was a notice board or something. Mentally he grinned. Perhaps there should be something like ‘wanted, kids scooter in good condition’ and ‘for sale, coffee table’ and ‘for sale or swap, silk lined coffin, lightly used’. He opened the door and stared. A tall man, like the vampire that Alex had described, dark and dangerous looking, was staring past the old woman minding the counter, and every sense in Rhys’ body screamed at him to run. This was death, this was dominion, this was rage and power and darkness that could overcome him with a thought. This was a vampire that ruled the devil. Without any rational thought, Rhys turned and sprinted away, his vampiric speed taking him out of sight before Martin could move to stop him.

Martin stared impotently after the fleeing vampire, then stalked around the counter and into the back room where Jack was massaging his jaw, still sprawled on the floor. “Hell and damnation! I’ve just seen a vampire – a fledgeling! I haven’t created one, and I’m damned sure that Dean hasn’t, so now I have to track down the poor kid that’s just fled, plus have a word with their creator to ask why they haven’t presented themselves at court. The last thing I need is a boy scout vampire hunter messing around. Get it stopped, Jack.” Without waiting for an answer, Martin disappeared.

Jack looked thoughtfully at the space Martin left. Martin had been old when he came with the Roman legions to York. He had seen all humanity and was surprised and shaken by so little. To see Martin so rattled was a gift beyond price. He had to find the fledgeling first, and then set the hunters on their merry chase. What fun!

My Favourite Author

shallow focus photo of pink flowers
Image from Unsplash, taken by John Wiesenfeld

I am a bad reader. I read a lot of non-fiction, especially history, as you may be able to tell if you read my books. I re-read a lot of my favourite authors as well. Sometimes I feel I will need dynamite to get out of my reading rut. I’ll be returning to reviewing in the new year to force open my horizons.

Unfortunately I have just found that they are releasing my favourite author’s books on kindle. This is not necessarily a good thing. I know a whole bundle of amazing and talented authors, but I keep going back to Essie Summers, the wife of a New Zealand minister, born 1912. She wrote romances with a Christian feel to them and I have been hooked for years. I read, re-read and re-re-read the books to tatters. Now that they are on kindle, I shall be reading them even more. And I don’t know why.

I could tell you that they deal honestly with people. That the characters have depth, the dialogue is crisp and that the world of her story has depth. I could talk about the wonderful descriptive flair that she has, the feeling that there is a continuation of life around the story. I could talk about some of the more complicated plots (trust me, some are extremely complicated with half sisters and adopted brothers and all sorts). Lots of other authors have those. I still keep going back to Essie Summers.

I suppose I feel comfortable reading them. I relax into them. They are wholesome and fun and speak of honest feelings. It reminds me that there are good people out there. But, to be honest, it’s still something of a mystery. I’m going to be buying them all as they come onto kindle, as soon as I see them. I don’t know why they call to me, but they do.

Thinking of why I like them so much has made me wonder. Are there some books that just call to you? Is it some sort of compatibility? Could you sort personalities by favourite author instead of star sign or that thing with the letters? Perhaps it’s like food cravings – a deficiency in real life means that you crave a certain type of book? If so, I can confirm that I am deficient in New Zealand. I am not going to comment on the romance aspect, as I have been married for over 30 years and he is awesome. I’m still going to finish here and settle down with ‘No Orchids by Request

I’d love to hear if you have any authors that call to you the same way. Comment down below, it would be great to see your thoughts.

Drinking Buddy

clear shot glass with brown liquid
Image from Unsplash taken by Phil Cruz

This is the fourth in a series of short stories and you can find the full story here

“It’s not fair,” Alex slurred to his new friend at the bar. “I should get a medal.”

Jack watched the slim lad with amusement. “So you tried to rescue a woman from a vampire and she fought back.” He caught the barman’s eye. “Can I have another glass of the house red and…” He glanced at Alex’s empty glass. “Add a rum and coke to the tab as well.”

“He’s had enough,” the barman said flatly. “And he’s going to throw up all over the toilets any minute if you don’t get him out of here.”

“I’ll take him home, Pete,” Jack said. “Come on, mate, let’s get you out of here.”

“I should have had a medal,” Alex repeated bitterly. He focussed on Jack. “Do you believe in vampires?”

Jack paid the barman, adding a generous tip, and helped Alex out of his seat. “Yep, I believe in them. And I believe in werewolves too.”

They walked out into the brisk night air and Alex swayed a little. “I think I had a bit too much to drink,” he confided to Jack.

“It’s okay, it sounds like you needed it,” Jack said. “Where do you live? I’ll get you home.”

“You’re a good pal,” Alex said. “I’ve got a room out in Acomb.” He looked doubtfully at Jack. “You’re not a vampire, are you?”

Jack shook his head. “Definitely not,” he said. “Come on, it’s going to rain soon.”

Jack steered Alex past the Railway Museum and the Holgate Windmill towards his bedsit. “So you saw a vampire feeding? What did it look like?”

“He wasn’t feeding from the neck,” Alex said with a shudder. “But he was intent, you know, like the films. And he was dark, like Italian or Greek or something.” He swayed slightly. “I think I’ve had too much to drink.”

“I’ll make you a coffee when you get in,” Jack said. “Was he young or old?”

Alex shivered. “He looked late twenties but he felt about a thousand. Hang on, I’m feeling a bit queasy…”

Jack waited patiently as Alex emptied his stomach into the nearest litter bin. “We need to get you home, mate, and get you into bed.”

Alex managed a grin. “Yeah, propped on my side with a bucket next to me.” He shook his head. “It’s the shock. I mean, I had the pictures from the second hand camera, but to see it right in front of me…” He stared into the darkness.

“What do you mean, pictures?” Jack asked.

“I got a second hand camera from this bloke,” Alex said. “He comes into work sometimes and I thought I’d have a go at being a blogger. So I got this camera cheap because he didn’t have the charger.” He shrugged. “That was easy enough to pick up. But the memory card still had a load of pictures on it.” Alex shuddered. “It was pictures of vampires. I kept trying to tell myself that it was photoshop, but they were still on the memory card.”

“That must have been a shock,” Jack said.

“I got a priest to bless the camera, but he said that I shouldn’t interfere. What sort of priest says that? He said that no crime had been committed.” Alex looked around him. “I live down here.”

Jack turned down the road with him. “And you still have the pictures?”

Alex nodded. “On the memory card, on the cloud, backed up on usb sticks, the lot. I can show you them, if you like?”

“Perhaps tomorrow,” Jack said. “You need to get some sleep. But I could meet up with you later.”

Alex tried to think. “You’re not going to set me up or anything are you?”

“I believe in vampires, and I’d love to see what you’ve got. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one caught on film,” Jack said, skirting over the honesty of his intentions. “Listen, why don’t I meet you at home tomorrow evening? I’d love to see the pictures.”

Alex reluctantly agreed, the warning bells at the back of his mind muffled by the fog of alcohol. “I’ll see you then. And I’m making a website for it. Perhaps you could help with that.”

Jack left Alex, safely tucked in bed, propped on his side with a bucket next to him, and whistled as he walked back towards the Minster. York was an ancient place. It had been a thriving settlement when the Romans arrived all those centuries ago, a trading hub where the rivers met. Of course there were vampires here, and a thriving pack of werewolves, and all sorts of non-normal characters. The supernatural roots of this city went deep. Some were just keeping their heads down and living their lives. Others were by their nature less well intentioned. He’d been a nature spirit with an instinct for mischief when the first settlers came down to barter for the fine flints of Derbyshire with amber from across the plains and marshes to the north. He grinned and waved a hand at a shuttered shop, casually setting off the alarms that would wake the street. He knew all the vampires in York, at least, all those who reported to the Prince, and they were, to his mind, a dull and insipid bunch. He’d recognised the description of his old friend, enemy and sparring partner from Alex’s description and inwardly chuckled.

Alex was the least heroic vampire hunter Jack had ever met, and the vampires in York were so pathetically moral that it was unbearable. Watching them chase each other through York would be the best entertainment he had found for years. Jack wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but whatever he decided, it would be fun.