Monday, 10 December 2012

A raid on the fat monastries of Ireland turns sour for three Norsemen.

The Curse of Summer



The door of the hut swung open. Wind howled in through the opening, blowing a swirling spray of snow into the dark smoky room. Bright yellow flames trashed wildly sending the shadows of the men hunched around the fire, dancing around the walls like a frantic, ritual dance of ghosts. Two figures entered, the last put his weight to the door and slammed it shut. Four of the five seated men looked up at the newcomers, who were now pulling off their heavy fur cloaks and caps and shaking the snow from them. The fifth, an old grey-beard, showed no signs of interest, his head remained bowed, his gaze fixed on the fire in front of him.

“Welcome, Bjorn,” one of the men said. “Come warm yourself by the fire.”

Bjorn nodded his thanks and clapped his companion on the back. “This is Erik Olafson, a trader from Birka.”

“You are welcome to share all we have, Erik.” Plates of meat and bread were quickly passed around to the two men, along with drinking bowls filled with ale.

“Will you give us a tale for our guests, Harald, tell us of the old days?” the host asked the old man. At first there was no reply, for a long while he did not even move. Eventually he shifted, he sliced a piece of meat from the haunch he held on a plate in his lap. He crammed the meat into his mouth, juice dribbled down his chin disappearing into the thick wiry hair of his beard. He rubbed greasy hands into his breeches.

“A tale? You would hear of heroes and adventure, of raids and great battles?” Although he spoke quietly, without even looking up, his audience was captivated, mesmerised by the voice that sounded like rolling thunder.

“Aye, Harald. Tell us of the old days, of the Viking days.”

Harald rubbed a hammer shaped amulet at his throat. “What was it to be a Viking? It meant being scared a lot, scared and drunk. Wondering what it would be like to have your guts spilling from your belly, or to have some ersling split your head open from behind with a sling shot. Wondering was it your neighbour in the shield wall that just shat himself or was it you. The smell of war is the smell of piss and puke. I’ll give you a tale, a fine Viking adventure.”

“It was the time of Sigurd Skull-Splitter; we sailed with three ships seeking plunder and slaves. The fat monasteries of Ireland were easy picking, so much undefended treasure with only a handful of fat old men to stand in our way. They put their faith in their White Christ. For a while, he abandoned them.”

“We attacked a church north of Dyflin, killed all the priests and livestock. Before we could load up the treasure, word came to Sigurd from one of the scouts that a local lord had gathered his men at arms and was heading our way. Fighting unarmed priests was one thing, but few of us had the stomach for looking down an eight foot pike with an angry Irish peasant on the other end. The call went out ‘back to the ships.’ So it became a race.”

“Sometimes in the confusion of flight it can be easy to become separated. And that’s what happened to me and two others, Halldor Larsson and Hrodgeir Rolfson. By nightfall we had not caught up with the main party and started to get concerned, what if the ships sailed without us? What if we had to face the Irish on our own?”

“Just after dark, we found a house on its own at the edge of a wood. There was nothing else there, just this house. A typical structure made from wattle and daub with a thatched roof. We crept up with caution, nothing stirred. We kicked in the door and burst in, three heavily armed Vikings, shouting and roaring.”

“There was nothing inside, except one cot and one sleeping figure on the cot. A woman! Halldor grabbed her and dragged her outside. We all laughed when we saw her in the moonlight, she was beautiful… More than beautiful, she was a vision, beyond compare. A gift from Wodan, we thought. The Norns were truly laughing at us that night. Hrodgeir kicked her to the ground, while Halldor pulled at her dress. But to our horror and disappointment she fell down dead.”  

“We left her body where it fell and made a camp, none of us wanted to sleep in the house. That night I dreamed of her, she came to me and woke me, taking me by the hand she led me into the trees, the sun was shining, the forest teemed with life, the wildflowers where extraordinarily bright, the beauty of her face brought tears to my eyes. ‘Harald you watched while the Queen of Summer died. By Samhain your world will be forever in darkness.’ I fell to my knees for I knew I had been cursed.”

“When I woke my face and beard were wet from my tears. I looked over to where we had left the woman, her body was still there, just as we had left it. Although none of us spoke about it I knew the other two had had similar dreams.”

“One by one I lost the others, first Hrodgeir fell from a cliff, we could tell his back had been broken, we left him there hearing his cries for help and his curses. Then we were attacked by a bear, both Halldor’s arms were ripped from his body. I ran, his screams ringing in my ears.”

“But you made it, you survived,” Erik said, his words coming out in a whisper.

Finally the old man looked up, Erik gasped, when he saw the milky white eyes, two sightless orbs sunk into a deformed face of criss-cross scars.

“No one escapes the wrath of the gods, boy.”


Friday, 30 November 2012

Because sometimes life can be really shit.

I write fantasy, horror, even steampunk. A lot of stuff to escape the harsh realities of life. Well sometimes even the most fantastical escapism is not enough, because, very often, life can be really shit.



 “Hey! Wake up, you can’t sleep here.”


“Come on, up!”

“Okay, okay, give us a sec’,” he said, wiping sleep from his eye.

“I’ve told you before you can’t sleep here. If I catch you again I’ll arrest you. Understand?”

He pulled himself up into a sitting position and nodded. He glanced up quickly at the uniformed police officer and looked away quickly, unwilling to make eye-contact. It was not just the uniform, he rarely made eye-contact with anyone anymore.

“This is a public park not a doss house, how do you think it looks to a young mother with little kiddies coming for a play in the park, only to find you sprawled all over a bench?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled an apology.

“Look at the state of you, I could smell your stink before I saw you.”


“Five minutes… if you’re still here when I get back I’ll have your sorry arse before a judge.”

He nodded once, but the policeman had already turned on his heel and moved on. His head throbbed, his throat was parched, his stomach felt queasy. It was a warm summers day and yet, despite wearing a heavy winter coat, he shivered from the cold. He brought a hand up to his temple, it came away sticky with blood. How had that happened? he wondered. A fuzzy image came to mind of being heckled and pushed around by a gang of faceless youths, dressed in hoodies and tracksuits.

His arms, legs and back ached, a cramp knotted in his stomach and lower abdomen, he wasn’t sure if he needed to eat or shit, or both. He reached for the bottle beside him, cooking sherry, he held it by the neck and tipped it back, he wretched and then drank some more, draining the bottle.

“Eww! Mummy, that man is so smelly.”

He no longer flinched with shame when young mothers pulled their children out of his way. It hurt at first, cutting him to his very core, especially the little ones, the fear and disgust in their eyes. Blocking out the memories was the first thing he had to do, the booze helped with that.

“Keep walking, you’re scaring the kiddies.”  The policeman was back. He nodded and shuffled on his way, keeping his eyes low. He wondered where he would sleep tonight, best not come back for a day or two.

He walked on, leaving the calm and peace of the park behind. All around him the sounds and smells of the city assaulted his senses, buses and trucks belched out noxious fumes, people hurried past all giving him a wide berth. A car screeched to a halt, the driver shouting and gesticulating at him, before he realised he was in the middle of the road. He shuffled on, not answering, not looking back.

“Oi, you, fuck off!”

He looked up from the skip, a man dressed in a chef’s aprons had come out of a doorway into the alleyway and was shouting at him, he dropped the leftover food back into the bin and moved on.

He rummaged through the on-street bins for whatever he could find, scavenging whatever food he could get his hands on or anything he could use. A piece of cardboard he dragged from one bin would make sleeping on the cold streets a bit more bearable.

Dizzy and disorientated most of the time now, his body ached for food and sleep, his mind craved drink. Drink to take him away, drink to help him find the oblivion he constantly sought.

“Malone?” He looked up from the bin. “Jesus, Malone, is that you?” A man dressed in suit and tie addressed him.

Malone? That was his name once. Not anymore. He shrugged off the man and shuffled on. The man followed.

“It is you, Malone. What the hell happened to you?”

He pushed him away and tried to move on, but the well dressed man was persistent.

“This used to be my boss,” he laughed, turning to his friends.

“Come on, Freddie, leave him alone, he stinks,” a woman’s voice said.

“Seriously, this was my manager at the bank. He got fired when he came into work drunk one day and told all the customers to go fuck themselves. Apparently his wife had taken the kids and buggered off with another man.”

“Please, Freddie, I want to go.” He could hear the fear in her voice.

“Jesus, Malone. Here,” the man said and shoved a tenner into his hand.

He looked up when the couple walked away, tears blurred his vision. He looked down at the ten pound note, he wanted to run after them and tell them to keep their bloody money, tell them he didn’t need it, or them and tell them to go fuck themselves. He scrunched the note up tightly in his fist, his knuckles turned white. A sob escaped from his throat, a harsh guttural noise, a mournful wail of despair.

He wiped away the tears and snot and unfolded the note, calculating how much booze he could get with it.

He wanted to forget.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

An excerpt from Tribesman

In the beginning there was only the Benouin. They farmed the fertile land nourished by the Great River. Their herds and flocks grazed on the lush green pastures. Golden corn, wheat, and bounteous fruit trees flourished in the dark, rich earth. The women of the Benouin were just as fruitful and the people swelled in number. The cantankerous god of thunder, Dourab, provided them with precious metals from his lofty mountain home; iron, tin, and gold.
They formed communities, building villages and towns. Their numbers and wealth grew, and they thrived. A king ruled over them, a wise and just ruler, his name was Sarouk Ur-Dal. He took a wife from one of the villages and his wise men advised him he should get her with child and produce an heir.
And so, Sarouk’s power and fame grew. He built a city that would be the capital of a growing nation. He named it Azral-Laldra; the City of Light. People flocked to build their homes within the confines of  its walls. His wise men advised him to build an army and make weapons from the bounty of Dourab’s rocky mountain peaks.
“Who should we make war on?” Sarouk asked.
“Whomever shall oppose us,” they answered.
“And who shall oppose us?” The king asked.
“Let us go forth and find them,” they said.
The armies of the Benouin poured forth from the gates of Azral-Laldra conquering all before them. An empire was born and the wealth of the people, together with their arrogance, grew. The once wise and merciful king listened to words of false praise and flattery whispered in his ear and as a result became vain and cruel. His councillors called him a God and had statues fashioned in his honor. The people knelt before his image and worshiped him.
The gods of the Benouin are many and guard jealously the prayers of the faithful. They were not inclined to accept another to their ranks. The priests and mages of King Sarouk gathered in the great city with the sole intent of challenging the gods and replacing them with their Lord.
King Sarouk was a god in name only. All the gods of the Benouin came together and they scattered the people on the wind. They tore down their cities and ripped up their crops, cursing them to forever wander across the burning sands that were once lush meadows and rich earth. Sarouk and his council of mages were trapped within the jewel of the empire to linger there for all time. Azral-Laldra became Azral-Murbo, the City of the Dead.
You can buy Tribesman, an epic fantasy novel on

Monday, 22 October 2012



The girl stood in the centre of the clearing, staring straight up. Sunlight pierced the heavy growth of the forest through a gap in the overhead canopy. She could feel the heat of the sun on her face when she pulled back the heavy dark hood of her cape. She closed her eyes and absorbed the sounds and smells of the forest. Birds singing, insects buzzing, small woodland creatures scurrying in the undergrowth. She breathed in the pungent earthy smell of the trees and forest floor.

 Long strands of thick hair, the colour of molten metal flowed down her back. Like lava streaming down the side of a snow covered mountain, her father had once remarked, referring to her pale white skin and fiery mane. She opened her eyes, two sapphires, two deepest mountain pools. Full rose red lips quivered slightly, the barest hint of agitation.

 She was hungry. She looked at the basket she carried in her left hand, imagined its contents, imagined gorging herself on the bounty that was her burden.

 No! That is not for you.

 Silently she cursed herself for leaving the path, she thought she would make it to the cottage by nightfall, she thought she knew a shortcut, she thought she would be safe. Now she was lost, lost and alone. Which way?

 She turned in a circle, no longer sure which way she had come. Even if she wanted to, there would be no going back. She bit her lower lip as she tried to gauge how much daylight was left. She swallowed a lump in her throat, fought back tears. She took a breath, was about to cry out, then stopped. Who would hear her? Who would come? What would come? Were there bears in the forest? She wasn’t sure, she had never heard her father mention them, there were other creatures though, not all made of flesh and blood.

 Spirits and goblins, demons and monsters.


 They were only stories, tales to frighten children. She was no longer a child. She had to deliver her basket. There were no dragons or ghosts, no wailing banshees or screaming terrors.

 She tensed as she felt a change in the atmosphere of the forest, perhaps it was her imagination. Had it got colder? No. What was it? She listened.


 Nothing!  Her eyes darted about, her ears strained. There was nothing, no sounds, no birds, no scurrying animals. Just silence.


 She jumped at the sound. A dead branch cracked. Somebody was there, something was there.


 She ran, hitching up her skirts, she bolted like a frightened fawn, fleeing deeper into the forest, flaming red hair streaming behind her, her dark cape billowing. She could hear its grunts behind her, feel its hot breath on the back of her neck. Razor sharp fangs ready to devour her whole.

 Don’t look back.

 Even the forest turned against her, branches reached for her, bramble tried to block her way, roots appeared from the ground to trip her. All the while, it gained on her. She fell over a log, her hands reached out to save her, she dropped her basket, before hitting her head on a rock.


Grandmother, she sighed, a whisper, like a kiss from a warm breeze. Her last thought before the darkness was for her grandmother, alone and unwell in the cottage.

 In her dream, her broken body was found by a wolf, her injured head licked clean and miraculously healed. In her dream, she was safe.

 She opened her eyes, all was black, night had fallen. She felt groggy, her head ached. She put her hand to her head and it came away sticky, she could smell the metallic scent of blood. She heard a long mournful wail.


 She scrambled up and away. Running blindly through the forest, thorns cut her hands and face, ripped her cape and skirts. She struggled and ran until she could run no further, until her heart felt as if it would burst in her heaving chest, until each breath of gulped air burned her lungs, until the muscles in her legs ached unbearably.

 She stopped, waited. She realised she had lost her basket. It no longer mattered.

 She did not have long to wait. From the darkness of the forest he emerged, his movements quick and lithe. She gasped when she saw him. A wolf walking on two legs, taller than she. No, not a wolf, a man, dressed in furs, a great axe slung across his body. He snarled, she tensed. When he came close she could smell his fetid breath. Blood. She looked into his yellow eyes, wild and unreadable.

 She jumped back when he pulled something from behind his back. Her basket.

 His hands were black with dirt, his fingernails long and filthy. He sniffed the air around her and bared his teeth, they were unnaturally long and sharp. She could feel her heart beating wildly as she took the basket.

 In the distance a wolf howled. She turned towards the sound, when she looked back he was gone. She heard another howl then, closer, then another and another.

 Run, Red, run! 

photo credit: <a href="">ihave3kids</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Monday, 3 September 2012

Author Spotlight

In the spotlight today is Sharon Van Orman. Sharon's debut novel, Lykaia is available now!

“We are the terrors that hunt the night. And we have never been human”

In Greek mythology there’s a story of King Lykaonas of Arcadia and his fifty sons who were cursed by the father of the gods, Zeus, to become wolves. The very first Lycanthropes. 

Forensic pathologist, Sophia Katsaros, receives a cryptic phone call from Greece telling her that her brothers are missing and leaves to search for them. With the help of Illyanna, her brother’s girlfriend, Sophia examines the evidence but cannot accept a bizarre possibility: Has one or both of her brothers been transformed during the Lykaia, the ceremony where Man is said to become Wolf?

Who is Marcus, a dark stranger that both repels and excites her? And what is the real story behind the 5000 year old curse of King Lykaonas?
Sharon Van Orman
  1. Your book, Lykaia was launched recently, a pretty big moment for any author. How did you feel when you opened your eyes on the morning and realised today was the big day?
It was surreal. I happened to have Amazon up when it went live. I may have squealed like a girl, but there wasn’t any one around, so you can’t prove that.
  1. Lykaia is a wonderful mix of werewolves and Greek Mythology, where did the idea come from?
I was researching another story set in Ancient Greece when I came upon the myth of King Lykaonas. I was fascinated by it, but at the time I had no way to use it. 
In October of 2011 I entered a flash fiction contest that was Halloween themed. I finally had the chance to use the story. The prologue of Lykaia is actually that flash fiction entry.
That following month I took that idea and entered Nanowrimo.  I knew I wanted to make it about more than werewolves and that I wanted a great female character. Sophia Katsaros showed up almost fully formed. So I just went with it.
  1. Writing a great story is not always just about just pouring words from your imagination onto a page. Very often hours of research are required to bring a story to life and make it authentic. Do you enjoy doing research or is it a chore to you?
Oh, I love the research. Let me rephrase that…I really love research.  When I first found the myth I was doing research. And when I wrote Lykaia I spent countless hours researching lycanthropy, and the sons of Lykaonas. And then Sophia is a forensic pathologist. Clearly, I am not. So that took a lot of time and effort to make her credible. In the book Sophia finds  Dimitri’s notebooks. Those are actually my notebooks and they read just as she described them.
  1. Lykaia is the first book in a series of three. Have you written other books before this or is Lykaia your first?
Lykaia is my third complete novel. The first, while I was happy with it at the time, is clearly a first effort and shall remain in the drawer. The second is Eve and is book one in the Eden’s Exiles Series. I am hoping to publish that. Oh, and I collaborated on a book called Season of the Dead which is about the zombie apocalypse. I had great fun with that and it was my first chance to write true horror.
  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or were you content to just scribble away for fun?
No, to be honest. I wrote when I was a child, and then for some reason put it away. It wasn’t until my children were a bit older that I came back to it. And then, yes, it was just for fun.
  1. You’ve signed with a new press. Does it worry you that they don’t have the same resources or reach as the bigger publishers?
I heard once that creativity and worry were different sides of the same coin. So to say that I don’t worry about things would be untrue. However, I had the good fortune of being able to talk to several publishers on the phone when I was querying Lykaia. I spoke with Keith Henning from Spore Press.  From that first conversation it was evident that he was every bit as passionate about the project as I was. A larger publisher my have a greater reach, but would they believe in me as strongly or put as much effort into my work? I can’t say for sure, but I felt incredibly comfortable with Spore from the beginning. They have been great throughout the entire process. From the cover artwork to the line edits I have a lot of say. I couldn’t be happier with my choice of publisher.
  1. Your book cover is stunning. Who designed it and did you have much input into it?
It’s great isn’t it?  Chris Paradis designed it. He took the idea of an ancient Greek urn that currently resides in the Louvre. On that urn there is a man wearing a wolf skin in the hopes of becoming a werewolf. In Lykaia, the werewolves are wolves that become men. So, Chris took that idea and created a wolf wearing human skin. The result is brilliant. I love it.
  1. Do you have writing routine or do you just snatch a few hours whenever you can?
I am terribly undisciplined. I write when I feel I have something to write. And the times and duration that I do that for, vary. I really should make more of an effort but that implies that I have more control over my characters than I do.
  1. Have you ever considered self-publishing? Do you think it is an option at some stage in the future?
I have. I think every writer does, once the rejections start rolling in. I want to get the Eden’s Exiles series out there. I may go the self-publishing route for them. But I want to make sure I have top notch editor and a stellar cover artist. I’m a bit compulsive, so if I’m going to do something I like to have it well planned out.
  1. Finally, days after your book is published, where would you like to be in five years time?
To be a full time writer that is able to support me and my children off of what I make.
Thanks so much, Sharon. It's been a real pleasure to have you on the blog today. Below is my reveiw of Lykaia on Amazon.


To expect this book to be a quaint werewolf tale - man gets bitten by mysterious creature, at the full moon man transforms into a werewolf and terrorises a small community in an isolated village of central Europe – is like expecting the Sistine Chapel to be a cute sketch on a church ceiling. Sure this book is about werewolves, but so much more. For a start, these werewolves are steeped in Greek mythology, there is a history directly linking an ancient Greek king, married to a mysterious forest girl, daughter of a dryad, to the modern story. These werewolves are not men transformed into beasts. But wolves made man by earth magic gone wrong.

 At the heart of the story is a mystery. An American pathologist, a pragmatic, logical scientist, receives a call from a Greek landlord to inform her that her brothers who had been renting an apartment from him had not been seen for nearly two months. Her two brothers had returned to the land of their forefathers for the summer and had not been heard from since.

 Sophie travels to Greece, to the town of Arcadia and slowly unravels a story completely at odds with her scientific background, she discovers the existence of an ancient ritual which takes place every nine years. She is confronted with the possibility that one or both of her brothers have been transformed into wolves during the ceremony. Without giving the story away, the author takes us through the enchanted forest of her imagination, down magical pathways that twist and turn through darkness and light. At times the descriptions are purely magical, ‘The moon horded her light like a miser with his gold.’

 I absolutely loved this book, and look forward to many more magical, mythical, magnificent tales from Sharon Van Orman.
You can download Sharon's wonderful book here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A couple of years ago, I uploaded my novel, TAXI, onto the Harper Collins website Authonomy. com. The idea is you share sample chapters of your work with fellow writers who then critique and vote on each others books. At the end of the month the five highest ranking novels are selected for a review
from a Harper Collins editor. Like it or loathe it, it can become a very addictive site, offering many writers their first opportunity at finding, readers as well as like-minded budding authors.

Any way at the end of March I created something of a record by reaching the 'editors desk' with two novels at the same time. My epic fantasy novel, Tribesman, soon to be published by Cogwheel Press, and my genreless, gritty, urban drama, TAXI (click on the link to read some sample chapters) Below is the review from Harper Collins. If this is your first visit to my blog why not follow me or click the Facebook thingie to 'like' my fan page.

Taxi by Paul Freeman


This is the story of Danny Coyne, a Dublin taxi driver whose whole life is turned upside down when his cab hits and kills a teenage girl on the street. Although he is acquitted of any wrongdoing, he cannot move the guilt from his mind, and soon turns to alcohol, pushing away the people who love him. 


There are several positives aspects of the novel. The most significant of these is simply the quality of the writing. Freeman clearly has a sound understanding of structure, character arc, and the trick to weaving a convincing narrative. The main character Danny is likeable and, through a series of ‘asides’ (Danny’s thoughts written in italics throughout the story) we get some insight into the sheer panic and constant guilt which plague him, and which eventually lead him to seek some kind of vengeance. The fact that Danny is in every scene and that we get to see his paranoia gradually engulfing him allows us to witness constantly the unrelenting nature of his torment, as he moves from extreme happiness with the woman of his dreams to a drunken, angry wreck.


Even though this sort of guilty-paranoia angle is nothing new in fiction and doesn’t feel particularly novel or original, it is rendered quite convincingly in TAXI. On top of this, Freeman has managed to establish through plot the sense of frustration that Danny feels. The more Danny tries to pull himself free of his remorse, the more he gets dragged into an increasingly troubling and dangerous situation. These are definitely the most encouraging parts of the novel from a Publisher’s perspective.


There are several issues with the writing that let the work down, however. These are certainly issues that can be addressed, problems with real solutions, and I believe that making these changes would make the book more sellable.


One of the main issues which occurred to me is genre. To make a book marketable, and get readers and retailers interested, it has to fit into at least one recognisable genre type. TAXI lacks the excitement and suspense one would expect in a suspense thriller. And, whilst a crime sits at the heart of the story, there is no investigation, no element of mystery, which would make it a true Crime novel. On the face of it then, considering the story (a man’s psychological decay) it should be literary fiction. And yet, while the story certainly makes for an interesting read and we do sympathise with the main character, the content and the rendering of the story do not contain the metaphor, depth, even psychological insight one would expect from literary fiction. If the author tends more towards the crime novel, I would suggest creating an extra element – the investigation. The idea of Danny’s actions being scrutinised externally as well as internally immediately raises the stakes. Then the question becomes Will Danny be able to convince himself AND the police/another external accuser that he’s innocent? And this holds some exciting possibilities.


There is also the fact that Danny seems to be rather reactive – he only confronts one of the ‘killers’ from his taxi when he happens to bump into him in the street, having made no previous attempt to find them. It is fine to have a reactive main character, but the deficit in willpower needs to be made up in psychological insight and analysis. I don’t feel that this was strong enough. Meanwhile, though the asides in italics give us some sense of the blind panic he feels, they are not insightful enough to carry the story.


This also brings us on to the lack of tension. To build suspense, there has to be some build-up of tension. The author doesn’t leave the feelings or situation to mount long enough before releasing all tension and moving on. For example, again when Danny meets the killer (the chip-eater), the tension is only allowed to mount for a couple of hundred words before the chip eater is killed off.  As a result, the excitement which the reader could potentially feel if the situation were drawn out, the tension raised, Danny driven insane with the frustration of his own inaction, is lost. Because, surely it’s the inaction, the build-up, that makes a moment dramatic. It’s the inner turmoil, Danny spotting this foul creature and thinking ‘look what I’ve become because of you’ and yet doing nothing (at least for a while), which makes the situation interesting.


It may sound like a contradiction, but the pacing is actually one of the strengths of this novel. While there is possibly a weakness in terms of genre definition, the plot moves with pace from one scene to the next, rarely drawing out any scenes longer than necessary, and showing as a result how quickly Danny descends to the depths of his guilt and despair. The challenge will be to keep the pacing, to keep the reader turning pages, while also adding tension and moving the book towards a real crime novel. Without the tension, set-ups and pay-offs which the crime novel brings, I worry that there would not be enough interesting stuff to maintain the work to full novel length.


It is important to remember that each character is the protagonist in his or her own story. Danny is a very strong main character but many of the characters in TAXI felt like little more than 2-dimensional plot devices. The characters have to be the story, which in turn informs structure. Everything has to flow from the characters, and while this is achieved through Danny’s character arc, the author should be wary of adding characters merely for the purpose of moving the story along.


In its current form, the commercial value in this work is questionable. It may appeal to some people as it is undoubtedly well-written and an interesting read. But positioning this title would be a big challenge. The author has produced the makings of a good novel, but until certain things are added or altered it cannot become a real crime novel. Genre is not everything, but genre exists for a reason – a work can fly or fall on how comfortably it fits a certain market. If it cannot be defined as fitting into a genre, it may not find an audience.


I feel that the author perhaps needs to ask himself what would shake up this novel. What will make this novel stand out? How can tension be added? This might be changing one of the main characters, changing the setting or time, perhaps even introducing some kind of intelligent non-linear narrative form, which when done well in crime stories can be extremely effective. But whatever changes, the author must bear in mind the need to define the genre. Taking this into consideration and addressing the issues outlined above could make this eventually a publishable novel.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Re-Writing History
I wrote this story a year ago... no, two years ago! How time flies. It was an entry to a flash fiction contest hosted by a good friend Mandy Ward (Mandy is also the editor of the e-zine, Welcome to Wherever always looking for submissions).
In Ireland we are very proud of our heritage, obsessive some might say, and some would be right. We cherish our past. Unfortunately that also includes tresspasses against us that should probably be consigned to the mists of time. Long forgotten slights by people to people long dead. Anyhow, I believe there was once a time of heroes and magic. When legends came to life!



 “Master! Master! Come quick,” a youth burst through the door of the hut. “Please, Master, hurry. The sky is on fire.”

An older man with iron-grey hair and a bushy beard looked up from where he was sitting, staring into a fire that smouldered in the centre of the room. Silver wisps of smoke drifted through a hole in the thatched roof above.

 “What is it, boy?” the man asked irritably.

 “Please, Master, you have to come,” the boy’s face quivered in fear.

 The man hauled himself up with the aid of a staff. Topped by a carved snake’s head it was cut from a single piece of ash, intricate runic symbols were etched along its length. Man and boy emerged together from the hut to stare at the roaring sky caused by an angry rising sun,  blood raw against the black mountain range it rose over.

 “See, Master. I told you. Why are the gods so enraged?”

 “Hold yer whist, boy. Lest I feel a need to sacrifice a young druid apprentice to appease them.” The boy stared wide-eyed at the older man, wisely keeping his mouth shut.

 “Master Crannmór!” The druid and his apprentice turned to see who had hailed him. A mail clad figure hopped down from a chariot, while the driver held the snorting team of twin black horses steady. The warrior strode purposefully towards the druid.

 “The mighty Cormac does us great honour by visiting our humble abode.” The druid inclined his head. The warrior paused, unsure whether he was being treated respectfully or mocked.

 “The king requests your presence.” He decided it was the former.

 “And he sends his champion as a messenger?” One bushy eyebrow rose on a wrinkled forehead.

 “He would really like to see you.”

 “Very well, so he shall.”


 “Right after breakfast.”

 “I am instructed to bring you immediately,” the warrior protested.

 “And so you shall, once I’ve eaten,” the druid turned with a flourish and disappeared into the hut. With a groan and a shake of his head the King’s Champion followed.

 The two men had wooden bowls filled with a thick porridge and cups of cool spring water served to them by the young apprentice. When he was satisfied both men had their fill he hunkered down in the corner with his own breakfast, eyes darting back and forth between druid and warrior.

“So tell me Cormac, what has Laoghaire so anxious he needs to send his best warrior out to find an old man, when the sun has barely risen above the mountains?” Crannmór asked, dribbling golden honey into his bowl.

 “You’ve been away too long, Crannmór. The Christ priest, Padraig has his feet firmly planted in Laoghaire’s hall. He spouts his nonsense about one true god to any who will listen.”

 “And do they listen?” Crannmór looked up sharply.

 “Most just laugh, but he does have some followers.”

 “Perhaps I have been away too long.”

 The dún of Laoghaire King of Leinster was a collection of wattle and daub roundhouses each topped with a conical thatched roof, the whole settlement was surrounded by a wooden palisade and a six foot high earthen rampart. The feasting hall of the King was the largest building in the fort.

 “Welcome, Crannmór, druid and keeper of lore, your wisdom has been missed,” the King stood to greet his priest, his arms spread wide in welcome.

 “So it would seem,” Crannmór responded, a slight inclination of the head indicating the leather cross hanging from a chord around the King’s neck.

 “Ah… I would be a foolish King not to seek the protection of all the gods, don’t you think.”

 “A foolish man to the neglect the god’s that have protected you thus far,” the druid retorted.

 Laohgaire turned away and snatched a cup of ale from a nearby bench. “So, Crannmór, what message are the gods sending us by lighting up the heavens with their fiery wrath?”

 The druid’s eyes narrowed as he looked from face to face of the assembled men, strong brave men… all like frightened rabbits waiting for him to speak and tell them all was well in the world.

 “They are angered. They spoke to me in a dream, they wanted to know why the people of Leinster were turning their backs on them, why they have forsaken them and listen to the words of a false prophet, once a slave who tended their flocks, they are….”

 “He lies!”

 Crannmór’s head snapped around at the interruption, astonished that anyone would dare.

 “Who speaks these words?” he bellowed, his eyes blazed as they fell on a sorry looking figure. He was dressed simply in a knee length tunic, thread bare and in need of a wash, his hair was filthy and matted in clumps on his head.

 “He lies!” the stranger repeated.

 “Begone from these halls, charlatan…slave,” Crannmór roared, striding towards the Christ priest. He beat him with his staff, pushing and chasing him from the hall and out through the dún, a laughing crowd following.

 “Close the gates,” he shouted at the guards. “If he comes back spike him with your spear.”

 King Laoghaire watched anxiously.

 “That’s the end of that,” the druid growled.

 “Master, your staff.” Crannmór looked at his ancient symbol of power, passed down from the ancients. It had split, the snakehead had snapped off. He looked at the barred gates, he felt a cold shadow grip the pit of his stomach as a vision of a wooden cross crept into his mind.