Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Biologically Boisterous Mike Shanahan

     

      The Hanging Gardens of Holbrook Towers are lush and verdant at this time of year. The tall trees full of large green leaves and the bodies of those hung from the branches fester merrily in the summer sun.  To walk through it was relaxing for me.

It was on one such day, last weekend in fact, when I was sat under the dark canopy, tablet in hand and seeing which fortunate people had chosen to pledge their support for my novel Domini Mortum.  My mood was black however as it had been a full day since a new name had appeared on the supporters list.  I contemplated the next stage of my marketing scheme.  

Perhaps I should offer free assassinations for every supporter, maybe I should visit the houses of all those who have promised to pledge but hadn't quite got around to it yet?  I felt a murderous rage coming on, this was quite normal however and so, vowing to myself that I would try to get my book published without having to resort to another bloody murder, I closed my eyes and allowed my senses to take in the beauty of the garden.

My butler had brought out a tray of refreshments, as he did each afternoon, and I decided to calm my aggravated heart with a cup of Earl Grey and a Bourbon biscuit.

     It was after my first dunk, as I lifted the soggy biscuit to my lips that I heard. Rustle in the bushes. At first I thought it to be one of the many monkeys which inhabit my gardens.  I have found that they have been a useful addition to the gardens, whooping and screeching in the late day, sending ghastly echoes down the valley to Nether Stinkhole, where the residents would no doubt imagine all kinds of nasty goings on in the Castle of Despair.

It was not monkey however, it was a man.  A man who looked quite lost.

I quizzed him.




     Hello, what brings you to the lush and verdant gardens of Holbrook Towers today?


I’ve travelled through dense forests and up and down mountains to bring a dash of hope in these uncertain times, to share news of an astounding set of species whose little-known story has a monumental bearing on our prospects here on this island Earth.

So, written a book have you? What's it all about?


Yes, my book is published in the UK as Ladders to Heaven and in North America as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers. It tells how fig trees have shaped our world, influenced diverse cultures and can help us restore life to degraded rainforests. Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. It stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.


Let us travel back a few hundred thousand years. You are in control of evolution. What little changes would you make to how humans developed? Prehensile tails? Splicing with lizards? Eight eyes? Play God for a bit.

It would be great to be able to fly. And if we could photosynthesise like plants, we could harness energy direct from the sun. But most of all I think our species would benefit from more genes for empathy and nonviolence. So, I’m thinking winged, green and as chilled-out as pandas.


Tell me something about fig trees that I didn't know this morning?

They feed more species of wildlife — at least 1270 species of birds and mammals — than any other fruit trees and are critical to the health of rainforests. They’ve been shaping our world for 80 million years. They feature in every major religion and in cultures the world over. Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, and played key roles in the dawn of civilization. Without them we might not be here



I did some research into figs and kept coming up with the term "God hates Figs" all over the internet. Is it true that the fig tree is cursed? 



     The opposite is true. Fig trees are sacred in many religions and are closely associated with different gods and goddesses. As a result, all around the world, cultures have developed taboos against felling fig trees. The idea that fig trees are cursed comes from a story about Jesus, who is said to have cursed a fig tree and made it wither up because he was hungry and it had no figs on it.  That's how awesome tasty figs are - their absence could even rile Jesus. 





     What is your favourite recipe which includes figs?  Mine is fig rolls. 

     I like them on pizza, so long as they’re in good company.



What is your favourite smell? What memory does it remind you of?

Frangipani blossoms are hard to beat. They remind me of when I lived in Borneo where I was studying in a rainforest. Frangipani trees are often planted in cemeteries there and their scent, though divine, is associated with a kind of vampiric ghost called a pontianak.


Do you believe in the afterlife and if so who would you try to contact for a conversation? (Apart from a close relative)

I believe in the afterlife only in the sense of the legacies of our words and deeds. As Terry Pratchett put it: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away”. But if there was a magic telephone I could pick up to talk to someone who’s passed on, I would be keen to ring up Bob Marley. I think we all could use a dose of his message of peace, love and harmony.


The natural world is quite amazing to me. In my house, Attenborough is a godlike figure and Cousteau is Lord of the sea. Tell me what, in your opinion is the most fantastical thing in the natural world?

It’s hard to have favourites when every single living thing is just the latest member of a line that stretches back billions of years to the origin of life on Earth. That’s fantastical enough. As is the incredible diversity of life – all of it flowing from that original distant source.

And nothing alive can live alone — no species is an island. It’s the relationships between species that really interest me, the exchanges of energy between predators and prey, the partnerships between animals and plants, the rhythms that form as life sings in concert.

That said, there is a special place in my heart for the tardigrades, also known as water bears. These tiny little eight-legged animals can live for decades without water. They can withstand boiling, freezing and even the vacuum of outer space. There are more than 1000 tardigrade species and they occupy every kind of habitat on the planet. Their quiet success puts our own strange lives into an interesting perspective.



     What is your current writing opus? How much do you throw yourself into projects?

I have a couple of big projects on the runway waiting for take-off. One’s a children’s book and the other is nonfiction. I’d love to throw myself head-first into either but lack the time right now. Both are keeping warm in my mental cauldron. One day I hope to serve them up.


What is your greatest fear? Would you consider facing it head on, in order to cure it, or are you content in your terror?

My biggest fears are about the kind of world my nearly-four-year-old son will inherit. I want him to be as safe and secure as I have been. My way of trying to achieve this is by writing about the environment, and how our wellbeing depends on it.


Where can I find you in the virtual highway? Do you blog?  Tweet? And where can I get my grubby hands on your lovely writing?

My book is on sale at Amazon, Hive, Book Depository and all good bookshops. I’m on Twitter (@shanahanmike) and I blog at Under the Banyan.




It was then that I noticed that we were not alone.  Sat n every branch surrounding us and hanging in between the bodies using only their prehensile tails were the garden's monkeys.

They had a look to them that I had not seen before, it was a look of potential murder and mayhem.  This would not end well.

"Stay very still."  I said eyeing them and trying to work out if they had a leader among them.  "I have not fed the monkeys for a week and they will no doubt be looking at you and thinking of supper."

The eyes of the monkeys bore into us like hungry maggots, desperate for flesh, a chill ran down my spine.  We're they really going to turn on their owner? 

I slowly moved my had to my phone on the bench beside me and, with the slightest of movements, dialled Manson to come.  He answered immediately, of course.

"Sir?" He spoke.  "Has your tea gone cold, would you like a fresh pot bringing?"  The sound of his voice made the hairs on the monkeys necks bristle, and they bared their vicious monkey teeth.

'No Manson," I whispered "It would seem that there is to be a culling this evening.  Bring as many guns as you can carry and some nets.  It's monkey stew for tea.  I will lead them to you at the entrance. Be ready to pop off a few."


I turned to Shananhan.  "I will cause a diversion.  Once I am out of sight run for your life.  The last trespasser in the garden did not last long in the company of the monkeys.

I leapt to my feet and began to run, turning briefly and shouting.  "Love the sound of your book I promise to give it a read."

And read it I did.  That night whilst eating a steaming hot bowl of monkey stew.  Lovely stuff (both the stew and the book), which I implore you to investigate for yourselves, you lucky, lucky people.




If you have enjoyed this blog interview, and the others which I am publishing on a weekly basis, then please visit my own Unbound page www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum where my own book Domini Mortum, A Victorian Mystery novel is in much need of love, attention, and most importantly pledges.

If you wish to be a guest yourself at the 'Castle of Despair' for your very own author interview, then please email me at caraticuspholbrook@gmail.com whereupon I will devise a visit of the most exquisite torture especially for you.

Thank you.

Paul





Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Accidental Comedian



A really hilarious thing happened about 6 years ago.  Well, I say hilarious, it would have been if I had seen it.  Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t.  I wish I had, it would probably still crease me up just to think about it.  Just every now and then when I wasn’t expecting it, BANG, there it would be, the image of the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

“Ha Ha!  Oh my God, did you see that?”

“Brilliant … mint, I could watch that all day!”

A little film clip, replaying in my head, like something from You’ve Been Framed.  I can even imagine the Harry Hill voiceover.

Hilarious.  Absolutely priceless.  Why didn’t I see it?  Bugger.

I was in London for the weekend with my family, staying with friends and introducing the kids to the wonders of the capital.  I grew up in London, after moving there from Luton when I was quite young, and still, in a bizarre way, consider myself to be a Londoner (although I moved away 12 years ago and have absolutely no intention of ever returning to live there).

My family are from there, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles the lot, and though my two children live in a beautiful part of the country, I still feel that it is important that they get to experience city life, if only to scare them so much that they resolve never to want to ever  live in ‘That there London’.

Unfortunately for me, they love it, they love the noise, the smells, the size of it, just the amount of people there and all the different races and nationalities (ethnic diversity hasn’t really reached North Yorkshire yet).

They love it but they don’t understand it.  They haven’t really grasped why people in London don’t talk to each other and never, ever make eye contact.  Ever. If you make eye contact you’re mentally ill and should be avoided at all costs.  If a stranger says hello to you in the street that means that you are about to be mugged, killed or raped (or maybe all three, and in that order).

They love the double decker buses, the museums and the tube.  Yes the tube.  London Underground, the first plane of hell, where the sinners are packed together, forced to smell each others body odour and the strict rules of London are multiplied a thousand fold;  No eye contact and no talking.  Talking is for the nutters and the drunks, the unclean and the unwanted.  Yes, if you’re spoken to, pretend to be foreign, pretend to be blind, pretend to be deaf (in extreme cases try all three).

And so, where were we, ah yes, this most hilarious happening (which I happened to miss).  On this particular day we had decided to try to fit two museums in.  Firstly, the Science Museum.  Second only to the Natural History Museum as my most favourite place ever to visit when I was a child (they were both free to get into).  We went.  It wasn’t as fantastic as I remembered it through the tinted spectacles of my memory and we left by lunchtime.  Job done.  (Although I did buy a funny shaped boomerang which was being professionally demonstrated by a member of the gift shop staff and which I have never been able to make come back to me.  Ever).

Our next step was a short tube ride to The British Museum.  A place that, I confess, I had surprisingly never been to before (as it was also free).  Our main aim for this visit was to check out the mummies.  My eldest was looking at Ancient Egypt at school and we thought that we would enhance the educational experience provided by the school by actually showing her some real life corpses of people, cats, baboons etc.

What I didn’t realise about The British Museum, was what a glorious place it was, to marvel at all the wonderful pieces of history which we had stolen from other countries when we were in charge of the world.  If this was The French Museum however, and was displaying British Anglo Saxon artefacts the Daily Express would have a field day.  (on quiet news days i.e. when there wasn’t a new Diana conspiracy theory).

So we went, we saw, we took a few pics (child with mummy, child with mummified snake etc.) and then we left happy that we had done our bit for our child’s education over the half term break.

We walked across Russell Square to the underground station and there, once again, descended into the pit.  Incidentally Dante referred to the first plane of hell as ‘Limbo’, where those guilty of the following sins were cast; Incontinence, Violence and Fraud.  I don’t know if Dante ever had a premonition of what the London Underground would be like, but he pretty much nailed it.  Nice one Mr Alighieri, but sorry no one ever listened properly to your warning.

We stepped into the lift with all the other sinners and, following a short and odorous journey down, found ourselves on the platform just as a train approached.

Now there are certain nightmares that every parent suffers; losing your child through illness or accident, abduction by paedophiles and that horrible day when they come home from school saying they want to be in musical theatre and start singing numbers from Annie.

Today I was particularly concerned with the first of these.  London is busy, my children are country bumpkins and what would happen if they got on the tube and the doors shut before their mother or I made it on.  I saw visions in my head of my children happily waving to us through the window as the train pulled away from the station, taking them to the den of some bizarre serial killer (or worse to the den of a musical theatre).

These visions disturbed me as I didn’t want to see my children on the news let alone side by side with Lord Webber and Graham Norton as the next ‘People’s Star’.  So with that horrifying thought playing in my head I was determined to ensure that we all squeezed on to an already full carriage, all together, joined, no paedo’s or ‘Les Miserables’ here thank you very much.

“Get on, move in! Are you in? I know that man smells but you must stand next to him. Are you in?  If someone speaks to you remember the Danish phrases I taught you.  Are you in?”.
The doors closed.

I realise that I have been rambling on, dangling the promise of the most hilarious thing happening, like a carrot, for quite a while now so I’ll cut straight to it.  No more rambling, no more jokes at the expense of obnoxious stage school children.  Here we go.

The doors closed.  We were safe.

The next five seconds of my life are a blur.  Well I suppose five seconds would be, it’s not a long time is it and it was nearly a year ago now.  I can only describe the feeling which overcame me next as similar to being punched in the back of the head by Mike Tyson, on steroids.  Hard.  It struck me just behind my left ear and knocked me sideways to my right. The next thing that I felt was similar to Mike Tyson’s older, bigger, stronger brother punching me on the right side of my head.  Ow.
“Oooooh!” said the passengers in the carriage as the door hit the left side of my head.

“Aaaaah!” Said the passengers again as I flew headlong into the other door and was struck by it on the right side of my head.

“Ha Ha Ha Ha !” they said as the doors continued to close and clamped either side of my head like some large humorous vice before quickly realising that they were joined in some group moment and were COMPLETELY breaking the rules of London.

I say the passengers, it was probably half and half, half felt the pain and the rest felt, as I would have done, that this was the funniest thing they had ever seen.  Normally you have to watch ‘You’ve Been Framed’ to see something like this.

“Look at this poor fellow” says Harry.

”I don’t think his head is properly in the carriage, I’d move it in if I were you mate.  Ooooh look out!  Bang, now that’ll hurt in the morning."

Shut up Harry.

I kept my feet.  You can say that for me, but I felt a little dizzy.  I would like to state now that the other passengers on the train asked me if I was alright, offered their seats to me but this is London remember and this is the underground.  Eyes immediately lowered to closely inspect something suddenly interesting and not a word was said.  Apart from my wife and children of course, they asked if I was OK, did I need to sit down?  It was at this moment that I reverted to being Mr London.

“No I’m fine, honest.  Looked worse than it was.  That would have been funny to watch.”

And in my own little way I was fine, I was Ok.  Through a combination of embarrassment and faux macho-ness, I just decided to pretend that it had never happened.

Later that evening, back at our friend’s house while laughing and chatting, playing with the kids and watching the X Factor, I developed a headache.  Not a small one.  Not caused by the X Factor, but a thumper like I had never experienced before.  The kind that made you feel sick, the kind that made light and noise unbearable.  I couldn’t cope with it and, despite not wanting to seem unsociable to our friends, who we had travelled all the way down from North Yorkshire to see, I excused myself and went to bed at around the same time as the kids who were sharing a room with us.

I slept through the night and when I woke up the next day, felt fine.  I even did the driving on the way home.  Great, I banged my head in a humorous way, got a headache as a result and there it was.  Something to look back and laugh at.  It was funny.

Over the next week the headache returned, bigger and bolder than ever and stayed permanent, from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep.  I went off sick from work. and due to the fact that I didn’t have a headache if I was asleep spent a large part of the following two months asleep.  My wife and my children (young still as they are) were terrific.  If you’ve ever tried to keep a four year old and a seven year old quiet for any length of time, you will appreciate just how good they were with me.  They made it more bearable.

I tried various different cocktails of painkilling medicine, in greater and greater strength, (Tramadol is overrated) until finally my GP admitted defeat and referred me for a CT scan and an appointment with a Neurologist.

These were dark times.  Had I caused a bleed in my head?  Was it permanent?  As someone who is, incidentally, a trained Psychiatric Nurse and who worked for six years specifically with people who had suffered from Traumatic Brain injury the irony was almost comical.  Almost.

The CT scan was clear.  Thank you.  And the appointment with the Neurologist was upbeat and on the whole positive.  Although she stated that I should never have taken painkillers as they would have been making the headaches worse.

“There seems to be no sign of any damage, this should improve with time."

But for how long?  Would I be stuck with the constant headache forever?

What the Neurologist said next will stay with me forever as one of the most wonderful ever ways of saying ‘I have absolutely no idea.'

“Well you see this is the art of medicine rather than the science of medicine.  It could stop tomorrow it could stop next year."

Brilliant.

I returned to work on a gradual basis after three months and have managed to stay working ever since.  I still attend the headache clinic.  I get physio and acupuncture to help with the headaches.  I take tablets (not painkillers) to help relax me and to help stop the constant numbing grumble becoming a full blown migraine.  They work on the whole, although I do lose a day or two every couple of weeks and I can’t stand to be in front of a pc for long periods.  Again, the irony of me working predominantly at a pc as a writer of tenders and bids to help people, when I can’t stand more than a couple of hours at one myself, could be seen as humorous.

My children still understand and know that they have to be quiet and look after me when I’m having ‘One of your headaches Daddy’ and my wife has been more supportive and understanding than I could ever have wished for.

So there you have it.   'A funny thing happened to me on the way home from the museum’.  Funny to watch.  Still funny to those who I tell the story. When I was recently suffering from a particularly bad one I said that the humour of my accident is beginning to wear thin, a friend responded.

“For you maybe, for us it’s a constant source of humour."

And I agree with him.  If I had been on that train and seen it, I would still be laughing, still replaying the little video of it in my head with Harry Hill’s voice over a background of canned laughter. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Extraordinarily Elusive Julia Kite

The Great Hunt

Sometimes, when the mood takes me, I enjoy hunting in the expansive grounds of Castle Holbrook.  Do not think however, that by suggesting that I love a good hunt, that I would cause harm on animals.  Of course not, I am not a complete monster.  No, normally I like to take a ‘volunteer’ from the nearby village of Nether Stinkhole to join in the fun.

I would always give them a sporting head start, before setting off into the woods, which cover the east side of the valley, armed with whatever tool I deemed suitable that day; sometimes it was a crossbow, sometimes a blow dart, on certain special occasions I launch myself into the trees armed with nothing more than my bare hands and a wicked eye.

On the morning in question, where I happened to meet the most beguiling Julia Kite, it was a cold damp day; there was a nip in the air which would steal your breath away and which, of course, would feel most uncomfortable were I dressed in my normal hunting gear of either a camouflaged loin cloth, or, on some occasions, entirely ‘au naturel’.  I had decided that the chill on the breeze would not be entirely either beneficial or complimentary to my bodily extremities.

And so, on this morning I had decided not to venture out, but instead to conduct my hunt within the many dark and forbidding corridors of The Castle of Despair.  My quarry for the day was also not ‘chosen’ from the local village.  My butler, Manson, had carelessly forgotten the precise required temperature of my coffee that morning and so, by way of recompense, had donned the obligatory rabbit costume and hurried off into the maze that made up my home, praying that the hunt this morning was short and only briefly painful.

The central heating was on throughout the castle and so it was a loin cloth day, although I did wear my most favourite Pith Helmet.  Armed with only a cricket bat I stalked the halls and corridors of my domain.  What a fine figure I must have been to any outside observer!

I was beginning to feel frustrated however.  Manson was proving to be better at hide and seek Han I had envisaged and had not turned up at all in any of the normal places, where I myself would have hidden.  I had just begun to wonder if I should ring one of the bells which I normally use to get his attention, to see if he would come running to me, when I heard a noise coming from the library.  The fool, there was no safe place to hide in there! I would make him suffer for his insolence!

I stormed down the corridor, all thought of creeping up on my prey forgotten now; Manson would not forget his meeting with the cricket bat today!  I threw open the door.

“You imbecile, Manson!”  I cried.  “Come over here and assume the position.  It’s cricket time!”

It was not my errant butler that I saw, however, not him at all.

“Hello.”  Came a voice from the top of the wooden ladder.  There, balancing carefully on the uppermost rung, was a young woman; book in hand and smile on face.  ‘You have a lovely library. Do you mind if I borrow a couple of books?”

“What?!.. How?!”   I was dumbfounded.  She did not seem perturbed that she happened to be trespassing in The Guardian’s second scariest house in Britain 2016.  Nor was she particularly scared by the fact that she was being confronted by the owner of said scary house, who was wearing nothing but a loin cloth and a Pith Helmet, and was wielding a cricket bat.

“Get down at once!”  I managed to blurt out.  “Explain yourself this instant!”

Our conversation, as all conversations within the castle are, is recorded as follows;


   Good Lord, what are you doing in my castle?  Can't you see I'm hunting?  Who are you?  What’s going on?

I was hoping you could tell me that yourself. I’ve been inhabiting fiction for so long that I’m not entirely sure.This is a bit embarrassingly, really: I never get lost. I have an uncanny ability to always know which way is north. Hell, I once got bored and wrote out all the London Tube station names connected to each other sort of crossword style. My day job is in transportation and if I can’t get from point A to point B in a relatively straightforward fashion then we have a bit of a problem. There are a few things I’m relatively sure of right now: I need a haircut. I need to buy more parrot food. I need to be able to quit renting at some point in my adult life. But for everything else, I’m willing to hear your suggestions.

Of course, if you want to believe I’m sipping coffee and watching Law & Order reruns in a hoodie while my parrot styles my hair, I’m entirely powerless to stop you doing that, and I won’t be terribly offended. Really.




Written a book?  What’s it all about then?  Can you sum it up in 50 words?  How about 10?  And then 5?

I have, actually. A novel. A decent one, if I may be so bold. The Hope and Anchor is a story about love and loss, but not only in the obvious sense of the wordsIn addition to the disappearance of a beloved person, it revolves around coming to terms with how your life isn’t going to turn out the way you had always planned, and the need to put old dreams, as lovely as they may have once been, to rest. Despite best-laid plans, our characters keep being drawn back into pasts they thought they’d put behind them, but history ends up being stronger than all their wills. At the center is a woman from whom nobody ever expected much, but her imprint is all over one corner of West London. Our protagonist, the over-educated and under-employed Neely Sharpe, has to get a grip, get a clue, and come to terms with how little she knows about life, love, and London to figure out what happened to her girlfriend and why.

50 words? OK, here we go: Local woman vanishes,throwing her girlfriend into spiral of self-doubt and bad decisions. Girlfriend discovers she didn’t know as much as she thought as she goes through London’s less glamorous enclaves piecing together what remains of a life. She might find answers if she abandons all her illusions. It’s tough.

10: Frustrated overachiever’s vulnerable girlfriend disappears in West London; worlds collide.

5: Please refer to up above.

    This book of yours, if it was an animal what would it be?  Could it be tamed, or would it. Need to be kept in a cage and only let out under close supervision?

I realise I’m not doing much to sell it with this, but…a pigeon. A feral pigeon, preferably one with all its toesintact. It sees everything. It’s watching you. It knows what you dropped down the streets, and it pecked at it.One tough dove.




    We’re going out for dinner.  Do you have anywhere special in mind?  Are you a lover of dessert or are you more of a savoury type?  Also, would you be prepared to cause a massive distraction so that we could avoid the bill?

First of all, I need to clarify one thing: I live in America. We turn everything into food. Pasteurised processed cheese product is A Thing. Potted meat food productis A Thing. It includes something called “Partially Defatted Pork Fatty Tissue,” which, contrary to all logic, is also A Thing. Frozen deep-fried Twinkies are not a joke – they’re in the freezer case. I Instagrammed them and got the glowing blue hue of the boxes just perfect.There’s this thing called a Twizzlers key lime pie twist, nothing to do with a turkey twizzler – it’s a green fruity liquorice rope and the centre is filled with stuff that tastes vaguely of a sweet pie crust. 
 











Unsurprisingly, it was made in honour of the state of Florida. Now you understand why whenever I’m back in England I hit the supermarket and go wild. My case comes back to New York stuffed with healthier things, like Walkers and Pot Noodle. Now, I know my book is fiction, and I insist it’s not autobiographical, BUT there’s one scene where I have a character wax rhapsodic about Pot Noodle and I swear that is 100% my real life. I’m not even ashamed.

    Poetry – Is it all just mindless brain waffle or does it have a place in the world?  If so give me a four line verse of your own creation which sums up your day so far.

Oh, it definitely has a place: up on placards on the train where I can read it during my commute to avoid making eye contact after my phone has died. Here’s my bit:

I worked on a bank holiday
Then the weather put the boot in
But I picked my bad self up
And had a lunch of fine braised gluten

(Yes, it’s true, there are still middle-class New York City women who eat gluten. Me and maybe three others.)

    Your book is called ‘The Hope and Anchor’.  If you owned a London pub what would it be called?  Would it be a lovely welcoming place or a sticky-carpeted hell hole?

It would be called the Death and Taxes, so that it’s always relevant. There would be Pot Noodle behind the bar. I’ve been on a few quiz shows, so I’d have to have a pub quiz: if you beat me, I have to bake for you, whether you want cake or not. (You know you want cake.)


    It’s the End of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.  How about you?  If the Trumpinator wakes up grumpy one morning and declares World War 3, what would you like to do in your last few hours?

Pro tip: The New York City subway will survive apocalypse. Sure, it’s falling apart as we speak, when it rains outside it rains inside too – but in its deepest recesses are places not even nuclear fallout dares to tread. That’s where I’m heading. In my book, our intrepid protagonist has a rough trip down the London sewers – that’s my second choice.

    I believe we are ethereal beings.  Our souls and essences able to leave our bodies.  This may be codswallop though.  However, if you could float free of your physical self and inhabit the body of another for a weekend who would it be?  What shenanigans would you get up to?

Ooh, this is a tough one. I think I might like to be a cop for a few days but I’d probably end up seeing things I wouldn’t be able to un-see back in my normal state. Either accidentally or intentionally, I’d probably cause the early stages of societal collapse. Or maybe a circus performer, solely to know what it’s like to be able to achieve physical feats that would kill regular me in one attempt, and which would inspire utter awe on a daily basis.

That, or I’d turn into the aforementioned pigeon so that I could fly to the top of the Empire State Building and not have the pay the admissions charge.

    Aliens have arrived on our planet (although some would say that they’ve been here for years), at first they came in peace, offering to be our friends and share their extraterrestrial knowledge with us.  However it soon turned out that they were malevolent reptiles, intent on enslaving and eating us.

What part would you want to play in the resistance?  Would you be a brave and reckless freedom fighter?  A wise leader?  Or would you sell out the human race in exchange for eternal life and wealth.

Oh dear. I could probably get away with something rather cowardly during a crisis because the people in charge would need me around to rebuild society afterward. I’d be in charge of maintaining all the archives, rebuilding the cities (I have an urban planning background), and generally helping to establish civilization 2.0. Yeah, I’ll be hiding down in the subway tunnels – come fetch me when the fighting’s done.

    Where in the World Wide Web can I find you?  Do you tweet? Insta? Blog?  Anywhere else I can find your lovely words?

I’m smudged all over the damn place. For professional greets, www.juliakite.com. For pithy tweets, @juliakite. For longer feats, www.facebook.com/juliakitewriter. For all the pledge deets, www.unbound.com/books/the-hope-and-anchor.



We were suddenly interrupted by a whining sound, which came from the direction of the window.  I looked at Julia.  Julia looked at me; we were both baffled.

“Do excuse me a moment.”  I said, standing slowly and retrieving my cricket bat from the table.  The whining continued; it was a sound that I had heard only once before, when I had once found a rabbit caught in one of the fences at the back of the castle.  Poor little rabbit; its frightened eyes widened and the whining grew louder as I wrestled it free from the chicken wire.

As I neared the curtains, the whining became more shrill.  I raised the bat above my head, as I reached for the deep velvet cloth.  I snatched back the curtain, to reveal Manson; his wide eyes, like a rabbit’s.

“Sir,” he muttered, “Please do not hit me, I am desperate for the toilet.  If you strike me I may have an accident.”

I had not wish to create a mess, not in front of visitors.  I waved him away, with a promise that he would receive his beating later, once he had relieved himself.

“I’m so sorry for that.”  I said, turning towards Julia once more.  She was not there however, she had taken her leave most silently.  I promised myself that I would support her very lovely book on the Unbound site, and looked forward to her visiting once more in the future.

I would encourage you to visit Unbound and support her too, do it now, before I invite you to the castle to join me in a hunt.




If you have enjoyed this blog interview, and the others which I am publishing on a weekly basis, then please visit my own Unbound page www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum where my own book Domini Mortum, A Victorian Mystery novel is in much need of love, attention, and most importantly pledges.

If you wish to be a guest yourself at the 'Castle of Despair' for your very own author interview, then please email me at caraticuspholbrook@gmail.com whereupon I will devise a visit of the most exquisite torture especially for you.

Thank you.


Paul


Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Historically Hedonistic Ewan Lawrie


The coach station in Nether Stinkhole was a desperate place.  Dimly lit, rancid smelling, with an air of depression known only to the scriptwriters of a British Soap opera.

I was not normally a user of public transport but had recently killed and eaten my own coach driver, in a fit of toddler like rage when he forgot to load my mid-journey snacks on one of my monthly trips to the city.  If there were no sausage rolls on the journey, then all hell was bound to break loose; it was no ones fault but his own.

On this particular night, I was due to head due north, to visit an uncle of mine, who owned a small country pile close to the Northumbrian coast.  It was a God awful place, if truth be told, but had some monetary value and, as such had been under my watchful eye for some time.  Twice every year (at Christmas and birthday)  I would take the long journey up to see the old bugger; check whether he still drew breath, and ensured that I remained his very favourite nephew. 

In the absence of a driver of my own, the agency seemed very reluctant to send another chauffeur/meal my way, it would seem that, if I were to keep this money making charade a reality, then public transport it must be.

When the carriage arrived I was immediately appalled at the sight of it.  It was a very standard affair, nothing at all like my own which was decorated with ornate carvings of the souls of the dead descending to hell all about it.  I prayed to the dark gods that the seating on board would at least have some level of comfort, my derriere is a sacred place and not used to hard sitting and bumpy disruption.  Giving the driver my bags I boarded and gently placed myself on the roughly woven and poorly stuffed cushion.  This was indeed to be a nightmare of a trip.

"We shall be setting off shortly, sir"  the driver remarked as he closed the door behind me.  "I am just waiting for the other passenger that has booked a ticket."

"Do not give him long!"  I barked.  "I am in a foul enough mood already without being delayed by a simpleton."

The driver laughed.  "I think you will be pleasantly surprised, Lord Holbrook.  The gentleman in question specifically requested to share your journey with you.

I was confused, even more so when my travelling companion arrived.

'Oh no,' I thought. 'It's another writer with their new novel.'

The conversation on our journey, was as follows;

Well, speak up! Who are you and why have you boarded my carriage?

My name is Ewan Lawrie and I try to write. I’ve come searching for you after encountering Memento Mori through the writing site Jottify (Resquiat In Pace) and then becoming excited about a fellow Unbounder’s project, viz. Domini Mortum.




So, a writer, eh?  What's your book called and what's it about?  Be quick man, it's a full moon tonight and I feel the change coming on. No more than 42 words.

Keep your hair on! Oh, wait… no offence.

Gibbous House is a Gothic romp of a historical novel featuring a charming but villainous protagonist, the eponymous Gibbous House, its bizarre collection and even stranger household staff. A mysterious society is pulling strings in the background whilst Professor Jedermann experiments on the fringes of chemistry and biology in the dawn of the scientific age.

What's your earliest writing memory. An essay at school? A note of apology to the owner of a broken greenhouse?

There are two things I remember. An alliterative poem involving tomatoes and toes at about 6 years old and later at about 9, a story involving Berlin, the Brandenburg gate and a spy called Alfred Marks. 

Summarise your outlook on life to me in the form of a haiku.

We are just the sum 
of all the words we have read
and those we will write.

What do you think has been your greatest achievement?  Can you better it? What is the dream?

My greatest achievement is whatever the next one turns out to be. I finished an OU degree in 2007 after leaving the RAF three years earlier. That felt like the most amazing achievement, then I did the OU’s Creative Writing diploma. Next, only 2 months ago, Gibbous House, was published. 

You're sat at a dirty table in a greasy spoon cafĂ© in east London. You've just ordered a mug of builders tea and a plate full of cholesterol, when someone sits in the seat opposite you.  Your eyebrows raise, and you are both surprised and pleased to finally meet them.  Who are they and how many sugars do they have in their brew?  What do you talk about?

That’s a difficult one. If I’m honest, it wouldn’t be a writer. Opposite me would be sitting Tom Waits and we’d talk about Hopper, cars with fins and bars with neon outside, before finishing our breakfast, going out for a drink and ending up at a bus stop in Camden 24 hours later. 

What are you writing at the moment? Is it flowing or is it a stop start affair?

I have 58,794 words of a sequel to Gibbous House and it is very much a stop-start business. The story details Moffat’s adventures in the Americas some 15 years after the events in Gibbous House.

I note from your novel that you are keen to include as much realism and historical detail as you can.  Do you enjoy the research element or would you prefer to just write?

I find the research as much fun as the writing to tell the truth. I can lose hours doing it, but they are never wasted.

Without fear and suspense, life would be a very dull affair.” Discuss.

Yin and Yang, the Manichean balance of good and evil; we do need our opposites to balance the universe and ourselves. I feel, as a society, we have become too risk averse, and it’s unhealthy. As to a life without fear, I suppose one would hardly feel alive in such an existence. 

I wish to know more.  Where can I find you and your work on t’interweb?

Gibbous House is available from some good book stores and Amazon.co.uk . I’m on Facebook here whilst my marketing alter-ego, Please Allow Me, continues to demonstrate the least  marketing skill possible here . My occasionally diverting blog is hereGibbous House’s Unbound page is here, you can laugh at my promotional video. 



I have a vast amount of writing available on ABCTales.com, without whom Gibbous House would never have existed.

I had heard enough.  The book sounded most excellent, and I must admit that since our meeting I have purchased and read the aforementioned Gibbous House, and very pleased I was too.  It is an astounding read.  Something which sticks in your mind like a large nail, immovable and not easily removed.  But to be quite honest, I would prefer not to have such a thing removed from my thoughts, it is something which will stay with me for a very long time indeed.  The main protagonist, Moffat, is a man very much from the same mould as myself in many ways, and I would highly recommend that you get your filthy mitts on a copy yourself to see why I love it so.

As the carriage pulled into Upper Shitwick, my travelling companion departed with promises to visit me at the Castle sometime, for High Tea and Low booze.  Perhaps this adventure on public transport had not been such a disaster after all.




If you have enjoyed this blog interview, and the others which I am publishing on a weekly basis, then please visit my own Unbound page www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum where my own book Domini Mortum, A Victorian Mystery novel is in much need of love, attention, and most importantly pledges.

If you wish to be a guest yourself at the 'Castle of Despair' for your very own author interview, then please email me at caraticuspholbrook@gmail.com whereupon I will devise a visit of the most exquisite torture especially for you.

Thank you.

Paul