Ellie walked back to the campfire and smelt the char before she saw the blackened sausages in the pan.

“Hey, burnt sausages, my favourite! No really.”

Chad smiled. “Me too… we must be made for each other.”

“A shared love of charcoal wouldn’t get you a quick snog, never mind eternal matrimony.”

“So, why did you marry me?”

“Must be your boyish good looks, plus your father’s fortune of course.”

“Oh no, you’re not getting your hands on that. Remember that pre-nup contract?”

“What pre-nup? I reckon that went tits-up around the same time the world did. Talking of which, where did you find sausages?”

“I went scavenging this morning and found a warehouse with one of those walk-in deep freezers. Massive, foot thick insulation, plus I reckon the automatic generators ran for quite a time after the shit well and truly hit the fan. I broke in and stuff in there was thawing, but buried deep in some boxes I found some almost-frozen packs of sausages. Burgers in another box.”

Chad nodded towards another pan, this one covered.

“Sweet! All we need is some bacon…”|

Chad couldn’t contain his grin this time. “In the pan as well, dear heart.”


The couple lay on the soft grass, replete with food and watching the clouds float past.

“Chad, what do we do now? With the world ending like that, now what do we do?”

“Ellie, I think, that as the only survivors of a worldwide holocaust, we have a very solemn duty. A duty no-one else can carry out. We have a duty…”

“Stop messing around! What?”

“Shush, I’m getting to it. We have a duty -”

Ellie’s jab in the ribs interrupted him this time. Chad rolled over to face Ellie.

“Ellie, seriously. We can do whatever we freakin’ well want!”

Review of Faithless by Graham Austin-King


Faithless CoverI first came across Graham’s writing by way of a promo on Bookbub – The Riven Wyrde Saga, and recognised his talent to tell a rich and dark tale. Faithless is darker still, more mature and also challenging. I first have to declare that as a caver and old mine explorer, I was absolutely delighted to find that Faithless is set entirely within a cave and mine complex. Despite its narrow boundaries, the world is rich and detailed and I found it easy to slip in, unnoticed. I was there at the discovery of minerals, at the rock falls, the underground pools and rivers, and the utter darkness when the lamps are turned off. I loved the underground dwellings and was reminded of the ones in The Devil’s Arse in Derbyshire. Caves and mines are dangerous places and with low tech doubly so, making a setting rich with conflict.

This is a book which is difficult to review without giving too much away because of its structure – a choice which must have been challenging to write, to say the least. Did the author pull it off? Perhaps not 100%, but very close. The fact that it had a very strongly stated theme pulled it together.

Faithless is one of those books that tugs at you for days after you finish reading. Recommended.

Frodo does a talk show

I’m not sure if this counts as fan fiction but it was written just as a bit of fun. Just imagine your favourite talk show host…

Show Host walks on stage…

SH: Next up, a man, well half a man, newly returned from Valinor, tells us the tale of how he saved the world. Hello, Mr Frodo – may I call you that?
F: Well, it is my name, but Frodo will do just as well.
SH: Frodo, you say you saved the world, but you don’t really expect people to believe that, do you?
F: It IS true, although I had help from many stalwart people – men, elves, hobbits and dwarves.
SH: Frodo, you can’t say that, the correct term is ‘Little People’.
F: Oh, I’m sorry – I have been away a long time.
SH: Yes, recovering from PTSD, wasn’t it?
F: That’s right. I was just a humble hobbit from the Shire, totally unprepared for the horrors and evil I faced on that journey to Mount Doom.
SH: Mount Doom? Where in the world is that?
F: Well, it’s gone now. It blew up after the ring was cast into the fiery depths.
SH: Seems a bit melodramatic. [rolls eyes at audience who clap and cheer]
F: It had to be there, no other fire was hot enough to melt it.
SH: No other volcano would do then?
F: [getting a bit cross] No.
SH: Joining us now is the family of Smeagol, who say you haven’t been recovering from PTSD, you’ve been in hiding because you caused the death of their grandfather. He was a perfectly ordinary fisherman until YOU dragged him off on this ridiculous quest, and in fact, it was Smeagol that took the ring into the molten lava and you owe them a lot of money. They are suing you for around £47 million for the loss of their dear grandpappy. What do you say to that?
F: What? No! It’s true, the final actions that led to the ring’s destruction were Smeagol’s, the ring had corrupted him and he bit it from my finger then fell into the lava.
SH: So….if you were going to destroy it because it was so dangerous, what was it doing on your finger?
F: I was not myself. The ring was controlling me.In that moment I wanted to rule the world.
SH: Hmm… a gold ring seems an unlikely basis for a system of world government… but please welcome Jamesy and Dangal, grandchildren of Smeagol!

[Jamesy and Dangal charge across the stage, raining blows on Frodo. Security pull them apart. J & D are last seen fighting over another of Frodo’s fingers. A sobbing Frodo is consoled by the resident psychiatrist.]


Krel’s pot smashed against the wooden counter, splashing beer. His teeth clenched.

“You don’t wanna to be messing with me!”

The crowd laughed at his drunken proclamation, and the would-be assailant moved closer.

“And why’s that, old man?”

“Lemme tell you about my sister…last week, she was having sex when this guy broke into her room. Smashed his club against her paramour’s skull. His end came before his end came, if you get my meaning? Well, my sister, she grabs the murdering bastard round the throat and says to him ‘I hope you’ve got a hard-on because I’m not finished yet!’ The guy starts smiling and fumbles for his belt. He was still smiling when she plunged her knife into his back and made a nice hole in his heart. Real heartbreaker, my sister.”

“That’s fucking hilarious, old man, but why should it make me afraid of you?”

With a speed that belied his drunkenness, Krel grabbed his tormentor’s neck. “Because – having to live in the shadow of that much badassery means that I’m always a hair’s breadth away from ripping someone’s head off!”

Krel head-butted the man, then shoved him away. The crack as the back of his skull hit the counter silenced the whole tavern. Krel staggered for the door, stumbling, and banging his hip against chairs.

No-one was laughing.

Krel’s unsteady gait got him out of the front door while the stunned tavern customers watched in silence. Once outside, the fresh air caused two thoughts to occur almost simultaneously in his mind.

I need a pee…maybe more…
What did I just do?

He made his way to the jakes, musing on his relationship with Katrin…Big sisters are always trouble, always thinking they have to protect you. Fucking embarrassing, that’s what it is…I can protect myself…

Krel didn’t need sober vision to find the jakes, the smell led him straight there. Tugging at the wonky door, he struggled to close it behind himself. Starlight peeked through the holes in the wooden walls, but so drunk was he, that he didn’t notice that it momentarily disappeared, nor did he hear the furtive noises of the men outside. He did notice the explosion, but it’s doubtful he saw the men running away or the shower of excrement, piss and weathered wood that plastered his body.

The Tale of Whizzit, Part One

Whizzit paused, wishing he had a third hand. Right at that moment, the door crashed open, startling him and making him drop his latest project.

“Dang! Made me drop my cylinder and now it’s dented, you id–”

Whizzit stared up at the largest man he’d ever seen. Fully seven feet tall with a girth to match, he completely filled the doorway. Everyone was tall compared to Whizzit’s three foot two, but this guy was huge.

Whizzit had never let his stature temper his loud mouth, and he wasn’t about to start.

“You moron! That’s cost me a day’s work – I’ll have to beat out that dent!”

The apparition didn’t speak, but instead, placed a small ingot of gold on Whizzit’s workbench.

“That might cover the cost…got any more?”


Whizzit thought it was thundering, but the sun still shone and thunder didn’t often say “no”.

“Well, I suppose it will have to do,” said Whizzit, reaching for the ingot before the lunk took it back.

The voice rumbled. “It’s for travel supplies. Buy food, camping equipment and a small cart and a donkey. You’re coming to see the King.”

Whizzit snorted. “No, I’m not! Why would the King want to see me?”

“He’s heard about your…toys.”

“Aww, need something for the new baby, is it? Here, take that one from the shelf and be off!”

“Okay…I’ll be in the tavern.”

Whizzit let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. This is proving to be a strange day, he thought.

The next day proved to be a repeat of the first day — minus the gold ingot, Whizzit noticed.

On the third day, Whizzit got really angry.

“Why don’t you leave me alone? Haven’t you got anything better to do? Do I look like the sort of person who’d fit in at the King’s court?”

“I managed it. I’ll be in the tavern.”

“You’re really annoying, do you know that?”

This time the thunder rumbled “Yes.”

On the fourth day, Whizzit got up early and marched down to the Peck & Feather. Flinging open the door, he yelled into the gloom, “where’s that giant King’s man?”

The man in question stirred himself from the seat he dwarfed and came to the door.

“Come to your senses, have you?”

“No, and look here…what is your name?”

“Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Right now, I couldn’t laugh if you cast a giggling spell and told me a bad joke!”

“It’s… here goes… Sky.”

Whizzit tried hard, he really did. First, his belly quivered and then it spread in waves until it burst forth from his mouth. “Pah hahaha!”

“You promised you wouldn’t laugh!”

“But, but… it’s a girl’s name! Why?”

“Because I’m so tall, I touch it.”

“Touch what?”

“The sky, bonehead!”

“But surely you weren’t that tall when you were born, when yer ma named you?”

“I was told you were a genius. There’s not a lot of evidence so far. Were you always called Whizzit?”

“No, but everyone calls me that because of the sound my gadgets make…oh…sorry…really I am.”

“No hard feelings. I tell you what, let’s have a beer.”

“That’s the first thing you’ve said that I agree with. Thanks, Sky.”

There was definitely a touch of mirth in Whizzit’s eyes, but he managed not to laugh.

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

zenLet me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Ray Bradbury’s writing. Something about his writing speaks to my inner being. It makes my soul dance, my heart ache, and my eyes leak rivulets of tears.

This book is a fascinating tale of his life and times, his troubles and the process he went through in becoming a writer. No – he was always a writer, it’s the process of becoming a paid writer.

This is not a ‘how-to’ book. There are some real gems of advice, for instance – write down nouns and ideas. Keep them for inspiration. Pick one if you’re stuck and write about it.

The part that resonated most strongly with me, however, was the revelation of ‘the child within’. Ray never lost his childhood sense of wonder – and yes, even fear. The tennis shoes have not lost their magic, the carnival is still mysterious, Mars is still a place of adventure, and the world is indeed fearfully and wondrously made.

Never again will I feel guilty to stand and watch a butterfly, to stroke a bee, to pick a flower, jump in puddles and throw leaves around – because, for me, these things still hold their magic. I still go outside on clear nights and marvel at the night sky, I still wish upon a shooting star. If someone as august as Ray Bradbury can feed the child within, then so can I.

Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury, Copyright 1994