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Stealing Heaven!! – Laura talks about Martin Little

Hello, my dear friends.

Come on over to Laura’s blog and see what she thinks of Martin. Did I manage to make her fall in love with him? Here’s her post Stealing Heaven!!

What do you think he might be up to, looking at this cover? Do tell.

9781849898232ML8.12.11 (427x640)

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2013 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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Martin Little Takes Epic Action – Part 5

I paced up and down the narrow strip of beach until the incoming tide threatened to cut me off. When it became obvious that I wasn’t achieving anything down there other than creating my own shallow trench in the wet sand, I started climbing the make-shift steps with a heavy heart, back to the creepy mob on top of the cliff, my bleak mood finally in sync with their sinister magic. I didn’t need magic to feel gloomy. My mind was full of swarming thoughts – thoughts of vengeance and corruption, of bureaucracy and scapegoating, and of unknown creatures coming up with outrageous, indefensible claims. And then there were thoughts of family and friends, of love and kindness and tolerance and… humanity. For all the lessons we’d been force-fed throughout life, heaven had felt a cold, cruel, inhumane place to me. And that’s when I had Cronus on my side.

Now, I was alone. We were alone.

Should I tell the others? Should I warn Vee? But she was already so worried about whatever creepy predictions Madam Morel was cooking up… It seemed unfair. I would just walk up to camp, take Vee’s hand and drag her out of there. We would walk home slowly, and she would lean on my shoulder and we would forget all this nonsense for a few more hours. Then, in the crisp light of day and with a good sleep behind us, we could decide what to do, together.

As the up-lit gorse bushes came into view, I noticed a change. No one was sitting on the make-shift tree trunks anymore. The dying embers of the once roaring bonfire were hardly visible now because of the tightly packed procession of people encircling it.

I approached unnoticed and stood on one of the stumps, so I could see better. Madam Morel was crouched over a cauldron. As I watched, one by one, they would break away and advance to her side. They would pick up a candle and touch it to the ambers until it was lit, then Madam Morel would mutter an incantation and, like struck by lightning, the person holding the candle would fall to their knees. The witch would scoop a jugful of liquid from the cauldron and tip it onto her meek subject’s head.

I watched in silence as they took turns, lit candles and were showered in the unknown substance. One by one, they stood up, their candles still lit, and moved away. Judging by the jubilant expressions on their faces, being able to walk away with their candles alight was significant in some way – like being granted absolution by some divine entity.

Vee was the last to go. By then so much liquid had hit the fire, that I could see no glowing ambers anymore. She picked a candle and dropped to her knees, her fingers desperately raking through the ashes, searching for a way to light her candle. The ashes were hot; Vee gasped and pulled her reddened fingers up, then shook her hand to cool them down. And still, she wouldn’t give up. She kept going through the ashes again and again, more and more desperate, tears dripping down her cheeks now and making tiny fizzing noises as they landed in the cinders.

I couldn’t keep watching this; it was heartbreaking. How can one person be allowed to have so much control over another human being? Why did I ever agree to let her come to this stupid performance? Sickened by the sight, I rushed forward, roughly pushed my way through the onlookers and dropped to my knees alongside Vee. I gathered up her hands in one of mine and wiped her tears with my other.

“You, twisted viper!” I hissed the words at Madam Morel.

Her face stayed blank, immobile, as if she hadn’t even heard me. She was humming quietly to herself. I gave up on burning her with my stare and wrapped my arm around Vee’s shoulders, trying to quieten her sobs. Vee continued to cry, disconsolate. She slumped against me and sobbed harder than before.

If she wanted a lit candle, I would get her a lit candle, damn it. I turned around and snatched the nearest person’s candle from their grasp. The woman gasped and dropped to her knees behind me. Christ, what drama over a small piece of wax!

I touched the wick to Vee’s candle – it caught at once. Vee simpered and threw her ash-blackened hand around my neck. Without warning, the witch decided to soak us at that precise moment. Vee’s candle caught the full whack of water and went out. Everyone gasped.

Vee’s breath caught and we both stared at the soaked candle for a moment. Vee swallowed loudly and then looked at me, panic screaming from her eyes.

“I’m going to die.” She whispered the words so quietly that I had to read her lips to be sure I heard her right.

“No, you’re not,” I disagreed, trapping her gaze in mine. “I’ve got you.” I tightened my arm around her. I could feel a light tightening of her hand around my neck, too; she was holding onto me as if I were a buoy on choppy water, the only think keeping her afloat, alive. I did not move my eyes away from her.

She could not tear her eyes away from me either and I took full advantage of that. If the witch didn’t play fair, then neither would I. I was still holding the borrowed candle.

“Bring your hand forward,” I said to Vee in what I hoped was a sure voice. “Bring you hand closer to mine.”

She hesitated for a second, but then the hand clutching the sodden candle started to move slowly, like in a trance. I watched until I was sure she wouldn’t drop the candle, then I brought the borrowed one closer. I touched the two wicks together. The flame stuttered, and then caught.

Vee stared at the flame and I glared at the witch.

My arm still around Vee, I dragged us both up to a standing position and thrust the borrowed candle back at its owner. Still glaring at Madam Morel, I eased our bodies out from the circle and turned towards the path.

“I won’t let you die,” I whispered into Vee’s ear. “I won’t let anything bad happen to you, ever.”

She whimpered, but kept walking, the candle clutched tightly in her spare hand, eyes on the flame. I put my hand over hers, forming a little windshield to keep the flame going. Slowly, one small step at a time, we walked away from the madness.

 

links to part Ipart IIpart III and part IV of the next book in the Martin Little sequel

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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Martin Little Takes Epic Action – Part 4

2. Treason, Plot and… Whatever the Third One Was

Fury rose inside me, vicious and deadly, wave after wave of rage and anger.

“Over my dead body,” I managed to choke out.

Grumpy threw me a miserable look and sighed again. “Yeah, I’m sure that will be arranged, too. Eventually…”

I’d worked so hard to win her freedom – our freedom – and I did it fair and square. I won our right to choose life or death. And now some heaven politician wanted to take all that away? No doubt, one of the up and coming PISS Committee members, on some misguided, irrational, stupid mission. Politicians are always on a mission, right? Someone who wanted to be noticed. Someone on a quest for power. What better way to make sure you get a slice of the cake at the next government change?

Something occurred to me just then. “This… er… Select Committee… They’ve come up with a report surprisingly quickly.”

Grumpy shrugged.

“Why so fast? They are officials, civil servants like any other. Speed and efficiency are concepts they don’t even understand. To have a report finished in just a few short weeks… It doesn’t make any sense.” It was quiet for a minute as I thought things through. “And Cronus? Can’t he do anything to help?” Cronus owed me so much, and he knew it. Without my help, he’d still be hiding away on Tartarus, somewhere, waiting for humanity to crumble and filling out his Personal Development Plan on a regular basis.

“He tried,” Grumpy answered. “But the fact is, the New Gods Pro-Change are still the current rulers. Cronus can’t influence anything yet, his hands are tied. He has pushed for a referendum, and he is lucky they’ve even agreed to that one! What with trying to keep a finger on the pulse and running his campaign… You wouldn’t believe how many spanners these mongrels are throwing in the works. Every day there’s a new obstacle to overcome, a new hoop the opposition party must jump through. Progress is very slow. It will take months for anything to even begin to change.”

He dropped his eyes and I understood what he was saying. Once again, I had no one to rely on, no one who could fight my corner with me. I was used to that, expected that, even. I knew it shouldn’t, but it still stung. That’s what comes from helping others. I felt alone, vulnerable and betrayed. My eyes felt all prickly and hot. I had to grit my teeth and count to twenty before I could be sure my voice would sound strong and determined as I vowed.

“Then, I will make sure I die with her. I will keep vigil as best I can, and when the time comes, we can go together.”

Grumpy was shaking his head before I even finished speaking. “That won’t be possible.”

“What’s to stop me?” A reluctant chuckle slipped out as I considered what could stop me depart this life if and when I chose to do so.

“They’ve already figured out that might be what you’ll try to do. So they’re sending out a squad of twelve extra guardian angels, Special Forces, so to speak, to keep an eye on you. You could throw yourself in front of a speeding train, and you’d still survive. Your luck allocation has already been overridden.”

Anything to keep me alive. And us apart. The anger I felt was twisting into madness. I ground my teeth together and suppressed the need to punch something in frustration. Mainly because I was surrounded by rock and now was the wrong time to break my hand.

Hands balled into fists, I willed myself into composure so I could continue my questioning. “How do you know all this, Grumpy?”

“Ah,” he smiled a little and touched his finger to the side of his nose again. “I got myself a new girlfriend. She works in the Registry, deals with conference room allocation and the like. We got caught out yesterday in one of them rooms, you know… half-way through… So we hid in the stationery cupboard until they were all finished with their meeting. Four and a half hours!” He didn’t look at all ashamed by this revelation; in fact, his face was slightly wistful, regretful even. Good on him.

“Don’t tell me,” I checked. “The room had been booked by the Select Committee?”

“Yep.” He cleared his throat and shook his wistful expression off with it, trying hard to focus back on my predicament.

“How long do I have? To sort this out?”

“Well, you could appeal, I s’pose… But it takes a minimum of three months for an appeal to be heard… I reckon you’ll have an army of guardian angels on your back no later than a week’s time, maybe earlier. Those nutters are dead serious.”

I nodded. I remembered ‘those nutters’ only too well. Which meant that Grumpy had already risked a lot by simply coming here to find me. Funny how protective I felt now of my once ex-protector. I felt an urgent need to send him away. “Thank you, Grumpy. I appreciate your loyalty. You should go before you get in trouble.”

“’S no problem. Glad to be of service. Keep in touch, yeah?”

I nodded. He stared at me doubtfully for a second, and then he vanished into thin air.

 

(I’m posting another piece of my wip today because I’m trying hard to finish reading a novel. Yes, I’ll review it. Yes, I’ll post the review here – have a little patience. For now, here are the links to part Ipart II and part III of the next book in the Martin Little sequel)

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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Martin Little Takes Epic Action – Part 3

I spent the rest of the afternoon tiptoeing around Vee and trying my best to lighten the atmosphere. Try as I may, I only managed to draw a small half-smile out of her once, when I got my shirt stuck in the washing machine door. I’d already pressed the ‘on’ button before I realised what had happened, and so I had to wait by its side while it drained and then released the door lock so I could free myself.

Vee went about her usual business distracted and subdued; when I enquired what exactly it was that made her sad and whether it had anything to do with the Morel woman, she simply said that we would know for sure tonight, and that she hoped the omens had been wrong.

It was with a heavy heart, therefore, that I agreed to accompany her to this moronic ceremony performed in the dark in which a woman I thoroughly despised would scare the living daylights out of a paying crowd and treat them to artless conjuring tricks aimed at a general age of five and an IQ of approximately the same numeric representation.

After stuffing a banknote that looked suspiciously like a tightly folded twenty-pound note into the collection box – an old biscuit tin with a roughly hewn slot in the lid – Vee pulled me to the front of the semicircle of people gathered around the sizeable driftwood fire.

I had to give it to the witch. The set-up was faultless. We were on the top of a cliff, overlooking the sea. Two fallen tree trunks constituted the seating area, and the low gorse bushes either side of us were eerily lit from their roots up with the help of short candle stubs stuck inside vividly painted jam jars. Frayed ribbons tied here and there in the higher branches of the shrubbery were twisting and whipping in the wind, always wilder here, at the top of the cliff. The way they were thrashing about gave the impression that something bad was about to happen and they were kicking and writhing, impatient to get away. I knew how they felt; I wasn’t any happier to be here myself.

The surf was up, too. The sound of waves crashing onto the rocks below blended with the whistling of the wind and the crackling and spitting bonfire to create a truly sinister symphony. I could feel my hairs stand on end before I even caught sight of Madam Morel.

When she appeared, her face was drawn and haggard, more wrinkled than usual. She almost looked in pain. Black and yellow feathers had been braided into her wild grey hair, and she wore a floor-length black gown with pentacle shapes painted in yellow all over it.

“Out of purple and orange paint?” I sniggered into Vee’s ear.

“Stop it, Martin,” Vee hissed back, annoyed. “I’ve told you before. She is wearing black for protection from evil spirits and the yellow is for inner wisdom.”

“Bit late to ask for wisdom now…” I laughed.

“If you can’t be serious, you’d better leave,” she snapped.

Christ, Vee could be a bit intense, I thought, and twisted in my uncomfortable seat to look at the other people’s faces. Two dozen eyes fixed me with hostile glares. I turned and faced the fire, my shoulders hunching against the harsh stares I could still feel burning holes in my back.

Madam Morel moved slowly, her face contorting in what could only be grimaces brought on by severe pain, or bad acting, depending on which point of view you shared. Her fleshy arms shook their way up above her head, and then her head would twist abruptly right and left and back again, as if pulled by the invisible strings of an exceptionally indecisive puppeteer.

No one stirred. Everyone was still and staring, a dozen people following the mad witch’s every twitch with their mouths open and dead serious expressions on their frozen faces. I mean, how can you not laugh?

I was good; I managed to keep a straight face up until the stage at which Madam Morel started doing frog squats around the fire, with her legs wide apart and grunting as she went. I snorted and Vee elbowed me in the ribs. I clamped a hand over my mouth and tried to convey an ‘I can’t help it’ message through my eyes, but she frowned at me and gestured that I should go.

So I stood up and backed out, bent double, trying very hard to stop any further inopportune sounds from escaping my clenched jaw. Unfortunately, I couldn’t control the rest of my face as well; tears of mirth started streaming down my cheeks as I hurried back down the path, away from them. The last image I caught before my tears completely blurred the scene was of the witch, legs splayed, arms open wide, bent over the fire like a bat, struggling to breathe, surrounded by a cloud of smoke, sparks flying up into her face.

My feet took the left fork and carried me on, lower and lower down the path until I reached the soft, moist sand of the beach below. The tiny bay was closed in, surrounded as it was by sheer cliffs on three sides, but no matter how many times I came here, it never made me feel claustrophobic. Fingers of rock stretched on into the sea, whilst tangled manes of a hundred galloping white horses crashed onto them relentlessly.

I could sit and watch the sea forever. I settled down on a flattish rock, leaning my elbows on my knees and looking on over infinity. If I had good enough vision, I could probably see Newfoundland from here. I smiled to myself as I remembered the last time I had made a genuine wish, and how easily it came true. If only I could have that pair of wings again, even for a short while…

A great big sigh escaped my lips. My fleeting incursion through heaven, a few months ago, was something that haunted me a little too often for my liking. Most of the time, as long as I didn’t have to think about it, I could pretend that it never happened. That was my preferred option. Unfortunately, due to the complex relationship between JJ, my father in law, and his old business partner, Gary Mackie, who was now living amongst the angels, I was forced to stare the legendary series of events in the face more often than I liked to.

I could certainly refer to those three days as the most traumatic of my life so far, even if you take into account some of the less conventional punishments my mother experimented with during my turbulent childhood years. I discovered there was a heaven, a hell, grew some wings and dealt with bureaucracy as diabolical as I’d known on earth in only a few short hours. I swiftly followed that with bumping into my guardian angel (named D Opey, but rechristened Grumpy because of his attitude), then I made the breakthrough that the whole human race was marked for extinction and heaven was malfunctioning due to a computer glitch. I won’t even mention being chewed up and spat out by Chow, the sabre-tooth, or being arrested for being in heaven illegally.

But I don’t regret any of that. Even when I trip over JJ’s black market merchandise or when Gary makes me jump as he pops up out of the blue in my dark stockroom – I wouldn’t change a thing. Because if it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t be with Vee now. Vee is what makes my life worth living.

I shook my head as I realised I actually missed seeing Grumpy, and Cronus, and even St George, with his bizarre fashion sense and prehistoric dancing.

“You called?”

My head snapped up as I recognised my ex guardian angel’s voice. I focused on the blurry image, half amused, half-irritated to see him smiling smugly at me. Had I been thinking aloud?

“Grumpy?” I blinked, bemused, tilting my head this way and that, as if this mere action could make him morph into something more pleasing to the eye, such as my wife’s behind, or maybe disappear altogether. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d found some job in admin, somewhere. You haven’t screwed that up, too, have you?”

The fact that I hadn’t considered his work as my guardian angel a job even half well done was no secret, in fact it had formed the foundation of our rickety relationship from the moment we inadvertently ran into each other.

He ignored the ribbing. “Guess I missed you, too.”

“Hey, hey,” I protested. “I never said I missed you.”

“But you thought it.”

“Who told you that?” I asked, irked. An official complaint form started filling itself up in my mind’s eye as I spoke. My current guardians were bound by a confidentiality agreement, I was sure of that. They shouldn’t have let an outsider know my private thoughts.

“’S who you know,” Grumpy winked, touching the side of his nose with his finger. My eyes narrowed. “Relax,” he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear, before I could ask for names. “I’m only here because I care about you, and… someone high up there does, too,” he pointed at the sky with his index finger.

My eyebrows shot up. “You mean Cronus?”

Grumpy nodded. “He fixed my time off so I could come and warn you.”

That got my attention at once. “That doesn’t sound like good news,” I said warily. Had anyone cottoned on to Gary’s business, and then tracked it all back to me? I should never have agreed to JJ moving the stock from his shed into our stockroom; I always knew he and Gary were trouble. “What have I done wrong?” I asked reluctantly.

Gary let out a heavy sigh before he spoke again.

“It’s not you, personally.” He seemed to have a little difficulty in finding the right words. “I mean, it is you. It’s all of you. Only your time hasn’t come yet,” he pointed at me.

He was too serious, every trace of hilarity gone from his expression. And if my time hadn’t come yet, there was only one other person on this earth that it would hurt me to lose. Vee. Something bad was coming her way, I could feel it in my bones.

Gritting my teeth, I hissed at him. “Spit it out, Grumpy. Don’t you dare draw this out, like some freakish game show.”

He put his hands up. “Whoa. Chill. I came here to tell you, didn’t I?”

I drew in a deep breath, trying to calm down.

Grumpy stared at me with sad eyes. “You know when you broke into heaven, a little while ago?” He waited for me to nod first. How could I ever forget it? “And then, instead of coming back in… you and Vee and her dad did a runner?” I nodded again. “Well, they formed a commission to look into an appropriate punishment for your actions.”

I’d been expecting something like that to catch up with us at some point. “Go on,” I encouraged him, an ominous feeling in my gut.

“The Pro-Angel Parliamentary Impartiality Suggestions Select Committee has published the report, now. The Parliament has looked at it and reached a unanimous decision – you three and Gary, too, are to be judged and sentenced, one by one, starting with the person considered the greatest danger to society: Vee.”

An involuntary smile stretched my lips for a split second as I heard the name of the Committee charged with looking into our misdeeds. Only in heaven could you find such pertinent acronyms. The Pro-Angel PISS Committee was one of the best I’d encountered so far. And then I lost the smile. A shiver ran up my spine and spread out through my veins as what he was saying really sank in. In order to be judged, Vee had to be present in court, in heaven. You couldn’t be alive and in heaven at the same time. Before sentencing Vee to goodness knows what over the top punishment their twisted minds could come up with, they had to kill her first. And the only reason they were going for us one by one was because we already knew too much. We knew enough to be able to defend our actions.

For a second my mind pulled out the image of Vee at her most vulnerable, tears streaking down her face, when she was telling me goodbye. I could imagine the scores of angels with clear wings descending upon her, surrounding her, scowling, pointing. She cringed away from their threatening expressions. And then I saw myself step between them and Vee. I’d never shown much courage before now. I’d never given Vee much reason to trust that I would take care of her, that I was a good husband. Maybe that was the reason why she hadn’t looked reassured back at the shop, when I implied she didn’t need guardian angels, because she had me to look after her.

It was time to be a husband. It was time to be a man. A real man, if I could manage it. No one would touch Vee.

 

(you get an extra piece today, since I missed posting any of this last week. I was asked to put links to all the other parts, too, so here’s part I and part II)

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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The Lucky 7 Post

Yes – I got tagged. How did I leave myself so exposed? I just let people know I have a work in progress. So natural curiosity got the better of them.

I don’t mind. I like what I’ve written. The author who tagged me is the multi-talented Patti Roberts, the mastermind behind the Paradox Series.

What you’re supposed to do is go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript, go to line 7 and paste here the next seven lines or sentences.

Once you’ve done that, you can pick 7 other authors to tag, and they will have to do the same.

 

Here’s the cover for the first in my series, Martin Little, Resurrected.

I haven’t got a cover for the sequel yet, but I know I’m going to call it Martin Little Takes Epic Action.

And here is my excerpt:

I had to give it to the witch. The set-up was faultless. We were on the top of a cliff, overlooking the sea. Two fallen tree trunks constituted the seating area, and the low gorse bushes either side of us were eerily lit from their roots up with the help of short candle stubs stuck inside vividly painted jam jars. Frayed ribbons tied here and there in the higher branches of the shrubbery were twisting and whipping in the wind, always wilder here, at the top of the cliff. The way they were thrashing about gave the impression that something bad was about to happen and they were kicking and writhing, impatient to get away. I knew how they felt; I wasn’t any happier to be here myself.

 

 

Here’s Patti’s current work in progress.

She plans to release Bound by Blood in October.

And my seven nominees are:

Rosalind Kim Nazilli

James Eggebeen

Leo Noker

Kristine Cayne

Lucy Daleo

Uvi Poznansky

Rebecca Blackhurst

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Just A Thought

 

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Martin Little Takes Epic Action – Part 2

I peeked around a driftwood tarot table to see the vast robe of Madam Morel swing around as if she was checking for eavesdroppers; she then leaned over towards Vee.

“It concerns you directly, dear,” she whispered. In the eerie silence that followed I heard Vee’s sharp intake of breath. “I came to warn you at once. But first, I need another branch from that ancient hawthorn of yours and some cherry blossom. I’ve got to seek confirmation – I just cannot believe the signs are right! As soon as I’ve finished here, I shall go by the cemetery for consecrated holly and incense. This business is too serious, too serious by far. I shall have everything ready for tonight, so I can repeat the magic and call for the luminous spirits’ assistance. You can come, dear. Of course you can come. Now, go. Go get me what I need.”

“Yes, Madam Morel. Martin,” Vee’s voice was shaky as she called me.

I stood up, still holding tight onto the bundle of cloth. Madam Morel’s expression soured when she saw me, but I didn’t pay attention to her – the feeling was mutual, and she knew it. Neither of us was bothering to pretend otherwise anymore. What worried me was Vee; her face was ashen, her brow crumpled up in distress.

“Will you offer Madam Morel a seat and a drink while I nip into the garden, Martin? Please,” she touched my arm as she darted past me and out the back door.

My eyes narrowed as I glared at the source of my wife’s upset. “Sure,” I answered a little too late; Vee had already gone.

I heaved my cargo to the side of the counter, where I dropped it unceremoniously, too close to Madam Morel’s feet. I hoped she would catch her floppy sandals and trip over it, the stupid old bat.

I slipped behind the counter and picked up the one rickety stool. Holding it in what some people might consider to be a slightly threatening manner, I asked, “Chair?”

Madam Morel took a step back, and then she collected herself. “No. Thank you,” she added as an afterthought.

I wondered if she thought I was so dim as to whack her around the head with the stool in the middle of my property. I wasn’t, but she should watch herself. My antipathy for her had been merely amorphous, before today. Undefined, like I couldn’t determine why I didn’t like her. Now, the fact that she’d upset Vee gave me a focus point onto which to concentrate my ire.

Madam Morel squared her shoulders, pursed her lips and approached the counter. I waited eagerly for her to lean one careless finger on the glass top, surreptitiously eyeing the stapler by the side of the till.

The witch could read my mind, or maybe my sideways glance had not been stealthy enough. She swallowed hard, and then folded her arms across her ample bosom. Damn.

“Drink?” I smiled and one of my eyebrows shot up as I said the word, probably giving me the air of a villain, just for a second.

She stood her ground. “I’ll have another large black candle, Martin. We’ll all need serious protection.”

After briefly contemplating an array of actions on my part that would most certainly demand protection on hers, I turned to the shelf and grabbed the nearest black candle.

She waited for me to turn and key the code into the ancient till before she spoke. “Larger, if you’ve got one.”

I pressed the ‘clear’ button with unnecessary force as I stared straight into her eyes with unconcealed loathing.

She stared right back at me for a while and then her eyes lost their focus and her expression took on a distracted appearance. She started swaying gently on the spot, humming to herself and making sudden, uncontrolled movements with her arms. I watched her twitching hands warily, trying hard to sort out my priorities. Should I go steady her or start moving the breakable items away from her immediate vicinity first? Maybe I should position the stool behind her and stretch the folds of canvas around her front, to soften her fall. But what if I went to her side and the witch threw herself to the floor so she could have something to blame me for when Vee returned?

“I can see…” she whispered. “I can see what is going to happen.” Her eyelids fluttered and then her gaze fixed on me. “Martin…” She sighed and shook her head dolefully, still staring at me. “No need to make this harder, son. It’s written in the stars that we shall work together. Soon, you will have to trust me.”

I snorted contemptuously.

“You’ll have no choice, Martin.” She kept shaking her massive head; her jowls wobbled and gave her the appearance of a giant slug. Well, a slug with tangled hair, no fashion sense and too much jewellery. “We’ll have to work together,” she repeated. “Forty-eight hours.”

“What?”

“You’ll come and ask for my help in less than forty-eight hours.” She nodded to emphasize her depressing prediction.

I wondered if she’d finally lost it. In what warped reality would I ever, of my own accord, ask a witch for help? I bit back a retort that was likely to put me in my wife’s black book for a week and reached up to the back of the top shelf for the thickest black candle I could see.

“Nine ninety-nine,” I said impassively, ringing the amount into the till.

I placed the candle on the counter at the same time as Vee rushed in, clutching a carrier full of cherry blossom in one hand and what appeared to be half a hawthorn in the other. I added five more pounds to the amount on the till.

“Fourteen ninety-nine,” I amended my calculation.

“Don’t be silly, Martin,” Vee chided me, walking quickly to Madam Morel’s side. She picked up the candle off the counter and stuffed it in the bag, beside the blossom. “You can’t charge our best customer.”

“But…” I mumbled in consternation as she proceeded to unload the bulk into Madam Morel’s eager arms. I could see the witch’s smug expression from the corner of my eye.

“Thank you, my dear,” she said in a sickeningly sweet voice. “May the spirit guides stay closely by your side.”

“They don’t need to,” I said sharply. “That’s my job.”

Vee smiled and stroked my arm soothingly, but didn’t look significantly reassured.

Madam Morel glanced back at her with sombre eyes. “I’ll see you tonight, my child. At dusk.” Vee nodded, her expression miserable. “Be sure to wear black.” Vee’s frown deepened. She nodded again. The witch turned her attention to me, then. “You’d better be there, too, Martin.”

“Why on Earth would I?”

She didn’t answer, but turned and swept theatrically out of the door without so much as a goodbye.

Thank you for taking the time to read this sample of my novel Martin Little Takes Epic Action, a sequel to Martin Little, Resurrected. Any thoughts? I would love to read your comments. Part 1 is right here. Come back next week for part 3.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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Martin Little Takes Epic Action – Part 1

1. The Witch, the Angel and Yours Truly

 

I was sorting out the stockroom to make space for JJ’s merchandise when I heard my name.

“Martin,” she called, right at the top of her very strong lungs. “Martin, where are you?”

Now, I could make my life easy and just go and see what she wants.

I could.

But that would also make for a boring life and, if you remember correctly, my new wife doesn’t like boring stuff. She wants to live. Somewhat surprisingly, she wants to do this alongside me. Me, the boring one. Me, the vegetable, the blade of grass swaying in the wind, doing nothing, achieving nothing. Going nowhere… To be fair, there was a time when all these descriptions applied to me, I’ll admit. Vee threw it all in my face, somewhere in a corridor that I struggled to forget, and then she threw me into life, head first, without warning. It was a sink or swim situation, and she stayed faithfully by my side.

Not a day goes by without me thanking my lucky stars for having her in my life. Not a night passes without me wishing and praying – but mostly wishing – that she would continue to be happy and I could be allowed to facilitate this status quo in any way possible, preferably alive.

How else would I be able to help, if not alive, I hear you ask? Well… A long story, really, and I don’t have time here to tell it all. Let’s just say that in the last few months of my life I have been given the chance to change a lot of my pre-established views on people, society and the general make-up of our world in particular. Through experiences impossible to imagine, let alone fudge, I managed to deduce that the human race coexists in close proximity to a prosperous realm of beings that are designed to help us develop into better human beings.

It is not our fault, or theirs, that some have been created with a dominant mischievous gene and a recessive one when it comes to correctly identifying the degree of human discomfort.

I shifted aside a smaller replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa – made up of some cheap energy drink, by the looks of it – and picked up a pile of grubby white canvas destined for the wash. There was a lot of fabric, quite hard to carry in one go. So could you blame me, really, when I threw the largest over my head, where it came to rest, and hugged the others close to my body?

I could hear Vee’s hurried footsteps the other side of the door just as I shifted the weight to my left arm so I could grab the door handle.

“Aaaarghhh!” She screamed, and promptly kicked me in the gut. The pile of material cushioned me some, and her gladiator sandal caught in the numerous folds of my garment. This pulled her out of balance, and she twisted as she fell flat on her face.

I doubled up in fits of laughter and then dropped to my knees next to her. I could feel her pulling at the canvas as she tried to get through to me.

“Just you wait until I get to you,” she threatened, breathless from fighting the grey mass of fabric. “Stay still, will you?”

I was still laughing when daylight came through. As soon as my arms were free, I pulled her close and pressed my lips tightly to hers. I kept her there until her frown began to smooth and her hands locked around my neck. I knew then that I would be forgiven.

“What did you think I was – a ghost?” I asked after a moment, unable to contain my amusement.

She frowned again. “You gave me such a scare, Martin Little. That’s three times this week. Don’t do that again.” But then she sighed and smiled, looking a little embarrassed. I gave her another little kiss, to wipe the last of the discomfort off her face.

Of all people, Vee should not be scared of ghosts. One, she sees them regularly. Two, she believed in such things even before they became her close friends. Three, she was intent on selling the idea to all and sundry; our new business was clear proof of that.

Vee’s Bazaar’ was what I would have called a ‘new age dump’ before. Well, I would have called it that now, too, if I was prepared to deal with the wrath of my new wife. She claims she is psychic, or something to that effect. I think she is sweet, a little eccentric and in touch with nature, most of which could be found around us, wherever you look. It would take a lot of skill to make it across from one side of the shop floor to the other and not trip over some twisted lump of old wood stained with a linseed oil and beeswax mixture from an old Celtic recipe, or a bunch of reeds from some sacred mud pool dipped in pine resin to freshen the air, or some misshapen wicker ornament that apparently brings luck and good tidings.

All sorts of carvings, shells and chunks of coral wrangle for pride of place on the shelves across the back wall with every colour candle you could imagine, lumps of roughly-melt silver and hunks of gems still half-enclosed in stone. Feathery dream catchers, hand-made strings of beads, braided leather cords, wild bird feeders and wind chimes dangle from hooks all over the place and the glass counter could easily be mistaken for a massive do-it-yourself jewellery kit, with the emphasis on crystals and colourful rocks in diverse hues and of different shapes and sizes.

Every now and then Vee attempts to explain them all to me, which is, as always, a total waste of time. It took a huge amount of effort on my part to allow even the mere thought of the supernatural into my brain; I am not about to trade my neat, logical, scientific disposition for some soppy shamanic crankiness any time soon. The things that happened to us before we were married, and still do to some extent now, I am quite happy to treat as simply odd and unexplainable. And since they cannot be explained, I see no need to clutter my mind with trying to make the two notions coexist. Like dream world and wakeful reality, so long as neither of them cause me pain or upset, I am prepared to just go on with both without complaint.

Just as I was contemplating whether or not I should give the odd things in my life a little more attention, the shop door ground open and swiped a hefty blow to the bamboo wind chimes Vee had me hang by way of a doorbell, sending them into loud, yet temporary, clattering chaos.

Vee was the first one off the floor, managing to run her fingers through her mass of ginger curls to tame them and catch a sharp kick to my shin as she stepped on the fingers of my left hand in one swift movement. She always has to have the last word, my wife, I thought, gritting my teeth against the pain as I tried to take it like a man. I wondered if she would consider us ‘even’ now.

“Madam Morel,” Vee chirped in the direction of the shop front at the same time as I allowed myself a quiet groan.

Oh, no. I pushed myself to my knees, wrestling the mass of fabric into a knot more suitable for dragging over to the laundry shed.

Madam Morel is our resident witch. She lurks in the background, as much a part of village life as the vicar, the doctor and the owner of The Thirsty Friar down the road. She can often be seen haunting the very old part of the cemetery, which is said to have been, originally, the site of a well-revered, ancient, Celtic burial ground. She drifts distractedly over the grass ignoring the dirt paths, leaning over tombstones here and there, cupping her hand around her ear as if she is listening intently to something only she can hear.

You couldn’t miss her if you tried; her long, loose, multicoloured tunics, mostly orange and purple in their colouring, are hardly appropriate camouflage in such stark surroundings as rural Cornwall. Displayed on such a vast expanse of flesh, her clothes are even more eye-catching. She scrapes a living by giving simple folk around the village readings and contacting their long lost relatives over steaming cauldrons and bonfires to reassure them that everything is fine in the afterlife.

If you ignore our opinion of each other, we have nothing in common.

I don’t ever dress in orange, or purple, or in floaty, silly tunics. I am an upstanding member of the community and work hard for my living by being nice to people from dawn till dusk, even self-proclaimed witches and touring buses full of folk who believe you are deaf and therefore their insulting comments, uttered loudly and shamelessly, cannot possibly hurt you. And moreover, I never, ever lurk around tombstones, though I must confess, I often fantasize about sneaking up to the cemetery and jumping up at Madam Morel shouting ‘Boo’.

“Terrible news, dear,” Madam Morel’s deep voice gave me goose bumps and raised the hair on the back of my head.

“Oh!” Vee exclaimed. “Is this something that came out during last night’s session?”

Madam Morel must have nodded, because I heard Vee gasp. I heard a bag rustle, and then it was quiet for a full two minutes.

“Oh, no,” Vee murmured. “This is a bad omen.”

“The worst,” Madam Morel enunciated slowly, her voice crackling with the thrill of her revelation.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this sample of my novel Martin Little Takes Epic Action, a sequel to Martin Little, Resurrected. Any thoughts? I would love to read your comments.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Book Reviews, Just A Thought

 

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