Darkness

I’m visiting Miriam Drori’s blog today to talk about Darkness, a new anthology of speculative fiction in aid of Mind, and share an excerpt from one of my two stories in the collection.

Miriam Drori, Author

I’m delighted to welcome the author Tim Taylor to the blog. Tim has been a friend of mine for several years. His blog is full of his brilliant short stories and poems. Today, he’s here to tell us about something a bit different. Over to you, Tim.

Hello Miriam, thank you very much for hosting me today.

I’d like to talk about a new anthology of speculative fiction that I’ve been involved in. Darkness, published by Twisted Fate Publishing on 10 October, is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, by a group of previously published writers who have come together to make a book in aid of the mental health charity, MIND. All the stories relate to the theme of darkness, in many different literal and metaphorical ways.

The book is available on Amazon (via this link) for £9.99 in paperback or £3.99 on Kindle. All profits go…

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The Test

I’m delighted to host another guest poem today, from George Simmers, fellow Holme Valley Poet, and the editor of Snakeskin Poetry Webzine.

The Test

The test has a judicial air
It is renowned for being fair

It can’t be cheated or beguiled
It terrifies the nervous child

The test puts children in straight rows
The poor child’s agitation grows

The test just exudes a calm authority
The child feels her inferiority

The child is shaky at the knees
She would dearly like to please

The test is printed clearly, neatly
The child’s demoralised completely

This test will sort the children out
The child is pulverised by doubt
  
The test’s job’s to discriminate
The child grows certain of her fate

The teacher smiles  to cheer the class
The test decides this child won’t pass

The child will fail; her spirit’s broken
The teacher sighs; the test has spoken

And all the country is impressed
By the rigour of this test




Snakeskin can be found at:
http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk

Pic: Rashi Latif / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Darkness

Today I’m proud to announce the publication of a new anthology of speculative fiction, Darkness, by Twisted Fate Publishing. It comprises a mix of sci-fi, fantasy and horror tales by seven previously published authors, and includes two of mine.

The anthology is formally published on 10 October, but is available on Amazon to pre-order at £3.99 on Kindle or to buy now at £9.99 in paperback – via this link:

All profits will be donated to the mental health charity, Mind.

I’m particularly pleased that this anthology includes the first outing in print of a story from my (very) slow-burning sci-fi project. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve been working at this, off and on, for quite a while (see https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/a-first-taste/), in between other things.

So here, to celebrate – and hopefully whet your appetite, is a short extract from that story, Delving. Peiku and his friend Vahe are in a ruined city, searching for artefacts with the more experienced Ravakinu. But the Guardians are searching for them:

They all returned to the doorway, made visible by the pale moonlight beyond it. Vahe and Peiku felt their way along the wall to the corner and Ravakinu left, with the briefest of waves.  

In the corner, with their backs against the cold damp wall, it was not only dark but completely silent. Time had passed quickly while they were making their way to the old city. Now Peiku found himself counting the seconds and minutes away.  

“D’you think it’ll take him long to find somewhere?” he whispered. 

“I hope not. I don’t like it here.” 

“Me neither. I hope the Guardians don’t find him before he gets back.” 

“I just hope they don’t find us.” 

There was a tremor in Vahe’s voice that Peiku had never heard before. She had always seemed completely fearless. He reached out for her hand. She took it and squeezed like a drowning man clutching a lifeline.  

After a while, Peiku could make out the sound of footsteps in the old street beyond the doorway. At first, he thought it was Ravakinu, but then there were voices – not the excited chatter that he had heard earlier, but deeper, more purposeful. His hand closed around Vahe’s like a vice. 

“Guardians!” he whispered in her ear.  

Sure enough, as the footsteps drew closer, he could begin to make out words. 

“They came in this direction. I reckon they’ll be hiding out in one of these old buildings.” 

The footsteps stopped. Peiku could see some kind of flickering light beyond the door – white, like that from Ravakinu’s artefact; not the yellow light of a burning torch. Then a strange bright circle appeared on the far wall of the ruined building and hung there for a moment like the disc of some weird moon. It began to sweep to and fro across the room. Peiku could see a booted foot in the doorway. He huddled into the wall, not daring even to breathe, and felt Vahe bury her head in his shoulder. Now the white disc was coming towards them!  

How to Look at Bluebells

Today I am pleased to host this lovely poem from fellow Holme Valley Poet Vic Slade.

HOW TO LOOK AT BLUEBELLS.

You need a slope not
Too pronounced, then
A levelling off.
Trees help, as useful
Frames, or as woodland
Flavour. Old beeches
With their sandy, mottled boles
Breathe antique distinction, 

Their leaves managing
The sun, to dapple
The light and dissolve
The dark. Now bend a knee
Not too reverentially,
Raise the eyes and
Like a flat shore-pebble
Skimmed across a sea
Enter, slower and slower,
Into its embrace:
An Aegean Sea of
Empyrean blue
And emerald green.
A gentle breeze, if
You can conjure one,
Will send the surface
Sighing like breath.
No quinqueremes of Nineveh
But cargoes of delight.
Beauty is Truth as
The poet said, and, in truth
It may overwhelm us.
Luckily, wrecked on this sea
We, survivors, will make it home
Like Odysseus to his Penelope.

Vic was born in Plympton Saint Mary, near Plymouth, more or less a year before WW2 was declared. Having survived the Blitz, he was one of the first beneficiaries of the 1944 Education Act, becoming a ‘scholarship boy’. He went on to study at the Universities of Edinburgh, Durham, and Leeds, and became a lifelong student, reader, and teacher of literature, language and theatre. He has written the libretti for two operas for schools, both of which have been performed. It is only recently that he has started to write poetry.

pic: Bluebells in Pryor’s Wood, Stevenage by Colin – licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Festival Time

In a time when so much of life has been curtailed by Covid, it’s been a great consolation that at least technology has given us new ways of doing things that otherwise would have been impossible.

During September, I have been able to attend two festivals which a few months ago I wouldn’t have expected even to take place. The first weekend of the month saw the National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG) Festival of Writing. This is a festival I’ve always meant to go to but never previously got round to, partly because it has previously been residential, which requires quite a commitment of time and money. This time it was all online, using Zoom, and I suspect I was not the only one attending for the first time. There was a remarkable variety of workshops and other events, which seem to have been well attended. I went to a talk on rights, an open mic, an award ceremony (for the NAWG competitions) and the closing discussion. Sadly, my story ‘Cold Callers’ was only runner-up in the Ghost Story competition!

Last weekend it was the turn of Holmfirth Arts Festival. I have a particular soft spot for this one, as I was once on the Festival Committee, and Holmfirth Writers’ Group has a long history of involvement, so it was great to see that they were able to go ahead despite all the difficulties of the present situation. It must have been a huge challenge to convert a varied programme of what would normally be live events into video content for Facebook and YouTube, but they managed to do it very well. The videos are still available on the Festival website, if you’re interested. https://www.holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk/. As in the past, Holmfirth Writers made a contribution, in the form of three short videos of poems inspired by the local area, and other pieces posted on the Festival website: https://www.holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk/poems-and-stories-on-the-spot. There was also some great ‘non-virtual’ content – including some amazing ‘living sculptures’ (see below).

Finally, in other news, I am delighted to have a poem, Degrees of Separation, in the current issue of Acumen.

Lot’s Wife

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by my good friend Sue Clark, fellow Holme Valley poet and a frequent judge of poetry competitions for the National Association of Writers’ Groups.

Lot’s Wife
 
My crime? To turn back towards Gomorrah,
to ensure my daughters were behind me
and were safe. And then - I saw the horror.
I saw our town laid flat beneath a sky
of burnt and blackened blood; rocks of fire
red raining on the plain, arrowing
through smoke that choked the world’s breath.
Salt tears pained my eyes; my brother
and his lover, both gentle men,
to be entombed by hissing molten stones,
My neighbour and her baby twins - ash dead.
And with my heart and head I hated God.
All slain -
the innocent and bad, the wise, the mad,
the ancient matriarch cutting the cord
of her daughter’s infant child, just newly born.
Salt tears coursed down, as I stood stunned, transfixed.
No carnal laxity could justify
this terrible obscenity: God’s sin.
Blinded by the firestorm I could see - far
into a future in which rage would  fall
indiscriminate from above, wrath unleashed,
on small children playing under cherry trees
in a distant city clad in summer leaf.
I’d seen and understood. Inconvenient
witness to God’s truth. Salt gets in my eyes;
I am my tears; and what I know is clear
as crystal.

Arbor Low

I’m delighted to host a guest poem today, from fellow Holme Valley Poet Liz Horrocks.

Arbor Low

And so we came to Arbor Low at last.
Two muffled figures in the New Year fog:
saw ditch and bank: the grey stones, silver-streaked,
the far off moors mere faint horizon shadows.
For nearly fifty years we’d seen the signs,
but, living for the present, had passed by.
Yet now, in deadening, isolating mist,
we felt the weight of long past years;
the pressing silence of the numinous.
 
Then, through the thickening mist of years they came:
the old, the children, babies, women, men.
They carried new-born lambs, or harvest grain,
or brands of fire to fight the winter’s dark.
For some it was their local holy place,
its care their charge, its fame their pride. The rest
had travelled long and far to reach this moor,
past grass-green barrow, valley, wood and stream:
but all were drawn by sacred bank and stones.
 
And so they came to Arbor Low at last.

                                                        ****

Liz Horrocks was born in Cardiff but has lived in Cheshire for most of her adult life. Always interested in myth and legend, she has produced a trilogy of books based around Arthurian legend, as well as many poems with legends as their theme, especially the legends of Alderley Edge, where she now lives.

pic: Alan Simkins / Arbor Low Henge / CC BY-SA 2.0

First Contact

The discus-shaped object descended in a smooth and stately fashion, landing on a flat patch of ground with barely a bump.

It was quite small and did not look threatening, though that had not prevented two Eurofighter Typhoons, hurriedly scrambled from a nearby airbase, from escorting it all the way down.

In the twenty minutes since the strange object had first appeared on radar, a small gathering of local dignitaries had hastily convened to greet it: the Commander of said airbase, the Lord Mayor of Lincoln, a Chief Superintendent of police, a professor of physics from the nearest university and the deputy editor of the local newspaper – who could hardly believe her luck.

They did not have long to wait. Almost immediately, a panel flipped out of the craft’s lower surface, forming a ramp to the ground. A single figure emerged. There was a gasp, or rather a chorus of gasps, from all the humans present. The creature had 3 stumpy legs, an assortment of tentacles and a spherical head containing a single enormous eye.

“My God, this is First Contact,” muttered the journalist, pinching herself. “And to think that yesterday I was getting all excited about fly tipping!”

After some squabbling between the dignitaries as to who should approach the alien, all five stepped forward, but it was the Lord Mayor who spoke first.

“Greetings. We welcome you to Earth. And in particular to the fine city of Lincoln, home of the famous Lincoln Cathedral.”

In response, the alien turned one of its tentacles to face the delegation, and from an orifice at its tip emerged a voice that was deep and strange, though surprisingly consistent with standard human phonemes.

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

Determined to get in on the act, the Chief Superintendent gestured at the welcoming committee, including herself, and said, “Humans.”

The creature pointed a tentacle at itself and pronounced the word “Golog”. Then it repeated its first utterance:

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

The dignitaries now took turns to say the things they each thought would be appropriate for a historic moment such as this. The alien waited patiently for them to finish, then responded, once more:

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

Its huge eye scanned each member of the human delegation. Some reply was clearly expected, but the dignitaries had run out of things to say. Eventually, the alien placed the end of one of its thicker tentacles on the ground and began to throb in a rather disconcerting way.

At this point, a second alien emerged from the craft, wrapped several tentacles around its companion and dragged it back up the ramp, which then closed behind them. After a few moments, the vessel soundlessly ascended back into the sky.

Inside it, something of an altercation was going on, which could be loosely translated as follows:

“You idiot, you put the wrong coordinates in. It’s the next solar system along that’s part of the Federation. No wonder those creatures couldn’t understand you. We’ll get in so much trouble for this.”

“Don’t blame me – it was you who hired a dodgy ship with inadequate facilities.”

On the ground, the delegation watched the alien craft disappear with a mixture of puzzlement, disappointment and relief.

“Was that it, then?” said the Lord Mayor. “You’d think they would have stayed around a bit, let me show them the sights.”

“Yeah,” agreed the journalist, “a photoshoot would have been nice.” Though she had discreetly filmed the whole event on her mobile phone. “I can’t believe it’s over already.”

“Oh, but it’s not,” said the professor who, like the journalist, could not believe his luck. “They have left us a gift.” Sure enough, where the alien had stood was a grey cylinder about twelve centimetres high. “I’ll get my people to analyse the object,” he said, “who knows what we might be able to learn from it.” Surely there must be a Nobel prize in it?

He carefully placed the object in a sample bag, successfully fighting off the Lord Mayor, who thought that the gift must have been left for him, as obviously the most important member of the welcoming delegation. The five people stood around awkwardly for a few minutes, then began to disperse.

*****

That evening, the journalist was revelling in the first TV interview of her forty year career.

“… and what did the alien creature have to say to you?”

This was the question she had been waiting and hoping for. She composed her features into a solemn expression and summoned the deepest voice she could manage. Then, slowly and reverently, she repeated the half-dozen alien syllables she had heard earlier that day. Thereby saying, in quite passable Gologian:

“Does this planet have a public toilet?”

Author Tim Taylor

I’m delighted to be featured on Val Penny’s blog today.

Val Penny's Book Reviews

It is a pleasure to introduce you to author and poet, Tim E Taylor today. Tim writes novels, poetry and short stories. His two novels were published by Crooked Cat Books.

His debut novel, Zeus of Ithome is ground breaking historical fiction. It tells a tale set in Greece, 373 BC where for three centuries, the Messenian people have been brutally subjugated by their Spartan neighbours and forced to work the land as helot slaves. Diocles, a seventeen-year-old helot, has known no other life but servitude.  After an encounter with Spartan assassins, he is forced to flee, leaving behind his family and his sweetheart, Elpis. On Mount Ithome, the ancient sanctuary of the Messenians, he meets Aristomenes, an old rebel who still remembers the proud history of their people and clings to a prophecy that they will one day win back their freedom.  A forlorn hope, perhaps. But elsewhere in Greece there are…

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Back to School

Today I am delighted to host Miriam Drori, whose non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, has recently been reissued and is currently on sale via Smashwords. Welcome, Miriam, would you like to give us a taste of your book …

Some people have found this period away from society strangely soothing. These people will find the return difficult. It might increase stress levels and reignite anxieties that have lain dormant.

Considering this in the context of my non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, I believe that those most likely to suffer from the return are schoolchildren. Here are some extracts that show why, all quotes from contributors to the book who preferred to remain anonymous:

“I got SA [social anxiety] from being bullied at school, I think. It was made worse by moving at age 14 to a new school.”

“I was bullied right the way through school; I was called names, I was picked on, I was rejected and isolated.”

“I first became aware of my blushing in early high school I think. …I was acutely aware of my blushing, and as it was school, others were delighted to point out when someone blushed, which made it far worse.”

About cutting: “At school I totally slashed my left hand up, not that anyone there noticed.”

“In primary school I was rejected socially; I was the school nerd. In secondary school I tried to be accepted and to find friends but was unsuccessful… Parents? Teachers? … No one penetrated beneath the armour that I built around me.”

“I’m still severely p*ssed off with my school for not being more help. I did basically everything they seemed to want me to, behaved myself, got good grades to push them up the league tables, didn’t cause any trouble, kept going despite the hell I was going through thanks to the other pupils, etc. And in return, I get pushed out at the end depressed and unable to cope with adult life.
Seems like if I wanted any sympathy and help I should have got myself involved in drugs and crime and failed all my exams.”

“I was very quiet in the class. I went to all the lessons. I didn’t disrupt the class. So the teachers thought I was alright. If I’d been hyperactive, for instance, they’d have sent me straight to the school counsellor. They just didn’t know about SA.”

Imagine being one of those kids. Imagine being away from that environment for a long time – much longer than a summer holiday. Finally, you’re able to relax and be alone at home, like everyone else. Imagine having to return. The moment you enter the school gates, the bullies are back, jeering and fighting. Teachers again pick on you to answer in class and your performance provides more fodder for bullying. At other times, you feel isolated, ignored, unwanted. It’s exactly as it was before, but feels so much worse because you’ve spent months away from it.

I do hope this problem will be recognised and handled properly.


Miriam Drori is an author and editor. With a degree in Maths and experience of working as a computer programmer and as a technical writer, she has been writing novels and short stories for about fifteen years.

Miriam’s latest publication is a short story in the charity anthology, Dark London. Called Gruesome in Golders Green, the story tells of an unusual encounter between two women.

Recently, Miriam has even attempted to write poetry. She eagerly awaits the publication of her first poem.

Social Anxiety Revealed is currently on sale at Smashwords. It is also available from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.