The wonderful, amazing, one-of-a-kind Ailsa Abraham, who often goes by the name of Otter, chose me as the winner of her competition at my recent launch party for my new book: Social Anxiety Revealed.

I chose to win one of her short stories. For the topic, I chose a socially anxious otter, of course. Here’s the result, sweet and satisfying and… probably with an underlying message. What do you think?

ISOLOTTERED

Ask anyone what their first reaction to the word “otter” is and 75% or more will say “playful”. This is usually correct. They are one of the few mammals who still play as adults, just for fun, not developing skills but enjoying each other’s company.

This is why a very small female otter was so different. She had been the runt of a very large litter and never gained full mature size so was easily bullied by her four brothers. This meant that she also went without food a lot of the time which didn’t help her growth.

Anxious Otter

She sat on the riverbank, desperately wanting to join in the mud-slide game, knowing how it was played but too timid to try. One after the other, her brothers slid down the mud, cleaving gracefully into the water, emerging spitting and laughing. Her empty tummy turned over. She wanted to slide. She should slide, it was what otters did. It was her right to slide. The rest of the “romp” were casting sidelong glances at her odd behaviour.

Grabbing the moment when her courage was highest and her self-doubt squashed, she launched herself at the mud-slide just as an elderly matron otter was wiggling her bottom to get traction to start off. The two of them became a tangle of legs, tails and frantic squeaking, rolling over and over to make a resounding splash as they hit the river with anything but grace.

The elderly female had produced several litters and was forgiving of the clumsy youngster but the little otter swam away, disgusted with herself. She had tried to join in and had nearly killed someone respected in the community. She would go hunting. She was hungry and the one thing she could do very well was a solo activity. She was happiest when catching fish, finding a concealed spot on the bank and stuffing her belly.

From there is became a fear with her of standing out. She remembered the whole group looking at her in disbelief and never wanted that to happen again. She had a small number of females of a similar age who would tolerate her but in general she kept to herself, which is how the accident happened.

As the others were playing at chasing butterflies and the little otter knew she would just be in the way, trip them up or fall on her back, she wandered off to stray into Man land. She had been told to avoid humans as they were usually trouble and their “rolling feet” were always fatal in the end. She found herself by one of these rolling feet paths and lay, terrified by the monsters as they rushed past. She could smell a good place on the other side of the path, what little she could smell over the stink of their bums! It called to her and she dashed out to cross the path just as a monster appeared out of nowhere. It did not hit her but the rush of air knocked her over and she bumped her head on the hard ground.

When the little otter woke up she was in a very strange place that smelled of many different animals, Man and very clean stuff. Raising her head she saw hard things like reeds in front of her face. Putting up a paw she felt them, cold, solid and immoveable. She was surrounded and trapped by the hard reeds and she began to cry. Next to her, in another set of hard reeds, was a cat. She knew cats. They came by the river to hunt rodents and never bothered the otters. The cat was difficult to place, male or female and its voice was drowsy.

“No cry. All good here.” That was all she could make from its mewing.

“I am frightened. I want my holt. Want my… my …group.” She didn’t say friends because she didn’t have any. The last word came out as a hiccup and she didn’t think the cat would understand.

“I had go-to-sleep-milk. Will be well. Man come touch you. All well.” The cat dozed off again, his head against the hard reeds, so the otter put her paw through them to keep contact. Her fingers rested on his whiskers and she felt comforted. It smelt male but not quite male.

She must have gone to sleep herself then because the next thing she knew a human face was on the outside of the hard reeds, looking in at her and squeaking, softly. The noises made no sense to the otter but the feeling coming off this one with female smell was “mother”. She dared to look at the face and saw no teeth bared but the eyes were squeeze-shut like a cat’s when it is happy. The little otter poked a paw out between the hard reeds and squeaked “lonely” at her. The cat was awake and said

“Good human. Friend. Play nice. No bite.”

The little otter had never bitten anyone in her life, apart from fish, so when the human put a paw in to pick her up, she just curled into a ball and trembled. She found herself next to the female’s chest being stroked and hearing small, comforting sounds. It was like being in her litter with her brothers but she had this body all to herself. She found herself nestling in and being at ease.

***

As soon as I walked into the post-op room and saw Sarah holding the otter, I knew exactly how it would go. It so often did. She was a one-woman walking animal rescue centre and we sometimes wondered how she managed it on her salary. We often paid her overtime in animal food and she said that now her two boys were off her hands she had plenty of pocket money. Perhaps the animals filled the gap left by them.

“Well now…is this an adoption I see before me?” I wondered.

Sarah turned, reddening.

“Sorry, Geoff, she was being unhappy and I had to hold her. Look, she’s quite contented now.”

Happy Otter

“So would I be in her position!” It was a standing joke in the surgery that Sarah’s breasts came around the corner a minute before the rest of her appeared and she laughed, good-naturedly at my jest.

She popped the young otter on the table for me to examine again, gently resting her hands on its neck to stop it running away.

“No damage from the accident but look here, I’m sure her eyesight is poor. She seems uncoordinated.  I wonder if she is a runt that shouldn’t have survived?” I shone the light into the animal’s eyes, then encouraged it to walk a few steps. “I really don’t know if we could risk putting her back, not smelling of vets and a bit wonky.” Sarah’s eyes met mine above the table. We both knew.

“Well, in that case, I’ll take her home with me and keep an eye on her. We don’t have the cage space here for her. If she looks any better I’ll bring her in and if you think it’s right, we can return her to the wild.” Sarah said as she scooped the otter up into her arms, its head on her shoulder again.

“Looking at how she’s taken to you, I doubt very much that she’ll want to.” I turned to leave the room adding, “Take some fishy cat food with you. Your new guest is going to need feeding up, she’s tiny.”

***

The little otter had finally found a friend and in that friend’s house, a new group to which she could belong. Different animals with different handicaps, all a bit wonky but all loved to bits. There she could socialise and feel at home.

 

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Today is a special day for us all and especially for one special person: Ailsa Abraham. Today is the launch of her new book, Attention to Death. You’re invited to join today’s launch party.

I have read and loved both of her previous Crooked Cat books and am looking forward to reading this one. The story leads to an issue that has also arisen for Emma Rose Millar and me regarding The Women Friends: Selina.

And Ailsa herself is here to tell us all about this book, which is new in more ways than one. Over to you, Ailsa.

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Hello, Miriam, and thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

You’re very welcome, Ailsa, as always.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

Attention to Death is available from Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

17093876_770816756403666_459813296_nFinding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany. 
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in  their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

About Ailsa

17092169_770817006403641_724394489_nAilsa Abraham  is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

Ailsa’s Links

Web-pageAmazon.ukTwitterFacebookLinked-In

Last Thursday, my friend and fabulous author, Sue Barnard, launched her new book, Never on Saturday, published by Crooked Cat. She held a launch party and I was delighted to be given a slot in it.

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During the slot, I announced a competition to win a signed copy of Neither Here Nor There. Contestants had to write a short piece that had some connection with Jerusalem.

Now I can announce the winner, who is…

Ailsa Abraham

Here is her entry:

JERUSALEM

Oh please don’t sing Jerusalem
While puffing out your chest
You don’t care about that place
Cos England is the best.

You make me sick when singing of
Our “green and pleasant land”
Not caring for a second
Of a city in the sand.

While you are belting out the song
The folks out there are dying
But if you shed a little tear,
It’s for patriotism you’re crying

No it was not “builded” here
Your grammar causes guilt
It was in the Middle East
Jerusalem was built.

So think when singing, or abstain
Please, my friend, you choose
But think, if you are singing
Of Arabs and of Jews.

 Isn’t that lovely? Thank you, Ailsa!

BlogBirthdayBannerByAilsa

So my second is odd and half my first (no prizes for working that one out) and Ailsa Abraham created this delightful banner for me. This is how it came about:

Eleven days ago, Ailsa held an online Crone Party (as you do when it’s the day before your birthday). I didn’t know quite what to expect from it, but I came prepared…

WitchReduced… and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Not only that, but I won a prize for the best costume (what costume?) from the Crone Queen herself: one of her books or artwork for my blog. As I’d read both of Ailsa’s excellent novels, I plumped for the artwork and got the banner at the top of this post. Isn’t it brilliant?

It never ceases to amaze me that I know so many people with birthdays in August. Growing up, I was always the only one in my class and consequently (because of the cut-off date in the UK) the youngest. This post is meant to be all happy, so I’ll move on now.

I was born into a different world. Rationing in the UK hadn’t quite gone, although I don’t remember it. TVs were in black and white, which I do remember.

What hasn’t changed? Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne. The pound sterling is still in use (although shillings and pence are long gone).

FivePoundNoteReduced

 

And Israel, despite most forecasts, still exists.

Me and Jerusalem

Me and Jerusalem

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Author of the Day

Ailsa Abraham is one of a kind. There’s so much I could say about her, I wouldn’t know where to start. You’re better off hopping over to The Bingergread Cottage to find out more. What I can say is that Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum are well worth reading.

Was it coincidence or fate? On Sunday, I came across several references to music.

  • Bracha Bogot shared:

MusicIs

EarWormRemoved

  • And I wondered which pieces of music could become my ear worm. A different one each day, I think. And then I returned to a question I’ve been wondering for some time. Which eight pieces of music would I take if I were to be marooned on a desert island? I often wonder that when I listen to BBC Radio 4’s, Desert Island Discs… not that I expect to ever be invited onto the programme. I haven’t come up with a list yet, but it would be an interesting exercise for another post.
  • I also thought about music in my novels. There is one – probably the next to be completed – that contains quite a lot of references to classical music. I would love to see that one in print, and not just because of the music.

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Author of the Day

Kathy Sharp writes not-quite-real fiction in the Larus Trilogy of novels. She also writes excellent short stories that appear on her Goodreads blog. And she writes song lyrics.

Sale1

Reduced for one week only from 19.02.2016

What would you give for a world free of war, dependence on fossil fuels, pollution and terrorism? That is the premise for the Alchemy series.

An accidental discovery solving the problem of fossil fuel brings this Utopian vision closer but at what cost? Could there be unforeseen consequences and how dire would they be? Who could fight demons if all established religion had been abolished?

Put aside demons and add two people more doomed than Romeo and Juliet who are forced to fight alongside each other. Mix in some very energetic Goths and an undercover Christian Granny for an explosive result as the stories move at breakneck speed into the near-future blending magical realism with pizza, ritual with slang, deepest hatred with impossible love, shape-shifting with public transport.

Sale2.

Book 1 Alchemy

Book 2 Shaman’s Drum

You can find Ailsa Abraham on TwitterFacebook and on her Web page.

Letters from ElsewhereOh my, are you in for a treat this week. Just sit back and get ready to be entertained by the one and only Ailsa Abraham.

Jane_Austen_coloured_versionDear Auntie Jane…

It is a little-known fact that Jane Austen, during the time she was waiting for her novels to become successful, worked as an Agony Aunt on the “Journal for Refined Gentlewomen”. In a recently-discovered trunk of papers the following correspondence was found. I can only assume that one of my characters indulged in a little time-travel to hide his distress and identity.

Ailsa1

It would seem that Iamo continued because her next letter does not change tone.

Ailsa2

We can assume that there was a long gap in communication because the final letter pertaining to this question is as follows.

Ailsa3

goth wedding

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of being an author, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing. She has no intention of stopping writing.

both with teaAs Ailsa Abraham:

 

  • Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Web page

As Cameron Lawton