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Darkness

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 to MIND. One of my two stories in the anthology is the first outing in print for a long-term sci-fi project I’ve been working at, on and off, for quite a while, in parallel with other writing. It involves a human community on a distant planet, ruled by a theocracy which diverts the resources of society towards the needs of its God. The people have lost their technology, and their history has been rewritten. However, as my story, Delving, explores, adventurous individuals may find bits of both in the ruins of ancient cities. Here is a short excerpt:

At last, they reached a tall wooden fence. It was twice the height of a man: Peiku wondered how they were going to get over it. But Ravakinu showed no inclination to do so, instead slowly following the fence to the left. At length they came upon a large bush. Ravakinu crouched down and motioned for the others to do so as well. The pale light illuminated his face once again.

“This is where we cross,” he whispered. “We can get under the fence here. Any second thoughts? It’s not too late to go back. If you get caught out here, it’s a breach of curfew and a slap on the wrist. Beyond the fence is forbidden ground. Get caught there and you are in major trouble. The Guardians are within their rights to execute anybody they find delving in the Old City, and sometimes they do. People I knew have died there.”

He looked pointedly at Peiku. “Still sure you want to go in?”

Peiku was not sure at all, but when he looked over at Vahe, her face had an uncharacteristic expression of grim determination. He couldn’t back out now.

“I’m sure.”

“OK.” Ravakinu pulled aside some foliage to reveal a small space under the fence. It hardly seemed big enough to get through. “I’ll go first and make sure the coast is clear. Peiku, wait a few seconds and then follow me. Vahe, you go last and do a final check that we’re not being followed.”

He turned to Peiku. “You go through feet first. It’s tight, but you’re skinnier than me so you should be okay. Watch me. There’s another bush on the other side, so it’s a bit tricky getting out, but I’ll help you.” Ravakinu lay on the ground and put his feet through the hole. First pushing with his hands against the earth and then pulling upon the planks of the fence itself, he eased himself through. There was a rustle of branches on the far side, then silence. Peiku looked at Vahe. She nodded. He lay down and tried to copy what Ravakinu had done. He put his feet through the hole and found that his legs slipped through easily enough as he pushed against the ground. He could feel branches on the other side of the fence. Now his hips were beneath the fence and his body was hard against the ground. He pushed again and moved another few centimetres. But his clothing was snagged on the fence – he was stuck! He fumbled with the cloth, trying to pull it free, but that seemed to make things worse. Remembering what Ravakinu had done, he grabbed the bottom of the fence and tried to lever himself through, but to no avail. The hard wood was pressing down on his chest, biting into his ribs with every breath. He was trapped!

Many thanks once again for hosting me, Miriam!

Ooh, what a cliffhanger to end on! Thank you, Tim.

Tim (T. E.) Taylor grew up near Leek in Staffordshire and now lives in Meltham, West Yorkshire, at the opposite end of the Peak District, with his wife Rosa and 14 guitars. Having previously been a civil servant, he now divides his time between creative writing, academic research and teaching Ethics part-time at Leeds University.

Tim’s first two novels: Zeus of Ithome, which retells the real-life struggle of the ancient Messenian People to free themselves from Sparta; and Revolution Day, about an ageing dictator clinging on to power, were published by Crooked Cat. His first poetry collection, Sea Without a Shore, was published in 2019 by Maytree Press. Tim is currently working on a science fiction project.

Connect with Tim on his website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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Books Interviews

Triple A: Author Ailsa Abraham

I think all human beings are interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to discover the interesting parts. That’s not true of my guest today – ex-biker, shaman, Bipolar coper, expat, caravanner, author, knitter and much more. Her magic carpet brought her to a walled city, though possibly not the walled city she expected to find.

Ailsa on Yamaha

Hello Ailsa. I’m awarding you the dubious privilege of being allowed inside the walls of my world. I’m afraid it’s just me in here, so not much to see.

Rubbish, came to see you and it’s great to be here.

Part of me is now smiling. The other part is thinking: it’s nice of you to say that, but….

You’ve had your own experiences of mental health problems. Is there anything you want to tell us about them? What message do you want to give readers that might change their attitude towards mental health issues?

Yes, I have. The worst was being misdiagnosed for thirty years, which is not uncommon for Bipolars. We don’t present to the doctor when we are up so generally get wrongly-classified as depressives. This results in us not getting the correct medication which makes the situation worse. Since I had the correct diagnosis of Cyclothemic Bipolar things have been much better. It means my mood changes are very rapid over a day or two. Other Bipolars can stay in one phase for months or even a year. I’ll be on stabilising medication for the rest of my life but that is fine.

Message? Yes. Please give people a bit of slack. You don’t know what kind of hell they might be going through and make allowances, especially if they then apologise. I am still hurting very much because people I snapped at when having an extremely difficult time with my Bipolar, won’t accept my most sincere apologies and refuse to speak to me. That is their decision but I still cry about it.

Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous. No, it isn’t easy to cope with someone whose moods change unexpectedly but if you make the effort to manage that, they are very grateful and make loyal friends. We’re just happy that anyone will bother with us. Mental health problems interfere very much with self-esteem so no matter how bad YOU think I am, I’m thinking worse, believe me!

“Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous.” I wish others would remember that, although I understand why it’s hard. When you read that a particular murderer is a loner, it’s easy to imagine that all loners are potential murderers.

You’ve lived in France for a long time. What do you miss most about the UK?

Interesting question. I’ve been here so long that it’s home. The UK is a foreign country and I love visiting but don’t miss it. The Old Feller goes back to visit family and buy teabags which are the only thing we can’t get over here, well, not good, proper ones. I visit my family in Scotland and other friends in England but in general it’s people I miss, not places.

What are you pleased to have got away from?

Overcrowding, pokey rooms and tiny gardens!

Four Go Mad in Catalonia

What’s your connection to Judaism?

Easy. My father and grandfather were Jewish but, like the Old Feller, goy mother so not considered Jewish myself (except by the reformed Synagogue). When my father was dying, a Jewish neighbour looked after me to free mother to go to the hospital. Auntie Wyantie (Mrs. Wynant) talked to me in Yiddish and made me apricot dumplings etc. A lot of that is stuck in my mind.

Tell us a little about magic.

Wow! I could write a short book but it would meet with disapproval from so many other magic-users. OK – in a nutshell it is an ability to control energies. Often it is applied human psychology which means that when people have asked me to “work on” something for them they are more confident that it will go right – the placebo effect. Similarly if I were to tell someone I was exacting justice on them for a wrong done to someone, that might play on their psyche too. I always liken it to any other ability like being musical or able to paint. One can take lessons but it helps to have an innate gift. Also, practice, practice, practice. I hate to think how many hours I’ve spent in meditation trying to control my mind and link into energies.

No we do not need to cover ourselves in odd garments, dance naked or use esoteric paraphernalia. If you really want to know how real witches work, read Terry Pratchett. Weatherwax, Ogg and Magrat are more like my types – a bread knife and a chipped teacup rather than ornate daggers and chalices. Intention is all. I could go on. Remember, however, that where you have three magic-users in the same place you’ll get six different opinions on the same question.

Ha-ha! That sounds like what they say about Jews. How does all that use of magic relate to your novels?

The ones written under my own name, very much. My experiences working with covens and knowing other pagans was essential. I couldn’t have written the books without it and one has to have “lived” it to understand it. There is a high price to pay for manoeuvring energies which is not understood by outsiders. I was involved in pagan religions and so know the rituals inside out therefore the books ring true. The philosophies quoted within are real.

Crooked Cat Books

I enjoyed your two Crooked Cat-published novels very much. What do you have in store for us?

There has been a demand from readers for more adventures of Iamo and Riga from the first two books and I would like to see more of Adrian and Helen who are non-magical but some of my favourite characters. Dagda is kicking me to write a fourth with him as the main character which would be very tempting as a Native American Black Shaman is too good to leave hanging around without a story. I’m also in the middle of writing my comical memoirs of twenty-five years in France. That is going to be self-published for translation reasons but Crooked Cat are being very helpful with it. The title will be “Knitting With Eels” and I hope to have it out by Spring next year.

Thank you so much for coming, Ailsa. You may leave now… if you can find the way out!

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. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 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 writing, which is much more fun.” Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing. Her other passions are running an orphanage for homeless teddy bears plus knitting or crochet now that she has had to curtail her activities on her beloved black Yamaha motorbike.

As Ailsa Abraham:

Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Four Go Mad in Catalonia (comical memoir of a holiday) – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

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