Friday, June 17, 2011

5 Stars for One-Way Ticket to Midnight

Published by Good Book Alert.  Visit their website for excellent reviews.  Reprinted with permission.

One-Way Ticket to Midnight
By Gary Jonas
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy


Roy Porter lives on the streets of Tulsa, his music all but forgotten. When his friends start dying in horrible ways, Roy realizes he's seen the pattern of death before. The cops are searching for a regular killer, but Roy knows there's more going on and if he doesn't act, he might be next on the death list.
He teams up with Jim Hartford, a tough biker with a haunted past, to hunt down the killer. But how can this unlikely pair hope to face up to a killer with powers born from the depths of evil? They're on a train bound for hell and it's a one-way trip.


Review:

When I began to read this story, the main character Roy Porter captured my interest. He’s not the typical main character. At some point he gave up on life and became homeless. This doesn’t sound like a hero. His life gets even worse when he becomes a suspect in a string of unusual murders because he knew all of the victims. Of course, he didn’t do it and he tries to get help from his friend Jim who is a psychic, into the mystical and uses his power for good. As the story progressed, I wanted to know how Roy got to the point where he gave up on life. These details are dished out in a way that kept me wanting to turn the pages to find out more. Jim also made me curious. There is comic relief between these two, and they make for an entertaining pair as they try to stop the real killer who, of course, uses his magic for evil.
Roy has many obstacles to face if he’s going to clear his name and the problems become bigger than that as the real killer grows in power. He is up against both dark external forces and his own internal conflict. Roy has to solve both if he’s going to survive, and I found the way the author weaved these two elements together masterfully done. This is what makes "One Way Ticket to Midnight" a 5 star read.  

Purchase it here:


Monday, June 13, 2011

E-BOOKS - RIDING THE WAVE by Gary Jonas

Gary Jonas, author of One-Way Ticket to Midnight, and the upcoming books, Quick Shots and Modern Sorcery, is our guest blogger for this week.
A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing e-books.  He’d noticed that my novel, One-Way Ticket to Midnight was available but that the rank wasn’t particularly impressive on Amazon.  He asked if I’d hopped onto the surfboard to ride the wave too late.
Some authors who never went the traditional publishing route have become self-published sensations - people always point to John Locke (author of the Donovan Creed series) and Amanda Hocking (author of the My Blood Approves series).  Amanda made a big splash earlier this year by signing with St. Martins Press for a two million dollar advance that had people raving that she’d made a bad decision.  Sorry, if someone offers you two million dollars to publish four books and it’s your first foray into traditional publishing, you are not crazy for accepting that deal.  This came the same week that Barry Eisler turned down five hundred grand to go self-publish his next John Rain novel (though that will now be published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint - more on that in a moment).
Amanda is clearly a smart woman because she knows she can get the best of both worlds.  The big New York publishers are outstanding at pushing print books when they get behind them (and with a two million dollar investment they will get behind them).  This will increase her visibility to the general public who will then find her self-published e-books (or the print versions from CreateSpace) and buy those.  It’s a no-lose scenario for her.
With John Locke, he’s priced all of his e-books at 99 cents.  The Creed novels are very short, which works quite well for e-books.  Someone pays a buck and they enjoy a ride for an evening.  Locke knew he needed to have a bunch of books out before he’d get noticed, but that when people found him they’d want more books.  He was right.  While Locke is certainly not going to win any awards for his writing or his plotting so far (I read Saving Rachel, which had believability problems out the wazoo and was uneven at best, but one thing Locke has going for him is that he keeps you turning the pages … or pressing the button to get to the next page).  While I’m unlikely to buy the rest of his e-books, I can see the appeal.  They’re quick reads and he has some clever bits in them.  Give him a year or two and his writing will improve and his plotting will improve and I predict that before too long he’s going to be firing on all cylinders and will grow into a terrific novelist.  He hears the music - he just has to get tuned in the rest of the way.  I will sample him again next year to see how far he’s come.
Barry Eisler time.  When he announced that he’d signed with Thomas & Mercer a lot of people cried out that he was a hypocrite.  That was not my impression.  My feeling was that they must have made him a great deal and allowed him to keep a lot of creative control or he wouldn’t have signed with them.  When Eisler did part three of his ongoing blog-chats with Joe Konrath he went into great detail about why he chose to go with them.  Long story short, I was right.  Eisler is not only a terrific writer (if you haven’t read the John Rain books, you need to add them to your To-Read stack - you can thank me later), but he’s a smart businessman and he’s not afraid to go where he’s going to get the best deal regardless of what other people think.  For the record, he is still doing self-publishing as is Joe Konrath, they’ve both signed deals with Thomas & Mercer, but they can still do other projects on their own, too.
Those of us who’ve signed with Sky Warrior Books have our own reasons and goals when it comes to e-books.  Some people think we’re crazy for giving away what amounts to fifty percent of the royalties to a publisher for things we could get done for paying a flat fee once and then the rest of the money that comes in would be ours.  To some degree, those people are right.  Dean Wesley Smith is someone who talks about this quite a bit on his blog.
Using myself as an example here, by this time next year, I should have five e-books published by Sky Warrior Books.  That’s five books where I’m splitting the royalties down the middle with my publisher.  I could have taken One-Way Ticket to Midnight, Quick Shots, Modern Sorcery, Acheron Highway and Razor Dreams and done the self-publishing thing.  I could have paid a cover artist a flat fee to do the art and paid someone else to format the books for Kindle & Nook & SmashWords and the rest or learned to do all that myself, which is time spent away from writing.  I could have paid an editor to go over each book.  Then I could have uploaded them and done my own promotion, which as an author you have to do anyway, and the money that came in would be all mine.
Why didn’t I go that route?
For the same reason many authors aren’t putting their extensive backlists up as e-books right now.
It costs too much money.  To do things properly, you’re looking at spending a thousand bucks or so to launch an e-book.  You can do it cheaper, but your cover will suck and the formatting will be off and that’s all she wrote.  You can spend a lot more to get well-known cover artists or well-known content editors with plenty of experience.  So a thousand is going in on the cheap.
There is another viable method, but it requires a certain amount of trust.  That method is to cut the cover artist in for a percentage.  Obviously, if you’re just starting out and have no track record, that’s not going to work for you unless the artist is a friend probably just starting out, too.  The benefits here are many because with the artist getting a royalty, if the cover isn’t working, it’s in the artist’s best interest to do a new cover.  For authors with backlists, this could be an effective way to get going faster because you save so much on the up-front costs.  In many cases, the original cover artist might allow their original cover to be used (if they own the rights) - after all, what else can they do with it?  Might as well make a few extra bucks.  Regardless, there are still other options.  You may have a better idea (in which case you should share it with everyone—paying forward is a good thing).
My view is that Sky Warrior Books has top-notch editors, artists, formatters, etc.  All of that is done for me and I don’t have to pay for it.  I still have an incredible amount of input into cover art and every suggestion from my editors has been something that improved the book in question.  I get to talk to the artists about my cover concepts and they listen and work with me and improve on what I had in mind.  It’s awesome.
From what I’ve been able to tell, in order to have a real shot at making it and catching the e-book wave, you need to have at least six or seven books out there.  Ideally, they should be part of a series.  Readers love reading series books.  For me to get there, I’d need to invest $7000 before I could even begin to hope to have a decent return.  Some folks get lucky and make it faster and that’s great.  Most people put their books out and they don’t even make a splash.  They quietly slip into the water and sink to the bottom never to be heard from again.
This includes some good books, folks.
I chose to sign on with Sky Warrior Books because I respect Maggie Bonham and she’s already making money on her e-books.  Plus she has ideas about how to get noticed by the readers a lot faster than I could on my own.  It won’t happen overnight.  I fully expect that I won’t get where I want to be on the e-book front for a couple of years.  I have some promotion and marketing ideas that may set me apart faster once we get things rolling, but that remains to be seen.  For now I’m hopping on that surfboard and working to catch the wave.
Will I go the self-publishing route later?  Yes.  I already have a few projects simmering.  Will I still release books through Sky Warrior Books, too?  Probably.  For example, if the Jonathan Shade books take off and Maggie is the one who believed in them to help launch them, shouldn’t she and her company be able to reap some of the rewards?  I know for a fact that I would not have anything out as an e-book right now if not for Sky Warrior Books.  If she can make a few bucks and use that money to help other writers launch their e-book careers, too, I’m all for it.
Your mileage may vary.
I’ve talked before in various places about how any writer who owns the e-rights to their backlist needs to be getting those books up so they can catch the e-book wave, too.  If they can afford to launch them by themselves, great.  If not, then perhaps they should approach a company like Sky Warrior Books.  If you were writing a series that got canceled because your numbers dropped, but you know you still have fans out there who want more books, e-books may be your answer.  And if you can’t afford to do it yourself yet, perhaps it’s a good idea to hitch your wagon to a company like Sky Warrior Books so you can get a running head start.  Yes, you’ll have five years where your e-rights are tied to a publisher other than yourself (which until a year ago was not seen as a bad thing at all) but you’ll also have the opportunity to build your readership and get back to doing what you love - writing fun books.
And that’s what catching the wave is all about.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Call for Submissions: Zombie Stories!


Zombiefied – An Anthology of All Things Zombie

At Sky Warrior Books, we’re not above…well, anything.  Hence, we love zombies.  We’re betting you love zombies too.  So, send us your best work on zombies, original or reprint (must have the rights), of stories 500 to 7000 words in length.  Can be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.  Sure, we’ll take standard horror and dark fantasy, but you can be creative.  Zombies in space, zombiefied critters, zombie love stories (uh, no erotica), fantasy zombies, steampunk zombies, zombie humor, zombies on toast…well, you get the idea. 

Payment

Payment is author share divided equally among the authors.  We pay quarterly.

Deadline

Our deadline is August 15th, 2011.  We’re planning on the e-book coming out in October, just in time for Zombiecon, MileHiCon, Halloween, and Christmas/Yule/Solstice/Kwanza/Hanukah/Winter Holidays/Did we miss anything?

How to Submit or The Nitty-Gritty

We accept RTF files via e-mail only to the publisher at skywarrior3@gmail.com.  Put the words: ZOMBIEFIED SUBMISSION in the subject line with the title of your piece.  Send us a virus and we will never accept anything from you again.  Double spaced manuscript in Times New Roman or some other pretty font (not Courier!).  Use italics, not underlines.  Have your contact information on the manuscript including your email address.  Let us know if this is a reprint and from where.  Again, be sure you have the rights to reprint – we won’t chase down permissions.  Fiction, nonfiction, humor, science fiction, fantasy, horror, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, etc.  MUST HAVE ZOMBIES IN IT.  500 to 7000 words (actual).  Poetry may be less, but must be high quality.  Be sure to send us a manuscript free from spelling/grammar errors.  Visit our website at www.skywarriorbooks.com.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Veil Between Worlds #6: England, My England.

Our Guest Blogger today is Alma Alexander, author of the upcoming 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens.  Alma talks about the Veil Between Worlds in her blog.  Reprinted with permission.

There is just… SOMETHING… about England.

I’ve been in love with the place, with its pageantry and its history and its myth, since a very young age, and if you’re already half tipped in that direction it’s fatally easy to slide into it completely, watch it close over your head, and find yourself wandering through a countryside that never was but should have been and which will live on in your dreams for as long as you have breath to dream with.

That this isn’t a new thing is witnessed by a travelogue I wrote way way wayyyyy back in the late 1980’s. I think, when I went travelling the highways and byways of England with a then-beau whom (in the travelogue) I have named Henry. Here, below, a sample – which will also give you an inkling about what I mean about that thin, thin, thin veil between the worlds which covers England like a bridal veil does a shy bride:



The weather was kind to us, and a low golden sunshine wrapped us in its warm cocoon. We only had a very hazy idea of what to look for in Glastonbury; we somehow managed to miss the approach road to Glastonbury Tor, whose famous, strange, brooding shape we immediately recognosed as we drew nearer, and found ourselves in the central district of the town. A little bit at a loss, we drove on until we could find a reasonable place to turn when I suddenly pointed at a signpost.

“Glastonbury Abbey!” I crowed in delight. “Let’s find it!”

Henry obligingly turned right, in accordance with the signpost. As it happed, the Abbey ruins would have been very hard to miss, and we did not. The old Abbey, in many instances, was nothing more than hills and hummocks and ancient precincts outlined in broken white lines by stones embedded in the lush turf. But the Lady Chapel stood, open to the forces of nature and the inquisitive eye of man. The small field grasses, a cross between proper grass and lichen, grew on top of the ruined walls, giving them an unreal tasselled silhouette against the sky. The ruins of another place of worship reared in a graceful, symmetrical sweep a little further on, resembling a misplaced pair of some heavenly gates. Here, small chapels, now sometimes consisting of a single half-ruinous wall, clustered around the skirts of the vanished edifice. One of them, evoocatively, purported to be dedicated to Thomas a Beckett. Between these two ruined sets of hallowed walls was a small, paved rectangle that looked not only insignificant, when compared to its surroundings, but also intrusively modern and woefully out of place. But a plaque nearby proclaimed this piece of ground to be the treasure of the Abbey, and the contain something far older than the venerable old walls themselves – this was where a body had been discovered, long long ago, of a tall man at whose feet were the bones of a small, slight female. A cross found on the top of the grave asserted in the inscription it bore that this was the tomb of King Arthur and of his wife, Queen Guenevere. The small, paved rectangle seemed to be an incongruous place for a legend to be buried; but, granted, the majestic old ruins did form some sort of a suitable monument. So, rest in peace, old warrior, and you too, fair Queen, for in truth I do not believe that your bones do indeed lie here. But let the Abbey keep your memory.

Also inextricably twined in the Arthurian story is the mysterious Joseph of Arimathea, who may or may not have visited England in the dawn of history and brought the Holy Grail thither from the Holy Land. His memory is also enshrined in the Abbey, for here grows a small thorn tree which bears a peremptory sign orderning that it not be touched. Perhaps some believe that the touch brings some kind of Divine healing, for this thorn tree is said to have sprung from one of the thorns which was sanctified by Christ’s blood in the Crown of Thorns, and which that same Joseph of Arimathea brought to England when he came bringing the Grail. This, I know, is how religions are born – except that the one which gave birth to this small legend first flew two thousand years ago.

We had a small lunch and went out to explore the town of Glastonbury. As ill luck would have it, we had chanced here on a Bank Holiday. All was closed and shuttered – except this one incredible shop which sold arcana of every description. Books there were about everything from Stone Age religious cults to witchcraft to Arthuriana (obviously!) to shelves and shelves of science fiction and fantasy to Irish folk tales. They had tapes of esoteric music, and sticks of incense, and Roger Dean-type posters, and… Entranced, we went in and were swallowed whole. I bought about five books, which were to be sent home after me to save my luggage allowance, and a small pewter unicorn rearing delicately over a tiny crystal ball – an eminently suitable object to acquire in Glastonbury which, whether of the still golden day which pervaded it or because of the emptiness of its streets because of the Bank Holiday, was beginning to assume a distinctly unreal air, as though it would fold up into itself and disappear once we had left it and all the roads leading into it collide in a puzzled crossroads in the middle of where theis strange settlement used to be.

In the shop we also asked about how to get to the Tor, which dominated the place although it could not be physically observed from within Glastonbury. Armed with directions from this source, which seemed just as likely to lead us to some faery hill where the Sidhe dwelled as to the Tor, we repossessed the car and drove back the way we had come.

The road we were supposed to take proved to be one of those English one-way lanes where, if two cars ever meet, both vehicles can be said to be in deep trouble. Here the situation was aggravated by the cars parked in every conceivable space by the side of the road from the very entrance to it. Somehow we managed to crawl up the steep, narrow goat’s-track lane without major mishaps, and even to find an adequate parking place. Then it was on foot, over a stile, and into a field where a few groups were pickinicking in the mellow sunlight and one crowd of semi-drunken yobboes chased one of their number around and around with the obvious intention of removing his jeans to reveal presumably very interesting underwear – the victim, although himself a little in his cups, was sober enough to think ill of this idea and was trying valiantly to avoid his fate. We skirted this rowdy bunch in as wide an arc as possible but not before they lobbed a few remarks in our direction which made me blush violently and attack the next stile and the uphill path into which it gave with considerably more vigour than it merited and than I was capable of. We lost the yobs, but both Henry and I stopped beyond the first tree and panted for five minutes before we could breathe well enough to climb on.

The path leading up to the top was a switchback, twisting back and forth on itself like a demented snake or a particularly meandering stretch of the Amazon. The slopes of the hill, furthermore, were of the order of about 50 degrees to the horizontal, and I watched with increasing puzzlement the flocks of sheep which grazed there, and whose presence was all too evident on the path that we were treading – short of being a woolly variant of the Mountain Haggis, I could not see how the animals could keep their balance on the Tor. The angle at which they were standing made my middle ear ache. But it was much too far south for Haggises (if that’s the correct plural), and anyway it wasn’t too long before I needed all my concentration just to keep my lungs at their job and my heart from finding an exit either through my throat or through some as yet unexplored crevice in my ribcage. Glastonbury Tor is not for the unfit.

We made it, at length, to the top, and sat down on the crown of the hill, trying to avoid the places where the sheep had left calling cards. We watched the rolling vistas of Somerset fields while trying to forget that we still had to climb back down off this monster. After a while my heart calmed down and allowed my brain to return to other thoughts, and I wondered idly whether the tiled rectangle at Glastonbury Abbey was more symbolic than originally thought. In another legend of Arthur’s passing – and there are legion – the Tor plays an important part.

The story has it that soemwhere in the unidentified middle ages or so a shepherd on the Tor, minding his doubtless even then athletic sheep, one day came upon an opening in the hillside which he did not remember having been there before. Curious, he entered, and found himself in a cave which had all kinds of riches piled along its walls. On the walls themselves hung sumptuously decorated coats of mail and other knightly paraphernalia – swords, spurs, and such. In the middle of the cave was a large table and around it, their heads sunk on their arms on top of the table itself, sat or half-lay a company of goodly cavaliers dressed in silks and furs. Among them, in a high throne-like chair at the head of the table, slept or lay dead their chief, his head circled with a crown of gold.

Crossing himself superstitiously, the shepherd began backing out of the cave, but in his hurry he jostled a hanging suit of armour and the sword hanging by it gave a clear, bell-like sound as it hit the metal of the armour. The shepherd stood frozen in fear as, at this sound, the king in the throne slowly opened his eyes.

“Is it time?” the crowned apparition asked in a deep and gruff yet kindly voice.

“No!” called the shepherd, his voice suddenly possessed by something other than himself. “Therefore sleep ye on, until ye are awoken by the need of England!”

“It is well for thee,” said the King, “that thou knowest those words, for else my companions were sure to rise and slay thee. But thou hast spoken well, and we will slumber on till we are needed. Take thou a few of the gold pieces in this cavern for thy good offices, and bear thou witness to thy folk that King Arthur will lead his companions forth when summoned by the troubles of his people.”

With this the King composed himself to sleep again and the shepherd, grabbing a handful of gold as he was bidden, fled the presence of the royal legend. He told his tale, and many a traveller sought for the cavern with its sleeping knights and its riches – but never was it found again, and there were those who would have accused the shepherd of lying had it not been for the ancient gold which he had brought out.

And so, the legend has it, King Arthur never died at all and could therefore not have been buried, at Glastonbury Abbey or anywhere else. Presumably he recovered from his “grievous wounds” in Avalon, and was then set here inside the Tor to guard England’s future while dreaming away the centuries.

Speaking of dreaming, Henry and I still had to find a place to sleep that night, and it was now getting on for six o’clock. I raised this point, and we began, accordingly, to descend the Tor’s steep slopes.

Our policy, inasmuch as we had one, was to drive and/or sightsee until an hour reasonably approaching supper at which point we would begin looking around for a Bed and Breakfast place. It was still early enough in the season to get away with this approach, it being the last week of May; but our situation was complicated by the fact that we required two SINGLE, or at least separate, rooms. By virtue of this we preferred outlying buildings, farms and suchlike, since they obviously had more chance of having extra rooms than a city semi-detached – and there was also the fact that, in settlements, a stranger had no means of knowing which were the more unsavoury areas while farms were by and large more wholesome. But we hadn’t seen any such farmhouses on the approach to Glastonbury. We had a small brochure, picked up at that fabulous Glastonbury bookshop, with names and phone numbers of B&B places surrounding the town so we decided to try these first. We drove back into town to find a phone booth; having found one, the only way to get to it was to park so as to cause an obstruction, and therefore I had to stay with the vehicle in case anyone complained while Henry did the phoning – although I would probably have been of dubious use in any emergency requiring the removal of the car.

In any event, it didn’t take long. Barely minutes later the lanky frame of my travelling companion folded itself into the car beside me.

“The first two I called didn’t have room,” he explained, “the second one just having let her last room. But I booked us space on a farm.”


”Where is this farm?”

“Well, we have to go back past the Tor road and then turn right. Then we take the next road right, the second after that to the left, go past a pub called the ‘Rose and Trellis’, go past a hospital, and the place is immediately off to the right of that.”

“I don’t like it,” I muttered, “it sounds like a lot of half-baked directions to me.”

“She’ll hold the rooms for us,” said Henry, implying that she would do so even if we arrived at midnight. The thought did little to cheer me up.

We missed even that first turnoff, and had to go inside a nearby cluster of farm buildings to ask all over again. Things did not look promising.

They got worse. The directions Henry so blithely accepted did not mention that we would suddenly find ourselves in a gloomy, claustrophobic close of narrow lanes flanked by large dark-leaved trees whose trunks were concealed from us by walls that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the old city ruins of Zimbabwe. Just as I was ready to begin praying for deliverance to whichever pagan Gods inhabited this place the Zimbabwe replica vanished and we found ourselves at a T junction which nobody had mentioned at all.

“Go left,” I said hopefully.

“Why left?” asked Henry, tapping the steering wheel nervously.

“A hunch.”

Henry rolled his eyes eloquently to Heaven and turned left.

We were soon into a reasonably buiilt-up area, with low bungalows festooned with blooming lilac flanking us on either side. One or two of these had B&B signs out, so we were heartened that there was possible shelter around even if we were lost. But it soon transpired that we were not as lost as we thought we were, for out of the pleasant suburbia rose an equally pleasant-looking pub sporting a full-blown rose on a kind of criss-cross pattern as its emblem. The ‘Rose and Trellis’, obviously. At least we were on the right track. Shortly after the pub we passed, off to our left, a deserted-looking building which looked like at least one of its wings had been an architectural afterthought and which purported to be the abovementioned hospital. But here the road branched, and we stopped, again perplexed. There was a house off to our right, but there was no B&B sign on anywhere and our would be hostess had said that the place was clearly marked. We decided, after a short consultation, to go down the left-hand fork. We soon saw that we were going deeper and deeper into farmland. We passed a memorial to something or other in the form of a cross hewn of some dark stone, which NOBODY had mentioned at all, and then a large industrial-looking set of buildings that made Henry stop and look at them sceptically.

“She would have mentioned those if they had been anywhere near, they’re too good a landmark to pass up. We must be on the wrong road.”

So we turned around and went back. We went up the other road when we got to the hospital fork, but short of that solitary, unmarked house we saw nothing that resembled the description that we had been given.

“Let’s go back and ask at the pub,” I said.

Back we went again, past the hospital. The pub looked singularly closed when we reached it, but there was a woman walking her dog by the side of the road, and, in desperation, we flagged her down. When informed of our search, she indicated that the house we had been bypassing had been our objective all along. “But,” she added, “if you don’t find it or you don’t have your place, I run a B&B just down the road there…”

“We’ll remember that,” said Henry. “Thanks.”

We turned in a precariously narrow driveway and headed upstream again. This time we turned into the hitherto scorned lane leading up to the house on the right and were there greeted by three large yellow dogs, crosses between a Golden Retriever and… something else… and the welcome sight of our landlady opening the front door. That is, the dogs all swarmed around me, and the landlady addressed Henry.

“We got a bit lost,” said Henry apologetically in response to her greeting. “We missed the road.”

“Twice,” I added, from where I crouched in a tangle of yellow dog.

“You said it was clearly marked and we didn’t see a sign.”

“It must have gotten overgrown again,” said the landlady laconically. “Mind your head when you come in, it’s a fourteenth-century house, the doors are a mite low.”

We followed her in silence, awed by the fact that we were to sleep in a house of such antiquity. Our hostess led us to a landing on the upper floor. The doors to the left and the right off this landing gave into the two rooms we were to occupy. The middle door led to an interesting-looking study which, when Henry and I looked inside after our hostess had left, appeared to point to our host being a lay preacher or something like that because of the large quantity and variety of religious books and tracts that littered every available surface. Both the rooms were equipped with duvets at this time and I even had a double bed to loll around in.

We were informed that breakfast would be served at nien tomorrow morning, where the bathrooms were to be found, and that the hostess didn’t serve supper but that one could be had at the ‘Rose and Trellis’ which was within walking distance. This was all delivered as she stood at the top of the stairs, while Henry and I stood in the doorways of our respective rooms and listened politely.

“And one more thing,” she said, turning to leave. “Mind your head on that low beam on the landing.”

Her warning coincided with Henry’s collision with that self-same beam as he attempted to follow the landlady on his way to the bathroom, thus rendering the warning redundant. He gave both the beam and our erstwhile Cassandra a black look and went on his way, his head tucked between his shoulders in the manner of an irate tortoise.. By the time he had returned, however, his habitual humour had restored itself, and we decided to try for that supper at the pub and perhaps a glass of beer. Pausing only to retrieve our jerseys, for it was getting chilly again, we duly strolled off. We passed a field where about six black and white cows watched us walk by wih large, liquid eyes, mouths moving mechanically as they chewed the cud. By the so-called main road, which we had gone up and down so many times, hedges lush with May marched on either side, and we now discovered that it was this militant greenery that had been a partial cause to our confusion as it grew in a green stranglehold over a sign indicating that the house we had so oft bypassed to indeed be a Bed and Breakfast establishment. However, it was doubtful that the sign would have been of that much use even had we seen it – it was so weathered and worn as to be almost unintelligible.

A little before the fork in the road where we had gone astray, I suddenly stopped and, touching Henry’s arm for silence, pointed to where one of those small English hedge rabbits sat on its haunches, ears moving like antennae, regarding us gravely. Then all of a sudden it made a small sharp motion with one of its front paws as if it wanted to wave at us, and then promptly vanished into the hedge grasses. When I looked up at Henry I saw that he wore a silly grin on his face that was probably a mate to the one on mine.

“I have to be careful driving here tomorrow,” he said at length. “Come on, I’m hungry.”

We had a supper of sandwiches and beer, both of which left us feeling pleasantly sated and dreamy, and then decided to stretch our legs a little further along the road. Somewhere amongst the bungalows I espied a rampant lilac bush, its flowers like heavy violet grapes against its green leaves. Sneaking up like a thief in the night, I looked up and down the deserted road twice before I reached out for one of the blooms. It finally broke off with a soft but sharp crack and I scuttled off, flower in hand, much like that rabbit had done earlier. I approached Henry wearing a face of bliss, nose buried in a scent I hadn’t been near in years and which I adored, but the suppressed mirth in his expression made me look around in apprehension.

“What’s the matter?”

“The chap whose bush you broke that off, he was standing right behind the bush when attacked it. His face….!”

“Did he see me?”

“I don’t think so,” said Henry, finally laughing out loud. “He was somewhat thwarted by the size of his own lilac bush…”

Laughing, stolen lilac in hand, we made our way back to our lodgings. We did not see the rabbit again.

I woke the next morning and peered through the curtains into a scene of magic. My window gave onto a patch of forest and an open field adjoining the back garden of the house we were in. The woods were ablaze with bluebells, but this morning the mists were low and ragged, allowing barest glimpses of blue, like a fine lady on the run trying to cover her expensive gown by drawing on a beggar’s cloak full of holes. The mist hung from the branches in damp veils and swathed the field in grey blankets which, insubstantial as they were, looked like they had the feel and texture of lambswool. And in an enclosure dividing garden from field, two real lambs poked about on stiff unsteady legs. Their occasional plaintive bleats reached me as if from another world through my closed window.




You’ll have to forgive me the writing of this – remember, it was two decades ago, and while I was already an inverterate scribbler (this account comes to 176 typewritten pages, in the folder that I have, and it’s INCOMPLETE…) and from the excerpt I picked you can already see several things.

One was that there was a magic to everything here, and that magical things were only a reach and a touch away. That legend of Arthur sleeping inside the Tor – that just slipped in there, almost seamlessly, a bridge from here to the Middle Ages and from there all the way back into the Age of Myth and then back again into the present day. And the way it appears in this travelogue was almost exactly the way I thought about it back then on top of the Tor looking out over contemporary Somerset, the forsoothly language and all. It might have been history and legend but it was close enough – there, then – to push aside all the contemporannea around me and look at directly, with my own soul, with my own inner vision. The Veil Between the Worlds, pushed aside with an ease that was almost scary, and there’s me standing with one foot on both sides of the divide and, you know, in England it is easy.

The other is the more bucolic pastoral side of things. The way you can stay in a fourteenth-century farmhouse. The fairy woods at the back of the garden. The rabbits in the hedges. The lambs in the fold. The mist on the bluebells. It felt as though I might have looked on all these things, listened to all these sounds, smelled all these smells, if I had been in the fourteenth-century farmhouse just as easily as I had done from my twentieth-century window. The divide between the different eras was THAT thin, that fragile. For a moment, I fully breathed the air of an era when Plantagenet kings might have ridden the roads of England… and I could not have told you the difference between Then and Now.

There are places where this is just part of the way that things are. England, my England of ancient kings and hedge-row rabbits, is one of the places where I breathe the air of dream, and peer with less difficulty than almost anywhere else behind that Veil… and smile at what I see there.