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EXPLOITS OF THE VOLEQUEEN

On Being Creative, A Mother & Bipolar

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50 percent funded!!

Lovely Blog Followers.

I am now 50 percent funded with my novel, Blood On The Banana Leaf, on Unbound.  This is the same publisher who is responsible for the best-seller, ‘The Good Immigrant’.

Halfway there is a huge milestone and I would like to thank all of you who have supported my novel on Unbound or who support my writing by following this blog.

Pledge rewards have been lowered recently so you can have amazing stuff like a personalised, original poem written by me. You never know it might be worth a quid or two one day 🙂   You can click here to pledge and remember even at entry level your name or, if you choose, the name of a loved-one will be printed in the back of the book of every edition.

It would be marvellous to have some of you who follow my blog featured on the Patron page of the novel because you will accompanying me on this thrilling literary journey.

Recently Accepted Work

It has been a great couple of months for acceptances. My flash fiction, Plague Song, was accepted by Literally Stories. I’ve had poetry published in the Feminine Collective and will also be published in their new Chapbook in February.  A zombie story of mine will be published in Twister Sister mag soon.  I love the zombie genre and have a much neglected 8 chapters of a zombie novella, Light Crisis, on Wattpad.  Why don’t you have a look if you like zombie literature.  It’s unusual because there quite a bit of dark comedy written into it.  I’d love to know what you think!

Thats all for now but thank you so much for reading and think about pledging.

Love, Tabby x

Unbound Pledge Reward

One of the best things about being with Unbound is creating the rewards that supporters receive when they generously pledge.  For £150 pledgers receive not only their names in the back of the book, signed copies and tickets to the launch party but also a personalised poem written by me.  I love writing poetry so these challenges are really enjoyable.  I posted ‘Our Boy, Jack’ earlier and here is the second one written for a dear friend Johnny whose twin loves are South Africa and his sons.

I’d love to know what you think and please consider pledging for my novel if you haven’t already.  Just click on Unbound ^^^^^^ up there.   Thank you so much!  Tabby x

VAN DAAR HIER

When Africa was my dream, my heart

It’s red earth blistered beneath my feet

A hard lemon Sun blasted it’s radiance

And the veld was baked hard like copper.

The South spread out in waterless plains

And Fever trees blessed an endless sky.

Good wine settled deep in our blood.

The braai spit hot, the dogs panting

For meat, ears flattened for an easy hand.

 

Afrika still visits late some nights

When the fire is down to ash and

Memories cut me to my weary wick.

Reaching for the warm, dull glass

By my elbow. Breathing in the

Comfort of leather and the weight

of dog on my feet. I remember Connal’s

hair, whipping in the choppy wind.

Eyes fixed ever forward, loaded with

Spirit and a gift for light. More at home

With the bush lifting the lions song

Than the mechanical grind of the West.

 

Now the ripe, green pitches of Sussex

Stay my hand, as heads leans in for

The knock of leather on willow.

Two boys in whites delivering runs.

And wickets before a jammy tea.

My life means something here with

you. Your boyish sweat is sweet and

I will always be your guard, my soul

alive with the weight of fatherhood

A polished, eager stone in the shape

Of someone constant and perpetual.

 

 

Jack’s Day

I’ve been horribly neglectful of my blog and I apologise to all my followers.  As you know, I am now an Unbound author and raising pledges for my book, Blood On The Banana Leaf.

One of the rewards for being my 50th supporter was a personalised poem for my friend Jilly.  She was keen to have something to read to her 4 year old, Jack.  He is a wonderful boy and they are very nature-friendly and outward bound so I hope the poem below reflcts that.

Jack’s Day

See, Jack, see the rosy sun begin to rise

A morning mist gives little drinks to bees

The birds begin to sing their first,

the moon will rise before their last.

See how the mountains range & beam

In their Sunday best they are proud to gleam

Goats a bleating on hillsides green

Chewing softly, they are gentle things.

 

See, Jack, see the wind that runs on speedy legs

Through tree tops full of nests & speckled eggs

Look! A lizard sunbathes in the tea-time sun

It’s tail sways in time with nature’s dozy hum.

The lawn is green, the sky so blue,

The stone so cool, the sweetpeas new

The long shadows begin their journey old

As afternoon blazes green & gold.

 

See, Jack, see the Swallowtail on a flower

Taking sips before flying on, hour after hour

See those fields of corn, yellow glinting in the sun

Ripening quickly through the Summer’s run

Field mice squeaking, tails a leaping.

Dusk comes down and from the dark a-peeping

A wise old owl of many years, hoots and swoops

Til glowing moon dips low and he must roost.

See, Jack, see your comfy bed & toys all near

The stars are out, the night is here

Cuddle up with Mum and Dad,

Read a book and feel cosy glad

A glass of milk to bring you happy dreams

You’re eyes are sleepy, droopy things

Smile once more & stretch your toes

Goodnight, our Jack, we love you so.

And please remember to pledge for my novel & at the very least have your name in the published book as a supporter @ https://unbound.com/books/blood-on-the-banana-leaf.  Thank you x

I am an Unbound Author ..

Absolutely thrilled to announce that I have signed to Unbound for my novel, Blood On The Banana Leaf.  Unbound are a literary crowdfunding platform and publisher so once the book is funded – IT WILL BE PUBLISHED!  They also have a distribution deal with Penguin Random House which is a real kicker.

The book explores the lives of four very different women in Singapore and one of the main themes is maid abuse and trafficking.

By pledging for this book, not only will you receive some lovely rewards BUT you will also be making history because this is the only novel that brings this particular issue to light.

Your name will be in the back of the book (or the front if you are feeling uber generous) and kittens everywhere will stop crying.  🙂

So here is the link …

https://unbound.com/books/blood-on-the-banana-leaf

Please pledge if you can.

Thank you so much,

Tabby x

Faith

 

 

 

Five bloody, long days since last television broadcast. Two dry, uncomfortable days since the water stopped running from the taps. Five minutes since the last attack on the front door.

I am running out of time.

Fr. Lachlan Connor sat, backed up against the kitchen wall, studying a horde of flies that had descended on six-day-old chicken. Fr. Lachlan could see the intense wiggling of fat, white maggots as they squirmed with joy over the rotting meat. But he was past caring. Things that might have scared the Bejesus out of him before the ‘boom’ now hardly bothered him at all.

Yesterday, he had witnessed Jennie Grady’s dog get torn apart at the hind limbs. That had bothered him but he had seen so much worse that, with prayer, the images faded into a bookshelf memory. A Stephen King novel that had made bile surge into his throat and hair follicles bulge with fright now sat comfortably between The Rosary and Catholicism for Dummies.

‘Dear God! he was thirsty, tongue swollen, lips cracked and if overused, bleeding. He had already drunk the fontal water and then vomited it over the nave’s sandstone floor unable to take the professional guilt of what he saw as blasphemy. The hours that he had spent in prayer when the world had changed, East versus West in a cacophony of blood & hatred, seemed a total waste of time now. Fr Lachlan reasoned that he would have been better off looting Aubrey’s Stores for supplies, and water.

Don’t think about water. Don’t think about it lapping gently at the shores of a frosty lake or dream about waterfalls where even the humid air could quench the cracked & arid landscape of his mouth.

That way lies madness.

Fr. Lachlan had removed his dog collar two days ago and burnt it, without ceremony or ritual, over the gas ring before that had run out too.

God seemed distant, unavailable and even mocking of his children. Religions had always jockeyed for position with random bloody moments in a general acceptance of each other until The Black Hammer group in Germany had fire-bombed 17 refugee camps all over Germany in a co-ordinated attack.

Three thousand, five hundred and sixty-five souls burned their way to heaven that day. Two hundred and thirty-four of them were children under fourteen.

The outpouring of sympathy from the world had done nothing to stem the tide of ‘us against them’ fury from the Muslim community. All the prayer hashtags and cute avatars with flags were seen as a cheap and tawdry sentiment. Easy to do from behind a computer screen, not easy to feel in the heart.

From then it just got worse.

The ‘Jungle’ at Calais was surrounded and as a huge army under the banner of ‘Christ’s Soldiers’ hacked their way through the flesh and faith of every single migrant there. Initially, the far right were blamed but later it came to light that policemen, soldiers, politicians, doctors, mothers, fathers and even a three Bishops had been very active parts of that massacre.

Then came the bombings of Catholic Primary Schools in Southern Ireland and so much weeping and outrage that Fr. Lachlan thought he would drown during confession. And the ‘boom’ after North Korea had joined the party, in that sullen teenage attitude that it had perfected.

After that, it was hellfire and incident after brutal incident all over the world with cannibalism almost acceptable after the food ran out.

The attacks at the door were from an all female Jihadi Group that had once been called Muslim Mother’s For Peace until their Mosque was pipe-bombed and their Iman, crucified to hastily erected wooden stakes in the pale, lemon scented dawn.

Even the thick, wooden doors of St Mary’s of the Sea wouldn’t last the barrage of fists, steel bars and the solid iron Crescent Moon from the top of the Mosque tower. The priest knew that his death would come soon and he smiled, lips cracking painfully, at the irony, that the death of his faith may come sooner.

Fr Lachlan raised his eyes to the drab pebbled-dashed tenement block that rose blackened and windowless in front of the kitchen window. The only colour amongst the muted greys and browns, a slick of scarlet letters, either paint or blood’.

IN AN EFFORT TO SAVE OURSELVES

A surprisingly literary piece of graffiti, stark, against the working class smoothness of age-old poverty and despair. And Fr. Lachlan wondered which bit had taken the most effort? The hatred, the grief, the violence or the ignorance?

Or when the world had stopped believing it’s peaceful rhetoric and had gone to war instead.

 

Sonnet to a Beagle’s Greed.

My Beagles’s brain is nothing like a collie
Who has skills, can smile and round up sheep
The Beagle thinks a thousand times, ‘Oh Golly!’
That Ham is but a yummy hunk of meat.
My Beagle’s brain is nothing like a Jack
With quivering nose down tunnels, it doth run
And whisp-ers to rabbits how to avoid the sack
Once more to jump, and hop lazy in the sun.
My Beagle’s Brain is nothing like a poodle
That struts along the road, so proud and foolish
While Beagle lies on bed with stolen noodles
Ears twitching, deep in sleep and clueless.
Greedy, moulting, licking dog of waggy tail
Your heart is huge, your appetite, a whale.

Mother O’ Grady’s Last.

Christmas night was closing in at the Cantrips alehouse in Aberdeen, a firm favourite for riggers and other men and women who lived life close to the horizon. Sometimes, on a Saturday night, things might get a bit rowdy but Mother O’Grady would stand firm and bring out Old Jock, the pocked, brown shotgun that Mr O’ Grady, God! Rest his Soul, used to poach with up at the Big Houses littered on the path to the Cairngorms.

The fire was stacked and burning, the air fuggy with apple wood smoke and men’s dreams. Jingo and Jago, Cornish Piskie twins with not much to say, pulled pints and handed over cigarettes shivering, their odd-shaped hands blue tinged and reproachful of the cold. Straggles of louns and quines huddled in corners, whispering Auld Doric, which is unbreakable code even to Doric speakers.

Mother tolerated everything except for the usual, often getting a decent cut from the blaggers and fences, which, paid for her addiction to magical items. Upstairs, they said, she kept ‘things’ you wouldn’t ever wish to see. Poppets and hemlock wine, a summoning circle from the 15th century and Aleister Crowley’s thumb bone.

Treacle-dark whispers surrounded Mother O’Grady and she was feared and respected like no other dockside matriarch. Rumours of contracts with the devil, witchery, bigamy and bad ways with hemlock swirled about Mother like malicious wasps. Some or none were true, but she encouraged it all to keep her distance and her mystique in red velvet. The Cornish twins knew more than most being her lovers, but they barely spoke English, Piskie being their natural tongue and grew their hair long to cover elven, tri-pointed ears. They had their own secrets to keep in a world that had given up on magic and music. They preferred it here, oil people rarely became intrusive, exhausted from long stints in the cold, black North Sea where everything became confused after time. The grey, chilled blanket of dawn and dusk embracing the rigs with a damp that nipped at the lungs and found courage in man’s labored fear.

And the Piskie twins, for that’s what they were, enjoyed the comforts of Mother’s ill-gotten gains and pillowy bosom safe they thought from the Hunters’ that had pursued them through centuries of veiled land and light. They travelled through every decade or two once their patron had become too old or too much of annoyance to stay with, skirting the edge of consciousness and the fields of golden seed and bloodied plains.

This night, a night of owls and wraiths, of granite buildings that hadn’t felt compassion from the weather since the Summer of ‘79 was closing in at Cantrips. Men and a few hardy women lingered over warms slops of beer, gritting their teeth and clenching frost-nipped fists before leaving.

And so it was that only the Piskie twins and Mother O’ Grady were left in the lounge bar as midnight boomed through the night by way of St. Peter’s and it’s faithful tolling. The clean up took a gentle hour or so, serenity settled over them as they emptied ashtrays full of lung busters and cleaned tables of sticky mats and half drawn smiles.

Mother didn’t believe in Christmas but she was a hedonist and pleasure could be found in many different ways with many different people and she allowed herself a smile at the night to come.

Shea O’Grady had bowed only once in her life to a cock-sure, boy-pimp on Olivia Street. Terrance McDuffie carried a hammer and nails for all occasions, the product of a dock-wifey and a chainsaw he had no expectations other than whiskey and violence. And on Olivia Street Shea bowed to save her life and her face, begging his forgiveness on her knees, in the greasy chip paper and shattered bottles. She remembered only the expensive purple of his trousers and the vicious, animal heat that pulsed in the ice-storm.

But Christmas night is a night when promises are made good and threats made months before end in blood. A ‘sweep up’ night when evil comes to call with impunity. So when Cantrips main door flew open and the wind howled through bringing with it certain death in the guise of three tall Hunters with hack blades and maddened, ebon eyes, Mother O’Grady bowed for the second time in resignation and acceptance.

Death had been coming for so long and now here it was, fabled and brutal. Shea was sliced and salty as oyster meat, brimming with agony until the black faded and she walked the quiet road home to the cherry orchards and unconditional love of someone else’s childhood.

 

 

 

 

Long Way Home

I’m finding it very hard to get ‘home’ today and feeling rootless and disengaged from the world.  My writing seems mediocre and half-baked so just a poem today.

About trying to get back to *that* place.

 

Long Way Home

 

It’s a long way home

To the cats, the barns, the belfry’s

Rape-seed gorges and ever-distant voices

To the dusty halls and houses

And you.

It’s a long way home

To the view of saffron from our tiny hill

A message in damson, the Fishers regal bill

And to the total, utter thrill

that’s you.

Bales and dragonflies plus twice-kissed wine

Seeds, pollen and nothing that was ever mine

Picture-books bulging in pockets

For nostalgia raids

And my particular addiction withering with

each day for you.

It’s a long way home

To a creamy moon & shell-pink yarrow

Names that entangle tongues, the roar of salt & shadow

To the love, the hate, the marrow

Of you.

Best Boy

 

It is July 17, 1918, and the smell of cordite bites at the air. The cooling bodies of the family Romanov are scattered about the floor of the small room, which, has become their morgue. White feathers whirl like first winter’s snow around the room from the children’s pillows that they had bought for comfort.

Private Yuri Popovitch stares at his hands and weeps. It has been three minutes and twenty-seven seconds since those hands had helped murdered an entire family. He felt especially bad about the little boy who had clung to his mother’s hand, eyes huge and confused but understanding that death was in the air.

This is what Popovitch wrote to his mother later that night, exceptionally drunk on cheap potato vodka.

‘Forgive me, Mama, I have to write some dreadful things now. Please don’t hate me; I had no choice at all. Not if you wanted to see me for pождество, for Christmas, and I have some well-salted meat and will try to bring carrots.

Today, I helped murder the Romanov’s, traitors to the revolution and should feel so glad and proud, but I’m sick, Mama, sick to my stomach. And my heart is shrouded in shame.

Their blood was so red, Imperial red, Mamochka, and it set quickly even though the boy was supposed to be a bleeder.

Yurovsky. You remember him? A real hard bastard. He was so damned cold when he told the Tsar that his relatives were too late and the Bolsheviks had resolved to execute them all.

The Tsar, I mean Nicholas stepped in front of the Heir, his little boy and was shot immediately. I remember Yurovsky’s smile, it was monstrous, a smile of one who loves his job, a killer’s smile.

The women took longer to die because unknown to us they had made bodices out of their jewellery and the diamonds served as armour. Even the bayonets were refused. So we were told to shoot them in the head. The other soldiers spat on the ladies and called them zhadnyye shlyukhi, greedy whores but, secretly, I admired them. It takes guts to think you are going to survive a revolution and to stare down the men who intend to murder you.

But listen, Mama, and you must never tell a soul or both of us, probably the entire clan will be shot or worse, the salt mines. Do you promise? You must promise, Mama.

Yuri takes several large gulps of the potato vodka before continuing.

One of them was still alive, a maid, who must have hidden behind the Tsarina’s chair, was sitting up, bloody and dazed, but seemingly unharmed. It was a miracle, Mama, and my senses, my smell, taste, everything about that moment was electric. You know, like just before a storm when everywhere tastes like sparks. I waved my arm to silence her, forgetting the pistol was still in my hand. Her face, a lovely face, Mama, it drained of everything: hope, courage, colour and she brought the heel of her hand to her mouth and bit down so hard that a thick line of crimson ran down the inside of her arm and spotted her skirts and the air with bloody kopeks.

And even then, Matuska, even then, with her hair dusted with the violence of the slaughterhouse, she was magical and I was infatuated. I edged forward very slowly as if she were an injured mare because I needed her to hear me without raising my voice. Still skittish, my girl pushed back hard on her heels until she met the wall. My heart squeezed with anger and I thought I might kill Yurovsky if he walked back into the room now. And in that moment of rage I made the decision to save her.

‘You need to listen to me, I can help you. But you must keep quiet, like a mouse hiding from the cat, do you understand?’ Hazel eyes brightened with something, not hope, but courage perhaps; the survival instinct is very strong in times of stress. I have seen fellow soldiers crawling on their knees, feet and toes so blackened with frostbite that life expectancy could be counted in hours, not days. And still they crawled away from death.

My brave girl nodded and I motioned for her to come and stand beside me. She shivered and I understood that shock would arrive soon.

‘Don’t look at anything except for me’, I instructed, ‘they are gone now, no pain, no worry, no more suffering. But what is left looks ugly’. When I was satisfied that she was behind me and not going to faint, I opened the door to the stone flagged hallway and glanced quickly up and down. It was empty and oddly quiet and I took this as a sign. I knew I could help her, but there were practicalities to think off. Her clothes were flimsy and thin, decorative rather than practical and it could become chilly at night here in the Urals.

Motioning her to follow closely we made our way towards an old, rough timbered window leading to the back of the buildings and out into the cobbled streets of Yekaterinburg. ‘You must go through’, I whispered, ‘and don’t stop when you hit the ground’

My girl tested the frame with her arms as if sure of its treachery and then, satisfied that it was true, turned back to face me. She took my hand and kissed it softly, before hauling herself up onto the ledge.

‘Cпасибо вам свой лучший мальчик, thank you, my best boy’,

‘Jump,’ I urged and she did.

I believe God was with me then, Mama, and I hope I have paid in some small way, for the evil I did to those people, in the name of the Bolsheviks.

In the name of Bread and Peace. God forgive me.

Yuri.

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