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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Vets and Pets Aplenty!

Please welcome my Tuesday Talk guest
Vet, Malcolm Welshman 

Join novice UK vet, Paul Mitchell, in six months of hilarious escapades he experiences while working at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital. He's confronted by a ravenous pig while sunbathing naked in a cornfield. He locks jaws with a caiman with scale rot, and battles with Doug, a vicious miniature donkey that's always sinking his teeth into him. 
It ends with a Christmas pet blessing which erupts into pandemonium as frightened pets and owners scatter through the pews.
Throughout his adventures, Paul is loyally supported by the team at the hospital - in particular Beryl, the elderly one-eyed receptionist, and, Lucy the junior nurse - together with whom he shares this merry-go-round of mayhem. It's a gripping, fast page-turner that's guaranteed to keep animal lovers entranced.

Over to you Malcolm to tell us a bit more....


Horses are no fools. They can sense when someone is uneasy in their presence. The prick of their ears. Here’s one coming. The snort as they look down their nose at you. Wally’s arrived. The pawing of the ground. Let’s kick him in the nuts. 

And that’s why, as a budding vet, I was apprehensive of working with them. And the reason why as a raw student, very green behind the ears, I felt it wise to understand the beast better by learning to ride one. 

So I embarked on a series of lessons while still at vet school. ‘I take it you’ve not ridden before?’ said the tall, sylph-like instructress, eyeing me up and down, the crop in her one hand being tapped thoughtfully in the palm of the other. Very dominatrix. ‘I’ll put you on Nancy,’ she said.

Nancy turned out to be one of the more elderly residents of the riding school. One that should  have been turned out to grass years back. Long in the tooth, grey in  the muzzle, with a look in her milky glazed eyes that suggested the time was fast approaching when she’d be leaping her final hurdle into the great Knacker’s Yard in the sky should her arthritic old legs ever manage it. Meanwhile she was saddled with the likes of me.

Mindful of  how one should approach a horse, exuding confidence in your stride, talking quietly and calmly, holding out your  hand to allow the horse to sniff it before you stroke its neck, I did all  this to Nancy and was rewarded  with two nostril-barrels of snot and a loud fart.

Not a very auspicious start.

Once mounted, it was cue-time to make Nancy walk.
‘Nudge her with your lower legs. But gently does it,’ barked the  instructress. 
Nancy didn’t budge. 
‘Urge her forward with your heels. Again use the softly, softly approach. Don’t kick her. She won’t  respond to anything too violent.’
Nancy remained stationary.

The instructress marched up to the horse, whacked her rump smartly with her crop and snapped, ‘Move your arse you lazy bugger.’
Nancy walked.

Several times she started to decelerate as if running out of gas, though judging from what she let rip from her rear end at regular intervals as she plodded round the sand school, there was plenty in reserve.
Each time she slowed down, the instructress bellowed, ‘Keep your leg on, Malcolm. Keep your leg on.’
I hadn’t the slightest clue what the command meant. Did she think I had a false limb in danger of unscrewing? But in the hope that the right part of my anatomy would obey her instruction, I clenched all heels, calves, knees, thighs and buttocks, the actions of which, instead of keeping Nancy moving as the command had intended, promptly brought her to a shuddering halt with a final fart. Lesson over.

As it happened, my first equine patient once I’d qualified was not a horse but a miniature donkey called Doug. And he was a beast. A real horror. It was as if, when the characteristics for a good donkey were being drawn from the gene pool, it were the dregs left lurking at the bottom that surfaced in Doug. 

To look at, he was an impressive little chap. Standing at three feet tall, he was a spotted skewbald – mainly white with some grey patches over the cross on his shoulders, and with black tips to his huge, upright ears. 

I was called in by his owner, Jacantha Stokes, to check him over as she was worried he had a skin infection. As soon as he saw me, Doug rolled his eyes, pulled back his head and trotted off across the paddock behind him with a loud snort. 
He then disappeared into a field shelter from which he emitted a loud ‘Hee-Haw’ – his equivalent of ‘Come and get me if you can.’

That’s when the fun and games began. Jacantha lifted a halter and lead off the gate post. ‘’Fraid he’s not very well halter-trained,’ she confessed. ‘But maybe we’ll manage.’
‘Right little fella, no messing around, eh?’ I said, as we drew level with the entrance to the field shelter and I stepped slowly towards him, my knees slightly bent, my arms held out wide. 

Chance was a fine fling when Doug took his chance to dodge me and attempted a giant leap for donkey-kind. I saw this barrel of equine flesh become airborne and fly towards me like Pegasus on Speed. His chest connected with mine and we both collapsed to the ground with him on top of me. As he scrabbled to his feet, I lunged up and threw my arms round his hindquarters in a rugby tackle, only to find myself being dragged several yards across the paddock, before my weight forced him to the ground again, where he began to thrash.
At which point, Jacantha sailed across holding out the halter and attached lead rope. Now astride Doug, I turned to snatch them from her. As I did so, a searing pain shot through my left hand.

‘Ouch!’ I roared, looking down to discover my whole hand was in Doug’s mouth, his incisors clamped to it. ‘Why you bugger,’ I shouted, pulling my hand free. I forced the halter over his muzzle and secured it. I then rolled off him and staggered to my feet. He did likewise. We 
both stood there, quivering, our chests heaving, both done in, knackered. But my close encounter with Doug had enabled me to confirm my suspicions that Doug was suffering from sweet itch. An allergic re-action to midge bites. I advised Jacantha to buy a good insect repellent. ‘One that you’ll only need to apply weekly,’ I said, adding, ‘though I realise it will still be a bit of a challenge.
Doug’s ears shot up and his eyes gleamed with devilish delight.

When writing Pets Aplenty with my alter-ego, Paul Mitchell, also apprehensive about dealing with horses, there had to be a place for that devious donkey. So Doug does indeed make a gripping appearance. He reappears in the final chapter to charge into a church where a Pets Blessing is being held. 
Pandemonium ensues.

Praise for Pets Aplenty:

"...Full of fun, action and laughs and begins with young vet Paul Mitchell dressed up as a fluffy pink bunny! But it's all in the name of charity, and there's lots more hilarious adventures to come as we follow the day-to-day life of this lovable character in his difficult job as a vet."

"Pets Aplenty is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the hayfields of novice vet Paul Mitchell’s rural veterinary practice."

"Take a loveable goofy vet with a heart of gold, plonk him in some crazy animal situations and laugh out loud as he reacts as only he can."

Read more on Malcolm's Website 
Twitter  @MalcolmWelshman
Facebook Kindle £1.99 Paperback Kindle $3.33 Paperback

Pets Aplenty is published by Austin Macauley 

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Music Painting & a tribute to my Dad

I found this on Facebook - and had to share as it is fabulous!

by Matteo Negrin 

~ ~ ~
I'd also like to do a re-post
yesterday (22nd September) would have been my dad's birthday
he would have been 97.

He passed away several years ago but I still miss him.

I posted this tribute to him last year - a hero to me personally, and a hero from WWII
His is one of those war stories that if you read it in a book
you would not believe it could be true.
click here > Frederick Richard Turner 

I think he would have enjoyed the musical interlude above.

Miss you Dad.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

What happened after 'Zulu'? David Ebsworth fills in the gap

So you enjoyed the movie Zulu (you know that famous one with Michael Caine and the amazing sound effects) Have you ever wondered "What happened after that battle at Rorke's drift?"

Well, now you can find out with David Ebsworth's most recent novel The Kraals of Ulundi

Interesting that on this poster from 50 years ago
Michael Caine is listed low and in smaller letters!
Dave, can you tell my Blog visitors a bit about the book?
Yes, of course. It’s set in 1879 and tells the story of the unprovoked invasion of Zululand in a South African land-grab that British history likes to call the Anglo-Zulu War. In the middle of the conflict, the British forces were joined by an unusual observer, the French Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon. He fell into an ambush and tragically died there. It was a story that I’d known for a long time but hadn’t been covered, so far as I could tell, in any work of fiction. So I decided to use this incident as the catalyst around which my three main characters are linked.

I see that it’s fifty years since the release of the Michael Caine film, Zulu. Is it just coincidence that you’ve published Kraals now?
I have to be honest about this. When I was writing Kraals, I hadn’t thought very much about this being the film’s 50th anniversary. It was a couple of colleagues from the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society who brought this aspect to my attention. But it’s been very helpful with the publicity. So more coincidence than clever marketing – or maybe it was just fate, eh?

And you think there’s still an interest in the Zulu War?
Not as much as the conflict deserves, really. It’s definitely neglected badly by fiction writers. Yet it still generates quite a few non-fiction books every year, and there are several Zulu War societies that are all flourishing. Besides this, the various Battlefield Tour companies in KwaZulu-Natal attract phenomenal numbers of visitors all the time.

Zulu is an iconic movie for the British film industry, but it gets panned a lot for not being historically very accurate. Do you agree with its critics?
Only to a certain extent. The film tells the story of the defence of the mission station at Rorke’s Drift on 22nd-23rd January 1879. The garrison consisted of 104 men from ‘B’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Warwickshire Regiment plus a small number of sick and injured – no more than 140 defenders in total. And they held out against an attacking force of 4,000 Zulus. The film was co-produced by Cy Enfield and Stanley Baker (who also played the starring role, of course, as Lieutenant John Chard). Baker, a staunch Welshman, decided to give the Rorke’s Drift defenders a much stronger Welsh presence than was factual – including having tenor Ivor Emmanuel sing Men of Harlech. But its worst crime was to turn the character of Henry Hook – one of the bravest and most revered of those awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions – into a malingering anti-hero. There are lots of lesser inaccuracies too, naturally. But, in the end, this was never intended as a documentary, but as a piece of lavish entertainment. And there can be few ‘war’ movies in the entire history of cinema that have done it better. It’s spectacular, and captures the ‘spirit” of Rorke’s Drift beautifully. In addition, the film gave countless thousands of people an abiding passion for the Anglo-Zulu War that has never been diminished by our eventual realisation that Zulu may have had one or two flaws, after all.

So where do you stand on the whole issue of accuracy in historical fiction?
Basically, I believe that Historical Fiction should be as factually accurate as possible. Apart from anything else, our readers won’t tolerate too much sloppiness in that regard. On the other hand, we’re writing fiction. Against a historical background, granted, but fiction all the same. And, like the co-producers of Zulu, our job is to entertain. So I think it’s OK to consolidate huge numbers of historical figures into a smaller number of representative characters; or to slot imaginary characters into historical scenes; or to composite repetitive events into a shortened series of actions; or to use our imagination to fill gaps where there are no definitive ‘facts’ – but only ever on the basis that, where I may have tweaked such things, I always explain them carefully in my author’s notes.

And your main characters, are they fictitious or based on real people?
Kraals picks up the story from the perspective of three main characters.  The Zulu warrior, Shaba, is based on the real-life Xabanga, who struck the fatal blow that killed Louis Napoleon. The Englishman, Jahleel Brenton Carey, is a mostly accurate depiction of the lieutenant who led the fateful patrol. But the renegade trader, William McTeague, is a purely fictitious character, though based more broadly on the personality of John Robert Dunn (who also makes a brief appearance in the novel).

In your author’s notes, you make a direct link between the Zulu War and the whole story of modern South Africa. Can you explain this?
Let’s go back to Zulu for a minute. You’ll remember all those hundreds of real-life men and women who portrayed Cetshwayo’s warriors and their new brides? Well, when the film was released, in 1964, none of those folk were permitted by the South African government to either be paid, nor to see the finished film – for fear that it would spark a wave of revolt against the Apartheid regime. As it happens, they were paid by the producers ‘in kind’ so that they received all the cattle that also appeared in the relevant scenes. But that repression of the Zulus, and all other Black South Africans, began with the British invasion of their independent kingdom, the total destruction of their economy and way of life, in 1879. It was disastrous British foreign policy that marginalised the Zulus and directly paved the way to Afrikaaner domination and Apartheid.

And you went to South Africa itself while you were writing Kraals. Can you tell readers why you went and give them a flavour of the trip?
Yes, the best trip we’ve ever made, I think. My original intention was to check out the locations and also, maybe, to make contact with folk who could help me with some of the Zulu language and culture issues in the book. So we followed the same route that the story takes, more or less. We visited the dramatic and moving battlefield sites – and you have to bear in mind that the war continued for another six months after Rorke’s Drift. But we also spent a lot of time with the fabulous wildlife of KwaZulu-Natal. It’s a most beautiful region of South Africa, and the Zulus themselves are still astonishing people. So I owe a huge debt of thanks to Mabusi Kgwete in Durban for all the time she spent in correcting my isiZulu.

So, to finish, can you summarise the book in about a dozen words?

What about this? The Kraals of Ulundi picks up the story of the Zulu War where Michael Caine left off.

David Ebsworth's first novel Jacobites' Apprentice was a finalist for the Historical Novel Society's Indie Award 2014 

Dave's Website

HNS Review of Kraals of Ulundi (awarded Editor's Choice)

David is an HNS Indie Award Finalist

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Let's Talk of Pirates...

Listen up you scurvy knaves - 
Why ain't ye be joinin' our  Pirate Plunder Blog Hop?

Here there be Pirates!
Giveaway and Q&A Bloghop

 Today I've been boarded by that notorious pirate-writer 
(and Blog Hop organiser) 
Justin Aucoin and his pirate companion 
Jake Hawking

Justin, what made you want to write about pirates in the first place? What is it about them that intrigued you as a writer?
I’ve been a huge fan of swashbucklers and historical adventure tales since I was a like eight or ten years old. I used to watch reruns of Guy William’s Zorro and even went dressed up as Zorro for Halloween about five years in a row (and sometimes I still do!), and I also fell in love with The Three Musketeers thanks to Disney’s 1993 adaption…
…so maybe we can really just blame Disney for my love of swashbucklers…
So, yea, it wasn’t a far leap from those stories and characters to pirates. With Zorro and the Musketeers, I fell in love with the idea of fighting for justice with just a sword at one’s side. It really spoke to me, as a young kid.
As for pirates, you still have that sense of adventure and swordplay, but now you have folks that are living on the edge at best, and at worst, they’re living outside the law. It’s a whole new dynamic. Throw the addition of a ship and now you have a base for exciting adventures and a whole new world of possibilities.

Tell us a little about your book, JAKE HAWKING & THE BOUNTY HUNTERS,  that you’re giving away for this event.
Jake Hawking & the Bounty Hunters is a collection of three short-stories about Jake Hawking and his pirate crew of the Broad-Wing. I published each short story as solo-adventures in the summer of 2013 as eBooks, and then this past spring I compiled them together as an omnibus collection as a paperback and eBook. The collection also includes some bonus material, including the first short-story I ever got published, a flash-fiction piratical tale, and two swashbuckling poems.
But getting back to the plot of the three Hawking stories: Jake Hawking is known for his quick blade and cunning wit. It’s earned him some friends in the Caribbean, but it’s also earned him his fair share of enemies, too. The governor of Havana has hired three of the most dangerous bounty hunters in the West Indies to track and capture Hawking and his crew. So life is already dangerous for Hawking, Little Queen, and the rest of the Broad-Wing crew as soon as we meet them.

In reality, pirates were awful people that most of us wouldn’t want to run across if we were sailing a ship, but in our culture they’ve been romanticized so often that it’s almost expected by some folk. Do you have trouble balancing reality with the romanticized aura of the pirate, or do you not worry too much about that when crafting your tales?
Yes and no. I don’t think too much about it when writing stories. I fell in love with the classic swashbuckler tales of Rafael Sabatini and Alexandre Dumas, and that sense of high adventure is what I aim for when working on the Jake Hawking Adventures. But at the same time, I do like the realism of stories like Captain Alatriste, so I go for a balance between the romanticized aura of the pirate with the gritty realism of what their life is like.
So with the Hawking stories, you’ll still get that sense of high adventure that you’d find in a classic swashbuckler, but with real-world outcomes. Everything these characters do have consequences. There’s no reset button like in a lot of those classic stories. No fairy tale happy endings all the time. But expect to have fun reading the stories!

How often do you turn to real-life pirates for inspiration in creating your characters or plot?
In other stories, I turn to real-life events to help mold plots (a la Dumas/Musketeers), but with my Hawking stories I don’t (or haven’t anyways). I want the Hawking Adventures to be happening in its own world and version of the 18th Century Caribbean.  It’s very much like the real Caribbean, but don’t expect Hawking and Little Queen to interact with the likes of Blackbeard, Anne Bonny & Mary Read, and William Kidd.
I will say that Jake Hawking is influenced a bit by Rafael Sabatini’s pirate, Captain Blood. Blood was an able swordsman, but he greatest weapon was his brain. He would try to out-think his way out of problems before drawing his sword. I wanted to write a character like that — a cerebral pirate. So that’s what Hawking is. He’s an able swordsman but a man who prefers to use his wit above his sword if he can. That plays a lot into the Hawking adventures.
As for Little Queen, Hawking’s right hand woman, she’s also not based on a real-life character. But after inventing her and writing Little Queen’s Gambit, I came across a real-life black, woman pirate who’s life and demeanor is pretty similar to Little Queen. I wrote all about “William Brown” on my blog. If I ever get stuck, I can always refer back to her!
And for those who really like stories that mix fictional characters with historical people, they might enjoy Ye Be Oak; True as Oak. It’s one of the bonus short stories in the collection and has a lot to do with Blackbeard. It’s actually the first fiction piece I ever got published.

What makes your series (or book) different from other piratical adventures out there? What’s your main goal with your pirate stories?
A lot of it goes back to Hawking. He’s a thinking man’s pirate. There’s still plenty of swordplay, but for readers who want more than that, I think they’ll get a kick out of Jake Hawking & the Bounty Hunters. It’s not all hack and slash.
But fight scenes that the genre is known for are still present in my Hawking stories. Hawking’s right hand woman, Little Queen, is very much a shoot first, as questions later type character. One reader described her as being Xena-esque, and another reader described her as having a “wild card nature”, so her and Hawking have an interesting dynamic. It plays out in Jake Hawking & the Bounty Hunters and I know I’m just scratching the surface of their relationship, too.

Bonus Question: If you had to design a pirate flag for yourself, what would it look like?
Ooooh, good question. I’ve been trying to think of what Hawking’s flag could be, but haven’t come up with anything concrete yet. Maybe something with a hawk?

As for myself, it might be a fleur-de-lis with crossed swords. It’s sort of my unofficial logo as it is, so I think it’d work as a flag, too.

Short Bio: Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. J.M. AUCOIN is the product of when a ten-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s Zorro grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with The Three Musketeers. To learn more, visit his website:

Now take yer chances t'win some prizes!
The contest began on Monday, September 8th 
and runs through to September 19th 
(Talk Like a Pirate Day)
Visit these Blogs and make yer claim!
(and don't forget t'enter below an' all!)

September 8th: Christine Steendam posted Dan Eldredge's Q&A 
September 9th :  Lisa Jensen posted Christine Steendam's Q&A
September 9th : J.M. Aucoin posted SK Keogh's Q&A
September 10th : Nick Smith posted Lisa Jensen's Q&A
September 11th : Dan Eldredge posted Nick Smith's Q&A
September 11th : SK Keogh posted Helen Hollick's Q&A
September 12th : Helen Hollick posted J.M. Aucoin's Q&A above

To celebrate this fun annual event, myself and six other historical fiction authors are giving away seven pirate novels. Sea Witch will be one of them, along with S.K. Keogh's The Alliance,  Jake Hawking & the Bounty Hunters by J.M. Aucoin, Heart Like an Ocean by Christine Steendam, The Witch from the Sea by Lisa Jensen, The Pirates of Alnari by Dan Eldredge, 
and Gentleman of Fortune by Nick Smith.
To enter, just sign in below. 
You can earn additional entries by
 liking the authors’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. 
The more of our social media accounts you follow, the more entries you get. 
The more entries you get, the better your chances are of winning. 
Simple as that.
enter here:

Fancy some more pirate fun?
Step aboard the MH Pirate Pleasure
for a few quizzes and games
click HERE 

Friday 5 September 2014

HNS Indie Award 2014 - The Results

The Four Indie Award Finalists Were:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth

2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud 
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the winners:

Winner : Virginia Cox
The Subtlest Soul

Runner up : Linda Proud
A Gift for the Magus

To the two finalists who were not selected - it is a huge achievement 
to make the finalist list as the standard was very high

Thank you to our judges, 
Elizabeth Chadwick and Orna Ross
and to 
Orna Ross and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. 
for sponsoring our prizes

and thank you to the HNS for supporting Indie writers

full report on Elizabeth's Blog HERE