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Friday, 16 May 2008
If Only by Celia Cooper--A Review

We all have them...those "if only" events that we let pass us by and realize too late how much we'd miss them.  Can we go back?  Is it possible to regain what we allowed to slip through our fingers?

Celia Cooper answers these questions in her latest romance novel, If Only. The warm shores of Tampa, Florida, is the setting of this romantic adventure.  Celia Cooper deftly weaves several sub-plots together, creating a world we all dream of--the chance to undo what was once done.

 This isn't your typical boy-meets-girl romance.  Instead, it twists and turns in the most delicious ways, creating a need to continue reading to see how things will turn out. 

Ms. Cooper's characters are so life-like you will swear you know someone just like them.  It is obvious that she has studied the subtle nuances of human behavior and weaves these into a cast aof characters that will have you cheering them on, hoping for a happy ending. 

Is the ending a happy one?  Can Steven and Barbara return to a love they shared twenty-five years ago and make it work this time?  You'll have to read If Only tp discover the answers to these questions but I will tell you this--when you finish If Only you will look forward with great anticipation to the next creation that is painted with Celia Cooper's pen.

Posted by joyceanthony at 5:04 AM EDT
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Thursday, 15 May 2008
Talking With Celia Cooper
Topic: Author Interview



Celia Cooper the person:

1.   What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

Loyal, passionate and artistic

2.   How do you think others would describe you?

Reliable, loving, talented

3.   Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.

 The ecology of my desert. People see it as a wasteland of sand and wind. I see the squirrels, chipmunks, eagles, kangaroo rats, rabbits, and yes, even snakes and coyotes that make this land teem with life. The Yucca draconis commonly known as the Joshua tree grows in only two places in the world: Israel and the Mojave Desert. All these **** developers who think this is a wasteland waiting for them to slap up poorly made, overpriced, elbow-to-elbow ticky tac housing projects to be filled with people the judicial system dumps here from the Los Angeles basin have people like myself with which to deal.

In the five years since I moved back, hundreds of acres have been lost to developers who have little respect for the life of the desert. The sad reality is that when it is gone-there is no recovery. Unfortunately, the people who should be taking action on this can't make themselves see past the bottom line.

Okay. Taking down the soapbox.

4.  Do you have any pets?  If so, introduce us to them.

 I have a cat named Sancha. She is 16 years old, very spoiled and referred to as a "tuxedo" kitty. Her overall color is black, but she has a white chest, paws, and snout, and looks as if she is wearing a tuxedo-hence the name.

5.  What is your most precious memory?

 I have two very important memories. When I meet the man who is my husband, we both had been battered a bit by life so when he wanted me to meet his dad, I was a bit wary. He'd just lost his mom and his father was the litmus test of whether I was keeper or not. His parents were divorced and his dad had remarried so I was going to be "tested" by Dad and stepmom. When we arrived at their home ( I was very uncomfortable as the home was extraordinarily beautiful, big and furnished with antiques), it took all of 30 minutes for me to fall in love with my future father-in-law and his wife.

The memory is of 6 years later. My husband and I moved back from paradise (lived in Hawaii, Oahu, for 2 ½ years) when we learned my father-in-law was terminally ill. We didn't know how long he had but we were going to spend the time being close. As the end came near, this sinewy, athletic man was reduced to a bed and breathing tube by his body but his mind was razor sharp.

I had been persistent enough (read nagging) to get my husband to go back to school to get his GED. Of the 4 boys in the family, only 1 had graduated from high school. When we brought the document to the nursing home and showed my father-in-law. It was a red-letter day in that he had been taken off the breathing tube and could speak clearly again and my husband had passed his GED. Disagreements of nearly two decades fell by the wayside. My father-in-law's eyes shone with pride.

My mother-in-law and I "took a walk" to let the two talk.

The second, most personal, moment was December 18, 2005. After a day in her art studio, my mom had noted she was going to lie on her lounge chair and take a nap. As my husband and I had been visiting and were on our way out, anyway, I leaned down and kissed her lightly on the cheek telling her I loved her. She smiled and put her hand on my cheek and told me she loved me.

Four days later, she was hit and killed crossing the street to go to choir practice at her church. When I get to missing her, I think of that moment. I'm glad I got to tell her I loved her.

6.  What is your most embarrassing memory?

To the best of my recollection-I had gone out after work and had one, no about five, too many without eating. I proceeded to throw up on the street in front of the Marriott Downtown in Portland, Oregon. Thankfully, my co-workers were discreet enough not to say anything. I was going through a very difficult period in my life and I think they understood.

7.  If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Working to make ends meet and pursuing the art of Middle Eastern dance. I started taking lessons on a dare to myself as I'm waaay too many pounds over my healthful weight. I knew I couldn't handle ballet or tap and wanted something that would celebrate the art of dance. I was a little hesitant, what with the preconceived notion I harbored, but having done some hula, I liked the flow of the dance. I've been able to isolate the movement of my individual body parts all my life.

Taking Middle Eastern dance, I learned several things-most countries in the Middle East celebrate women with meat on their bones, and the truth of "belly dancing" is that the moves were designed to assist a woman through labor (the original dance).

In the Middle East, men dance with men and women dance with women. It has to do with custom and faith. Professional belly dancers are for the tourists. It is a fascinating artform that celebrates the being not the body. 

8.  In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.

 Christie L. Kraemer, writing as Celia Cooper, spent a lifetime experiencing the world. She traveled the country learning new customs and appreciation for new places. Finding her "soul mate" later in life, they continued the journey. She discovered her muse later than most but once the floodgates opened, she was a prolific writer leaving a legacy of fantasy, romance, and mystery books. Fortunate enough to have her very first novel published, she continued the family tradition of paying forward by mentoring those who wanted to write but needed a little push. She gave seminars to help others traverse the publishing maze and encouraged all.

She was proceeded in death by her husband of 60 years, Lawrence, and leaves behind a brother, Gordon Cooper, a sister, Shawneen Staley and her husband Jim; 3 nieces and 3 nephews, numerous grandnieces and grandnephews, and too many friends to list.

Celia Cooper the writer:

9.  Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?

When I had entered a contest on the Diet Coke website- "Living life to the fullest"- and put together a story of 750 words. I sent it off and promptly forgot it as the contest was international, and I figured my chances were slim-to-none.

I had written a piece for my father-in-law, bed bound by a terminal illness after a life of activity, where he was able to get up, take a shower by himself, cook breakfast and take a walk with his cherished dog.

I was at my state accounting job and my husband phoned. He got off earlier than I and worked at the apartment complex where we lived. He told me we had this large envelope from New York addressed to me. My first response was "Who's suing us?" After a minute or two of baiting, I told him to open the envelope. He read the letter aloud to me and it was then I realized I was a "real" writer.

My story had been selected as one of 25 finalists out of approximately 700 entries. While I wasn't the big winner who went to New York and pitched a book idea to publishers, I felt pretty good about my writing. One of the reasons was the judges used by the contest: Maeve Binchy, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, Mark & Chrissy Donnally, Elmore Leonard, Nora Roberts, and Lisa Scottoline.

The public relations house sent us guidelines on doing TV interviews and, in a conference call, told us that the judges kept coming back to our 25 stories; it was the push I needed to open the door to the possibilities of writing.

10.  What is going on with your writing these days?

Unfortunately, making ends meet to pay bills has taken the forefront in my life, but I try to get tukus in chair and write at least one page a day.

I have a story published under my C.L. Kraemer name involving a reverse Sleeping Beauty premise with dragons. My husband was so thrilled with it (he doesn't read much on his own. His ADD puts a damper on long novels with intricate plotlines.), he asked me to expand the story. Well, one novel became three and I promised him this last Christmas that I would finish the novel before Christmas.

As I have a mystery book coming out in December that I'll need to start publicity in November, I have until October to finish this book. Throw in my stepson's wedding/our vacation in August and I need to be putting tukus to chair more often.

Someone suggested, after reading a portion of the first book in the trilogy that I start with the middle book, which I had been working on slowly, because the middle book takes place now. Consequently, the first book that will be published (fingers crossed here) will be the middle of the trilogy. Then I'll finish the prequel and continue on to the sequel.

11.  What are your future goals for your writing?

 I have a dozen startups that I want to finish. I have a romance oriented family trilogy and numerous fantasy-sci-fi stories waiting to be written. They all lurk in the back of my mind and occasionally come out in a dream to haunt me. 

12.  Can you describe a typical writing day for you?

I get up fairly late because I work swing shift at the newspaper and don't get home until 12:30 a.m. Like most, I'm wide awake and going to bed is not an option. If I'm being good, I'll sit and write for a couple hours. If things are normal, I'll do reading or copy editing for the publishing house where I work.

In the morning, I get up do housework, laundry, yardwork or walk then I come in and sit down for an hour or so and try to put hands to keyboard. If I find my muse is being lazy or doesn't want to come out and play, I'll go practice on my drumset to get the juices flowing.

13.  Why do you write?

Because I can't not write. I realize that's a typical writer answer but there it is. Even if I was never to be published again, I would write. Now that I've found my passion, I revel in the feel of words to paper, characters that talk back to me and the amazement of sitting and reading something I've done and thinking, "Did I do that?"

14.   What writer most inspires you?  Why?

I must say I'm fascinated by the work of Dame Agatha Christie, and not because I suspect this is whom my mother named me after. Her work was lush and precise. She wound the reader through the story with deft expertise and, yet, sprinkled the clues in places so obvious that when she revealed the killer, you smacked yourself on the head and said, "Uh, I should have known!" She is one of the few writers I will reread. My memory, as of now, is very good and usually after the first paragraph or two of a book that I think I may have read, I'll know. If I've read it, I'll remember the ending.

Another is Mercedes Lackey. She creates fantasy worlds with such vividness the reader feels transported and doesn't doubt the laws of physics at all. (What we're supposed to do, isn't it?) Her stories have inspired me to write in the dragon genre even though it seems flooded.

15.  How do you define your writing?

 I don't like being defined, per se, witness my eclectic, gypsy life, but would say I write about real people in unusual situations. Not often you run into a dragon when you go camping in your favorite forest. My romance novels are about the guys and gals next door-a little older-but what many of us have become. For example, If Only is phrase everybody says but becomes more pronounced as you age...if only I would've married this guy instead of that one, if only I would've taken that promotion instead of moving to(you fill in the blank), if only I could go back and do it again...See what I mean? It becomes a mantra to many people.

My fantasy stories are crafted with, hopefully, my own twist on things. I'm a bit...different. My mind has a tendency to tweek situations. Phrases will induce an idea for a book. It usually begins with "what would happen if..." From that point, I'm usually scrambling to find something to write on if I haven't brought my notebook with me.

16.  In one sentence-what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?

 I love her writing. When I found out she had other books, I bought them all. They have a special place in my library. She made me forget where I was for a while. She writes a good story.

Celia Cooper the details:

17.  Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website?  Blog?

I can be found at  . Look under authors for Celia Cooper (careful-there is a Janet Cooper, I'm Celia) and my website at .

18.  Is there a place where readers can reach you?

I can be reached through my email but it is necessary to note in the subject line this is a reader question regarding for Celia Cooper or C. L. Kraemer, otherwise, I'll delete.

19.  Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?

Under the name ;C. L. Kraemer:

Cyre Drake, in the anthology, Enchanted Realms II from Xlibris;                    

Cats in the Cradle of Civilization from Wings ePress, Inc.

From Celia Cooper: (All from Wings ePress, Inc.)

Old Enough to Know Better (January 2003);

Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Mazatlan(June 2005);

If Only (April 2008)

20.  For new readers-what can they expect when they read your book(s)?

 Characters that will make you think of a next-door neighbor, details that help you visualize but don't take away your ability to create your own backdrop; and, most importantly, a good story well told. When my stories become hackneyed, I'll take up rock n' roll drumming for the Stones.

In conclusion:

21.  Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers-what would you like them to know about you and your writing?

I was privileged to have a mother who emphasized reading above all. I grew up as the daughter of career marine and we traveled over the country. Money was tight and TV was in its infancy - there were only 1 ½ stations available to us through the antennae where we lived when I was a kid. My mom introduced us to the world of the library and helped me to escape reality through the written word.

I hope that my writing gives people pleasure and let's them "escape" for the time it takes to read my books. I would encourage them to read, not only my books but many different types of books. The act of reading makes a person slow down and take the time to breathe (unless you're reading Stephen King!). We all move too fast.

I will write until I can no longer move my fingers or speak into a microphone. I can only hope my books will maintain a high level of quality and entertainment.

And yes, I do put on my plus size jeans one leg at a time.


Posted by joyceanthony at 9:50 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
If Only--An Excerpt

The blonde woman stopped before Barbara, tossing a fearful look in Rachel's direction, before reaching out, and gently lifting Barbara's hand to her, palm up, and peered at the opened extremity. She raised a bejeweled, ruby tipped finger and traced the lifeline. Her dark brown eyes peered deeply into Barbara's.

          "You have recently suffered a great personal loss."

          Rachel harrumphed behind Barbara.

          Ignoring Rachel, she continued. "You have come home seeking a glimpse of the past to answer questions of old. You will have to make a decision between two—brothers?—which will change your living arrangements as well as your life…"

          Before she could continue, Rachel grabbed Barbara's elbow and propelled her toward the front door, muttering under her breath, "Any fool can see the white circle where your wedding ring used to be and, of course, you're seeking something. You came into this bloody shop. What a fraud."

          The blonde turned and softly called to the retreating backs of the two friends, "By the way, Dylan says you are headed in the right direction, and he wants to thank you. Now he can rest."

          Barbara planted her feet to the floor. She whirled, and, grasping her throat, whispered, "Dylan?"

          The blonde approached warily, glancing at the furious face of Rachel looking over the head of her friend.

          "Yes. He said you," she pointed at Rachel, "would not believe me, but he was finding it difficult to get a message through to you. Barbara, he wanted very much for you to know the quest you have taken is the first step to setting him free. He knew he was your second choice."

          Barbara gasped, tears welling in her eyes. "He never said a thing."

          "He told me to thank you for all the years of love you gave to him and says he wants you to find your first love who now searches himself."


For More information on Celia Cooper, please visit her site at:


and should you be ready to pick up a copy of If Only hop on over to and grab one :-)

Posted by joyceanthony at 4:55 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Visiting with Celia Cooper
Topic: Blog Tours

For the next few days, we will be visiting with author Celia Cooper.  We will talk with Celia and get to know her a bit better and you'll get a chance to read an excerpt from If Only.  We'll top off the visit with my review of the book on Friday.  Stop by often and drop Celia a comment :-)

Author's Bio: Celia Cooper has been a gypsy all her life. From her military child beginnings to her might-not-get-this-chance-again attitude after she left home, she's seen most of the continental United States as well as Hawaii and Alaska. She hopes to travel the world but is content to stay close to her family in the Southern California desert—for the moment.

Old Enough to Know Better and Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Mazatlan were gifts from the writing , gods. Her current novelIf Only, explores the wistful saying everyone has said at one point or another in their lives and scratches a persistent itch.

She is currently working on a dragon trilogy and several short stories.

Posted by joyceanthony at 2:00 AM EDT
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Monday, 12 May 2008
Pampa by Janet Elaine Smith
Topic: First Chapter

I have a treat for you guys today--the first chapter of Janet Elaine Smith's novel, Pampas.  This book is available in both English and Spanish.  If you would like to see the Spanish version of Chapter 1 posted, leave me a comment and I shall see what I can do :-) For information on where you can find Pampas and the rest of Janet's books, please visit her website at


(In English)

Señor Raul Escobar. A handsome gaucho, who came to Argentina to lose his past, suddenly becomes the richest man in Argentina after he inherits the huge ranch of Señor Pancho Mendoza upon his death. His devotion to his benefactor is beyond question, but his life and the mysterious way he appeared at the ranch several years earlier is definitely suspect.

Samantha Leota Manchester. A spoiled rich girl, trained as an archaeologist, shows up for Señor Mendoza's funeral, on the arm of the American Ambassador. She asks for permission to "dig" on the land. Her grandmother revealed a secret, on her deathbed, that has sent "Sam" scurrying to try to find the hidden secrets of her past, which she wants to uncover, as much as Raul wants to bury his.

Doña Helena. The faithful housekeeper of Pancho Mendoza, who inherits the large house itself, but there is one string attached: Raul cannot move into the house unless he marries. Doña Helena, who tries to keep peace on the ranch, learns of Sam's secret, and eventually those of Raul as well.

Can these two people, so different, possibly keep from killing each other in their quest to reveal-and to hide-their pasts?

PAMPAS is filled with love, hate, intrigue, secrets, and loads of laughs. Even "the godfathers" get into the picture.




Chapter One

The tall, dark-haired stranger knocked on the door of the large hacienda. The house looked like an old southern mansion you might see in Gone With the Wind. It was early in the morning, but the man knew that life on the estancia, one of the huge Argentine ranches, began at the crack of dawn. He hoped to find the owner of the ranch at the house, before he left to make his daily rounds over the acres of land he controlled.

Opening the door, Doña Helena stood, wiping her hands on her apron. There was a smudge of flour on her face, and the man smiled as he saw it. Her appearance was meticulous; the blemish was definitely out of character.

"Is something wrong, señor?" she asked. "Why do you smile so?"

Not wanting to admit the truth, re replied, "It is because of your charm and beauty." He continued, "I would like to talk to the owner of the estancia, please. Is he in?"

Smiling sheepishly, as a young schoolgirl might, Doña Helena answered, "Yes, señor, he is in, but he is eating his breakfast right now. I do not like to disturb him, at least not until he has had his coffee." Doña Helena noted the disappointment on the man's face and added, "But you may come in and wait for him, if you like."

He accepted the invitation graciously and sat on a hard, straight-backed chair in preference to the lovely brocaded sofa Doña Helena indicated.

Doña Helena disappeared from the room, and the man sat, nervously twirling his large black hat, which was so typical of the gauchos. Although he appeared to be a gaucho-one of the wandering cowboys of the Pampas which stretched for 250,000 miles across Argentina-his speech betrayed him. He spoke with a strange accent.

Doña Helena told Pancho Mendoza, the owner of the ranch, of the stranger at the door.

"He probably wants work," Señor Mendoza said knowingly. "Everyone who comes wants work. Some day I will run out of land and out of work. Then what will they all do?"

Doña Helena joined him in laughter. The idea of Señor Mendoza running out of land was the most absurd thing she could imagine. He owned more than seventy thousand acres of ranch land, and it was continually growing.

As soon as he finished his meal, Señor Mendoza entered the huge living room where the man was seated.

"Doña Helena tells me you would like to speak to me," he said. ":How may I serve you?"

"It is I who would like to assist you, señor," the stranger replied. "I am a good, hard worker, and I would greatly appreciate the privilege of serving you on your estancia, Señor."

Señor Mendoza studied the man carefully. His dress was that of the gauchos. He had the same thick, black, wavy hair of the gauchos. He wore the traditional black mustache, which was almost a ritual among the gauchos. But there was a slight Italian accent to his speech, although his Spanish was as fluent as if it was his native tongue.

"Where have you worked before?" Señor Mendoza asked him.

"On many estancias," he replied. "Many of them far from here." Wishing to avoid too many questions, he added quickly, "But your reputation goes throughout the land of Argentina. You have the finest ranch in the country. It is my dream to work on your ranch, Señor Mendoza."

"Aha! A man after my own heart!" Señor Mendoza said with a laugh. "You know a good man when you see one! Flattery will get you everywhere!" he misquoted. "I will take you to meet the other men. I was just about to leave on rounds. Come along; we will get going before you get any later. I demand high quality work from my employees."

"Do you mean I am hired?" he inquired. Seeing the nod of the owner's head, he threw his hat high in the air and jumped up, clicking his heels together.

"Yippee!" he shouted.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Señor Mendoza said, "Of all the gauchos I have seen and hired, you have to be the strangest. You speak Spanish, but with an Italian accent, and you shout in English-like a Yankee. What is your name?"

"Raul Escobar," he said, extending his hand to shake Señor Mendoza's hand. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."

* * *

It seemed as if that had been a century ago, yet only five years had passed since Raul had appeared at the huge estancia. Now Señor Mendoza was dying.

Raul had been out on the pasture land checking on the sheep when the sound of hoofbeats echoed on the ground beneath him. The horse was going so fast, it instantly spelled trouble to Raul. Turning to meet the visitor as soon as possible, Raul rode his horse even faster towards the sound of the one approaching him.

"Raul! Come quickly! It is Señor Mendoza!" It was Doña Helena. Her face was pale, in spite of the hot sun which was pouring down on her.

"What is it?" Raul asked anxiously. Doña Helena turned her horse around, and they raced together towards the hacienda, not losing a second of the precious time.

"It is Señor Mendoza," she repeated as they rode. "Something has happened to him! I think he has had a heart attack!"

They rode together in silence, both praying and hoping against all hope that the man they both had grown to love so much would be there to greet them as he had been so many times before.

Hurriedly, they dismounted their horses and dashed for the open door. Señor Mendoza was lying on the floor, his head propped on the hand embroidered silk pillow, just as Doña Helena had left him. Raul tried to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was of no help. His pulse was extremely weak; the color had drained from his skin; he did not speak.

"Hurry!" he instructed Doña Helena. "Call Dr. Peréz. Tell him to get over here right away."

Doña Helena went immediately to the phone, and taking a small black book from the drawer on the table on which the phone was sitting, turned quickly to the doctor's name and phone number. She had almost completed dialing the number before the receiver reached her ear.

"Hello? Dr. Peréz? This is Doña Helena at the estancia of Señor Mendoza." She did not hesitate for him to say anything in response. "I think Señor Mendoza has had a heart attack. Will you please come to the hacienda right away? Please hurry!"

Replacing the phone in the cradle, Doña Helena turned to Raul. "He is on his way, but it will take almost an hour before he can get here."

Doña Helena went to Señor Mendoza and knelt on the other side of him. The worry and concern showed on both of their faces.

"You love him, too, don't you?" she asked Raul.

He did not answer, but the dampness in his eyes spoke loudly to Doña Helena. It allowed her to read into his heart. He ached for the man he had come to love as a father.

His thoughts traveled back over his lifetime. He had never known his own father. His mother had told Raul and his brother very little of the man. Only his uncle had ever dared to speak to the boys of their father as he had grown up. Raul knew that he had been affiliated with the mafia and that he had been killed by the mob when he refused to let them threaten his wife and children. He had been told that his father had loved them very much, but it was a love he had never known. Until Pancho Mendoza...

Raul had taken a new name when he came to Argentina six years earlier. He had tried to hide his heritage. He was ashamed of the background of his father, and he did not want anyone to know that he was Italian. Señor Mendoza had detected his accent when he first arrived at the estancia, but he never asked him about it. There were many things that Raul hoped would never be discovered. As close as the two men had grown, Señor Mendoza knew better than to ask questions about things that did not concern him.

* * *

A loud knock sounded at the door. Raul did not realize how long he had knelt beside the man-so hard on the exterior, but so tender in his heart.

Doña Helena, who had decided to go about the more mundane matters which were her duties, rushed to answer the demanding knock.

"Where is he?" Dr. Peréz asked. Seeing Señor Mendoza lying on the floor, he pushed her to the side and made his way to the silent body.

"Raul," he said softly, but with a great deal of authority, "please move out of the way. I would like to examine the old man. It is better if you are not here. If I need you, or as soon as I finish examining him, I will call you and let you know what I have found."

Raul rose to his feet, dazed at the condition of this man before him, and left the room, much against his better judgment.

Dr. Peréz moved quickly, checking the pulse of the once powerful man who now lay helpless before him. He withdrew his stethoscope from his worn black medical bag. Placing it in his ears, he took the end of it and warmed it with his hands before putting it on Señor Mendoza's chest. The thump, thump, thump of the heartbeat was barely audible. Dr. Peréz moved quickly, placing one hand on top of the other, then applied pressure to Señor Mendoza's heart. He hoped he would be able to revive him to a normal heart rate. He worked frantically on the nearly lifeless figure. For as small a man as the doctor portrayed, he seemed to be a giant as he put his whole weight and self into the efforts he was so deeply engaged in.

After fifteen minutes had passed, Raul could stand the suspense no longer. He broke into the room, intending to demand an explanation as to the treatment Señor Mendoza was receiving.

The body of Señor Mendoza was heaving violently up and down on the floor. Dr. Peréz was struggling to control it, but the weight beneath him was overpowering.

"Quick! Grab his arm and hold him down while I work on his chest!"

Raul raced to the unmanageable being and placed one of his powerful arms on each of the arms of Señor Mendoza. In spite of his great strength, he was unable to hold him completely quiet, but he fought desperately hard to maintain enough calm to enable Dr. Peréz to once again apply pressure to the heart.

Almost without any warning, the body was completely still. Feeling a tremendous relief, Raul removed his arms from the man and sat back, breathing as deeply as if he had just ridden after all the sheep on the entire estancia."He is okay now! That was close, wasn't it, Doc?"

Dr. Peréz looked at Raul. He did not speak. He took his stethoscope and placed it on the chest. The silence of the moment filled the room. He removed the stethoscope and placed it carefully in his medical bag.

"He is going to be all right now, isn't he?"

Raul's face was filled with a million unspoken questions. If he still needed help, he reasoned, the doctor would still be listening to his heart.

Dr. Peréz stood up and offered a hand to Raul.

"I am very sorry, Raul. I did everything I could for Señor Mendoza." He looked at the hardened face of the gaucho. The weathered cracks of the skin seemed to break into pieces as the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"What do you mean?" he demanded. "You don't mean..." His voice trailed off endlessly.

"I am sorry, Raul," Dr. Peréz said softly. "You cared for him deeply, didn't you?"

Raul did not speak. He could not speak. He opened his mouth, but his throat was parchment dry. He walked to the door and opened it for the doctor. He tried to say "Thank you," but once again, nothing would come out.

Dr. Peréz said, "I will get a death certificate and have it sent over here."

So final!

Raul knelt beside the lifeless figure on the floor. Just this morning, when they had eaten breakfast together, he seemed so vibrant-so full of life-so enthusiastic. He could not believe that this body was the same person. How could life end so abruptly? So without warning? So senselessly?

* * *

The next two days passed slowly. There was so much to do, but Raul did not have the heart to try to do anything. Doña Helena, who had been with Señor Mendoza all of her life, took full charge of all of the notifications, the funeral details, and the arrangements for the guests who would soon be swarming like a bunch of hungry bees.

The news had flashed over the radio and the television that Pancho Mendoza was dead. The people who had worked for him, those who had been involved with him in his business dealings, his attorneys, his friends, his enemies, the heads-of-state from many countries, were all gathered. The only people missing were his relatives. He seemed to be alone in the world, even now when he was converged upon by multitudes of people. He had never married, never had any children, and his only brother had died in a plane crash years ago.

With the funeral services over, the attorney went to Doña Helena and quietly conversed with her. There was a buzzing from one person to another. The disposition of Señor Mendoza's estate was a matter of great speculation. It had been, in fact, a matter of great betting odds in the casinos in Mar del Plata, the "Las Vegas of Argentina."

Doña Helena approached Raul. All eyes were fixed on them. Together they disappeared into the study. Señor Mendoza's attorney went to two other people, both who had been in his employ for a number of years. They joined the two who were already in the study. The attorney disappeared without turning to face the questioning eyes of the group that was standing, gazing at the door through which they disappeared.

"I know you all loved Señor Mendoza very much," the attorney began. "Señor Mendoza knew that, too. I have been instructed by Pancho to inform you of the disposition of his belongings as soon as the funeral is over. So, let's get down to business."

Raul squirmed on his chair. No one ever called Señor Mendoza "Pancho," he thought. How dare he?

The four members of the party stared in disbelief. They had no idea they would be the recipients of his kindness. They had partaken of his generosity during his lifetime; now they would indulge themselves in his goodness in his death.

"Doña Helena," the attorney continued, "You are to be the sole owner of the hacienda-the house proper. And you are assured of an income for the rest of your life from the profits of the ranch." He watched her as he relayed the news to her. She burst into tears. There was no need for words from anyone at a time like this. "There is one stipulation, however. You must continue to do the public obligations for the ranch, as Señor Mendoza always did."

The attorney turned to one of the two workers. "You," he said, "are to have the east five hundred acres of the ranch. You are to tend it as Señor Mendoza has always done."

Turning to the other worker, he went on. "You, on the other hand, are to have the west five hundred acres of the ranch. You also are to tend it as Señor Mendoza has done."

"Are there any questions?" he asked the group. No one spoke.

"Raul," he continued, "the balance of the holdings of Señor Pancho Mendoza are to go to you. The thousands of acres of the ranch proper are yours, as well as his grape vineyards in Mendoza Province. He has left detailed instructions at my office on how he wants to have you proceed, as if he were here watching you. I will get them to you tomorrow."

Raul stared in amazement. How could this be? The kid from the streets in New York City was suddenly a millionaire. He should feel like the luckiest person in the world, but at this very moment he would give it all up in an instant to have the man he had grown so fond o here in their midst instead.

Raul looked around the room at the other three who had just been given word that they too were beneficiaries of Señor Mendoza's great generosity. He could tell-from the look on their faces, from the damp eyes, from the quiet which penetrated the entire atmosphere, from the words which echoed off the walls without even being spoken-that the others felt the same way he did.

The attorney finally spoke, breaking the solemn stillness. It seemed almost sacreligious to even think of cracking a joke, and yet a deep smile was evident across his face.

"Oh, one more thing, Raul," he said, looking at him square in the face, "Señor Mendoza said that you will have to figure out where you are going to live. You are not allowed to move into the hacienda with Doña Helena, unless you should at some time decide to marry. Then you and your wife could reside there, but only if it is agreeable with Doña Helena. "

The group roared hysterically. One thing they had all appreciated about Señor Mendoza-or should we say the late Señor Mendoza-was his wry sense of humor. It was evident, even now. He would not want these people, whom he had depended on deeply to be there when he needed them, to grieve his departure, no matter when or how it came.

The people who were in the large living room beyond had grown nervous and anxious. The chatter had died almost completely. The ears and eyes were all centered on the door to the study. Astonishment filled the faces of the beholders. What could possibly be so funny at a time like this?

"What kind of joke did the old man play on us?" It was the U.S. Ambassador who dared to speak. He had served Señor Mendoza well on many occasions. He had helped him amass his fortunes. He had a right to be remembered. He belonged in that room! A fierce

rage overtook him. He nearly shook from the anger which was experiencing. He deserved something more than to be sitting here among all these people, listening to the laughter coming from inside, like he was some stranger. He probably knew more about Señor Mendoza's holdings and business than anyone else here, except perhaps the attorney. Jeremy David Whitcomb was entitled to more than he was getting! But for once he did not know what to do about the situation. For years he had known power, but he was totally powerless now. It was a feeling he did not enjoy.

* * *

The next morning the doorbell rang. Doña Helena went to answer it, and was surprised to find the attorney there so early in the morning.

"Where is Raul?" he asked.

"Raul?" Doña Helena said in surprise. "You, of all people, should know that he is not allowed to move into the hacienda." She smiled warmly. "He is out in the casita-the small house for the gauchos. Imagine that," she said, "a millionaire and still sleeping out there with the hired hands."

The attorney grinned. "Señor Mendoza would love it. He knew he could trust Raul. He said the one man he could depend on to not let his money spoil him was Raul. In fact, he said he could picture Raul living in the casita for the rest of his life."

"I did ask him to come in for breakfast," Doña Helena said. "It seems awfully empty in here this morning."

"If you don't mind," he said, "I will wait for him in here. I do have something I would like to discuss with both of you."

"Come join me in the kitchen," she invited. "I will give you a cup of coffee." She hesitated for a moment, then added, "Señor Mendoza always had a cup of coffee before breakfast. He always said he was a real bear before his coffee, but I never heard him say anything unkind about anyone."

The back door flung open and Raul came charging in. He sat down at the table, appearing completely oblivious to the presence of the attorney, and banged his fists on the heavy oak table.

"Where is my coffee?" he demanded. "I can't function until I have had a cup of that brew! Come on, woman! Bring me my coffee!"

Doña Helena laughed. His imitation of Señor Mendoza was almost perfect.

"Well?" Raul asked. "Did I pass?"

"He could not have done it better himself," she admitted. "If I had had my eyes closed, I would have thought he had been resurrected."

With no further hesitation, Doña Helena took a cup of hot, steaming coffee and set it before him on the table.

Turning to the attorney, Raul said, "Well, good morning, señor. What are you doing out here at the estaancia at this hour of the morning? I thought you people slept until at least seven o'clock."

The attorney smiled. "You learn very quickly, just as Señor Mendoza said," he quipped. "You sound as cynical as he tried to sound. As a matter of fact, Señor Escobar, I am in my office before seven o'clock most mornings. Now, shall we get down to business?"

Taking a large box from the floor, he said to Raul, "Here you are. These are the deeds for all of Señor Mendoza's land."

Raul gasped. He had never seen a deed before, much less held one in his hands. Now, these were his? All of them?

For the first time in more than six years, Raul thought of his mother. He had put her out of his mind-forever, he thought. Why should she invade his thoughts now? Suddenly, he wished he could share his newfound wealth with her. She had worked hard to provide a living for him and his twin brother when they were growing up. He wondered, too, for the first time, where his brother was and what he was doing.

Snapping back to reality, he pushed such thoughts far back into a corner of his mind, making a very conscious effort to forget that they were there. It was an uncomfortable area of his mind; he did not wish to dwell on it.

"Well," Raul drawled, "you can keep them for me. I presume you handled most of that end of the business for Señor Mendoza. Am I right?"

"You are indeed," he replied. "I shall be glad to continue in your employ, Señor Escobar."Señor Escobar! It sounded so formal. He hated it, but realized that he would have to accept a new role. He had become Raul; he would become Señor Escobar. Change was one thing he had learned to handle quite well.

* * *

The threesome was interrupted by the doorbell. Doña Helena, who had been busy about her duties, hurried to answer it.

"Is Señor Escobar here?" the man inquired.

"Yes, come in," Doña Helena said invitingly.

"I will wait here for him." Pointing behind him, he had a dozen sheep with him.

Raul went to the door, followed by Doña Helena and the attorney. Their curiosity had been duly aroused.

"May I be of service to you?" Raul asked the man.

"No, Señor. It is I who wish to serve you. I have heard that you are the new owner of the estancia. I wish to pay my respects to Señor Mendoza. He helped me purchase my first acres of land. I now have come to repay the debt I owe him. Here are twelve sheep to add to your flocks. Good day, Señor Escobar."

The three of them stood there, looking at each other. The man left in such a hurry, he virtually seemed to disappear.

"Well, well," the attorney chuckled, "you do seem to have that certain knack about you. A chip off the old block! That is the way Señor Mendoza started his first flock of sheep when he moved to the Pampas from Mendoza Province. You will do well, my boy. You will do very well."

As the three of them returned to the house, the attorney said to Doña Helena, "I do hope you can prepare for the fiesta."

"Fiesta?" she asked. "What fiesta? Señor Mendoza is barely dead! We cannot hold a party on the poor man's grave."

"I am sorry you feel that way," the attorney replied. "It was Señor Mendoza's wish that you have a party at the hacienda within a week of the time of his death to announce the new owner of the estancia to the world. They will all want to know. You must comply with his wish."

Raul, who hated publicity and crowds of people, shuddered.

"What must I do? I don't know how to give a party."

"It is no problem," Doña Helena said. "I have the guest lists from all of Señor Mendoza's parties. He never did anything but attend. I always did all the work. I can continue doing all of your work and you can get all of the credit. I can see it now," Doña Helena said, somewhat sarcastically," Señor Escobar holds party in the estancia in the traditional Mendoza style."

They all laughed. They knew Señor Mendoza would have been glad to see them laugh. They could almost feel his presence among them.

Posted by joyceanthony at 12:40 AM EDT
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Saturday, 10 May 2008
Steven Bradley--Author, graphic artist and More
Topic: Miscellaneous

The end of May (the 25th through 31st to be exact) I will have the pleasure of sharing this blog with Steven Bradley.  This incredible man has led a very full life so far--and isn't slowing down yet.  I wanted to share a few of the Author Banners he has made recently.  Stay tuned later in the month to see how you can also have one of these inccredible banners.  Here are three:


Aren't these wonderful???  I have yet to get Nikki Leigh here on a book tour (hint, Nikki!) but if you guys will recall, both Earl Hutchinson and Dyan Garris have paidf us a visit--and Dyan will be returningin less than two weeks for yet another wonderful visit--and a live chat on Chakras!!!  Please be sure to stop by and say Hello!



Posted by joyceanthony at 3:33 AM EDT
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Thursday, 8 May 2008
Tall Tales on the Iron Horse--A Review
Topic: Book Review

Every so often, a book comes along that not only captures your attention, but holds you under its power long after you have turned the final page.  Tall Tales on the Iron Horse, written by Colin P. Davies, is just that sort of book.

In today's world, it is difficult to find new ideas, especially within science fiction.  Mr. Davies' has found the wellspring of new ideas and added his own fresh voice, creating a book that is bound to be read over and over again. 

Words do not get in the way in Tall Tales on the Iron Horse.  Colin Davies does not add any details that are unnecessary and the stories within this book move forward at a quick and smooth pace.  His voice is fresh and energizing.  The closest comparison I can make to these tales is to Rod Serling's Twilight Zone stories.  Even then, Mr. Davies does not copy the master storyteller so much as stand beside him.  I look forward with anticipation to future works from Colin Davies.

Posted by joyceanthony at 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 May 2008 7:58 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Talking With Colin Davies
Topic: Blog Tours
Colin Davies the person:

1.What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

Creative, perfectionist. father

2.How do you think others would describe you?

As something of an enigma

3.Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.

Music. I love rock music of all types, but especially the progressive variety: Spock's Beard, Camel, Transatlantic, Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Flower Kings etc. I used to play guitar, both rock and classical, but now I'm out of the habit. My son, Chris, who is nineteen, plays drums in a local rock band.

4. Do you have any pets? If so, introduce us to them.

Two kittens: Paddy and Sally – brother and sister – though you'd never guess it. Paddy is big, brave, friendly and fluffy, with a squirrel's tail. Sally is small, jittery, short-haired, with half a tail (genetics – not an accident), but she's still lovable.

5. What is your most precious memory?

That's a hard one. There are a lot. Probably watching Chris in suit and bow-tie play Chopin's Raindrop Prelude to win the piano first prize and cup in the Bromborough Music Festival – at the age of about eleven.

6. What is your most embarrassing memory?

That's Chris again. It would be the time we were in a caf? and Chris, aged about six, said to the waitress, "You look very fat!" He was right, but I wanted to hide under the table. Strangely enough, a year later she'd lost weight.

7.If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Pretty much the same thing. By profession, I'm a building surveyor and I have a full time day job. If I wasn't writing, I'd be getting more sleep.

8. In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.

Colin P. Davies will be best remembered as the first author to type an entire novel with his tongue. "A Taste of Plastic" was an international bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner. In 2019 he successfully sued the National Investigator for its claim that the book was in fact ghost-tongued. The following year his autobiography, "Three Thousand Uses for a Bad Review", reached number one in the Vogue Hot Hundred, and he finally achieved his lifetime ambition to bungy jump underwater. He is survived by 35 children, two cats, and a house-robot named Gwendoline.

Colin Davies the writer:

9. Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?

Attending my first Milford SF Writers Conference was a huge leap for me and an acceptance that I was in this for real and for a long time to come. That first year I met Liz Williams, David Redd, Karen Traviss and other professionals. The week-long workshop experience was enlightening, satisfying and totally new, as I'd been very much a solo writer. I went back two more times before life intervened. I credit Milford with lifting me to the next level of writing.

10. What is going on with your writing these days?

Much of my time has been spend promoting my new collection, "Tall Tales on the Iron Horse". At the same time I'm working on a number of short stories, each in various stages of development. I like to have several stories underway at the same time, but the bulk of my attention will be on one. I find I often stall and it's helpful to be able to shift to another story.

11. What are your future goals for your writing?

I hope to interest a major publisher in my first novel, "The Bookmole", based on the short story "Clifford and the Bookmole", which is included in my collection. It's probably best described as a comic fantasy for young adults and older. I also intend to continue with my short stories, as I still get a buzz from the writing and ideas. My other plan is to develop ideas for a second novel, which will be based on my story "Pestworld"; again a not-entirely-serious story. I then intend to start work on a sequel to "The Bookmole", as the characters and possibilities are too much fun to give up.

I'm also a big fan of radio drama, both classic and new. I'd like to try my hand at adapting some of my stories, or even write an original script.

12. Can you describe a typical writing day for you?

I have writing days and non-writing days. I'm by no means organized and tend to grab writing time when I can, which may either mean an hour at the computer, or an hour with a pad and pen. In the time available I'll do whatever business stuff needs doing as priority, then either do revision to stories (which I find enjoyable and fun, and I know that might seem odd to many writers), or work on first drafts (which I usually find excruciatingly hard). I suspect the reason I prefer revision to first draft is because I'm a perfectionist – I enjoy the challenge of getting the sentence just right, or choosing the exact best word.

A first draft for me is a very involved process and I find I can't just rush through to the end. I very rarely pre-plan and often don't know where the story is going. It's not just What happens next? but also What am I trying to say, or make readers feel? What is really going on in the background, or in characters' minds? Can I make the events surprising and fascinating to the reader? How do I build tension and suspense? How do I make events and behavior logical? Are the characters behaving and speaking like real people? Can I pull off an ending that is surprising, though obvious in retrospect, and/or emotionally satisfying? You can see why I find revision easier.

13. Why do you write?

It's a combination of enjoying the process of writing, the creation of worlds and characters, and the satisfaction of finishing and publishing a story. I've been writing since I was about ten years old, when I compiled slim books of handwritten horror stories, based on the stories kids were telling each other in school. Later, I typed up a book and bound it myself (it was rubbish, but gave me a thrill at the time). I guess I've always had the writing bug. And I write science fiction because my Dad introduced me at an early age to Eric Frank Russell and I followed that up by reading my older brother's "Starship Troopers". Once you're hooked, it's hard to get free. The authors I was reading back then wrote both science fiction and fantasy and, to me, the two genres are inextricably intertwined. I'm comfortable working in either, or blurring the boundaries.

14. What writer most inspires you? Why?

Undoubtedly, Ray Bradbury. There is something in his themes and ideas that I find familiar. I understand where he's coming from. I feel his intense nostalgia for childhood and the sense of wonder (and horror) for the future. And he has the skill with words to really communicate with emotion. To be fair, I would also have to mention Jack Vance, whose stories have entertained and inspired me for decades.

15. How do you define your writing?

I'm proud to write science fiction. I don't feel the need to call it speculative fiction. I also venture occasionally into fantasy and horror and anywhere else that takes my fancy.

16.In one sentence—what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?

That the original stories are still superior to all the Hollywood blockbusters and Broadway musicals that were based on them.

Colin Davies the details:

17. Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

My website is at News is regularly updated. You can also find a short biography at and some new uncollected stories at

18. Is there a place where readers can reach you?

Readers can contact me at

19. Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?

My short stories are listed in the bibliography on my website. I have only the one book in print at the moment: Tall Tales on the Iron Horse. I've also appeared in The Year's Best SF #22 edited by Gardner Dozois, and The First Bewildering Stories Anthology. Currently I'm in Strange Worlds of Lunacy an anthology of funny stories, poems and artwork, and I'll soon have a story in another anthology, Things Are Not What They Seem.

20. For new readers—what can they expect when they read your book(s)?

Ideas, surprises, emotion, humor, stories with meaning and stories whose meaning is simply fun. Science fiction, fantasy, weird, surrealist, horror and comic stories.

In conclusion:

21. Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers—what would you like them to know about you and your writing?

I respect my readers and expect them to do some of the work. I won't always spell out exactly what is going on or why. The clues are there and the perceptive reader will find them. It's a difficult balancing act which I perhaps haven't always got right. I like a story to resonate – to leave the reader still partly in the story world, asking questions, or feeling for the characters, or simply chuckling. My writing tends to be concise. It has been said that I don't do description. That's not entirely true; I like to handle description and setting with just a few telling details. My stories can therefore be shorter and tighter than some readers are comfortable with, but equally many readers appreciate this approach.

Posted by joyceanthony at 12:30 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Visiting With Colin Davis--Excerts from Tall Tales on the Iron Horse
Topic: Blog Tours

Today I have a special treat for you guys.  I have included excerpts from not one, but three of Coin Davis' stories from Tall Tales on the Iron Horse! Enjoy these excerpts and then visit Colin's site to find out more.  In the meantime, leave him a comment on your thoughts!!!


“Enlighten me, Em,” Mandi said, as she shuffled along the sidewalk in her heavy boots. A backbone of leafless dead elms stretched down the central island of the boulevard. “Why do I give a damn about who sleeps with my father?” She skipped to catch up with the doll, leaping over a small green snake which slithered across her path on its multiple miniature wheels.

“Asking me that question, Miss Mandi, would suggest you’ve forgotten I’m just a toy.” The doll did not break its stride or look back at Mandi.

On a stone gatepost a mechanical robin sang, twitching its head to watch Mandi as she passed.

“Sometimes I can’t believe you’re just a doll, Em.”

“Sometimes I can’t believe you’re just a little girl.”

“I keep telling you... I’m not a little girl!”

Then Mandi laughed. The doll was winding her up — that was it. She folded her arms tightly. It must have been at least five below. She hated these long winters. “I’d like to meet your designer one day... and poke her in the eye.”

Mandi glanced over to the center of the boulevard. On the grass lay the body of a man, his clothing frosty-white and scruffy. No doubt another doll, drained and lifeless. You could see them everywhere. Nobody bothered with bodies anymore.

A pizza van purred swiftly towards them and in its wake came a horde of yapping puppy-dolls — growth-arrested strays; toys of flesh and blood, as much dolls as any animatronic construct. When they spotted Mandi, the dogs abandoned their attempt to catch the van and bounded towards her. Mandi had to stop, as the animals threatened to trip her up. She recognized these as Labrador pups, and all colors: black, tan, white, green...

They were harmless, but a nuisance. They nuzzled at the doll, panting, sniffing, growling. The noise was so intense, and so funny, that Mandi did not become aware of the whirring of the approaching balloon until it was almost too late.

She recognized the familiar propeller sound of the toy zeppelin at the same moment that a shadow fell upon the brick wall to her right. Years of suspicion and distrust had given her lightning reactions to the unexpected. She fell to the side. Puppies scattered. She bounced on one hip and rolled onto her knees, glancing up as she came to a halt against the wall.

Only meters away the small helium-filled toy hovered. A fine spray was falling through the air below it, precisely where Mandi had been. The puppies began to yelp and snap at the air, turning in rapid, distressing circles. Then they dashed off, tumbling over each other in their panic.

Some type of chemical, maybe acid, Mandi realized — and intended for her.

The motor whine rose in pitch as the airship turned, bringing its camera around to target on Mandi.

“Em! It’s after me!”

The doll had been outside the danger area and now ran towards Mandi.

The airship began to close the distance.

Mandi sprang to her feet, scooped up the doll, and ran. A moment later she reached a gap in the wall and turned down the path to the canal.

“It’s trying to burn me, Em,” Mandi gasped as she ran. She held the doll in front of her face. “It wants to scar me.”

“That would seem unlikely, Miss Mandi. What would be the purpose in disfiguring you?”

Mandi rapped the doll on the head with her knuckles. “The pageant of course! Someone wants to win... really badly.”

The path zig-zagged down the hill towards the canal. The airship, following a straight line, was gaining on her.

Mandi glanced backwards and slipped on the icy surface. She stumbled into a faster run, but kept on her feet. She leapt down a flight of brick steps to the towpath and hurried along the edge of the frozen waterway.

The zeppelin was only a short distance behind. The whirring sound grew louder as they moved between the towering walls of the warehouses. Mandi’s footsteps echoed as her heavy boots slapped against the cobbles. She followed the canal as it swept around a corner. Then she came upon a tall mesh fence. It stretched completely across the canal; the buildings ahead were to be demolished. Mandi could go no further.

She turned, went to run back, halted, hesitated... Her legs were trembling. She could see the gondola clearly now, a gray box hung on wires below the balloon. The box had three propellers and a central eye which must have been the camera. The propellers slowed.

No time to weigh the dangers; the ice seemed her only choice. If she could just outflank the airship, move faster and get behind. Grasping the mesh fence with her one free hand, she placed a foot upon the frozen canal, then transferred her weight. The ice creaked and cracked. Her boot vanished up to the ankle. She yanked it out, sending chunks of ice skidding across the frozen canal. Her grip on the fence held, but her arm was shaking.

She held the doll up. “I’m trapped, Em. I can’t escape.”

The airship was too close. She expected the acid spray to come at any moment. But the remote pilot must have known Mandi was trapped and was not going to waste a hasty shot.

“Spread your weight, Miss Mandi.”

She had no other option. She released the fence and, in a swift, fluid motion, swam forward on the surface of the canal. The ice held. She tried to wriggle away, one hand dragging on the ice, the other still gripping the doll. But the airship turned again to cut her off. She began to cry. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Would they really try to burn her, to destroy her prettiness? If only she was as agile as the doll...

“Em...” Mandi held the doll up.

“Yes, Miss Mandi?”

“Hold on tight!”

Clifford and the Bookmole

“I am,” whispered Clifford, “rather cunning for my age.” As the front door clicked shut behind his parents, he abandoned the homework that he’d told them could not possibly be left till tomorrow. He had the house to himself.

It had been a simple — though brilliant — idea to copy Auntie Flo’s handwriting from his birthday card and write a note to his Mum and Dad. Less easy had been the placing of a twenty pound note in the envelope. He hoped it would be money well spent.

His father had found the note half-hidden under a cushion, and Auntie Flo’s suggestion that this surprise gift should be spent at the pizzeria down the road had been too much to resist — as Clifford had known it would be. His only disappointment was that there was no one here to admire his ingenuity.

That was about to change.

He dashed upstairs to his room.

The sun was setting in a flaming sky and orange light fell across his Vallejo posters. It was the sort of Hell-colored evening which could make him believe he’d made a deal with the Devil rather than with an eccentric sorcerer named Godfrey. A fine evening for magic.

“First take one bookmole,” he said, attempting a cackle which came out more like a car with starting troubles. “One properly prepared, hungry bookmole.” Though the creature was asleep, he kept his fingers clear of its mouth as he lifted it onto the bed.

“Add a sprinkling of freshly-published third volume of a trilogy.” The book was on his bedside cabinet. Clifford flicked through the pages. “Unread, virginal,” he added with regret. Hesitating only a moment, he tossed the book in front of the creature.

“And stand well clear.”

The bookmole snapped its teeth upon the book. Even though he’d been prepared, Clifford jumped back. The gnawing and rustling of paper and Clifford’s harsh breathing were the only sounds in the room. Now for the words. Once again he gave the command, this time without hesitation. Then he sat on the edge of the bed and waited.

A shadow crossed the sun, laying flickering patterns upon the walls. But the shadow was inside the room. Clifford stiffened. The bedsheets were clenched in his fists. In front of the window the air thickened, grew dark, took the shape of a woman.

Clifford forgot to breathe.

Zondra Amazon stared at him. Her expression was not entirely one of pleasure.

As Clifford’s brain was currently feeding no words to his mouth, he lifted a hand and wiggled his fingers in a feeble wave.

“Who brought me here?” she asked. She glanced about the bedroom. Her hand was clasped upon the hilt of her sword, knuckles white with the promise of violence. “Let him give good reason, for I am sorely vexed.” Her voice was feminine, but resonated with restrained power. It thrilled Clifford right down to his adolescent toes.

He gasped and sucked in air. “Er... Clifford... it was me... I did it.” He felt a blush burn across his cheeks.

She fixed those beautiful blue-green eyes — one blue, one green — upon him. “Are you a sorcerer?”

“Yes, that’s it. A sorcerer.” Now his mouth was working without the aid of his brain. He made a mental note to kick himself later.

“Then you are indeed a mighty one.” She bowed slightly; a restrained gesture of respect. But her hand remained upon her sword. “For my ring protects me from all but the greatest.”

“Yes, I am a mighty sorcerer. Yes, indeed. Wise. Powerful. Yes, mighty is the word.” Clifford tried to maintain the grand timbre in his voice, despite the conviction that at present he sounded like an absolute idiot.

Zondra pouted with those ruby lips, those sensual, ample beauties which lately had teased and trembled through many of Clifford’s dreams and, in one particularly terrifying nightmare, had threatened to suck him to death.

He examined this woman of his dreams. Her soft yellow hair stroked across her forehead as she looked about in confusion. Tall and muscular, she was garbed in a short white linen blouse, even shorter brown leather skirt, and knee-high laced leather boots. Such style, thought Clifford, feeling slightly ashamed in his faded sweatshirt and saggy jeans.

“Tell me then, sorcerer. Why did you bring me here? You must have a purpose. All sorcerers have a purpose, even if only to antagonize a hard-working warrior. Why did you summon me?”

Ah... Now this could be difficult to explain without employing words like love or sex or others which could bring Clifford out in a rash. He stood up from the bed. “I like you.”

She nodded, as if that simple statement had explained everything, and began to loosen the laces on her blouse.

“I... No! I don’t mean like that.” Clifford waved his hand madly. “Well... yes I do.” He held his head in his hands. “I don’t know what I do... I mean think.”

Zondra stopped.

Clifford tried to keep his voice steady and his legs from shaking. “I just mean I like you. You know... like.”

Zondra twisted strands of her yellow hair in her fingers. “Are you seeking marriage?” she asked.

That threw Clifford. “Marriage could be difficult.”

“But you have powers...”

“My Mum’s powers are greater.”

“You have other plans for me then?” Her hand was again on her sword.

“Can we go back to where you unfastened your blouse?”

“You are no doubt a mighty sorcerer,” she said. “But you are also most strange.” She slipped her blouse off one shoulder.

His decision made, Clifford felt much better. For a moment then, he’d almost ruined the evening. Things were looking up. He dashed to the door and jammed the chair under the handle. His parents might be out, but he was taking no chances.

When he turned back, Zondra had gone.

The Girl with the Four-Dimensional Head

The aircar returned one hour after midnight.

Lansdown was in a foul mood after his scoop turned out to be no more than an imaginative doctor and a one year old with an accomplished line in gibberish.

Percival had driven us to the field just outside the tent. He wished us success and departed, his haste associated with the dinner-jacket he wore. In the pressurized auto, the cologne overkill had been oppressive.

Lansdown sat at the aircar controls. He grunted a welcome, then paid more attention as Madelaine slid into her seat. She fidgeted with her undersized environment suit. The tan material was stretched taut — her body appeared in a continual state of compression.

“How long till we get there?” I asked. My seat buckled me in.

Lansdown kept his gaze on Madelaine, but his words were directed at me: “We’re going to be together for three hours, so let’s be nice to each other. I won’t talk about today, and you won’t trespass in here.” He tapped his forehead with a fingertip. He didn’t look at me once. I guessed I made him nervous.

Through the front screen the stars were piercing white and close enough to touch. The aircar lifted its nose and took to the air. There was a brief pressure of acceleration, then we were high and cruising.

I turned to talk to Madelaine, but she’d put on a pair of headphones and was lost in music that I’m sure would not have been to my taste.

I gazed at the back of Lansdown’s head. His hair was grayer than last time I’d seen him. “How long have you been working for Oddities?” I said.

“Longer than you.” He didn’t look around.

I smiled. “Tell me about the Camel.”

* * *

The journey would take three hours.

I settled back and tried to exhale the tensions of the last few days. I thought about what Lansdown had told me.

Artifacts were nothing new. Barely a year went by without another being discovered beneath the arcane sands. But all had added up to zero. False alarms and hoaxes — nothing to prove Mars had ever supported more than simple mosses and bacteria. And we were heading towards the greatest artifact of all, the huge glass tunnel of forty degrees north, which present consensus had declared to be the result of an unknown geological mechanism.

The Camel was different.

The Camel was a man.

He had wandered out of the desert, impossibly naked, with no environment suit to protect him from the sun, the cold, the near-vacuum, with no air supply, and no voice. They were holding him now in a secure facility at the United Prospecting Industries base at the tunnel. The hastily-arranged plan was that Madelaine would attempt to learn about his past and present. I was there to record her emotions and to back up her story, whatever that might be — and because, when it came to pulling strings, Oddities was a master puppeteer.

I slept for a time, then awoke with my stomach attempting to displace my lungs as the aircar dropped down for landing. I’d swear there was a smirk on Lansdown’s lips.

Madelaine glanced over at me, then turned her attention to the front screen. There was puzzlement in that glance, I was certain, and later, as we took coffee with the Chief of Security in his cabin, Lansdown whispered to me that I’d been talking in my sleep. I’d been calling out one word, one name — Madelaine.

* * *

We left Lansdown playing poker with the Chief.

I followed Madelaine down the corridor and out into the darkened observation bubble to gaze into the vastness of the glass-like structure. The diameter of the tunnel was just over a kilometer and the observation bubble perched unnervingly on a makeshift balcony halfway up the side wall. The sun would not rise to illuminate the walls for two hours. For now, the tunnel’s shape could be discerned only from the ghostly green latticework of ricocheting survey-lasers.

“It’s the most stunning building I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“It’s not a building,” I reminded her. I found myself less in awe of the alien structure and more captivated by Madelaine’s profile, silhouetted against the pearl light of a bioglobe hung outside the bubble wall.

She was still for some time. Her eyes scanned the tunnel again and again.

Then she turned to look at me. “Can you hear the voices... the whispering of ghosts?”

“Cute... but sorry. No voices for me. Although I know what you mean.”

“Where does this tunnel go? Has anyone followed it?”

“No more than five kilometers. And it goes deep. It gives me the creeps just to think about it.”

“I would have thought you were familiar with distressing situations.”

“That’s people. I can deal with people.”

Her gaze had returned to the tunnel.

Nothing moved out there. The workers were in bed — a good, sensible place to be, I considered, as I hadn’t seen a bed for thirty-six hours.

“I love silence,” she said. “When I started school, I was already two heads taller than any of the other girls — and they didn’t let me forget it.”

I wasn’t sure why she wanted to share this with me, but I was glad we seemed to be over our initial difficulties. “I used to cry a lot in school,” I said. “I think I was picking up even then. I don’t think they were always my emotions.”

“They called me all sorts of names,” she said. “I used to press my hands to my ears. I preferred to hear nothing than to hear those names. I learned to treasure silence.”

“Kids can be cruel.”

“I used to hide in the greenhouse in the vegetable garden.”

“And that’s how you grew even taller.”

She smiled. “I felt safer behind glass. Me this side... them, everyone, on the other.”

“You’re not behind glass now.”

She pressed a fingertip into the observation bubble. The flexible wall funneled around her finger. “No...” She laughed gently. “It’s plastic.”

She brushed strands of hair from her eyes. She was gazing down at my face. I’d never seen her look so comfortable. Maybe she was getting used to me.

I had a sudden urge to touch her, and my hand reached out for hers.

She snapped her hand out of my grip, but that moment’s touch triggered dormant memories. As a teenager, I’d dreamed of Madelaine, the mystery woman of my adolescent imagination, my dreams — the result of her time-skip across my life.

“You’ve done things to me,” I said. “In my head. Your intrusion...”

“ a fact you’re going to have to deal with.” She moved to leave the bubble. I shifted to block her exit.

I stared up at her. She glared back without flinching.

“You really messed me up,” I said. “You planted a seed of intimacy just sufficient to play havoc with a teenage boy’s emotions.” Relationships had never worked out. I was always dissatisfied, no doubt because no-one could measure up to Madelaine. “Ridiculous as it may seem, I feel closer to you than I’ve ever been to anyone. I think you understand what I’m saying.”

“I understand nothing. Now I’d like to leave.”

“You’re running again... still behind that glass, still hiding from the rest of us.”

I had a vision of her then, a solitary Goddess encased in a crystal column, secure as a statue, hands clamped to her ears to shut out the roar of the world.

“You’re not the only one who doesn’t like people much,” she said.

She was even more messed up than me.


Copyright © 2008 by Colin P. Davies

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Monday, 5 May 2008
Visiting With Colin Davis
Topic: Blog Tours

For the next few days, we will be visiting with author Colin Davis and exploring his book of short stories, Tall Tales on the Iron Horse. Please stop by and read an excerpt, enjoy my interview and drop Mr. Davis a comment.  His website is

Colin P. Davies is a Building Surveyor from Liverpool, England, and has been writing fiction since the mid '80s. Most recently his stories have appeared in Bewildering Stories, Spectrum SF, 3SF, Paradox, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Asimov's.


His stories have met with a good response, making the Locus Recommended Reading List and the British Science Fiction Association Award nominations, as well as gaining two Honorable Mentions in The Year's Best SF. His story "The Defenders" was in The Year's Best SF #22, edited by Gardner Dozois.


Colin has now completed his first novel, The Bookmole, a comic fantasy for Young Adults based upon his short story "Clifford and the Bookmole," and is currently working on his second novel, Pestworld.



Tall Tales on the Iron Horse... Take a ride on the rails of fantasy as you journey to Titan inside the bowels of the Iron Horse. Witness a terrifying and deadly new game and meet a monster who will love you to death. Spend a little time with alien tourists, visit a real cardboard character, and dine in a restaurant where the food is expensive, but life is cheap.


Inventive and original, heartfelt and just plain funny, you will find nineteen fresh and surprising stories (including three new, never-before published) awaiting you in the first collection of short fiction from Colin P. Davies.

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