CONTEST WINNER – A Boy for Master Tallis by C J Lewis

A short story set in Tudor England that I enjoyed very much and want to share with you all.

A Tudor Writing Circle

Today is the day! I’m happy to share with you the winning submission for the ATWC writing contest! Out of all the stories, this is the one that intrigued me the most. Congratulations to CJ Lewis, you’ve won yourself a copy of Apricots and Wolfsbane by K. M. Pohlkamp!

A Boy for Master Tallis

“A message from the Queen, my lord!”

Thomas Tallis, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, lost his tenuous hold on the tune in his head, spilt his ink and swore under his breath. “Thank you, Ned. Now, fetch me some fresh sand, will you?”

The boy returned a moment later and handed the new, fine sand over to his master along with a letter bearing the Queen’s seal. “Did you spill ink on your new song, my lord?”

Thomas looked at the boy. He should be angry with him, but he could not. He was…

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“Mlle Duchamps”….with a warning about theme.

A short story written by a poet who is also a loyal follower of this site. Read and enjoy – but heed her warning before you start.

Lady Nyo's Weblog

Image result for young 18th century women

I am putting together a collection of short stories for publication next year.  This is one of them.  I had wanted to post this around Halloween, but missed the date.  Don’t read if you are perturbed by vampires or lesbianism.

Lady Nyo

Many years ago there was an elderly gentleman who lived  with his invalid daughter Marie, in the Vercors region of France, near the Swiss Alps. Comte d’Epinay was impoverished, due to the death of so many relatives by Madame Guillotine, and the taxation upon those of the aristocracy who managed to keep their heads.

For a while, Comte d’Epinay was addressed as “Citizen d’Epinay”, but the country folk reverted to M d’Epinay, and an uneasy peace existed.  M d’Epinay lived without the luxuries of his youth in a decaying house, too small to be considered a chateau and too large for economy.  The roofs leaked, the fireplaces…

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Some Short Stories from the Highlands

First an individual writer I found while surfing away an idle moment: Fiona Lang, who lives “in a little cottage with a fine view across the Cromarty Firth”. You can read three stunning short stories of hers HERE.

I think my favourite is We Might Be Lucky, but all three bear the mark of the same artist who can create in less than 500 words a character and a setting that is quite unforgettable.


Cromarty and Cromarty Firth
Cromarty and the Cromarty Firth

And while we’re visiting the Highlands, can I draw your attention to the site of HISSAC, the Highlands & Islands Short Story Association? More amazing stories – you might like to start with this one, First and Last by David Ford. These people are geniuses at painting a picture, creating an atmosphere: in this case, a town, a pub, a drinker. This story reminded me of the 12th-century Archpoet’s

Meum est propositum in taberna mori,
ut sint vina proxima morientis ori.
tunc cantabunt letius angelorum chori:
“Sit Deus propitius huic potatori

(My purpose is to die in a tavern,
so that wine might be close to my dying mouth.
Then a choir of angels will happily sing,
“May God be merciful toward this drinker.”

But where the Archpoet looks at death in a tavern through rose-tinted spectacles, the fitting end to a happy life, David Ford sees it all, the life and the death, through a sheet of cold grey drizzle. The last line of the poem, though,  “May God be merciful toward this drinker,” applies just the same.

You can find it, and some other great short stories HERE.

A SEASONING OF LUST by Jane Kohut-Bartels (Review)

Seasoning of Lust coverA little book of erotica that came my way, left behind by a visitor actually, and though I try to return books lent to me I don’t feel I need to return this little gem to him. In fact he may have left it on my bedside table intentionally: there are things in here that every woman should ponder, and, if the cap fits (so to speak) take to heart;  and things that any man with imagination will thrill to.

It is a book of “very short stories” and “very short poems”, miniature masterpieces, many of them set in the world of the professionally beautiful and submissive geisha, a work of art in herself, there only to give pleasure.

Not a world we know, most of us, here in the West, though I have had some experience (some experiences) of it – that world, the East – on my travels and during my stays in India and Burma (yes, I know, Myanmar) and Thailand. But I have never been to China or Japan, and now perhaps never will. Being one for Tibet and for freedom I have no wish to visit imperialist China, and the Japanese men I have known have put me right off working there.

However, if anyone could make me change my mind, it would be Jane. I love nearly everything in this book.

Among my favourites are the 200-odd-word story Bad Karma.

“Who is coming?” she said as Midori painted her eyebrows high on her forehead.
“So sorry, but it’s Tanaka-san today.”
Bao’s eyes widened. “Aiiieee! He likes things pushed in odd places!”
“Just do as he wants. We’ll have rice balls later.”
Tanaka-san’s karma was to be short-shafted and have peculiar desires. Bao mourned her own karma.

And Ali Baba And His Four Thieves, where we get something different: belly-dancing. Jane is a belly-dancer (another thing we share) and the belly-dancer here is a silly western girl who is asking for it, and gets it. I found that of all the girls in the book, I couldn’t help identifying most fully with her! (Very embarrassing, but I’m being honest.)

Then there is the Shibari series of thirteen exquisite miniatures. “Shibari”? Synonymous with “Kinbaku-bi”, which apparently means ‘the beauty of tight binding’. (Was this why he left it by my bed?)

And the Haiku. Listen to this:

The glance at a wrist
White, the pulse of a river
Tiny beat of life

And the Tankas:

The morning wren sings,
I stand in the moonlit dawn
kimono wrapped tight.
Last night I made my peace
now free from all attachments.

The collection finishes with three slightly longer stories, two, both unforgettable, set in France, and the third – my favourite, because so original, so surprising – set in Venice. It is called La Vendetta and tells of the spoilt Signora Maria de Guiseppa Agnesi Faini; her husband, Signor Faini; her lover, Alfredo, “an officer, a dashing lieutenant, now on maneuvers somewhere across the Alps”; and her “friend” – Signor Alessandro Balsamo was her friend. Actually he was her cisebo, tolerated by her husband because Signor Balsamo was a castrato. He had been cut when only a young boy (“Viva il coltello![Long live the knife!] the audience yelled when he appeared on the stage) and sang until his voice disappeared.

But now the castrato is growing old and can be treated with contempt. … Or can he?

To be dipped into, then, rather than read straight through. You’ll love it too, I’m sure.

PROLE Issue 2

I didn’t know anything about this new short story and poetry magazine, nothing to make me buy it, so I suppose it must have been the name and the cover image. PROLE – from proletarian? And the photo – surely that must be a brothel? There is already a story there – the man calling, the woman answering, the other girl, listening, amused.

Within, unfortunately, there is no story quite like that. There is, though, one called The Shill, by Keith Laufenberg, which comes very close, the story of a girl like many I have known, a loser with the looks of a femme fatale, and the man whose path crosses hers, once, twice, quite as much a loser as she is and equally lovable in his way. A great story. I wasn’t much impressed by any of the others, though.

That said, however, several of the poems did impress me. Robert Nisbet’s Fat Girl could have been written by Elizabeth Bartlett, a great favourite of mine. How about this line? “The catwalks teem with skinny tarts.” Birthdays, too, by Gill Learner, has that same Elizabeth Bartlett ring. Looking back [yes, believe it!] “One hundred was the worst – all that sidelong speculation: Will she last till then? … How soon before the date can we be sure she’ll make it?” I also liked the two roundels by James Nash, a poem called Peter, by Emma Simon: “What galls me is you said it would be so.” And Peter Branson’s The Statue, a strangely evocative sonnet borrowing the theme from The Winter’s Tale. And some of the Sixteen (rhymed, four-line, pseudo-Roman) Graffiti by Brian Fone: for instance – from Politics:

Martius demands that more troops should be raised;
more legionaries sent to fight in the East.
What matters as long as his statesmanship’s praised
and while they die, he can revel and feast?

Or, from Personalities:

Lascivia’s young bosom swells fully with pride;
as all goes well with her long held plan.
Though not yet old enough to be a bride
she has finally had her twenty-first man.

Well worth the price. (Oh, you can get it here.)