Virtual raceday went really well, thanks to a horse called Brian the Snail that came in as a long-odds third and meant we almost broke even at the virtual bookies. Now we’re fighting the heat and becoming addicted to weather apps. “Oh look! There’s lightning five miles to the north-east!”
I haven’t shared any writing updates for a while, so here we go. I’ve got two projects on the go at present, one of which is the next Cambridge Fellows novella. That’s just begun to appear on the page almost from nowhere (I always say it’s like Jonty and Orlando are simply telling me their memoirs and I’m their amanuensis.) The other work in progress – and much more progressed – is the next Toby/Alasdair mystery, which was supposed to be about poison-pen letters, but which has acquired a mass murderer. That sound is my eyes rolling at my characters.
I’ve been featuring the “Secret Life of Mrs Beeton” here (a tale of everyday pastry cooks and spies) and have now uploaded the whole thing to my free stories page.
Free story – Wolves of the West
Wolves of the West started life as a story in the anthology Queerwolf. Now, in my writing career I’ve seen a number of publishers come and go and the Queerwolf publisher went. Wolves had a life with another publisher then was a newsletter freebie with a third one! Those poor werewolves must be dizzy by now.
They’re now en route to their ultimate resting place, which is the free story page of my website, of course. But first, they’re all, exclusively, yours.
Night of the full moon
“Heathens.” George O’Driscoll leaned on the balcony rail, observing with barely disguised disdain the tourist masses, their heads bent over cases or their faces staring up at tiny dinosaur skulls on huge dinosaur necks.
“They pay your salary.” Rory Carter’s chirpy voice—perpetually chirpy except at times of high passion or drama—sounded over his shoulder.
“Not any more since we’ve waived the admission fee. It’s all grants or sponsorship and such nonsense now, or so I understand.” George’s face indicated that he might not know what he was talking about. “And I suspect the people who dole out the funding are as heathen as this mob. Wouldn’t know a plesiosaur from a plasmid.”
“But they’re here to learn, George.” The voice of reason spoke again. “Perhaps they’ll have more of an idea when they go home. Grant them that.” Rory surreptitiously drew his finger along the back of his friend’s hand. “Still smooth. The crowds you so despise will be long gone, at home loading the microwave with Sainsbury’s meals, by the time the fun begins.”
The chairman rapped the table with his gavel. “I bring this meeting of the Western Lycanthropes to order.”
Anyone observing the handsome, studious faces around the table would have felt there was no apparent disorder to deal with. The only indications that this wasn’t some dry, academic departmental meeting came from the occasional, anxious glances which the participants cast at the windows, where a bank of clouds obscured the night sky. That and the fact that their clothes were neatly piled behind their chairs, ready to be claimed the next day.
“Gentlemen, we begin with a paper on the Red wolf, Canis lupus rufus.”
Rory’s mind began to wander. He’d heard many a paper—scientific, historical, literary—over the years, as the committee had sat waiting for the leaden English skies to clear. This one didn’t enthuse him. Not like the occasion when someone had presented a forceful—if only in the presenter’s eyes—case that Esau had indeed been one of their brethren, which would explain the hairiness. A thesis countered by another member who’d sworn blind that Esau had been a Neanderthal. Harsh words and blows had ensued, turning to snarls and bites as the moon had broached the clouds. Things rarely got that exciting.
Well, Rory reflected, casting a surreptitious glance around the room, we’re hardly an exciting bunch. Most of his associates worked in museums or universities, although one particularly enterprising lad had secured a job behind the meat counter at Harrods. That was one way of mixing business and pleasure. Given that those present shared more than just the tendency to be influenced by the full moon, it might have seemed surprising that none of them were employed in the entertainment industry. Yet, while it would be easy to hide your sexual inclinations in a profession awash with the gay and eccentric, how could you take the stage as Romeo if the lunar calendar didn’t work out? You might find yourself appearing as Chewbacca.
“Long term analysis of mitochondrial DNA…” the speaker droned on.
Rory looked out at the dark, lowering sky; not even the brightest moon could penetrate that yet. There’d be plenty of wet commuters, scurrying home under hats and umbrellas. Still, a community of like-minded—or like-skinned—people could find worse places to live or work. If only the little patisserie sold pain au pate de fois gras or the French ice cream shop produced a monthly batch of chicken and raspberry ripple, it might be well-nigh ideal. There was also the positive advantage that when the full moon coincided with a Chelsea home game, you could travel freely and no-one noticed the difference.
Whether local house prices would be quite so buoyant if anyone realized how many of the flats off the main road were occupied by those of a lycanthropic inclination, was unlikely. There would always be the worry that, no matter how well-bred these creatures were, they might frighten the au pair, who’d head back to Croatia, or wherever, leaving no-one to look after little Georgina.
At least their sexual orientation would be less of an issue, its significance reducing as you got further west, where the rainbow flags flew proudly. There was another community of similarly inclined—in both senses—gentlemen in Sussex, who benefited from the same open-mindedness of their neighbours, although no-one was sure what the reaction would be should these men take to Brighton beach in all their hirsute glory. Maybe the little old ladies would just think someone was exercising a pack of particularly shaggy greyhounds. Anyway, the Wolves of the West regarded their southern brethren with disdain, convinced they were common, plebeian and too fond of fish and chips.
Download the rest from here
And finally – not the Savannah, but sunset over the hawk conservancy last weekend. Ain’t vultures pretty?