Sorry, I’m easily overwhelmed

Time slips by – one day it’s Wednesday and you’re walking to work. Your heart is thumping because the day before, everything seemed to go sideways. You haven’t been happy in your job for a while. The new bosses are young, dynamic, and have made sure that you feel like a dinosaur ever single day. Your way of doing things is not their way, and of course you try to adapt. It is their office now, their work, and you are just a thorn in their side, despite your efforts. Things have come to a head, and you have managed to negotiate an end to your contract, to your advantage no less, but their has been too much shouting, too much recrimination – you’ve kept your head down too long and you feel beaten into the ground. But it is the last day at work, so you go – you’ve helped train the two new women hired to replace you, and through the last month, you’ve tried to keep the atmosphere light so that the patients don’t notice. You smile, smile, smile… even though you feel like just getting up and walking out. But you are anything but a quitter. So you stay, and finally, it’s the last day.

I suppose I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. I did the same job for 12 years, but the last year has been difficult, and I just couldn’t find the energy to write. I didn’t realize that creativity depletes you, just like stress, and worry, and illness. When I stopped my job, end of December 2022, I spent a week just sleeping; then I started to paint. Drawings and paintings flowed out of me, and I managed to pull myself together more and more. Now, words are coming back, and with them, stories.

But it’s made me wonder about the myth of the starving artist. Yes, there are artists and authors who have managed to paint and write under horrific strain – but how many more talented people are slogging through life in exhausting jobs, cominng home too tired to imagine for an instant sitting down to write or paint? How much creativity is out there just waiting to shine – but crushed under teh weight of depression? If I, (an entitled, spoiled woman who had a job she mostly liked, a warm home and supportive family and friends, healthy children, and enough to eat) found it nearly impossible to be creative while I held down a full time job, than how many people who truly have problems are being stifled? It frustrates me to think of all the books, art, music, dancing, and beauty we are missing because people are being ground down by our unfair economic system.

Of course, now some people will be muttering “socialist dreamer”, “commie utopist”, “woke wanker” (OK, I made that last one up, but it’s true that as soon as someone starts suggesting that our current system might be horribly unfair, there are those who think that that person is out to empty their bank accounts and give it all to drug addicts and slackers.) But it’s not that. I would like to find a way to have a shorter work week – shorter hours even – higher wages, better healthcare insurance, more parks and gardens, more trees, better public transportation, and more affordable and comfortable housing. Seriously – is this too much to ask? Instead, they (They – the conglomerats that rule us) are pushing our retirement age back, threatening social security benefits, and ignoring global warming. While the solution is as simple as this: tax the rich fairly. Yes, that simply means Tax corporations and levy a 50% death tax on anything over 200k. (in the US, the exemption cutoff is now 12 million – wrap your heads around that…) Tax capital gains. Invest in education, not arms. The list is long, and oh so easy to imagine – and completely inoffensive to anyone in the middle class income bracket. Well, as long as I’m dreaming – how about a fairy godmother for everyone, with a magic wand that will do nothing more than smack some sense into people who think that we’re all out for their guns.

Oh dear – I see my post about creativity and the sense of feeling overwhelmed has turned into a political rant. I suppose I ought to go drink some herbal tea and get ready for my meeting at the unemployment office to try and find a new job before I become too creative and do something drastic, like vote for Bernie Sanders (I would) or join the protests in the streets against raising the retirement age (I want to).

Until then, I will go back to my painting, which should be dry by now, to add the details. And so I shall- and wish everyone a stress-free, creative day.

Sounds for sleep

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

Alexa, open sounds for sleep.

I can open Sounds for Sleep. What would you like to hear? I can –

Play rainstorm

Would you like to hear today’s weather? There is a rainstorm predicted –

No, play Sounds for Sleep Rainstorm.

I can play Sounds for Sleep. What do you want to hear?


I don’t know that one. Do you mean FarawayTrain?

No, I mean rainstorm. Rain. Storm.

I don’t know that one. Do you mean Waterfalls?

No, I mean… oh, forget it. Sure. Why not. Alexa, play Waterfalls.

I don’t know that one. Do you mean Rainstorm?

Thanks to Rochelle for hosting Friday Fictioneers 

Two grandchildren

I felt as if I’d found myself when my children were born. They gave me confidence because suddenly I had someone else besides “me” to look out for. I was never very good about looking after myself, but I felt strong and fierce with my babies. When my grandchildren were born, it was another sort of emotion. When I held them – looking back and forth between the child in my arms and the grown-up person (who used to be my baby!) in front of me – it was as if I could feel all the weight of my years, but also the weight of my parents and grandparents behind me. It made me realize that I’d lost a little of my identity when my children were born, but I gave it up gladly. It felt constructive, as if I were building something, but I didn’t quite know what it would be. What I didn’t realize then was that I was forging a chain.

My mother in law died last week. She was 93, and fell and broke her hip. Less than six days later, she died of pneumonia. Although she had been old, she had been in good health until then, so it was a shock when she died. When we gathered for her funeral in a small chapel, and I saw her in her coffin, it was another shock. She’d always been so energetic, even in the last years of her life when she could hardly get out of bed. But she’d lived alone, with part – time caretakers, and had mostly kept her wit. My husband went to see her every other day, and a month before she passed on, my son stopped by to present her great-grandchild to her and she had been thrilled. Her other great-grandchild was at her funeral, making three generations of mourners. We told some stories, recited a poem, and shed some tears. It’s hard to say goodbye.

Perhaps were are nothing in this world; we pass through it like shooting stars – trees last longer, the oceans are eternal – but we are just flashes of light. Last week we said goodbye to a vibrant, funny, energetic woman, whose life had been full of both glamour and regrets. She would have liked to have lived in the south of France, she told me one day – with plenty of sunshine, near the ocean, in a village where her dream had been to run a little shop. But she was one of those people who live very much in the present, and her interests were centered firmly around her children.

I look at my two new grandchildren, and I wish them all the best. I wish that their lives be full of joy, peace, and prosperity. I am glad they are links in the chain that is my family – but ultimately, that they are part of the web that is humanity.

Plus ça change…

It seems we’re living in a sort of bad TV series made of reruns being dubbbed in different languages and played by different actors – but with the same plot.

Let’s go back to the invasion of Iraq by the Americans.

Bush said “We’re liberating a country from a tyrant – We are protecting our country – It’s a question of national security – Iraq has nuclear weapons”.

Sound familiar? Putin took a page from the American playbook to stage his own invasion and is misleading his people with fake news about the invasion. What happened to the US? Nothing – except it nearly crippled the economy, created a whole new slew of terrorists, and it dragged on for 20 years. TWENTY YEARS. The difference here is that there are talks of “Sanctions” (which no one was brave enough to inflict on the US – I call that “the power of MacDonalds”) and which Putin shrugs off with his usual blank stare.

Putin wants something, and he learned from Bush that if you have enough tanks and money you can bulldoze your way into any country. He has the gas reserves to keep his people warm in the winter, and he made sure that Europe was dependent on them these past 20 years by consolidating the gas lines. He’s got his weathy (obscenely wealthy) enablers all over the world, with bank accounts all over the world (thank you The Guardian for leaking the Swiss Bank papers just before the invasion…) and he does not care about his people, he cares about some sort of illusion of an Imperial Russia; but Russia is not the US. The Russian economy is not particularly robust, and Putin wants China and India to take his side. China, as usual, is waffling. It’s not in a particularly good position either – its economy is based on trade, and a complete boycott by Europe and the US would be disastrous. China wants Taiwan and Thailand – so it’s looking closely at this war to see how Russia fares. If Russia succeeds in annexing the Ukraine, China will attack. If Russia fails, China will most likely realign with the US and Europe. India is in the same position as China – it wants to remove the thorn that is Pakistan from its side.

As I type this, there is talk of removing Russia fromm SWIFT. I’m not sure that would do as much damage as people think – China has its own SWIFT platform and Russia will just switch over to that. I’m all for punishing Putin and his cronies, but the Russian people should not be punished. They are like the Americans when Bush invaded Iraq – misinformed, misguided, and many of them are against this war.

I don’t have a crystal ball (well, actually I do) and I can’t see what will happen. But if the past has any bearing on the present, then Putin has just sunk his country in a long, unwinnable war. Putin does not care. He has more money than practically anyone on earth. If we want to stop the war, we have to find his stash and completely remove it. He needs to have a real worry – and taking his wealth away will hurt him more than actually losing this war. What if, when the US had invaded Iraq, the other countries around the world had suddenly grown backbones and put a stop to it by cutting the US off from SWIFT? It would have caused a lot of short term havoc, but it would have saved countless lives, and contributed to a more stable world order. Now any lunatic with an army thinks that invading another country is PERMISSABLE. We should have stopped the US 20 years ago. We have no choice but to stop Putin Now.

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England  by Carol McGrath

 Today, I welcome fellow Headline Accent author, Carol McGrath, to my blog! 

Carol writes wonderful historical fiction, but today she’s here to talk about her newest nonfiction book, published by Pen and Sword History,  Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England 

A Visit to a Tudor Stew

What might you discover if you time-travelled to a Tudor brothel?

During the early modern period ordinary English attitudes to sensuality were probably freer than in many other parts of Europe. Foreign visitors to England from the late fifteenth century to the eighteenth century noted how persons of different sexes greeted each other with a kiss on the lips. The scholar Erasmus found it an attractive custom: ‘Wherever you come, you are received with a kiss by all; when you take your leave, you are dismissed with kisses; you return, kisses are repeated. They come to visit you, kisses again; they leave you, you kiss them all around. Should they meet you anywhere, kisses in abundance; wherever you move, there is nothing but kisses.

Tudor society had double standards. Any sexual positions other than the missionary position with the man on top and woman beneath were rejected as other positions might incite lust.  Any approach from behind was condemned because it suggested man was imitating the behaviour of animals. Any position with the woman on top was frowned upon as it inverted sex roles making the woman the dominant partner. Also, the Tudors believed, it reduced the possibility of conception. Use of unnatural orifices such as the mouth or anus and contraceptive notions such as coitus interruptus or the newly invented Venus glove (a crude early condom) was forbidden.

These rules were most likely bent in the stews, the name given to brothels of the time. Sex has always been traded and attitudes to selling sex has always been in flux. Patriarchal and puritanical stances developed in the West by the sixteenth century. For example, in Augsburg after 1508, cockatrices, the euphemism attached to prostitutes, had their noses cut off if they were found soliciting on Holy Days.

It is difficult to research the details of sexual practices within brothels during this period as there is no unbiased testimony of everyday people. We know the opinions of doctors and moralists, but, to my knowledge, we do not have sources representing the voices of sex workers themselves from the early sixteenth century.

Scene from a Tudor bathhouse

To cast back in time, during the thirteenth century sex was at the heart of a good deal of public bathing. In fact, sex and bathing were so closely related that phrases such as ‘lather up’ became sixteenth-century expressions for ejaculation. The medieval word for a brothel was a stew which derives from bathhouses. William Langham’s Garden of Health of 1579 recommends adding rosemary to a bath: ‘Seethe much rosemary and bathe therein to make thee lusty, lively, joyful, liking and youngly.’ Musk harvested from the glands of a civet cat became a luxury item in the stews, along with castor from the anal glands of a beaver and ambergris (which is whale vomit). Lavender was frequently associated with illicit Tudor sex, and prostitutes often smelled of it.Women in bathhouses used homemade, and often dangerous, dilapidory creams. Whores plucked their eyebrows. An abundance of pubic hair, on the other hand, was a sign of youth, health and sexual vitality. However, pubic lice could only be eliminated by shaving and this is where the merkin emerges. A merkin was a pubic hair wig which first appeared in 1450, according to the Oxford Companion to the Body. A well-thatched prostitute might be more desirable than a shaved one. Equally, a merkin might be looked upon as signifying disease, concealing the effects of mercury used to treat syphilis. It could, of course, be titillating if tied in place with a silky fine ribbon. 

The stews of Southwark were where you might find the most notorious brothels of Tudor London, situated between Maiden Lane and Bankside, close to arenas for bull and bear baiting. They gained their name from the ‘stew ponds’ where the Bishop of Winchester bred his fish (estuwes also was the name of the stove used to heat water for the bathhouses). Southwark was outside the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor of London and under rent control of the Bishopric of Winchester. During the Reformation the Catholic bishop’s lands passed to the new Anglican Bishop of Winchester. Ironically, the Catholic bishop Stephen Gardiner cemented his relationship with the King by providing him with Winchester geese. This was the name given to Southwark prostitutes, which derives from the bishop’s association with prostitutes.

The stews were closed for a while by King Henry VII in to halt the rising levels of syphilis. The thousands of prostitutes who were evicted from the brothels had no choice but to ply their trade in the streets. A year later, though, they were reopened. On 13 April 1546 his son Henry VIII shut down the Southwark stews again, issuing a royal proclamation forcing the closure of all houses of prostitution in England. This did not end prostitution. In fact, it increased the practice within the City when the ladies moved over the river from Southwark into ale houses or other premises used for purposes other than selling sex.

A map showing the stews of Southwark

Single women working in the stews were forbidden the rites of the Church so long as they continued their sinful life. They were excluded from Christian burial if they were not reconciled before their death. A plot of ground called the Single Woman’s Churchyard was appointed for them. John Stow writing in the Elizabethan era describes the Bishop of Winchester’s house in Southwark as ‘a fair house, well repaired, and hath a large wharf and landing place called The Bishop’s Stairs.’ Interested merchants and nobleman must have landed close by, ferried over the Thames, to visit the stews.

Carol McGrath

Following a first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in English from University of London. The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAS in 2014. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister complete this highly acclaimed trilogy. Mistress Cromwell, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman, Thomas Cromwell, was republished by Headline in 2020. The Silken Rose, first in a Medieval She-Wolf Queens Trilogy, featuring Ailenor of Provence, saw publication in April 2020. This was followed by The Damask RoseThe Stone Rose will be published April 2022. Carol is writing Historical non-fiction as well as fiction. Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England will be published in February 2022. Carol lives in Oxfordshire with her husband. Find Carol on her website:

Follow her on amazon and on Twitter @CarolMcGrath 

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Buy Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England 

The Christmas Pageant

Christmas is a mixed bag with me – it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. We Catholics anticipate Christmas all the year. While Easter is a downer (the King is dead, long live the King…) Christmas is all about a babe in a manger, shepherds guarding their sheep, three kings bearing gifts, a poor man, a donkey, and the Virgin Mary. As a little kid, I had fantasies about being the Virgin Mary. She was so kind and accepting, so solemn and calm. In none of the statues or paintings or drawings of her, does she have any expression except tranquility. (Lightyears away from my character – but there you go – we all want what we can’t have.) I imagined myself as Mary during the Christmas pageant – after all, our church had a Christmas pageant, right? Not at first – they didn’t even sing at first; this was the hard, Puritan, New England Catholic church, built of invincible gray granite, no fancy trim, not even any singing or choir. But that year, a new priest declared it “the year of the pageant” and it included all the kids in Sunday school, even me, even though I’d been kicked out. But I had dispensation because as a Catholic child, I – along with a handful of other Catholic children going to the local public school – was bussed to the church on Wednesday afternoons (missing study hour) to confess and save my mortal soul. So I was excited. For the first time ever, I would try out for the part of the Virgin Mary.

On the day of the try outs, it became obvious the the words ‘try outs’ were misleading. We arrived, stood in line, and the priest and his accolytes moved down the line pointing. To the boys it went:  “King, angel, shepherd, king, Joseph, shepherd, king, cow, donkey.”  To the girls it was: “Angel, angel, angel, Mary, angel, angel, sheep, sheep, sheep.” 

I felt sorry for the cow and donkey – then I was declared a sheep. I wasn’t even an angel. I would have nothing but ‘baaaa’ to say and wear a white fluffly sweater, a knit hat with ears, and sit quietly in the background imitating a sheep. The animals were taken to a small room for our costume fitting (the cow was a brown coat, a hat vaguely reminiscent of a Viking helmet, and a cowbell. The donkey was a gray blanket and a paper mâché head with huge doney ears made out of cardboard. The sheep were, as I said, white fluffy sweaters and knit caps with little ears. It soon became obvious that the animal kingdom included the trouble-makers. The new priest must have been informed by the sisters which of us were best left in the background. But this cowed us – including the cow. We were oddly silent as we sat on our folding chairs, our costumes on our laps. Each of us had secretly been hoping for the starring role – Mary, Joseph or a king, or even better, an angel (who wouldn’t want a pair of wings and a supercilious expression to wear?)

We spent the remaining half hour plotting ways to increase our visibility with the crowd – the donkey considered ways of moving its ears (and maybe taking a shit – I won’t lie – we were the Sunday school dropouts) and the cow and sheep all just sat and sulked. And then one of the nuns poked her head in the door and said the bus was here, to leave our costumes on our chairs, and to remember that we had to come to each rehersal, because if one of the main characters or angels (God forbid) got sick, we would have the honor of replacing them.  Is it unchristian to wish the angels catch the flu?

I longed to resemble the Virgin Mary. I loved her blue robes, her narrow hands, her smooth face devoid of expression. Not a line, not a wrinkle marred that perfect brow. She was the original botox beauty.

The girl chosen to portray the Virgin Mary was a lovely girl with long, dark brown hair and perfect manners. She was also head of the class, her father was a doctor, and I used to copy all her papers when I was in first grade, so she stayed as far away from me as possible. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t count all the fish in the bowl and circle the number ‘4’ – it was just that I’d daydream so much that the teacher would call time before I’d even started. So I’d peer at this girl’s paper and quick copy all the numbers, knowing she had carefully counted and gotten everything just perfect. Since I had the conviction that these worksheets were just a way to keep us quiet while the teacher read her Reader’s Digest in peace, I had no qualms…until I got caught. When I got caught, the teacher made me admit what I’d done in front of the class, then apologise to the girl whose paper I’d copied, which convinced her I was most likely a serial killer in training. It didn’t help that she’d been in her father’s office the day my mother had brought me in with an ear-ache. The doctor took one look at my ear and reached for his syringue. “A shot of antibiotics will clear that right up”, he said. I was off the table and out of the window like a shot, dashing across the porch, leaping down the steps, and sprinting across the lawn, screaming that he’d have to catch me first.

So, the first day of rehersal, the Virgin Mary took one look at me, dressed in my sheep costume, and visibly paled. “She can’t sit behind me,” she said to the Sister. The Sister, who knew me, nodded and put me on the other side of the stage, nearest the donkey and the Shepherd with a crook (Hit her if she moves an inch), next to the far wall, and under the spotlight (it wasn’t shining on me, but I looked up, and there it was – the spotlight that represented the The Star of Bethlehem). That first day of rehersal, everyone was handed their lines (except the animals. We had no lines to speak. According to the Catholic church, animals don’t even have souls, so believe me when I say that we sheep, ass, and cow were the lowest of the low on the pageant ladder.) We were expected to sit quietly, nodding our heads was the most we were permitted to do – and not a sound should we make. I was a sheep. It wasn’t that bad – a little hot, a little itchy, but bearable. The cow rested his head on his hands and dozed, and the donkey, hidden behind his paper-mache mask, was unscrutable. But before he’d put on his mask, I’d seen he’d sported a bruise on his face. I sidled up to him and poked him with my foot. “What happened?” I whispered. He swung his head sideways and shrugged. “When my dad heard I was to be the ass for the pageant, he got mad.”

I knew his father. They were our closest neighbors. The five kids lived in an old house just down the dirt road from us. They had chickens in the backyard, and an old washer-wringer. The children helped their mother cook and clean. The father worked all day, and came home, and when he came home, he terrified his family. Sometimes I’d be over there playing when the car drove up. When that happened, the board game was shoved under the couch, the kids all leapt up and ran to their rooms, and I hied out the back door, across their back garden, and headed home before he saw me. The mother regularly sported a black eye or split lip. The kids were often limping or holding sore arms. That family was a reminder that, no matter how bad things were – they could always be worse.

The pageant was to take place during regular Sunday service, and if everything went well, for midnight mass. The priest was giving us a test – and of course, I failed. It was my fault. The Star of Bethlehem, like I said before, was a spotlight. I was sitting next to the wall it hung upon. The wire ran down the wall, and the plug was within reach. Just as the shepherd started talking about the star, I reached over and unplugged it. Then I looked up and gave my best “Baaaaaa”. Inspired, I added, “Baaaaad sheep.”

Someone tittered in the congregation. The priest glared at me. The shepherd nearest me pushed me aside and plugged in the light. Plugging it in and out must have strained the bulb, because it popped – with a huge “Bang” and a shower of sparks.

The donkey, cow, and sheep exited stage left, while the shepherds, angels, and three kings ran to the right. Joseph and the Virgin Mary ducked under the pulpit, and a huge spark landed in the manger, where a doll, dressed in swaddling clothes, lay in the straw. The straw caught fire.

And that was the end of the Christmas pageant. That was the end of my career as a sheep. That was the end, actually, of my trips on the bus to the church on Wednesdays, as the priest told me there wasn’t any use of me confessing anymore. And anyhow, two months later, we moved (again- I was always moving) and I never saw that school, bus, or church again.

But be of good cheer. Years later – years and years later, my 3 yr old son had an earache. We were visiting friends, and they sent us to the nearest clinic. At the clinic, the doctor who took care of my son looked at me and frowned. Then he started to smile. “Remember me?” he asked. “I was the ass in the Christmas pageant.”

(first published December 2018)

I got the jab!

Stef and I got our first shots of AstraZeneca against Covid. Stef had no ill-efects, but I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and chills. I went to work the next day feeling tired, but the fever and chills went away with doses of paracetamal, so it was no big deal.

I keep reading and hearing about the thrombosis from the AstraZeneca, and saw that some doctors think that the vaccine was encouraging some cells to work like platelets and act as ‘bandaids’, causing blood clots. It is worrisome that this wasn’t found out before the vaccine was rolled out, but on the other hand, it is extremely rare, so only a huge roll out would have brought this to light. The fact that over thirty million doses have been given and such a small number of people affected makes it difficult to say whether or not the cases of throbosis were caused by the vaccine, or would have happened anyway.

Because people have been in a sort of lockdown for over a year and have therefor gotten less excercise than they normally would have could also be a factor. After weighing the risk of getting thrombisis (one in every 600,000 persons) and catching Covid, I decided that the AstraZeneca jab was a better choice for me. I was impressed at how it was developed, the price, and hopeful that it will be able to slow, even stop, the spread of Covid if enough people get it. Because it is so cheap to make, it will be a boon for the poorer countries. So let’s take a moment to give thanks to science and to scientific breakthroughs, and let’s hope that this marks the beginning of the end for the pandemic.

Something Wicked

I’d like to start by thanking Jennifer Macaire for her hospitality on her blog and then to immediately abuse it by telling you a dark secret about her: Jennifer once tried to learn to dance tango and was so bad at it she was asked to leave the class!!!*

Actually that says a lot about the teacher and nothing about Jennifer’s terpsichorean abilities. As I keep telling her, if she would only come over to London (once we’re allowed to move again) I would happily teach her to dance. If you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to tango. (If you can’t ride a bicycle you may have balance issues that make dancing impossible.)

But should she learn? You never know who you might meet in a darkened ballroom long after midnight. Who can you think of who only comes out at night and who might want to embrace you in the dance with their teeth conveniently close to your neck?

The connection between vampires and tango is so obvious that I can hardly believe someone hasn’t written about it before. (Probably they have. Please don’t tell me.) At least there is a tango vampire story out now and it’s called Something Wicked.

Fortunately my vampires are (generally) urbane types who try to avoid unnecessary gruesomeness. As one of them explains: “There are people who will sell their blood quite cheerfully. Some are happy to let us have it freely. They seem to get some sort of sexual thrill from it. Then, at a pinch, there is animal blood.”

Sometimes, though, things go too far and people die. Over the centuries, vampires have become very good at covering such incidents up. But when a maverick vampire leaves a peer of the realm completely drained of blood, the police inevitably get involved. As Chief Inspector Galbraith closes in on the killer, he faces a dilemma. How will people respond to learning that they are living alongside a substantial vampire sub-culture? Is this a crime that is better left unsolved?

Welcome to the most unusual police procedural novel of 2021.

Something Wicked: not your usual stake out.


 Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels, mostly set in the 19th century. Something Wicked, though, is his second contemporary urban fantasy book (after Dark Magic, which came out on Halloween 2019). His stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt and Borneo and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.


Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook (


Dark Magic:

Something Wicked:

*Note by Jennifer – Tom is almost right – actually, the teacher stopped dancing with me, saying I’d never learn to tango if I “couldn’t learn to be submissive to the man”. End of quote, and end of any hopes of me ever learning how to tango… 

**More notes – I just got my copy of Something Wicked and it’s terrific! 

A Remedy In Time by Jennifer Macaire

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson–genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded–is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . 


In this book we are taken back to the year 3377, a year in which there is a deadly virus that is spreading rapidly and causing havoc all over the world. Scientists are desperately battling to create a vaccine but as of yet to no avail. They soon come to realise that the virus appears to be similar to one that existed in the past, and that the cure could possibly be found within the blood of the sabretooth tiger.

This is the point that we meet Robin Johnson, the scientist who is more than willing to take part in the extraordinary and extremely dangerous decision they come to. Deciding the only feasible chance they have at finding a much needed cure, Robin must go back in time and retrieve the samples herself. From here the ever feisty Robin faces many challenges and obstacles as she tries to do what quite simply seems impossible.

It’s not just the creatures from the past that are a danger to her safety either. Along the way she faces terrible deaths, murder plots and of course a lot of running through the woods and trying to avoid becoming food to one of the many creatures lurking.

This story had me hooked right from the start. The storyline is so completely unique it is impossible to not find yourself getting lost within the world in which Jennifer brings to life so vividly in your mind. Robin’s character certainly grew on me throughout the story too as she learnt about her own inner strengths, making it impossible for me to not grow to adore her and what she stands for. The detail to the past certainly adds to the story and it is clear the author has done extensive research on this. The storyline is also incredibly reflective on life as it is for us all right now as we also try and navigate our own ways through a pandemic. It is purely coincidence of course, however it did allow me to connect to the story in a way I simply did not think was possible.

The entire book is written brilliantly from start to finish, with a perfectly paced storyline that takes hold of your imagination and takes you on a journey. With unique characters, and an even more unique storyline this book is the perfect form of escapism that we all so desperately need right now.

Review by Victoria Wilks

A Remedy in Time

To save the future, she must turn to the past …
San Francisco, Year 3377

A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .


#TimeTravel #IceAge #Historical #Adventure


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When I next opened my eyes, sunlight slanted into the cave. Motes of dust danced and sparkled in the air. An acrid, bittersweet odor filled my nostrils, and smoke made lazy spirals in the breeze. I heard a crackling sound, but it was just the fire dying into embers. My bed, if you can call a pile of furs a bed, faced the cave entrance with the fire between me and the opening. The cave was little more than an indentation in the rock, and not deep at all. It hadn’t been lived in long. The fire had hardly any ash. There were no other signs of human presence except the bed of furs and the fire. I would have expected a more structured space, perhaps some baskets, articles of clothing, weapons even.

I started to feel better and sat up, being careful not to jog my arm. I needed to urinate again, so, bracing myself on the stone wall, I stood. My knees wobbled, but I was up. I checked, and saw my comlink was still around my wrist. I called up my vid cam. It flew into the cave like a demented bat, and I winced. It must have spent the night outside and gotten hung up in a tree. A small branch was stuck to it.

I plucked the branch off it and sent it out to scout, and then I opened a floating screen. I didn’t want to walk into danger. If I had to, I’d stay here until the rescue team came and have my vid cam lead them to me. The screen showed the river. And it also showed the cave I was in. It wasn’t the cave I’d seen from the river – no, that one had been high on the cliff. This one was nearly flush with the river and must flood after too much rain. No wonder it wasn’t used as a dwelling. The caveman must have dragged me here from the river and lit the fire for me. And he’d gotten furs for me. His intentions had been good. He’d gone out of his way to help me. Another thought occurred. I hadn’t been wearing my modern clothes. There wasn’t too much about me that screamed “Woman From the Future!”. My comlink was one I’d chosen because it looked so natural – the band looked like leather with three large copper beads on it: one for my floating screen, one for my vid cam, and one for my computer.

I floated my screen in front of me and sent the vid cam downriver looking for the caveman. There he was, trudging along with a pile of sticks on his shoulder, dragging some sort of dead animal behind him. Oh joy. Breakfast.


About the author

Jennifer Macaire lives with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

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