Proudly launching – but not on Wednesday.

After a long preparation period, we’re finally launching a title that has been waiting…

After a test-copy was released for beta-testing, issues have come to light which will need to be taken care of first, but despair not, you will see this title become available soon!

Just not this coming Wednesday.

Well, I for one have a suggestion to make to Amazon. A little service they could add for authors and publishers.

Keep watching this space………….

Thoughts on Change, and comfort zones

As we move closer to launching a few titles again, I recall how I used to run P’kaboo in South Africa. And in pre-Lockdown times.

There were books and paper proofs all over the place. There was going out with Iain looking for more bookshops to show our printed copies to. There were music shops to deliver to and people to speak to. Driving to the printing companies and quality-checking our covers, and our runs, on site. Setting up live events: Book launches, signings and promotions (that included music, of course). There was me locked behind my laptop day in, day out, exploring how to program a website, how to create a cover in GIMP, editing, writing, and blogging. Yes, and blogging was a huge comfort zone, a social network ideal for the introvert I was, as contrasted to larger-than-life, fun-packed Iain with his enormous extroversion, charm and charisma.

All of it interlaced seamlessly with homeschooling and the music school we were running.

Somewhere a Grim Reaper stomped a massive intergalactic bony foot, and there was a Universe-quake, and when the plasma-vibrations settled, everything had changed…

We were in survival mode, with one of us dead, and we fled.

It takes long to find one’s emotional balance in a new country. The biggest culture shock was how everything is simply functional here. Ireland is amazing. The Irish people are amazing. The system is amazing. The mind-boggling thing is the amount of help that is offered.

A vastly different place

Ireland is a civilized country. It’s an eye-opener to live in a safe, non-life-threatening place and move around freely without having to presume a mugger or hijacker on every street corner.

In South Africa, living fearlessly is a choice you make. You can cower in a corner (and it doesn’t make a difference, they will still come for you), or you can refuse to be intimidated, and step out and live your life until you die anyway. Dying by crime is a very high likelihood.

In Ireland, a much, much gentler place, they have a difficult time understanding why you are so defensive and brassy.

Ireland is also known as the Land of the Young. Tir na nOg. We have found Tir na nOg. Ireland is fanatical about looking after our young people.

Intergalactic Reaper, you were right shooing us to Ireland – but did you have to take our Iain??

(Iain. Not a day goes by that we don’t miss you!)

Moving here, a whole lot of concerns have fallen away.

But I’m back at the start of my money journey. I’m back in the first quadrant, employment.

Being employed is well-rewarded here. There is no comparison. From our current perspective, the way we struggled financially in SA, we look like we used to be poor pathetic losers – even though, step by step, what we did was a winning plan.

The biggest enemy to personal progress in a beautiful country like this is actually the Comfort Zone. But: Comfort zones don’t exist to stagnate you. They are what describes your life.

We all strive naturally for comfort zones. We are really very basic creatures, humans: Food in tummy, warm and cozy place, loved ones around us, and something to keep our curious monkey mind entertained. Most things we strive for fall into one of those four categories, and if we have all those checked, there is only one more to tick:

Reduce Fear.

Comfort is built around “what is”. Fear is built around “what if”.

There are entire industries built around fear. What if tomorrow there won’t be enough money? What if lightning strikes and burns down my house? What if I get sick and die? What if our house gets broken into and one of us gets shot dead? What if… one of us dies?

Here’s the kicker. Lightning strikes anyway. If they want to break in, they’ll find a way in. They always outsmart your alarm system. If you get sick, you get sick anyway. One can spend one’s life living in fear – or one can choose to live in joy / happiness / comfort.

What drives you?

Once your basics are covered (food, home, loved ones), is your focus on feeding your curious monkey mind and creating something, or is it on the gloomy doomy future of what if?

All of us die.

Death is the inevitable outcome of life.

But you are alive now. What are you choosing to do with the time you have? At point of death, what will be your biggest regret (apart from not living longer)?

You READ – but do you leave REVIEWS? – by Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape)

You READ – but do you leave REVIEWS? – by Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape)

Chris the Story Reading Ape, master blogger, promoter of authors and reviewer, shares this.

Thank you, Chris! So say all of us!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

PLEASE

A stack of books and words Read - Review - RepeatIf not, why not?

I don’t have time

The author probably spent a heck of a lot more time writing the story than you took to read it, no matter how slow you think you are, so why not take a few minutes to record your feelings about it.

I can’t write long fancy reviews like those I see on book review blogs

You don’t have to, Amazon, for example, only ask you to use a minimum of 25 non repeating words.

I can’t express myself very well

No-one is asking you to produce a literary masterpiece, start off with things you liked, didn’t like or a mix of both about the book, e.g.,

I liked this book because –

it reminded me of –

it made me think about –

it made me so scared I couldn’t sleep for –

it made me feel homesick for –

it…

View original post 468 more words

The Robin and the Wish: A touching story in Braille

Shaun in touch

by bookseekeragency

Our client Shaun Harbour‘s book The Robin and the Wish has been translated into Braille, and published by the Scottish Braille Press in Edinburgh. Here’s a cutting from Shaun’s local newspaper celebrating this. Well done, Shaun, on reaching a new and wonderful readership.

(Reblogged from Bookseeker Agency, with its owner’s permission)

The Robin and the Wish was launched on 16 August in the P’kaboo Book Club on Facebook in its ebook version. The Braille version, produced by Scottish Braille, was available from that night forward.

The book is available here in ebook and Braille version.

Ebook Launch: The Robin and the Wish

 We are happy to announce the long-overdue launch of 

The Robin and the Wish

by Shaun Harbour

 

Please feel free to attend the Launch on Facebook.

About the Author:

Shaun Harbour lives in the ever inspiring idylls of rural Perthshire.

The only male in a household of wife, 2 kids and 2 cats, he remains a
poet/cartoonist/writer who wishes day jobs didn’t have to exist.

He has self-published a few poetry collections, and is a keen singer –
maintaining his place as a tenor with the Scottish Police and Community
choir for the last 8 years, where he’s performed for royalty,
flashmobbed at ‘T In The Park’, performed on stage and on the streets in
NYC, alongside Scottish legend Dougie MacLean and toured with Russell
Watson.

He once appeared on The Chase, where where he was destroyed by “The Beast” Mark Labbett.

He also likes to draw a little.

 

 

 

Covid update

Hi Peeps

After the last post I have not had the heart to post anything for a while. A lot has changed in these few weeks though and I think it is time to touch sides.

Covid19, a tiny, membraned RNA virus, has put the entire world on its back.  Uncounted small businesses have closed their doors; independent people are suddenly out of an income or (in countries like here) on social welfare.  Larger businesses have also either closed down, or alternatively, if they could, leveraged the situation by going online.

Online business is flourishing.

Children have been sent home to remote-school.  I as an ex-homeschooling mom can’t call it home school as it does not entail selecting your own content.  All content is still prescribed.  But there’s still significant benefit, in that each student ends up responsible for their own progress and learning, with no teacher to blame it on.

I’m holding down the day-job from home office.  At the same time I’m one of the lucky ones who can just carry on from home, and not so lucky as there is no break to do much of anything with the publishing.  There are ongoing technical issues with new books we are trying release on Amazon as they have changed their systems;  nevertheless, our existing books are on Amazon as before, and on Smashwords a number of them are actually on special.

Highlights of this special are:

Mercury Silver: (Short stories by 8 authors)

From My Cold Undead Hand (Marie Marshall: Vampires)

The Blue Between (Annemarie Luck:  Love story)

Split Decision (Carmen Capuano: Crime Fiction)

Arcana (gipsika: Urban Magic Story)

The Solar Wind series ( Lyz Russo: Pirates/ Science Fiction)

Some are free, some are deeply discounted.

Go check it out, and have fun reading!

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P Les Noble

durbslaunchLes

It is with shock and grief that I heard last night that on the 13th of March, our friend, and chief editor, and long-term associate of P’kaboo, Leslie Noble, lost his fight against cancer.

He fought this illness like a champion, keeping spirits high, taking care of his granddaughters, tackling new projects and looking after his friendships.  He was one of the most vivacious people I’ve ever come across.  P’kaboo lost an amazing author and editor; for me personally, a close friend crossed over to the other side.  My children lost one of their favourite authors.

Les, your fight is over and it is good that you are no longer in pain.  May you rest in peace.  May your family find comfort.  Our deepest condolences.

I know, as you believed too, that you are around, still looking out for your loved ones and your friends.  We shall meet again beyond that Gate.  We’ll miss you in the here and now.

… gipsika…

Friday Story Time

Bloggies, I have to apologize.  No fresh Saoirse story tonight, the next instalment will have to wait for next week.  I’m posting something I wrote some time back (2014 if I’m not mistaken).  Iain definitely still heard this one.

It is still first draft.  I’ll turn my focus to it at some point.


Vanya the Terrib

Vanya the Terrib locked her front door behind herself. She sank the small electronic key into her lightweight white leather handbag and descended the stairwell. Down and down and down. Nine stories of stairwell, from the small apartment she occupied – lightly – to the minimalist, lamp-lit gardens and the road. Where the bus was waiting. She climbed the single step and listened for the barely audible “blib” with which the bus registered her identichip and connected to her account. She found herself a spot to stand and held onto the handrail as the bus slid into soundless motion on its bearing-chains. And she watched the city slide by, its lights swimming in the liquid gloss of the night.

Another workday. Or work night, depending how you wanted to see it. She checked the contents of her handbag mentally. It wasn’t a good idea to open it in public. In any case it didn’t contain much; her apartment key, her identichip, a bit of lip gloss. And her ideas booklet and stylus. It was the latter that was the riskiest item.

The bus slowed and slid to a noiseless halt in front of the great building of black glass. Vanya stepped off and took note of the second tiny “blip” with which the bus fare was calculated completely and withdrawn from her account. And she headed towards the building of glass and moved through the sliding door as quietly as the bus that left behind her .

Her boss had called her in for a new assignment. She was working on two, currently; but you never resisted when more work was offered, as the Service could replace you at the drop of a hat. She stepped into the glass elevator, touched the correct image and waited. And stepped off it again as it arrived at its destination, three hundred stories above ground level. And walked through the deep plush carpet, and touch-opened the door to the office of her boss.

Brendan Connor rose from his spot behind his desk to greet Vanya. He was only one rank below the top; working for him was supposedly an honour. Despite his youth his achievements in the Service were remarkable. He had received the Lancer Medal twice in the last two years, and the Senning Prize once, at a time when he was seventeen. By now in his mid-twenties, it was practically certain that he’d be succeeding the General-in-Chief of the organization when the old man retired.

“Miss Terrib,” he greeted her. Vanya had to smile. Brendan Connor was a very formal person. And it also reminded her that he knew less about her than he thought; which was great. But she wasn’t even going to follow this train of thought, as the hypno-enhancers in this building were always running on full tilt, to facilitate reading of thoughts to this not-fully-talented young man.

The fact was, he was no mutant. He was just an ordinary human throwback, albeit with a brilliant mind. And to survive in the world of 2347, you had to be at least a mutant in two separate capacities. Ordinary humans had a very tough time.

He knew it, of course. It didn’t make him happy. She had read off his mind, on several occasions, the desire to father offspring that carried at least a number of mutations – but he was antisocial; while brilliant at his job, he’d never be able to persuade any lady – much less a mutant – to carry any offspring for him.

She glanced out of the window-walls of his luxurious office, at the untainted night sky.

“Miss Terrib,” said Connor. “You are currently working on two assignments. I have removed them both out of your portfolio.”

What! She stared at him, electrified. With what had she deserved that?

“Not due to any inefficiency on your part,” he assured her with a smile. The superior smile that came with being the Chosen One. “You can be at ease. I have delegated your two assignments to Janie Marioid and Nexus Beckham.”

She refrained from asking why; merely listened to him, her violet eyes intent.

“The nature of tonight’s assignment allows no distraction,” explained Connor. He handed her a chip.

Vanya connected the chip into her ideas booklet. The small screen lit up, and several warning screens and code slots popped up. Vanya patiently applied her signature with her stylus, adding a couple of extra security loops to prove that she was authorized. And the first instruction appeared on her booklet.

A name. Michayl Ran. That was all.

She raised her large eyes to Connor once more, not asking.

“It’s all we have on the criminal,” he said. “His name.”

2. Michayl Ran

If you worked for the Service, you worked odd hours. Vanya had had her required daily four hours of sleep just before going in to see Connor; which meant that now, at 22h, she was as most others were at eight in the morning.

Going back to the apartment was not appealing. One name. They had given her one single name. There had to be hundreds of Michayl Rans. She didn’t even have an indication whether the man she was looking for, was alive today.

It was a maddening assignment. She could presume that her orders were to find the man; or possibly, find out about him. What was he wanted for? Was he a criminal, or a key enemy? Where could she start finding out more?

She had reflexively scanned her superior’s thoughts for any information he was not disclosing. Once again the man had been too slow for her; she had received quite an insight into his mind before he’d drawn the shutters. It was of course rude to the point of a civil offence to pry into another’s thoughts. But pure humans, the kind without any genetic modification, were generally easy to dodge on this. Even the sharp first-in-line of Sanity Inc, the secret service organization that hid behind the image of an asylum.

And that fast scan of her superior’s mind had revealed nothing extra. They had not briefed him. They had only told him the name, instructed him to give it to his most talented agent, and impressed the importance of the mission on him.

It had been an important insight. He was not hostile at present. He had accepted that he was the top candidate to follow in the role of the General-in-chief. He had stopped seeing every last underling as competition – for now. This was a relief; it meant that he wasn’t about to sabotage her.

But it brought her no closer to any answers. Vanya checked into an all-night café and bought herself an espresso and a ring pasty. She pored over the name that was by now deleted from her ideas booklet and engraved in her mind. Michayl Ran.

There was commotion outside the glass of the café. Vanya looked up with mild interest, chewing on her ring pasty. There were cops in blue fluorescent uniforms, arguing loudly with somebody. And then they entered the café.

“V. Nascale, Third Class Citizen!”

Vanya stared at them in surprise, miming the perfect reaction of an uninvolved onlooker. She deliberately blanked her mind, then pulled a shield across, of her alternative persona, Violet Garret.

She’d been too slow. One of the policemen walked straight up to her, holding out hand links. Vanya’s violet eyes stared at him in innocent shock; but the shock on her insides was real. Here was a master mage. The Force only employed those for first-degree criminals.

Her thoughts in turmoil, she compliantly held out her wrists to be chained with the thin silver wire, and her hands taped with the tiny receptor electrodes. The café lady gaped at her in shock as she downed her espresso and allowed the police to lead her away, out of the glass doors to their small vehicle.

Vanya allowed herself to be bullied into the tiny four-seater. The car folded its pods in under its belly and took off in a swarm with the other four police cars; the cop who had followed her into the cabin, held the remote to her hand-links high, where she could see it. She relaxed, accepting that all resistance was futile. And she forced herself not to wonder to herself what this was about, what she was being arrested for, and what lay ahead. A mage could read you like a white screen; and the police officer under whose control she was, was such a man. Quad or quint mutant, at least.

The small vehicle in which she was caught with this dangerous officer of the law, and the driver, veered away from the swarm with a signal and turned to the right, down the bright streaming light tunnels of the City. She iced. This could only mean that she was being taken to the maximum security unit. She watched in her overview mind how the rest of the swarm returned to the police headquarters to report in successful and wait for the next order. And then she tentatively touched on the mind of the driver.

The result was an instant rebuff.

“Oi could have you arrested for that!” snapped the driver, glancing briefly at her. She had to smile. She was already arrested.
The small vehicle followed the light patterns of the city for what seemed an eternity; then suddenly it veered upward, and tumbled away, through a release passage, into the black night.

Vanya scowled and stopped herself from wondering where they were going. She’d heard of a prison unit in some far reaches of the City; perhaps it was easier to take the shortcut through open space. But the vehicle steered well away from the City. The lights of the huge metropolis fell behind, and for the first time Vanya saw the City as it was, a floating structure of light, metal and glass in the fathomless blackness of space.

And the vehicle continued curving away. Away, even, from Luna, the City’s mother anchor planetoid.

She didn’t dare to ask. She didn’t want to know. From second to second her thoughts were being monitored, not only by the mage officer but by the feedback of the hand-links to the small apparatus the mage held in his hand. She didn’t dare to glance at him, either – behind the impermeable polyrene mask there had to be some person, some identity. She would have looked for his eyes, to determine the degree of mutancy, if she’d dared. But…

They fell through the night for a very long time. It was frightening, not having any real point of reference other than Sol – the large sun, nearly the size of a copper dc, a doublet coin. No up or down; left, right were interchangeable.

She knew beyond doubt by now that they were taking her off-site. She had heard rumours of high-security prisons and work camps as far as Luna and even Mars; and she had heard whispered insinuations of more, of interstellar prisons. Why – no, she should not even wonder. It was too dangerous.

And then the car curved towards a blue-green sphere, with something like haze surrounding it.

Vanya had been keeping so still that she didn’t have any more rigid to go to. But her back stiffened significantly when she realized that they were taking her to Earth.

Surely, whatever they thought she had done couldn’t possibly be that vile? She had heard, once, of a criminal who was so corrupt that he was condemned to Earth. For life – which wasn’t expected to last long beyond that.

And for the first time something strange reared up in her. She wanted to live! At least she wanted to know what her crime was! She cleared her throat to protest, and instantly the electric shock from the hand-links zinged through her, derailing her fine-tuned senses.

“You stay quiet,” growled the huge police officer next to her. “Speak when spoken to. I didn’t need to say it.”

Vanya watched the blue planet approach. The whole thing didn’t make sense to her. She could see craters and deserts where the radioactivity had rampaged on; but she could also see amazing green stretches, and wondered what creatures might live in those green hells. And then the car was crashing down towards the ground, faster than comfort. Primal fear gripped Vanya and she squeezed her eyes shut. The police wouldn’t send their own officers to their deaths, particularly not a mind mage of the first degree.

The horrible sensation of falling stopped. Vanya opened her eyes, hyperventilating. They had come to a halt in front of a very strange structure in the sunlight. A squat, four-story building made of what looked like square rocks. It did have glass, but sparingly, as windows only. She wondered why.

The hatch opened and the huge policeman bullied her out of the cabin, and led her rather roughly, her arm in his iron grip, towards the entrance of that building. He pushed her in through the door and man-handled her towards what looked like an elevator – but a strange one, made of metal. The thing had no doors. Until they were inside, when the doors suddenly appeared out of its sides and closed, squealing. Metal doors. You couldn’t see where you were going.

The police mage punched something into the small touch-panel and the rickety thing ascended. Not smoothly. It felt as though it were going to fall apart any moment. It sounded the same. Vanya breathed cautiously; the air here was somehow thick and heavy. She wondered how much atomic heavy metal she was inhaling and how long she could breathe like this before she died from it.

Earth. Planet from distant nightmares. Here she was; she couldn’t believe it.

The horrible elevator arrived on the fourth floor. The doors squealed open. Vanya was pushed across an expanse of raw cement, and towards a metal door. The officer grabbed the handle and pushed it. And the door swung open.

The police mage gave Vanya a rough shove into the room and released her. He placed the remote control onto the large executive desk and nodded briefly at the person behind that desk, and left the room, closing the door behind himself. Vanya stared after him in surprise; and then she looked at the man in front of her.

This certainly gave a new dimension to the concept of under cover work!  A thousand questions.  And a very dark suspicion.  Had her boss found a neat way to get rid of the only mutant who ever questioned his authority?

The grey-haired man smiled, picked up the remote and glanced at it, and sank it into his pocket. He got up from his executive chair – an old, weird-looking chair, but nevertheless executive – stood towering. An impressive, intimidating height. And looked down at Vanya, and extended a hand.

“I’m Mick,” he introduced himself. “Michayl Ran.”


 

 

… and that’s enough for tonight, otherwise you’ll get hyper.  😀

signing off…

gipsika

 

 

Who remembers you now, Timmy Maher?

I love the way he paints with words. Enjoy!

Jon Fog

IMG_0913 The beginning of a January sunset around the desolate remains of Timmy Maher’s once fine dwelling-house and outbuildings.

You’re coming back to me now, Timmy Maher. You, and this place of yours that I cycled to so often, so many summers ago – and had long since forgotten.
But you’re taking shape again in my mind, since I stopped by chance at this gate. And realised … I know this place.
Or had known it, once.
But not as I see it now: bereft and sorrowful against a wintry sky.

Chance, it was, that brought us to you back then – two boys out from the town on bikes: one hot summer’s day; exploring the mystery down strange country roads. Cautiously opening the gate that used to be here, stepping into your yard;  thirsty, in search of water. Something about you and this place was beyond being measured by our…

View original post 894 more words

Friday Story Time: Saoirse o’ Niocaill o’ Dalranoii (1)

The backstory:

Smierc, a.k.a. Magere Hein, employs Kelly as a ghostwriter to capture stories of people who cannot tell their story themselves.

ghostwritersml

Grab a free copy with Coupon: JS22J

 

Saoirse o’ Niocaill o’ Dalranoii (1)

Kelly straightened out from weeding the garden and looked up into the skies, which were actually blue.  Yes, spring had arrived.  What had caught her eye was a movement up there; she shaded her eyes with her garden-gloved hand, peering up against the glare of the morning sun.

She had not imagined it.  It came swooping past again, hunting – something, what?  There weren’t that many insects on the wing yet, perhaps some unfortunate early mayfly.  The early worm, she thought with a small cynical smile.  It was worth waiting.  The swallow swooped past again.

“Hey, little raptor,” Kelly muttered, as though the bird could understand her words.  “Fresh this morning, isn’t it?”

“She’s a lively little spirit,” commented Smierc, behind her.  Kelly nearly jumped out of her skin.  She had not heard him approach; had somehow missed the subsonic roar of his Harley’s engines outside; and she was quite sure that the front door was locked, so how had he got into her back garden?

She peered up at the tall man in jeans and hoodie, once again her eyes dodging the actual facial features.  Hypnosis, she thought.  That’s how he does it.

“Is it already time for work?” she asked, pulling off her garden gloves with a sigh.

“You will like this assignment,” Smierc assured her.

“I like most of them,” she said.

“But this one is special,” he insisted, leading the way back through the house and waiting for her to lock up and put on her coat and working boots.

*

A short while later, the Harley was humming through the dimensions before setting down on a lush green meadow, sloping away into the hazy distance under skies that were lighter and somehow more luminous than those in Kelly’s garden earlier.  It was clearly spring here too; but the nip in the air was a bit colder.

A little town lay at the bottom of the slope, cradled on one side by a woody glen.  Smierc shut off the engines of the interdimensional Harley, and the machine turned into smoke and vanished into his hoodie’s pocket.  Kelly landed on her feet without batting an eye.  The first few times, she had lost her balance scandalously as the motorcycle disappeared out under her, and had stumbled pathetically to the ground, with Smierc apologizing profusely (he also had to adjust to having a live human passenger), but by now she was used to the trick and got by without as much as a single adverb.

“Where are we?” she asked, “and when are we?”

“Hibernia,” he said, “early 16th century.”

“Really?  Ireland?”  Looks not too different, she thought.  She had visited the place once, in her own real time, before signing up with this ghostwriter job.  “Where in Ireland?”

“Crumlin,” said Smierc.  “A story starts here.”

She followed him down the hill towards the town.  Crumlin.  “So where is Crumlin?”

“In your time, its a Dublin suburb,” said Smierc.  “In this time, it is pretty much an isolated little town.  The Crooked Glen.”

“Haha,” said Kelly.  “For fear of little men!”

“Funny you should mention that,” said Smierc with a hint of amusement.  “Quiet now.  Look.”

They had reached the village, and the soft chiming of the forge in the distance, to the universal tune of blacksmithy everywhere:  clack-clack-clink, clack-clack-clink.  A square church tower stood visible above the houses, at the same time medieval and startlingly new.  Smierc directed her past some more houses – businesses, she thought, butcher, baker… towards the town square.  And out the other end, to where the clack-clack-clink echoed through the morning.

Smierc pulled something out of his hoodie pocket and tossed it at Kelly, who caught the cloak with one hand and fastened it around her shoulders, pulling the hood over her head.  Human eyes would not see her now.  She was as invisible a spectator as Death, which was useful for every first observation.

Smierc led the way, opening the heavy wooden door to the smithy with a touch of his slender fingers.  They entered silently and oriented themselves.  The blacksmith himself was at work forging something – it looked like it might become a horseshoe.  He beckoned impatiently at an apprentice who was apparently not bringing the bucket of water fast enough.  Kelly looked at the young apprentice, the teenager, and looked again, and blinked…

“But that is…”

Smierc nodded.  “Nicholas of the Dalranoii.  The original immigrant.”

She peered sidelong at Smierc.

“He came from Lithuania, crossed the sea,” he elaborated.  “The stories are vague what he was running away from.  You know this soul, Kelly.”

“Hell, yeah,” she muttered, thinking of their most recent encounter.  Not much fun!

“The point is,” said Smierc, “this is about another soul entirely.  Someone you need to rescue.  Something this fellow here puts out of balance.”

“The klutz,” she couldn’t stop herself from remarking.  Nicholas o’ Dalranoii stopped and glanced in her direction, peering as though he were trying to see something.  Ha.  Her!

A swallow dropped down from the eaves and landed on Smierc’s extended index finger.

“There you are, Saoirse,” smiled the bone man as the bird gave a few spirited chirps.

“Get yer sorry butt back here, lad,” bellowed the blacksmith.  “Standing there ogling the birds on the trees!  Are ye off with the fairies then?”

Nicholas hurried up with the water bucket, tripped over a stool that was standing in the way, and the water went flying, drenching the smith.

Saoirse took to the skies again, after chirping at Kelly as though she were trying to tell her something.  Smierc beckoned to Kelly, who turned her back reluctantly on what was promising to become a very exciting scene, and followed Death out of the doorway.

“We’ll take this in stages,” said Smierc as he mounted his Harley that had materialized just outside the smithy, and indicated to Kelly to take the pillion seat.   “It’s a story that plays out over quite some time.  You have met her now.”

“Saoirse?  She’s a bird?”

Smierc grinned quietly to himself as the Harley took off with the two of them, warping back across dimensions and time.

*