How to woo a reluctant bride (by Lyndi Lamont)



When I first learnt that Lyndi Lamont was a librarian, I thought; that’s my kind of woman! Hélène, my third wife, was a blockhead. I don’t think she’s ever read a book in her entire life. She thinks she’s smart, but a person’s face’ll always tell you if they’re bright or not.

Take a look at her on the book cover. She’s got something! She’s bright alright. Tilt of the chin: challenging. Hands on her waist… and the time it’ll take you to open all those buttons to get at her soft flesh…

Love the title. Hands up all those who think ‘How to woo’ is a brilliant opening? Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re thinking about sex practically all the time, aren’t we? They’ll slip a suggestion of it in anywhere to sell almost anything nowadays   (barring pet food, for now…), and not because we’re a bunch of pervs. No. Simply because it’s a natural need we suppress most of the time, but instead of making us civilized, it’s led us to morph into a pack of uptight brutes doing horrible things to each other to replace the one thing we should be doing so we stay balanced and think straight. But I’m yapping too much. Again. I’m not? Well!

How to Woo a Reluctant Bride. A steamy romance. Here’s the summary:
London, June 1885. A marriage of convenience, nothing more…until darkly handsome Evan Channing and demure Lydia Blatchford meet. The rules are simple for an arrangement such as theirs. There should be no misunderstanding, no illusions of anything more. But the rules are about to change…


She broke off at the injured look on his face. “Forgive me, but surely you understand this marriage was never my preference.”
He turned away from her and ran a hand through his hair. “Yes, I know, but I hoped you had become resigned to it.”
“I have. At least I have tried to be,” she said, the words tumbling out of her mouth. “That’s why I think it best just to plunge ahead. Once the banns have been read thrice, we can wed almost immediately.”
He turned back, a frown still marring his forehead. “Will that give your mother enough time to plan?”
She shrugged. “All I need is a new gown.”
“But won’t society think it odd we married in such haste?”
She looked him in the eye. “Let me make one thing clear. I do not give a fig for what society thinks. If you supposed you were marrying a social butterfly, let me banish that notion right now.”
He smiled at her. “Harry said you were sensible, but this surprises me. I’m happy to agree to a short engagement.” He stepped closer, towering over her. “The sooner I can make you mine, the better.”
Her heart pounded and her breath caught as he lowered his head and touched his lips to hers for but a second before backing away. She drew in a deep breath. Her first kiss and it had been over almost before it was begun. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
“Shall we go inside and discuss the wedding plans with your parents?”
“Not yet. There is something else I’d like to say.” It was now or never.
“Yes, my dear, what is it?”
She licked her lips then plunged ahead. “I know how these things work. Arranged marriages, that is. I won’t expect fidelity from you.”
His shocked expression surprised her. “Is that what you think, Lydia? That I’m marrying you with the intention of cheating on you?”
“Perhaps not now,” she said. “But in a few years. It’s not as if ours is a love match. I won’t cut up a fuss if you decide to take a mistress. As long as you are discreet.”
“How very… sophisticated of you,” he said, his tone dry enough to parch a desert.
She took a deep breath before continuing. “And once I’ve produced the requisite heir and spare, I assume I’ll be free to seek my pleasure elsewhere.”
The thunderous look on his face startled her and she stepped back.
“You will do no such thing,” he said fiercely, reaching for her. “Our union may not be a love match now, but I fully intend to see it turns into one.”
Before she could say a word, he pulled her into his embrace, trapping her arms between them as his encircled her shoulders and waist. Covering her mouth with his, he kissed her with a heady combination of passion and anger. Her resistance crumbled in the face of his onslaught. She clutched at his lapels and returned his kiss, even parting her lips when his tongue probed them. Overwhelmed by the sensations his lips provoked, she let her eyes drift shut as she clung to him.
When he let her go, he was still visibly upset. “There will be no more talk of infidelity. Have I made myself clear, Lydia?”


There’s only one way to know if the darkly handsome Evan Channing stuns his betrothed, Lydia Latchford, in ways you’ve never even thought of yet. I’ll tell you one thing, though: his bedtime reading is the Kama Sutra… And by the sound of things, his bride-to-be isn’t that demure after all. There’s a good read waiting for you, no doubt about that!

99c is all it’ll cost to get your copy of How To Woo A Reluctant Bride at:
Amazon   Barnes & Noble   iTunes   Kobo   Smashwords

Find, follow, like and share Lyndi online at:

It wouldn’t be gentlemanly of me to ask you, Lyndi, if you’ve personally worked your way through all the positions in the Kama Sutra. But I bet I’m not the only one who’s dying to know…

The next big thing

Each Wednesday, invited authors answer a set of questions about their writing-in-progress, then go on to invite further authors to continue the discussion the following week. Thank you, Mike Horwood (of for tagging me. I in turn, propose a number of exciting authors for you to discover at the end of this post.


1. What is the working title of your next book?

Verses Nature. There’s a deliberate word-play in there; verses/versus, as I will explain later in answer to Question 3.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve had this really ‘big’ novel in me for a long time. The thought – fear – of not being able to rise to the occasion made sure it remained just a dream for more years than I care to remember. I’d say for well over a decade, actually. It was supposed to be some kind of all-encompassing cosmic/philosophical/theological/erotic opus, but I hadn’t a clue where to start. And with hindsight I think I was far too young.

I suppose the idea, to put it succinctly, came from the close observation of my social environment; the tensions I witnessed everywhere in human dealings with one another, the extent to which assumptions may cripple understanding. So I guess I could say I took a good look at myself, at my world, and thought: what does any of this mean?

As a plurilingual person, writer and researcher, I have long had a bone to pick with language, with the way it enslaves us. Two words to be handled with extreme care: ‘science’, ‘is’…Thinking about all of this, sucking words clean and finding them tasteless, meaningless, has led me to question the whole business of naming and defining (up pops the verses/versus word-play again).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

My answer to this question is a continuation of the question above. I don’t want Verses Nature to be immediately identifiable as belonging to any specific genre, since these, too, are part of the naming process I take issue with.

If you think about any word for long enough, try to track it back to some starting point – and fail – the word loses its meaning. In its own right, what is a word but mere noise? We have to look backward and forward, to culturally situate it, for it to yield any sense whatsoever. And this sense may always be contested. I’ve often heard: that’s not a novel/poem/add-any-other-name-to this-list. And I then think: why not? And so we come back to our assumptions about what is (not) permissible, do-able, and I don’t like that. If you stay within such endorsed frames, you’ll never break them down. What I try to do is to put such terms to the test.

One thing Verses Nature is not: chick lit.

4. Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie version?

Funny you should ask that question. Various people have flashed across my mind. I need a white male, late-middle-aged, overweight, overbearing, greasy-yet-seductive. Jack Nicholson? Robert de Niro? I need a smart, beautiful black woman, late forties. Halle Berry? Maybe a singer who can also act? Lauren Hill, perhaps? I don’t even know if she can act, but I like her aura. I need an equally smart German (looking) female, same age. No idea who’d play that role for now. One of my favourite actresses: Glenn Close, Meryl Streep?  Kate Winslet, perhaps? Maybe it would be better to have an entire cast of newcomers. Could be their big break. And mine!

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Now-now-you-just-heard-what-I-said-about-labeling-I-guess-the-title-says-it-all-VERSES-NATURE-(new/ly-ordered-being)-it’s-unlike-anything-(could-say-intellectual-erotic-maelstrom?)-so-just-keep-a-track-of-it-here-and-on-my-site-(I’ll-be-tweeting-bits-too)-and-buy-it-when-it’s-out. (There’s only one full stop so that makes one sentence…)

6. Will your book be published or represented by an agent?

It will definitely be published.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

A draft assumes there is, was, a cutting-off point. There is no first draft of Verses Nature. I keep a logbook of every idea I have that is related to the work. The first draft, if you will, was the inspirational moment the idea for the book was born. I had a pre-linguistic flash/insight, which then had to be tamed (should I have said ‘elaborated’?) via language. This flash contained everything and it was perfect, to my eyes. The tricky task is now to make it reality. The minute you start, it’s no longer the same. Language, as art and like art, sequential to the original, insightful moment, is always too late…

8. Which other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Which genre??? My book is promiscuous as far as genre is concerned, and in such promiscuity lies a deeper message; an appeal for tolerance as we acknowledge multiplicity. I like to combine the intellectual, the social and the erotic and to do so via a mixed-genre approach. I don’t want to be ‘bookish’, and I don’t want to write a ‘dirty book’. I honestly don’t know whom I would compare myself to (we all believe we’re writing something original, right?). There are authors I admire, and who have no doubt influenced me; people who dare to do it differently. It is not important for you to know who these people are. The reader will establish her/his own intertextual references and probably compare me to authors I may never have read. It’s your book, at the end of the day. Not mine.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Excuse me, isn’t this Question 2 in a new frock?

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Verses Nature is all about questioning assumptions, about questioning our relation to reality. I have a male protagonist mouthing off all the time: ‘Some people think I’m stuck up. Think I think I’m something special. Well, I am. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary’. He was supposed to be despicable, but guess what? He grows on you. I was shocked to discover how much I enjoyed developing him. I kept thinking: you can’t do that; the women in this world could lapidate you for that! Then I thought; what was that about not bowing to cultural expectations? I’m not letting the ‘side down’. To have a side is to have a boundary, a wall. I’m climbing that wall. Then I’m going to take a hammer to it. So I’ve got this man that any self-respecting woman would claim not to (want to) have anything to do with, but are you so sure you’ll be able to, or even have to, resist?

So, enough about me. Now I’d like to draw to your attention a number of authors definitely worth following.


Jessica Patient:
Short story writer, novelist and reviewer, Jessica’s self-written biography is so delightful, there’s no need for me to try to pen something better (see link below):

In 2008 she won the WorldSkills Gold Award for her short story, Jasper’s Betrayal. Extracts were exhibited at the IMAX in London.

I love her website:


Anthony Howarth:
Writer, poet, reader, speaker, photographer, Oscar and Golden Globe nominated filmmaker… the list goes on. Anthony has published several books. His writing can be refreshingly honest, hard, angry, indignant, as it can be erotic, tender, and emotional. For your delight and reflection, Peace:


Absolute peace

Is lunch on your own

Tinned tuna

Stolen canteen bread

Alone in your cell

Sitting on your bed

The day before your release

Sentence is complete

The end of strife

Everything is done

With tomorrow will come

The complexities of life

This is the moment

To savour and retain

Tonight is another lifetime


I may never be

So peaceful again

(Copyright © Anthony Howarth 1997, 2012)

for more:


Federica Bianco:
Of Italian nationality and temperament.

Wishing that the sea were nearer than its own distant memory, that its freshness were closer to her feet so that one eager step would suffice to overcome muteness, knowing that indecisions are loaded but time is not, thus driven to ‘distrust flawlessly’, Federica has published an amazing volume of poetry, A Night in Gale, available at amazon (why, pray, shouldn’t the Next Big Thing be a poet??). Here’s an appetizer:

whose warmth of solace
those arms of shelter…

when longed memories of skin
are caught under the spell of slumber
awoken by waterfalls of sorrow
emotions trigger the silly shiver
in the heart of night, when slowly
fallen deep down loathed sadness
the crawling, choking sounds of silence
remind one of that love, rusted and stoned

For more:


That makes four, not five, I know, but as you also know; it’s the quality that counts.  Take the time to revisit these sites.  I’ll say goodbye and good read!

Verses Nature: Fieldnotes, August – November 2012

Verses Nature is my current novel, which will also be submitted for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing. In a nutshell:

Jean-Joseph, Tatar to his friends, a self-made man in his late fifties and self-proclaimed connoisseur of the opposite sex. Politics, religion, philosophy, culture. And women. Loads to say about life in general and his memorable life in particular. Your loss if you don’t read his life story. Your loss entirely. He’d say.


August 2012:

After a year of working on my male protagonist, I find myself in a rut.

repair. destroy. I see a new female character entering the plot, and the whole chemistry changes.

I don’t write in the narrative linear, but sketch scenes, variations, from which I select those that will become the novel. My supervisor (rightly) wishes to see how I am progressing. All I may proffer is a tatter of tales and implore her to trust me.


November 2012:

Verses Nature is set in Alsace. And despite my having lived in the region for well over a decade, my interest in local history is genuinely sparked for the very first time as I now begin to think about how I wish to depict the history, the psyche of the place. I’m curious to see how it will be embellished by my personal experience; I have not lived in their Alsace, but in mine…

After a first visit to the local médiathèque, my cloth bag filled with titles in French, German and/or Alsatian, on local legends, war-time Alsace, proverbs, care practices carefully documented by Christian ethnographers (history being everything but neutral…), initial reflections about the politics of language give way to concerns with voice:

How do I bring history into my novel? Whose voices will be heard? How will Voice and Genre interact?

First attempts:

Verses Nature: fieldnotes, January – March 2014

January 2014:

The preceding months have been spent trying to get a clearer picture of the scope of my novel/thesis, Verses Nature, which repeatedly threatens to erupt into a number of works. Maybe what I have on my hands is a trilogy? A section I have been working on for months has nothing to do with Mazelle and Tatar, but with a family and how in it generations of women strive to secure their autonomy from patriarchal structures. This allows me to explore issues both dear and familiar to me (i.e. relating to my own experiences). The smaller scope of this subplot permits me to test new writing styles in answer to my key research question on our reader/writer tolerance levels vis-à-vis multigenre fiction (in my thesis I will refer to phenotypical promiscuity). It also provides an excellent framework for sharing some of my theoretical preoccupations on language and structure, but in a literary form. You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve been sidetracked. I prefer to say I obey where the writing is taking me. Also trying my best to describe my development in a language that’s not too technical: it’s a novel we’re talking about, first and foremost.

March 2014:

Discussing this protagonist and his hold on me, a fellow writer makes a proposition which immediately strikes me as true: maybe, after having ingested him (his type/discourse) for so long, writing about him is a way of spitting him out…

The female characters not only tell different stories, but tell them differently, i.e. using different literary styles. The final result is more like a collage of collective memories in dialogue with and contesting each other. Truth, as a concept, slips away and we are left with life as (His/Her)story:

on marking the contemporary moment 2Gradually, we break free from the authoritative text, into a zone beyond syntax; a zone where time and space as variables in the infinity of meaning gain transparency:


binary semantic poster 3

Good old days (2) (Die Wo)

Those who went along with it, those who didn’t

Those who collaborated, being obliged to

Those who thought they were forced to

and gave themselves airs and graces

Those who raised their arms

Those who clenched their fists in their pockets

Those who shouted victory and came out unscathed

Those in it for the business and who made a profit

Those who did it, bowing to orders from above, and who got taken in

Those who did it for their wives

Those who were too young to enter the SS and now begrudge those who were old enough

Those who were big and blonde and dyed their hair brown

Those who were in the party

Those who were angry not to have been able to join the party and who now thank their lucky stars

Those who returned

Those who did not

Those whose return gave us joy

Those who should have stayed where they were

Those who were in the (and thus put up) resistance

Those who were in the FFI: forces françaises de l’intérieur

Those who successfully accomplished a mission

Those who believed themselves to have done so

Those who had to believe they had done so


Those who have a flag

Those who don’t

Those who have two

Those who have always had two

Those who burn one of them from time to time…



My translation of a poem by the Alsatian artist Germain Muller, talking about the identity dilemma of the Alsatian during the occupation. In French it’s called Ceux qui (those who). But it’s originally an Alsatian poem and in Alsatian, it’s called Die Wo (which is also German). Notice how it points a finger yet leaves enough room for self-interrogation? It’s easy to say what to do when you don’t have to. Easy to judge. I like to think I’d’ve been one of the nice guys. Guess I’ll never know…

Did you know that one of the devil’s grandmothers is Alsatian? So the saying goes.


And here’s another video of Alsace-Lorraine 1871-1918. Couldn’t believe my ears; there’s God Save the Queen in there! For those who speak German, read the comments on YouTube. Seems like the matter of our identity is far from settled? Those who’ve bothered to comment (Deutsches Reich) are mostly shouting for the return of Alsace to Germany. Fabien Kiefer smells a rat:

“you’ve obviously had your brain torn out and replaced by bald head, mustard and cold sweaty socks in ugly Doc Martens. You’ve probably got the face of a pitbull and wear the ugliest gear that reeks of beer. Of course. I know who you are and it makes me want to throw up.”

By the way: in the 1990s 70% of the French avowed to being racist. Does that make being racist a defining characteristic of being French? Course not! It can only be a characteristic of those who were asked, can’t it? But Alsace, my dear Alsace; one of the ‘brownest’ regions in France, I’m told. ‘Browner than your arsehole!’ someone once said to me. And I know a fairly well-known local painter whose name actually only contained one S, but he added another, to show his admiration for that ranting little man with the moustache and only one ball…  Ach, redde m’r nimm devon!

Good old days (1) (if you were lucky enough not to be there)


I’m from Alsace in North East France, as you know (meaning: as I’ve told you, even if some of you’ve never heard of the place before). We’ve been pushed around a lot:

A typical citizen in their late 80s at the end of WW2 was born French, became German in 1870, French between the two wars, German again in 1940 and French once more at the end of his life. By the end of WW2 most people didn’t speak French, but were suddenly forced to. Propaganda machine on full blast: c’est chic de parler français. Chic. And Mandatory. The same teachers who had taught in German during the occupation now obliged all the pupils to speak French.  No wonder we’ve got a complex. Many just refuse to talk about it. In Alsatian, we’d say: redde m’r nimm devon. There’s a term for this kind of large-scale cover-up, I read the word somewhere: obscurantism.

I suppose we all develop our own strategies for dealing with a tricky situation, don’t we?

At the end of the war, some used the Nazi flag to make their local costumes. Very nice cotton. Excellent quality…

redde m’r nimm devon…

The good old days? The clogs of our childhood were the poor man’s shoes: village roads were made of dirt and often littered with the manure of the cattle on their way down to the fields. Clogs were robust. Clogs were cheap. The wealthier wore leather shoes. And of course there were still those who had no shoes at all…

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon.

French mums, they’d go to work (still do!) and think there’s something wrong with you if you didn’t. German mums, then and now, tend to stay at home and think you’re a bad mum if you don’t. It’s their Nazi past. Or should I say: nasty? Keeping women in their place, under control and their pockets empty.

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon!


Dawnflight by Kim Headlee


As a man of taste, I like a good read now and then. Helps me flee my world. Reorder my thoughts. A man I know and respect – believe me, there are few – once told me: don’t just read the same genre all the time. If you’ve finished a sci-fi book, make the next one a historical novel. And so on.

Kim Headlee. Her synopsis pulled me in, so now I’ve got a new read:

‘Gyan is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien, a son of her clan’s deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon’s conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything…perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.

Roman by his father, Brytoni by his mother, and denied hereditary rulership of his clan because of his mixed blood, Arthur is the supreme commander of the northern Brytoni army. The Caledonians, Scots, Saxons, and Angles keep him too busy to dwell upon his loneliness…most of the time.

When Gyan and Arthur meet, each recognize within the other their soul’s mate. The treaty has preserved Gyan’s ancient right to marry any man—but Arthur does not qualify. And the ambitious Urien, Arthur’s greatest political rival, shall not be so easily denied. If Gyan and Arthur cannot prevent Urien from plunging the Caledonians and Brytons back into war, their love will be doomed to remain unfulfilled forever.’

Good, isn’t it? To the right there’s an excerpt. For those who’d like to know a bit more about the author:

Kim comes from Seattle but now lives on a farm in Virginia. She’s also a screenwriter and she’s working on some pretty impressive writing projects.

Dawnflight’s being featured in the Eggcerpt Exchange. I’ve found a few other books to add to my list and I’ll be sharing them with you here. Cos I’m a nice bloke, aren’t I?



Gyan let Arthur initiate the attack. While advancing to meet the blow, she stumbled, fell, and rolled to her stomach. As expected, he quickly moved in to claim the victory. The crowd cheered. But before she could feel the prickle of his sword on her neck, she twisted aside and hooked his legs with hers. Luck favored her; with a startled yelp, and equally startled noises from their audience, he went down. She scrambled to her feet and pinned him under the point of her sword. Amid the overall roar of disappointment, she could pick out phrases like “Trickery!” and “Not fair!” But the taunts didn’t bother her; victory had never tasted sweeter! Her only regret was that Ogryvan and Per and the rest of her clan couldn’t savor it with her.

Studying Arthur for a reaction, her grin soured. For several seconds, he stared at the sky as though stunned; whether physically or mentally, she couldn’t tell. Her concern rose as she wondered if she had injured him. Finally, he shook his head and attempted to sit up, but her sword barred his way.

“I concede the match, Chieftainess.” He released his sword and waved his open hand. “I won’t try anything unique. You have my word. Thank God my enemies aren’t half as devious as you are.” His grin could have stopped the sun in its course…and it was having an arresting effect on Gyan’s heart as well. “But I wouldn’t advise using that move in battle. Much too risky.”

“Oh. Yes, I—I know.” Chiding herself for how silly she must sound, she sheathed her sword and thrust out her hand. He tugged off his gloves and accepted her unspoken offer, gripped her forearm, and hauled himself up.

Pain stabbing her arm forced a strangled gasp from her throat. He shifted his grip to her hand and gently turned her arm to expose the underside. A long cut lay perilously close to one of the veins, seeping blood. He traced the vein lightly with a fingertip.

“When did I do this?” His voice was a hoarse whisper.

Staring at the cut, she wondered the same thing. Probably during their initial clash, though she really had no idea. She shrugged. Even that motion made her wince.

“Chieftainess, I didn’t mean to—” A stricken look shattered his bearing. He squeezed her hand. “God in heaven, Gyanhumara, I am so sorry.”

She wanted to reassure him that she’d be all right; the wound looked clean and wasn’t much deeper than a scratch. In fact, it was the least of her concerns. Enchanted by the sound of her name on his lips and mesmerized by his gaze, she felt the world seem to collapse to just the two of them. His face hovered over hers, his lips a handspan away. The warmth of his nearness had an intoxicating effect. She was acutely conscious of the tugging of her heart, as though it was trying to pull her closer to him. It wasn’t an unwelcome idea.


I said she was good, didn’t I? And I’m not the only one who thinks so:

4 ½ stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times (1st edition), November 1999

Winner (tie), 1999 Blue Boa Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction, Historical category

Romantic Times Nominee—Best Innovative Historical Romance of 1999

Honorable Mention in SF Site’s Readers’ Choice Best SF & Fantasy Books of 1999

Finalist, 2000 Golden Quill, Historical category

Finalist, 2014-2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (2nd edition), Religious Fiction category

You can get your copy via:

Kindle | Print | Audiobook | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

If you’re based in Europe, via:

You can follow Kim Headlee on:

Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

and/or subscribe to Kim’s blog:

Don’t ever let it be said that I only think of myself!

Definitions: are for people without character

Erotica isn’t the right term for what I do. Could call it high heat… maybe. We’re all being told to do something original, right? On the other hand we’re also told we have to be able to allocate that originality to a neat, pre-fixed term so the marketing wheels can turn smoothly. And there’s always some grump who, once s/he’s read it, wants to sling your work into a category it doesn’t belong to. God, I’ve met enough of those! Leave off with the definitions, will you? Definitions are for people without character.

I only hope she doesn’t go for one of those erotica template book covers when Verses Nature is out. That’d be such an insult. A bit of style to match the man, if you please: no tits, arse or any amount of flesh anywhere.


Now, let’s get down to business. Read this:


‘The basement is everywhere. Water leaks like dark shadows on the bare cement, looking like silvery snakes streaming from the corners of the windows. When it rains you can see the rivers pulsing. Once the little trails reach the floor, they widen as they seep into the floor, heading toward the drain. A corner houses shelves of limping cardboard, labeled by a thin marker zigzag that can’t be read because there’s no light over there. We call this the dungeon and sometimes it’s where Barbie goes when she’s mad. I give the pink corvette a push and she sails into the scary shadows. In the corner by the steps, old sheets and sleeping bags are weighted down on ledges and chairs, or twisted in knots around the hollow metal poles, supporting the forts and tents of our imaginations. We hear creatures in the jungle. I feel the breath of wings. The trees from where the wild things live loom over us in faded pencil scratches.’

The Basement, by Amy Jo Sprague


Beautiful, Amy. No other word for it. The pain, the fear, tussling in/with the shadows. Faded pencil scratches… The use of space…

Had a crappy childhood, didn’t you? Join the club:

My father was a bastard. A violent bastard. He would hit my mother, and he hit my brother and me, too. Once, when I was six…

The boy in the shorts, the belt, the screams, the lash, the fury, the father, the belt, bursting to beat the truth out of the boy on the commode, the belt, the screams,

“It was not me and it was not me, however you may beat me…”

The sweat, the tears, the lash-


The mother…

The belt, on the mother, on the boy, on the mother, on the boy on the commode, on the mother fallen to the floor with her hands round her head, the mother at the feet of the boy who insists…

“It was not me, however you beat me…”


Leather nailed to their skins. Father, wide-legged, up to his knees in the blood, in sweat, in the salt of his fury; of their defencelessness. The sweat that turned to blood that turned to water that turned to the wine of the blood of the Christ the boy was being taught to honour: to love thy father, for thy father loves thee…

The hurt, stacked high like dirty dishes, like the corpses in a common still uncovered grave, fresh insult congealing atop old. The stench courted by the wind and cavorted away so the two may play, may forget; the boy, the tears, the mother, the tears. The shame.

The rage.

The hate.


Where were the stories, where the laughter that was my birthright if They were right? The laughter of communion? There were only sighs, mother breathing out, out, out…

I had to practise laughter like a fiddle, an accordion, pull it apart, make it wheeze like my mother’s sighs, pluck at it, slide across the gut of its strange melody that clung to the crevices of my mouth, fearful of the drop. But because I had been robbed of my birthright, because this right-turned-foreigner was naught to me how easy then to shove it in the back and watch it tumble with an anguished squeal, a noise, unnameable,

untraceable to an origin beyond my birth and her own.


all achievement but a quest for the origin of the (M)other, and being (m)other, frustrating our self-appointed imperative to control, to name –

we call her (M)other, but never by her true name –

we make do with surrogates and are reared to keep that secret: I miss you, what is your name, in truth I have never wished to be weaned, ever… the original, perpetual cry of all sons… to live (what we call Life) is but to long for that other unnameable by which I may see you as you are, at whose communion – unnameables embraced in forgiveness – and only then will there be light, will there be honesty.

What does my mother see when she sees me?

Herself, her redoubtable past thrown back at her is why she does not want to see me, never looks (straight) at me but through and around me, a stone parting the maternal shame of her regrets, I am but a bad memory, cursed mirror to un-suspend, face-to-back in a cupboard in a room no one uses; mirrored darkness, secrets ad infinitum.



…Like I said: Father was a violent bastard. Mother was a lying bitch. She told us a load of bollocks, which we, as children, believed. Looking back, I now  know it was a load of bollocks and that she was a lying bitch. She’d go out at night all the time, to meet her lover. The same lover for forty years, instead of bringing him home to be our father. I would have liked to have had a father. A father, and a family, instead of faded pencil scratches.

(adapted from The Red Room)

The beginning (of the end of the life of a couple)

Madam, in bed
half dead
her skin as thin
as watery as her eyes,
lids seal with blue lines

sleep-denying pain.

I have been sitting by her bedside ever since the ordeal was over.

The nurse lifts herself to her silent feet


She rearranges the heavy covers (heirloom) around the mother’s fevering neck.
Outside, the winter, banished from the room by dark.drapes,
is creeping around the other entries to the house

s s s s s h h h h h h h

and stealing in through an opened kitchen window, where the servants go about their chores in subdued manoeuvres.

It was a boy. The boy was dead. Dead, rotting, and trapped inside that narrow passage-way, for hours

whilst his beloved mother; screaming and thrashing.

Unprepared for any such complications, the doctor sends the nurse to fetch the cook, who,
full of her importance,
there she goes,
bustling up the stairs
yet remembering her manners well enough to throw a mild glance  (and a curtsy) at the master of the house as he –  up and down in the Main Hall.

But the child is dead. A boy.
somewhere on my way I got jabbed and I fell down

The Master snatches his shotgun and marches off to the stables.


Having children’s the beginning of the end of the life of a couple… As a man, you take the back seat from then on. As long as you know this, ‘spose it’s alright.
    Having children massacres a woman’s body… that’s another cause for the beginning of the end. Childbirth pulls her all out of shape n leaves a gaping hole that nobody ever talks about. Muscular re-education classes: what a load of crap! Did your midwife say to you: after childbirth, your tight little pussy’ll turn into a bloody tunnel n when he’s up there, he won’t feel a thing? Oh, didn’t she? I wonder why… You know any woman who’ll ever admit that her fanny feels different after childbirth? Yeah, yeah, it supposedly creaks back into place like an old church door… You can feel the contractions of it, and then everything’s hunky-dory.

Bull. Shit.

    Friend of mine paid a humongous amount to a doctor to make sure his wife delivered by Caesarian…
    She’ll only tighten up again when she’s pregnant once more. It gets nice n tight and it’s great for a man to be in there. Don’t know why so many women feel it’s wrong to have sex when you’re pregnant. It’s great! I’ve treated myself to a couple of pregnant women. Marvellous! Won’t find noffing better. I got onto the womanising track when my first wife fell pregnant. Didn’t want me to touch her anymore. Pas touche? Her loss, not mine. Plenty more fish in the sea, n’est-ce pas? But then the child gets born, and it’s flappity flap all over again… You see those young mums with their great figures; narrow hips, perky backsides? All well n good, but if they birthed naturally, I don’t give a toss how narrow their hips are, there’s a whacking great hole in the middle. And those girls, children you almost have to say; thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, who’re already mums, what a shame. You can write them off for life… Why do you think husbands drift towards anal sex? Cos they want to feel something! Problem with anal sex, though, is that the women take a liking to it, then don’t want it any other way. Yeah, and why do they take a liking to it, hey? Hey? Me? I go the anal way with women who’ve had their children naturally, cos some of them’ve got a fanny on em that’s so loose, fit your whole hand inside. Two even. And clap. Same goes for some backsides, sorry to say…
    Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. It’s probably yours, but you’re still too shocked by what you’ve witnessed to feel anything nearing pride. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again. Ever. But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?

    Well, better trot along with all the others and show him my sad eyes. Like I care.


(adapted from The Red Room)

He hadn’t made the bed (for which he apologized)

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Carmina’s ovulations were a ferocious affair, blocking everything else from view with their white anger, like the child kicking over all her building blocks, the tears searing her face, her voice muddied by the rage that had gathered in a sudden black cloud on a blue sky; brooding and inconsolable.
When Carmina had her ovulation, how she hated men! Hated the men who were absent or inaccessible;
the men who were incompetent, every lover who had ever loved her, good and bad alike, and who had ever left her. She hated every man who had ever shied away from her advances, fear and mockery dancing in his contorted smiles as his feet yanked him back to the cowardly comfort of the commonplace; to the wife no longer loved, but who would always be there, unscandalous. Scentless.

Ovulations meant hate
meant hunger
meant animal
meant howling
meant denying
meant yearning
meant curled up and crying
meant not defying you are …

Ovulation meant donation
meant benediction
meant confirmation of your
woman –

a feasting of womanhood

He hadn’t made the bed, for which he apologized, but it didn’t bother her. She trampled on Her blue sequined slippers as she climbed in and trampled on them once again as she climbed out, not that she had anything against Her, they were just in the way. Sex was good, and though she came several times and got the chance to scream her head off, her passion was shushed by a sadness she didn’t quite know where it came from, or where to put it, so she tried to stuff it into the crease of cloth between the two mattresses with her big toe right foot.

All the sperm She had not been able to summon, splattered all over the sheets now…
As he creamed her torso with it, lamenting all the millions who had got away, Carmina realized she was lying on Her side of the bed, wondered if Her nose was good enough to pick up the spunk and sweat deposited in Her absence. He fed her a clump of it with his forefinger, so she could taste it, properly, not like the last time, when he had exploded into the back of her throat and it was slung directly to her stomach lining, choking her along the way. She twirled it around in her mouth trying to think what it reminded her of…  She thought about the sequined slippers she had trampled on. If beauty were celestial and came looking for us under the mantel of darkness, the wife would be the one to hold the candle without the wick, where had she heard that or something similar? And suddenly Carmina knew why she was so sad some place so soon on into this Wonderful:

for although she had laid herself bare, he didn’t believe a word she said.

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(from The Red Room. Illustrations by L.W. Eden. Copyright © 2014)