Thursday, 19 October 2017

Heavy Weather - Pirates and Ghosts Anthology

From Gilian Whitaker's blog on the Flame Tree Publishing website:

"The eerie depths of the sea form the theme of our latest short story anthology: Pirates & Ghosts.

With the publication date sailing into view, we turned to the authors to hear what inspired their stories in the collection, in the same way that the Agents & Spies discussed their story inspirations here.

Completing this year’s set of short story anthologies, Pirates & Ghosts promises a haunting mix of adventure, monsters and mystery – and the responses below help give a glimpse of what’s in store!"

Among the stories included in the anthology due out next week is my updated version of an ancient nautical legend. It goes under the title 'Heavy Weather'. I hope you'll enjoy it.

As usual with Flame Tree, the beautifully produced hardback volumes make great Christmas gifts Pirates and Ghosts is available to pre-order on their website here

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Veterinary Bulletin

Red is in the final week of convalescence. He is led out to the grass three times a day, both for the purpose of strengthening his fetlock by walking and readjusting his system to a grass diet.

So far this programme's progressing well, though the occasional 'whoopidoo!' bucks are becoming a bit difficult to hold on to. I'm not sure those were, strictly speaking, included in the schedule.

Anyway he stays out up to 30 minutes on at least one of these expeditions per day, weather and midges permitting.

I don't recall a year like this one for midges. Clouds of these annoying beasties are so thick you're almost lucky not to be breathing them in. I expect they'll persist until the frosts put a close to their activities.

On the other hand, once again it proved impossible to cut the winter field for hay, so when the herd moves across from the summer field they'll find the grass still thick, if reduced in nutrition because of the lateness of the season.


Meanwhile, in defiance of strict instructions that only one animal at a time is allowed to be sick, Mac the Dogue suffered a flare-up of infection in his damaged leg. (He has a bald patch resulting from an old operation scar, and since he is a very hashy-bashy-tearing-through-the- undergrowth animal he keeps scratching it.)

So he needed an emergency trip to the vet on Saturday. He's now progressing well on medication but hates having to wear a Buster collar to prevent him licking the wound.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Equine Injury

This is Red, the current herd boss.

Unfortunately he doesn't  look quite so spry at the moment because he picked up a puncture wound in a hind fetlock joint that somehow stove in a cubic centimetre of bone and then became infected.

Horse people will know that bad damage to a leg is potentially fatal to a horse. Fortunately we have reasonably locally the services of a first class equine specialist veterinary practice. They performed keyhole surgery to flush the infection.



After his period in hospital Red is now home again and on compulsory box rest because excessive activity with all that missing bone might set him back to square one.

Red hates this. During the day a rota of companions has been organised for him in our centrally-divided double stable. He's a good patient, all things considered, but he doesn't mind letting me know how displeased he is by a periodic ears back or a longing look at the field into which others are unfairly allowed.

He doesn't necessarily believe it's for his own good.

Kids, huh?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Horsepower

The Kelpies at The Helix, Falkirk

Appropriately enough, shortly before my story 'The Black Horse' is published in a few days' time, I was able to pay a visit to the Horsepower show at The Helix, Falkirk (above), home of the famous 'Kelpies' scuplture.

Outlander stunt riders





From the hugely popular pony rides to the vigorous re-enactment of fight scenes by Outlander stunt riders (left), there was something to interest spectators in a wide variety of non-competitive equestrian endeavour. The occasional shower failed to dampen the enthusiasm, though it probably added to the takings in the sales and refreshment tents.








Heavy Horses on The Towpath


Heavy horses were at work logging, pulling agricultural implements, and on the towpath of the Forth Clyde Canal (right).


The grand finale in the main ring was the hugely popular jousting tourney (below).



Jousting Tournament




We have to remark that not every competitor displayed perfect chivalry.  A certain amount of cheating seemed to be going on, none of which had the slightest connection with the large bag of gold allegedly deposited for safe keeping with the judge by the eventual victor.

A large crowd had a very good day. Many thanks to the organisers and participants who deserve much credit for ensuring everything went well.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Black Horse


I'm pleased to announce that my story The Black Horse is to appear in the forthcoming Third Flatiron anthology Strange Beasties, out later this month. The anthology is available for pre-order on Amazon.

I love writing about the legends of localities where I've lived or which I know well. This is a tale of the North Yorkshire Moors in the late eighteenth century.

All the village names of this part of the world still bring nostalgia for my university years when a group of us made regular trips to attempt The Lyke Wake Walk.

It's also a tale of horse racing and of course I've done a fair bit of that too, so I feel on safe ground here, which is more than can be said for the story's protagonist!

This is my second sale to Third Flatiron. Some readers may recall that the first, Time's Winged Chariot, subsequently did well in a reader poll, so we'll hope the new story will enjoy similar success.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Third & Starlight!


An anthology of 14 tales of wonder by award winning authors, finalists, and semi-finalists (e.g. Writers of the Future, Hugo, Cambell, Aurealis, and others). This year's collection of science fiction and fantasy stories from these impressive new talents:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction: Back and Foreword----------- Robert B. Finegold, MD
The Memory of Huckleberries -------------- Rebecca Birch
The Temptation of Father Francis ----------Nick T. Chan and Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

The Waiting Room ------------------  Philip Brian Hall

Last Time For Everything -------------------- K. L. Schwengel
Skinners ----------------------------------------  Rachelle Harp
Amma's Wishes -------------------------------  M. E. Garber
Three Flash ------------------------------------  Dustin Adams
A Green Tongue ------------------------------   Frank Dutkiewicz
A Matter For Interpretation -----------------   M. Elizabeth Ticknor
The Root Bridges of Haemae --------------- Sean Monaghan
Red is the Color of My True Love's Hair -- William R. D. Wood
Bad Actors -------------------------------------   Julie Frost
In the Heart of the Flesh --------------------   Scott Parkin
Shattered Vessels -----------------------------  Kary English and Robert B.Finegold, MD

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ancient Greek Horses

Most of us are familiar with ancient Greek sculptures of the human body, but here's another example of how brilliantly they observed the equine form. This is a relief funerary sculpture, photographed in the Archaeological Museum of Athens, of a caparisoned horse and his handler.

Now if he were my horse I should not be keen on the handler raising his whip-hand in this way, but it is of course possible that we are looking at a chariot horse being trained for battle. He is not saddled and the caparison bears some sort of emblem at the front.

Notice the detail extends to individual muscles and small blood vessels. There is even a small crack in the right fore hoof!

Unless the handler is very diminutive we are looking at a stallion of impressive size for the period too.

Next is a life size bronze of a horse and juvenile jockey. The statue was recovered in pieces from a shipwreck off Cape Artemision in Euboea.

The jockey would have held the reins in his left hand and a whip in the right. These were probably of less durable material and have not survived immersion.

Notice the boy has no stirrups. There is some evidence to suggest that these were not invented until the early Middle Ages. Of course he has no saddle either and they were used by cavalrymen in antiquity. The lack of a saddle would have been a device to save weight,as would the youth of the jockey.

The piece dates from about 140 BC. Oh yes it does.




Recovered here are the metal parts of a real brute of a bit. Notice the shaped bars to prevent it pulling through the mouth and the particularly fierce wheels and serrations of the mouthpiece itself.

If the horse in the first picture had one of these in its mouth I can imagine why he's throwing up his head. Again, I suspect this can only have been battle harness, when instant obedience would be required from the mount and you might actually want him to rear. It's hard to imagine why you would need something like this in normal circumstances.