Tag Archives: Improbable Press

Lockdown Fiction: The Only Daughter of Time

Here we are again, with a story prompted by the Improbable Press blog. It seems my mind lately is rather fixated on metamorphis.

The Only Daughter of Time

The sun blazed hot outside but within the colonnade the air was cool and fresh. Outside smelled of hot dust; inside of earthy stone and antiquity. Ruins, partially reconstructed for the delight of the tourists, made them all feel small in the scheme of time, large in their self-estimation. They had lived to see these sights, and had the gumption to travel far to places where habits, beliefs, language, all different.

Excited travel chatter faded and the group stood in the cool stone cocoon and gazed up, up, up at the paint that clung, centuries later, to the ceiling. Ochre reds and pale greens, the hint of yellow and, in one large, stubborn patch, a blue ground from lapis lazuli made a faux sky on the stone that blocked the real sky.

Ameenah sneezed into the silence, mucus membranes agitated beyond endurance by the colour blue. The floral origin was neither here nor there. Ameenah was allergic to blueberries, blue skies, the blue moon, the Moody Blues. Blue got right in amongst her cells and niggled till she sneezed. Every. Goddamned. Time.

Dr Mason, back home in London, insisted the allergy was psychosomatic. Ameenah insisted that her imagination had never been that vivid, let alone powerful enough to actually manifest sinus pain, irritated nasal passages and actual snot.

Ameenah, sneezing, as remarked, into the silence, and the explosion of it bounced off the marble walls and around the pillars and from the stone floor to carved ceiling and all in all, there was nothing discreet about it.

A tiny flake of blue split away from the ceiling, and another, and a third: drifting down like falling ash.

Sl
  ow
      ly
          do
             wn

                 onto Ameenah’s red-eyed face. A flake into her left eye, a flake onto her lip (and licked unconsciously away) and a flake below her nose so that when the next sneeze began, she inhaled it sharply into her sinus cavity.

Blue. Right there. In the centre of all the trouble.

Ameenah, who was not a believer in crystals, was not aware that lapis lazuli was associated with self-knowledge, with intuition, and with past lives.

Well, not to begin with.

But as she stood on the flagstones, blue in her nose, in her eyes, on her tongue, a much older part of her self turned over. The blue that invaded her body woke up sleeping knowledge and woke up the blue in her blood and the blue of her skin.

The sleeping part of her blinked, took a deep, deep breath and …

Maat, Goddess of Truth, awoke.

Ameenah was not, it turned out, allergic to blue.

Truth had just been waiting for the right blue to rise up.


La verità fu sola figliola del tenpo.
Truth was the only daughter of Time.

~ Leonardo Da Vinci, from original manuscript “Moto, colpo

Quintette of Questions: GV Pearce

Today I’m asking GV Pearce 5 questions about their new book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

The book is called Ghost Story, which is also an accurate description for its contents. There were a few themes so it was a little difficult to choose, but sometimes it’s nice to get straight to the point. I’m sure John wishes Sherlock would do that more often too!

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Early 1980s Paul McGann and Richard E Grant. There are some photographs of the pair of them taken behind the scenes of a film that absolutely fits the aesthetic for this John and Sherlock. McGann’s overgrown hair is perfect for an ex-military man finding his new persona, and Grant has always looked a little spooky.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Eerie, melancholy, uncanny, sanguine, tactile.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

Gomez & Morticia Addams have always been my touchstone for perfect relationships. They’re always there for one another, no matter how strange their lives become.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

‘When You Don’t See Me’ by Sisters of Mercy could easily apply to both the central relationship and the central theme of the book (not to give too much away) 

About Ghost Story

John Watson loves his husband, but he’d like Sherlock Holmes to leave this case alone. They’re supposed to be taking a break from London. From work. But then again, when has Sherlock’s brain ever taken a holiday? And honestly, the strange disappearance of Gloria Evans bothers them both—though for very different reasons.

Buy Ghost Story

About GV Pearce

G.V. Pearce is a mysterious being said to haunt the North York Moors, but is otherwise as yet unclassified by science. Rumour has it that they can be summoned by leaving coffee in a faery circle at midnight.

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Read my review of Ghost Story.

Lockdown Fiction: Connectivity

Inspired by an Improbable Press prompt!

Connectivity

I know better. Of course I do. But broke, living in my car, and denied the necessary freedom of internet access for the sixth day running prove too much for my caution. I have job applications to lodge, even with my small hope of success, and no data left on my phone. The lure of the open WiFi network named SpinATale is too strong.

I click.

I fall headlong into SpinATale’s web.

First my screen goes dark, and when it fires up again a moment later my Star Wars wallpaper has been replaced by what looks like tangled purple crochet that reminds me of my first and only attempt at a scarf, made when I was twelve.

I hit escape.

This is either my second mistake or my next good choice of the day.

My finger freezes onto the escape key, stuck onto the keyboard which is communing with the cascade of code and energy beyond the Bluetooth chip.

Words appear across the screen – first in white text.

Spin a Tale with me.

Then in black.

Tell Your Story.

Then in deep purple.

Share Your Story.

My story. Huh. I stare at the flashing words and think about my story.  

I was unlucky. I misjudged.  I lost my job. I lost my hope. I lost my love and I lost my way. I’m on my last fifty bucks and my last legs.  My life’s not going anywhere, and I’ve literally and figuratively got nothing in the tank to take me anywhere. I’m down and nearly out and nobody cares.

We care.

I blink at the new words, in deep, dark red. I still can’t get my finger off the escape key.

Do you want to escape?

This life? This moment? This noisy world where no sound I make can be heard? Where I shout into the void and nobody listens and nobody cares?

We care. We will listen.

Can a wireless network show empathy for a blip of human data stuck in the hardware world?

We will share your story. You will be heard.

Oh hell yes I want to escape. I want to flee, fly, flow into whatever lurks behind SpinATale’s cryptic, mind-reading connection.

Double click ESC to Escape.

I double click.

I escape.

You hear me now, don’t you?

Review: Ghost Story by GV Pearce

The latest book from Improbable Press gives us a piquant blend of love story, character study and spoooookiness.

This Holmes/Watson tale has an original contemporary London/York setting and opens with John and Sherlock, married for several months now, on what ought to be a belated honeymoon but which John knows to be a case – a case which Sherlock said he wasn’t pursuing. Already it’s clear that while they love and adore each other, there’s rockiness ahead.

Sherlock’s not the only one keeping secrets, however. From the very first chapter we know that John sees ghosts, and has done since he was a child. He can’t tell anyone – people would think him unbalanced – so he avoids thinking about it whenever possible. That is not as often as he’d like.

Ghost Story is both a great little Holmesian mystery about the missing Gloria Evans: it’s a fantastically spooky tale of a man haunted by ghosts and the traumas of his past; his relationship with a man who seems equal parts obliviousness and devotion; and a study of the cracks in a loving relationship when the deceptions pile up, whatever the motivations.

The unravelling of those secrets and why they’re being kept are part of a beautifully texture of a low-key case that feels very intense in terms of its impact.

A couple of the scenes are deeply affecting and gorgeously evocative. Gloria’a abandoned flat, where greenery has invaded the spaces; the streets and buildings of York; the banks of a river; the flashbacks to John’s childhood and the attack on the ambulance convoy in Afghanistan – all of these are described so splendidly that I could almost scent the atmosphere – Gloria’s flat particularly.

One of the many things I love about Ghost Story is how it becomes gradually clear that the spirits that John encounters are not the only ghosts of the title.

John and Sherlock are both a little ghost-like themselves, not quite anchored in the world or entirely present for each other. Sherlock flits in and out of John’s life for a while, through the flashbacks of how they met and their first case, and he still keeps secrets and disappears without explanation. At the same time, in avoiding confrontation and acceptance of his unwanted gift, and the secret that he’s therefore keeping himself, combined with the effects of his war injuries, John is absent in key ways too.

It’s a beautiful theme that threads through the whole and makes the conclusion – in which the resolutions for the hauntings and John and Sherlock’s relationship are linked – particularly satisfying.

GV Pearce has written us a wonderfully atmospheric, beautifully paced book – it may take a little time for case/relationship/ghostiness to come to a head, but every step is deeply involving and the reader is fully engaged with wondering how all the elements will turn out. It is in turns poignant, charming, funny and unsettling, but it’s deftly wound together in a conclusion that satisfies without being heavy handed.

I hope Pearce considers another book for Improbable Press – in this universe or any other they care to write in. I’ll pounce on it the minute I can!

Buy Ghost Story