After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

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Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

The following excerpt is unedited and taken from

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4)

Available to pre-order now at Amazon

Filtering out Dad’s scraping and clattering, I focus on the errant noise. The pattern of the sounds tells me one of The Ringed is nearby, probably in amongst the trees or shrubs and making its way towards our little picnic site.

Leaving dad to busy himself with the tea, I move quietly towards the source of the noise. Shoving a heavy branch from my path, I come across a female Ringed. Both of her legs are badly broken. She walks with the ankle of her right foot folded all wrong, so that her foot trails along behind. Her lower right leg is missing completely giving her a tilted gait. I let a sigh out and draw one of my knives.

Seemingly intent on moving her awkward limbs, she doesn’t notice me until I’m three feet from her. When she looks up at me, I gasp and take a step back.

She’s newly-risen. Aside from the damage to her legs, she’s in good condition. At a guess, I’d say she’s been dead less than a month. It’s not the condition of her, or that she’s so close that makes me start. It’s her appearance. She’s my age, has my hair colour, height and general build. She also has her right eye missing.

The girl’s lips snarl back to reveal a mouthful of gums. No teeth remain in her head. Stepping towards her, I shove her powerless arms aside before driving my heavy blade through her brain. The girl flops, adding to the detritus. Sprawled onto the forest floor, I get a clear look at her. She does look like me, very much like me. Unnerved I draw a second blade and press my back to a silver birch for cover. My eye catches a glint at her leg. Peering closer, I get low. It’s a knife worn exactly where I sheath my own.

I close my eyes lightly and concentrate on the sounds around me, like Joey taught me. Filtering out animals, birds, the wind and swaying branches, I pick out an altogether more human sound.

To my left, perhaps fifty feet from me, a light and familiar footstep disturbs some dry leaves.

The girl, the location, the macabre humour of her appearance…Suddenly the tableaux makes perfect sense. In his head anyway.

“You might as well come out, Bracha,” I try to sound bored.

A moment later he ghosts out of the shadows, lifting aside a low branch with his golf club. Leaning on the club, one leg crossed over the other, he smiles broadly at me. “So wonderful to see you, Stephanie my dear.”

A soft kick to the dead Ringed girl’s shoulder, “I do wish you had played a little more nicely with my friend, though. It took me an age to find her.”

I make a deliberate show of re-sheathing my blade and taking a relaxed stance. Despite his jester’s demeanour, His eyes note every move I make. Nodding at the dead girl, I ask. “Why?”

His expression shifts to one of deep sincerity. “I missed you, Stephany,” He says. The bastard is telling the truth. He selected this girl, took an eye and dressed her as me so that he had someone to talk to…no. So that he had me to talk to. Had he really grown so used to having me around?

His eyebrows lift in faux nonchalance. “She was a lot less trouble than you, though, Stephanie. Although… you do have a certain way with you.” The shark grin returns.

“You know I’m here to kill you?” I ask flatly.

He lifts his club and performs a little flurry with it, twisting it around his fingers only to toss it overhead and catch it on his waiting foot. With a flick, he punts the club back into his waiting hand. Throughout his performance, my eyes watch his hands and feet for a hint of an aggressive twitch. The display is not a distraction. He’s simply happy to see me.

“Well of course, my darling. There’s no-one else I would rather dance with.”

Showing him a shark-smile of my own, I draw two of my knives.

“But…” He blurts, holding a hand out in front of him.

“As you’ve brought my dear friend Jimmy along on the trip, let’s say we have a civilised discussion before we engage in our dance. Get to know each other once again, maybe share a meal. I also have some interesting information to share with you and your little community.”

I’d forgotten the sharpness of his senses and his habit of scouting the area he’s in regularly. I rebuke myself silently at his mention of James and resolve to remember my lessons better in future, if I have a future.

Wondering how long Bracha has been watching us, I shake my head minutely. “No.”

Bracha sighs and leans back onto his club once again.

“Manners, Stephanie. What has happened to people’s manners in this city?” He looks at me expecting as response. I give him none.

A long resigned sigh comes from him. “Well, I suppose if you absolutely insist…” Allowing his golf club to thud to the ground, Bracha draws two of his favourite blades. His movements are much less smoothly executed than I’m used to. The cold and his injuries have shaved another portion of his speed and agility. My heart races as I realise that I’m faster than him now. I’m capable of a greater range of physical attacks also. I have a chance, so long as I don’t underestimate his decades of experience.

A wistful look replaces his predatory expression. Bracha nods at my Ringed doppelganger. “I can always make friends with you once again.” He crouches to the Ringed girl. Coating his knives in her blood and saliva he resumes his fighting stance.

“When you awaken.”

End of Excerpt

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is available to pre-order now at Amazon

Why Would Anyone Settle For Being An Indie-Author?

Why Would Anyone Settle For Being An Indie-Author?

The first question I’m asked when people discover that I’m an Indie- Author is whether I’ve approached or considered approaching agents or publishers.

‘Your books are good, Mark. You should submit to publishers.’

It doesn’t seem to occur to some that being independent is a choice, not a necessity. I never considered the traditional publishing route, although I have had offers from several Independent publishing houses and one large agency over the years which I chose not to accept for a variety of reasons.

I was very lucky to benefit early in my writing career from the advice of several authors who’ve spent some years in the publishing industry. In particular, I had a long chat with Gavin Bain, a friend of mine who has had long-term experience in the music and literary business. We chatted about agents, contracts, advances, small publishers versus large ones and I spent months doing my own research on the business. With a push from Gavin I followed my gut instinct to go Indie. I’ve never regretted this.

So…Self- Publishing or Traditional?

Asked by every writer to spurt ink.

When I started writing my debut novel, I stood firmly in the self-publish camp. As I progressed with the book, I wanted to be thorough, so I researched the industry more and more. Royalties, advances, agents, services performed by the publishing house and or the agent, big or small publisher? Did I want to write for and market to a specific genre? How could I set about building a readership?

There was and is a lot to learn. I did weeks of research, seeking out those agents and publishers (mostly independent) who I thought would like me and my book, and whom I thought I’d like to work with. After ten completed projects, that list remains unused at present.

More and more, as I immersed myself in the snaking and shaded corridors of the literary industry, the same nagging questions came back to me.

Is it worth giving away control of my work for the miniscule chance at the potential exposure a big publisher might bring?

It seemed to me that if these guys deigned to take you, they’d in all probability change your work endlessly, until it fit their formulaic idea of what a commercial novel should be, which is fine for some writers, but not for me. It seemed that most of the promo and marketing would be done by me rather than them anyway, so why should I give them such a huge chunk of my potential earnings (ha!) and, more importantly, complete control over the words that I had spent so many hours writing? What was more important? Potential earnings or creative control?

Advances: For many authors, it seems that an advance, especially a huge one, is the holy-grail. I don’t understand this mentality at all. Sure an advance is a nice pat on the back, and an indication that your book is commercial enough (or at least can be made to be, in the payer’s opinion) to perhaps recoup the investment. It also seems like a good way of allowing the author the privilege and means to write full-time. For me, it’s a scary prospect.

An advance simply means that you’re in debt to the issuer until your sales repay the money. If the sales take years to do so? Well, you’re in hock to them for years, and quite probably on a deadline for at least one more book. No thanks. Add this to the fact that a large portion of publishers give their newly-published books only a very short time to hit serious sales before shifting their enthusiasm and attention elsewhere, it added to my unease.

I know several authors who exist by paying one advance off with the next to recover the rights to their books.

Agents: Whilst there are of course many good quality agents, who work hard for their clients, let’s remember two key things about them.

Firstly, they do try to get the best deal for their authors, but that may mean something different to them than it does to the author, in terms of cash, advances or the prestige of a particular publishing house over creative control or effective care from the publisher. Your agent represents a business; the more money (debt) they get for you, the more money they themselves make, and that is their primary objective.

Secondly, agents will take around 15% of your money, which is already a very small percentage (somewhere between 7 -15% for traditionally published writers) when considering the fact that you worked so hard on your book and will continue to work your arse off promoting the book, publisher or no publisher (unless of course you’re very high on the publishers’ radar). Whilst the services of agents can be very valuable, if you take the traditional publisher out of the picture, there’s really no place for an agent until you’re selling enough books on your own to gather interest from publishers and have deals to negotiate.

Smaller publishing houses offer a more personal service and are generally more engaged with and passionate about the work they’ve chosen to represent. They are also significantly more pro-active in reacting to the market and in developing their authors than their traditional counterparts. Whilst working with small publishers can be rewarding, particularly if think you haven’t the skills or contacts to produce a decent standard of book for yourself, in my view there’s not always a need to hand your work over to a small publisher, unless they can add value that you cannot on your own. Indie publishers like Bloodhound Books have made great strides in the market and appear to put their authors first. 

If you choose to go it alone, given the time and will you can learn do it yourself with the right assistance and a commitment to pay professionals for the services you can’t do for yourself, i.e., editing and proofing.
Many of the industry professionals I hire do the exact same work but at higher rates to small publishers. Good freelancers are easy to come by and needn’t be expensive.

This is where the effective Indie-Author exists. In the centre of a web of professionals; editors, proof-readers, formatters and cover designers (if needed), hired by the author to polish his/her work and free the author up to do what he/she does best…Write.

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Are the potential benefits and rewards of being a writer great enough for me to expect to earn a living from writing?

For me the decision to go Indie was a no-brainer. However, a small part of me, the one that’s low on self-esteem, told me that I needed the recognition from an agent or publisher that my book was “good”.

I ignored that needy version of myself and ploughed on, buoyed by the research I’d done into the standard of eBooks out there. As far as I could see, my first book was as good as many self-published eBooks, and better than most (there’s the tiny little bit of ego/confidence I do possess asserting itself).

In hindsight, my first work was of a good standard but just good. I was judging the quality of my work against other independents, when I should have been planning ahead in my development and thinking bigger in terms of the standard I wanted to reach and surpass.

As a writer, I’ve developed a massive amount and learned many more writing devices and techniques during the process of writing nine more books. This kind of development time, I wouldn’t be allowed with such a public analysis and feedback in traditional publishing. Like the music industry, the days when a publisher will take a punt on a new talent and invest in developing them are long gone for the most part. “Bring us the next copy of a copy of ‘a girl who kicked a hornet in the nuts on a train’.”

As things stand; using several industry professionals who are competitively priced, and more importantly better at editing etc than me, I’ve published my stories across a range of genre, exactly as I intend them to be.

The financial rewards?

Here’s the thing few writers will tell you, mostly because you don’t want to hear it. You will most likely not make money as a writer.

You will devote thousands of hours of your time to writing the very best books you can. Time to develop your skills and broaden your writing palette. Hours and hours to learn what you can about marketing and promoting your book effectively. Building an audience. Writing some more.

None of this will guarantee you readers or an income. If you make more than £500 a month from writing novels, you deserve a pat on the back. I regularly outsell much higher profile authors who are tied to restrictive contracts and huge advances. How the hell they pay their creditors back, I have no idea. Living from one advance to the next doesn’t appeal to me.

The truth is, that for all the professionalism you will have to employ; all of the dedication and sacrifice of your time to write and to present your writing as well as it can be, writing will be nothing more than a very time-consuming hobby that you love. If you build a small readership who enjoy your books and earn enough for a little holiday once a year, give yourself well-deserved handshake. Focus instead on being proud of a back catalogue of books you poured yourself into writing.

So, why ‘settle’ for being an Indie- Author?

That’s the key, you’re not settling, you’re making a determined and smart choice to control your own literary destiny and produce your work the way you desire. No changing characters ages or sex or motivations to appeal to this demographic or that genre. No committees making a product of your labour. No debt to a corporate master which for most writers you haven’t a hope of recouping form advances.

The beauty?

If you’re one of the lucky writers who have a breakthrough hit of a book, your work is entirely in your own hands. You can make that deal when the big boys/girls come calling, but you can make it on your own terms. Use their distribution. Use their contacts to get a TV deal or international translations or Movie deals. Use them. Not the other way round.

As an independent, you can still choose to publish with an indie-publisher, or a larger one if that’s your bag, but have the choice to work with people who truly feel passionate about and can add value to your novel, rather than jumping at the first publisher or agent who shows an interest at all cost. 

Do not settle for being an Indie-Author.

Fucking aspire to be an Indie-Author.

 

Mark is the proudly-independent author of nine works of fiction and one non-fiction

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.

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Davie craig is A Dead Man – Review

Davie Craig is A Dead Man. 

First off, if you haven’t read the first two novels in this series, Paul Carter is A Dead Man and Ben Turner is A Dead Man, then off you fuck, devour those beauts and bring your slavering eyes back for book three in the Dead Man series.

Davie Craig, picks up (more or less) where Ben Turner left off. I say ‘more or less’ because Bracha plays around with time, narrative style, tense, continuity and POV like a three year old plays with his wiener, so the chapter you’re reading,  may be set before, concurrently or after the previous chapter.

Sounds confusing, and in a lesser writer’s hands it would be; Bracha flips between narrative styles with confidence, skill and ease, lending each of his characters a distinct and vibrant voice whilst immersing the reader in a flowing, pacey story. In all honesty very few writers, Indie or mainstream, would have the balls to attempt such a variety of writing techniques, and most would make a pig’s-ear of it.

Bracha’s skill is such that his characters take a proper life of their own. The spontaneity of the writing screams from the page, so much so that I imagine Bracha is as entertained at his characters’ choices, insecurities, bravery and basterdery, as his readers will be.

Ryan’s occasional breaking of the fourth wall, was my personal favourite. At times I felt that the characters were distinctly aware of their own fictional existence which brought a real sense of unease and danger during the novel.

Really, the entire series is cinematic in its scope, its execution and the immersive quality of the writing. 

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Most writers would have stuck with the vibrant cast and world created in the opening book of the series, Paul Carter; Bracha threw them to the wind, with merely a nod of recognition during the second book, Ben Turner, and pushed (for me) the least likeable character in Ben Turner, from Book 1, front and centre, in the process making Ben one of the two most unpredictable and entertaining character in the series alongside Nat Sweeney, who I’m massively attracted to and shite scared of.

That’s what Ryan does as a writer, gives you something you didn’t expect or necessarily want, but is somehow perfect for the world he’s created.

If you want a writer- and a series of books- that will excite, entertain, confound, and make your inner bastard grin from ear to ear, the Dead Man Series is the world for you.

 

You can Find Ryan and his books at Amazon UK and US

My Top 5 Indie Books

Independent authors are the new rock stars of the literary world. No doubt about it. From a slush-pile siege at it’s beginnings, the Indie-publishing revolution is beginning to see the quality wordsmiths and their publications rise to the surface.

If you’ve yet to explore the Indie publishing stable, I would urge you to seek out novels and stories by authors such as;

Craig Furchtenicht, Ryan Bracha, Keith Nixon, Gerard Brennan, Neil Cocker, Martin Stanley, the Near to The Knuckle team and Michael Logan, to name a few. These writers are producing excellent quality works and deserve an audience uninspired by the mainstream literature on offer.

If you simply need somewhere to start here’s my top 5 books produced by Indie/Hybrid authors.

N.B. (The books I’ve chosen are simply my personal favourites from an extensive list I’ve read over the last couple of years.

 

5. Eagle’s Shadow by Keith Nixon

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I’m a sucker for Roman history and Historical fiction. Nixon’s is one of the best I’ve read.

 

Blurb:

One man stands against the might of the Roman Empire. His name is Caradoc. 


In Rome a new Emperor, Claudius, accedes the throne. But he is politically weak, enemies who would take his place circle and plot. If he is to survive Claudius needs a triumph, one that marks him as a leader of men.

Claudius’s eye turns to the mysterious isle of Britannia, home of the supernatural Druids and brutal, wild-eyed warriors, reputed to fight naked. The place not even Julius Caesar could conquer.

AD43 and a massive invasion force, commanded by Aulus Plautius, lands on a tiny corner of Britannia. Caradoc, King of the country’s most powerful tribe, assembles an army to throw his enemy back over the water and into Gaul.

But divisions are rife and there are those who are secretly working with the Romans for their own benefit. The very future of the country is at risk and only one man can safeguard it…

4. Dimebag Bandits by Craig Furchtenicht

 

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Furchtenicht can do no wrong for me. He’s one of those writers you constantly strive to write like. Unpredictable, inventive and unafraid to buck convention. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by the big man. I’ve read Bandits 4 times now   

 

Blurb:

When Kori Woodson’s stepfather gives his entire college savings to a religious zealot’s campaign fund, he takes matters into his own hands. He steals drugs from his employer, who also happens to belong to the same church, and sells them to the bored housewives in the neighbourhood. When he is eventually caught he finds himself expelled from school, fired from his job and facing jail time.
Now his parents plan to travel the country on a mission to “Save the world from itself” with the church that has shunned him. With no other place to stay, Kori is forced to return to his real father’s home in rural Iowa. A place that he has not been to in over six years.

It is a far cry from the big city but his older brother, Brenden, and his motley crew of friends do not hesitate to take him right into the fold. Within hours of returning home, Kori gets caught up in the dangerous and potentially deadly trade of robbing drug dealers of their wares. He soon realizes that the people they work for can be even more of a threat than the people that they steal from.
Drugs, sex, money and death… It is all a day in the life of a Dimebag Bandit.

 

3. Life is Local by Des McAnulty.

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Des is the best kept secret in Indie-Publishing. In this single book he evokes more emotion and portrays more humour and callous, heart-breaking realism than many more experienced writers accomplish over a ten book catalogue. I’ve read and re-read Life is Local a dozen times and love it anew each occasion.

Do your soul a good turn and read Life is Local.

 

Blurb:

Motherwell 2002, College student Stevie Costello, trying to come to terms with the bizarre suicide of his ex-girlfriend Clare, dreams of a better life far away from his hum drum existence. First he must contend with his straight laced boss AlIistair, whose marriage to the breathtaking Marie is on the verge of collapse and his best friends Stubbsy and Lisa, whose hatred for each other explodes one night into an intoxicating love under a blazing Motherwell sun. Can Stevie somehow shake off the shackles of his surroundings or will he finally realise that love and life really is local?

 

2. Wannabes by Michael Logan.

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I stumbled across Wannabes whilst looking for another book. very grateful to have found it. excellent writing, insightful characters who are allowed to develop, great pace, music, angels, the devil, demons and God Himself. Awesome stuff.

Blurb:

From the winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize comes a new satire, which has been shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original Novel 2015 Award.

Celebrities are mobbing London’s laser clinics as a deranged wannabe bumps off A-listers, believing he can absorb their powers and become famous by taping their tattoos to his body. Washed-up pop star Jackie Thunder isn’t joining the stampede. Jackie figures that if he can get on the killer’s hit list, without the inconvenience of actually being murdered, he’ll gain the publicity needed to reignite his career. But there’s more at stake than Jackie can possibly imagine. Guiding the killer is Murmur, a minor demon with his own agenda to make a name for himself, and Jackie becomes an unwitting pawn in a decades-old plot to destroy great music through murder, mayhem and manipulation.

With humanity’s collective soul at stake, how far will Jackie go to reach the top?

 

  1. The Switched by Ryan Bracha

 

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The standout book for me. For creative fury, undiluted imagination and a complete lack of restraint, this book simply can’t be beat. Here’s my review.

 

Blurb:

What would you do if you were no longer you?

One summer morning, totally unconnected people wake up as somebody else. They have their names, their lives, and their problems. Nobody knows how or why it’s happened, and nobody knows if or when they’ll ever get their own lives back.

They must quickly learn to accept, adapt to, and in some cases embrace their new personas, if they are to survive in a world where the people known as The Switched will do anything to get their old bodies back from others who will desperately do anything to protect their true identity, and hide deep behind their new face.

Against the backdrop of a nationwide search for popular television presenter Francesca O’Reilly, whose very public breakdown and disappearance sparks chaos on social media, it quickly becomes apparent that the switching phenomenon is far more widespread than anybody could have known, and The Switched become the most famous people in the country.

Take a trip into the darkest corners of the darkest minds in this supernatural thriller, the blackest work yet by Ryan Bracha, the best selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and the Dead Man Trilogy.

Mark Wilson is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Two-Dicks – On The Seventh Day, Chapter 28 – Preview. 

In this section Jay (Jesus) has left his best friend behind and is facing Armageddon alone, aside from a big cop named Dougie. 

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available now for Pre-Order  



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Chapter
28

Crouched, arse half on a wall, at the base of Christ the Redeemer on the peak of Corcovado Mountain, Jay looked out over Rio de Janeiro. Lost in his own grief, his eyes did not see the city and neighbourhoods below. He never imagined that he could feel so alone. Not even held by iron pins to a wooden cross had he felt so completely abandoned. Then, he’d known that Heaven awaited him, that earth would continue and that humans might be enriched by his time amongst them. Even the knowledge that his Father would be waiting for him had strengthened his resolve to see the execution through to the last. Jay had also had Moses in Heaven fighting his cause. Moses had been there for Jay since the moment of his creation: an immovable force for goodness, a confidant, a fearless ally and, simply, a friend.

And now Mo was gone.

Jay was falling into the deepest loneliness he’d experienced in his existence.

Jay sighed heavily and turned to look up at the statue behind him. Arms wide, welcoming the world, Christ the Redeemer possessed all the peace, confidence and purpose he himself felt none of at that moment.  
Jay touched the pedestal of the statue, like a human would. For the first time he understood the human desire, the need, to make physical contact with an icon or statue. That hope that a portion of what one saw in the object might empower one, that some strength would heal a wounded spirit.

Feeling only soapstone, Jay pulled his hand back, shoving it deep into the pockets of his denims.

Bringing the sprawling city below into focus, Jay breathed deeply, filling his lungs with the smells of the mountain and his being with Heaven’s Light. Allowing himself to connect with the material world and Heaven’s immateriality simultaneously, with closed eyes he examined the intricacies of the people, the city and the mood below.

Excitement. Determination. Joy. Fear.

All the emotions and feelings he’d come to expect from a crowd of people anticipating his presence. As with all of the other cities he’d visited so far, there was no sense of pressing danger. Yes, there were elements of hate, people protesting his message, and him, but nothing immediately threatening.

Jay funnelled a larger portion of Heaven, at the same time diminishing his sense of the physical world around him, to the point where he was unaware of the stone and sand beneath his feet or the pedestal he leaned on.

With all of his ethereal senses he scanned the city for signs of Azrael.

Mo had told him that he had helped Azrael plan where and how her agents — human mercenaries who cared nothing for who paid them or why — would be most effective in riling and inciting the crowd. Hundreds of them, some dressed in Muslim attire, some posing as Christian fundamentalists or Jews, had seeded the crowd, sought out like-minded and fanned the embers of outrage until fires broke out, joined and became unstoppable swells of violence.

Jay doubted Azrael was present in the city below. She was too experienced to allow Jay the opportunity to sense her, and he would do so if she were nearby. Azrael was the Angel of Death, after all. She’d annihilated millions, razed whole cities, flooded the whole fucking world and all at God’s behest. Azrael left rather a large wake in the immaterial world, as well as the physical one.

Satisfied that no obvious threats lay below, Jay pulled himself back into the flesh, limiting himself once again to the physical plane.

“We should get going, Jay,” Dougie said.

The cop was standing next to him, having arrived whilst Jay’s attention was elsewhere.

Jay nodded. “Thanks, Dougie,” he said without looking at him.

Jay felt Dougie’s mood shift from all-business to concern.

Dougie planked his backside against the soapstone next to Jay’s.

“Did I ever tell you about Tommy Two-Dicks?” he asked.

Despite his morose mood, Jay let out a snort of laughter. “I think I’d remember if you had, Dougie,” he said, nudging him.

Dougie shrugged. Looking off into the distance, he folded his arms, relaxing against the pedestal at the foot of Christ the Redeemer.

“I was in the army, as a kid, y’know, before I became a copper.”

Jay nodded. Sometimes people did this — told him their story. It was natural for humans, especially when they accepted who and what he was. That Heaven was real and Hell was too. It made eternity loom large for them

He’d had the experience many times back in the Middle-East. It was how he’d met most of the apostles.

The compulsion wasn’t unlike what people felt sometimes when talking to a priest or other preacher. They liked to unburden themselves, especially when the end was coming.

With millions waiting for Jay below, and God only knew how many across the airways and internet, Dougie could’ve picked a better moment, but hell, he’d earned the right to say whatever he chose to Jay, whenever he chose.

“Aye. I knew that, Dougie. What’s on your mind?”

Dougie pointed out at the city below.

“People. That’s what being a soldier is about. At least, it was for me. Sure there are orders, Queen and country and all that, but in the end it’s about people.”

Dougie glanced at Jay, acknowledging his nod of agreement.

“When you’re a kid and you enlist, in your head it’s about good people holding back or fighting against bad people. You have all the permission, the justification you need to put a bullet in someone, or build a wall, or knock one down. Good guys, bad guys, simple.” Dougie held his hands out, palms up. “You get a bit older and the black and white simplicity of youth becomes greyer — a million shades of fuckin’ grey. The motives become murkier and the justifications more elaborate. Good and bad guys are replaced in your mind by awareness of political and corporate agendas that were always there but you were too naïve, or uneducated or selfish to notice.

“So you begin to feel the weight of being someone’s tool. You accept that people higher than you on the pay-scale make the decisions and you execute them. It can still be simple, if you want it to be.”

Dougie cast a glance again at Jay, who was nodding along.

“You get married, you start a family and you keep believing that what you do is good. Meaningful. That your superiors are privy to intel you aren’t. That you’re making a difference, being the good guy. Bringing your beliefs and standards to people who are oppressed. That the country you’re invading really needs you there, whether they want you and your superior culture or not.”

Dougie kicked at a rock, sending it flying out into the blackening sky.

“That the father with a rock in his hand, standing outside the shell of a home you just bombed into the dust, boy cowering behind him, is the enemy and not exactly what you would be if your roles were reversed. That your country did this cruel, heinous act for reasons of virtue you don’t comprehend, but desperately strain to accept on faith… That it was about people… and not oil.”

Dougie gave a long sigh. Jay placed a hand on his shoulder. “You are good man, Dougie.”

The big cop realised Jay thought that he was confessing or offloading and smiled. “This ain’t about me Jay,” he said. “It’s about Tommy Two-Dicks, remember?”

Jay smiled at his own assumption. He should have known better than to underestimate Dougie. He motioned for Dougie to continue.

“So Tommy Two-Dicks.” Noticing Jay grinning, Dougie offered a half-hearted smile of his own, acknowledging the ridiculous nickname. “He didn’t have two dicks, just behaved like a dog with two. Y’know? Happy as fuck all the time. First to volunteer for every job. Never complained, saw an opportunity for laughter in every task.”

Jay smiled in acknowledgment.

“Yeah,” Dougie continued. “Annoying cunt, so he was, but he was my best friend. Had been since the day we met.”

Dougie took a moment, replaying a memory he didn’t care to share with Jay.

“Anyway, my unit were making an arrest. Two middle-aged locals in Helmand. Chubby little guys, all jokes and waving hands when we arrived. Suspected of leaving IEDs along military routes. Pick up and detain. Simple.

“Four of us arrived in our transport and these two guys are standing at the roadside makeshift grill which is burning away, cooking fuck knows what, chugging cold water from bottles fished from an ice-filled cooler at their feet.

“We follow protocol. Park a hundred metres away, approach in formation, assess the environment, all the usual crap. There’s no-one else around, just these two guys having themselves a barbecue at the roadside. Nearest building is a bombed-to-fuck little house two hundred metres away.

“They’re dressed in fucking trousers and Man Utd tops; no weapons visible. Waving us over, one of them holding a slab of meat up with a long fork.

“‘Welcome, Americans…’ he’s shouting. Probably the only English he knows.

“I recall one of the guys grumbling about being taken for a fuckin Yank.

“So we’re on alert, but there’s on alert and on alert. We’re fairly confident that these guys are a couple of clowns. The only real potential danger is the ice-cooler, but bombs and watery ice don’t generally go too well, which means that as alert as we are, we’re also smelling the charred meat.

“Dooley, big guy, team leader, growls at me out the corner of his mouth, ‘Let’s get these pricks cable-tied and get some refreshments.’

“I remember shrugging.

“It goes unsaid: follow protocol. Secure the men and the area. It doesn’t need to be said because no-one, aside from the barbecue-boys, is even close to relaxed.”

Dougie whistles through his teeth, nodding. Acknowledging Jay’s knowing glance.

 “Yeah, everyone except Tommy Two-Dicks.”

Dougie kicks another stone across the dirt.

“Fuck knows whether Tommy’s brain has baked in the afternoon sun, or if he just fuckin’ loves steak, but he breaks formation, stows his rifle and runs half-pace straight towards these guys.

“Fuckin’ smallest one — little rectangular glasses propped at the end of his nose, looks like a school teacher — he fucking grins at Two-Dicks, waving the meat at him.

“Dooley yells at him, ‘Corporal McTavish, fall in!’

Tommy laughs, he actually fuckin’ laughs, and approaches the steak-waving motherfucker, waving us over, c’mon, guys.

“Dooley and I and the third guy — can’t remember his fuckin’ name — we fan out, try to cover both these happy barbecuing cunts without getting Two-Dicks in our line of fire.

 “Straight away, we clock how badly Tommy has fucked up. The two guys are fuckin’ pros.

“They shift positions, eyes on us the whole time, faces still smiling for Tommy’s benefit, but they’ve positioned themselves fuckin’ perfectly, placing Tommy in our line of fire. The older guy reaches down to the cooler, pulls off a three-inch-thick upturned lid, exposing the deep container beneath. Free from water and ice, it holds a fucking IED the size of an iPhone. The old cunt kicks the cooler over, leans in to touch it and falls to his knees. Steak-Waver starts laughing, but quickly falls to his knees, joining his mate in prayer.

“Tommy finally spots the set-up. He skids to a stop, maybe a metre away. We’re perhaps ten metres behind.

“Dooley does what all good leaders do and puts himself in harm’s way for his men. At a sprint he tears through the sand towards Two-Dicks. We didn’t have a clue how long the charge was set for. Tommy was already in range and now Dooley had joined the hot zone. What the fuck Dooley was thinking, I don’t know, he just acted on instinct.

“Tommy does this comedy double-take, back and forward for perhaps two seconds and gets this weird look, like he’s suddenly figured out what’s wrong with the world and accepted a burden of some sort. The happy, tail-wagging Labrador expression he’s worn his entire life vanishes and he runs at the IED.

“It’s laying face-down on the sand, thirty centimetres away from each of the barbecue-boys, almost exactly between them. They’ve made their peace and are clearly happy to take two coalition soldiers with them.

“Two-Dicks had other ideas.

“He threw himself into the sprint of his life, leaping onto the IED. Folding his body around it, Tommy held there for a second before being spread over thirty metres by the blast.

“In his head, I think the over-eager bastard thought he was gonna Captain America the shit out of the situation. Take the blast. Protect Dooley, bad guys’ death wish foiled.”

Jay’s eyes filled with sadness.

Dougie continued.

“The barbecue guys were killed instantly. One had his skull incinerated by the blast, the other had his chest opened. Dooley, who had got within five metres of the blast, lost most of his right arm, his face, his eyes and his left leg.”

“It’s a horrible story, Dougie. I’m really sorry you had to go through that,” Jay said.

“Yeah, well, like I said, I ain’t telling it for my benefit.”

Jay scrunched his eyes in confusion.

“Tommy Two-Dicks was a good bloke: heart of gold, found good in everyone, joy in everything. Couldn’t see people unhappy, loved life, loved his mates. Fucked up and put ‘em in harm’s way.”

Jay rubbed at the back of his head.

“I’m not angry with Mo, Dougie. I understand what He did. I’m all about peace and love and forgiveness… remember?”

“Dougie nodded. Yeah, Jay, I know, but that ain’t what I’m getting at. I told you, it’s about people. All of it is. Friends especially.”

Dougie lifted his backside from the stone. Moving around in front of Jay, he took his shoulders and gave him a gentle shake.

“Tommy tried to please his friends, and then protect his friends. He made a cunt of it. That’s what people do. He died. Mo’s still here. He won’t fuck up again. You have a chance to finish this thing together, with your best friend. Have you any idea what some people would give for that?”

Jay looked down at his feet.

Several long seconds passed whilst he chewed the inside of his cheek and thought hard about Dougie’s words.

Finally he looked into the big cop’s eyes.

“Thank you for trusting me with your story,” he said. He meant it. It was always a privilege when people… friends shared themselves with you. Especially when they were trying to save you pain they had suffered.

“But it’s different for us. Mo and I. We have eternity. When this is over, we return to… our existence. We’ll be exactly as we were before. Unchanging.”

Dougie straightened his posture. A tic of annoyance pulled at his cheek.

“Forgive me, Jay, but if you believe that, you’re a fucking fool.”

Jay smiled at him. A smile that held thousands of years of knowledge, of confidence, of certainty that Dougie could not comprehend. An unintentionally condescending smile that said you’re a mortal. You can’t understand.

Dougie spotted it immediately and turned away briefly before whirling back around. He wasn’t angry, just determined.

“People are people, Jay, and friends are friends. You’re wrong about this. Everything’s changed between you and Mo, but you do have a chance to repair it, before it ends. If you can’t do that… why should any of these people believe you can save them?”

Dougie didn’t wait for an answer. Treading off downhill into the night, he waved, beckoning Jay to follow after.

“Either way, boss,” Dougie said over his shoulder, “let’s get going. There are people waiting for you to give them all the answers.”

End of excerpt. 

This excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available now for Pre-Order  

On The Seventh Day – Chapter 5 Preview

Throughout the novel I chose to alternate between two sets of protagonists. Jay and Mo (whose chapters are written using modern, and coarse language) and Nick and Beth (whose chapters are more formal and geological in tone). Hope you enjoy. 

  
The following excerpt is un-proofed and in-edited and is taken from the forthcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available to pre-order now at Amazon:

5 

Nick and Beth

 

Beth reached over the bar, placing a hand on top of Nick’s. “Is it painful? Telling me your history?” She asked.

Nick narrowed his eyes, thinking about the question. Finally he said,” no. It’s not, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve vented to a stranger.”

“Why me?” asked Beth.

Nick shrugged. Mostly timing and circumstance. Right place, right time,” he said.

“Mostly?” She asked.

“We’ll get to that later, Bethany,” Nick said softly. “I have a story to tell first.”

Beth’s eyes flashed fear, but she hid it quickly behind a sip of her vodka and a smile.

 

“Where was I?” Nick asked.

Beth drained her drink before answering. She felt like she’d been drinking for days. Exhaustion crept on her.

“Water,” she said, “Water and life.”

Nick nodded once in thanks.

“Yes. Water and Life. The moment when everything in Heaven and in the material universe was irretrievable altered.”

Nick smiled warmly at her before continuing.

“Water, lightning and some chemicals, that’s all it took.”

“It was random?” Beth asked.

“Yes and no,” Nick replied.

“The lightning, the spark was intentional. He meant to begin the process. What came after, He left to chance…no not chance, nature.” A shadow of sadness passed over Nick’s face as he spoke.

“God made the atoms and molecules form into nucleic acid, DNA. Proteins formed, membranes, organelles. Cells combined, proliferated. Others went extinct. This simple snuffing of a cell shocked Angels whose lives were unlimited by time, or health or predatory chance. That a spark of life, even one so small, could be snuffed out was abhorrent to us in our eternal lifespans. God reassured us that it was all in nature. Part of life.

Billions upon billions of identical cells emerged from one common ancestor. Some adapted, some disappeared from the gene pool forever. Groups of cells formed bonds or fused together, forming tissues, or other structures. The single-celled inhabitants of a pool of water adapted into a myriad of multicellular creatures. Simple organisms. Some photosynthesised food. Some didn’t. Some hunted. Most perished.

All who survived adapted in some way. Muscle, teeth, fins, gills. Some became simple worm-like creatures, or fish-like organisms. Others adapted to become plants. Hundreds of millions of years passed. Billions of organisms, whole species lived short lives and died.

Angels wept for their brief existence.

Adaptations, evolution continued. Rudimentary life found a way to survive, to adapt, to become complex life. Animals with eyes and mouths…faces emerged. Simple things, who fed and bred and not much else, but they had faces.”

Nick looked deep into Beth’s eyes, causing her to shrink back a little.

“You cannot fathom the clamour that this simple development-a creature with a face- sparked in Heaven. Angels flocked to God. ‘What does it mean? They have faces? Is it blasphemy? Does the existence of creatures with faces mock you my lord?’

It seems an absurd reaction I’m sure, Beth but consider this. We were God’s only creations, made in His own likeness by His own hand. We looked like Him. We had faces.

That nature, evolution had created an organisms with a structure so closely resembling one of our own, by random chance, seemed a heresy.”

Beth grinned.

“Yes,” Nick said. “Seems ridiculous to you, I agree, but you were born into a world where a face was the first thing you saw. In all of Heaven and God’s good universe until that moment, only God’s creations, His Angels, had faces. That these random mutations of nature had produced a creature with such a structure was truly terrifying to us.”

“Yeah, I suppose I can get that. Faces…terrifying,” Beth said, sarcasm lacing her tone.

Nick rolled his eyes.

“God- calm as he’d been since our creation- spoke to us, His Angels, gently, reassuring us that all was as he intended, part of nature. ‘Observe, my Angels. See what nature does next. Trust in me.’ Of course, we did trust in God and followed his advice. We witnessed the development of brains, simple but entirely functional. Ears, limbs skeletons, nervous systems, kidneys, hearts, livers pulsed and beat their way into existence. The rate of development was astonishing to us. You must understand, Beth, time is…different in Heaven. We existed for many millions, perhaps billions of years, before God created the universe. Time passed for us, but didn’t. Things changed, adapted I suppose, but nothing was diminished, only magnified by its passing.

Change occurred in Heaven but only as we willed it, not at the mercy of nature and not on the scale that life was adapting in the Universe. It seemed to us that time passing in the material universe simply meant death. Once an unnoticed companion to us in Heaven, time now seemed to stalk the material world. To us, the evolution present in the universe and the death that drove it was truly shocking.

I’ve been talking about evolution of creatures on earth, but this was happening on countless planets, throughout the universe.” Nick had spread his arms in a broad gesture.

“The unrelenting speed; the efficiency of nature in stimulating these frighteningly effective adaptations in animals and plants, shook us. We returned to God once more, in greater numbers than before. ‘Lord. Look what matter, what nature has done. Fish have grown legs and lungs and crawl the earth. Faces look to the skies. When will it stop?’

God’s patience with us in our ignorance seemed eternal at that time. He merely smiled kindly and allayed our fears.

As his first Creation, his closest companion, I was hurt in another manner by what unfolded in nature, so I asked God. ‘There is a spark of life in them, a light, not unlike our own ethereal light. When they die, does it come home to you, my Lord?’

I had witnessed God create matter and I had witnessed it change and evolve from basic chemicals, to the first cells and into a myriad of living animals and plants. The light inside each of the billions of cells was so familiar to me that it may as well have been part of my own self. I was in conflict. Where did this light go upon their deaths? Did their consciousness reside in the spiritual part of themselves and if so how can God suffer them to die and this light to just dissipate? If that’s what truly happened.

I didn’t really believe that He would allow these organisms to suffer such brief lives and their light to dissipate. That would be cruel. God was not cruel, He was the source of all love and warmth in Heaven and the universe. He was the Creator. But the questions remained as thorns in my subconscious.

Did God in creating this abundance of life, share his own light amongst them? He hadn’t seemed diminished in any way by the act of Creation. If anything he’d seemed magnified. Was he receiving the light of these creatures back into himself upon their death? I knew for a fact that he wasn’t, we would have witnessed the entry of such light in Heaven. Despite this knowledge, I was also certain that he must have a plan, a destiny for this light of life; otherwise the whole experiment of the universe, life, was the cruellest punishment imaginable.

Consider a brief life in the material universe followed by just… nothing? I couldn’t abide the thought. In hindsight, that moment was when I began to lose my trust in God and became his Accuser.

I recall Him looking into my eyes. ‘You must trust in me, my Angel. There is a plan.’ I nodded and prayed and made all the right noises, Beth, but something crucial and irreparable had broken inside me. Despite this, it would take many years, uncountable trillions of deaths and the evolution of humankind to set me firmly on my course.

 

God, of course, reassured time and again that all was in nature. All was intended. Many Angels made a choice to trust God and merely observe. Other turned away from watching nature’s progress altogether, returning to those concerns in Heaven that had busied them before God had created the universe. I resolved to be and remain The Watcher.

End Of Excerpt

On The Seventh Day is available to pre-order now at Amazon