What is a soul?

What is a soul? The child asked the wind
But the wind neither answered nor cared
What is a soul? Cried the soldier blue
And his tortured young voice rent the air
What is a soul? The young mother mused
As she tenderly rocked the cradle
Who has a soul? Was the old man’s cry
Someone tell me if anyone’s able
What is a soul? And who has such a thing?
Are the questions that torment the mind
The answers are tender as thistledown
As hard for to hold and to find
What is a soul? Is a cry from the heart
From the child, from the mother the son
It’s the question that burns in the depths of the breast
From the day that the thread is first spun
What is a soul? The spectre sings
As it blindly flies into the night
There’s never an answer from gods nor kings
And there isn’t a wrong. Or a right

© jane jago 2017


The Quantum Soul: When Words are Not Enough

An excerpt from 'When Words are Not Enough' by Cindy Tomamichel one of the sixteen amazing short stories in the Scifi Roundtable's new anthology The Quantum Soul.

“We got another big day of writing ahead of us, I know you have it in you. Dig deep.” I wiped Captain Smith‘s spittle off my face and nodded. I had heard it before. Hell, we all had. We had been on the Shakespeare for so long we had forgotten where we had come from, let alone where we were going. Sure, there were legends, but like all the stories on the ship, they got twisted to make them more entertaining, anything for a laugh, to amuse the cargo.

The Captain’s magneto neck coils glowed red, and I refocused. She wasn’t a happy Captain being ignored. “Now, I need a volunteer,” she growled. “Which one of you hacks has hit the wall?” I held my face straight as she clumped past the rows of writers, her one good eye flickering red. The diodes must need replacing.

Inside I trembled. The table behind her had a pile of red shirts on it, and we all knew that meant a suicide mission. “Please pick me,” I heard someone whisper, then realized it was myself. I bit my lip, and stepped forward.

Behind me the room rustled as others also stepped forward. Captain Smith flicked a glance at them and they retreated. I held firm, this might be my only chance. She was so close I could feel the heat from the coils on my face. “You ready for the red shirt, hack? You think you’re burnt out enough for this job?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said.

“This your second or third millennia?”

“Forth, ma’am. I was in the original intake, I wrote my first story and got transferred from the science section.”

I heard the others gasp. With all the rejuvenations we took, most of us looked different year to year. Hell, I couldn’t remember if I had been male or female when I came on board. I was pretty sure I had been human, unlike the evolved cats who still retained a certain tendency to whiskers.

But I still remembered signing up. A five year tour they told us, to get to the nearest system with planets. The ship was a longevity one, with a pile of rich bastards that lay like logs in cold storage, while we kept on rejuvenating. And writing. To keep the cold storage passengers mentally alive, stories were channelled directly into their brains. But they always wanted more.

Their reviews got fed into the computer and controlled our lives. The computer ran the ship, we were nothing more than rats in the tunnels, tapping buttons to get review stars. The more stars, the more rations. But we went through a meteorite storm that first year, and something happened to the computer. It announced we were to refer to it as “Zon” and then it never spoke to us again, although it did monitor us and our reviews.

“Right, you, come to my office,” Captain Smith barked. “The rest of you hacks, go pound out some words.” She paused. “I know you still have some left. Dismissed.”

I glanced at the others as I followed Captain Smith out, the red shirt clutched in my hands already damp with sweat. Their haggard faces gave me courage. They had run out of stories, we all had. But the audience was insatiable.

The Quantum Soul is available for pre-order and releases tomorrow.

Find out more about Cindy on her website or check out her books on Amazon.

A Fresh Bite of… Cindy Tomamichal

Cindy has a story in The Quantum Soul anthology which is out tomorrow!

Q1: What do you think is the best thing about writing a short story rather than a novel?
Getting an idea down on paper in a short amount of time, and exploring it with as few words as possible is something I enjoy, most of my short stories err on the side of flash fiction. From an editing point of view, the job is also short, you either have it right or you don’t, and that is easier to see in only a few pages. A short story also gives you the satisfaction of a completed job, and a potential sale, when those goals for a novel are always more distant and difficult.
Q2: Do you enjoy reading anthologies?
I often pick up dusty old sci-fi collections and have found some great new authors this way. Short stories can haunt you just as much as a novel. The framework of a short story is a good way to explore writing styles, and also strange ideas that pop off the page in a way a novel perhaps cannot. I have enjoyed contributing stories to anthologies, and it is always interesting to see how many different ways people can interpret a common theme.
Q3: What gave you the idea for your story in The Quantum Soul?
It was a comment about the failure of a critique group that had gone missing in action on the Scifi Roundtable facebook group. I replied with a comment about the words were still waiting to be written, and the image of the spaceship and the power of words started from there. It was fun to include real people in a very strange setting, exploiting small aspects of their personalities to form new characters. So really the idea of the anthology sparked the idea for the story. I am pleased to be included in this one, as to me it represents my debut year as an author, and includes many of the authors that have been helpful and inspiring during this time.
Connect with Cindy on her website or on FacebookTwitterGoodreads or Google+.

The Interview Begins – from ‘Trust A Few’

“You can confirm your registered name is Charity Sweetling?”
Charis nodded, expecting to see the usual smile when she gave her full name, but this official just raised an eyebrow.
“I need you to answer me, please. You are in no way disabled so a full verbal answer is required.”
“Oh. Sure. Sorry. Yes. That is my registered name. But could I ask what this is about?”
The official glanced up, looking back to his screen, as if he had not heard her question.
“You were born on a non-Coalition planet and arrived in Central when you were assessed as being an estimated four years old, a certain Vor Franet declared you as a seeker of asylum on the grounds that were you to be returned to your home you would face certain abuse through enslavement.”
Charity nodded again, then realised and said quickly: “Yes.”
The official went on in the same uninflected voice as if he were reading a shopping list rather than dissecting her life.
“You were accepted into the Coalition Protected Children Program and placed with a family who ensured you received an appropriately supervised upbringing and education. On achieving full majority and adult status you undertook the required military service of the Program and completed it successfully.”
The official stopped again and looked across at her.
“I think it’s a bit unfair to describe my upbringing as just ‘appropriately supervised’. My parents gave me the very best they could. They gave me an awesome upbringing, a loving upbringing, a fun and caring upbringing – ”
“Var Sweetling,” the man cut across her, “are you wanting to challenge your upbringing as not being appropriately supervised? Or report the Coalition Program has been at fault in some way?”
Charis shook her head. Then, under the expectant glare of the man sitting opposite her, said: “No, I do not want to challenge anything about my upbringing.”
“And you will confirm the other details I stated are correct? Or do you need me to repeat them for you?”
Charity began to feel uneasy. This appointment, at almost zero notice, had been pushed on her out of the blue in a severely worded linkmail, which made it clear failure to comply would lead to any number of unpleasant consequences. It meant she needed to take half a day off work and fly back overnight from her scheduled stop-over to make it, forcing poor Ebon to jig some very creative adjustments to the roster. But since it came with the badge of the Central Immigration Taskforce, she was obliged to attend. Charis linked her mother as soon as the appointment arrived, but even she had no idea what it could be about.
“Probably just some un-dotted I or uncrossed T in their internal files,” her mother said. “But if it turns out there is a problem, just let me know and we’ll get it sorted out. Do you want me to come down there with you as your legal representative?”
Sometimes having a lawyer for a mother could be very reassuring. But Charis, not wanting to force her into the three-day planet hop it would have meant, told her not to bother and promised to let her know how it went.
“Var Sweetling? This is very important. Can you please confirm -”
“Uh – yes. Yes, you have the facts right.”
The official went on: “You have been employed as a pilot for the last eight years, working for the Rota Corporation in a role which complied with the reserved occupations list.”
“If by that you mean shunting big freighters around the galaxy, then yes.”
The official nodded as if pleased she grasped the idea of the interview at last.
“And you recently moved your occupation to work for – ” He paused as if in doubt about the words on the screen he read from. “The Wild Ride Superb Bus.”
There was an awkward silence.
“It is a tourist shuttle a good friend of mine, Ebon Wild, set up – it’s not really a job, more of a sabbatical. Just a chance to do something a bit different before I go back to cargo shunting.”
“I only require you to confirm the veracity of the details I have here, please, Var Sweetling.”
“Oh for -” she bit back the words and tried to calm down. “I mean, yes. Yes, I can confirm it. But what is all this about?”
“Your present occupation is not on the reserved list, Var Sweetling.”
Charity struggled to see that as an explanation and shook her head.
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything. It is a temporary contract and when it expires I’m back to the big ships again. Rota even told me they would take me back right away no need to go through the application and trials again. Like I said before, it is more of a sabbatical to help a friend get their start-up off the ground. Literally.”
The official seemed to be listening and waited, wearing a polite expression of indifference until she finished.
“Your present occupation,” he repeated, in the same toneless voice as before, “is not on the reserved list.”
Charis felt the confusion returning. It made no sense.
“I really do not understand what this is about.”
“Let me put it in plain words, Var Sweetling -”
“Oh please do, plainer the better – this is just sounding bizarre.”
“The Security of Place and Persons Committee has decided the term of your asylum is now over. The original conditions of it being in place – you being an unescorted minor in need of safety – no longer apply and the sole mitigation you held through working in reserved employment, is no longer valid. As a result, Var Sweetling I need to inform you that you are no longer a citizen of Central nor – since you were born outside it – of the Coalition.”

‘The Interview’ concludes next week…

From Trust A Few - Part One of Fortune's Fools 'Haruspex' trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook.


The perfect husband’s perfect wife
Perfect children, perfect life
Perfect home in perfect taste
Perfect backdrop for her face
Perfect teeth and perfect hair
Pretty, clever, self-aware
With carefully perfected style
And somewhat else behind her smile
The perfect husband’s perfect wife
Slits her wrists and ends her life

© jane jago 2016

Monday Meme – Mercedes

If Benny hadn’t been quick on his feet, the Mercedes would have run him down as it slewed violently sideways to stop half on and half off the pavement in a residents only parking zone. The driver took only seconds to slide off the leather seat and slam the door behind her. She strode off in the direction of one of the many over-priced eateries that populated the commercial side of the street. He gave her the stink-eye for a moment, taking in every detail of the rich bitch furs and fuck me shoes. Oh yeah, this one represented just about everything he despised in a human being. It was with some relief that he turned his attention back to the car. It was sleek, and black, and he had even caught a whiff if the smell of excellence when the door was open. He wanted that car so much it hurt, but he had promised his momma so all he could do was look.

On an evening of what ifs it’s also true to say that if he hadn’t been fucking the car with his eyes he would never have seen the keys its driver stabbed at her handbag fall into the gutter instead of the bag. He couldn’t believe his luck, and as soon as her expensively maintained ass disappeared behind the darkened glass of the trattoria he was on his knees scrabbling. Within seconds he had them in his hand. But what to do with them? He knew what his heart was telling him, and he also knew what a stupid idea that was. Even with the keys it’d still be theft, and the gates of the detention centre were always open for juvenile car thieves.

While he was thinking he heard the measured tread that indicated the imminent arrival of a beat cop. That sort of made his mind up for him. He trotted to the middle of the pavement and waited. When the cop turned the corner it was a face he knew and he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Officer. Sir. I got problem. Rich bitch drops car keys. She gone in that place. Can’t follow.”
“Indeed you can’t.”
The burly cop held out a large red hand and Benny dropped the keys in it. As if pulled by an invisible string, both officer of the law and street kid turned to look at the Mercedes with identical expressions of longing on their faces.
“Some car, boy. Some car.”
Benny ducked his head.
“Sure is, sir.”
“Where you sleeping these days Benny?”
“Okay. Now you just stop here and let me see if I can’t get you a decent meal at least.”
The cop took out his personal mobile and had a long conversation in Italian. Benny started to fidget, and the man held up a thick finger.
“How many in your old lady’s flop these days?”
Benny did a count up in his head.
“Seven. Ma. Me. Little ones.”
“Sette. Bene.”

It was very quiet in the street now and Benny could quite clearly hear footsteps coming along the alleyway between two restaurants. A brilliantined head shone in the streetlamp as the white-aproned figure of a gold-toothed waiter slipped quietly out onto the street. The cop went over to him and they held a brief low-voiced conversation.

The cop came back with a big takeaway food bucket in one hand and some folding money in the other. He handed Benny the bucket.
“You think you can get that home safely?”
Benny nodded emphatically. The cop slipped two tens off the roll of bills and slipped them into Benny’s top pocket.
“Better scat then. You’ll be wanting to eat that before it gets cold.”

Benny dipped his head and went, covering the ground like lightning.

Later that night he lay on his bed with his belly full of pasta. Life was funny he mused, he sure as hell wanted that car but he wasn’t sure that he hadn’t wanted pasta more….

© jane jago 2017



You are old

You are old, so you should never roam

Should be timid, and always at home

Wearing slippers and robe

Not trotting the globe

With only a toothbrush and comb

© jane jago 2017

A Taxi Ride from Hunting Darkness

Hunting Darkness by Ian Bristow is out today!

Brandon Murphy flagged down a taxi, his movements frantic. Despite the cold that infiltrated the air that November afternoon, he was sweating profusely. Fear like he had never known clutched him, and there was nothing he could do to fix the situation. Why had he involved himself in the first place? If he was honest with himself, it was because he had truly thought he was doing the right thing. But it was clear now that he’d been deceived. None of his original ambitions seemed to be of consequence, and what was worse, none of the promises that had been made to him were being kept.

In fact, it appeared he had become nothing more than a pawn in a much more elaborate game, which was becoming increasingly dark. Breaking and entering was not what he had signed up for, and if it absolutely had to be done, a confrontation definitely wasn’t on his agenda. He’d made that clear and had been assured that no one would be home, so who was that man that showed up? He’d actually fired a shot at the man. What was happening to his life?

His taxi pulled up to the curb. He got in and said, “Brantford Road, N17. I’m in a hurry.”

The cabbie nodded, put the car in gear and stepped on it.

Murphy checked the time on his phone persistently as they made their way across North London. He had been instructed to arrive at their meeting place no later than 4:00 p.m. Apparently, his employer had some important event to attend that evening at the British Academy building, and it was imperative that they left in time to be there for 5:00 p.m.

“Step on it, mate!” Murphy demanded as he watched the time switch over from 3:50 to 3:51. “I would have to get stuck with the slowest bloody cabbie in London!”

“Oi! I’m already over the bleedin’ speed limit. Bloody ‘ell! I reckon yer a bleedin’ fare dodger an’ all!”

“Excuse me?” Murphy snapped. “I always pay me way, mate! Just get us round to Brantford Road as quickly as possible, alright?” He wiped the sweat from his brow and checked the time again.


His heart started to pound. He wasn’t going to make it in time. He’d been explicitly warned about being punctual. It wasn’t just his life at stake if he failed to be there, it was his family’s as well.

“Here you are, mate,” said the cabbie as he came to a screeching halt. “Brantford Road, N17. That’ll be thirty-five quid.”

Murphy pulled an uncounted wad of cash out of his pocket and threw it in the cabbie’s lap before jumping out of the car and sprinting toward a warehouse building several yards from the road. He reached the entrance within moments and let himself in. The space inside was nearly pitch-black. He pulled out his phone, lit the screen and began navigating through the maze of pallets that occupied a vast majority of the area.

“Hello?” he called out, making his way toward the opposite side of the warehouse. “Is there anybody here? I made it on time,” he said glancing at his phone to confirm that his statement was accurate. The time read 3:59.

He turned a corner and fear stole over him. Glowing yellow eyes met his own. A beast was upon him before he could react. He felt long claws sliding easily through his stomach. Once. Twice. Three times.

Horrified, he put his hands over as many of the lacerations as he could, but it was a pointless move. His vision started to blur as fatal amounts of blood drained from his body. He fell to the ground, still clutching hopelessly at his wounds. He could almost make out his attacker in the light cast by the phone that had fallen from his hand, but his vision was fading fast.

Vision fading…



Pick up your copy of Hunting Darkness!


A Bite of… Ian Bristow

Q1: Where did you first get the idea for writing Hunting Darkness and the characters in it?

I had just finished writing the Conner’s Odyssey trilogy and wanted to try something new. At the time, I only had a few ideas that I knew for sure would factor in: One was that I wanted the book to be a standalone, two was that I wanted to try my hand at a bit of mystery and three was that I wanted to set the story in England. Being as I tend to enjoy the fantastical element, I was inspired to write an Urban Fantasy crime novel that would essentially weave the storylines of two very different worlds into one cohesive plot. Between my two brainstorming partners in crime and myself, we fleshed out a number of concepts that led to the story ideas I ultimately ended up using.

Q2: As an American, you chose to set the book in the British Isles, why was that and what issues did that cause you?

The short answer is that I love England (and the British Isles in general). I am the first generation of my family born in America, so I was raised by an English father and American mother. But it wasn’t just my fondness for England that pushed me in the direction of setting the novel there. Two other key reasons were far more influential. The first being that England’s immense (and at times mysterious) history makes it a superb setting for fantasy in the real world and secondly, crime detection was basically invented there, so I wanted my first mystery novel to be a nod to that. Now then, the issues of being an American writing a book set on the British Isles… Oh the issues. Having not grown up around a constant English dialogue made writing this book an incredibly difficult task. I spent countless hours pouring over all manner of articles about syntax and words and common phrases and so on. And for all my effort, I still needed the help of a few wonderful people who live in the UK to really purge the Americanisms from my character’s dialogue. (By the way, you know who you are. Thank you so much for your effort).

Q3: Every book an author writes is an inner journey and a learning experience, what did you bring back from this one you did not have/know before?

I hardly know where to start with this answer. I learned so much it was incredible—from English myths to tidbits about the history of Scotland Yard to the aforementioned study of dialogue. I mean, the learning was endless. I’m pretty sure I spent at least as much time studying about the content in the book as I did writing it. I hope the people who read Hunting Darkness feel like they got even a fragment of the takeaway I did from writing it. It was a journey I will always look back on with fondness.

Ian C. Bristow is the award-winning author of the Conner’s Odyssey trilogy. He has just released his first standalone novel, Hunting Darkness, and has started working on another title. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys creating works of art and playing music (good food and a few beers with friends doesn’t hurt his feelings either).

You can catch up with Ian and his latest literary, artistic and musical projects, on his website, on Facebook and on Twitter.


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