Return of the Queen published on Crimson Streets

Ambrien is a warrior serving the God-Queen. With her city besieged by a relentless foe, Ambrien’s unique abilities take her away from the battle to challenge everything she believes in order to bring an end to the war.


You can read, and I hope enjoy, Return of the Queen as a simple fantasy story on Crimson Streets – head over there to take a look.


Of course, there is a bit more to it. If you’re interested…


Getting it right

I wrote the first draft of Return of the Queen in a bit of a rush around March 2018. The deadline for a submission call loomed and I had left things a little late. One form rejection and one personal rejection (“it’s a bit slow to develop”) later and I decided to let my beloved beta locusts loose on it. I don’t do that with all my stories; their time is precious but this one seemed worth the candle.


It came back littered with comments. Structure, pacing and grammar were all thoroughly examined and thoughtful suggestions given on what to improve, what to cut, what to keep. We had a debate about whether the sacred knives in the story (kindjal, from khanjar) should be an invariant noun, I decided the plural should be kindjali to help the reader while accepting the technical point on invariance. And then the fighting details – style, weaponry, armour – getting these physically plausible and to a point of consistency with the setting.


My beta locusts are awesome. They did all that for the pleasure of doing it and I love them. Of course, I’m still seeing things in this story that I am itching to edit.


The next rejection showed the benefits of all that hard work: “terrific epic fantasy feel, with terrific magic and worldbuilding” just not quite right for that anthology.


Finding the right home

It gathered dust for almost a year, I tinkered every now and then, but the right opportunity didn’t come up, until I came across Crimson Streets. You can see the outcome of that and the interpretation of the brilliant artist Chlo’e Camonayan on their site.


The bigger themes

For me, Return of the Queen is more than a bit of fantasy escapism (nothing wrong with that!). We were deep into #metoo in 2018, I was curious to know if I had a legitimate voice to add, and what my contribution might be. That culminated in “Me and Me Too. Even You” late in the year. Return of the Queen precedes the poem but is part of the same thought process. The setting is a matriarchal society, a female deity, and no backhanded Steve Trevor’s to save the day. In this case I had two questions: is it power or masculinity that corrupts? and is there a path to redemption?


Guilt, forgiveness and redemption are themes I orbit around, and occasionally crash into, so this will come as no surprise to regular readers.


Now you know what I was trying to do go and add a comment on Crimson Streets and let me know if I got close to it (or here, talk to me people). If that dimension of the story doesn’t float your boat, I hope you appreciate the design of the battle skirt, the use of short spears instead of swords, the work that went into the detail, and Chlo’e’s awesome picture.


Hilt detail from the “Splendours of the Subcontinent” exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Aug 2018


Find out more about my writing here.

There is a Ruswa Fatehpuri chapbook out there too


From Sense and Sensibility to Steampunk (Guest Post on Gold Fever Press)

One of the neatest things for me, as a writer, is working with other writers. I belong to an active writing group full of wonderful people, such as my friend Ali Abbas. Last June, I had the pleasure of beta reading one of Ali’s novellas, “Like Clockwork,” which Transmundane Press released in February, 2017. I hope you […]

via Guest Post: From Sense and Sensibility to Steampunk — Gold Fever Press

Interview with Ali Abbas, author of Like Clockwork

Me, being interviewed!

Transmundane Press

Ali Abbas, the author of Like Clockwork was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We hope you enjoy his interview; we did.

How much research did you do for Like Clockwork, and how much came from experience?

I worked for the Royal Navy for a while (in a civilian, non-sailing capacity). I picked up a lot about the culture and how deeply ingrained some standards and behaviours are from that time. Knowing my interest in these things, one of my colleagues loaned me a book of naval terms and history – there was nothing to do one an evening in Portsmouth but read it from cover to cover and back again.

In contrast, I knew next to nothing about clock making, the fashion of the time, and of course I had to double check some of the naval facts like cannon sizes and when certain ranks…

View original post 570 more words


church end library


“It’s quiet, I get to concentrate.” I feel the need to explain myself to the librarian, because no one comes here anymore. He answers me with a soft smile and returns to his seat to do, well, whatever it is that librarians do these days.

I have the wifi password on a slip of paper in one hand and my laptop in the other. I’ve come here to write. There is just too much stuff in my study, and too many people talking about the novels they are writing in the coffee bar. I just need to write, not be distracted, not talk about writing, but write.

The shelves are all scattered at odd angles, labelled with little laminated signs taped onto the melamine. I wonder through geology and ancient history looking for a desk. There are some visible through the gaps in the books, but when I turn corners there is nothing there but another row of shelves. Looking back I can’t see the librarian’s counter anymore, and when I turn again there is a single plastic seat and a small metre square desk in front of me.

The rows of books are clearly doing my head in, but since there is a power socket and a vending machine nearby I decide not to pass up the chance for some quiet writing time.

I haven’t been to the library for years. We used to hang out there all the time as kids, pretending to study, and spending time being young and carefree in the neighbouring graveyard. Then age happened, and the internet and ebooks. When the kids were born the shadowed coolness and silence of the library suddenly became very attractive.

I settle into the hard plastic, slipping a little until I learn the right way to place my feet on the parquet floor. This isn’t the welcoming cushion of my study chair, just the durable function of an L shape on legs.

Ten minutes later and I’ve been staring at the screen and not written a word. It is as though the silence has sucked language out of me, and there is nothing left to be said. The scrape of the chair as I stand echoes in the stillness.

My heels tap as I wander over to the vending machine. There are little cardboard squares in the spirals, with an alpha numeric code and a description. I have to read them twice over before I realise what they say.

I take a step back. In neat Times New Roman there is inscribed across the top “InspiroVend”, and what it seems to sell is inspiration. The little cards are labelled: “plot twists”, “character outlines”, “locations”, “tropes”, “haiku” and so on in a dizzying array.

I can’t resist, but there doesn’t seem to be a keypad to make a choice, or a coin slot to pay, just a slight depression the size of a bottle top. I push my thumb into it to see if there is a flip out panel, and then snatch it back. There is a small ball of blood on my thumb, and a needle sliding back into the machine. Instinctively I put my thumb in my mouth to stop the bleeding, and the machine grinds into life.

A card drops into the slot below the viewing pane. I pick it up with one hand and twist it open. There are a couple of lines from a poem inside:

The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond

for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.

S Cassarino

I stare at it, smoothing back the thin card with both hands. A little smear of blood marks the stark white card.

I know this mood, I know this moment, I hold it very very gently. I’m back at the laptop and the keys begin to tap.

When I leave, that indeterminate amount of time later, when the words have finally run out, and the enervation of coming off a writing high kicks in, I pass the librarian at the counter still doing his unfathomable thing.

“I hope you found what you were looking for,” he says quietly.



Photo lifted from until I can get over there to shoot one of my own.

The full text of the gorgeous poem by Stacie Cassarino can be found here

Links to my books are available from my Amazon author page, they are also sold by other reputable bookstores. Please read, rate and review.