The most important tool

by Mhairi Simpson on November 4, 2014

Sometimes it seems the hardest thing to talk about is the thing your heart is most full of. I’ve recently met up with a number of very tolerant people at FantasyCon and Bristolcon respectively who were apparently happy to listen to me expound on my philosophy of the imagination (FantasyCon) and who were happy to play the game that developed out of that (FantasyCon to a certain extent, but mostly Bristolcon).

And every time I felt uncomfortable doing it, putting myself and my heart’s blood out there, like I was imposing on other people’s time and freedom and energy, but I couldn’t stop myself.

The thing is, I believe in imagination the way I believe in sunlight. Sometimes it’s right there, washing you away, flooding you with warmth and joy. And, let’s face it, sweat. Sometimes it’s clouded over, through a bad mood or just general circumstances and you have to go looking for it, digging through the dirt and the smog of your mind until you uncover it again. It’s always there. You just can’t always see it.

As a wildly creative person (with emphasis on the ‘wild’) it’s easy to forget that not everyone can access this world of sunlight and storms and bottled hope at will. And, of course, even I’m on medication to keep the pollution of mind and life at bay.

How, then, do other people access this wondrous plane, a place not all of them believe even exists? Not here, mate, no sorry, I haven’t got an imagination. This, for me, is the greatest tragedy. Imagination is a catalyst for change and the world is always changing. How can you keep up unless you are also able to change, to adapt, to imagine different ways of doing things, different ways to be. Your imagination is a fundamental tool.

I know about my imagination. I count that a blessing. I believe in it, that I can access it, that I can use it to achieve anything I want to. Not everyone does. I want to change that. Imagination is the gift that keeps on giving, the gift everyone already has. I just want to open the door.

Which is where Be A Bard comes in. The best way, in my experience, to get people interested in a foreign concept, especially something that’s a bit weird and/or scary, is to make it fun.

So my thought process went something like:

Games are fun.

Let’s make it a game!

(Not that I know much about games, and zero about designing them, although I know more now than I did!)

Be A Bard (Copyright – Mhairi Simpson)

It’s a simple game, with simple rules. There are plenty of opportunities for laughter. Most of all, it makes using your imagination fun. People generally like doing things that are fun.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to play a game thatlets them kill their opponents’ cards?


Hookers & Blowe available for pre-order!!

by Mhairi Simpson on October 12, 2014

Author disclaimer: There are no sex workers or drugs in this story.

I’ve been promising it for quite a while but kept wussing out of sorting the cover art. You see, Colin Barnes at Anachron was kind enough to send me over the original cover art but it needed some adjusting  so that the text would stand out and I wasn’t able to think it through before. Now, I am! Or rather I was. Yesterday. Today it is up for pre-order at Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords – it should be up at Kobo and B&N and a bunch of other places once it gets through Smashwords review process. (I think it’s at all the Amazons, actually – it’s certain in the DE store). In the meantime, read on to find out a bit more about it, check out the updated cover art (which does, I will admit, look remarkably similar to the original) and read an excerpt!

Detective Constable Robert Blowe has put away more criminals than most of his colleagues combined, but in a world of plea bargains and witness protection, he’s starting to wonder if there’s any point. His fatigue on the job gets worse when the murder of a local drug lord has Blowe on the back-foot and searching for answers to questions that go back to his childhood—to the scene of his own father’s killing.

The murderer is no average criminal and seemingly always one step ahead. You can’t touch it, let alone cuff it, and if you see it, it’s probably after you. Blowe is the only person ever to survive an encounter with the shadowy killer. That was over thirty years ago—a distant memory. Until now.

Blowe isn’t one to hide from a challenge, however, and with the aid of a peculiar informant and a little faith he prepares to face down his nemesis. If he doesn’t stop it then no one will.

Hookers & Blowe smaller


Read on for an excerpt!

Light floods into the cupboard as the door flies open, slamming against the  wall. Robby Blowe jumps but doesn’t make a sound. He watches a hand reach in and wrap tightly around his arm. It hurts.

It hurts more when the hand pulls him out, bending his arm in a way it doesn’t want to bend. He hits his head on the inside of the cupboard as he slides out and he can’t stop a whimper. It falls out of his mouth like a stone.

“You shouldn’t hide from your daddy, Robby.” Daddy’s eyes look strange. Robby wonders if this is really his daddy, or if his real daddy died already and this… thing took over his body. It’s wishful thinking. This is his real Daddy. He knows him too well.

Daddy stands up and Robby screams as his shoulder twists. He daren’t look. He’s scared his arm isn’t there anymore. It hurts more than any other time. And Daddy is smiling. Robby turns cold all over, because he knows Daddy won’t stop this time. Robby won’t wake up in hospital. He won’t wake up at all.

He starts to cry.

Daddy starts to tell him off, but his voice rises and keeps rising.

Now Daddy’s screaming. His voice isn’t strong or soft or serious anymore. It’s shrill — a cut through Robby’s head — and he slaps his hands over his ears. That’s when he finds Daddy isn’t holding his arm anymore.

Robby slides backwards, nearly screaming again when he tries to use his left arm. After that he only uses his right arm and his feet, pushing himself away from his daddy. He looks taller from down here on the floor, even screaming so loud that his face is red and his eyes are watering. Or is he crying? Robby can’t tell. There’s a bad smell, like burnt dinner, and it’s making Robby’s eyes water too.

Daddy’s arms are outstretched, his fists clenched, and now it looks like his chest bulging. His screams get louder, impossibly louder, and Robby’s hands can’t block the sound out. But he can’t shut his eyes either. He can’t stop watching Daddy scream. And when he finally tears his eyes away, he sees something else.

Someone else.

A tall man, made of shifting shadows, stands at the other end of the kitchen. He holds a stick, a bar of shadow, in his hand, and there’s a very thin line leading from the end of that shadow to Daddy’s chest. It’s a straight line, and it leads right to the centre of the bulge. Something sharp is poking out. Daddy’s chest bulges more and more and his screams get louder and louder until a big fishhook pulls right out, taking a ball of light with it, and Daddy falls to the floor.

Robby watches the hook fly back to the shadow man. The man catches the ball of light, takes it off the hook, and puts it in a bag hanging from his waist. Then he looks at Robby.

Robby knows he mustn’t scream, but as the shadow man moves closer, he can feel the fear rising in his throat. He’s going to scream, he knows it. He’s going to throw up, too.

The shadow man readies his hook and Robby whimpers, pushing himself backwards towards the cupboard. But he can’t move fast enough. His arm hurts and he can’t go fast enough to hide before the hook gets to him. He looks over at his mother. She’s staring at him, but not at him. It’s like she’s looking through him, like she doesn’t see him at all. Tears burn behind his eyes. She’s not going to help. But he won’t look at the shadow man. Maybe if he doesn’t look at him, he’ll go away.

He screws his eyes up tight and remembers sitting in the garden with Mummy. They’re eating squashed fly biscuits. Mummy tells him that everything has a spirit that lives on after it dies, and he makes his biscuits fly around because the spirits of the flies are still there, and Mummy laughs. It’s a sunny day, warm and bright. If he concentrates really hard he can even feel the heat of the sun on his skin…

He opens his eyes. The shadow man is still there. But he’s not moving any more. He’s just looking at Robby. He seems confused. Then the hook comes flying towards Robby.

He throws up his hands and there’s a flash of light and a very high scream, so high you can hardly hear it. Then the shadows just fade away.

Robby looks at Daddy. He’s lying on the floor now. His mouth is still wide open. His eyes are showing white all around the coloured part. He looks like he’s wearing a mask.

Robby slides back into the cupboard. Mummy is lying on the floor, too, and until she wakes up, the cupboard is the safest place to be.

And it doesn’t smell as bad.


“Disturbance at 72 North Leas. Any units respond?”

The call made Detective Constable Robert Blowe sigh, but he stood up and headed for his car, ignoring the tiny man in brown and green who snuck out from behind the sugar bowl and tiptoed towards his barely touched coffee. He didn’t know what it was, but he often saw it or something like it going for a half-finished coffee. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm. Unlike bloody Johnny G.

He’d just come from bloody North Leas. The further his shift got past midnight, the better Sharon’s coffee looked, but that was the downside of this job. People called in and cops responded. For all the good it did sometimes. Between the drugs and smacking his wife around, every cop in Fenton knew Johnny Grayson, of 72 North Leas, but they’d never been able to make charges stick.

There was already a marked car out front when Blowe arrived. The screaming was audible even with the window closed, but it was only when he opened his door that he realised there were two voices. One female. One male.

He burst into the house just ahead of the two constables from the marked unit who he vaguely recalled as Thorpe and Redd and barrelled through to the kitchen before skidding to a halt. He collided with the kitchen table before he could stop himself but barely noticed the impact. The room stank of burnt jam. Johnny Grayson was on the floor.

His wife, Carrie Grayson, was flat up against the cupboards in the opposite corner, hands braced against the workbench on either side, her mouth stretched too wide with her panicked cries. The screaming had made her face blotchy, an ugly mishmash of red, white and dark purple.

Johnny wasn’t screaming, not any more. He lay full length on the floor, his face a mask of terror, eyes bulging, whites showing all around, and the dark pit of his mouth framed by yellow-white teeth. He looked like a grotesque parody of a corpse, even to Blowe who’d seen enough ugly deaths that one more should have been no surprise.


Remember, if you’d like to get early and frequently discounted access to my stories, you can sign up for my new releases mailing list right here! I only use this list to tell people about new releases – nothing else! I hate spam too :(


“Fear is the mind-killer”

October 9, 2014

It’s a familiar quote to those of us in the world of sci-fi and fantasy but I’ve inserted it below as a reminder or as a full taste to anyone who isn’t familiar with it (I took this from Goodreads): “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. […]

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I am good enough – the thought police

October 8, 2014

After some consideration I have decided that policing my thoughts isn’t actually a bad thing – as long as I’m the one doing the policing, of course. To that end, I have decided on a new experiment, which will be conducted as follows: I am not allowed to think that I’m not good enough. Every time […]

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Some mullings: Beauty

October 7, 2014

Writing about beauty is not identifying that which makes something beautiful. It is in recognising that everything is at once beautiful and ugly. Light and dark. Free and imprisoned, while those who are truly free do not exist at all, for shape, form, requires limits, demarcation lines and those who are free have none. They […]

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Day 27: the devil’s in the details…

September 27, 2014

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28 days to go…

September 26, 2014

I’m on a twenty-eight day countdown to Bristolcon. This is where I will be playtesting Be A Bard again (I’ve actually got a table in the Games Room, if you’re coming track me down!) and I want it to be a vast improvement on the deck people saw at FantasyCon. That ended up a bit […]

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What now? Levelling up…

September 22, 2014

I’ve been feeling a bit weird for the last couple of days. Listless, unfocussed, unable to work on anything consistently. I thought maybe I was stretching myself too thin – after all, I’m effectively launching about four businesses simultaneously (a couple of which seem to be going places without any promotional effort on my part). […]

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The Water Guardian is live!!

September 13, 2014

I am aware this post should have gone up yesterday. I spent most of yesterday trying to stop my mother’s dog from barking and didn’t think of it until this morning. So, YAY!!! THE WATER GUARDIAN is live!! I’m sorry if I’ve already mentioned this, but this is my first release in a year, and […]

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September 8, 2014

Yep, it’s finally here, my first new release in nearly a year, and the first one in nearly two years under this particular pen name. Behold, the cover for THE WATER GUARDIAN:   Subscribe to the comments on this post Bookmark in Browser

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