Autumn in the market City of Barchester, and two bright students begin their final year at University, content with old friendships, paying lip-service to old dreams. Until, that is, an ill-conceived prank introduces them to Julian.
For Sophia and Steven, the friendship they form with this worldly stranger marks a coming of age, a possibility to embrace the needs and longings they have never had the language to express. But Julian has his own secrets, and as the nights grow longer, it becomes clear that not all desires are without cost; that some things should never be brought into the light.
Time’s Fool is a novel about monstrosity, about desire and communication. It’s about the self we present to the world and the needs we whisper to ourselves in the darkness. It is about honesty and the fear of honesty. It is about the things we refuse - refuse to say, refuse to seek, refuse to believe - because sometimes, ignoring those things is all that keeps us sane.You can see a transcript of the video script here
Beside him, Lucy’s head hit the table with a quiet thud. It occurred to Steven this might be some sort of prompt.
“What I mean,” he said, raising his voice to be heard above the pub noise, “is that knowledge is the antithesis of fear.”
Across the table, John stared into his pint with an expression that suggested he’d sooner be elsewhere - but no one cared about John.
“Bring it out in the open and,” Steven blew a raspberry, “and okay, while there’s some evidence that Le Fanu...”
Lucy started to move her head in a slow, rocking motion, sending seismic ripples through John’s beer. Steven snatched up his own glass before her convulsions sent it over the edge of the table. He took a drink. Opposite him, Sophia massaged her temples.
“Where was I?” he said.
“You were shutting up,” Lucy replied, her voice muffled by her hair.
“Le Fanu!” he said.
“Please not Le Fanu,” said Sophia.
“Well, now, there is some evidence Le Fanu was a believer, but we’ll let him off. The fact is, though, the stronger a writer’s conviction that they knew how spiritual manifestations worked, the worse the ghost story.”
“Steven,” said Sophia.
He tipped his glass in her direction and tried to arrange a smile on his face. It was difficult, as he had reached the stage where his flesh felt rubbery and uncooperative, where his fingers seemed to be moving without him instructing them.
“Please shut up, Steven.”
“I will not be censored,” he said, or maybe he shouted it, because a couple at the next table turned, looked at him in a bemused fashion. “No,” he insisted, more quietly, “I shall not have my rights violated in this fashion. Le Fanu is very important.”
“So’s my birthday,” said Sophia.
“And technically, that isn’t until tomorrow.”
“Do you really believe all that?” said John.
Steven tried to trace back over the last few exchanges to establish some context for this, but drew a blank, “All what?”
“All this ghost story bollocks.”
“Well, yes,” said Steven, “yes, I should hope so. I mean, it is sort of central to my dissertation, so I should really try to, shouldn’t I?”
John stared at him as though he was obtuse which, all things considered, was unjust.
“He meant, do you believe in ghosts,” Sophia explained.
“No-one believes in ghosts,” said Steven, and leaned back against the booth, “that was my point.”
Lucy raised her head, grabbed her glass and drained it before resuming a face down position.
“Exactly, so why bother?” said John, “Why would you study something that you know doesn’t exist?” And he had that smirk on his face, the point scoring one.
Before we start, an ENORMOUS thanks to everyone who has pledged recently. And remember, I will be giving a signed, original piece of Time's Fool Landscapes artwork (approx A4) when I reach a hundred supporters - at the time of posting there are still SIX chances left to win this.
And, co-incidentally, this is part six of a serailsed short story which is a loose prequel to Time's Fool. It…
Ah, no place is closer to a Dracularian's heart that Whitby - at least for one who's never been able to afford a trip to Romania. This time, however, it was my great pleasure and privilege to attend meetings of the Dracula Society and spend a slightly boozy weekend with people who *actually get my jokes*.
I've been a member for a year or so now, but I'd never been along to a meeting before…
This is the fifth part of a free short story which starts here.
Confused and grieving, Charles Morlad has run from his father's house after yet another quarrel, seeking solace in the night-time streets of Barchester.
Apologies for the lack of picture - this will be remedied asap.
Fulbeck had told him that such places existed - yes, even in places as provincial and conservative…
This is the fourth part of a serialised story that acts as a loose prequel to Time's Fool. It begins here:
Charles Morland has agreed to his lover's version of events, and made no more mention of the other 'accusations' in Beechworth's note. The story resumes later the same day.
The Colonel was eating. He did it with the savage pleasure of a man who had earned his…
Ah, September. The mornings are grey and misty, the leaves turn and catch in the first autumn breezes, and everything smells of new shoes and fresh stationary. Night whispers at the edges of everything.
In the city of Barchester, the corridors are clean and empty, troubled only by lecturers and postgraduate students. In childhood bedrooms, students pack up clothes, print off reading lists, and…
This is the third part a free short story, which begins here:
So, Charles Morland has found the body of Henry Beechworth, an apparant suicide, and has sought his friend Fulbeck for comfort and advice. But Fulbeck has not been quite as sympathetic as Morland had hoped.
“There,” Fulbeck said, in his old voice, the one made him sound so tender, so very sincere, “you poor…
This is the second part of a free short story, which begins here
Charles Morland has discovered the body of his oldest friend, Henry Beechworth - dead by suicide. Who does he turn to with this news?
The door was still in shadow when he reached it, and stepping in to its lee was a blessed relief from the sun, now high, cut through his Norfolk with…
So, I promised it, and here it is, the first part of Some Chequered Affection. If you've ever wondered why, and what, is said to haunt the creature's house, here the story behind Steven's "average post-Victorian spook".
This story has a different vibe to main novel, being more of a period piece, and with a touch more of the thriller/murder mystery to it than supernatural horror. However, there…
Woo, 67%, look at that! We are very much getting there! So, couple of awesome new things lined up:
1) A few people on social media have been saying nice things about my Time's Fool landscape sketches so we're looking to add a new reward level where you can get one of these on a card with a personalised message from yours truly. This would be especially good for overseas supporters…
A minor change of plan on the Time’s Fool front, I’m afraid.
Rather than the hardback version we were initially aiming for, Unbound and I have decided to reduce the funding goal, and release Time’s Fool as a paperback instead.
While I would have loved to be able to bring this crowd-funder to completion at its original target, life has had other plans this past year which means everything has…
I will be a the BookHive in Norwich on 27th April between 6:30 and 8:30, launching a collection of short stories called 'Scars on Sound'. It's a series of folk horror and traditional ghost stories with a lyrical edge.
There be music, wine and couple of performances of local weird fiction, so do come along if you're in the area, because it looks to be a really lovely night in one of my favourite…
I promised another forfeit at 24%, chosen by the supporter who got me over the mark. That turned out to be Rachel Plummer - who asked for a no-holes barred interview, and a reading of B.J Novak's The Book with No Pictures (which unfortunately I can't share here.)
Want your chance to call a forfeit? I'll be doing another at 26% and 28% - get pledging!
Rachel Plummer is a poet whose publishing…
Although apparantly there'll be a cold snap this weekend. So, to announce the winner of the free gothic novel which I promised to give out at 25%, it is *drumroll* Mr IAN GILES who was the ninth person to pledge to Time's Fool.
I will try to contact him directly to see which book he'd prefer, or he can leave a message in the comments - choices are Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Lost Souls…
If you've wondered exactly what it is I'm wearing around my neck in the promotional video, it's this:
As a lump of rock, it'd be pretty unremarkable, except that the hole at the top is not man-made. Instead, it probably made by a piddock - a shy little bivalve who drills a hole in a stone, then hides in it. (A creature after my own heart.) When the piddock moves on elsewhere (or dies,…
Editing Time's Fool, I was struck by how seldom Sophia was seen without a glass of something in her hand. Those who know her creator, however, understand that I am abstemious, practically teetoal, and would never do something so undignified as get hammered. However, my hometown is historically famous for distilling gin - a practice that has recently been restarted by The Maiden Distillery, who make…
In our society, we do not deal well with death. I remember when my grandfather was dying, standing beside my sister, my mother, my gran, with the sick harshness of grief like a wall between us all. I closed my hands to fists and wished that we had a etiquette to deal with it, a form of words to express the chaos, the loss that began to skirl about inside me.
Death is sanitised, closed away in the…
“ …when the sun is a small and distant thing. Imagine how it must have been, in earlier times before electric light. Villages cut off from one another as the snow drifted and the wind howled at the doors. The animals housed nearby, or inside, for there were still wolves and bears roaming the last stands of the wildwood. People sending their frail little prayers up to heaven for safety, and for health…
Writing a novel was the last thing I should have been doing. 1st November 2009: I was eight months pregnant and three months into an MA, and there I was, logging in to nanowrimo.org, and writing the first, uncertain sentences of what had the catchy title of Alys’ Vampire Novel.
Over the next thirty days - between reading my course texts, going to NCT classes, heartburn and essay planning - I snatched…
This is a reading I did at the Birdcage in Norwich back in July, reading from chapter twelve. I believe I will be back there on 23rd of November, either giving another little review of Time's Fool, or else something from my upcoming book of short stories, Scars on Sound. If you are about in the Fine City, do come along and see it!
Time's Fool is a novel for the dark half of the year. It is set in the listing light of autumn and winter, and deals with themes of darkness, secrets, and death, and was written (in first draft) through one glittering, Norwich November, when the trees blazed like fire and the nights were frost spangled.
Fitting then, for the plot proper to start on Hallowe'en - the ancient festival of Sanhaim,…
The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that there is a specific word that the creature does not use to refer to himself: Vampire.
This may feel a little odd, considering that vampire fiction is one of my favourite sub-categories of Gothic fiction. Worse, it might seem as though I'm ashamed of the fact - claiming I'm writing something that isn't a first cousin to all the other vampire fiction…
So, as promised, I've uploaded a little performance. The whole thing can be read here although a transcript of the reading can be found below. It introduces us a little more to Steven in a context where he is not being a deliberately irritating know-it-all.
Steven is - at the opening of the novel - 20 years old and beginning his final year of a BA in English Literature. He lives with Lucy in a…
A little sketch I did of the creature (Julian) for Bi-Visibility day. LGBT+ representation is very important to me in my writing and I've never hidden my characters' orientations - although being a 14th century gent, the creature is a little behind on his terminology.
Sorry the colours are a little off on the flag, this ended up being done very much with what I had to hand, and what was to hand…
You meet a vampire. You know it's a vampire.
How do you kill it?
So, I was in a forum discussion the a while back and there was a game running where you get to ask a vampire three questions. An impressive number of the responses were things likes, “Would daylight kill you?” “Would a stake through the heart work?”
Really? You're actually going to say that? Is that not incredibly gauche? You…
If you fancy any of these books, when Time’s Fool reaches 25% I’ll be posting one of them to a lucky subscriber. In addition to their choice of the titles below (or an equivalent book token) they’ll also be getting a handwritten letter thanking them for their support. So, if you fancy any of these, spread the word and pledge yourself for your chance to win.
What makes the Gothic? Is it the…
Sorry for the delayed post - technical issues last week meant I lost a whole ton of work and have spent the intervening time kicking things in frustration.
So, one thing that probably needs to be said is that - although the city in Time’s Fool is Barchester - it’s based very much upon my time in Norwich. Much was it was plotted on late night walks after the UEA library had finally…
Wow, this weather really isn't made for the gothically inclined among us.
Are you surprised that Time's Fool is set in all the glittering inclemency of English winter? Seems a long way distant, but the evenings are already drawing in a little, sending a shiver of the dying year. Actually, after the sun goes down, it's really beautiful in East Anglia. Spent last night out by bonfire in the back…
Here's a little sneak preview of Vic 'Iddstar' Hill's illustration-in-progress of the first scene of Time's Fool.
I've known Vic's art for a good while now, and it was her expressive lines and clean style I was imagining when writing that fraught and youthful scene in the union bar. She has absolutely captured the expression on Sophia's face.
A wallpaper style download of this will be made…
As you may have noticed, there is a new pledge available on the project page:
Cake or death
Yes, that is a cake. When I'm not being a badass goth, a hobby of mine is making occasion cakes in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and designs. If you want a cake that will be utterly unique and eye-catching at a special event, then you can receive one if you pledge to Time's Fool.…
So, some cool stuff is going on. Shortly after this goes live I will be adding a preview of Chapter Two of Time's Fool to the Shed - however, this will only accessible to people who have pledged. If you want to read it, you know what to do! As an added incentive, I have some really cool stuff lined up for subscribers when we hit milestone funding points and various arbitrary percentages which I've…
Hi, I’m Alys Earl and I want to introduce you to my debut novel, Time’s Fool.
Time’s Fool is a novel for M R James fans who sometimes want something a little more modern and edgy from their weird fiction. It’s very much a novel that’s come out of my love of the classics of the supernatural horror genre, but also from the problems that some of these stories raise for me.
We like to be scared…
These people are helping to fund Time's Fool.