Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard – A Rambling Review

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I have two children under the age of ten which apparently means that I have two people who can somehow muster the strength to throw every single pillow or cushion off a bed or couch without breaking a sweat and yet can’t seem to muster the energy required to close the door all the way as they run in and out of the house. If this weren’t special enough, the blasts of air-conditioned air they’ve been so generous to share with the wide wide world have become like a welcoming beacon for all sorts of guests of the insect variety.

Particularly flies. There have been so many flies this year.

I will be sitting at my computer, trying to get a post written for you lovely people when buzzzzzz! I will be dive-bombed in the head by a particularly noisy specimen. It’s really beginning to have an impact on my work. To make matters worse, these flies not only don’t have any respect at all for personal boundaries, I’m even starting to suspect they are purposely trying to thwart my writing attempts. Case in point, one morning, I turned my back a second only to find that one had thrown itself inhto my morning coffee. I told it while dumping the mug out, that ruining my coffee was just being cruel, but I don’t think it cared.

I’ve tried the hunt and swat method. I’ve tried the “GUYS, FOR THE LAST TIME SHUT THE DOOR!” method too. Nothing seems to work. For every fly I remove, another one seems to pop up in its place.

It’s like whack a mole, except the only tickets you gain after playing, are receipts from the groceries you’ve had to buy to replace the food they’ve ruined.

It’s also remarkably hard to achieve a zen way of thinking or discuss a life lesson when flies are around, believe me I’ve tried. I guess that’s why kung fu masters in movies are always trying to ask students to catch them. Speaking of flies, I wanted to share another book I’ve recently read.

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard

First – if sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll turn you off, this is not the book for you. That’s not my attempt at a reverse psychology sales pitch, but an honest warning. Seriously, pick something else.

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Set in the 1970s in Great Britain, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story much in the vein of movies such as Adventureland, American Pie, or The Way Way back, except set on the other side of the Atlantic.

Nineteen-year-old Harry Spittle has returned home from university, only to be told he is expected to pay rent. He takes the first job he can find as a waiter at a nearby hotel, where he gets to know a wide variety of people including sadistic chefs, small town gangsters, pretty girls, and overly competitive pumpkin growers, but really the story is about him getting to better know himself.

I admit, I didn’t immediately follow the story due to British idioms I didn’t quite understand, but once I was more familiar with the characters’ mannerisms, I found it to be an enjoyable read. Often humorous, the descriptions are particularly well done, straddling that fine line between too little and too much. I was especially amused during the scenes featuring Harry’s mother’s cooking. It almost seemed as if the author might have been pulling from personal experience.

But the downside of any coming of age story is the reminder that eventually we all have to grow up. Just as this book made me reflect upon my first summer jobs it is a reminder that one day my children will no longer be children too. I may no longer have to worry about the door being left ajar or the buzzing of flies they’ve let inside, but I won’t hear the sound of their games, their jokes, or their laughter on a daily basis either.

So as much as the buzzing sound annoys me, if it also means I get to enjoy my kids being kids, I’ll guess I’ll find a way to put up with it a while longer.

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing - #beach #sharks #quotes

“There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.” – P. G. Wodehouse

While the cure for gray hairs might only be death, spending a weekend at the beach accompanied by a handful of close friends, a box of wine, and neither kids nor spouses in sight, sure goes a long way toward treating its spread.

We’d arrived after work Thursday afternoon. The sky was blue and the air was still warm from the midday sun though occasionally gusts kept it from becoming unpleasant. Half of the group had arrived earlier and were already well into relaxation mode as I let the sand fill the space between my toes. I looked out to the sea. We meet again, my nemesis.

The sea waved back.

A surf shop at the beach swears by Sharkbanz, which I also refer as my bat-shark repellent. I can’t say it works, but I can say it hasn’t not worked when I’ve worn mine. Image will take you to affiliate link

To be clear, it is not the ocean I have a problem with, but its denizens. Even so, I looked out to the horizon determined. This was the year. I would go swimming with my friends rather than sit on the shore watching their antics with envy, helpless against my galeophobia (that’s fear of sharks) which seemed to have only grown stronger with every year, exponentially more so since my children were born.

I wasn’t always like this. I am sure once upon a time I was able to view a shark and see it the same way my children do – as merely a large meat eating fish rather than the soulless killing machines they are – a predator so perfect it stopped evolving back with the dinosaurs still roamed. I can blame part of it on my teachers in primary school. You see, and some of you may be shocked to read this, I wasn’t exactly the best-behaved child in the classroom. As a result, I was given the opportunity to earn a bit of extra credit by writing a few research papers. Unfortunately, while the teacher’s changed, the topic didn’t – sharks.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” – Albert Einstein

I’m sure as far as my teachers were concerned the topic was harmless enough. They probably even thought I would enjoy it. After all, sharks are fascinating as the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week proves. However, my teachers didn’t anticipate the scope of my imagination. When I read that some sharks, such as the Bull Shark (a highly aggressive species) can swim quite happily in either salt, brackish, or freshwater, my young mind immediately came to the conclusion that they could be lurking in all lakes, regardless as to size or how far a particular body of water happened to be from the ocean.

I became convinced that there was a shark living in the lake near my father’s house. Not wishing to be the only one stuck on land, I convinced my younger sister that there was an invisible shark living in our mother’s pool too. (If you are reading this, sis – love you and happy birthday again).

“Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life” – Charles M. Schulz

Yes - it's a shark in the roof.

Okay – so technically this is not the aftermath of a real Sharknado, but the Headington Shark in Oxford does illustrate my point nicely. Image courtesy of

You laugh, but it could happen. There are several species of animals with transparent skin and much that we haven’t discovered yet leaving underwater. Also, Sharknado isn’t as fictitious as it sounds. Sharks have, in fact, been known to fall from the sky.

You might be wondering then why a person with issues a phobia like mine would enjoy going to the beach as often as I do. All I can say is this – it is the beach.

The sand, the sound, and breath-taking sunsets call to me like a siren. While it very well could lead to my death, I’ve found no other place where the command to sit and enjoy the moment is so strong. I love the mountains too, but while I may be cut off from civilization, I am still compelled to be constantly on the move – to hike, to explore, or to otherwise look for the next spectacular view.

But the ocean is different. Though you might sit for hours in the same spot, the view is never the same. Sands shift and tides change.

The ocean is a good reminder that everything changes with time. People too.

After spending most of my annual weekend ridiculed (gotta love good friends) and afraid last year, I decided enough was enough. While the fear might never go away completely, I would not let it rule me. Watching my friends in the water, I’d remembered a trick for handling my fear. It worked too. As long as I kept my eyes on the horizon and never looked into the shadows, I could wade out as deep as my shoulders. I could even swim a few strokes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t recalled this until it was nearly time to pack up and go home.

But that was last year. This year would be different. I just knew it. I went to bed that night convinced I would stun them all in the morning.

“Everybody’s got plans… until they get hit.” – Mike Tyson

The next day rain pelted down courtesy of a tropical depression that had made landfall in Florida earlier that week. It would appear my plans for phobic domination would have to wait.

Proving if you are looking for one nearly foolproof way to achieve absolutely nothing all you have to do is count on the weather.

What are the Odds of?...

and may the odds be ever in your favor…

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Quotes courtesy of


Celebrating Science Fiction and Fantasy Week #SFFWeek

Response to GoodReads Science Fiction and Fantasy Week - #SFFWeekThe week of July 30 through August 5th is Science Fiction and Fantasy Week on Goodreads and I decided it was time I participated.

“If you could travel to any fictional book world, where would you go and what would you do there?”

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Pern. I would go to Pern in a heartbeat. As in the third planet from the star, Alpha Sagittarius as described by Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series. Sure it might not have the best weather, (if you can call parasitic organisms that fall from the sky and devour everything they encounter except the barest rock, weather) but the rest of the wildlife more than makes up for the inconvenience. Because, if the series name wasn’t indicator enough, there be dragons. Telepathic dragons who form a lifelong bond with their riders. There are dragons who can not only fly but can teleport too.

So what would I do once I was there? Oh, I would enroll in the Harpers Hall and travel around the country singing ballads and telling oral history. What else?

Just kidding. I would sneak onto the volcanically heated sands of the hatching ground until my feet burnt off leaving nothing but nubs or I met and bonded with my dragon, whichever came first. (Let’s be serious, I would stay there even with my nubs for feet – who needs feet when you have a dragon? That’s what the wings are for.)

I loved these books as a teenager. They were a wonderful blend of science fiction meets fantasy, proving the two genres are not mutually exclusive. Yes, there were fire-breathing dragons, but there was genetic engineering, space travel, and the rediscovery of lost technology too.

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I’ve always been fascinated with the intersection of magic and technology and how discoveries in the field of science blur the line between fact and fiction. In the next few years, we are on track to create invisibility cloaks simply by figuring out to effectively and efficiently bend light. We will be able to communicate around the world or even into space without any time delay as if we were in two places at once. We will even be able to control and move heavy machinery with our mind. We will even be able to potentially make matter out of thin air.


When it comes to magic, from the perspective of our ancestors, it would appear the witches won.

So where do we go from here? What will we still consider magic in the future when the impossible feats of yesterday become the humdrum daily life of tomorrow. I am sure we will come up with something, but until then all I can do is dream, wonder, and await the day I ditch my car to ride the friendly skies with my loyal dragon.

Here’s a snippet related to my upcoming novel inspired by the GoodReads Science Fiction and Fantasy Week Writing Prompt.

“Technology is a form of magic, if you think about it,” Wes replied as he adjusted his grip on the device on his hand so that his fingerprints fell into series of well-worn grooves. A bulb on one end flared to life. “Imagine if you didn’t know what a flashlight was,” he said swinging the beam around until it came to a stop on a wall made of rusted car doors, cracked glass, and broken chairs. “I could call myself a wizard right now, and as far as you knew, I would be telling the truth.” Wes opened his grip, and the barricade of debris was once again illuminated only by the light of a partial moon. A dog barked in the distance. Crickets resumed their chirping. “I would also be telling the truth when I say you should be careful with things you don’t understand.” He placed his empty hand on the new arrival’s shoulder. “And there is a lot here you don’t understand. At least not yet anyway.”

He gestured for the others to follow as he turned and walked toward the wall, coming to a stop where the collection of garbage appeared darker than the rest. The moonlight cast shadows across his face, but not enough to hide his knowing smile. “I’d ask you if you were ready, but I suppose it’s already too late for that to matter now.”

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Five Fun Facts You Never Knew About Technology

Five Fun Facts You Never Knew About Technology - #humorIt all started Sunday. There I was, thoroughly engrossed in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, which I was streaming off my AppleTV.  Little did I know I would go through all the stages of grief before the night was done, but not for the reasons the show’s writers intended.

The scene opened with a woman, barely more than a girl, attempting to stay warm as snow fell all around. Winter had finally come.

The girl’s horse whinnied and pulled at its restraint. She looked up as the camera closed in. The angle shifted. The horse’s ear pivoted as it responded to a danger not yet evident on the screen. I readied myself for action as the camera returned to the girl’s face once more, her readiness to do battle all too clear. Then …

Then the scene froze and the infamous buffering wheel icon appeared on my screen.


I wanted to chuck my beverage at the screen and scream, but I’m a responsible parent now and trying to set a good example (and electronics are expensive) so instead, I waited. And waited. And waited. But the icon refused to go the way it came.

Fun Fact Number 1: Unplugging the device won’t solve all problems

[PAIN] Figuring my router had yet again decided I needed more exercise in my life (it’s considerate like that), I balanced on the precarious edge of my children’s toy chest, stretching up to reset it. (The idea was to place it high enough where the kids couldn’t accidentally break it, but unfortunately, as my eldest at eight-years old is already almost my height, this requires placing it higher than I can reach on my own).

I returned to the television. The buffering icon stared back at me. I am sure if it could laugh maniacally at me, it would.

[ANGER] Fine. This could have been so easy, but you’ve made your choice. It’s time to do this the ‘hard’wired way.

I yanked the power cord from the streaming device as well. See how you like getting interrupted, punk.

Fun Fact Number 2: A ‘User-Friendly’ interface does not actually mean the technology is your friend

When the streaming device woke up from its thirty-second power nap I expected it to be well refreshed and ready to get back to work. But instead of seeing the usual easy to navigate screen of channels options I’ve grown to expect, only two options were presented to me – I could go to Settings or My Computer. Only that was a lie too as neither option took me anywhere. It was the technological equivalent of being given the silent treatment.

[BARGAINING] Dude, I know I just said some mean things, but thought we were buds! Can’t we move past this? I promise, just let me finish this one show and I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the night. You can even have the rest of the week off if that’s what you want. All I want is just fifteen more minutes.

Fun Fact Number 3: In the age of the Internet of Things, devices are more connected than you think

[DEPRESSION] After working on troubleshooting the problem for more than more time than I’d like to admit, I decided to give up on the AppleTV for the night and watch from the Roku I have in another room instead. The TV and sound quality isn’t as good in there, but what other choice did I have?

While the device powered up, and the channel options showed, HBO refused to load. Now, this could be explained by a spike in users online, but I like to think that my AppleTV sent a light speed signal ahead of me to the Roku player, convincing it to take its side over mine. After all, they do share the same network. Blood might be thicker than water, but bytes can last forever.

Fun Fact Number 4: You’ll never understand how isolated you’ve become until you see the ugly truth play out on social media

In a last-ditch effort, I sent a tweet out, alerting the public to my plight, hoping to hear that I wasn’t the only one affected by technological misery. Instead, I saw Game of Thrones trending, and like the glutton for punishment I’d become, I foolishly clicked on it. As meme after meme scrolled down my screen, it was clear that there was still a virtual viewing party going on out in the cyber world. It was also clear, I was no longer invited.

I sobbed (okay I didn’t really, but I sure thought about it). [LONELINESS]

Fun Fact Number 5: One of the best technological advancements of all time remains the printing press (but even that still has its own problems)

I gave up and went to bed, taking a book to help put my troubled mind at ease. [THE UPWARD TURN] I could trust a book. [WORKING THROUGH] A printed page was reliable in a way a television show broadcast over the internet could never be. [ACCEPTANCE] Yes, I told myself, as the ending was partially spoiled already anyway, seeing those final minutes could wait until tomorrow.

Sure enough Monday night I was able to tune back in and see how the scene played out. It was just as good as I’d imagined. Satisfied with my successful television (sorry, it isn’t television, it’s HBO) screen time, I returned to my computer to print some unrelated pages I would need for the following day.

A message box appeared.

“Please replace ink cartridge.”


Proving there is reliability in the age of technology, it’s just the type of reliability that’s governed by Murphy’s Law.

Calling on Beta Readers – Project Gene Assist Book Two

It was supposed to be a simple supply run

But after the world ends, nothing is ever simple.

While the last few days have gone out of their way to put me behind schedule, I am set to finish edits of book two in my speculative fiction series (Project Gene Assist), currently titled The Watch & Wand in the coming weeks.

Set fifteen years after the events of the first book, the future no longer looks quite so bright. Stephen Thomas knows this only too well. Had he been born a generation or two before, his talents for mechanics and programming would have virtually guaranteed him an easy, if not celebrated, life. Instead, he has been forced to endure a near pre-industrial existence with only his aging guardians for companionship.

The trouble with talent is it rarely allows itself to stay hidden…

A broken windmill, a tavern fire, and a chance encounter later, Stephen finds himself on a mission and on the run from groups such as The Watch, who blame the world’s troubles on all but the most basic technology – groups, who seek to control what remains of the rest of the population through intimidation and vigilante justice.

Interested in learning more?

If so, I am in need of a few more beta readers. As I’ve intended this book’s story to stand on its own, you don’t even have to have read book one, though why haven’t you?

What am I looking for in a beta reader:

  • You enjoy post-apocalyptic settings and/or quest style storylines
  • You enjoy earth based science fiction or urban fantasy as a genre
  • You don’t require main characters to be champions of virtue or expect villains to be pure evil
  • You must be able to read a ~80K word (estimated 320 pages) novel in approximately three to four weeks with little notice (targeting starting early-mid August)
  • You must be comfortable giving detailed feedback (preferably in the form of a commented word document). If you don’t like a character, or a scene doesn’t work, I need to know why (otherwise how can I fix them)
  • You do not need to be a grammar expert – while this is a huge help, I am more interested in gaining feedback related to story flow, character development, and gaping plot holes at this time than proofing issues, however if you are a grammar expert or one of those lovely people able to spot a typo from 100 paces, please let me know that too.
  • Bonus points if you are also an avid hiker, biologist, or structural engineer. While I did research before writing, I always appreciate hearing directly from experts.

If this sounds like you, please contact me at allie at alliepottswrites dot com, or better yet, sign up for my mailing list


Project Gene Assist Book One – The Fair & Foul

Juliane Faris is a brilliant programmer determined to change the world through scientific and technical advancement. Blinded by ambition, she will do whatever it takes to secure her legacy including agreeing to participate in an experimental procedure.

Her decision grants her unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over her body but threatens everything she holds dear including her sanity. When others undergo the same modifications it becomes apparent that not everyone can afford the price that this technology demands

Juliane has a supercomputer for a brain and she isn’t afraid to use it.

Perhaps she should be.

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