Illuminating indies – spotlight on: Cathryn Mullen and ‘Sarah’s Phoenix, Book 1 of the Phoenixes of Vervell Trilogy’ (excerpt)

Ok. Here it is.

Der, der, duh, duh, duh, der, der!

OK, I wanted to put a massive drum solo in here that signified the beginning of a great series – but I couldn’t find one.

What was I thinking????

I am THE biggest Madonna fan in the world and have been since I heard ‘Like a virgin‘ on the way home from my dear Nan’s house on a Sunday evening in November 1984. My memory isn’t actually of hearing the song; (although it changed the rest of my life) the story is really about aliens.

Yup, you heard right, Extra Terrestrials.

This is probably one of my most vivid memories and I have no idea why.

Imagine this: 1984 right? What did we have? Erm, dial telephones, Atari and errrr… our youth. (Well, I did, being just 11 years old). Something that we will never outgrow OR get back. Hey ho.

So, Mum and Dad doing the usual banter on the way home in the car, attempting feeble slaps between the headrests and dialling up the volume on the stereo of our Sierra Sapphire. “Here we go,” my dad says in an effort to diffuse the post cocoa-chaos that was a visit to my nan’s, “let’s listen to the Top 40.”

For those of you that were never privy to the Radio One Top 40, there was a time that if you weren’t in it, you never made it. FACT. So the earlier on you were, the less likely you were to succeed. (I mean, this is a time when a band that looked like this had a hit record): 

And this was what I was made to believe would be the future of music. “Oh, oh, Figuaro.” 😉

Can you imagine my surprise when the first beats of Madonna’s ‘Like a virgin’ came on the radio at number something like, “thirty and will never have a chance of making it EVER cos it’s too raunchy nine.” ‘I made it through the wilderness..”


I sat bolt upright. For TWO reasons.

ONE, because I had just heard a beat that was going to shape the history of pop as we know it and TWO, because there was a massive saucer of light at the end of the road with a vertical, triangular beam illuminating the battered Ford Escort that was puttering around the roundabout at the time, like a microwavable toy car, and casting a glow on a street that hadn’t been in the papers for anything but robberies and assaults for the longest time.

I swear my whole family held their collective breath at the same time and any thoughts of rebellion (because I liked a pink-wigged, brazen hussy from Michigan) went out of the window with my empty prawn cocktail crisp packet (such was our disregard for the environment then).

Mum: “I’ve seen this woman on top of the pops with a wig on, FLAUNTING herself. What IS the world coming…STEPHEN! What is THAT?”

My dad actually slowed down.

The car jolted forward and we spilled our sweets and verbal assaults out onto the floor. Mouths agape at the descending discs of light before us.

It was and IS the ONLY time I can remember myself, my parents and my sisters, silent in the same space together.

It turned out to be a new (very tall) lamp, illuminating the new concrete frisbee that directed half of our towns’ traffic on its way. In the distance, that day, we thought a new life had been bourne.

In  a way, it had. Mine, and the Queen of Pop’s:

Here is the greatest version of ‘Holiday’ EVER.

I’ve forgotten more than I know, (and that’s a good thing) but some things are branded onto your heart and etched onto your brain. THAT is one of them. The other is my most favourite Madonna song EVER: Spotlight!

So, enough of me and my reason for being here:

TODAY was supposed to be tomorrow, but I remembered that I had another blog to do on eeking out the crap: AKA ‘Banning the buillshit’. So, Sarraday it is for ‘ii’. I will be shining the spotlight on worthy indies for the next 11 months. Let’s hope we get some good ones! Oh, hello, we did already! Here is Cathryn!

Drumroll, purllllleeeease!


Sarah’s Phoenix, Book 1 of the Phoenixes of Vervell Trilogy

Sarah wandered away from the camp. She tried to focus on finding something edible, but every now and then a burst of the conversation floated to her. It sounded more like a one sided argument, since Sarah couldn’t hear Jason’s voice. Sarah felt her hand clench as one man indicate that a woman’s place was in the home, not out with the Scouts. This is Jason’s world, she reminded herself, and these are Jason’s men. Women’s liberation obviously hadn’t happened yet, and she idly wondered if she could start the movement. Her musing stopped as she heard Jason’s voice.

“Trust me,” he told them, “Sarah will be more asset than hindrance.”

“How would you know?” one of the men grumbled.

Sarah edged closer.

“Believe it or not, Scout Mathew,” Jason said firmly, “I have known her since I was ten.” There was a snort of disbelief. “We’ll be nearing town in two weeks. Other arrangements for her will be made then, if I deem it necessary. Understood?”

“Yes, Sergeant Phoenix,” was the response from them all.

A twig snapped and Sarah quickly bent down to pick up some sticks for the fire. When she stood, the eldest of the group, Mathew, was watching her. Sarah raised her eyebrows, puzzled by his odd expression. The man shook his head and wandered off, so Sarah brought her findings into camp.

Smiling at Kevin, Sarah joined him by the fire. The young man, probably the youngest of the six Jason had with him, had checked her wounds that evening. He was nice, even if he kept looking at her curiously. No one said a word to her that evening. Even Jason was silent until he gave the order to turn in.

“You can sleep in the tent,” he told her while his men set up bedrolls. “We travel at dawn.” Jason’s eyes scanned her face in the dwindling light. “You have been keeping fit haven’t you?”

“Yeah…” Sarah started but Jason gave her a curt nod.

“Good.” He moved off to talk quietly with each man.

Crowded by the gear, Sarah mulled over the fact that this wasn’t her world. She felt the only logical conclusion was that she was in a coma-induced dream. After all, Jason had been her imaginary friend for nearly twelve years. Not to mention the man her ex-fiancé thought she was in love with. If this was her subconscious way of working through her issues, Sarah would have rather it chose something less medieval.

Jason woke her before the sun rose.  Grumbling, Sarah stumbled off to find water. It wasn’t coffee, but cold water was invigorating. More awake, she wandered back to camp and stopped, wide eyed. The tent was gone and each man was tying their bedrolls to their packs. Jason smiled at her.


“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replied, wondering what happened to breakfast.

“Follow Mathew.” He handed her some sort of bar. “We eat as we travel.”

Mathew set a quick pace and it took all of Sarah’s concentration to keep up. Yet, little by little she fell behind, letting five men pass her. By the time the group stopped for the night, Sarah was ready to collapse. For a girl who’d taken pride in beating the boys, she got annoyed when she noticed none of them were winded.

Great, she thought, my imagination’s trying to kill me. It was a good theory, given that the next four days were spent traveling at the same speed. Finally, when Sarah didn’t think she could take another day of it, they stopped.

“Sarah,” Jason caught her as she was about to help with the fire pit, “go collecting, please.”

For a moment she wanted to protest, but something in his eyes made her stop. Wandering in the woods around the camp, she gathered food and listened. There was nothing to hear. Bone tired she returned with some basil and a handful of wild carrots. Finding a knife, Sarah peeled and chopped the carrots, before plopping them into the pot.

Male chauvinists, she thought as they watched her. Seriously, if this was a coma dream, then what was her subconscious telling her? That she wanted to be a domesticated wife? Snorting, Sarah informed the men the soup was ready. They lined up and ladled soup into their bowls, muttering thanks. As she returned Jason’s smile she realized she’d been scowling. No wonder they aren’t talking to me, she laughed at herself. Sarah ate, resolving to be friendlier.

Soon men came back for seconds, and their heartfelt thanks baffled her. The soup was water, carrots and jerky with some basil, yet to them, as one man stated, it was ‘a taste of home’. Smiling, Sarah accepted their compliments and mentally retracted her chauvinist comment when they washed up for her.

“Sarah,” Jason whispered. Turning from the tent, she faced him. “Tomorrow, six of us will leave for five days. You and Scout Mathew will stay here and replenish our supplies.” His hand came up to squeeze her shoulder. “I have spoken to him. He will teach you how.”

Sarah nodded as she stifled a yawn.  Climbing into the tent she curled up to rest. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to sleep long. The men were up at dawn repacking the gar from the tent. In no time, they were off without a word, leaving her alone with Mathew. Bleary eyed, Sarah wished for coffee.

Finding a stream nearby, Sarah splashed cold water on her face. She went back to camp and managed to smile at Mathew. He smirked in return and she rolled her eyes. Men, Sarah snorted to herself, highly doubting that replenishing supplies included what he was thinking. Deciding that gathering anything edible was a better idea, Sarah headed into the woods. As she gathered, thoughts of home crept into her mind. Eventually, she stopped and leaned upon a tree, puzzling through her situation.

“Tell me,” Mathew’s voice startled her.  “Do you prefer the comfort of the tent,” he rested his hands on the tree either side of her head, “or the excitement of the woods?”

Sarah’s head rose and her eyes met his. “Neither.”

“Come now,” he flashed a charming smile. “I promise I’ll be gentle.”

“No.” Sarah looked away, her body stiffening. His hand touched her chin. She slapped it away and began to leave. “I said no.”

“So, you like to be pursued?”

His hand caught hold of her arm in a firm grip. Whipping about to face him Sarah scowled at his smirk.

“I don’t know what no means where you come from,” her voice was level and firm, “but where I come from it means no, I don’t want to. Understood?”

“No,” he shook his head and moved closer.

As his other hand moved out to grab her, Sarah jerked him forward and down. Then, twisting an arm behind his back, she pinned him, face to the ground. She held him down until he stopped struggling.

“If you try anything, I mean anything, of this sort again you’ll be suffering more than a bruised ego. Got it?”

There was no response, so she twisted his arm to emphasize her point.

“Yes, I got it.”

“Good.” Sarah stood and offered him a hand up. “Now that we got that settled, why don’t you show me how to replenish supplies like Jason asked you to?”

This is the point where we SHOULD be doing the links, but, we’re not. Ya’ know why? ‘Cos we haven’t got them. Ya know why? ‘Cos we’re shining the light on new talent, not making a window on the fogged- up glass of gas lanterns, that have seen many candles…

We’ll leave that to the great pretenders.

Check back tomorrow for a Sunday free of shit!



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Writer, dreamer, pantser.

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8 comments on “Illuminating indies – spotlight on: Cathryn Mullen and ‘Sarah’s Phoenix, Book 1 of the Phoenixes of Vervell Trilogy’ (excerpt)
  1. Charley R says:

    *Charley starts up her specially-concocted Fangirl Dance for this occasion*

    Speaking as someone who’s read all three of Cathryn’s Phoenixes of Vervell trilogy, I can safely say that it is awesome. In capital letters, underlined and bolded and italiced in a massive abuse of HTML coding.
    Here ends the fan rant 😉

    Hehe, never been the biggest Madonna fan – she scared the living daylights out of me when I was young, long story – but your little tale about the lampost was FRAKKING HILARIOUS! Nearly fell out of my beanbag xD

  2. Cathryn’s book looks fascinating.

    So fun to read your 1980s riff. It was such a different time, wasn’t it? When I chose to set my screwball comedy The Best Revenge in the 80s, I wanted that nostalgic feel–but thought it would be fun to apply it to more recent history than the original 1930s and 40s film comedies. Something set in 1982 is definitely historical fiction to a 21st century reader.

  3. I remember the 80s! Okay so i was a little younger than Saffi, and on the other side of the pond, but I remember the Rick D’s Weekly Top forty. Strange to hear it done by a different DJ now.

    Still love Madonna. She knew how to play her cards right. I had her True Blue album on tape… still have it around somewhere I’m sure.

    Thanks so much for the spotlight! *giggles*

    :} Cathryn

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