Tag Archives: Science Fiction

My New Book: The Time Palace of Mars

The cover for my new book from the Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester. The Time Palace of Mars.

If you are taking your Victorian wife to a Car Wash for the first time, it’s a good idea to explain beforehand that the long blue furry cloths banging on the windows are not aliens trying to abduct her.

This will give you more time to think of a reason why both of you are suddenly transported to a Palace on Mars where Time stands still and you’re surrounded by twelve strangely magical statues of mythological Gods.

Luckily Mr Puddlewick, a bank teller from Threadneedle Street is on hand to help. Even though he has no idea, after attending a lecture by Mr Tesla in New York on communicating with Mars, why he is there.

All he knows, apart from what is behind the frescos on the walls of the Palace, is that he found a strange device which had a picture of Elizabeth and James with a message “Ring Urquhart”. So, he pressed the Red Button.

From the humorous and sometimes romantic Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester

The Time Palace of Mars will be available in paperback and on Kindle this Autumn

Time Chronometer

The Time Palace of Mars

The Time Palace of Mars

First book cover design for the Time Palace of Mars

A new story coming this Summer from the Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elzabeth Bicester.

The reluctant time travellers are trapped in a a strange temple on Mars where Time stands still.

They are accompanied by 12 strange and ancient mythological Gods and a Mr Puddlewick, a bank teller from Threadneedle Street, who while attending a lecture by Mr Tesla on communicating with Mars suddenly found himself transported there.

None of them know why, nor the signifcance of what is behind the frescos which adorn the walls of the Time Palace of Mars.

But they do have a strange device which can change time. Though whether it changes time is inside or outside the palace, no one knows.

The Time Travel Diaries of James and Elizabeth can be found on Amazon in paperpaback and Kindle

People & Places in the Time Travel Diaries

With the exception of Mars, I’ve based the Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester in areas where I have lived and know reasonably well in the North East of England and West Sussex. This, I think makes it easier to write description of a place naturally. I have heard of authors who have constructed detailed maps of places they have never visited, possibly assisted by Google StreetView, in the hope of giving the impression that they know the place intimately. This doesn’t work for me. I end up giving descriptions from the point of view of a tourist rather than a local. Though I admit I had to use maps of Mars for the story line there. But that was only for the reason outlined above.
With regard to real people in my novel, most of whom are long dead, I put my hand up to almost completely fabricating the characteristics I attached to them.

So here are some of the places and people I have used in the novel.

Chanctonbury Rings, West Sussex.
A mysterious place on the edge of the Sussex South Downs associated with many fairy legends. Its ancient beech trees were destroyed in the great storm of 1987. Within the circle is the remains of what are thought to be a small Roman temple.

Church of St. Mary Magdalene and Denis, Midhurst
The parish Church between the Inn and the Castle. The tunnel between the Inn and the cavern could be accessed from its crypt.

Emily Davies
Served as mistress of Girton from 1873 to 1875. Before founding Girton she was the editor of the English Woman’s Journal and helped organize the first petition to parliament for women’s suffrage. As a member of the London School Board and the Schools Inquiry Committee she worked to secure admission for women to official secondary school examinations. She was Elizabeth’s tutor at Girton.

William Rutter Dawes (1799-1868)
Born in West Sussex. He had an 8 inch reflector telescope from which he made drawings of Mars which were used by R. A. Proctor, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, to make a map of Mars. In A Drift Out of Time, he was a friend of Elizabeth’s father and bequeathed to him a globe of Mars.

Girton College
The first residential college for women established in England. Founded by Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon, and Lady Henrietta Stanley in 1869. When Girton opened, the university refused to let women formally sit for Tripos examinations (undergraduate course assessments), as it considered the tests too difficult for women. Emily Davies fiercely opposed this idea and insisted that the college’s students be allowed into the exams. In 1873 three of Girton’s first students, Rachel Cook, Louisa Lumsden, and Sarah Woodhead, sat for the Tripos in Classics and Mathematics, and they are collectively known as ‘the Pioneers.’
I wanted to show that Elizabeth was up with James on mathematical knowledge, so I invented she had been at college there. I possibly over did it though when I got her to make James explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in one evening.

Ham Green, West Sussex.
Elizabeth’s home is in Hamgreen. It’s not far away. The best way to find it is from Chichester. Turn right at Cocking and follow the old green path close to Downs. After a while you will come to a small combe and if you are in luck you will see the old Lodge nestling in the woods. There is usually a Martian sitting on one of the gate posts but don’t look to closely for it will disappear.

Halley’s Comet
In A House Out of Time, a comet fractures time putting the distant past out of reach. James and Elizabeth have the task of going back to try and deflect the comet. They found a Martian spaceship quite useful for this task.

Helmsley Castle
A Norman castle situated in the market town of Helmsley, within the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England. It is mainly a ruin and walking distance from Helmsley. One side of the keep has collapsed. In my Book, Out of Time this was done by the Martians trying to escape by a spaceship which had been incorporated in the keep.

Harrow Hill Camp, West Sussex.
According to Heather Robbins’ map of the fairy folk legends of England produced by Chichester University’s Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy Department, this was the last place in England where the fairies lived. Actually it has a late Bronze Age fort on top and is surrounded by Neolithic flint mines. In A Drift Out of Time it used by the Martians as a base.

Midhurst Castle
The town is home to the Norman St. Ann’s Castle, which dates from the about 1120, and not to be confused with the imposing ruins of the old Cowdray house which stands near Midhurst. The Castle foundations are all that can now be seen and are hidden in shrubbery and trees out of site of the average tourist. They can be found just behind the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Denis.
For my stories I invented a cavern underneath accessible by a tunnel from the Inn and church where the servers and time controllers were housed.

Loch Ness Monster
Sighting by D. Mackenzie (c. 1871–72)
On October 1871 or 1872, by a Dr D. Mackenzie of Balnain. He described seeing an object that looked much like a log or upturned boat “wriggling and churning up the water”. The object moved slowly at first, then disappeared off at a faster speed. Mackenzie sent his story in a letter to Rupert Gould in 1934, shortly after popular interest in the monster skyrocketed.
It was this story and the link between James and Urquhart Castle which gave me the idea to use the Loch Ness Monster as Marco’s time machine in my first book Out of Time.

James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (1831 –1879)
A Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics”.
In my book, Out of Time, he is instrumental in starting time travel
Maxwell was pivotal in providing the basis for Einstein’s theories of Relativity. Without Maxwell’s equations the world would be a very different place and most importantly there would be no Star Trek!

T. W. Rolleston (1857–1920)
Founder member of the Irish Literary Society and wrote a book on Celtic Legends describing the coming of the Fairy Folk. In my novels he is the person who discovers the diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester.

Spread Eagle Hotel, South Street, Midhurst, West Sussex,
The Coaching Inn used by James and Elizabeth as a base in which they found the tunnel to the cavern under the Norman Castle.
One part of the inn is from about 1430 with half timbering and lattice windows. It was originally a hunting lodge. In the main bedroom is a separate wig powdering room, used by travellers over the years and bears the date 1430 on the narrow black door. It is near the door of this room that the ghost of an elderly man with a baldhead, witnesses have seen, and several witnesses have described this apparition as wearing a judicial uniform of scarlet robe, fur facings, black cravat and waistband, with a scarlet hood hanging back over his shoulders. This description fits that of a High Court judge of many years ago.

Steadham, West Sussex.
A small village on the River Rother in West Sussex where Elizabeth takes James at the beginning of The Space Between Time

Nikola Tesla(1856 – 1943)
On March 13 1895 while conducting an experiment he suffered an electrical shock which caused him to be able to see a little into the future and past. He is used in my story, The Space Between Time, to cause the fracture and shift in time.

Urquhart Castle
Sits on a promontory on Loch Ness in Scotland. Chosen for no other reason originally because of James’ surname and of course the Loch Ness Monster.

H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
He is instrumental in influencing the time travels of James and Elizabeth. His purpose is not really known save that he seems to work quite close with the Martians.
He shared digs with Horace Byatt at his house in South Street, Midhurst. This information is confirmed by the 1881 census. He was apprenticed in January 1881, to Samuel Cowap, a chemist in Midhurst’s Church Hill.
His Science Fantasy, The Time Machine was published 1895.

A House Out of Time -Free on Kindle this weekend 13-14 Jan

2018-13-01-12-11-40The stars are vanishing. Time is fractured.
Will our intrepid Time Travellers solve the puzzle?
Will Elizabeth be able to drive a Martian Spaceship?
Can James drive a horse and cart?
Find out inThe third volume of The Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester
FREE on Kindle Unlimited – This weekend 13-14 January


A short story from the Time Travel Diaries of  Elizabeth Bicester and  James Urquhart.

PicsArt_03-02-08.03.00Northern Lights

From the Time Travel Diaries of  Elizabeth Bicester and  James Urquhart.

by Bruce Macfarlane

Copyright © 2016 Bruce Macfarlane
All rights reserved.

Also available for FREE with two other tales on Smashwords


Preface by Elizabeth Bicester.

On a number of occasions when we found ourselves home from our time travels James’ sister and her boyfriend, Sean, took us on holiday in their carriage. One would think that such pleasures would be a welcome distraction but you will see that things do not always turn out as expected.
Here are extracts from a visit to the North East which, as usual Mr Rolleston was kind enough to put into a narration. It is provided as a cautionary tale for any other Victorian ladies who find themselves transported in time to the twenty-first century and are exposed to gentlemen of this period.
My description of this ‘adventure’ is denoted by the letter E., and James’ by the letter J.


Comment on preface by James Urquhart
I blame Jill’s boyfriend, Sean. Things never happen in ways that are expected when you’re with him. I put this down to his origins. His parents were from Kerry and as everyone knows that’s where the fairies live.

If you go to Kerry, you’ll know what I mean because when you leave a fairy comes with you. You won’t notice the difference at first because it will be invisible but as life goes on you will hear on the odd occasion from a friend, “Oh, he’s off with the fairies again.” This seems to happen more regularly as time passes.
Suffice to say that Sean has been to Kerry many times and in the process gathered up quite a few fairies.

Northern Nights

Hartlepool is a bleak and windswept place lying on a promontory on the north-east coast of England. It is battered by freezing winds from what Elizabeth still calls the German Sea which come down from the Arctic to chill the bones of anyone who wasn’t born and raised there. When the sun does come out it is immediately followed by sea fog or frets which percolate far in land and can last for weeks while the rest of the country is on the beach soaking up the sun. Its inhabitants are divided by the “Slake”- a natural harbour. Those on the headland are called “Cods Heads” renowned for their fishing abilities and those in the town are known as the “Monkey Hangers.” When they meet the conversation usually begins with a preamble concerning the whereabouts of the other’s father at the time they were born and the number of men of the town their mother or wife are “known” to.
The “Monkey Hanger” appellate seems to have originated from the Napoleonic wars when a French ship was wrecked off the coast and all were drowned save a monkey. Apparently the good and patriotic people of Hartlepool had never seen a Frenchman before and mistaking the monkey for one, hanged it. Most people would have kept this deed quiet for fear of embarrassment. But not the people of Hartlepool. Even today a picture of the hanged monkey is proudly displayed on the ties of the local rugby club and the local football club’s monkey mascot has recently been elected as mayor of the town!

We were travelling up to Hartlepool with Jill to meet her boyfriend Sean for the weekend who had been attending an exposition there. For our stay he had managed to acquire temporary accommodation for all of us at favourable rates in the small fishing village of Seaton Carew not three miles from the town where we could enjoy the seaside air whilst regarding the clouds of black fumes rising from the steel works and blast furnaces of Redcar.
I had not seen the great industries of our country before and when I saw the gigantic factories and tall chimneys stretching to the horizon as we passed over the River Tees I realised that much of what I depended on for comfort and enjoyment did not come from the surrounds of my home in Sussex. When we arrived, James and Sean, after much discussion, decided that as it was my first visit to Hartlepool they should show me “a good time” in the town and proposed for the evening’s entertainment one of its exclusive clubs that apparently one reads about in celebrity magazines. As my experience of a ‘good time’ had recently been limited to the fashionable set in Chichester who normally retired by the hour of ten I thanked them and said I looked forward to broadening my horizons. It was agreed that “Club Gemini”, better known amongst the posh as Twins, should be the place of choice. I had not come across any reviews of this fashionable place even though I had been trying to keep up with ‘modern’ society by reading Jill’s magazines and listening to “Woman’s Hour’ on the radio which for some reason lasted from ten o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon and informed me about a lot of things I didn’t know I should be worried about.
So with no more ado and a quick change of dress we were off.
Well actually we did not dress quickly as I am afraid to say there was much discussion between Jill and me on what to wear or to put it more succinctly, what not to wear. It seems to be considered fashionable in Hartlepool for an evening just wearing one’s undergarments was regarded as overdressed. I was not to be persuaded though and insisted on wearing enough to leave sufficient for the imagination.

The streets were quite empty as the usual gaggle of young ladies who had passed out earlier on the pavements due to misjudgment of the quantity of alcohol in a bottle of gin had been carefully removed by the local constabulary.
We arrived eventually at Club Gemini and after receiving a cursory inspection at the door by the concierge, who looked surprisingly like the french monkey and distinctly gave me the impression that I had personally hanged his great-great-grandfather, we were allowed in.
What a sight greeted us. If there is a God and I’m allowed a glimpse of heaven I think his work would be cut out to improve on the view before us.

I have never been in a bordello but if you asked me to describe one I think the sight before me would have provided an adequate impression. I can only say that as we passed through a heavy curtain I was greeted by a sea of semi-naked gyrating ladies of various sizes wearing clothing that would have brought a blush to a dollymop. They seemed to be dancing to a fast, loud and rather repetitive form of African music emanating from the ceiling. I say seemed to be dancing for I saw no one who understood the correlation between the musical tempo and the movement of their bodies. In my time, in order to be able to dance at a ball or soiree, it was customary to wait until asked by a gentleman. Here no such requirement was needed. In fact, I saw groups of men, shirtless I should add, gavotting by themselves with no regard to the half-naked doxies around them. I could not begin to imagine how much consternation, not to mention disappointment, must be engendered amongst the mothers of these young debutantes who having prepared their daughters for a ball for over a year in the hope of attracting or palming them off to the men of their choice found themselves confronted by these dancing monkeys. James has told me that it is a well-known fact that there is a high correlation between how much clothing with which a woman will cover herself and the availability of men in her town. When I tell you that apparently most of the men in the town either worked at sea or spent their evenings in their working men’s clubs you may get an indication of the vision that met our eyes.
I noticed James was quite enjoying the scene though when questioned he insisted that he much preferred me to be dressed the way I was. Sean, however, who had lived in a country for some time where in general women wore more sober attire, looked distinctly unsteady on his feet.

At some point there was a general announcement by what looked like the door monkey’s cousin that there would now be a “Sussies” Competition. This was met by screams of delight and a general rush to the stage by dozens of ladies.
A group of the more attractive and less inebriated ones managed to clamber on to the stage and to the whistles and roars of the mainly female audience proceeded to lift up their skirts and dresses to reveal a surprising variety of stocking tops and suspenders.
Well, I realised now what is meant by the seven steps to heaven. Up to now I had obviously only been on the first rung!

Words fail me! Not least because James and Sean suggested that we should join in this competition. When I questioned them about being asked to join a line of drunken strumpets showing my ALL as though I was on display in a brothel for the whim of its customers James said it would have no effect on my reputation as we would not be coming back the next evening. Realising by my look that he had now overstepped the mark by some distance he then tried to mollify me by saying that if I had worn my red embroidered stockings, (I have come to suspect a vision of me wearing such items and nothing else occupies a significant part of his brain) I would have won the competition hands down. I thanked him for thinking I would do well in this line of work but said I regarded a bottle of cheap champagne as not sufficient incentive to join those trollops on the stage. I was also pleased that Jill declined their suggestion to join me in a rendering of that infamous interlude from Offenbach’s operetta. Though when I questioned them on why they thought I should do this to my horror James said he had ‘heard’ from my cousin Henry that I had performed quite a remarkable rendition of it while at Girton. How that story got out beyond the walls I have no idea but I will interrogate my sister Flory very closely next time I have the opportunity to meet her.

By now Sean needed to be propped up by Elizabeth and me. She told me later that he didn’t blink his eyes for almost 20 minutes and was unable to answer even the simplest questions such as “would you like a drink?” or “May I remove that dead cigarette hanging out of your open mouth?”
Eventually when the display of fine legs and lingerie had finished our girls suggested we leave before our eyelids became permanently attached to our foreheads. They guided us reluctantly back to the exit and out in to the fresh air. When we arrived back home and recounted the evening in detail lest we forgot anything Jill sent Sean upstairs and told him not to come back down until he had thoroughly washed himself in bleach and carbolic soap, for it seems that the reputation and habits of the ladies of Hartlepool were already well-known to him.

The following morning after this exceedingly late evening Sean decided we should all go off to Whitby, the well-known fishing village on the Yorkshire coast to taste what he called the heart stopping cuisine of a famous fish and chips emporium and to look for vampires. I thought he was still a little light-headed from the previous evening’s excesses for my only knowledge of such creatures were in the laudanum filled minds of Byron and his friends but nevertheless he seemed to be quite in earnest so we agreed. James also thought Sean looked a little peaky and eventually persuaded him that he should hand over control of the car. Though I must admit he did not look much better.

We were driving along towards Middlesbrough, a town whose only claim to fame was that it had been voted second worst place to live in England, and were admiring the view of the billowing clouds emanating from the cooling towers of Europe’s largest chemical works and enjoying the fragrance from the local incinerator and River Tees at low tide, when Sean suddenly announced he was feeling a bit queasy. With quick dexterity he managed to wind down the window in time to give one of the best projectile vomits I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the back windows were also open. Personally I was never very good at fluid dynamics at college but I expected better of Sean who had trained to be a meteorologist and should have understood the subtle nature of wind, vortices and laminar flow. Instead of spraying and improving the surrounding countryside of Teesside, the substance travelled in a backward direction. To be fair some did go out of the window but most inexplicably returned through the back window.
I was conscious of a deafening silence from the rear compartment where Jill and Elizabeth were sitting. I pulled over and slowly turned round to see if they were alright. I don’t know whether you have seen one of those machines which spray pebbledash onto houses in England but the apparition before me reminded me of the effect that one of these machines could have on human beings. Though where the diced carrots came from I don’t know as I did not remember our eating them at dinner the previous evening.
For some reason the girls just stared at us without a word which continued for quite some time while we endeavoured to clean their clothes and the car.

After we had returned to Sean’s apartment in silence, washed ourselves and changed our clothes we were persuaded to return to Whitby for this Jill and I agreed was by far preferable to experiencing another ‘good time’ in Hartlepool. As it was getting late James said we should book overnight accommodation there and reserved a place by phone. I am pleased to say that the second journey to Whitby that day was uneventful and the fish and chip supper supplemented by endless quantities of buttered bread and tea went some way to remove the odour of that morning’s exploits which for some reason followed us across the moors.
Once refreshed Sean said we should go and look for vampires. He said that apparently a certain Count Dracula who was of this ilk had landed here by ship inside a coffin accompanied by what Sean called his female assistants. Legend had it that he was buried in the grounds of Whitby Abbey and as it was nearly dusk and vampires only come out at night an ideal opportunity to meet him had arrived. I had read a little of these creatures and although I had come to the conclusion they were figments of the deranged minds of Polydori and his friend Byron, the abbey silhouette by the evening sky on the cliff above cast a little doubt in mine.
Legend also told there were hundred and ninety-nine steps up to the abbey from the quay on which it was said no one had counted more than one hundred and ninety-eight. For if you found the last one a local superstition recounted the devil would appear and snatch you away. Sean said he had found there was a hundred and ninety-nine steps every time he had climbed up to the abbey but so as not to invoke ‘Old Nick’ he had always stopped counting at one hundred and ninety-eight. How Jill coped with his blarney I do not know.

When we got to the top we wandered around the graveyard looking for signs of Dracula. We eventually found one that had a large skull and crossbones on it and all agreed that was where he was buried and we could desist from looking around furtively in the shadows for him. We were about to return when I noticed the Methodist chapel behind the wall and Sean suggested before we depart we have a quick look inside.
Inside the chapel it was now quite dark but we entered nonetheless, our footsteps echoing on the wood and tiled floor. At the end of the hall we noticed what looked like coffins on trestle tables. As we approached I counted four and that they were open for the lids were carefully stacked against the wall. At this point normal people stop, make excuses about remembering a previous engagement and leave immediately. Not Sean. “I must have a look.” He said. And walked across the floor and looked in the first box. He then turned with an expression I imagine he had when he first saw the apparition of the Pope on the bedroom wall of his grandfather’s house in Kerry and then to reinforce what we already feared shouted at the top of his voice, “They’re empty!”
Nothing would change our opinion that the Count and his female servants had risen from those coffins and were now lose amongst us. We left and walked very fast, no, to be truthful, we RAN back to the steps. I am sure there were more than two hundred steps back down but I did not count nor look back.

I arose early in the morning for some solitude to write up my diary primarily to ensure that at a later date they would confirm that the memories of the last two days were not the result of a short and pestilent fever. It was still quite dark. As I entered the kitchen I espied what I thought was a small figure on the stove. I instantly froze for the previous evening’s escapade was still fresh in my mind. I turned slowly and saw not the Pope, as Sean had recounted he had seen at his grandfather’s house as a child, but the Virgin herself! I am not of the Catholic persuasion and do not normally suffer the guilt which that particular religion encourages in its flock but at that moment every misdemeanour I had done against the teaching of God flashed into my mind. I was surprised how many came flooding back before I remembered I was also living in sin!

The scream from the kitchen and the absence of Elizabeth next to me had me out of the bed in an instant.
“What’s the matter?” I said as I reached the hallway and saw her outline in the kitchen.
She was staring and pointing at something behind the kitchen door. Telling myself to keep as calm as possible and trying not to imagine that Dracula or one of his maid servants had found our apartment, I entered.
My exclamation wasn’t quite as loud as hers but gave the same impression. There was the Virgin Mary standing on the cooker!
This is not good news for an Atheist for I believe the punishments for breaking God’s commandments are nothing compared with denying his existence. And for a moment there in front of me was proof that he did exist, or at least his mum did.
But as I contemplated this, and more importantly how I was going to form an apology for doubting in him, sanity returned. I moved closer. I was reprieved! It was just a painted alabaster figure of the Virgin.
“Sean!” I shouted.
“What’s the matter?” He said when he eventually staggered in dressed in what I can only describe as Wee Willy Winkie’s nightgown.
“What’s this?”
“What? Oh that. I’d bought it in a shop for me mother and left it in the car. I thought I’d bring it in for safe keeping.”

It is not often one hears in the presence of an image of the mother of God such a stream of profanities as James released in the direction of Sean. I must confess I agreed with many of his sentiments even though I didn’t understand all their meanings or exactly the direction of their biological application. Suffice to say I could only hope that the Virgin, whom I noticed on the stove was looking quite shocked, would forgive us when she realised this little episode had prepared her in good stead for her arrival at Sean’s family in Kerry.


This story appears in Three Tales Out of Time

Avaliable on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords