I Sold Some More Books!

I was so pleased last week when I had emails pop up to say I had sold some more books, both in the EU and the UK! A Red Waterproof Jacket and The Mouse and the Microlight. The greatest fun is always the writing, the hardest part for me is promotion, and the icing on the cake is when I see I’ve sold some. It’s kind of a proud moment every time.

At the end of November I’ll be publishing The Sleighriders in paperback, it’s a full length fantasy novel with a Christmas theme.

While I’m here, a big thank you to everyone who has kindly followed my blog, bought my books, and left likes and comments on my posts, it’s really appreciated!

Advertisements

A Dozen Red Roses (a short story)

June 8th 1990

The flower shop smelled beautiful. Emmy inhaled the glorious scent of freesias, her mother’s favourites, but she wasn’t shopping for her mum. She found what she was looking for in a tall glass vase near the till.

‘Can I help?’ A slim, dark-haired young lady appeared from the back room, carrying a small bucket of pink and white carnations.

‘Yes please,’ said Emmy, I’d like some red roses … a dozen.’

The assistant put the carnations down next to a pot of tulips and came around to the desk. She dug out an order pad and picked up her pen. Emmy gave her the details and the message to go on the card, then she paid in cash.

‘Must be a special someone,’ said the assistant gently, picking up on a certain sadness around her customer. She had learned to read people well. Flowers so often spoke of emotional occasions in her business – happiness and sadness – weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, funerals.

‘Yes, very special’ said Emmy softly.

The assistant handed her her change and her receipt.

‘Thanks,’ said Emmy. Then she walked out of the shop and back to her car. She carefully folded her copy of the receipt and pushed it deep into a corner of her purse, biting her lip, willing the tears not to start.

2010 – Twenty Years Later

Dennis Hitchcock plonked a shoe box on the kitchen table and eased himself into a chair with a loud belch and a groan. He was getting old. Rampant indigestion when he over-ate, even though he’d cut down, and bloody arthritis. Every bit of him ached and it seemed ten times worse in the cold weather. Maybe he should hike the thermometer up a couple of degrees. Not that he couldn’t afford it. But there again he could always put on an extra pullover and save a few quid.

He pulled the box to him and took the top off. Stuff. Bits and pieces belonging to his wife, killed in a car accident over twenty years ago. He had let go of all her things the same year as the accident, cleaned everything out he thought, but now one of the kids had found this box in an old suitcase in the loft. He picked up the card on the top, a birthday card from her sister Lucy. Emmy had been close to Lucy. She’d been closer to Lucy than she’d been to him he thought with a pang of resentment. In fact the longer their marriage had gone on the wider the gap had become. The pang of resentment grew into a tight acidic ball in his stomach. Hadn’t he allowed her to have her interests? Allowed her to take a job? Let her take up art classes? She should have been grateful. And yes she had been a dutiful wife, a good cook and gardener, and had kept the house spotless. But the physical side and any speck of affection had died a death within a few years of their marriage. He had chewed and obsessed about it for years but could never understand what he’d done wrong.

Dennis sorted through the stuff; Christmas cards, birthday cards, letters from a pen-friend in America, a key-ring, a pair of brown leather gloves he’d given her which still looked brand-new. She’d never worn them. He sat back, stroking the gloves and thinking. He never could get it right. Never got her gifts she was genuinely pleased with. Oh yes, she made the right noises, but in a subtle way let him know he’d got it wrong, again. He threw the gloves in the pile he’d made to be binned, which so far was everything.

The last item in the box was an old red writing case which she’d used for years, he vaguely remembered it had originally belonged to her mother. He unzipped it. There was still a pen in the holder and the remains of a Basildon Bond writing pad, even a couple of old stamps. Too bad they were too old to make use of. There was a letter from an Aunt under one of the flaps and a photo of her mother’s little dog – that snappy little dachshund that had never liked him. He shoved his fingers under the flap on the other side and felt around. Some thin paper … maybe a couple of old pound notes! He pulled it out. Not money, just folded paper. He was about to bin it, then at the last moment he opened it up. It was a receipt from a flower shop in Birchford dated June 8th 1990.

Twelve long-stemmed red roses. £42.00.

Message:

‘A piece of my heart goes with you’

Dennis stared at it, puzzled. There was nothing to say whom or where the flowers were to go to. He turned the paper over and then back again, and stared at the message. Then there was a knock at the door.

‘Come in!’ he shouted.

The door opened and a tall, fit looking man, a few years younger than Dennis stepped in.

‘Ah Leo! How nice to see you,’ said Dennis, ‘Cup of tea?’

Leo pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. He looked at the pile of papers and cards, then grinned at Dennis. ‘You look busy, how are you keeping anyway?’

‘Lousy,’ said Dennis, ‘Aching all over, knees, shoulders, everything.’

No change there then thought Leo.

‘I’m just cleaning out an old box of Emmy’s stuff that one of the kids found in the loft,’ said Dennis hauling himself out of his chair and heading for the kettle. He filled it up and put it on, then he grabbed an old shopping bag ready to shove the rubbish in.

‘I’ve just found something a bit weird,’ he said pointing to the receipt on the table. Have a look at that.’

Leo picked up the receipt and stared at it, after a few seconds he cleared his throat. ‘It’s a receipt,’ he said casually, shrugging his shoulders.

‘Yes, but a dozen red roses … and why was it in Emmy’s writing case?’

Leo scratched his head. ‘It’s dated over twenty years ago.’

Dennis put two mugs of tea on the table and flopped back into his chair. ‘But who were they sent to, and who sent them? And look at that message!’

‘I’m sure there’s a logical explanation,’ said Leo staring hard at the receipt. ‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking what if she was having an affair.’

‘Surely not,’ said Leo, rubbing casually at the back of his neck, ‘I remember you two always being so happy.’

‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ grunted Dennis. ‘She was distant as hell for the last five years or so before she died. I never could figure out why.’

Leo sat up suddenly and tapped the receipt. ‘Wasn’t that around about the time Emmy’s father died?’

Dennis sat back and sipped his tea. Leo was right. And there had been red roses on the coffin. He felt a shiver of relief go through him. ‘You’re right,’ he said, ‘You’ve got a good memory. And she was devastated at losing her father, awkward old sod that he was. Thanks Leo, I’d completely forgotten that.’

A while later after they had put the world to rights Leo finished his tea and got up. ‘Well, I must be getting on, Maggie will wonder where I’ve got to,’ he said, ‘Shall I put this lot in the bin for you on the way out?’

‘Thank you kindly,’ said Dennis, ‘Good idea.’

Leo shoved the contents of the shoe box into the bag.

‘Stop in any time for tea,’ said Dennis, ‘I always enjoy company.’

Leo dropped the bag in Dennis’ recycling bin and made his way back to his car further down the road. car. He got in and sat for a few minutes then opened his hand and stared at the receipt. He unfolded it and the message hit him again like a hammer. ‘A piece of my heart goes with you.My darling Emmy,’ he whispered.

Dennis sat at the table sipping the remains of his tea and eating a biscuit. A chocolate Hob-Nob. He’d kept them in the cupboard while Leo was there. Lovely chap, Leo, but Hob-Nobs were expensive. Leo had been a good friend all those years ago before he moved to Australia. He’d been single then, then met and married Maggie while he was out there. Nice that he’d moved back and took the time to drop in for a chat. When did he move out there anyway? He couldn’t remember. For some reason it bugged him. Bugged him enough to dig out his old diaries. He had kept careful records of everything going back donkeys’ years: events, family, friends, the price of diesel, purchase of cars, weddings, funerals, birthdays, money lent, money repaid, the list was endless. An hour later after much careful searching he found a note he’d made in his diary … on June 8th 1990. How strange. It read: Leaving party for Leo at the Red Lion. Good bash. He leaves for Australia tomorrow. Emmy didn’t go, had one of her bad heads – probably due to the approach of her father’s funeral next week. Dennis put the diary down slowly with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. ‘A piece of my heart goes with you.‘ He’d never know.He glared out of the window and wondered when Leo would come for tea again.

The Word Jug: Perfunctory

From the Jug today I poured out : Perfunctory (I like this word!)

Definition

  1. Characterised by routine or superficiality: Mechanical – a perfunctory smile.
  2. Lacking in interest or enthusiasm

Origins:

Perfunctory is a word whose origins are found entirely in Latin. It first appeared in English in the late 16th century and is derived from the Late Latin perfunctorius, meaning “done in a careless or superficial manner.”

I wonder if you ever use today’s word?

 

 

A Lovely Review on The Mouse and the Microlight

Some friends of ours recently bought The Mouse and the Microlight for their Grandson, Corban, who is eight.  A big thank you to you Corban for taking time to write this great review!

‘I liked it when Mouse Four left home and how he got his name. Also the chapter where he first flew and the last chapter when he jumped out of the microlight and landed in front of his family. We read the book over several weeks when I visited Grandads house. I found it a very exciting story and each time we finished a chapter, I would try and guess what was going to happen next. I also enjoyed looking at the pictures and enlarging them to see Mouse Four. Thank you.’

A picture from the book

E-book or Paperback

 

Transported (a short story)

 

He was jolted by the slamming of the cab door. A few minutes silence and then there was a massive rumble and a vibration as the engine started up. He noticed rain was hammering in from the side, freezing cold, straight under the truck.

The driver, unaware of his extra passenger clinging beneath the lorry, lit his second fag of the day and put the radio on. The weather man announced in a cheery voice that it was going to rain all day, so remember to take an umbrella. What the hell, when you’re in a nice warm cab it didn’t matter. The roads across the fens ran long and straight as a dye, and his first trip was to Birmingham, eighty miles or so, to deliver the lettuces and carrots that had been loaded late last night. The immigrant workers worked hard, he had great respect for them, bent over those fields all day. It was now five o’clock, the veg would still be fresh as a daisy when it hit the supermarket shelves. He switched the wipers on and watched them slap the water off the sodden windscreen, back and forth in big arcs, then he flipped the light switch and shoved the gear stick into first. The truck sighed and ground its way out of the yard and onto the main road.

He shouldn’t have done it. Shouldn’t have crawled in here. He was small and space was adequate, and he could easily fit underneath, but the vibration and movement of the truck made things far more dangerous than he’d realised. He stared down at the tarmac flying past below as the truck picked up speed, and hung on for grim death. He’d wanted change, he was sick to death of lettuces, and the same old routine, he wanted adventure! Now he had it, but it would be short-lived if he fell off.

An hour up the road and the weather worsened. The truck tyres picked up standing water and mud and spewed it up at the stowaway, showering him in a filthy concoction. He hung on desperately, eyeing the lethally spinning tyres just a foot away.

At 07.30 the driver pulled into a truck-stop. A full English breakfast was in order. He hopped down out of the cab and made his was into the café.

Under the truck the stowaway tried to clean the mud from his eyes, then he peered down onto the gravel and considered slipping off here while the truck was still. But then he saw it, the hedgehog. He shrank back, terrified, and gripped even more tightly to the metal. The hedgehog wandered about, snuffling, searching for breakfast, and after a while disappeared into the far hedge. He had to make a break for it. Had to do it now. Summoning all his courage he slipped out scanning around for danger, moving cautiously forwards. The door handle of the truck felt cold to his touch.

The slam of the café door signalled the sudden return of the driver who had forgotten his cigarettes. He walked over to his cab door and stared up at it, a look of disgust suddenly flashing across his face as he took in the silver trail up the door and the large spotted leopard slug on the door handle. He found a stick, balanced the slug on the end of it and twanged it over the hedge.

The stowaway flew through the air and landed with a splat in the garden next door. After a few minutes he unfurled his eyes. He was looking down a long row of lettuces.

The Word Jug

It’s about time I posted again. This is the trouble with having three blogs! Anyway I thought I’d put the Word Jug up again because I came across a rather interesting word this week. Initially I thought maybe it was some sort of medical state but I was way out.

Chthonic  (adjective)

Definition:  of or relating to the underworld: infernal

Appears to be pronounced THAH-nik

Origin & Etymology:  it comes from ‘chthōn’ which means ‘earth’ in Greek and is associated with things that dwell in or live under the earth. It is commonly used in discussions about mythology. 

Maybe it will be useful for you writers of fantasy!

Reincarnation … Choose carefully!

A Short Story

The five garden gnomes had cheery faces and rosy cheeks. Painted-on happiness. But it was a thin veneer. Their little group was arranged in a semi-circle under the bird bath in the corner of the garden beside the apple tree. Autumn was developing her favourite colours and splashing reds and oranges on bushes and trees. The blackberries were ripe on the brambles growing over the garden wall and the apple tree was laden with fruit – which the blackbirds kept knocking off.

‘Damn!’ cursed Harry, who was on the end of the semicircle, as an over-ripe apple hit the ground with a thud and tore towards him like a missile. It missed him by inches. His eyes fixed themselves on the blackbird that had flown down to check out his prize. ‘Feck off!!’ he shouted. But the bird couldn’t hear him and busied itself pecking at the apple.

‘It’s just a bird Harry,’ mumbled Bill who was two gnomes to his right, ‘There’s no need to get so angry.’

‘He’s not angry at the bird,’ said Snowy who was to the right of Bill, ‘He’s angry because he can’t accept his new incarnation.’

Mutters of agreement went along the line.

‘Well it’s not fair!’ said Harry, ‘I didn’t ask to be a stupid gnome – one that can’t move anything but its eyes!’

‘You probably wanted to be a famous footballer or a film star, that was the trouble,’ said Bill, ‘You were too fixed in your choice and there were obviously no vacancies for the rich and famous when you snuffed it, so that’s why you came back as a gnome. What did you want to be?’

‘None of your business!’ muttered Harry angrily.

‘No good sulking,’ said Tubby, the portly one, who stood next to Harry, ‘You need to accept it because you could be here for years.’

Much mumbling of agreement along the line.

‘Years!’ Harry’s voice had risen a few octaves in abject horror. ‘How long do you gnomes live then?’

We, you being one of us,’ said Tubby pointedly, ‘are not exactly sure. Long enough that we’ve forgotten when we were born.’

Harry started to cry softly. Tears dribbled down his cheeks and found little pathways through his beard. They dripped onto a dandelion that had started to grow between his boots.

Little coughs of embarrassment came from the others as they listened to him wailing.

‘So where did they buy you from?’ asked Snowy, hoping a change of subject might help.

Harry stopped wailing and lapsed into silence.

Stavros, from the other end of the line chipped in: ‘We all came from different places. Henry, the kid who lives here has started to collect gnomes. I came from the Fork-in-Hell Garden Centre.

‘I was in the Call a Spade a Spade, there were lots of us there,’ said Bill.

‘I came from Tesco,’ said Tubby.

Tesco!‘ Harry seemed so appalled by the idea that he shrugged off his misery. ‘At least I came from John Lewis!’

‘Well, maybe your up-market attitude is what got you here in the first place,’ chuckled Snowy, ‘Henry rescued me from a skip in the village.’

‘Well all you lot must have wanted to be famous, like footballers or movie stars, or prime minister, or you wouldn’t be here either,’ retorted Harry.

Silence. Small coughs and the clearing of throats.

‘So,’ began Harry, pleased that he’d caught them out, ‘How long do gnomes really live? You must have some idea?’

‘No one knows how long gnomes live, or even what causes them to die,’ said Bill as he watched the blackbird attacking the apple with gusto, ‘I ended up next to an old second-hand chap made of stone in Call a Spade a Spade and he reckoned he’d been about in all sorts of different gardens over his years. He had a date stamp on the bottom of one of his feet, I saw it when he got knocked over one day, and it said 1929. He was nearly ninety. Of course stone lasts for years, there was none of your old plastic rubbish back then.’

‘Nearly ninety!’ Harry’s eyes started rolling around and around and around in his head.

‘What are doing?’ asked Tubby, he could just make out Harry’s right eye doing circles as he peered sideways at him.

‘I’m trying to see what I’m made of! Why can’t we move anything but our eyes!’ yelled Harry in frustration.

‘You’re made of resin,’ said Stavros.

‘Resin? How do you know?’

‘You have a chip on your shoulder, I noticed it when the boy brought you home and got you out of the shopping bag.’

‘How long does resin last?’

‘Forever.’

‘No!’

‘Certainly does, probably as long as stone.’

If Harry’s face could have gone white with shock it would have, but being resinous he stood straight with his never-ending grin plastered across his face.

Halloween October 31st 11pm

The teenage trick-or-treaters, slightly worse the wear for a half a bottle of vodka liberated from a parent’s kitchen cupboard, and a quantity of cider purchased by an older brother, were on the rampage. They preferred tricks to treats and spotted the little group of gnomes in the corner of the garden.

‘Less kidnap the gnomes!’ slurred a lad wearing a Frankenstein mask.

‘Yeah! Gnome-napping! Less-do-it!’ cackled his mate in a werewolf costume.

‘D’you think you should?’ giggled their girlfriends in matching witch outfits.

But the boys were already over the wall and stumbling drunkenly across the garden, laughing helplessly, minutes later scrambling back with four of the gnomes, one in each hand.

‘What you going to do with them?’ asked one of the witches.

‘Throttle them Precious!’ growled Frankenstein, trying to sound like Gollum, and he took off up the street and stopped by some bins. Holding Harry by the neck he made strangling motions, then he opened the bin and chucked him inside. Next was Snowy, by which time the werewolf had caught up and was waving Tubby about.

‘The fat bastard just had a heart attack!’ he yelled, dumping Tubby over the edge. Last to go in was Stavros after the werewolf had murdered him with a viscous bite to the neck. The bin lid was slapped shut. And Halloween continued.

November 1st, Early Morning

The bin men reversed their truck up to the bins. With a clang and a bang the machine picked up each bin and dumped the contents into the stinking cavity, then the hydraulic press came down and crushed it. No mercy was shown.

In the garden Bill stood alone, wondering where the others were. No doubt they’d be found and brought back and the thieves would be punished. But no gnomes were returned. Henry came over to Bill with tears rolling down his cheeks.

‘I’m sorry Bill, but your friends have been stolen. I’ll get you some new friends, Mum says we can go to the garden centre at the weekend.’

On Sunday afternoon Henry came tearing across the lawn with a shopping bag. He carefully extracted a fat female gnome with a big nose and a red apron.

‘Here’s a new friend for you Bill!’ he said, delighted, ‘I hope you like her, I’ve named her Sharon.’ Then he dropped his voice to a whisper, ‘She looks like a girl in my class at school!’ He stood Sharon so the two gnomes could look at one-another, then he heard his mother calling him in for tea.

‘Hello Sharon,’ said Bill.

‘Feck off! And DON’T call me Sharon!’

Bill knew that voice. It just didn’t fit the face. ‘Harry?’ he said in astonishment, ‘Is that you Harry?’

‘Of course it’s me!’

Bill couldn’t believe it. ‘What happened? Where are the others? Why are you … different?’

‘I’m different because there were no male gnome positions left!’ cried Harry in a disgusted voice. ‘And what happened was we all got dumped in a bin the other night and crushed to death the next morning when the bin lorry came round. Then Stavros and Tubby and Snowy got the reincarnations they wanted, but I didn’t. It’s SO unfair.’

‘What on earth did you want to be?’

‘The same thing as last time, and all the other times. I wanted to be a dinosaur,’ cried Harry.

Bill thought for a minute, ‘May I ask how old you were when you died, all those times ago?’

‘I was six, I was in a car accident.’

‘And how many times have you requested to be a dinosaur?’

‘Every time! But next time I’m definitely going to choose something else.’

‘Yes,’ said Bill carefully, ‘And I’d also try and avoid sabre-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, dodos, and great auks. You can’t come back as something that no longer exists!’

author of fantasy, fiction and memoir