Thursday, 29 July 2010

Frogs in Cream and random thoughts....



So, today I received the first rejection letter for 'DOMINO' - it's no big deal; not the first rejection letter I've ever had, and almost certainly won't be the last. There are still plenty of submissions out there awaiting a response - in the meantime it's a case of 'onwards and upwards'! (and I did say I would keep you informed of progress....)



Also, today - am I glad my days at the bibliotheque are all numbered and accounted for? Yes-siree! This morning I finally came up with Harding's Law of Inapposite Worker/Management Ratios - "Those who have brains, use them; those who do not, make the decisions." (........not the best day at the saltmines, no!)

But then, the day was somewhat redeemed by reading a Friday Flash Fiction story by Flannery Alden

So armed with custard pies (virtual, in this instance, but wait for my last day at work.....) I shall launch back into the workplace tomorrow quoting the mantra gleaned from said FFF story:

"We need to be the ones to demonstrate the ridiculous so that people can stop being so serious about everything and see the situation as it is"



......the 'Frogs in Cream' reference in the blog-title? Rejections are no reason to give up! (One frog in Aesop's fable thought it pointless to keep swimming when it fell into the pitcher of cream and sank to the bottom and drowned. The other frog kept swimming, doing what he was designed to do even though the future looked hopeless. The result was the cream turned into solid butter and thus froggy was able to leap back out of the pitcher!) Question is, have I got the stamina to keep 'swimming'? Time, and hopefully a publisher, will tell....!

(Well, either that or I'll make a fortune in the butter industry! ;-p)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

FFF #37 SEND IN THE CLOWNS


Another week rolls by and its Friday Flash Fiction time again! Cormac Brown has made an executive decision this week and pulled out an interesting and obscure starter line for us to weave our individual magic upon.

Just scraping in under the upper limit of the set word-count, here's mine!



SEND IN THE CLOWNS

As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down.

Actually, I’m wishing I’d gone with the whole running-off-to-join-the-circus idea of my youth – it would have been an adventure and at least there’d be a fair chance I could have mastered the art of juggling. Or tightrope walking. Or fire-eating. Any or all of those skills might have come in useful now. Sitting on a bridge at 2.55 in the morning is absolutely not where I expected to be on the day I was supposed to be getting married.

I should never have answered the phone. It was a wrong number. But when the second call came through and it was the same voice, I mean - what are the odds of getting the same wrong number twice? It was a nice voice though, with a foreign accent. He sounded so apologetic. He was a bit of a charmer, too.

If I hadn’t rung him back out of curiosity I’d be tucked up in my own bed right now, dreaming about veils and flowers and getting my vows right. Instead, I’m freezing my ass off on a bench on a bridge in downtown Bratislava. And I can tell you the Danube is not wonderfully blue.

It’s nearly 3am and still I’m waiting. It seemed exciting at first. His voice on the phone with its lilting accent; the emails, the exchange of photos and finally meeting face to face. It took some courage getting on that plane to Amsterdam, believe me! My friends, the ones I was brave enough to tell, thought I was absolutely mad. They warned me I’d be murdered in some back alley and never seen again. Or it’d turn out he’d sent someone else’s picture and be ugly as hell.

But when Brian, my so-called fiancé, ran off with Claire from the packing department I was more than ready for someone to whisk me away on an adventure. I sold the engagement ring, bought a ticket to Amsterdam and met Pietr at Schiphol airport. After 48 wonderful hours I was supposed to fly back but Pietr persuaded me to stay on. Faced with returning to a mediocre job in sales that was going nowhere, or staying on in Amsterdam and travelling with Pietr, what would you choose?

And it wasn’t just Amsterdam. Pietr was a travel writer. I threw caution to the winds and my bags in his car and we motored across Europe. He would always have to check in with his editor, so I’d amuse myself looking round the shops, plan places to eat or find an internet café so I could email my folks and reassure them that I hadn’t been abducted or sold into slavery. Then Pietr would find me and we’d be off on another adventure, another city, another country.

It did bother me a little that we never stopped long in any one spot or that Pietr never seemed to know where we were going next until the last minute. But there was always some new place to explore and he always made me feel happy so I refused to entertain my doubts.

Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge now, just like the good old Danube. Bratislava, for all its charm, is not where I want to be for the rest of my life, but it certainly may well be.

I don’t know what Pietr’s done but the look on his face this morning should have given me my first clue that all is not quite right. When he pushed a wad of money into my hand and sent me off this morning he was scared. I’ve done as I was told and kept well away from the hotel. He told me not to spend too long in any one place and that he’d meet me here, on this bridge at midnight. Funny, but as I’ve sat here I’ve realised the date. Today I imagined my life would be so different. It’s the day Brian and I had pencilled in our diaries for our wedding. Strange how life turns out.

Well, it’s past three o’clock. I’m tired, cold and with no passport I can’t even buy a room for the night. I had to leave it behind at the desk when Pietr hustled me out of the hotel this morning. He said he’d bring it with him when he’d sorted out whatever was wrong.

All I can think about is that haunted look in his eyes and the wad of cash in my pocket. It’s more money than I’d earn in a year back home. So now the questions are lining up in my brain waiting to be answered. What sort of travel writer has access to so much money? And why did we have to keep moving around?

I can hear a car coming. Thank God. It must be him. I’m torn between being relieved to see him again yet afraid that he’s not who he says he is. And where exactly does that leave me? On a bridge in Bratislava, freezing my ass off.

Wait a minute. That car’s going way too fast and the door’s open. Oh, no - Pietr! I’m too busy looking down at his blood-stained face laying at my feet to notice which way the car is carrying on, leaving his body on the ground. As I bend down I realise he’s dead; the gaping hole across his windpipe is still hissing with his last breath.

I’m too scared and confused to cry. Perhaps tomorrow it will all hit me but right now I hear sirens and as I feel the weight of the money in my pocket I have to make a decision. I force myself to feel in Pietr’s pockets. No passport, but I have his car keys.

Standing up I look towards the approaching car and take my chance. With whatever goodbye I can muster up I cross the bridge, staying in the shadows, turning the corner before the car and whoever’s inside it gets too close to notice me.

I walk away from Pietr’s abandoned body; away from the Danube, retracing my steps to where he parked his car.

It’s a plan.

Not a good one, I grant you, but I said I wanted an adventure. Just not this particular one.

I’m moving steady and not looking down. It’s the juggling I have a problem with. Perhaps joining a circus might be a good option after all.

If I’m still alive and free by the time daylight comes I could do worse.

Friday, 23 July 2010

R.J.Ellory wins Theakstons prize!!


R.J. Ellory has won the prestigious and coveted Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award with his novel, "A Simple Act of Violence"

I can't recommend this highly enough - an absolutely brilliant, 'intelligent' crime novel - I first read it out of curiosity (daughter had just received a signed copy from himself!) and was well and truly hooked.

Go out and buy it, borrow it (don't steal it!), bang on the doors of your local library and demand they reserve you a copy........any or all of the above! You will not be disappointed!

Oh, and congratulations, Mr Ellory! :-)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

FFF #36 - 'STITCH AND BITCH'




Due to the automatic voting system being kaput, for this weeks' Friday Flash Fiction Cormac Brown gave us the option of using any of the three sentences that were up for grabs:


#1 MRM says, "Looking at it from your/their/his/her point of view, then yeah, I would be pissed also."

#2 Sue says, "You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and think 'thank goodness it was only a dream'?"

#3 Welles says, "In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was."


(mine was the second one and hadn’t polled any/many votes – so that’s a bit cheeky !)

Anyway, starting with #1 – here’s what I came up with this week:


‘STITCH AND BITCH’




"Looking at it from his point of view, then yeah, I would be pissed also,” said Mary, behind the curl of blue smoke trailing upwards from the cigarette held vice-like between her elegant long fingers.

“Hmm, me too,” replied Carole, swallowing another large mouthful of wine from her glass.

“But to complain like that and then – oh, damn! Dropped another one!” Sheila hadn’t quite got the hang of cables. Mary laid her unfinished cigarette in the ashtray and leaned over.

“Give it here,” she said, beckoning across the table to Sheila. “Right, let’s have a look….oh, I see what you’ve done.” Deftly twisting the yarn backwards round the needle she worked her way back along the row of knitting and re-started. “Here you go, sweetie,” she said, handing the work back over the table. Sheila blew her an imaginary kiss in response and picked up the needles.

“Anyway, as I was saying, how could he complain about the way it was done? I think Petra did an excellent job!!” She patted me on the arm as if to reassure me. As the new kid on the block I was really just feeling my way.

“I guess he thought if he complained long and loud enough we’d waive the fee,” continued Mary. She exhaled another lungful of blue smoke as her eyes concentrated on the stitches she was counting along the needle of her own piece of work, moving them along in pairs with her immaculately manicured nails.

Carole laughed as she set down her glass.
“I don’t think he’d read the small print in the contract,” she giggled. The second bottle of wine was beginning to have an effect, I thought. Mary laid her work down and stared at me.

“Petra, you did make sure no-one else saw you?” she asked. Her face had lost it’s gentle look as her laser-beam eyes raked over me.

“Of course!” I retorted. “What sort of amateur do you take me for?” I tried to balance the tone of my voice to match a fair copy of the hurt I might be expected to feel. I picked up the pattern in front of me and made a show of studying it. Thankfully, all the hours spent with my Grandmother as a child had turned me into a fairly proficient knitter. Well enough, anyway, to fit into this group.

For the last three months I’d been working my way into their confidence, letting slip nuggets of information about my past ‘jobs’. My other special skill came in useful too - none of them is as good as me with a high velocity rifle.

There was an awkward lull in the conversation and all I could hear was the gentle rhythmical click-clack of knitting needles around the table. When I looked up Mary was still staring intently at me, whilst her hands worked in a blur of almost regimental precision, eating up the yarn trailing through fingers tipped with her trademark blood-red talons. For a moment I was wary, but then Sheila broke the silence.

“Mary, don’t pick on the kid!” she said in my defence. “When I drove up to collect her I made sure I wasn’t followed. In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was and if I couldn’t tell it was Marian Hansen’s body then believe me no-one else would!”

No, she wouldn’t be able to tell it was a dead sheep and not Marian Hansen’s body because, in fact, Marian Hansen was now in protective police custody. The woman was safely out of the way, thanks to what I’d been able to glean from our cosy little “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” evenings. We’d meet a couple of nights a week at Freddie’s Bar - an innocent little knitting group. No-one paid a blind bit of notice so we were quite effective at hiding in plain sight.

I hadn’t wanted to go under cover but it seemed I had the necessary skills to blend in – none of the guys on my team were willing to show their feminine side and confess to being able to knit. For once I was glad I was the only girl in the squad. But now I’m scared I might be slipping out of my depth.

You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and think 'thank goodness it was only a dream'? Well, when I wake up each day I’m starting to wish this was a dream. I just have to hold my nerve long enough and stay undercover to try and find out what they’ve done with Daryl Hansen.

To my mind, he deserves everything he might have got, having put out a contract on his wife for turning evidence. I know cops shouldn’t think that way but, hell – we’re not saints.

Mary’s staring at me again. Daryl pushed his luck too far with her, trying to argue his way out of paying as he didn’t actually get to see Marian’s body. I wonder which one of them did it?

Knit one. Purl one.

With her background in pharmacology Sheila could have poisoned him. Or Carole’s skill with a garrotte would have seen him quickly despatched. For a small woman she has immense strength in those pudgy fingers, which defies the logic of how she can create the most beautiful lacework stitching with such fine yarn.

Knit one, slip one, yarn forward.

No, my money’s on Mary. She likes sharp things. Stiletto heels. Long fingernails. Ice-picks. Daryl was probably perforated in some vital organ. Perhaps she even did a bit of probing with one of her spare knitting needles….

Knit one. Purl one.

Cast off…….

Saturday, 17 July 2010

A green and pleasant land





Ah...the great British Summer! We so often moan about not getting enough sunny weather, but after the recent hot and dry spell I'm kinda glad to see a bit of precipitation.

Well, I said 'a bit' - but we've had a fair few heavy deluges recently! This morning I went strawberry picking at a local farm. We'd delayed our picking and sheltered in the farm café first with a pot of tea for two and a hefty slice of flapjack each as we watched the rain pelting down. The returning sunshine was our cue to head out to the PYO fields and just as we got there - spitter-spatter, down came the rain again! :-(

But it didn't last long and the fields were hazy with the steam from wet clothes evaporating into the warmth. And the strawberries looked yummy! (a subsequent 'quality control' check reports they taste just as good! ;-p )

And just to show one reason why we shouldn't give the rain clouds a hard time, this piccie describes our 'green and pleasant land' very well.

This is about five minutes' walk from our house and a place we used to excercise our faithful hound, Brucie.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bon voyage, 'DOMINO'


Well, 'DOMINO' has flown the nest! Having sweated blood over the query letter (and getting the printer to play ball!) I finally got my submission into the post at lunch-time; sink or swim, she's on her way!

Now I feel I can rule a line under that and allow the riot of characters and situations that have been pestering my subconcious to tumble out onto the keyboard as I begin to write up the first of a couple of sequels.

Of course I'd love to get DOMINO published but I don't care too much if it's unsuccessful, I just want to keep writing - it feels kinda 'comfortable'! If I can just shake off this day-job I could happily write all day!

But in the meantime, please continue to waft your good vibes towards whatever prospective agent picks up my letter ...... ;-)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Friday Flash Fiction #35 'CAPTIVE AUDIENCE'


Good old FFF! And good old Cormac Brown (sorry, not being ageist here!) for setting us this challenge. Thanks to an opening sentence suggested by Flannery Alden for this week's story I thought I'd go back a little in time. So, pull up a chair, grab a coffee (or whatever you'd prefer to imbibe) and I hope you enjoy........


Captive Audience


"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position.” Laura’s stare accompanying this outburst left me in no uncertainty that I’d hit a nerve.

“Ok, no worries,” I responded, backtracking to a point in the conversation where I felt on safer ground. “Perhaps we can just sit it out….” The withering look I received by way of an answer was ample evidence that I was damned whatever I said. I wondered if silence was the better option.

I looked at my watch. We’d been waiting almost half an hour already and there was no obvious sign that our dilemma would be resolved any time soon. Clearly one of us needed to leave but that wasn’t an option right at this precise moment.

Laura’s grievance with my presence had been obvious the moment I’d stepped into the elevator just over thirty minutes earlier. Prior to that our worlds had last collided some years previously. I use the word ‘collided’ advisedly. Three years of tempestuous marital non-bliss had finally been reined in after a horrendous high-profile court case.

Her abject jealousy of my being in the presence of any other women might be seen as grounds for divorce but she’d expected me to be the one to take the responsibility. No deal. After all, I never balked at her late night socialite festivities or the gaggle of youthful suitors who buzzed round her like bees around a sugar bowl.

After the first six months of being trotted out on her arm like her latest acquisition I’d grown tired of the fawning sycophants. We’d arrive at some fancy party, I’d do the honourable thing and melt into the shadows so as not to take the limelight from her and then make for the nearest illicit cocktail I could find.

It became a reciprocal arrangement. In the latter days of prohibition it was an enviable proposition. I’d hang around the ‘bar’ at the latest speakeasy, trying not to get too smashed until she was ready to use me as her ‘get out’ clause, when the mood took her. She’d click her fingers, metaphorically or in reality, and off we’d go in a maelstrom of hype and flashlight bulbs. I suppose that’s the penalty of marrying a Hollywood starlet. But that was long ago, now.

Anyway. Here we are trapped in an elevator, stuck between floors. My opening gambit at quashing the obvious awkward situation was kicked into touch fairly abruptly. It’s a delicate position alright. The terms of the divorce settlement were quite specific. The words ‘skating’ and ‘thin ice’ come to mind.

She’d been the last person I’d expected to bump into when I’d called in to the bank this morning. Seeing Laura took my breath away. Gone was the beauty that had at first held me spellbound. The introduction of Technicolor, a while back, had not been kind to her career – she was far more suited to the subtle shades of monochrome which were now considered old hat.

Her faded glory was replaced with a hardness both to her voice and her manner and the steely initial gaze that had swept me up and down. But there was just a hint of wistfulness for times gone by in her eyes, beyond the veil on her hat that masked her former identity.

“Perhaps we could just pretend to ignore each other,” I said, finally breaking the awkward silence. She sniffed and pulled the fur wrap closer around her creating a more physical barrier for her to hide behind and nodded briefly before she looked away.

It’s not every day you find yourself trapped with the person who has the power to bring you to your knees financially. In the terms of agreement we were never to come within ten feet of each other or the alimony payments would cease.

So, now we stand silently; trapped in a small, claustrophobic box awaiting rescue. Staring at my feet, I’ve measured the floor and there is considerably less than the proscribed distance between us, however much she tries to press her back against the wall.

“I won’t tell if you won’t,” I venture, smiling ruefully to myself. It’s a sad state of affairs. I can see her point about the delicacy of her position as my eyes wander to the ornate moulding of my family’s crest etched into the panelling of the elevator walls alongside the trade mark of our company.

After all, she’d really only married me for my money.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Time travelling - without a Tardis


Time-travelling back to the past - on a recent break in Derbyshire, we visited the National Tramways Museum at Crich.

Riding on this ex-Glasgow tram, I wondered about the stories that might have occurred in it's previous incarnation as it trundled through the busy streets. What plans were plotted? What lover's trysts began or ended here? How many children squatted up on the seats watching life rushing past? What crimes were conceived?

Maybe, with that in mind, I'll pen a story......amazing where you find inspiration!

(oh, and btw - we also saw an old blue Police Box that someone had left lying around there..........! )

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Spikethecat! (...and other news)




Noodlin' around on the 'net I came across Spikethecat - a site created by Richard Hallows which focusses on short story competitions and other pro-writer activities. Worth a look!

Also - get to Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Three of my favourite authors were among the shortlisted titles so it was a tricky choice - who will YOU vote for?

Well, it's been a weird old week - on the down-side, life at the 'saltmines' (aka the Library) has been cruising down towards the launch of 'self service' and if that wasn't bad enough I had to endure a whole days' training yesterday sitting listening to someone tell us how 'marvelous' all the new library initiatives and work-practices were (I beg to differ...)

But then, returning home yesterday I was gobsmacked to discover that THRILLERS, KILLERS & CHILLERS had used one of my stories to re-launch in it's brand spanking new format! Much smiling! (and much red wine by way of celebration!!!)

Anyway, I'm off for a wee break to Derbyshire next week, so depending on the availability of WiFi I'll be keeping up with all of you.....or not!

Have a good 'un!