Good Advice

brown donut on stainless steel round plate
Image by Dessy Dimcheva on Unsplash

“I really don’t know about this.” I said. “I know I always bake for work events, and no-one ever complains, but this is going to be judged.”

Anna looked at me and shook her head.

“Yes, I know Nicki from accounts judges everything, but she’s been okay with everything I’ve brought in.”

Anna looked at the display of cakes in front of her.

“Nicki is always going to be nice to me because I sort out her printer for her.” I followed Anna’s gaze. “This is a village show, and it’s going to be judged by people who don’t know me. They all look a little…” I trailed off. “They look a little pathetic.”

Anna looked up at me in shock.

“They are nothing like you the ones you see in supermarkets. To be honest, I’m not sure what half of them are supposed to look like.”

Anna looked at the carefully crafted selection on the tray between us and then back up at me. She took a breath as she looked at my shelf of cookbooks, searching for words.

“Illustrations don’t count.” I said. “And I don’t even know who will be judging. They asked the vicar, but she couldn’t make it.”

Anna was studying the old fashioned seed cake but looked up, surprised.

“I know. I thought it was part of a vicar’s job to judge shows, but she has a Christening and two funerals.” I thought about what sort of day that meant. “Perhaps I should take some cakes round to cheer her up. I’ve loads left over. These are all the best ones.”

Anna looked over to the kitchen counter. I jumped to my feet.

“Sorry, I meant to get it earlier. Here’s a box for you and the men.” I brought back a large Tupperware cake box. “It should keep them going for a while. And this is for you.”

Anna’s face lit up as I handed over the small box of delicate macarons. They had turned out better than I had expected and it was great to give something to Anna. She had been there for me through thick and thin, and it was the least I could do.

“Don’t share these with the lads.” I said. I looked down at the assortment between us. The macarons were the stars of the selection, but the dainty coffee cakes and piped eclairs were also looking good. “Are you sure that it’s worth me entering?”

Anna sighed and shook her head as she took a delicate bite from a pink macaron. I watched bliss spread across her face.

“You’re not just saying that because you’re my friend, are you?” I asked anxiously. I caught Anna taking a surreptitious glance at the kitchen clock. I followed her gaze. “You’re going to be late!”

Anna crammed the last of the macaron into her mouth, scooped up her boxes, and raced for the door.

“Are you sure I should enter the show?” I shouted after her.

Anna turned around, her mouth full of macaron, and pointed firmly at the cakes on the table before dashing out of the door.

I looked at my cakes, took a deep breath and started packing them ready to take them down to the Village Hall, reassured by my friend. Good old Anna, she always knew exactly what to say.

Writing Challenge 24th February 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

True friends are those who really know you but love you anyway.

Edna Buchanan

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Book Review: Wild Magic by Eileen Troemel

Eileen was kind enough to let me have a peek into one of her books, and now that my laptop is working again, I thought I would share.

I have to be honest right from the start – it does deal with some adult themes, and those themes are strongly adult. They are dealt with well, and with sensitivity, but it is strong meat. It wasn’t gratuitous, it was something that drove the plot, and while I blush at naughty bits, this was part of a strong plot, so I’m good with that.

It is a fantasy story, with strands of magic, politics and the ways that human nature can react darkly to unknown forces. I think the plot was well thought out, and I loved the the sense of place. Eileen wrote that the terrain in the book is strongly based on the landscapes known to her, and there is a wonderful depth to the descriptions. Something that I particularly liked was the sense of the world around the story, that other lives went on around the characters and would continue. The world is ongoing and evolving around the characters and is more than a reflection of them or their stage.

To be honest, I never really got into the characters, and I don’t know why. They were well described, and they were certainly not two dimensional. I think I ought to dip into more of Eileen Troemel’s works to see what happens, although I believe a lot of it is adult, and I blush too easily.

It is not a bad book, and there is the preview function on Amazon so you can get a taste of the tone of the book and its rhythm, so I suggest you use the ‘Look Inside’ tab and see what you think.

My personal view is that I am not likely to re-read it, but I don’t regret reading it, and I may well pick up other books by Eileen Troemel in the future. I think it is not quite my usual stamping ground or personal taste, so that has influenced me a little. I certainly wouldn’t reject it.

Preparation

flat lay photography of book and teacup
Image taken by Northfolk and found on Unsplash

Ned grabbed the envelope, tipped out the special offers and opened the envelope fully, spreading it out on the dining table. “Chloe, have you got a pen?”

“What sort of pen?” Chloe stuck her head out of the kitchen. “I’m in the middle of making dinner.”

“Just a pen – one that writes.” Ned grabbed that morning’s newspaper.

“The cupboard on your left, top drawer on the right.” Chloe said. “No, your other left. I’m not coming in there. My hands are covered in onion.”

Ned pulled out the drawer and grunted. “Is this what you spend my money on?”

My money, I think, until you find a job.” Chloe shouted from the kitchen. “I’m making curry.”

Ned looked at the neatly arranged drawer with small trays separating the pens and pencils, all lined up with the stack of pretty notebooks. “What a waste of time.”

“You’re the one who wanted a pen.” Chloe shouted.

Ned ignored the chopping from the other room, grabbed a plain black biro and sat down again with the envelope and the newspaper. The trick was to pick the angle. “Chloe, have you got a ruler?”

“Second drawer down.” Chloe called from the kitchen.

Ned got back up and checked. “I can’t believe you have all this stuff. You can’t need it all.” He looked down at the layers of protractors, rulers and set squares.

“You are the one who needs a ruler right now.” Chloe said. “It’s my quilting stuff. Anyway, I don’t need a ruler to cook dinner.” Ned pretended not to hear her muttered, “Just some peace and quiet.”

Ned sat back down. Monday was the day when the deliveries were made to the bank opposite the museum. There was a huge van, full of guards and security, which made them comfortable parking right against the CCTV that covered the side door into the museum. There was always so much coming and going that slipping in unnoticed would be a breeze. Ever since he had found that they were working on some rare Iron Age finds in the prep room, including gold arm rings, and that it was stashed with some immaculate and very valuable Roman coins, he knew that if he could just get in there unnoticed, he could grab the gear, stuff it in his pockets and slip out with a nice little nest egg. If it was going to be any time, though, it had to be this week as they were moving the finds down to London by Friday. He sat down and laboured with the ruler, his memory of the street, the picture in the paper and the dregs of his maths teacher’s lessons. “I might be going into town tomorrow.”

“That’ll be nice.” Chloe stuck her head back into the dining room. “Do you want rice or chips with the curry. Anyway, at least it will be easy to park.”

“It’s never easy to park in town.” Ned said. “I was thinking of parking outside and walking in.”

“No, there’ll be loads of space.” Chloe said. “It’s a bank holiday tomorrow. Everywhere will be shut, except places like the museum, of course. I’ll make chips.” She dived back into the kitchen.

“It can’t be a bank holiday!” Ned said. “How do you know it’s a bank holiday?”

“It’s in the diary, third drawer down.” Chloe called from the kitchen. “But don’t tell me, I shouldn’t waste my time checking it” She laughed and Ned could hear her clattering the pans.

Ned pulled out the diary. He needed another plan, and this time he need to check it all.

Writing Challenge 17th February 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

flat lay photography of book and teacup
Image taken by Northfolk and found on Unsplash

Organised crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.

Woody Allen

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Love You Forever

“How dare he date her!” A shower of dead rose petals scattered across the floor.

“You died two years ago.” Kane felt desperately out of his depth. How could he explain it to the ghost of Carlee Evans? “He can’t mourn you forever.”

“I killed myself because of him.” Carlee sobbed. “Of course he should love me forever. I left a note saying that I would love him forever. It’s not too much to ask.”

“I did some digging and looked some stuff up on the internet as well as talking to him.” Kane said. “You killed yourself because he went to his grandmother’s funeral.”

“I needed him!” Carlee wailed. “He was always talking to his precious family and his stupid friends. He should have been concentrating on me! I was devastated from work.”

“It was his grandmother’s funeral.” Kane stared at the ghost’s face for a moment, but saw nothing there. “He loved her and was heartbroken.”

“He should have been loving me!” Carlee stamped her ethereal foot. “I loved him.”

“Did you mean to kill yourself?” Kane asked.

Carlee shrugged and turned away.

“Because your internet search history was all about ‘safe overdoses’.” Kane could feel the ghost pulling away from him, but he concentrated a little. He was getting a lot better at dealing with ghosts and, to Carlee’s horror, she couldn’t leave.

“He should have been worried about me, not anyone else.” Carlee said. “And we should always be together. He doesn’t need anyone else.”

Kane took a deep breath and nodded to the ghost of Auntie Brenda who was hovering just on the edge of his vision. She slipped away. He tapped Carlee on the shoulder and almost smiled as she flinched at the unexpected contact. “You know Mick asked me to help because I can talk to ghosts.”

Carlee nodded. “And you can tell him how much I love him, and that I forgive him, and you can keep relaying messages. He won’t need the bitch now he can talk to me.”

“I can speak to all sorts of ghosts.” Kane said. “I keep it quiet, but I can often find a particular spirit or ghost, if I try and have a few clues.”

“I only care about Mick.” Carlee said. “Nothing else matters to me and nothing else matters to him. He has always been obsessed with me.”

Kane thought of the way Mick had described Carlee, the reluctance to date, the nightmare of the relationship and the relief mixed in with the guilt when she died. “I spoke to your mother.”

Carlee stared at him. “You wouldn’t!”

“Carlee Jean, how could you do this to me?” A ghost of an older woman strode towards them out of the shades, her lips pressed hard together and her eyes cold. “I can’t believe that you continue to embarrass your family, after everything I’ve said.”

Carlee spun around. “Mother!”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady. Your father is so disappointed in you.”

“No, not Dad as well!”

The man following was as formally dressed as Carlee’s mother and wore a disapproving expression. “I found out about what the papers said.” He shook his head. “Even in death you were a disgrace.”

“I’m surprised that Father McKinley did the service.” Carlee’s mother said. “And to think he baptised you.”

“Mother…” Carlee tried to interrupt.

“You are coming with us.” Her father was adamant. “I am not allowing our family name to be dragged through the mud because you can’t control yourself.”

“No, Mum, Dad, you don’t understand!” Carlee cast an imploring look at Kane. “Say something.”

“Good luck.” Kane said, watching the figures fade out of sight. Now to give Mick the good news.

Writing Challenge 10th February 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

I dwell in possibility…

Emily Dickinson

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

No Rest

cars parked on side of the road during night time
Image by Pontus Wellgraf on Unsplash

“What’s her name?” I stalked slowly towards the man hunched over the drunk girl sprawled on the pavement. It was a scene played out every Friday and Saturday, and I knew the script. A predator had found his prey.

“She’s my girlfriend, and she’s sick.” He lied. “I just want to get her home.” He avoided my eyes. I didn’t blame him too much. I am a tall, well built man who is completely sober. I’m not an easy target like the woman crumpled next to him.

“What’s her name.” I pushed past him easily and picked up her bag, pulling out her driver’s licence.

“I think she needs to go home. I’ll call a taxi.” He tried to meet my gaze and failed.

What’s her name?

“I’ll go get a cab from the station.” He ran off.

I gently helped her up and guided her to the shop at the end of the street. It was a 24 hour convenience store, and, though corporate probably didn’t know, a safe haven with reliable people and a good relationship with the local cops. She swayed a little but managed. I checked her name and made sure she still had her phone. “Come on, Rose, come in here. It’s nice and warm and you can have a nice cup of tea.”

Steve came over, and nodded to Shelley who started calling the paramedics. “How is she?”

“I think she’s okay.” I said. “But I don’t think it’s just drink. She may have been spiked.”

“That’s the third one tonight.” Steve guided Rose onto a chair set next to the door, with a sturdy back and stable arms to support a vulnerable guest.

“I had a good look at him.” I said. “About the same height as Shelley, not tall, and skinny with it. He was wearing jeans and a denim jacket.” I shrugged. “That might help. I mean, who wears denim jackets these days?”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “You’re keeping up with fashion? I know what you are. I wouldn’t have thought you noticed these things.”

I looked away and shrugged. “It’s useful information.” I looked down at Rose who was still semi conscious. “I had better get back on watch.”

“You’ve been watching this street since I was a kid.” Steve said. “It’s not just at night, either. Last week someone raised the alarm about Surjit falling and getting stuck at the corner of Wine Street. I guess you couldn’t show yourself in daylight, but if someone hadn’t pulled down that stand of brochures into the alley, Surjit would still be there.”

“I need to get back to my post.” I said, taking a last look at Rose and backing out of the door.

“I know we are all grateful, but it must be hard for you.” Steve said. “When are you going to rest?”

“When I’ve paid my debt.” I faded into my usual nothingness and slipped past the paramedics as they rushed in. I looked down the street and watched a group of lads stalking a drunk. They looked like they had robbery on their mind. Softly, into Steve’s ear, just before I set off, I whispered, “There’s no rest for the formerly wicked.”

Writing Challenge 3rd February 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Bertie

“Bless you!” Kane said.

The ghost of Auntie Brenda sniffed and looked at Kane reproachfully. “You know I’m allergic to cats.”

“I knew you were allergic to cats.” Kane stroked Bertie’s ears. “I didn’t think it would last afterwards.”

Auntie Brenda’s expression softened. “Poor little mite.”

Kane tickled under Bertie’s chin and tried not to grin. “This is not a poor little mite. This is a bruising bully with more attitude than fur.”

Auntie Brenda leaned forward and ran a spectral finger over Bertie’s coat. “Give that cat a bit of food and some love and he’ll have a coat you can be proud of, won’t you, sweetie?” Bertie gave her a disgusted look before leaning into Kane’s caresses. “Poor thing has lost its owner and is all alone in the world.”

Kane felt the weight of Bertie settle heavily on his lap. When he helped the spirit of Bertie’s last owner to pass over, he had not expected to have to deal with a cat afterwards. “I’ve always wanted to ask,” Kane began carefully. “Why did you always have cats if you were allergic to them?”

“Oh, I got used to them after a while.” Auntie Brenda wiped her nose on a ghostly tissue. “Besides, it isn’t a home without a cat. Now that you have your own little flat, it makes sense to have cat.”

Kane looked around his new flat. It was self contained and, for the first time he could remember, he didn’t have to share a bathroom or kitchen. He wished he could risk getting a new build flat, though instead of this Victoria conversion. He had spotted a few ghosts on the way in and he was sure Auntie Brenda had been gossiping. On the other hand, there was something grand about the high ceilings and painted mouldings. Auntie Brenda had helped him choose the right furnishings in the charity shops and it was starting to look cosy. “Ow!” He glared down at Bertie. “Just because I stopped tickling you doesn’t mean that you can spike me!” He went back to gently stroking the soft fur under Bertie’s chin.

“He knows what he likes.” Auntie Brenda chuckled. “Now, I have to get some rest.” She faded slowly from view.

Kane leaned back into the armchair and listened to the deep, vibrating purr of Bertie sprawled on his lap. Contentment settled around his shoulders like a warm blanket. Things were looking good.