11/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY ELEVEN

National Flash Fiction asked us today to write in a genre we haven't tried, but everything on their list I have had a shot at, if only in flash fiction. But - this story is written in the first person throughout, and in the immediate present tense, which is not a method I use often as it's bloody very tricky!

THE SPEECH

“It gives me great pleasure to be here today …”
God! Whoever first uttered those words should be shot. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said them ...  But what am I thinking? I usually charge £250 - and that’s cheap by some standards. If they want a Duchess to open their stupid building or fȇte they have to pay.
“Sir Robert …”
Sir Robert indeed! I know for a fact that he bought his knighthood. He was plain Mister when his firm came to fix the roof all those years ago. There’s a whole acre of it, and we had to sell the paintings to pay for the work. I didn’t meet him then, naturally – Gerald always dealt with tradesmen – but I’ve never forgotten his name. The Long Gallery is horribly bare and the rain still comes in, but that’s not the reason I’m here.
Gerald should never have trusted him, of course, but would he listen? “It’s a sound investment, old girl,” he said, and as he’d always looked after the finances I couldn’t stop him sinking our savings into the man’s Spanish building scheme.
When the investment went sour, Gerald fell totally to pieces, but fortunately I was born with a practical streak. We moved into the old nursery wing – much easier to maintain after we had to let most of the staff go - and we opened the main house to the public. Oliver came down from Cambridge to manage the business side of things, Davinia runs the restaurant and I help out in the tea-rooms – visitors love being served tea and scones by a Duchess. The rest of us have adjusted quite well, but the shame of having to leave his Club tipped Gerald over the edge, poor darling. He spends his days pottering round the garden wearing old tweeds and the gardener lets him think he’s in charge. That is what I cannot forgive, and it’s all the fault of this ghastly little man.
When the agency called to ask if I would open Sir Robert’s latest project I couldn’t believe my luck – I was being handed a golden opportunity for revenge. The man obviously has no idea what Hell his shenanigans put us through – these criminal types never do – but that’s all to the good. If my plan succeeds no-one will even suspect we have any connection.
“Sir Robert has shown me around this excellent facility this afternoon.”
I had to admire every corner of the damn place, and pretend to be interested while technicians explained the machinery. The little creep kept pawing my arm as we walked round and he patted by bottom more than once. He quoted the prices of equipment as if he had paid for it himself, instead of lining his pockets. Careful, Marjorie – don’t give the game away now you’re this close - just get on and finish the speech.
“You must all be very proud of being involved with such a splendid establishment”
That should do it - look at them all, trying to appear proud and modest at the same time.
“And finally, it only remains for me to declare the Sir Robert Catnip Centre open.”
You’d have thought with his money he’d have changed his name before he got his knighthood, but it’s lucky he didn’t - I wouldn’t have known it was him otherwise. Now – all I’ve got to do is cut the ribbon and I’m on the home straight. There, done it – now for the difficult part.  
Take a deep breath, turn, smile, and offer him the scissors. He’s too far away - perfect. Now, step towards him, stumble on the edge of the red carpet. Fall forward with a lady-like shriek of dismay, and the job is done.
Those scissors are sharper than they look - they’ve gone right through his waistcoat. Oh no! I can feel a fit of hysterics coming on, but just one giggle would be fatal – I’ll have to scream instead. A lady is expected to scream at the sight of blood, and there is an awful lot of it.
Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? Steady on, old girl, this is definitely not the time to be quoting Lady Macbeth.
Just keep your head and everything will be all right – after all, a true blue-blooded Duchess should be able to get away with murder.
 ....................................................... Oh - and I don't write murder stories either 😃

10/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TEN

Today's theme is Human Rights. I hope my story speaks for itself on that subject.

PROMISED  LAND

Many in our village listened to the seductive whispers about the journey that promised peace, and after the mosque was bombed Father handed his savings to a stranger in exchange for hope. Our poorer neighbours wished us luck with their mouths while their eyes swept covetously over our home, marking what they would grab when we left.

Crammed into the truck with us were common tradesmen, and farmers still smelling of the soil. At first Mother sat among them rigid with distaste, but it’s hard to stay remote when a child vomits on your skirts. Besides, when we were too far from home to return, they robbed us of everything and we were all suddenly equal.

Time blurred. First my sister – the pretty one – disappeared. Then came the boat – Mahmoud fell overboard and Father drowned rescuing him. After we reached land again we walked, and when Grandmother fell they shot her – Mother hasn’t spoken a word since.

Now we are here, huddled in a freezing tent, queuing long hours in ankle-deep mud for food, and the promised land is still beyond our reach. Mahmoud says he is going to hide in a lorry tonight. He wants me to go too, but I can’t leave Mother and my remaining sister unprotected, so I will stay.

09/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY NINE

Today's challenge from National Flash Fiction is to choose a phrase, and then to write a story starting each line with the first word of that phrase.
As Sunday is a busy day I  haven't had time to write till now, so I worked this out in my head while driving Mum back home. No doubt you can work out which phrase I used :)


THE ICING ON THE CHRISTMAS CAKE

Once I’d decided to make my own cake it was quite easy. I just bunged everything in together, gave it a good stir, and baked it in a slow oven until the house smelled of Christmas.
In the meantime I got stuck into the brandy in which I’d soaked the fruit. After all, it’s only cooking brandy – not the stuff to serve to guests.
Royal icing was next on the list. It looked a bit wobbly but I stuck a snowman and a reindeer on the worst bits. I don’t expect my husband will notice..
David's a bit of a wine buff, or so he likes to think, and he bought the wine on his way home from the match. Fortunately he was in a good mood, and didn’t comment on the empty brandy bottle.
City aren’t the best team in the world, so the icing on that day’s cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, was that they won.

08/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY EIGHT

I am cheating slightly today by revamping an old story - I am heavily involved in our village Christmas Fair and haven't time to think, let alone write!
The challenge for Day 8 is to take a discarded bit of work and write it into a new story. My discarded phrase is in italics and comes from ROCK CHILD, my first attempt at a novel, written about 15 years ago. I have since rewritten it entirely to create my LIVING ROCK series.
Some of you will have read A VOLCANIC RACE, the first in the series, and I hope will buy WOLF PACK, its sequel, due out any day now. So now I've got the sales talk out of the way, here's my story.


BAD OMEN

“Matt – I saw a raven this morning – a bad omen.”
“I was fortunate to get a place on the King’s ship, and God knows we need the money. Now hand me my knife, Jenny – ‘tis honed enough.”

Matt stepped into the tender and was rowed to the ship, scrambled up the net and hurried to his post beside the gun. He was still a strong man despite his age and could lift the heavy cannonballs with ease. At the sound of a band striking up he looked through the gun-port to gawp at the King arriving, but as the sails unfurled with a snap he returned to his work.

Outside the harbour a violent gust shook them. Matt balanced with practised ease for the return lurch but the ship heeled further, cannon-balls rolled, guns careered across the deck, and in seconds the sea had flooded in. Unbelievably, within sight of land, they were sinking!

Matt snatched a breath and swam for the gun-port, but his legs caught in a tangle of ropes. He fumbled for his knife and slashed frantically, blessing Jenny’s honing skills, and burst free to swim to the surface. Far too few followed him.

Through the clear water beneath his legs he watched the ship sink, the crew trapped by the anti-boarding nets. A watery sunbeam flashed on gold paint – MARY ROSE.


07/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SEVEN

Today's challenge from National Flash Fiction is to write a complete story in 50 words or less. It's not easy to get a beginning, middle and end into so few words, but I've done it. Do please leave a comment to let me know I'm not talking to myself!


MAGIC

At the sound of raised voices Tree Fairy sighed. “They’re fighting again.”
“They’ve forgotten the Christmas light,” said Tin Soldier. “Keep watch while I fix it.”
When he lit the candle, spicy scent filled the room and the angry voices stilled.
Tree Fairy blew Tin Soldier a kiss and he blushed.

06/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SIX


Today's challenge is to write a story in the present tense from two points of view.

BELLA

I was christened Bella, but everyone calls me Bell. This was fine until I started secondary school – now, every time the bell rings to change classes, this horrible boy Ryan shouts, “Bell – they’re playing your tune!”

That Italian girl Bell just kicked me! She rises to the bait every time and the other kids think it’s funny, but she’s got no sense of humour.

He shouts it again today - “Bell – it’s for you-oo!” and everyone laughs. I loathe the very sight of him, and it feels like I’ll never be free of him. Until now, when I’m sitting in biology and I see this wall poster – I’m sure I’ve seen that plant somewhere.

Funny – Bell isn’t glaring at me like she usually does. She’s pretending to ignore me, staring at a stupid poster on the wall. I’ll catch her at the Home bell – that’s always the loudest.

The fence around the bomb-site is a doddle to get through, and I find the plant straight off. I pick some berries – carefully - and wrap them in a tissue before putting them in my pocket. Ryan won’t know what’s hit him till it’s too late - school dinners are definitely bad enough to disguise the taste of belladonna.

TIMETABLE - 100 words for Friday Fictioneers


TIMETABLE

The island’s steep lava flows sprawled into the Atlantic like giant starfish arms, each inlet battered by waves that had gained strength across a thousand miles of ocean.

Manuel had grown up here, knew it intimately, and he had a foolproof plan. Rob the village store just as it was closing, then escape along the railway line and hide in the tunnel as he had when he was a boy. The police, having to use the winding road, couldn’t catch him.

Unfortunately, in the years he’d been away, the train timetable had changed. Jumping to the side wasn’t an option.
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 This week's photograph, thanks to Dawn M Miller and https://rochellewisoff.com/ , reminded me of La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. It doesn't have a railway, but the road around the island is cut through each starfish arm and skirts precipitous drops to the valleys. That's the mostly yellow one on this map!

I have taken on another challenge this month - one from National Flash Fiction, to produce an Advent Calendar of flash fiction using a different prompt each day. Feel free to scroll through my archives and read them.