Sunday, 24 October 2021

Red Tail Lights


Red Tail Lights

A snapshot


One night was all they had, borrowed time.

Precious time.

A chance meeting at a lunch party.

An evening on the beach.

A picnic.

Champagne and strawberries on a red gingham cloth.

Walking in the water; shallow waves breaking over bare feet.

Tender kisses in the glow of sunset,

The breeze off the sea lifting their hair.

The summer night casting its magic spell.

He couldn’t stay; work would take him to a far off land.

One night was all they had.

Those footsteps would never be walked again.

He took her home.

One last kiss.

The last she saw of him were the red tail lights of his car receding into the darkness of the lane.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Oh What a Night

 A story for Halloween

Tuesday October 31st

            What a night it’s been. The good, the bad and the definitely not ugly. I hadn’t wanted to go on the errand for Mum but she’d insisted. I’d sulked and tutted but to no avail, it had been a futile protest.

            “Go and see Old Mrs Hibbert,” I’d been instructed, “and take her this jar of blackberry jam I’ve made. She likes a bit of blackberry jam, especially if it’s home made, and stay a while; she gets lonely on her own.”

            I hadn’t gone with a good grace, and I’d had no intention of staying a while. Old Mrs Hibbert gave me the creeps, as did her house. I was sure it was full of ghosts. Everyone knew she was a medium and I could never understand my mother sending me there. Didn’t she care whether or not I was possessed by some spirit bent on controlling my immortal soul?

Lonely she’d said! With all those bloody spirits to keep her company? I don’t think so. Besides, there were other places I wanted to be. My mates were all going trick or treating tonight and I’d particularly wanted to go because Ben Jeffries had said he might be there, but I’d ended up going to Old Mrs bloody Hibbert’s instead.

Her front door had creaked eerily as it always did when she opened it, and I’d shivered involuntarily as the darkness beyond loomed, eager to swallow me up.

“Come on in my ducky.”

Such welcoming words, yet I’d felt as I always did, as though being lured – spiders and flies came to mind. My reluctant feet took me into her parlour. Unseen eyes watched me walk behind her, fighting the urge to look over my shoulder at the ever receding front door and freedom.

“Sit down ducky, I’ll get you a slice of apple pie. It’s so nice of you to come and visit an old lady when I’m sure you’ve got friends to go out with.”

Right there! Such a sweet old lady, if you could ignore the underlying feeling of her not being quite alone. I always felt as though I were talking to an audience of many rather than just the one when I spoke to her.

“What did you say dear?”

I hadn’t uttered a word. It must have been one of the multitude of voices in her head.


“Oh I thought you’d said you were going to have a good night tonight.”

I wish! It must have been some mischievous poltergeist taking advantage of the date and heading out on the rampage.

Fingers of unease had tickled their way up my spine at that point, and I’d had to consciously force my bum to remain on the seat once my fight or flight reflex had kicked in big time. The apple pie had arrived, accompanied by a glass of juice; both of which struggled to pass my throat due to the jangling nerves fluttering somewhere around there.

I noticed that no-one knocked on Old Mrs Hibbert’s door saying trick or treat; probably too afraid of one of her invisible companions performing some supernatural trick on them!

I asked the polite questions my mother would have wanted me to ask: ‘How are you? Do you want anything getting? Are you keeping warm enough?’ then made what I hoped wasn’t too fast an exit.

It had felt so good to escape into the chill October night. My nerves were still twitching but I remember noticing how clear the sky was and how many stars were out when, WHAM!

A vampire leapt out at me from a garden path and my nerves, which were as taut as violin strings, could take no more. I leapt in the air with a shriek, only to be swallowed up by his flowing cloak.

My eyes were fixed on the glowing fangs with the rivers of blood running down the chin from them, but the eyes that fixed on me were filled with mirth, as Ben Jeffries’ plastic teeth fell out when they connected with my neck. Instead of slowing down when I realised who Dracula was, my heart rate accelerated even more, and the bones in my legs became pulp. From that moment on the evening took an upward turn. Wrapped in Ben’s cloak, with him still in it you understand, I was euphoric. Tomorrow night we’re going to the cinema. Can’t wait.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Not Reported Missing

A short taster from Not Reported Missing.

The pathologist’s table was clinically clean and the ghost watched dispassionately as she began her work. She spoke into a microphone.
“Male, approximately sixty years old, well nourished. Scars to chest and leg denoting a heart bypass operation at some time.”
He was unmoved as she sliced open his torso with her scalpel and began to remove his internal organs. One by one they were thoroughly examined, all of those vital components of his body that had kept him alive for so many years but what he had no need of now.
“Stomach contents, some vegetable matter, some alcohol but doesn’t seem to be excessive.”
Alcohol. Yes he’d been drinking. Why? He’d been alone, always alone. He had a daughter he remembered but it was so long since he’d seen her.
Well nourished was he? He must have fed himself then. What had he eaten? What had been his last meal? Would he have known it was his last meal? Why couldn’t he remember? Had he been suffering from dementia in life? If only he could remember his name. A thread of a memory about the bypass operation penetrated but didn’t take root.
The pathologist continued her work, taking blood samples for toxicology. Another ribbon of memory weaved out. He’d enjoyed watching those programmes on TV, Autopsy, where causes of death were investigated. Perhaps that was why his spirit was lingering now, or was it because it couldn’t rest until he knew who he was?
Why had no-one come to meet him? He’d always thought that when your spirit passed over that a loved one was waiting for you in a white light but there was nothing. He’d experienced none of that, his spirit was earthbound for some reason unknown to him and he hoped he wasn’t going to remain in this kind of limbo state. He felt it all hinged on finding out who he was. Once he knew that maybe he’d be able to move on.
The pathologist had done what she had to and his body with its anonymous tag on his toe was wheeled back to the storage cabinet. Strange how it was shut in there yet he felt nothing. He was just floating free around the room and wherever he liked.
Theo Stanyer was in the police station in the town of Hartford, the closest town to the village of Willow’s Dip, waiting to make a statement. He’d seen the news item on the previous evening’s programme about the body discovered on the common and thought he might have something worth reporting.
“We are appealing for anyone with any information that might be relevant within the last week to come forward,” said Detective Inspector Wilson, a broad, grey haired man. “All that was found on the body was a wallet containing a few pounds, a key and a photograph. It doesn’t appear that robbery was a motive and at this time we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the death. No-one of this description has been reported missing and if anyone has any information that will help identify the people in the photograph we would urge them to come forward. Thank you.”
A photograph of a smiling dark haired young woman with a child was shown on the screen. It was difficult to tell if the child was a boy or a girl. It had its mother’s dark hair, shoulder length, and was wearing blue dungarees and a white T shirt. It looked to be about four years old. The photograph looked old, Theo estimated around 1980s but he couldn’t have been sure. The same photograph also came round in the local newspaper’s Facebook post when he checked later and also that of the police. Surely someone would know who these people were from that?
“Mr Stanyer?” A young policewoman called his name and he followed her through to an office where D.I Wilson rose from behind a desk to shake his hand.
“You have something you think might help us?”
“Well I don’t know,” Theo replied, “but I thought I’d better come in and tell you in case it did.”
“Take a seat.”
Theo sat opposite the desk to him and began his story. “It was Thursday last week. I was driving home from my girlfriend’s house and I noticed a man in the headlights weaving all over the road as if he was drunk.”
“Where was this?”
“Mill Lane, Willow’s Dip. Heading towards the common.”
“What time?”
“It would have been between 10.30 and 11 p.m.”
“Did you stop?”
“No. You never know who you’re dealing with. If someone’s drunk or drugged they’re unpredictable or aggressive and I didn’t want to get involved. I just gave him a wide berth to avoid hitting him. I just wanted to get home.”
“Could you describe him?”
“It was difficult in the dark and it was drizzling, the wipers were on and the windscreen was spattered with raindrops but dark clothing, hard to see, nothing reflective, all I saw was a flash of grey hair.”
“Anything else?”
“Not that I can think.”
“I’ll just take your details in case we need to contact you.”
Theo gave his address and phone number. D.I Wilson looked at it quizzically. “Your address is Handwell.”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Mill Lane is the opposite direction. Why were you driving that way?”

Sunday, 19 May 2019

A Ghostly Excerpt from Shadow Across the Sun

Shadow Across the Sun is my first memoir of a 1960s childhood, idyllic for some years until tragedy struck in the form of breast cancer which took my mum. Grief stricken, when someone at school told me you could talk to dead people by doing a seance my ears pricked up instantly. I could talk to Mum! Talk to her I did but it wasn't without its scary moments. Here's a short extract from the book.
Shadow Across the Sun
We’re driving home up Ash Bank after taking some flowers to the crem. It’s late afternoon and an eerie dusk is gathering; that time of day when it’s neither dark nor light. The sky is a heavy, oppressive ochre and mournful grey clouds slide across it, moving ever so slowly in the almost non existent breeze.
I feel a chill, a tingling in my skin; cold prickles in the back of my neck making the hairs stand on end. Emily and I are in the back of the car and something draws my eyes to turn and look behind us through the window. The road is empty of cars, but there is Mum, floating along behind us. Her flowing white robes have tattered edges soiled by the grave, and the hand outstretched towards us is no longer soft and tender, but thin and bony. There is a wildness about her eyes, a hollowing out of them, the sockets large and sunken. I have a strange taste in my mouth, smell in my nostrils, the taste and smell of decay. I tear my eyes away to turn and tell Dad.
“Dad, Dad, it’s Mum!”
He raises his eyes to the rear view mirror and I turn my head to look again through the back window, but the road is empty. The apparition has gone.
We are home, back safely in the lounge, lights on, curtains drawn. There is a tap, tapping on the small window as if by bone. I dare not move the curtain to look out. I think of Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, of her ghost tapping on the window.
It is Mum, I know it is. She has followed us and now wants us to let her in. She is tapping on the window with her bony fingers. I dare not look but I have to, I must. I move the edge of the curtain and peep. There she is with sunken, expressionless eyes, long, matted hair, ragged robes. She stares back at me, her skin sallow, her mouth a gaping O, her hand raised as she continues her tap, tap, tapping.
I drop the curtain and my eyes snap open. It was a dream. Thank God it was only a dream. I can’t move, my limbs are frozen but my eyes stare through the blackness into the corners of the ceiling. I know why I’ve had this dream; it’s because of the séance and what Dad told me afterwards. I want Mum back, but my mum, the mum that I loved, not a hollow eyed ghost.
I continue to stare as if daring any apparition to appear but none does and slowly, slowly my limbs regain their movement. I stretch my legs down to the end of the bed, ease myself up on my elbows and look around the room. My eyes are becoming accustomed to the dark and I can see through the open door into the hall, lit silver by moonlight.
I sit up and carefully lift the edge of the curtain alongside my bed. My heart is racing after the dream but I have to do this to satisfy myself that there is no ghost. There’s nothing, no-one tapping and as I lift the curtain further I can see the moon, a beautiful, shiny full moon riding high in the Heavens accompanied by a dusting of stars sprinkled onto the backdrop of black night sky.
I love the moon. I love to watch it as it sails up there, bright and bold, sometimes obscured by clouds bowling across it, sometimes not, holding the stage itself in the leading role. What can it see as it watches the earth below? There are sinister tales about the moon, werewolves and things but I can’t think about them now; I don’t want anymore bad dreams.
What was it Mum used to say when I had nightmares as a child? ‘Turn over and think of fairies.’ I lie down, turn on my side and pull the covers over my head.

Our Day in Carnaby Street

London was exciting and vibrant to two young Midlands girls. Lots of places to see but for us there was only one we wanted, Carnaby Street. A perfect hot summer day, a place buzzing with excitement.
Excerpt from my memoir Shadow Across the Sun.
Shadow Across the Sun
It’s not so bad, this ride on the tube. This time of the day isn’t peak travelling time and although we are standing we are not crushed. Stations flash by, bright interludes where we stop for moments, punctuating the blackness of the tunnels, then it’s our stop and we emerge once more into the brilliance of the day.
Where to start? There is so much to see and do, but we’re not here to see the sights, we’re here to shop.
“Let’s have a coffee first shall we,” suggests Eloise, “then we can plan our day.”
That decided, we find a small café where we buy cream cakes and coffee and try to form some kind of strategy. The café, like everywhere else, is buzzing with people, some are tourists, you can tell by their accents, and some are people who work in the city going about their everyday life, dressed in smart suits, carrying newspapers and briefcases. Eloise and I decide we’ll look in as many shops as we can on our way to Carnaby Street.
Out on the pavement the atmosphere is as effervescent as an ice cream soda. I’ve never seen so many people all at once, except maybe on a crowded beach sometimes. The tramp, tramp of their footsteps is loud on the still, sultry air. Voices hum and traffic hoots. London is the most vibrant place I’ve ever visited.
We do all of the souvenir shops, buying little nic naks with union jacks on for our families, then at last we arrive in Carnaby Street. This place is pulsating! There are lots of hippy types with flowing hair and kaftans, frizzy heads with beards, people wearing huge crosses round their necks, round, John Lennon sunglasses obscuring their eyes, and Jesus sandals seem to be the almost compulsory footwear. An aura hangs over it like a haze of marijuana smoke and I’m half expecting some hippy to lean in my face and say ‘Peace man,’ but no-one does.
We wander in and out of several boutiques before finding the items that we want. I’ve spied the most gorgeous sky blue satin jacket that I absolutely must have! Eloise has chosen a white mini dress with bell shaped sleeves, and we’ve both selected cheesecloth shirts. I’m in a quandary as to what to get for Emily. Shall I get a cluster of cherries like I’m getting for myself to accessorise the jacket, or shall I get her the large satin rose? Cherries or rose? Cherries or rose? I never have been very good at making decisions. Ah! On further rummaging through the basket of cherries on the counter I spy a cluster of black ones – the ones I’ve chosen for myself are red. I’ll get these for Emily. We march out of the shop brandishing our bags, very pleased with ourselves indeed.
Checking our watches we realise we’re going to have to run for the train. We manage to hail a taxi and as we get out I most generously tell the cabbie, ‘Keep the change.’ Well it’s what you do in London isn’t it, and so what if the change is only ten pence and the cabbie looks at me incredulously in my act of generosity. Ten pence is better than a poke in the eye with a rusty needle isn’t it!
Back at the house we spread our purchases on our beds to admire them.
“I think I’ll wear my dress for dinner,” says Eloise holding it up by the shoulders.
I have to admit it is very pretty but I am more delighted with my blue satin jacket. I pin the cherries on with a loving touch; I have to get them in just the right place on the lapel. There! That looks good. I’m not going to wear it tonight, I’ll save it until we go to the pub.

Friday, 1 March 2019

The Author, The Gardener and The Woman What Does - a humorous excerpt

I think we can all relate to the feeling of nervousness around someone we're attracted to but Rokki, Tess' niece, is overcome by attacks of clumsiness, usually inflicting some injury on the object of her desires. Here's her first meeting with Lee.
The Author new poster
The garden gate opened and in walked Rokki, Tess’s niece and she cast her eyes round the garden before opening the back door, then Kacey heard the sound of voices but they were too far away for her to hear what was said.
“Wow he’s fit!” Rokki was saying to Tess. “Who is he?” She gazed lustfully through the kitchen window as Tess washed the potatoes to bake for lunch.
“I take it you mean the younger one. It’s Lee, Billy’s son, helping his dad out.” Lee was the image of Billy, showing what Billy must have looked like in his youth and she could appreciate Rokki’s interest, she’d be interested herself if she were ten years younger, in Billy that was.
“Has he been here before?”
“Sometimes, it depends on his college timetable. He usually comes in the holidays.”
“Why haven’t I seen him then?”
“You just mustn’t have been here when he was. Anyway, never mind Lee, how did it go with Mike? Oh, before you tell me, are you staying for lunch? I’ll put you a potato in if you are.”
Rokki looked at the four potatoes in the glass ovenproof dish, rapidly assessing the situation and decided yes please, she would, she’d be able to see more of the gorgeous Lee if she had lunch with him.
“Are you off today?” asked Tess.
Rokki shook her head. “No but it’s one of those stupid days when I have a lesson from nine to ten in the morning and don’t have another til three so I’ve got all this time to kill. I’d thought I’d come over and give you an update.”
“I’m looking forward to hearing it. When you’ve told me I’ll make us all a coffee and you can go and take the men theirs.”
“Woo hoo, what a good idea!”
“So go on then, what happened with Mike? Is he speaking to you or did he blow you out?”
“Well,” Rokki warmed to her tale, “I didn’t see him til yesterday, I wondered if he was avoiding me, and we came face to face as I was going out of the refectory and he was going in. I went hot all over – my face must have been crimson – and I just muttered ‘Hi.’ He answered me and looked a little wary – bet he was glad we were well away from the stairs! I sort of stuttered and stammered something like, ‘I’m really sorry about your lip. How is it?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s OK. ‘Was it really bad?’ I asked. ‘Did you have to have stitches?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, a couple, but it was OK.’ It was still bruised but the swelling had gone down. Don’t think he’ll be kissing anyone for a while though, least of all me.”
“You never know. What happened then?”
“He just said, ‘Well see you,’ and walked off with his mates. I didn’t get the feeling he wanted to linger round me for long.”
“Oh that’s a shame but never mind, onward and upward. I’ll go and make the coffee and you can take it out to Lee.”
Rokki took a mirror out of her bag and inspected her reflection. She bared her teeth making sure there were no bits of food stuck there; she didn’t want to make a fool of herself when she took the coffees out, she’d done more than enough of that with Mike, she didn’t want a second shot at it with Lee. She added a touch more lipgloss and ran her fingers through her hair to make it look fuller and more bouncy as Tess set the two mugs of coffee and a plate of biscuits on a tray.
“There you are, go and take that to them.”
Rokki took the tray, heart hammering like a blacksmith on an anvil and Tess opened her the door.
Rokki took careful steps across the patio, up the first step to the lawn, then the second. She looked up, lips poised to shout, ‘Coffee boys,’ and that was her fatal mistake, losing her concentration. She tripped on the top step and the word that came out was an involuntary ‘Oh!’ bringing both Billy’s and Lee’s heads up from what they were doing to see Rokki, stumbling at a headlong gallop across the lawn in an effort to steady herself, knees knocking, feet crossing, hands holding up the tray like a trophy, in a balancing act to rival any circus performer with spinning plates, and the coffee a swirling tempest sloshing around in the mugs.
Lee ran across the lawn to rescue the tray just in time before the whole lot descended to the ground, and Rokki managed to regain her balance without scalding either herself or Lee.
“Oh I’m… I’m so sorry,” she stammered. “I was coming to bring you a drink. You must think I’m such a dork. I’m Rokki by the way, Tess’s niece.”
Lee’s amusement lit up his honey coloured eyes, so like his father’s but he kept any hysterical laughter well and truly in its place.
“I’m Lee, Billy’s son, and no I don’t think you’re a dork, anyone can trip. Good thing I was around to catch the tray.” He allowed himself a wry grin.
“Yes um… well, enjoy your drink,” and she turned and headed back to the house with as much dignity as she could muster, cheeks flaming.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Critiques and Opinions

Following my recent blog tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I'd like to thank all the bloggers who took part and welcomed me onto their blogs. I appreciate the time you took on my behalf, and to Rachel at Rach RandomResources @rararesources for organizing it. There were some lovely reviews and some of you have very attractive blogs.

That brings me onto critiques and opinions. They're something we all have to face as authors and they are often quite difficult to accept. Those wonderful reviews whose glow we bask in really lift our day but that one negative comment festers and makes us question our abilities. We all know why we write the way we do, why we choose our particular genre, how much of ourselves comes through in the writing etc, but everyone is different and just as we all feel drawn to different people - or not - so it is with writing. Our stories won't appeal to everyone; what pleases one irritates another.

I'm not much of an actor so there is a lot of me in my books and my author voice. I'm not confrontational unless crossed, then I can give as good as I get. I generally like a peaceful, quiet life but that doesn't make for a good story in either fiction or memoir. As far as memoir goes I've had plenty of struggles: loss, relationships, ill health, and in fiction I've given them to my characters, but I'm wary about inflicting misfortune upon them as so many times with aspects of my stories life has mirrored art.

Whether it be reading or writing my own particular preference is for a lighthearted easy read with dashes of humour and a hint of the supernatural. I wouldn't purposely choose graphic horror, violence or sex; I'm a gentle person, I like gentle stories, even the crimes in my books have been gentle, if you can call a crime that; maybe less savage would be a better description. I don't do blood and gore or Christian Grey, my love scenes have to mean something, they are sensual not steamy, so if this is the style of story you like mine might seem a bit quiet; I like a conversational tone and a family saga. I think my stories fit the cuppa and a cake book, something to curl up on the sofa with beside a roaring fire on a winter's day or lie beside the pool in the hot sun in summer. They won't scare you witless but I hope they'll keep you wondering and feeling a kinship to the characters within the pages.

N.B. I am in the process of reformatting all of my earlier books. I have only just discovered The Book Khaleesi who have formatted the three books featured below and I am going through my others one at a time so it will take a while; I hope you will bear with me.