Monthly Archives: August 2017

An Hour At The Beach A Day Keeps The Blues Away…

DSCF0793 - Copy

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog, follows me on social media or who has read my book babies that I love the beach. I’m not fussy about it being an endless stretch of powdery sand…..although…I am partial to that, I must confess.

 My local stretch of beach, tiny and shingly as it is, is perfect. It’s my “go to” place to recharge my batteries.

14 - Copy

“Hello, my name is Coral and I’m a beach addict.” Ha ha

Recently, I escaped for an hour or so. I’d been stressing and over-thinking a few things and needed to just chill for a bit. As I sat in a quiet sheltered spot, watching the world go by, an analogy struck me.

A previous high tide had dumped a line of seaweed along the shore, all the “junk” that no longer served it. All the crap of the week gone by.

The tide was low as I walked along and the sand was all rippled by the waves. All the thought patterns laid bare for all to see.

7 - Copy

It was so low that rocks normally covered in water were exposed. The raw nerves perhaps that are best kept hidden from the public eye.

23 - Copy

Scattered along the shoreline were some small shells. Precious memories to be kept safe and treasured for another day.

20170725_200836 - Copy

Something else that struck me as part of this analogy was that several people were running rough shod over this freshly exposed area. Just like in real life, people trample all over your memories and emotions, oblivious to how it makes you feel.

DSCF0799

In due course, long after I’d packed up and meandered home, the tide would come back in, it’s waves soothing the bruised and frayed beach underneath. The rocks would be covered by the river and the ripples smoothed out and washed into a fresh pattern on the next tide.

49 - Copy

Sometimes everyday life gets to us all. Whether its work stresses, family stresses or reminders of the past, there are times when we each feel exposed. Times when we feel that we have bared our souls to the world only to have it trampled on. But, like the low tide at the beach, these moments often don’t last long and are soothed away by a change of tide.

8

Advertisements

In The Heart Of The Book (1000 word flash fiction)

bookshop 2

As she opened the latest delivery, she thought again about how lucky she was to be living her dream. In this technology filled world, running and owning her own bookshop had been a dream since childhood. The smell and the feel of actual books had held her captivated for decades. Now, in her late thirties, the books fitted perfectly around family life.

Working in the shop, the tiniest shop in the street, gave her an insight into other peoples’ family lives through the books they brought to her. In exchange for a minimal sum, she welcomed in boxes and bags of literary memories. Sometimes the bags came with a funny story about their previous owner; parents passing on children’s books told tales of babies long grown up; wives told tales on husband’s as they brought in books relating to pastimes that has been a passing phase; widowers brought in their late wife’s romance libraries, wondering how they could have read such “rubbish”. Every book in the shop came with a story.

The box in front of her was a curious mix. It had been handed in late the afternoon before by a young man a few years her junior. There had been something vaguely familiar about him but she hadn’t been able to place him. He had commented that the books had been his father’s and had long since been consigned to a shelf at the back of the garage. Something, a sixth sense perhaps, made her ask if he was sure they were all to be donated. His answer had been, “I guess so. He told me to clear out the garage.  Everything. The house has been sold and there’s no room in the new flat for everything as it is.”

The contents of the box proved to be an eclectic mix. She lifted out  sports biographies, a few books about classic cars and car maintenance, a handful of John Grisham paperbacks and a couple of Dan Brown’s. In among them she spotted a copy of a book that been one of her own mother’s favourites, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

With a wistful smile, she ran her hands over the familiar cover noting that, like the copy she had that had been her mother’s, this one was well-read. As she reached to put it on the shelf, a folded piece of paper fell out and drifted to the floor, landing at her feet.

Lifting the pale blue sheet of paper, she unfolded it. Finding notes inside books was one of the sneaky pleasures of the job. Over the years, she had found countless shopping lists, Christmas lists, addresses, postcards, bus and train tickets, boarding passes and the occasional more personal letter. This was one of the latter. The blue page had previously been crumpled and parts of it torn off but someone had taken the time to smooth it out and fold it carefully, stowing it safely inside the book.

Her heart skipped a beat at the distinctive flourishes to the handwriting.

The first part of the letter was missing.

My head knows I shouldn’t feel like this but my heart begs to differ and is leading it astray. The countless unspoken thoughts and conversations in my mind are safest left there…..perhaps.

Who am I kidding here? You know me inside out and well enough to know how I feel without me having to say it out loud.

We both know the risks of that…..

Resting my head against your chest, hearing your heart beat, feeling your arms around me, feeling safe, feeling wanted, feeling loved….”

The rest of the letter was lost. The bottom section of the page torn off.

Shaking the book, she hoped the missing fragments might appear but nothing. Hurriedly, she searched through the box, vainly hoping that one or both of the missing pieces might be there. Nothing.

Opening the book, she prayed she might find another clue. What she found was the possible remains of one. The top corner of the title page had been roughly ripped off but the tails of the letters from the inscription remained. Whatever it had said, it had been written by the same person who had penned the love letter. She would know that handwriting anywhere, even after all this time.

It was her mother’s.

Deciding to err on the side of caution for a while, she re-folded the letter, placed it back in between the pages of the book and put the slim volume safely on the shelf beneath the counter.

A little voice in her soul told her the rightful owner would be back for it as soon as they realised it was missing.

 

A month went by and the well-loved copy of The Alchemist lay under the counter, gradually being buried by letters and receipts. Occasionally, she would bring it out and read the letter over again, trying to work out who her  mother had been writing to.  She never mentioned the book to a  soul. It was her secret. A final connection to her mother.

 

Two more weeks passed by.

 

Late on the Monday afternoon, she was absorbed in the task of re-organising the shelves, perched precariously on the top step of the rickety, wooden stepladders she had brought from home, when the bell above the shop door tinkled. Balancing on one foot and leaning on the shelf, she half turned to see who had entered the shop.

She recognised him immediately, despite the changes caused by the passage of time.

“Hello. Be careful up there,” he said warmly. “I was hoping you’d be able to help me.”

He paused while she climbed down the ladder.

“My son brought a box of books in here about six weeks ago. I’m trying to track down one of the books that got into the box by mistake. It’s of sentimental value.”

“I have it right here,” she replied, smiling at him with a smile so like her mother’s that his heart skipped a beat.

 

(Image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

 

 

A Little Sneaky Peek Into The After Life

depositphotos_11800051-stock-photo-spotlight-blue-on-smog-background

I read recently that if you’re struggling with a storyline as a writer then you should try interviewing your characters. An intriguing thought……

My current cast of characters are putting up a bit of a fight and progress on my first draft of Book Baby 4 has been a bit stop/start. I’ve found myself wandering off at a tangent and writing some short fiction pieces instead of focussing on my first draft. I’ve also made numerous notes of ideas for the next Silver Lake tale (currently pencilled in for 2019) Perhaps part of the issue is that Jake and Lori and the others won’t wait their turn!

Anyway, time to try to regain control over my current delinquent characters…… 

As agreed via email, I’d arrived at Glasgow’s O2 Academy at three o’clock to interview up and coming band, After Life. The five piece band who are based in London are currently on tour supporting Aussie rockers, Bodimead.

Instead of being shown into one of the art deco venue’s dressing rooms, Rocky, After Life’s father-figure manager, escorted me up to the venue’s balcony and suggested I take a seat while I waited for the two members of the band to arrive. Firmly and a little bluntly, Rocky said I’d have thirty minutes with them and not a minute more.

Down below on the stage, Bodimead’s crew were finishing setting up for the show and I wondered if I was going to be lucky enough to catch some of their sound check and a glimpse of their front man, Flynn.

A couple of minutes later, I was joined by Taylor Rowe and Luke Court, the lead guitarist and bass player from After Life. Both of them flopped down into seats in the row in front of where I was sitting and greeted me with a warm hello.

Before I could ask my first question, Taylor began waxing lyrical about the art deco beauty of the venue. I quickly established that this was their first trip to Glasgow and asked how they’d found the city so far.

“We arrived quite late last night so all we really saw in the dark was the hotel, the restaurant and a couple of bars,” confessed Taylor. “I went for a walk this morning. There’s some stunning architecture around here.”

“And a lot of hills,” muttered Luke. “Our hotel is at the top of a vertical street!”

This is After Life’s first tour with their new female vocalist, Ellen Lloyd, so I asked the guys how the band had changed since she’d joined them.

“We listened to hundreds of auditions a few months back. Well some of us did,” began Taylor with a wink to Luke. “Ellen’s was the one that really stood out as being different.  She has an incredible voice. Really impressed us at the first rehearsal. She’s brought a whole new dimension to our show. A theatrical element that we hadn’t explored before.”

“And a shit load of talent,” added Luke. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t hit it off with her at first but her voice really blew me away. She’s got so much talent. Wait till you hear her tonight. She can convey so much emotion with only a few notes.”

I commented that I’d hoped she would’ve been able to join us but Taylor apologised for her absence, explaining that she was resting her voice ahead of the show. Conscious of time, I asked both musicians about what  I could expect from their set later on.

“A visit to the After Life,” joked Luke with an infectious laugh. “No, seriously, we hope you enjoy the show. We’re playing mainly our own material with a couple of covers thrown into the mix. Usually we have time for eight, maybe nine, numbers before our Aussie hosts call time. It’s an eclectic mix.”

Taylor added that several of the songs had been written or co-written by Ellen and were due to be recorded next month for their debut album.

“We’re booked into a studio in London for five weeks. Just hope it’s enough time to get it all recorded. We’ve still a few songs to write too,” admitted Luke. “Exciting times in the After Life.”

Casually ,I probed if this was Luke’s first studio experience, enquiring if he’d not recorded anything before with his uncle. Luke is the nephew of reclusive guitarist, Garrett Court, of Royal Court fame.

“Despite the family history, I’ve never recorded in a proper studio before,” revealed the band’s bass player. “My uncle lives in New York these days. The last few times I’ve visited, he’s had me working in his music store. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of guitars. Total guitar geek heaven. Garrett likes to play this game with his customers where he tries to match them to an instrument rather than let them choose what they want.”

“Be fair,” interrupted Taylor. “From what you’ve said, he’s pretty sharp at it.”

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Luke.

I asked if Garrett had seen his nephew play with After Life.

“A few times. Not recently. Not since Ellen joined us. We were hoping he’d make it over for the London show but he had other commitments.”

“So, what commitments are in After Life’s immediate future?” I asked curiously.

“Well, we’ve seven shows left with Bodimead, including tonight’s. Then we’re playing a full set at Wales Open Air on 5th May. Rocky’s given us a week or so off then it’s into the studio on 13th May. Beyond that, we’re not sure. We hope to get the record out around the end of October or November time so we’ll get some shows booked for around then,” explained Taylor. “It’s all starting to pick up pace. Rocky’s already hinting at going over to Europe or even the States at the start of next year.”

“I’d love to tour America,” declared Luke with a grin. “Play some of those venues that you only read about in magazines. Would love to play some of the clubs on Sunset Strip or a show in Vegas.”

I joked that he’s the band’s true “rock star” in the making.

“Maybe,” he confessed suddenly seeming almost shy. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the dream coming true.

To finish, I asked Taylor what his dreams for the future look like. He thought for a moment or two before answering my question. “I hope the record does well and that we can start to make some money from this game. I’d love to be able to buy my own house. My own bolt hole. I’d love to see the band grow and sell millions of records and play sell out headlining shows but, on the other hand, I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we end up playing arenas if I don’t have my own space to call home.”

“You’re just a beach bum at heart,” teased Luke.

“Yeah and I’m not denying it,” laughed Taylor. “I grew up on the beach surfing, playing guitar, beach bonfires and stuff. I miss that after a while in the city.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see After Life’s manager approaching. I asked the guys if Rocky was as strict as he appeared to be. They exchanged glances and laughed.

“He tries to be,” said Taylor. “I live with him and his wife Lizzie when we’re in London. Ellen too. He keeps us all in line, especially Luke, our party animal here, but it’s really our drummer, Jack, who’s the strict one. He takes no nonsense. Rocky can usually be talked round, especially if its Ellen doing the asking. On the other hand, if Jack says no then it’s a no and not even Ellen can sweet talk him. Well not yet anyway. She’s working on it.”

 A few hours later, I was standing downstairs in the venue, beside the bar, watching After Life out on stage. This is a band worth watching. There’s a raw energy to their performance. A passion for the music and a rare synergy among them. Their mysterious front woman, Ellen, plays a witch/priestess persona on stage, using her flowing black cloak to dramatic effect during the songs. Her voice is one of the best and most versatile female rock voices I’ve heard over recent years but I can’t help but feel there’s an air of fragility to her too. There’s more to this songbird than meets the eye, I feel.

With a puff of smoke and some clever lighting, she vanishes from the stage. Vanishes to the After Life.

image sourced via Google – credits to the owner

 

 

Living In A World Of Books….

Books banner

Books have always been omnipresent in my life. For as long as I can remember books have played their part in the highs and lows and rhythm of my everyday life.

Probably my earliest book related memories are of my mum patiently reading and re-reading and re-reading Henny Penny, Bunny Blue and The Animals’ Train Ride (the latter two I still have and read and re-read and re-read to my own children). My first memories of the local library, apart from the rubbery smell of the stairwell that led up to the children’s section, are of borrowing Joan Drake’s Mr Grimpwinkle books and of my mum reading them to me at bedtime.

Bedtime story time was the highlight of many a night, long after I was old enough to read the books to myself. It was mother/daughter time. Even if I was reading a book of my own, we always had a book set aside for bedtime story….sigh…we never did finish Anne of Green Gables circa October 1979. (We moved house and bedtime story time fizzled out)

Reading and writing began to co-exist in my world as soon as I was old enough to construct a sentence. Countless notebooks pens and pencils were purchased for me to scribble in.

I was always keen to read books aimed at the age group just above my own.  I’m probably showing my age here but I remember a colour coding on I believe it was Armada published books, where you graduated from a red to a green boat on the corner of the cover to indicate the intended age range. I was desperate to read the green ones! Countless times my mum would say “That’s a bit too old for you” as we stood either in Rae’s, the local bookshop or John Menzies debating which book I would be allowed to buy. Not to be thwarted by this age discrimination, I bought myself my first proper pocket  dictionary when I was eight years old. It had a red tartan cover and I bought it in the village shop in Tarbert, Harris when we went to visit family.

If there were “big” words in the book, I would look them up and learn to read them, understand them and spell them!

Books have also been my friends during the lows in life. When bullying in primary school was at its worst, I would read alone in a quiet corner at intervals and lunchtimes. Occasionally this triggered further bullying as my peers made smart remarks about my choice of reading material. One particular incident has lived with me down the years. It was sparked by me standing reading My Friend Flicka (yes, I went through the obligatory pony phase too). Crude remarks were made about an “alternative” version of the title. The spacing of the lettering on the front cover was a bit tight and said eleven year old obviously thought it was cool to twist it into a “sweary” word and taunt me incessantly. I took it on the chin during the morning interval but when it continued later the same day (I seem to recall it was during the short afternoon interval. I remember it was raining.) I snapped. One of the few occasions in my life when I have resorted to physical violence. As the girl continued to get in my face, I slapped hers. My Friend Flicka has been a tainted tale ever since.

my friend flicka

In high school, as the bullying continued, I lost myself in stories and worlds I wrote about. Curled up in a quiet corner, I filled reporter notebook after reported notebook for over three years. I still have them all. There’s a lot of them! Arguably they amount to the first “book” I ever wrote  – a family saga following three generations of women. Bittersweet memories of my teenage years.

Book buying has changed dramatically over the years. Rae’s bookshop is long gone. It’s successor, Book Point, is also long gone. The second-hand bookshop, Westwords, a real Aladdin’s cave, is also a fading memory. John Menzies, my other local source of literature and writing supplies evolved and shrank into WH Smith before finally disappearing from the local town centre a couple of years ago.  Amazon became my primary source for book shopping.

Then The Big Green Gummi Bear bought me my first Kindle and the world changed again.

There was a new choice in front of me – e-book or paperback book- EEK!!! To be honest, its swayed me towards e-books but I always have a “real” book on the go too (usually a biography or autobiography type thing.) You can’t beat turning pages over – sorry!

Choosing a book to read has become a nightmare – so many to choose from! My previous book selection method has been destroyed! I always chose books by their front cover first and then read the back cover to find out what the book was about. Amazon shopping makes this more of a challenge. Do I go for the photo of the cover?  Do I go for synopsis? Do I go for reviews? Do I go for the number of twinkly stars? Decisions…decisions…decisions….

Then I wrote and published my book babies and the world of books took a whole new turn!

From being the tiny little girl begging for her mum to read Henny Penny, Bunny Blue and The Animals Train Ride, I’ve become the girl with her name on the cover. EEKKKK!!!!

20170311_073326

Today, I received Amazon reviews of my first two book babies that really made me feel quite emotional. Both of them are five stars (thank you!) and both are quite lengthy and straight from the heart (thank you!).

Seeing my three book babies twinkling away on Amazon’s website and seeing the three “real” copies of them on my bookshelf is a million miles from the moment I sat down on my doorstep with my new notepad and pen from WH Smith and began to write a story. It’s taken a long while but I think it’s finally sunk in that I am an author.

Books are and always have been and always will be at the heart of my world.

dream come true

 

photos of the Silver Lake series  and the messy bookshelf are the author’s own

(other images sourced via Google – credits to the owners)

Silently Watching At Lammas

dark angel

A tiny vole scuttled around in the damp leaf mould in the icy cold, dark mausoleum. Sniffing the air cautiously, it ventured out from the safety of the edge of the tomb and moved slowly across the stone floor. It’s tiny paws barely made a sound as they pattered across the room. Pausing momentarily, the vole sniffed the air again. Something sour tickled its twitching whiskers. More cautiously, it proceeded across the open space. Just before it reached the sanctuary of the far side and the tiny crack in the stone that would lead to freedom, it’s paws touched something coarse and ridged. Feathers! Realising what it was, the vole accelerated to safety, reaching the escape route just as the dark angel began to stir.

For forty long days and nights she had lain on the floor suffering an agony that she had never felt before. The excruciating pain had begun in her throat as she had flown back to the mausoleum on mid-summer’s night. It had burned like fire down through her chest as she had flown the few short miles. Her strength had also been waning as she had landed clumsily in front of the stone doorway. The last strands of her energy had been drained as she had pulled the door closed behind her. It was then that the full force of the pain consumed her. Agony exploded inside her, searing into her stomach. With a howl of pain, she had collapsed on the floor, dipping in and out of consciousness for the next forty days.

The vole scampering across the tips of her wings had roused her.

As she lay in the darkness, weakened and virtually lifeless, the dark angel deduced that she had been poisoned. Something she had consumed on mid-summer’s night had been tainted.

Slowly, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, the world around her spinning as she did so. A sharp pain shot through her mouth, causing her to gasp. Toothache? Disbelievingly, she ran her parched tongue over her teeth. The tip of one of her fangs was missing. With her energy reserves so depleted, the dark angel knew she would need to feed before she could regenerate the tip.

 

Glancing in the mirror, he put his left hand up to the wound at his neck. Almost six weeks had passed since he’d suffered the mystery puncture wound and still it refused to fully heal. A dark purplish circle about the size of a five pence piece marked the spot. The wound had never scabbed over but, instead, there was an almost blister-like covering to it. Occasionally, it throbbed deep inside his neck.

As his fingertips brushed the delicate blister, it burst and oozed fresh blood once more.

“Bugger,” he muttered to himself. “Not again.”

Despite both his wife and his running buddy’s nagging, he’d refused to see a doctor about the mystery wound. It was clean. There was no obvious infection and he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from it. In fact, if anything he had felt more invigorated and full of energy over the past few weeks. He had argued with both of them that it would heal in its own good time.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” he called out to his wife. “Maybe a bit more.”

Closing the door behind him, he settled his earphones into his ears, cranked up the volume on his iPod and loped off down the hill. A few short minutes later the hill evened out a little and he was faced with three choices- left took him up into the countryside and the trails, straight ahead took him through the housing estate and meant he’d have to run past the yappy dog’s house or right would take him down past the graveyard. He still avoided that road where possible after the strange encounter on it last Halloween. He didn’t feel keen to explore the trails without his buddy by his side. However, he had no desire to tempt that damn dog to take a bite out of calf. The graveyard road seemed the lesser of the three evils.

Midgies swarmed round him in clouds as he ran down the tree-lined road. The mild, damp weather had brought them out in droves. Much as he loved the warmth of late summer evenings, those tiny flying devils certainly took the edge off the enjoyment. Halfway down the narrow road, a sharp pain shot through his mouth. Toothache? With a groan, he kept running, silently cursing the thought of a visit to the dentist.

As he reached the village’s main street, the pain vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

With a sigh a relief, he headed for the coast road, looking forward to stretching his legs for a few miles. Ever since the incident with the two dead deer, he’d been training hard, finding a new turn of speed and extra stamina. On their twice weekly trail runs, his buddy had been struggling to keep pace with him, causing him to temper things when he was out with him. Now, on his own, he was free to set his own rhythm.

 

Almost an hour later, he was back at main street, still feeling fresh, despite having run around eight miles to the ferry terminal and back, and was faced with his usual dilemma – straight ahead up the hill past the yappy dog or left up past the graveyard? He didn’t fancy being a late evening snack for the dog so, again, he opted for the shorter, steeper graveyard road, praying silently that the light breeze had dispersed the midgies.

 

Wearily, the dark angel sat on the marble bench seat that ran round three sides of the tomb. She had scanned the immediate area for wildlife, hoping to track down an easy meal to rejuvenate her enough to fix her fang. The pain from it was an incessant throbbing. A mortal pain that she had long since forgotten. Trying to block it out, she trained her attention to the area outside the mausoleum, listening to the sounds of anything that could serve as a meal. Forty days without blood had taken its toll on her as well as the effects of the poison. Thinking back to mid-summer’s night, the dark angel fathomed that one of the deer must have been poisoned. She would need to be more careful in future. With a smile, she remembered meeting the runner again, albeit too briefly for her liking. With a sigh, she recalled how she’d almost been allowed to dine on his rich, exotic, ferrous blood. A divine meal yet to be savoured.

The rhythmic thud of feet approaching up the road caught her attention. Her mind was immediately filled with a vision of him powering his way up the hill towards her lair. In her vision, the dark angel could see the vein pulsing in his neck, the skin covered by a sheen of sweet sweat. Ever acute, her senses picked up on the puncture wound on his neck.

A sharp pain stabbed through her damaged fang as a cold realisation struck her.

 

Outside on the road, oblivious to the ancient mausoleum that was hidden by the trees, the runner felt the toothache return. Same canine tooth as before, only this time the pain stabbed right up into his cheek bone. He also became aware that the wound on his neck was throbbing. Casually, he rubbed his hand across his neck. His fingertips came away covered in fresh blood. Not for the first time, he wondered whether there was something in the wound. There was a definite pressing, pulsating feeling deep in his neck. Perhaps his wife and buddy were right. Perhaps he should get the wound looked at. He vowed to make an appointment with the doctor, after he’d seen the dentist about his toothache.

 

As his footsteps receded, the angel set staring down at her feet, not fully believing what she had just uncovered. Could it be true? How could it even be possible Carefully, she ran her tongue over her broken fang, certain now that it’s missing tip was lodged in the runner’s neck. With equal certainty, she now knew what had poisoned her. It had been those few delicious drops of his blood…but why?

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

For info –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lammas