Monthly Archives: September 2017

Libby (a short story of childhood’s end)

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Sunrise was her favourite time of day. At sunrise there still hope that, with the start of a new day, Lucy would remember she was there.

On the far side of the bedroom, a muffled sound escaped from under the duvet as Lucy rolled over in bed. A teddy bear was shoved unceremoniously onto the floor as Lucy muttered, “At least Libby didn’t take up as much space in the bed.”

Libby’s heart skipped a beat. Lucy still remembered her. She was safe for another few days. She glanced down at her hands and feet, then curled up on the rocking chair and went back to watching the sun come up.

 

For ten years Libby had been Lucy’s closest confidante. They had played together day after day. They had gone to school together for seven years. They had holidayed together, first in Devon and Cornwall and then, as Lucy grew older, they had visited France, Spain, Portugal and America. She had liked travelling with Lucy. Everywhere Lucy went, Libby went too.

On the last trip to America, Libby had met another girl about her own age while she had waited at the bag drop at one of the many rollercoasters in the theme park. She had been surprised by the cynicism shown by her new acquaintance.

“It won’t last much longer. Trust me. Just you watch. You’ll grow apart real fast. It’ll end and losing…what was her name? Lucy? Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

Almost five months had passed since that Easter trip to Florida. At first, Libby has dismissed the American girl’s comments as nonsense. Forget her? Why would Lucy want to forget her? They’d been inseparable since Lucy was three years old. But, as the seasons moved from Spring to Summer, Libby began to pick up on subtle changes in her beloved Lucy. Some days she would leave for school without her. Other days she would arrive home late and barely have time for her between dinner and bedtime. Once she went away for the entire weekend and left Libby behind without a wave or a backwards glance.

At Lucy’s thirteenth birthday party, Libby had kept to the shadows and was hurt that Lucy barely spared her a thought all day. She even blew out the birthday candles without Libby by her side to share a wish!

“You’ll grow apart real fast. Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

The words began to haunt Libby day and night….

 

As August wound its way towards to September, Libby found herself excluded more and more by Lucy. For hours on end she would wait patiently for Lucy to remember she was there and to involve her in her day.

By the middle of the month, Libby began to panic. Once morning when she awoke early to watch the sun rise, she realised she was fading away. Her hands and feet were barely visible. Just before panic took over, she heard Lucy talking in her sleep and heard her mention her name. Instantly she felt whole again. Her hands and feet were there. Her black patent ballet pumps were shining in the early morning sunlight.

 

Unfortunately, this had only been the beginning of Libby’s torment.

 

As August ended, there had been no less than half a dozen similar fading episodes. The last one had really scared Libby. Her hands and arms had disappeared all the way up to her elbows; her feet and legs had vanished right up past her knees.

Lucy was forgetting her!

Lucy was growing up!

Yet again, the American’s words tore at Libby’s faithful heart, “Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

September marked a milestone for Lucy – she started high school. From the relative safety of the rocking chair under the window, Libby had watched as Lucy packed her new school bag and laid out her new school uniform.That night Lucy had gone to bed without wishing her goodnight. In the darkness, Libby had cried herself to sleep on the rocking chair.

 

Now, as she watched the teddy bear, always a favoured bedtime bear of Lucy’s, lying on the floor, Libby finally resigned herself to her fate. September had been filled with gaps in the relationship with Lucy and there had been almost daily episodes of fading out. For the past week, Libby had barely seen her hands and feet. Even her long pigtails had faded at the ends!

To save herself, Libby knew she had to take action. She realised that she could no longer rely on Lucy to remember she was there. Now that she had been fully restored to her old self, Libby decided that today was the day.

 

The week before a new family had moved into the house next door. From Lucy’s bedroom window, Libby had watched a little girl playing alone in the garden. Hiding behind the curtains, she had watched the little girl, Wendy, play on her swing and slide down her chute. Seeing her playing on her own for hours on end had tugged at Libby’s heart strings.

 

After Lucy left for school, Libby waited on the rocking chair until Lucy’s mum had come in and opened the window to let some air into the room.  

This was her chance!

A quick glance outside informed her that Wendy was already out playing in the garden with a bright red ball.

Carefully, Libby climbed up onto the window sill. With a last look round the bedroom, she balanced on the ledge for a moment, then carefully climbed down the trellis, trying not to damage Lucy’s dad’s Clematis.

As she crossed the garden, Libby began to panic anew. It was the first time she had been outside alone in over ten years. What if Wendy couldn’t see her? What if Wendy rejected her?

It was too late to go back now.

Slipping through a gap in the fence, Libby made her way into the garden next door. For a few minutes, she stayed in the shadow of the big, old, apple tree that dominated that corner of the garden. With a nervous smile, she watched Wendy play with the ball. The little girl was throwing it up and trying to catch it. Eventually she dropped it.

The ball rolled down the gentle slope and landed at Libby’s feet, nudging her black patent shoes.

“It’s now or never,” thought Libby, bending down to pick up the ball.

When she stood up again, Wendy was staring at her.

“I like your shiny shoes.”

“Hi. Thank you. I’m Libby,” said Libby, tossing the ball back to the little girl, who caught it safely in her arms.

“HI. I’m Wendy,” came the shy reply. “Want to play?”

“I’d love to!” declared Libby with a smile.

“Daddy’s going to build me a tree house in that tree,” explained Wendy as they walked back up the slope. “It can be our club house. Our special place. You can live up there when it’s done. It can be your fairy castle.”

“I can?”

“Of course you can! You can stay in my room till its builded but you’ll need to hide. Need to be a secret,” whispered Wendy seriously. “Mummy doesn’t want me to have imaginary friends. We can be secret princess friends forever though.”

“I’d like that,” said Libby as her heart turned a somersault of delight.

She was safe at last.

 

(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)

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Dying Is Easy -Coming Back Is When Things Get Tricky (flash fiction)

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Inspiration for these weekly blog posts comes from all angles and on occasion some unlikely thought processes.

But here we are at Wednesday ( I wrote this last night) and inspiration has yet to strike this week……drums fingers impatiently.

Part of me has been itching to write a piece of flash fiction but again the inspiration bank was shut tight.

  Hmmm…..time to Google  “writing prompts”.

The screen lit up before me with a multitude of ideas. I read through several screens worth then one finally caught my eye

“Dying is easy. Coming back is when things get tricky.”

I gave myself an hour to come up with something inspired by this statement.

Here’s the result:

 

Dying is easy -Coming back is when things get tricky

 

Everything around her was totally still and calm. As she sat at the picnic table staring out across the river, there wasn’t a ripple on the water. A sea of tranquillity.

Inside, she felt far from still or calm or tranquil. So much had happened over the past week. So much had changed. Her mind was racing with thoughts of the things she still needed to do but time was against her.

From the position of the sun and the length of the September shadows, she guessed it was around four o’clock. If that was the case, she had less than half an hour….. time was slipping through her fingers like grains of sand.

“Just one more goodbye to say,” she thought to herself as she turned to go.

The warmth of the autumn sun had brought people outdoors and she passed close to several couples as she made her way along the road. No one gave her a second glance as she walked by.

Silently, she wished she had her phone. At least if she had that with her she could check if she was going to be on time. Both of them were creatures of habit and she prayed that this was one of the days that they were in sync with each other. Part of her realised that it was unlikely considering how events had unfolded over the week but she had to try, had to hope.

Her energy reserves were dwindling. It had been a manic forty eight hours.

“So much to do, so little time,” she thought as she walked along in the sunshine.

When she reached the next grassy area, she was relieved to find both the benches were vacant. Ever conscious of the time, she decided to sacrifice a moment or two to take a seat. Around her, she could hear birds singing in the bushes and seabirds calling down on the shore. Resting wasn’t helping and she felt even more drained as she hauled herself to her feet one final time.

The next section of the road was in shadow and cooler. Up ahead, in a patch of sunlight, a flash of colour at the bend in the road caught her eye. As she reached the spot, she stopped. The area around the bent signpost was covered with floral tributes and mementos.

Rooted to the spot, she read over each of the cards nestled among the flowers; read the messages of farewell; read poems; read stories of shared memories; smiled at the photos cradled in amongst the flowers.

Who knew so many people cared?

Images flashed before her eyes. The silver 4×4 taking the corner too fast. The squeal of its brakes. The crunch as the vehicle struck. The screams as she was thrown forwards before being crushed against the pole.

Then nothing…..

Then the searing pain of separation as her soul tore itself free from the broken body.

Unseen, her soul had watched the scene unfold; watched an ambulance arrive, closely followed by two police cars. As the paramedics had worked on her badly injured body, her soul had slipped quietly into the ambulance, fearful of being left behind. She had watched over the body she had inhabited as they transported it to the local hospital, operated on it then waited in the corner, invisible to her family, as the hours ticked by in a small private ICU ward.

Almost forty eight hours ago, her broken body had surrendered it’s fight for life. Just as panic was about to set in, she had seen an old woman enter the room. No one else reacted to this new arrival.

“Come on , my dear,” coaxed the old woman gently. “Time to go.”

“Go where?” she had heard herself ask.

“Well. Some folks call it Heaven. Others think its Hell. I prefer to think of it as home.”

“But I can’t! I’ve not said goodbye to everyone. I need more time!”

“Your time has passed, my dear. Time to move on.”

“Please,” she had begged. “Just a few more hours. Let me see the people who mean the most to me one last time. My children. My family. My friends.”

The old woman faltered then shook her head, “Highly irregular but, if it helps you to settle in your new home, I’ll give you two days. Not a second more. Two days to the minute of your physical death.”

“Plenty of time.”

“Is it?” asked the old woman. “We’ll see.” She paused then continued, “When the time is up, I’ll come back for you. Be warned, you’ll start to weaken as the time passes. When I come back, you need to come with me. No more begging. No pleading. You just follow me.”

“I’ll come,” she heard herself promise.

 

As she stood reading the messages, she acknowledged that forty eight hours had been too short. It had broken her heart to see her family grief stricken, knowing she couldn’t reach out to comfort them. Only the cat had sensed that she was there. She had watched helplessly as friends arrived at the house to offer their condolences. Neighbours kindly delivered meals to the family as they too dropped by to express their sadness over their loss. It had touched her to see that so many people cared.

The flowers and messages spread in front of her reinforced that once and for all.

She knew her time was almost up but there was still that last goodbye to be said. Squinting into the sun, she looked along the pavement, praying that her instincts were correct. She thought she saw a movement in the distance, a familiar outline approaching at a steady pace.

Behind her, she heard a soft cough.

Before she turned round, she knew it was the old woman come to escort her home. With one last lingering glance into the sun, she waved and whispered, “Till later.”

Everything around her faded to nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stronger Within … a review

Huge thanks for these kind words about my first born.

BookMark

Stronger Within is Coral McCallum’s debut novel, the first book in the Silver Lake series. Set in Delaware, it follows the lives of Lori (a.k.a Mz Hyde) an artist cum investor and Jake, a guitarist in a rock band. A chance meeting occurs and one thing leads to another as an unlikely couple come together.

The author takes her time. The build up of the characters is very slow, it is at life speed. So events happen at a very realistic speed but until an important thread in the background is revealed, I have nothing to go on. So the first third of the book is a bit slow going. But as the pace picks up and we follow the characters’ individual and collective journeys, the plot unravels masterfully.

In particular, I really enjoyed the rock band’s travels. Because they perform across the US as well as overseas, it adds…

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Fifteen Weeks To Go…..gulp!

My lunchtime meanderings this week have brought home to me just how quickly this year is flying by!

It doesn’t see like any time at all since I was looking up at the trees that border the salt mine’s car park thinking, “Oh look! New wee shoots and leaves!” Today I walked past those same trees looking up and thinking, “Wow! I love these autumn colours!” (These particular trees put on a stunning display of autumn reds and golds every year.)

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This swift change of seasons (did we actually have summer?) has got me thinking….

Back at the start of the year, my first blog post of 2017 detailed some goals I’d set myself. (Here, see for yourself  https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/a-new-year-means-new-goals-and-a-fresh-chall )

Now, nine months later, how far have I got with these?

Upon reflection, and after a brief surge of panic about the fact that we are almost half way through September, I’m ok with where I’m at…I think.

Goal number one was to complete, edit and publish Book Baby 3. This was always the primary goal for 2017 and it has been safely ticked off the list. Book Baby 3, otherwise known as Bonded Souls, was let loose on the world on 15th April and, to date, no one has said my baby is ugly.  Bonded Souls is on Amazon sitting alongside it’s siblings, Stronger Within and Impossible Depths, and like them on Amazon.co.uk, is boasting five glittering stars. (It’s still waiting for it’s first rating on Amazon.com  … hint…hint)

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I still find it totally surreal to see the three books. Complete dreams come true moment.

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Goal number two was to write the first draft of a new novel…GULP! A tall order.  Well, I still have fifteen weeks of 2017 left and, to be honest, I’m going to need every minute of them. Book Baby 4 – no, it’s not a Silver Lake tale – is somewhere between a half and two-thirds written but progress is slow. For a few weeks there, my new imaginary friends really didn’t want to play nice! Over the past couple of weeks, they have all been better behaved – thanks goodness- and I finally feel as though I might be getting somewhere. This first draft may be adding a whole new dimension to “rough” draft but with a bit of luck (and peace and quiet) I might just get it down on paper on time.

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I am now silently praying that time slows down so that my chances of finishing it before midnight on 31st Dec increase!

Wish me luck!

 

p.s.   for all you Silver Lakers, Jake and Lori keep interrupting my train of thought with Silver Lake ideas….book four in that series will happen!

Trapped In A Soundproof Glass Jar….

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Whether to write this blog or not has been preying on my mind for a day or so. Even now as I start to put pen to paper (yes, I write blog posts longhand first too!), I’m a tad on the anxious side.

As the risk of sounding melodramatic, I got a taste of one of the more negative aspects of social media usage over the past week and it’s rattled me a little.

For six days, I felt as though I’d been trapped in a soundproof glass jar. I could still see everything on my newsfeed and see my messages piling up. Friends could see me but I couldn’t reach out, couldn’t have my say. All I could do was watch and wait till the lid of the jar was opened.

I’ll tell this tale guardedly for reasons that will become apparent.

Apart from the day job and the indie author/blogger role, I also co-admin a social media fan page for a world famous rock star. My co-admin and I pride ourselves in the great working relationships we have with the various professional photographers whose work we share on a daily basis. The vast majority are great folk and appreciate the extra exposure their work gets through fan pages as long as their photos are left unaltered, the watermarks intact and that their ownership/copyright is acknowledged.

But, there’s always one…..

Let’s call them Mr X for the purposes of this tale.

Sometime around the middle of last week, Mr X had second thoughts about whether some photos should be in the public domain or not. (These photos are concert photographs and nothing graphic before your imagination runs away with you.) Instead of messaging the various fan pages, who have shared their work over the years and asking them if they would delete the posts, they reported the pages for copyright infringement to the social media host, who in turn identified the specific admin who had posted the original picture.

Cue a three day ban for yours truly. (I’m unsure who else among the admin community has been caught up in this at this point in time.)

The email I received to advise to of this said I should contact the person, Mr X, via email ( they included an email address for Mr X) to try to resolve the matter.

I duly emailed the address provided with a polite enquiry as to what had I done wrong. I got zero response.

Mr X is in contact with one of my fellow admins from a different fan page so I contacted  them via an alternative route and cautioned them to be careful around Mr X. They offered to try to mediate on my behalf.

Despite their best efforts, Mr X refused to see reason and they failed to get anywhere with them. I appreciated their efforts and thanked them for trying to assist.

Now, it may be co-incidence but then again……

The very next day I received a further seven emails advising me of fresh reports of copyright infringement that had been reported by Mr X. Again, as before, all the photos had been shared lawfully at the time of posting.

Cue a second three day ban and an extended stay in my soundproof glass jar. (It was already a pretty silent, lonely place.)

This second act smelled of spite and reeked of harassment.

Eventually, having trawled through various forums, I found a link to report  Mr X to the host site for victimisation.

And, it’s at this point, that it was brought home to me just how vulnerable social media can make people feel.

I completed the online form to report the matter, following the instructions and providing copies of the emails I’d received in lieu of the actual links to the photos  as these had already been removed by the host.

Almost instantly, I got  an auto-receipt advising me that they would review the information and get back to me.

I provided further background evidence to support the claim and was advised that I needed to send them links to the specific posts I was referencing.

Again, I replied advising that, as they had already deleted these ,I couldn’t provide the links but had provided copies of the relevant emails that quoted the posts’ details and ID numbers.

The response I received this time was an email saying that they couldn’t find the specific content that I was reporting and that I was to provide links to the posts in question.

Again, I replied advising that as they had already deleted the posts, I was unable to supply the links.

Their response? “We can’t support this type of request through this form.”

By this time, I’m growing frustrated and confused so I enquired about how I was meant to report bullying/harassment if not through the bullying/harassment process? I asked for my concerns to be escalated as a customer complaint to a manager.

Their response to this? An email advising me that it looked as though there was a temporary block on my account that was preventing me from using certain features.

Eh, you don’t say!

I took several deep breaths…ok , I swore a little….ok a lot… and emailed back asking if my concern had been read in full and escalated as I’d requested.

Reply – “we review reports carefully to make sure we take the correct action.”

Again, I asked for clarification as to whether my concern had been escalated or not.

Reply – “we review reports carefully to make sure we take the correct action.”

I emailed and asked for the email address to contact to lodge a formal complaint.

Response – they shut the case. End of…

Words fail me on how this is an acceptable way to address a report for bullying/harassment.

OK, in this instance it may seem as if I were complaining about something trivial and, I acknowledge in the grand scheme of things, it is. However, think for a moment if this had been a report about targeted, abusive comments about you or your friends or family or your child – would you not expect a more efficient service than this?

It’s blatantly obvious from the various repetitive auto-responses received over a two day period that this host has little regard for customer concerns and, sadly, would appear to think people are immediately guilty until proven innocent…oh, wait, you can’t prove you are innocent because the auto-responses tell you that you’ve used the wrong form!

There is no way round this. The bully wins!

Suddenly social media feels quite an anti-social place…..

To all the friends and family who thought I’d been ignoring them for the past week – I  humbly apologise.

To all my friends who celebrated birthdays and anniversaries- congratulations! I was thinking about you.

To all my friends who were celebrating successes and milestone events – congratulations! I was thinking about you too.

To those friends who were delivering more sombre news – I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.

To my fellow fan page admins – Beware! Be very careful out there!

To the friends who reached out via other communications means – thank you. Your kind words made my glass jar penance less lonely.

To Mr X …. Well here’s hoping karma takes care of you in due course.

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)