Tag Archives: #books

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)

 

 

Advertisements

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)

Book Baby Motherhood – the toddler phase

20170311_073326

Facebook very kindly shares past memories with us on an almost daily basis. Some days I scoot past these posts, choosing to not to glance backwards over my shoulder but instead to focus my energies on moving forwards. Onwards and upwards…or, in my case, a lot of the time it feels like onwards and sideways!

As I browsed my newsfeed this morning, over coffee and a bagel, one post from two years ago caught my eye. It was a link to a blog post from 20 April 2015 talking about the first few days of Book Baby motherhood. Reading through it, I felt again the rush of emotion and excitement and anxiety that I’d experienced. (here, have a read for yourselves https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/the-first-few-days-of-book-baby-motherhood/ )

At the end of the blog post I had drawn up a list of things to work on.

1-      Stop feeling so self-conscious and allow myself to feel proud of my achievement

2-      Relax and let things take their course with Stronger Within

3-      Re-connect with my characters and storylines. The rest of the tale isn’t going to write itself.

4-      Learn how to stop blushing.

So, in the past two years have I managed to meet these four objectives?

Well, I’ve tried. Honestly, I’ve tried.

Do I feel less self-conscious? In all honesty, no.  Do I feel proud of my achievement? Yes, but in my own quiet way.

 Writing for me has always been a means of escape. A recent conversation made me think of it in a slightly different light. It’s a coping mechanism. As a child and a teenager, I wrote to escape into a world away from the school bullies. Lost in my own fantasy world, their cruel words didn’t reach quite so far into my psyche, didn’t leave quite so many scars. 

Years later, I picked up my pen again to re-connect with “me”. I needed something that identified me with me and not as someone’s wife or mother (both roles I am proud of). There came a moment in time when I felt the need to reach deep inside and retrieve the person who was “me”. After a lengthy soul search, I found her.

Now, writing is a means of escape from a tough day in the salt mine, the dramas associated with hormonal teenagers and a general escape route from the pressures of day to day life.

So, do I feel less self-conscious about what I write? No. I still get overcome with nerves when I let people read what I’ve written. Over the past couple of years though, I’ve got better at keeping those fears under control. Although the nerves are fluttering as I prepare to post this blog.

Am I proud of my achievements? In my own way, of course, I am. Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would see my name on the spine of a book. Now, it sits proudly on the spine of three. Do I think these are great works of fiction? Of course not! They’re my book babies and it’s my story told my way. I’d never force it upon anyone but the books are out there in this big bad world to be enjoyed by whoever feels the urge to pick one or all three up.

Have I learned to relax? No! It’s not in my nature to be chilled about things. I’ve failed this objective miserably.

Did I re-connect with my characters after Book Baby 1 aka Stronger Within?  Yes, I did. They grew in strength in Impossible Depths and more recently in Bonded Souls. New characters wove their wave into the story while others drifted off. Can I re-connect with them again further down the line? I hope so. For now, they’ve been placed carefully back into their box but I’ve a feeling they won’t rest there for long.

Have I learned how to stop blushing? NO! If anything, I’ve got worse over the past two years! I’ve turned 50 Shades of Red many, many times. I’m a totally lost cause on the blushing front. Give whole new meaning to the phrase “scarlet woman!”  ha ha

The past two years of Book Baby motherhood have flown by and have been extremely kind to me. I don’t mean financially kind. Any writer who has travelled this road understands that the pennies are hard won and you need to be exceptionally lucky to make a living from selling novels. The past two years have been emotionally kind to me. No one, at least not to my face, has said a bad word about my babies. I’ve received such heartfelt reviews of all three books. Even at only five days old, Bonded Souls has earned five 5* reviews on Amazon.co.uk.  Each of these kind words and twinkling stars makes all the hours of work worthwhile. If I’ve entertained someone and provided them with an escape from their real world then I’ve succeeded. If I’ve initiated an emotional response with my words then I’ve more than succeeded. (Apologies though to anyone I’ve made cry…. )

This journey isn’t one that I’ve made alone. Without the love and encouragement of a few very special people (you know who you are) I’d never have made it this far along the literary trail. Writing can be a very lonely experience but I’m very fortunate in that that these guys are right beside me every word of the way.

OK, before I get too mushy here, what’s next?

I set myself a new goal at the start of 2017 and that was to write the first draft of a new book baby by the end of the year.

Well, to continue the baby/pregnancy analogy that I’ve used all along, there’s another baby on the way. It’s very early days. (I’m about ten thousand words in) Being the superstitious soul that I am, I don’t want to say much more and jinx my progress.

Now, I’m looking forward to a summer of long, warm, sunny evenings where I can escape from the pressures of the day into my creative world for an hour or two and get to know my new imaginary friends. I think you’re going to like them.

 IMAG4296

 

Just in case you’ve missed any of the links to my book babies –

UK link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1492694242&sr=8-1

 

rest of the world link

https://www.amazon.com/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sun Has Stopped Play….well writing

IMAG4487_1

For the past few weeks the sun has shone down on the Clyde coast. The weather has been fabulous but it’s had a dreadful effect on my creative productivity.

I cannot resist the lure of the evening sun during the week or any sun at the weekends and have been regularly spotted sitting outdoors with my nose buried in my Kindle.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent hour after hour in the sun. It’s no secret that I adore warm sunny weather. Lunchtimes have been spent walking along the River Clyde near to the salt mine. Where possible, meetings for work have taken place outdoors. We’ve even had “weetings” – walking meetings! (Every step has been counting towards my team’s GCC target- 10000 steps each a day for a 100 days) Evenings have been spent sitting on the front doorstep until the sun sinks behind the roofs across the street.

 I have the suntan to prove it!                   

Book Baby 3 has suffered a little neglect ….I’m a bad book baby mummy. I have written some of it outdoors in recent days but the part that I’m working on doesn’t lend itself to outdoor creativity. (No- you’re not getting any storyline hints!)

What I have been doing is devouring books! My Kindle has definitely been well used of late.

So, what have I been reading?

It’s been an eclectic mix. Here’s some of the highlights of my summer booklist to date-

 

Rock My World by Julie Shackman – a paranormal rock star romance tale. 7/10

His Perfect Imperfection by Natasza Waters – a contemporary love story  7/10

Flight To Coorah Creek by Janet Glover – an outback/flying doctors contemporary romance  8/10

The Vampire’s Human Companion by Cecil Wilde – beyond description and blessedly short – 3/10

Perfect Daughter (No Greater Courage) by Amanda Prowse – a powerful and emotional family drama  8/10

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes – a powerful love story that is one of the few books to make me sob – loved it!  10/10

Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris-  a very gripping thriller. Absolutely loved the ending!  10/10

 

And now I’m currently reading The Physician by Noah Gordon and am totally immersed in 11th Century Persia! (Thanks, Iris!)

 

Fans of the Silver Lake series will be pleased to hear that this spell of glorious weather is due to break any day so normal creative productivity will resume with the rain!