fiction and other writing

Archive for the ‘Short story’ Category

Depths of Darkness

Depths of Darkness is an anthology of horror stories by a facebook group called Indie Author Support and Discussion. It is a collection of fourteen stories by ten authors and you can get it for FREE on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.It costs $0.99 or £0.99 if you want to buy the ebook. Depths of Darkness
I am so happy to be one of the authors in this anthology. It truly explores storytelling and it’s out in time for Halloween! Let me know which is your favourite.

Winter Spirit

Her first thought, when she awoke from the long sleep, was for her son. He was in danger. He was nearly eighteen and due to inherit his trust fund. Shirley knew she must get to him quickly and warn him. She looked around her. Snow lay on the ground, three inches deep, but she wasn’t cold. There was an old man kicking a ball against the side of a gravestone. Perhaps he looked a little bored, but he glanced her way and nodded. He seemed affable enough and the fear from the strangeness of her surroundings ebbed. The light from the moon cast a silvery glow, which made everyone seem ethereal. She laughed silently to herself.

Most people were heading for the lych gate, so she followed the increasing crowd, leaving the man pounding his ball against the solid marble headstone.

She wandered down the hill, away from the church and through the village, past the shops and the school, to the quiet lane where she lived. It was chocolate box pretty, with the white covered houses and trees. The large Georgian house that had once been her home, had lights blaring and seemed to be calling her onwards.

As she drew closer she could see the light came from downstairs, which suggested that Gerald was still up. She automatically went to the front door but of course it was shut. What could she do? He wasn’t going to answer the door to her. Creeping quietly up to the window she peeped inside. There he was sitting, asleep in the armchair, with his mouth open and his legs splayed. On the nearby table was a tumbler of the whisky he loved so much. It seemed as though nothing had changed, but how was she going to get in? She looked down at her clothes. The pale blue silk pyjamas were what she’d been wearing the last time she saw him, not her best dress that they’d placed on her for the long sleep. So could living spirits walk through glass, she wondered? Now was the time to find out. She drew herself up to her full height, gathered her courage and walked straight through the window. She’d expected to feel some resistance, or some sensation of substance, but there was none. Her mood lifted a little but she knew she must reach her son. An image of the old man from the graveyard, kicking the ball – with the timing of a grandfather clock, flashed through her mind.

She made her way upstairs and found her son, Robert, fast asleep on his bed. The room was its usual mess – a sort of organised chaos. His guitar was carefully propped up by a chair and there were clothes spilling over from the laundry basket. The only difference she could see, was there was a picture of herself, stuck to the wall with blue-tac. Shirley watched him as he slept and all the love she felt for him surged through her. Death didn’t kill love, she thought. That was good to know. Suddenly his eyes sprang open and he sat up with a start.

With the quickness of youth, which she envied, he spoke.

‘Mum, I’ve so missed you. Is it you? How did you get here?’

‘Oh I’ve missed you too my darling Robert, but I have a feeling that we haven’t much time. I’ve come to warn you. I think you’re in danger. I don’t know exactly how he did it, but your stepfather poisoned me. I thought he loved me, but he just wanted our money. On your birthday you will inherit some money from me and he’ll want it, if he hasn’t already spent it. You must leave.’

‘What old Gerald, I’m sure I can handle him, although now you mention it, he’s getting me to sign some papers tomorrow. He said it’s so the trust fund can be transferred to me.’

‘Robert you must leave now. If you don’t sign, we don’t know what might happen.’

Robert looked thoughtful.

‘I wondered why we weren’t using a solicitor.’

He threw his legs out of bed and stood up towering over Shirley. ‘I wish I could hug you,’ he said, ‘but you’re looking a bit translucent.’

‘You know I would give you a bear hug if I could, but we mustn’t waste time. Please pack a bag and go to your Aunt Cathy. She’ll look after you. Will you do that for me?’

Robert looked a bit exasperated, but he picked up a back pack and started loading clothes, both clean and dirty into it.

‘I’ll go to Dad’s. I’m seeing a lot more of him these days. He’s really sorry, well, about… you. And he’s made it clear that he wants to be in my life and be there for me. I’ll be safe there.’

Shirley thought about his dad. There was still a little part of her that loved him, even after he’d gone off with the glamorous Gloria, from the finance department. She looked a little less glamorous nowadays, with two children under three, Shirley thought, surprised she could still feel bitchy about her. She liked the fact that even in death, she was still herself. Yes Robert would be safe there. His dad would look out for him.

‘Good idea. I’d say send him my love, but he’d think you were mad.’ She smiled and Robert gave her his lop-sided grin. ‘Now we must be quiet going out or we’ll wake Gerald.’

‘No need to worry about that. He’s drinking really heavily these days. He never wakes up until about four in the morning. I hear him banging up the stairs to go to bed.’

Robert put the bag on his back, adjusted it, picked up his precious guitar and they started down the stairs. As they were going past the living room, where loud snores were emanating, Robert whispered, ‘What poison did he use to kill you?’

‘He used my heart pills. He must’ve ground them up and put them in that curry we had the night I died. I can’t think of any other way. I’m not absolutely sure how, but it was definitely my pills.’

Robert placed his guitar and bag by the front door and quietly made his way back to the living room. Gerald’s computer was on and he was logged into Facebook. Robert looked over to her smiled, typed a short message on the laptop and pressed send. The rasping snores continued uninterrupted from the armchair. Shirley quietly studied Gerald and noticed that he’d put on a lot of weight. He really did look out for the count. She’d thought he was her knight in shining armour, picking her up from the depths of despair after Roberts dad had left her for a younger woman. He’d been so kind and attentive, but she realized now he’d had his own agenda and ambitions. The clues had all been there. He liked the best whisky, expensive cars, dining out and spent money at a rate far beyond his earnings. There was no point in dwelling on her lack of insight.

When Robert went to leave, she said, ‘Be safe my lovely son. Have a wonderful life and know that you are loved so much.’

‘Are you staying here, mum? Why would you want to stay.’

‘I think I should say good-bye to Gerald. Don’t you?’ she gave Robert a cheeky laugh.

‘Yes,’ he grinned. ‘I may just take a gander through the window. At least he can’t hurt you any more.’

The closing of the front door awakened Gerald. He looked around him and took another swig of whisky. Shirley drifted around the room and hovered within his sight until he noticed her. She’d have rather been dressed up, than in her pyjamas, but it didn’t matter now. She wasn’t trying to seduce him.

‘What the devil!’ he said.

‘Good evening, Gerald, I guess you weren’t expecting a visit from me.’

‘How did you get in?’

‘Through the window. It was actually quite easy. Are you missing me Gerald? Shall I come and visit you every night?’

‘You always were a troublesome bitch. This is my house now. You don’t own anything, any more now do you? And dear lofty Robert is going to sign over control of his money to me tomorrow, which is a good thing. I won’t have to get rid of him. He doesn’t cost too much. He’s normally off playing his bloody guitar with some band or other. Now why don’t you go back where you belong. Get out of here,’ he said grabbing the arm of the chair and trying to stand up.

‘Now that’s not very friendly. You promised to love me, but I guess that was all a lie. I’m such a bad judge of people. You just wanted my money. What a shame you didn’t ask. I’d probably have given it to you.’

‘Yes, you really are so stupid, but I’d still have been saddled with you and I wanted a fresh start; a chance to meet someone young and fit. Besides I didn’t want to be grateful to you for the rest of my life. Thank you for the meal, darling. Thank you for the car,’ he mimicked.

Thud, thud thud, Shirley heard. It was the sound of the old man kicking his football. She knew her time in the house was running out.

A siren could be heard getting louder, and closer, outside. It broke the total silence that only snow brings. Gerald rubbed his forehead as if he couldn’t make sense of what was going on.

‘Oh dear, have you got a headache? Too much whisky? Not enough home cooking?’ asked Shirley in an ultra sympathetic voice. ‘How tiresome for you.’

‘Just get lost,’ Gerald muttered.

There was a loud pounding on the front door.

‘I think that must be for you,’ said Shirley. ‘It could be the police. You see it would seem that you sent a message out on Facebook to all of our friends, saying how you administered poison to your wife, so that you could get your hands on her money. Confession is so good for the soul, don’t you think, Gerald. I’m so glad you owned up. I suspect the police will send somebody round to the back door as well, so I think you need to let them in.’

At that moment the door flew open and Gerald found himself surrounded by police. At the same time Shirley found that a force was pulling her back towards the graveyard, but she didn’t mind. Her son was safe and her husband would at last pay for snatching her precious years with her son. The sound of the wind swished by her, but it wasn’t icy, as it should have been.

‘I miss you,’ Robert shouted as she was was pulled backwards through the air, right by where he stood. She managed to blow him a kiss.

She landed unceremoniously on the white ground near her headstone. The old man was still kicking the ball in a regular beat against his large marble stone.

‘I took the liberty of bringing you back so you wouldn’t be late,’ he called over to her. ‘You have to be back asleep before first light, or you’ll be stuck here until someone rescues you. Believe me that’s not a good thing.’

‘I didn’t know there was a time limit, but I sort of felt there would be. Thank you for looking out for me.’

‘No worries. I’m guessing you managed to say good-bye to your loved ones and sort out any outstanding affairs.’

‘Yes. I think I did,’ she smiled.

‘You’re the lucky one then. You’ll be on your way to eternal life and freedom.’

‘What about you?’

‘I stayed out too long and I have to stay here until nature knows I’m sorry for disregarding the rules and until someone rescues me.’

Knowing that she had no idea how to help this stranger, she said, ‘Oh you poor man,’ as she reached out to put an arm round him. Surprisingly her arm didn’t go through him and she could feel his sadness. All the years of his loneliness flitted through her mind and then the world wobbled and the two spirits flew to the stars in an instant.

There was no sign that anyone had been in the churchyard, except an old ball that moved occasionally with the wind.

Book Review – The Consuming: A Short Story by Rhonda Hopkins

Five Stars
The Consuming is a short story that will leave you wanting more. The main characters are appealing and bright enough to know that ghosts don’t exist, but are they correct? The descriptions of the old house are detailed and realistic and the build up of suspense is tangible. I’ve read another short story by this author and I like her style.

This short story cost £0.99 on Amazon’s Kindle and is free on Kindle Unlimited and you can buy it here.

It is $1.31 to buy from Amazon.com and the link is here.

Other books by Rhonda Hopkins are:
The Gift
Survival: Survival Series Prequel
Tales From The Mist by Rhonda Hopkins and Catie Rhodes

The Mermaid is FREE on 12 and 13 August 2017 on kindle

If you’d like a good assortment of short stories for adults, then try The Mermaid, this weekend (12/13 August 2017) on Amazon Kindle. It’s FREE. It’s a book of short stories for adults, recently revised. There are who dunnits, love stories, ghost stories and even a venture into the paranormal.

Normally the book is £1.99 on kindle but for this weekend it’s FREE. Here’s the link.

It’s normally $2.59 on kindle, but FREE this weekend. The link is here.

All my ebooks are free on Kindle unlimited all the time.

Fantasy, Short Stories, Children’s Books and Poetry

Just a reminder that all my e-books are free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited all the time. If you don’t have K.U. then the ebooks are still reasonable.

The Truth Finder is £2.35 and $3.06. A young adult fantasy novel.
The Mermaid is £1.58 and $2.04. A book of original short stories for adults.
The Green Book is £1.99 and $2.58. A children’s chapter book. Great for bedtimes!
Tiny Tyrannosaurus is £2.01 and $2.06. A children’s chapter book.
Nature’s Gold is £2.00 and $2.59. A poetry book of varied forms of poetry.
Autumn Gold is £2.01 and $2.60. A poetry book. Poetry to enjoy.

All the above books are also avaiable in paperback. Desdemona The Dragon Without any Friends, a children’s picture book, is also available in paperback for £8.99 and $12.46

Why not check out my books? Here’s the link to Amazon. UK and here’s the link for USA

Book Review: Not What You Thought? and other surprises by P.A. Ruddock

Not What You Thought? and other surprisesNot What You Thought? and other surprises by P. A. Ruddock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is worth buying because it is raising money for the Forget-Me-Not charity, which helps homeless ex-soldiers. It’s also worth buying as it’s very good value for money with thirty four stories. Some of the stories are short or even flash fiction but all are expertly crafted.
As well as Paul Ruddock’s excellent work there are contributions from five other writers: John M.W.Smith, Tom Benson, Matthew Williams, Lesley Hayes and Peter Nena. This adds a variety of style.
One of my favourite stories was ‘Cold Callers’. It was about a writer who wanted to get on with his work but people kept interrupting. Great storytelling. ‘The Spectre’ is a beautiful account I read some time ago on the author’s blog. It is a sensitive description of a natural phenomenon and I remembered it long after I read it. The variety in the book will keep you turning the page.
I won’t go through all the stories but they’re all worth reading. ‘The Car Clampers’ stood out for me as we’ve all met some of these unreasonable people and I didn’t expect the ending that was written for ‘Put to Death’. Photographic Memory I’ve read before but it was just as exciting this time round.
If you buy this book you’ll be helping a worthy cause and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the stories.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Oxford Marmalade by Lesley Hayes

Oxford MarmaladeOxford Marmalade by Lesley Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully crafted book of short stories, but it is unusual in that one or more of the characters you meet in one story, crop up in the next.
All the stories are character led and set in and around Oxford. The tales cover marriage, betrayal, love and communication – or lack of it.
It is a short book, well-written and presented. I would have loved to have known what happened to a number of characters, e.g. Piers, who was a reserved perfect gentleman, but had an underlying and unspent passionate side. The fact that the author has left this reader wanting more is a credit to her excellent storytelling skills.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors -Tom Benson

Smoke and Mirrors and other stories is a small book of a dozen stories. Each story takes you to a different time and place, which is a strength of the collection. The stories have strong, diverse characters and many of the plots have an interesting twist.

Product DetailsI’m not going to go through each story; enough to say there are many different genres from thriller, chick lit, sci fi, and more. Each genre is written skillfully and some of the stories have been previously published in anthologies or won a prize.

If I have any criticism of the book it is that perhaps the first story should have been a novel, but it still makes a cracking good short story.

I won’t spoil the book by giving away too much, just to say I think it would appeal to both men and women and all ages. Quite a few of the characters are young, which leads to lots of action.

My favourite story was Mary had a little gun. I think I identified with the protagonist in so far that… but I can’t tell you or it would ruin it.

Smoke and Mirrors is well written and presented and can be bought from Amazon kindle for £1.83. I’ve added a link here. Anyway if you read it, let me know what you think. Tom Benson has published several novels and a number of poetry books. Titles of novels include: Amsterdam Calling; Beyond the Law and Ten Days in Panama. You can find out more about this author here.

The Woman Who Didn’t Smile

I was sitting in the cafe finishing my coffee, when I noticed a very old man with a beautiful smile, lead in a frail old lady, who was as fragile as a little bird. Her skin was brown and crinkled like screwed up wrapping paper. There was no light in her eyes and her face was dour, but the man smiled at everybody as he wove their way through a jumble of table and chairs. He tried to help her sit down on a padded bench against the wall, and she argued with him that she couldn’t get her feet under the table and that there wasn’t enough space. Gently he removed the table and escorted her around the side of it. When she’d sat down he sat with her, talking softly and calming her. Five minutes later he got up to go to the counter and get their drinks.

‘I won’t be long,’ he said. ‘And you can see where I’m going.’

The queue meandered back towards the door, but the man waved and smiled at her as he stood sideways making sure she was always in view.

Slowly I sipped my cooling coffee and nodded to my companion, who was on her phone. I liked watching people and although the cafe was crowded, nobody seemed to rush us.

The tiny little bird woman tried to engage the man sitting near her in conversation, but he stoically resisted, concentrating on his partner. She tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to something on the floor.

‘You’ve dropped that,’ she said.

It was a dirty serviette, which probably wasn’t his in the first place, but he relented and bent down and picked it up.

‘Thank you so much,’ he said.

A few minutes later the little bird woman became agitated. ‘Where’s he gone? Where’s he gone?’ she repeated parrot like.

One of the waitresses, who was cleaning the tables, stopped and sat by her. ‘Look there he is,’ she said pointing to the counter. ‘He’s waving to you. He’ll be back in a minute. Can you see him?’

The tiny bird woman calmed down again and soon the old man wove his way back through the tables and chairs, carrying a tray with two drinks and a cake. He sat down beside her, helping her with her drink and cake, talking to her in a calm voice. All the time he was smiling at her and anyone else who looked over to the table. But her eyes remained dull and no smile lit her face.

I felt sad for the man that he worked so hard for no response, but there was nothing I could do. My companion offered me another coffee but I was happy just sitting in the warmth of the cafe.

When I looked over to the table again, they had finished their coffee and cake and he was still talking to her gently. Suddenly she looked at him and patted his hand. He closed his eyes as if to treasure the moment and I realised that I’d seen something special.

‘Come on, it’s time to go mum. We need to get your coat on.’ I heard my companion say.

I stood up to get the coat off the back of my chair and caught my face in the mirror behind me. I was shocked that my face held no smile. I was smiling inside but my face, looked vacant, almost cross.

I turned to my companion. I couldn’t remember her name, but she’d call me mum. I patted her arm and said, ‘You’re a good girl. Thanks for bringing me here. I do enjoy it,’ and I saw a smile light up her face; a warm smile, full of love. I hope that somehow she could see I was smiling too.

The Gracious Smile

I looked like a chocolate caramel in my plain beige dress with delicate embroidery around the neck and sleeves. The dark cocoa jacket had seemed smart in Estelle’s, but now I wished I’d bought something delicate and floaty.

It didn’t matter really; the day wasn’t about me. Amber looked radiant and beautiful. When Mark’s car arrived I noticed a tear in his eye. Of course he’d be feeling proud of her; he wouldn’t be worrying about missing her when she left home. He’d not been here for the last five years.

My stomach did a little flip as I watched them leave together, but luckily there was no time to dwell on it. I needed to get to the church before them. Taking a shuddering breath, I collected my bags and keys, slipped on my low healed patent shoes and headed to the waiting car.

In the next half hour I would have to face ‘that woman’. I practised my gracious smile, having no intention of speaking to her. Amber said she wouldn’t invite her if I’d be upset, but I knew she wanted her there for her dad’s sake.

I bet ‘that woman’ would be wearing something made of silk or lace. Amber often mentioned her beautiful clothes. I was beginning to feel like a brown penguin, if there is such a thing. Not that I’m exactly fat and I don’t waddle, but how do you compete with someone almost twenty years your junior!

The scenery on the drive was just a blur, but once in church it was easy to focus on Amber and her soon to be husband, Charlie. ‘That woman’ had been seated further back and out of my line of sight, although somehow I noticed her white diaphanous dress with pink roses and overlarge hat.

At the reception I’d insisted it would be me sitting next to Charlie. It was my daughter getting married, not ‘that woman’s’ and so she’d been given a place at the grandparents’ table. The food was exquisite and the champagne very passable. As the meal ended the speeches started. I dreaded what Mark would say. I bet he’d get ‘that woman’ in somehow. As he started to speak I felt the vibrancy of his voice and could see small index cards on the table. On them he’d written reminders of whom he should mention and thank. His speech swam over me.

‘…Amber has had a happy childhood, largely due to the generous spirit of her mother. She has had a wonderful role model and today we are delighted to welcome Charlie…’

Quickly I looked up at him and he smiled his special smile; the one that makes you think you’re the only one in the room with him. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I’m sure Amber was holding her breath, but she needn’t have worried. I wouldn’t spoil her day for anything or anyone. I rustled up my gracious smile and smiled right back. The room relaxed.

It was much later that I noticed ‘that woman’ sitting at her table alone. She was studying her drink with an unwarranted intensity as if it contained a miniature elephant or something equally unlikely. I picked up my glass, pinned on my gracious smile again and went over.

‘I hope you’ve had a pleasant day,’ I said.

‘Oh yes, it’s been lovely. Amber looks so beautiful and happy.’

‘She does, doesn’t she? I think they’ll be happy.’

‘It’s nice of you to come and talk to me. Mark’s off doing his hosting duties.’

It was at that moment I wanted to say, ‘Is that what you call it?’ but something made me stop. We both turned to look at Mark, who was dancing slowly and too closely with one of Amber’s friends. It shocked me that I didn’t feel humiliated as I had in the past, but I recognised the look of hurt in Mark’s new woman’s eyes.

‘I was admiring your beautiful dress,’ I said as I pulled out a chair and sat down. ‘Amber’s always talking about your clothes.’

I glanced back to the dance floor and Amber blew me a kiss.

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