fiction and other writing

Archive for the ‘Short story’ Category

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.

The Ghost of Love

‘She lives her life in another world now,’ I said to the doctor as my auntie smiled with eyes that seemed to focus beyond the boundaries of the room.

‘Mrs Ash do you know who I am?’ asked Dr Parsons.

My aunt smiled, ‘Of course dear. Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘No thank you. Do you know what day of the week it is?’

‘I don’t need to know dear. Weeks are a thing of the past. Can you see the poppies? Aren’t they delicate; such big heads on tiny stems.’

I couldn’t help but look out of the window. Snow carpeted the adjacent field and left a fringe along the top of the fence. Trees were covered in white lace. I shivered.
The doctor continued questioning gently, not showing any surprise at the random replies he received.

As he prepared to leave he said to me, ‘I’ll refer your aunt to a specialist. It could take several weeks but call me if you need me.’

Suddenly auntie’s eyes were focused. ‘I won’t see you again Doctor. ‘I’m off on my travels. Tonight I’m spending with Susan. She’s such a good girl. I want to say goodbye properly.’

The doctor gave me a sympathetic look but as I saw him to the front door he said, ‘She’s so believable isn’t she? It must make it very hard for you.’

We spent a lovely evening together, drinking tea and eating cake. Auntie reminisced about the past. We looked at sepia photographs and each held a story. I studied Auntie Moira and Uncle Walter’s wedding photograph. They were so happy. Even now, when time had faded the image, you could see their joy.

In the morning I carried in her cup of tea in her china cup with tiny roses. As soon as I opened the curtains I knew she was gone. I touched her cold hand and saw the hint of a smile on her face. There was nothing anyone could do for her now. I was about to pick up the phone when I glanced out of the window. A sun light beam caught dust particles in its path, like dancing diamonds. I walked over to look at the view. The day would be full of formalities; it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment to myself.

Outside there was a young couple walking hand-in-hand, through a field of poppies, they turned with bright smiles and waved. Immediately I recognised them from their photograph. I waved right back and as I did so the scene changed to white. Snow covered the fields, lay delicately on the branches and collected into soft mounds under the fence.

What goes around

Jimmy paused as he left the Crown Court building. He lit a cigarette and drew heavily on it. He could see Beth standing at the bottom of the steps talking to her solicitor, so he swaggered down the steps right past her and laughed in her face. Her solicitor stepped in front of her to block him from her view, but she had seen him. Fear had flashed in her eyes, just like that night, six months ago, when he’d relieved her of her wages. Fancy getting paid in cash these days. Apparently she didn’t trust bank accounts. ‘I wonder if she does now,’ thought Jimmy. He walked on. He hadn’t a care in the world. Today had been his fifth time in court but there had only been one conviction in the last six years. His solicitor was ace. She always managed to find some weakness in the prosecution witnesses. She’d managed to make Beth seem unreliable and unsure of herself and no jury was going to convict him on that kind of evidence.
The case shouldn’t have been brought to court as far as he was concerned. Basically it was his word against Beth’s. They hadn’t found her money on him. Luckily he’d handed it over to the drug supplier almost as soon as he’d taken it off her. The police had found the knife with his fingerprints on, but as his solicitor pointed out there was no real evidence that he’d used the knife to threaten Beth. She’d got so nervous in the witness box that her evidence had been virtually discounted. Tonight he’d celebrate. In fact he’d go to The Peacock right now and have a pint.

Police Constable Gerald Thomson was disgusted. It seemed that whenever Jimmy Marley came to court he managed to get off. What did the jury think he’d used the knife for? Peeling potatoes? He’d been caught in the middle of town with a long sharp blade. The victim of the mugging was a person of unblemished character and had had the courage to stand up in court and give her evidence. That should have been enough for any jury, but no, not with super lawyer Sheila Clark defending. She didn’t just test the witness’s evidence; she annihilated them, belittled them and humiliated them. What was the point of policing if the criminals didn’t get convicted? Everyone knew that Jimmy was a drug dealer, had no morals and no scruples about being violent. He always picked on innocent people. It just wasn’t right. He would pop round to see the victim, tomorrow. He would make sure that she had access to victim support and he would let her know that the police believed her evidence. Perhaps that was beyond the call of duty, but sometimes it was important to show a bit of support. You never knew if it would pay off later.

Beth was crushed. It’d taken a lot of courage to stand up in court in front of everyone and give her evidence. Jimmy Marley lived near her and he had threatened her on three occasions since that evening when he’d held a knife to her throat and taken her money. Some of her friends had advised her not to proceed with the prosecution, but the police had thought there was a good chance of conviction. As she’d been telling the truth, she’d assumed she would be believed. She certainly hadn’t expected the vicious questioning from the defence counsel. It had been as though she was the criminal. If only she had enough money to get away from this town; to start again somewhere else. Her work at the stables was very poorly paid and just gave her enough money to live on. She hadn’t managed to save anything and was only now getting straight after losing a month’s wages to Jimmy. Life just wasn’t fair.
It was two months later when Beth saw Jimmy again. She was on the top deck of the bus which had broken down by the side of a dilapidated house. As soon she spotted him she slid down in her seat hoping that he wouldn’t see her. It was the evening of October 14 and the church bells chimed eight. She watched as he did a drugs deal with a skinny young man wearing a pale grey sweatshirt. Her heart began to pound and she realised her palms were sweating. What if he looked up? What if he saw her? There was no point in reporting this to the police. She was sure they’d believe her but if it went to court there would be another six months wait and then she wouldn’t be believed. Worse, people would think she had a vendetta against Jimmy. She shrank further into the seat and was relieved when he walked off down the road.
Two days later there was a loud pounding on her door. Police Constable Thomson was standing there with a colleague. There was no friendly smile or greeting.
‘Miss Beth Farthing, I don’t know whether you remember me, but I interviewed you in connection with Jimmy Marley threatening you with a knife.’
‘Yes I do remember you. You were very kind.’
‘Mr Marley has been charged with the burglary at Easthorps’s Bank two days ago, where a guard was seriously injured. A knife was dropped at the scene, with Mr Marley’s fingerprints on it. He however says he was chatting with a friend on October 14, outside Marshlands, the empty house on Charles Street. On that date, at the time of the robbery, the number seventy-one bus had broken down there and the driver thinks that you were on the top deck. This would mean that you might be able to give Mr Marley an alibi and prove his innocence of the burglary.’
Beth watched P.C.Thomson’s dark brown eyes darting round the room, unable to meet her own. She thought quickly. There was no way that she wanted to help Jimmy Marley, but someone may have seen her on the bus.
‘Well I was on the bus and I was on the top deck, but it had been a very long day and when the bus broke down I closed my eyes and had a little nap. Was the bus driver able to confirm Jimmy’s whereabouts?’
P.C. Thomson looked visibly relieved.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Only someone from the top deck would’ve been able to see into the garden. Thank you for your help. ’
The two officers set off down the stairs. Beth ran after PC Thomson.
‘I don’t understand. How would his knife with his fingerprints on be at the bank if he knew about the bus being broken down?’
‘I expect one of his friends told him about it,’ shrugged the other police officer.
‘I expect the evidence from my case has gone walkabout,’ thought Beth, remembering what P.C. Thomson had said the day after the court appearance: ‘One day that Jimmy Marley would get the justice he deserved’.

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