Saturday Short Story – Zoom

Vivienne put the last book back, vowing to look at the collection more often; seven months of Covid lockdown and she had only just got around to emptying the family heirloom bookcase and giving everything a good dust. The motivation had been to find questions for the quiz and the bookcase certainly held an eclectic selection, from her father’s favourite books to the colourful educational books they had bought for James and Julia. When her son popped in at lunchtime he had remarked that all knowledge could be found on the internet, with a lot less dusting involved. Vivienne retorted that the internet did not make the words of wisdom in books defunct, at which point James had picked up the book that had been his favourite when he was ten. Fun Facts From the Future. Few of the predictions of thirty five years ago had come true; Vivienne had not gone to see her cousin in Australia on a three hour flight in Concorde Mark Three, nor were her grandchildren living in an Eden Project style plastic bubble on the Moon. The only bubbles being lived in were Covid bubbles.

Sitting with a much needed cup of tea Vivienne pondered on her family’s lives. James had worked hard leading the plans to get some staff back to work at MPJ, only to have Boris telling everyone on Monday to stay at home again. Her son’s second project had at least resulted in him moving out, though not to the respectable sort of town flat she imagined divorced men in their forties aspired to. To prove that adapting empty office buildings for the homeless was a viable proposition, he had moved into the MPJ building himself.

Julia, worried her mother would feel lonely without James clumping around, had invited Vivienne to join in the Saturday evening Zoom Quiz she ran for her friends. Vivienne found it more fun than she expected and wondered why she had not been invited earlier, though it was easy to guess that Julia did not want her brother joining in and getting top scores. The two quiz evenings so far had been an eye opener; Julia’s friends teased and said things to her that Vivienne would never dare, but they seemed to be a nice bunch. They were also clever, but the simple format meant no one saw or heard your wrong or silly answers. There were no technical challenges, you just wrote your answers down on paper, it was all done on trust. Vivienne was totally honest, though she did give herself the odd point when she could picture perfectly the famous person, it was just the names that escaped her brain. She had never intended to take a turn at quizmaster and was not sure how that happened, but she was pleased with the five varied rounds of ten questions she was planning.

On Saturday evening Vivienne was linked in or logged on, whatever you called it and the chatter was lively, so lively she wondered when they were going to get started.

How many flowers can you find in an English country garden?… no that’s not the question, that’s the title of Round 1. What is the proper name for snapdragons, make sure you spell it correctly to score the point…

Round 2 Classic Fifties television programmes…  

Round 3 Happy 250th Birthday Beethoven…

During the ten minute break the chat was lively.

Has your mother been on Mastermind Julia?

Why are we celebrating now if his birthday’s not till December?

I know he wrote nine symphonies, but who on earth would know how many piano sonatas he wrote…

Round 4 is easier, general knowledge

What is the smallest island in the world that is still a sovereign state?…

…I thought you would find the general knowledge easy. Never mind, Round 5 is just a bit of fun… Predictions of the future that never came true…

Friday Flash Fiction 1000 -The Library

A short story featuring one of the briefer cases for the camper van detective in my new novel.

At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream

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The Library

Debbie spotted the camper van as she walked across Riverside car park in her lunch hour, it was a handy short cut between the shops and the library. She read the poster in the window and imagined the private detective inside as a slightly seedy, middle aged man thrown out by his wife. But perhaps he could solve their library mystery. When the serious young man welcomed her she was worried he would consider their case flippant, but it seemed unlikely a private investigator operating out of a car park would be taken seriously by people with important cases to solve. She sat down on the narrow bench seat as he placed two mugs of coffee on the pull down table between them.
‘Mr. Channing, this case may sound unimportant, that is why we have not reported to the police.’
‘Many small events take on an importance only in retrospect; you must have reason to be concerned.’
‘When events went beyond the library we became worried, but it started several weeks ago. Books went missing; according to the computer they were on the shelves, but neither we nor library members could find them. Days later they would turn up; slipped amongst the DVDs, next to the public computers, even in our office or tea room.’
‘What sort of books?’
‘Always Agatha Christie, that’s what made it creepy, someone obsessed with murder or just a practical joker?’
Debbie saw Mr. Channing was taking her seriously, perhaps too seriously. She smiled ‘Some of our regular library members were not happy.
…a big library and I can’t even get an Agatha Christie novel, suppose she’s not politically correct…
‘Describe your library.’
‘A rambling Victorian building, two and a half floors, lots of rooms, nooks and crannies, easy I guess for things to happen… there were the fires.’
The private detective sat up straight. ‘Surely those would need to be reported?’
‘Tiny fires, the first in the waste paper basket in our office, luckily a quick thinking visitor dashed in and put it out before the smoke alarm went off. But we couldn’t think how it started, it’s not like the days when staff smoked in the office. Then strangely it happened again, in the tea room bin. I smelt smoke, poured the kettle over; it must have started only a few seconds before.’
‘Have you noticed anyone strange hanging around?’
‘Half our visitors are strange… I mean they might be perceived that way. This is a big town, we welcome everyone. It’s somewhere warm and free to pass the time, people with learning difficulties or mental health issues,’ she glanced up at his framed psychology degree ‘or the unemployed… some look shifty, think everyone is staring at them.’
‘Okay, a very busy library, visitors wandering around, plenty of places to lurk unseen…’
‘And then there are the chocolates, left in our office, or on the shelves, but this week three of us found a box on our doorstep when we got home…’
The young man’s expression alarmed Debbie.
‘Why didn’t you say before, you’re rightly worried that someone is following staff. I’ll take you on, expect to see me wandering around the library, but do not acknowledge me. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to call the police if something…’
‘We could hardly dial 999 to say someone gave us chocolates’ she laughed nervously.

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The library staff were fascinated by their private investigator, he revealed nothing of himself and blended in with library users.
For a week events continued, flowers appeared, the young detective showed staff a picture on his mobile phone, a young man with dark features.
‘Oh, that’s the chap who put the fire out.’
‘He’s not a member?’
‘No, you have to prove you are a local resident, we tried to explain to him… is he homeless?’
‘…and stateless. Calls himself Dave, he is mentally frail, but harmless. He has nothing to prove who he is; brought on a very long journey from a village as a young boy. He could have been born anywhere from the Balkans to Afghanistan. He loves the library and the staff, hence the ‘presents’, the fires… attention seeking. I have found a charity that can help him.’
‘But why Agatha Christie?’
‘His grandfather loved Agatha Christie, the most widely translated author in the world. Dave remembered how he cherished the books. It was all the old man knew about England, when he told the boy where he was going. Reading them was Dave’s only link with the past.’
‘So he didn’t want other readers taking them away!’

Later, the staff realised Mr. Channing had asked for no fee, curious, Debbie set off once again across Riverside car park, but the camper van was gone.

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Toby had spent a week trailing around the Middle England town, from the bus station to all night MacDonalds, 24 hour supermarkets and of course the library. Toby even found himself sharing a changing room at the swimming pool with ‘Dave’. Finally he got to talk to him at the Salvation Army, letting them believe he was also homeless and as a young single man unlikely to get help from the authorities. The suspect was as lonely as himself, as lost as Anna, but ‘Dave’ was not missing, because he did not exist, did not have a sister to go and visit or a mother to ring him up. Toby had certainly learnt a lot about real homelessness and if The Salvation Army officers had suspected he wasn’t genuine they had kept it to themselves, for it was Toby who had managed to draw ‘Dave’ out of himself. He hoped the young man would take the help offered by a specialist charity organisation. The library staff had loved the story and promised no authorities would hear about the events at the library.

 

Sunday Salon – Recent Reviews

Two angels and a healer, an autobiography, a novelette and a novel; the three books I recently finished reading and reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads.

Or at least that was the plan, but for some reason Amazon would not accept my review of Angels Landing. I’m not sure why and won’t bore you with extracts from their ‘community help’. People have problems of all sorts with Amazon reviews, one of the reasons I decided to post  my book reviews on Tidalscribe.

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Angels Landing   by Christina Sandler

An autobiography inspiring on many levels, I gave it five stars on Goodreads

Sadly in the Twenty First Century we are too familiar with images of soldiers who have had limbs blown off, but stoically work hard at their rehabilitation with the support of others in the same situation. When we imagine what that would be like we probably have degrees of what we could bear, one limb lost is surely better than all, but most of us would no doubt make an awful fuss if we just lost a few fingers. People lose limbs in various ways, including through illness; Christina Sandler’s accident left her far removed from the instant medical response we see on hospital programmes.

On holiday in Australia, a car accident in a remote spot in the Northern Territory results in terrbile injuries. Christina’s recovery in the Darwin hospital took a long time because of the way her arm was lost, but it was excellent care, the staff at the hospital sound wonderful. The hospital became her world, though through her eyes we have glimpses of the life of the people of Darwin.
Back in England there was much more treatment needed, working up to the day she got her first artificial ‘pink Barbie hand’. This was still the eighties, artificial limbs have come a long way since then. Most of us would regard a serious accident as a good excuse to coast through life without too much being expected of us, but getting back to the teaching job she loved was not enough for Christina, she needed a new challenge, flying.
Looking up this book I see it was first published successfully in 2000 as a paperback and reviewers included one of her former pupils. A reminder that this is a true story. I would be so interested to know how life has been for her since that first solo flight.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angels-Landing-memoir-Christina-Sadler-ebook/dp/B077ZW34YK

 

 

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Where Angels Tread: a novelette

by Loretta Livingstone

4.0 out of 5 stars  A modern day fairy tale

By  Janet Gogerty  on 10 August 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

A very different take on the homeless; most people walk by, but some stop to talk. This novelette tells the tale from each character’s point of view and some will surprise you. There is a happy ending and redemption, but not for all. This little book is rounded up with three delightful poems; from a creme egg to a rose.

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The Healer (Fraud or Miracle? Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars    Is everyone being decieved, including the reader?

By  Janet Gogerty  on 11 August 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

There is nothing straightforward about this novel, we may think we are following Erica’s journey towards enlightenment, but it is not as simple as that. Gradually we realise we are not sure who to believe, perhaps the final truth will come out in Book 3. What is intriguing is that it does not matter how real the illness or the cures are, it’s how they affect Erica and those around her. I don’t think I liked any of the characters and certainly would not have enjoyed working for Erica. In her ruthless world of work she is surprised that even one person cares when she is ill. When she tries to return there is no welcome, the company has moved on, former colleagues expected her to die and appear affronted that she turns up to announce she is fine. Her personal life fares little better, even without the complications of secrecy we realise that being given a second chance of life does not necessarily make anyone a better person. Erica knows no other way of life and doesn’t have the resources to recreate herself as a lover of nature and humanity; events and new revelations also conspire against her.

 

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How Big is a Book?

When I finished the first draft of my first novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ it was 325,000 words long; considering it had started off as a short story you may wonder how that came about. Much editing and removal of sub plots later and it was reduced to the final 225,000 words. As it also adhered to no known genre, the chances of finding an agent were even less than they are for most new and unknown writers. As I sent off chapters, letters and synopses to agents, I started writing ‘Quarter Acre Block’ in which nothing strange happens. This time I planned to stay under 100,000 words and aim for the family drama market. But even as I wrote about 1960s England and Australia, a character who had walked uninvited into Brief Encounters was nagging to have his story told.

Even as ‘Three Ages of Man’ was being born I had decided to try the self publishing route; on Amazon Kindle there is no limit to how many words you can publish, after all a Kindle device can hold thousands of books and trillions of words.

This year, as I have written in previous blogs

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/reinventing-the-printing-press/   

we started turning all my books into paperbacks. With four collections and Quarter Acre Block published and copies handed out as gifts to various friends and relatives, whether they wanted them or not, it was time to start on the Brief Encounters Trilogy.

But would the magic printing press cope? ‘Three Ages of Man’ is 195,000 words long, and the preparallelequel to  Brief Encounters. Don’t look the word up, I made it up and have trouble spelling it myself; Three Ages is second of the trilogy, but is also a stand alone novel. Not a lot shorter than the first novel, but it seemed logical to experiment with it first.

How long is a novel, how big is a book? First time writers are often quoted 80,000 words, certainly not over a hundred or under fifty. But the truth is, a story is as long as it takes to tell; some readers like a quick read while others enjoy something they can get their teeth into.

When Cyberspouse ‘accidentally’ joined Amazon Prime, perhaps a ploy to get the Amazon Firestick, we were happy to enjoy the benefits of free delivery. ‘Three Ages of Man’ arrived and I put it on the kitchen scales, just under three pounds Imperial. It is nine inches by six inches, no thicker than other paperbacks we have in the house, with larger print and a generous margin on the inside edge of the pages so the reader won’t need to prize it open to read. I was happy.

Now to turn our attention back to ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind.’