Sunday, 7 December 2014

D is for Doctor

It's been a busy few weeks and it's already December.  I'm still writing my new short story 'An Ordinary Witch' and hoping that is going to be a series.  Well that's the idea.  I've also been writing some flash fiction, which is currently being rejected by all of the women's magazines in the country.  So instead of wasting them, I'll put them on here for your enjoyment.

In other news, I'll be snowboarding in Italy over new year, so I'll write a New Year's blog early this year as I'll be partying with a bar full of Italian snowboarders come 31st December.  Next week I'll be giving away Ashwood House and then I'll be hitting the laptop in earnest to bring you some more stories a la L K Jay.  So here's a story called 'D is for Doctor.'  Hope you enjoy it.

The bell rang and the speed-dating host shouted, ‘Next!’
This was Nicola’s cue to move seats.  She picked up her glass of Pinot and sat down in front of the next man, the fifth that evening.  This one wasn't bad, he had a chiselled jaw and a full head of dark hair with a little sprinkle of grey.  Fifth one’s a charm, thought Nicola.  At least he looks like he has his own teeth.
Nicola flicked her hair behind her shoulder and put on her best smile, fiddling with her earring in an attempt to look flirtatious.
‘Hi, my name’s Nicola and I’m a secretary.  I like old films and cooking, how about you?’
‘Daniel, I’m a consultant paediatrician.  I like skiing and novels by Dickens.’
‘I love children!’ said Nicola, ‘and I like reading too, especially romance novels like Danielle Steel.’
Nicola could feel herself flushing; it was hard to avoid gushing in front of this man.  He was the one, he had to be, her fortune-teller had said so.
***
Nicola giggled with her best friend Jose as the palm reader inspected her right hand.
‘Hmm, I feel that you will soon experience a new romance and he will be involved in medicine.’
‘It’s about time girl,’ said Jose.
‘Don’t I know it,’ said Nicola.
‘His name will begin with the letter D,’ said the palmist, ‘but I feel that you might experience a painful beginning.’
‘Will he be tall, dark and handsome?’ said Nicola, with a wry smile.
‘With any luck,’ said the palm reader.  ‘Fifteen pounds please.’
Nicola handed over the money and the two best friends continued walking down the pier, enjoying the sun and the rest of their holiday.
***
‘Really?’ said Daniel.  He didn't look very impressed with Nicola’s choice of author.
‘I remember reading A Christmas Carol at school,’ said Nicola.  She was sure she had just saved the moment.  She only had another minute to impress this man until the bell would go again and she’d lose him to another speed date.
Daniel looked at his watch and around the room, his eyes falling on the athletic blond woman sitting at the next table.
Try harder, thought Nicola, or you’ll lose him.
‘What’s your favourite food?’ she asked.  ‘I’m a good cook; I bet I can cook your favourite meal.’
The way to win a man is through his stomach, thought Nicola.  Not that her excellent roast lamb had stopped her ex-husband from leaving but that didn't matter now, because Daniel was a doctor and he was going to be her new man.
‘Sushi,’ said Daniel.
‘I love Chinese food!’ said Nicola.
‘It’s Japanese and I doubt even you could manage to prepare raw fish,’ said Daniel.
Ouch, thought Nicola.  Daniel didn’t appear to be very pleasant.
The bell sounded again and without another word, Daniel moved onto the next table and beamed at the blond woman sitting in front of him.
Nicola took out her speed-dating card and put a big tick next to Daniel’s name.  He had to be the one because he fit all the criteria and their beginning had certainly been painful.
Nicola rushed through the rest of the speed dates and by the end of the evening, she was eager to meet Daniel again, sure that he had put a big tick next to her name as well.  She had even managed to send a text to Jose, telling her about Daniel.  She had sent one back saying, ‘That’s brilliant sweetie, go for it!’
***
Nicola threw her speed-dating card in the bin as she left.  It had all been a waste of time and that fifteen pounds to the palm reader had been a complete waste of money.  Daniel hadn't chosen to see her again, instead he’d gone straight for the blond woman and she’d left them flirting with each other at the bar.
She pulled her scarf around her; it was going to be a frosty night.  Nicola didn't see the patch of ice as her heel skidded on the pavement, but she felt the pain shoot up her leg as her ankle broke.  Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for help to arrive.  Nicola felt mortified as they lifted her into the back of the ambulance; it had been a truly terrible evening.
The dark-haired man’s eyes twinkled as he smiled at Nicola.  ‘Looks like you need cheering up love.  My name’s Dave and I’ll be your paramedic for the evening.’


Monday, 27 October 2014

The Ghost Hunters Club do Borley

Hello folks, remember me?  I’m brushing off the cobwebs and it’s time to start writing again.
I’ve been a bit naughty by not updating my blog but the day job taming lions has been taking up a lot of time.  It doesn’t help when the zoo keepers are demanding more and more of my time, but enough of the terrible metaphors for my day job, on with the fun stuff!

This weekend, my fellow writers and myself: @CLRaven and @LouiseWest jumped into the trusty Corsa and went to Borley Rectory.  My sat nav did try to send us to Parc Borley in the South of France, apparently it would have taken 12 hours in steady traffic, but we ended up in Essex instead.

Borley is legendary in ghost hunting circles.  Built in 1863, paranormal investigator Harry Price investigated in the twenties and reported his findings in The Mirror.  The man turned out to be an old fraud, but the ghostly nun isn’t…

Borley is a small hamlet, about ten houses and a church.  The rectory itself burnt down in the late 30s and it was our task to find out where the old site was.  First of all, the church.  It’s proper old; parts date back to the 12th century, and we were greeted by a handsome smoky coloured cat.  After a bit of fuss, he showed us around the graves and then threw up some grass.  Bloody men.  Anyway, we found some interesting graves but no sign of any spooks.  After a wander around the hamlet and not finding any signs that said ‘spooky house remains are here,’ we used our phones to find old maps of the area.  Borley might be in the middle of nowhere but the 3G reception was superb.

We walked around some fields and indulged in a spot of trespassing.  We think we found the gateway to the rectory and I helped to keep a watch while Cat braved the brambles and had a good poke around.  As we wandered back to the car, standing opposite the church, we managed to piss off the old lady who lives opposite.  There was some angry waving going on and fortunately, Louise went over to her and had a word, using expert tact.  It was a good job I didn’t as I would have probably steam-rollered in and caused a diplomatic incident.  Apparently, she wasn’t happy about us filming, exactly what remains to be seen as there was naff all going on in her house.  Lunch at the haunted pub The Bull in Long Melford and then home.

It was a great day ghost hunting, finding the lost remains of a haunted rectory, playing with a friendly tomcat and pissing off the locals.  Home to a party with my taekwondo pals, an epic game of Cards Against Humanity and the largest pot of chilli I have ever made.  I’ve still got loads left, anyone want some?

In writing news: I’ve got some exciting ideas on the boil.  It involves TV scriptwriting, an ordinary witch and there’s more to come soon…

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

I've been a bit slack on the writing front lately because I've taken up a new hobby that gives me even more bruises than taekwondo …

I've been ‘shreddin’ the gnar’ folks.  Yes indeed.  A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about things that you didn't know about me: Beautiful Bloggers and one of those was ‘I have never been skiing.’  The other were having never eaten baked beans, on account of them being disgusting, and I’ve never been to Manchester.

Well, I’ve been to Manchester and I wasn't impressed.  Admittedly, it was another God-awful date, but I’m still yet to be convinced.  As I’m never, never going to eat a baked bean, ever, the only alternative was to take up skiing.  But dear readers, I am a trend-setter!  I wouldn't be seen dead on skis when there is snowboarding to be done.  After all, I am a forty-something who is kidding herself that she is still down with the kids.

Off to my first lesson I went, to the glamorous town of Milton Keynes.  Seriously, does a town need that many roundabouts?  Let’s just say that my first lesson was a touch on the challenging side.  It took me 45 minutes before I could stand up and I got snow leaking down my backside.  I was so bad I failed the first level.

Never being one to look failure in the face, I persevered.  By then I’d got the bug and bought some kit - on ebay of course.  So looking more dapper and less snowboarding special needs, I managed to get though the next levels without ending up as raspberry jam at the bottom of the slope.  Imagine that mixed with the snow, what a mess!  And oh the hilarity that is the button lift.  I’m actually more worried about that than I am going down the slope - when that thing jerks and pulls on your particulars, you chuffing know it!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not shredding any gnars yet, I’m still wobbly and I don’t so much as turn right as fall over.  I've had some spectacular bruises and it’s a good job I have a generous rear end because I need the extra cushioning.  There is one thing that tickles me though, the snowboarding lingo.  For example, ‘shredding the gnar.’  What is a gnar, and how do we shred it?  Does it involve the use of confidential documents, thus the need for a shredder?  To normal people, that means going down a hill on a snowboard.  And don’t get me onto crusin’ and grindin’ - I’m not that sort of woman!  I do, apparently, ride a snowboard goofy, which in martial arts terms is, southpaw.  In other words, I lead with my right foot, not my left.  I always was an awkward so and so. 

Like taekwondo a decade ago, I love snowboarding, but it’s going to take a bit of perseverance to get it right.  It’s a bit like writing really, which is something I really ought to be cracking on with.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Green Man, Pills and Bargains

I’ve been on my holibubs and in English, that means I’ve been on holiday.  Off to Wales I went; Rust deposited with my pals, with my tent and endless other crap packed into my boot.

It’s that time of year again when me and my pal Spa pile into her little blue car and put up out tents in a large field in the Brecon Beacons and live it up festival style.  Except this year, the weather wasn’t quite as good as it was last year and I had to put up my tent in the pouring rain.  Oh did I swear, and I broke my big pink golfing brolly.  @*&$!

It’s a good job I have a sense of humour, because boy did I need it this year.  Not that I didn’t enjoy myself, I always do with my best pal, but the cold nights in the tent, the stomach bug on the Saturday and the crippling lower back pain due to lying on an inadequate air bed were enough to make my grin into a grimace.
Well that’s just rock and roll, and when in doubt, there’s always alcohol to sooth one’s aches and pains, and the very good physio who happened to be posted in the ‘Nature Nurture’ section of the festival.  Spa did suggest that I visit the palmist to get a reading, but it involved a certain amount of hugging and I was not in the mood for that.  By Sunday, all was sunny as the weather brightened up and I had a music-packed agenda.

First up, Nick Mulvey.  I wouldn’t normally go that much for folk music, but Mr Mulvey is one cute little plucker who I am definitely going to see play at Cambridge Junction in October.  Anyone coming with me?

First Aid Kit were cute, with their Swedish folk and gold lamé dresses, they were large enough to take on the main Mountain Stage.  Their covers of Simon and Garfunkle’s ‘America’ and Jack White were superb.

Last but not least; Simian Mobile Disco and they didn’t disappoint.  They can be described as being a bit, err, niche, but if you like your electronica, then they have enough bleeps to keep any self-respecting microwave happy.  Best of all was their DJ set, hosted by BBC Radio 6’s Nemone Electric Ladyland, which I raved to until the early hours of the morning.  Dancing in a field to bleepy music, man it was just like being back at Uni.  I even had a bloke come up and ask me if I had any ‘pills’, how very 90s of him!  Aw, I felt sorry for him when I said the best I could do was some Ibuprofen.

All too soon it was time to pack up the tents, swear again as I couldn’t fit the chuffing thing back into the stupidly small bag, and back I was at Spa’s house.  My writer pals C L Raven came to visit and we played a raucous game of ‘Cards Against Humanity’ which is so offensive, it is a work of genius.  Unfortunately, while we were all creasing up at a very rude joke about Pac Man, a bloke decided chat me up in the most awkward moment since Stewart in The Ghost Hunters’ Club got Viagra and laxatives a bit mixed up.

So last of all, my bargains.  I’ve found a few this holiday but the best one was the trench coat I bought for a ton.  That’s a hundred pounds in normal English.  Half-price, proper bargain and now I can swish around pretending to be an Audrey Hepburn/Alain Delon mash up.  Only blond.

This month, you can see me featured in this month’s edition of Chat It’s Fate where I talk about when I saw a ghost.  Honest, it’s all true gov!  Fame must now surely beckon.

And the release of my ghost story compilation A Curious Quartet.  All four of my ghost novellas in one edition - look out to win a copy in a competition coming soon.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

School’s Out for Summer.

The weather is hot and the writing is easy.

It’s been quite a month but thank the Lord, the day job is on hold for the next few weeks and I’ve got some time to breathe and write.  Because to me, breathing and writing amount to the same thing.
Since the last post, there’s been a few changes.  First of all; the Govenator, Goveadoodledo or the Reverend Gove, the education minister who truly believed in the fairies, has gone, gone, gone.  Ding dong, the Gove has gone!  If it’ll bring any improvement to our lives in school, who knows, but at least we can hope.  I read that in his new role as the chief whip, he got stuck in the toilet and someone had to come and get him out.  Well that’s all I need to say about that.

I thought I’d have a bit of a change with my novel writing this summer. I’ve ditched the ghosts and I’m writing a story that I can describe as a medieval, comedy, action-packed road trip bromance.  Although I haven’t entirely ruled out the idea of a ghost and there’s definitely a witch appearing somewhere along the way.  It’s called Albright and Ingleby and set in the year 1497; very specific but I needed to include a minor battle and the Cornish rebellion was as good as any.  More on that later.
Yesterday, I went on a bit of a road trip myself.  I dropped a good friend off at Gatwick airport, I duelled with a nutter on the M25 and diced with death on the Dartford tunnel on the way back.  I stopped off at Bluewater shopping centre and I had to take the A2 to Canterbury on the way.  It got me thinking; I was on the road to Canturbury, just like my heroes, Albright and Ingleby.  They’ll be on their own pilgrimage but it won’t be very holy!  Which makes me think about doing my own pilgrimage to Canturbury.  I could take some pals in my trusty four-wheeled steed, tell tales, just like in the Canturbury Tales, and visit taverns and possibly fit in some wenching as well.  Adhering to the drink driving rules, obviously.

In other news, I had an argument with a treadmill in the gym.  Last time I went to a gym, you put in the time you wanted to do, pressed start and you were off.  Now it wants to know my weight, age and star sign.  Whilst running at a fair lick, I made the mistake of putting my hand onto the heart monitor.  It measured my heart rate at 162 bpm and then informed me that it was not a rate that was appropriate for my age, and duly stopped.  Bloody hell.  I was fine, I had a good five minutes left in me, but no, apparently the chuffing treadmill knows best.  Lying about your age to people is one thing, lying to a treadmill so I can get a decent work out is beyond the pale!
Next week, the ups and downs of learning snowboarding and the release of my new ghost story anthology, A Curious Quartet.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The London Look

I’ve been to the bit smoke, and observed the fickle face of fashion …

I’ve been a bit absent lately, again, but that would because nothing particularly interesting happened to me.  I mean, I’ve only just come back from London, having found myself on the NUT float, chatted to the president, meet loads of new people, went snowboarding, fell over a lot, bought some really nice new clothes and started writing another novel.  Came up with some great new ideas and started to put some of my novels into play form.  So not much really.  Oh, and I joined a gym.

So where to start?  I made a few observations about London, especially since I visited a few areas that I haven’t been before.  Back in the 90s, I lived in London - I went to university there and stayed for a few years afterwards.  It’s funny, parts of have changed enormously and some never changes.  It’s not as if the Tower of London is ever going to go away; which I would love to visit if it wasn’t for the £30 price tag.

After spending the morning on a float at the Pride festival, where I got a bit of a soaking on the open topped bus, helped my musical pal while she sang to the crowds and indulged in a bit of procession dancing, I went to meet a date on Leicester Square.  Yes, another one.  I said to meet outside of All Bar One, which I’ve been going to since I worked for a PR agency back in the late 90s.  It even appears in The Ghost Hunters’ Club, when Linda has the disastrous date with Stewart.  Which actually happened, fact fans.  Imagine my chagrin when I arrived for the date on time, but the bar is a pile of rubble.  What next, Buckingham chuffing Palace?

Well, my date arrived and I managed to find him in the crowds, and for once, he didn’t behave like a cretin and we had some great drinks out in Shoreditch and Hoxton.  He told me he was going to London Zoo the next day but I made my own study of a species that inhabits this achingly trendy area of North East London.  The hipster.  Yes, the achingly hip skinny dude who walks around in a check shirt, skinny jeans with the obligatory facial hair.  I felt so out of place, I did wonder if I should don a false beard myself.  They of the artisan bread that costs nearly a fiver and who works in the media or creative arts industry.  It’s the cocktails that made me laugh.  In a jam jar.  Yes, I know it’s so trendy to have a mojito in a glass jar that used to have marmalade in it, but please, can I have my cocktail in a proper glass, with sloped sides and a stem?  I know it’s a bit 80s and I promise I do recycle, I just don’t need to drink my expensive alcohol/tea/diet coke from something that has a lip designed to make me spill my drink everywhere.

Fashions come and fashions go, but in the words of Samual Johnson, if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.  The city always manages to create something new and interesting for me, just like I can always think of a new story to write.  This time, it’s a medieval road trip that’s got a working title of ‘Albright and Ingleby.’  More on that soon!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On … Writing

It’s been a crap couple of weeks, but I’ve gone a bit Rudyard Kipling and I’m not losing my head …

Well they say that bad things happen in threes.  Although at the moment, it’s four and counting.  It’s become a bit of a joke, and I remember the last time something like this happened and at least the one thing I can look forward to is the silver lining that will inevitably follow.

First of all it was the illness.  Woke up with a sore throat that wouldn’t go away.  Felt like I’d swallowed some razor blades and then downed a glass of lemon juice.  Eventually, after the hacking cough made me sound like I had plague, I gave in and went to the doctors.  Yay to the NHS, but a course of antibiotics can’t cure what happened next.

My sore throat was put into perspective when the unthinkable happened - Rusty was ill.  And I don’t mean a cute little hamster sneeze (they are adorable, shhh, don’t tell anyone in case they think I’m going soft) but a full on infection in her uterus.  After everyone got over the shock that Rusty is female, she was taken into hospital to have a hamster hysterectomy.  Yes, they can operate on hamsters and don’t ask how much it cost, it’s Rusty, for God’s sake!

But on the day that I was due to drive to Cambridge to take Rusty to hamster hospital, we got the call at work.  The inspectors were coming.  I won’t say their real name, I might invoke some sort of dark magic, but just imagine The Dementors from the Harry Potter novels, only with less charm.  Everything stops and the world stops spinning until they’ve gone, usually leaving a bloody mess behind.  But not this time.  I’ll be damned if they were going to get in the way of saving my pet’s life, so I jumped in my car and took her to the hospital anyway.  So far, Rusty’s doing fine and The Dementors can go back to the soulless hell that they came from.  So there.

By the end of the week, I was exhausted and ready for half term, but then came the last curve ball.  Someone I thought was a good friend decided to delete me from Facebook.  I wouldn’t normally care but that one was a low blow after the week I’d had and they knew it.  It just goes to show though, when the chips are down (cliché anyone?) you find out who your real friends are and mine is a hamster called Rusty and all those people who wished her well on Facebook and in real life.
Despite all that, you know what I can always rely on?  Writing, it never goes away.  No matter what is thrown at me, or who lets me down, I can open my laptop and I’m in another world.  Whether it’s creating another story, editing or making a cover page, I’m completely absorbed and nothing can touch me when I’m in writing la la land.  When I’m planning a new story, I can make all manner of things happen to anyone I like, be it good or bad.  Dump on me all you want, you will suffer an end worse than death by a thousand hamster bites in my next story.  Ohh, nippy!  So for the next few weeks, I’m not going to lose my head, I’m going to keep calm and carry on writing.

My new ghost story novella, The Book of Saint Giles, is available to download from Amazon.  It’ll be my last ghost story for a while, so enjoy!

The Ghost Hunters Club

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