Friday, 29 May 2015

4Q Interview with Author Susmita Bhattacharya.



The Scribbler is pleased to have Susmita Bhattacharya of Plymouth, England on the 4Q Interview this month. It is Susmita’s second visit. As one of our Guest Authors she previously shared her enjoyable short story, The Mango Season.  Susmita is an accomplished author who has just released her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind.  You can discover more about by following the links below.

 

4Q: We are anxious to hear about your new novel. Please tell us what to expect when we read The Normal State of Mind.

SB: The Normal State of Mind is a story about love, friendship and finding one’s voice. It is a story about two women, Dipali and Moushumi and their friendship. It is a story of how their friendship helps them deal with personal issues and the Indian traditions that dictate how they should present themselves in society, for one is a widow, and the other is a lesbian.

The novel is set in 1990s India, and I hope to show aspects of urban India and Indian society that have not been seen in Indian fiction. I hope this book will bring about a debate or discussion about women empowerment and the LGBT presence in India.

One of my favourite quotes is by Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the first woman politician to hold a cabinet post and diplomat, whose brother happened to be the first prime minister of India. She mentioned in a piece in the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (1938): ‘People tell me the modern woman is aggressive. I wonder if this is true. But if it is, she has good reason for it, and her aggression is only the natural outcome of generations of suppression. The first taste of liberty is intoxicating, and for the first time in human history, a woman is experiencing the delights of this intoxication...’ 

This stands true even in today. She wrote this in 1938, we are in 2015 now, and still, the modern woman is fighting... fighting for her rights, fighting for her equal place in society. I realised that be it lesbian or a widow, as Dipali, mentions in the book, women are still identified in relation to a man, or to the lack of one.

It is a story simply told and I hope it will connect with readers around the globe. When I was researching for the book, I talked to people from different cultures and social backgrounds, and realized that there are some issues that affect people no matter where they come from. The struggle with coming out and acceptance is something common for most gay and lesbian people I talked to. But this is a story set in metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Calcutta, this is not a general reflection of Indian women in any way.

And yes, there is a lot about Indian food in the book!

4Q: You have many short stories and poems published in the UK and internationally. How did the idea for your novel begin and when did you decide to write this story. 

SB: The novel started as a dissertation for my Masters in Creative Writing in 2005. I was comfortable with writing short stories, but I wanted to push the boundaries and attempt writing a novel. It was difficult to put a finger on what I should write about. I thought of many complicated plots, historical themes etc but wasn’t confident to write, or rather see it to its end. But the mantra ‘writing what one knows about’ struck a chord as I realised that my experience as a single, working woman in Mumbai and having friendships with like minded women, and men was the best place to start. My experience as an assistant to a well-known fashion photographer also helped me shape the book. Though I have been inspired by some of my experiences to write the book, this book isn’t about me or anyone I know. But I had fun revisiting some old haunts to refresh my memory and reconnecting with old friends.

The book took eight years to write, as in between, I had two children, moved houses and relocated from Cardiff to Plymouth. It then took two years for the book to be accepted by a publisher, and finally it is here in 2015.
 

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote. 

SB: I was born and bred in Mumbai. In the book, I have written about the bomb blasts that ripped through the city in 1993. I was in Art College then, and my friend and I were returning home on a public bus. We had made a plan to have lunch at my place. As I was preparing lunch, we heard a bang, and the crows in the trees shrieked and flew up into the sky. We shrugged it off, thinking someone had started off a firecracker. But it happened again, this time closer to home. The house shook, the window panes rattled, and the smell of gunpowder came through. We weren’t sure what was happening. This was before the days of social media and mobile phones, so news didn’t get around so quickly. Also, the telephone lines went dead, so we couldn’t contact anyone. My parents were at work and my sister in school. Then a family friend came rushing in and told us that bombs were going off in various parts of Mumbai, and two had gone off just couple of hundred yards away from my house. And the scary part was, when we were on that bus, it had stopped at the traffic lights just outside the building that had been bombed fifteen minutes before it had gone off.

My dad returned from work and he rushed to the school where my mum and sister were to escort them home. He had to walk past the bombed sites and told us how the street was covered in shattered glass and debris. He got them home safely. But in the meantime, I was worried sick as we didn’t know when and where the next bomb would go off, and was relieved only after they all got back safely. My friend too had to wait until her father managed to find a way to come to our house and fetch her. Unfortunately, there were many others who did not get back home that day. This day will remain etched in my brain forever.
 

4Q: Spending several years travelling to many parts of the world with your husband must have been an exciting adventure. Can you share some of your experiences? 

SB: I spent time on seven oil tankers over a period of three years. Those years seem surreal to me now. Was I really on board oil tankers, experiencing all sorts of adventures? I think spending time away from the human civilization, seeing nothing but the blue sea and sky for days helped me look inwards and make friends with myself. It also made me appreciate nature as well as understand how human interference can harm nature’s way.

One of the first things that come to mind is how I came across events/ moments without planning for them. For instance, I once looked out of my bedroom porthole when we had anchored out at sea, and just below me was a dolphin that was helping her little one to swim. She held the baby over her snout and pushed it above the water to breathe. Maybe they were just playing. I felt very honoured to be given that opportunity to watch.

Another time, our ship had anchored at Augusta, Sicily. My husband and I stepped out to see the town, and I was intrigued to see the whole town covered in ash. Looking up, I saw Mt Etna belching out smoke. For three days, we stayed anchored in the bay, and I watched a live volcano with lava streaming down the mountainside, once again from my cabin windows. We’ve been tossed about on stormy waters, sailed on glass-like calm seas, kept watch to keep pirates at bay and done the Titanic pose to boredom!

But again, being out at sea without much communication (on that particular ship we didn’t have email contact), we completely missed out on the day 9/11 happened to the rest of the world. On that day, we were treated to best ever display of dolphins and whales that came close to our ship, and it seemed they were performing for us. Hundreds of dolphins leaped and danced against the evening sun, whales spouted showers and swam along the ship, swishing their tails and diving. Flying fish glinted above the water. It was a fully orchestrated show. We didn’t know what was happening elsewhere in the world. That night, the Chief Officer got some news on the radio, but reception wasn’t clear, so though we gauged something had happened, we didn’t know what exactly. We called home and that was when we realized what had happened. But it was only a week after 9/11, when we reached Gibraltar, did we first set eyes on the television replays and newspapers.

On a more cheerful note, there was another very pleasant experience when sailing down the St Lawrence River, Canada. There was a man on the shore who would find out which ship passed by his house and he’d raise the flag of the crew as a hello. (Not sure if he is still there, this was about 12 years ago). As we made our way down the river, my husband told me to go up to the deck and watch the shore. So I did. Suddenly, I saw the Indian flag rise up and the national anthem being played, in the wilderness on the shores of the river in Canada. I’d been away from home for so long, it was as if this man had hugged me personally and welcomed me to his home. It was a wonderful feeling.

 

Thank you Susmita for being our guest this week. Susmita’s novel can be purchased here. Her website is susmita-bhattacharya.blogspot.co.uk/
 

Next week on the Scribbler you will meet a writing team of sisters, Lorraine Campbell and Pam Burks that pen under the name of Ellie Campbell. Read an excerpt from one of their novels.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Guest Author Tim Baker of Flagler Beach, Florida.

The Scribbler is pleased to have Tim Baker as a guest author this week. Tim was recently featured on the 4Q Interview. He is an accomplished author with ten books to his credit. Tim was born and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island. After graduating from The Wentworth Institute of Technology in 1980 he embarked on a career in Architecture and Engineering. Along the way he has also worked in the natural gas industry, construction and ice cream sales. In his spare time he enjoys a wide variety of activities including sports of all kinds, music, motorcycles, scuba diving, and, of course, writing.
An avid dog lover, Tim was a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising and socializing potential guide dogs. Find out more about Tim by clicking his link below.
 

Following is an excerpt from one of his novels.




Eyewitness blues ch 18

 

 

Mercedez tracked the progress of the day by watching the shadows creep their way around the basement.

She fought the need to pee for as long as she could, but inevitably lost the struggle. Two hours later, thanks to the dampness of the basement, her jeans were still wet from her urine. The duct tape on her face and around her wrists combined with the cramps in her legs were an added bonus to the overall misery. Judging by the fading light that made its way through the small window, she decided she had been there for at least eight hours.

When she heard the door open and the footsteps on the floor above, she was oddly comforted, even though she knew she should be afraid. Just to be able to move her arms and legs would be a welcome feeling.

A man’s figure made its way down the stairs. When he emerged from the shadows, she recognized him. Everybody called him Spanky, but she thought his real name was George. Maybe it was his lack of hygiene, or the way his eyes seemed to be looking off in two different directions, she wasn’t sure, but there was something creepy about him.

Creepy or not, at least he wasn’t Lorenzo.

Mercedez knew the next time she saw Lorenzo he would be there to kill her. Spanky wasn’t the guy Don sent on such assignments, he was more of an errand boy. At least she had that working in her favor. Now she just needed to figure out a way to take advantage of it.

The duct tape prevented her from asking the question, but her eyes conveyed it.

“Lorenzo sent me over to check on you,” Spanky said.

As hard as it was to believe, he smelled worse than the basement, and his breath was absolutely toxic even from two feet away.

 He released her and pushed her toward the stairs. When they emerged in the kitchen he pointed toward the bathroom.

“Go ahead,” he said.

“Too late,” she said, indicating her stained crotch.

He shrugged and took a container of milk from the refrigerator. After downing a few gulps he offered it to her. She wanted a drink more than anything, but the thought of sharing the milk with this repulsive man turned her stomach, not to mention the prospect of being left tied up in the basement again with no opportunity to relieve herself later.

Mercedez casually glanced at the front door…and the secured dead bolt. The windows, at least the three she could see, were all closed.

Escape was the only way she would leave this house alive, and this was probably her best, if not only, chance.

Spanky had his back to her while he checked the contents of the refrigerator. She scanned the kitchen for a weapon.

Nothing.

The box-cutter!

She always carried a box-cutter in her purse. Could she get to the other room and get it out fast enough?

Probably not.

Maybe she could overpower him—he wasn’t much bigger than her—then run away. She casually lifted one of the old wooden chairs at the kitchen table. It was heavy enough to put a good hurting on the slender Spanky, then she could make a run for it.

The pain and stiffness in her legs dismissed that plan. Unless she knocked him out cold, or killed him, she wouldn’t be able to run fast enough to escape.

Spanky straightened up and closed the refrigerator.

“If you don’t need the can, I guess it’s time to go back downstairs,” he said.

There was no sympathy in his voice, so appealing to his chivalry wouldn’t work. There was only one card left to play.

Mercedez reached back into the buried parts of her mind and recalled her dancer’s mentality. The ability to disconnect from the situation and ignore the reactions of men wanting a piece of her while she smiled and coaxed them into giving her money they could ill-afford to part with.

It was part of her skill set she had hoped she would never have to rely on again, but…

She flipped the mental switch and slipped her arms around Spanky’s neck.

Before he knew what was happening, she kissed him hard. She felt her stomach clench at the foul taste and fought it with everything she had. She ran her fingers through his greasy hair and grinded her pelvis into his already swollen crotch.

His hands quickly found her ass and Mercedez increased the passion in her kiss and added more pelvic pressure to his crotch. She slid her mouth to his ear and allowed her tongue to dance around it as she feigned heavy breathing.

“Anything you want,” she groaned. “Nobody has to know. You tell them I was gone when you got here.”

His hands released her ass and pushed her away.

“No way,” he said. “No friggin’ way.”

Mercedez moved back in and massaged his groin. “Come on, we can have a good time. We can make it look like I surprised you. They’ll never know.”

She knew it wouldn’t matter to Gammino if she had somehow produced an assault rifle and shot her way out of the house, Spanky would pay with his life anyway. She just prayed that he didn’t know that.

He pushed her away again.

“Stop,” he said, adjusting his crotch. “I’d love to take you around the world, but if you get away on my watch I’m as good as dead.”
Damnit!

“No. We can...”

“Be quiet. There ain’t no we. We ain’t doin’ nothin’. You’re going back downstairs and I’m going back to tell Lorenzo you’re still here. Done deal. Now let’s go.”

He extended his arm toward the basement door.

Mercedez went for one more stall.

“I guess I should go to the bathroom after all,” she said.

“Hurry it up.”

The windowless bathroom offered no chance of escape. She searched for some kind of weapon. With the exception of a sliver of soap on the rust-stained sink and half-a-roll of toilet paper, the bathroom was empty.

She reached for the doorknob, but stopped short. She spun around and pried the dried soap from the back of the sink. 

Obviously Spanky wasn’t leaving.

The television in the front room was on.

She started working her wrists. The soap had definitely helped prevent the duct tape from bonding to her skin completely and after several minutes she was able to slip free of the tape. She removed the tape from her ankles and finally the piece covering her mouth.

She stretched her arms and legs as she took inventory of the options.


The basement windows were too small and too high to allow her to get out through one. There was a workbench along one of the basement walls.  At one end of the bench were several old cans of paint. As quietly as she could she searched the bench for a weapon—a hammer would be ideal. The only items she found that could serve as weapons were a screwdriver and a rusty old bow-saw, the kind used for trimming tree branches, neither of which gave her any kind of tactical advantage. She would have to get too close to Spanky to use them, which would result in a skirmish that she would probably lose.

She looked at the stairs and remembered the noise they made when used and knew her chances of sneaking upstairs undetected were not promising—and even if she were successful in making it to the top of the stairs, was the basement door unlocked?

Even if she got out of the basement she would still face the problem of overpowering Spanky, unless she could slip out a back door or window undetected.

The odds were not in her favor. She needed a better plan.

Something Gammino had once said came back to her…The reason I am where I am is because I learned to turn my disadvantages into advantages.

Right now her biggest disadvantage was being trapped in the basement.

And just like that the pieces fell into place. 

Spanky flipped through the channels and stopped on an episode of Man vs. Food. The host was in New York City eating hot dogs. Just as it was getting interesting he heard a loud noise from the basement, like somebody had knocked over a bunch of cans.
“What the fuck?” he muttered.
 
Peering down the stairs into darkness he called out.

“Yo, what’s going on down there?”

No response.

He flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. He flipped it back and forth several times with the same result. He took a zippo from his pocket and lit it. Holding it in front of him he moved down the stairs. About halfway down his foot slipped in a thick liquid.

“What the…”

He tried to maintain his balance, but his other foot slipped as well. Before he could stop himself he had tumbled to the bottom of the stairs and landed in a heap against the concrete wall. He didn’t have to try to stand to know that his ankle was twisted badly and maybe even broken.
 
“Jesus…” He ran his hand over his body, feeling a thick, wet, slimy substance, which, in the limited light, he assumed was his own blood.

The sudden movement to the right caught his attention and in the blink of an eye he knew he was in deep trouble. 

Mercedez watched from the shadows as Spanky slipped on the paint-covered steps and tumbled to the bottom. She sprang from her hiding place and emptied the contents of another can of paint on his face. When he was sufficiently blinded she took a third gallon and slammed it across his head repeatedly until he stopped trying to get up.
She dragged him across the floor and duct-taped him to the same column she had been tied to.

Spanky moaned several times, but offered no resistance. When the roll of tape was empty she was satisfied he would not be able to squirm out the way she had. For good measure she kicked him as hard as she could in the groin. His body went limp.
 
Mercedez stood over him for several seconds to make sure he was out.

Satisfied he wouldn’t be a threat, she carefully climbed the slick steps and locked the basement door behind her.

She found the keys to the van on the kitchen counter, and retrieved her purse. She locked the house behind her before driving away.

 
 
Thank you Tim for sharing part of your story. Get the novel here  Read more about Tim on his website .


Next week on the Scribbler the 4Q Interview will host Susmita Bhattacharya of Cardiff, Wales when she answers 4 questions regarding her latest novel. Susmita has been featured as a guest author on the Scribbler previously. A very talented writer.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Teasers from SHORTS Vol.2 by Allan Hudson

Who doesn't love children? I have three fantastic grandkids. My collections of short stories is for them. Vol.1 is for the oldest, Matthieu. Vol. 2 is dedicated to the only girl, Natasha. Vol. 3 will be out shortly and dedicated to the youngest, Damien. I could never put the joy these three amigos bring me into words but I can leave them a legacy.

These excerpts are a taste of what you can expect in Vol 2. Links where the eBook can be purchased is below.




                                                 SHORTS Vol. 2



I was going through the storage area in our garage one day and had to dig through four boxes of mementoes I'd been hanging on to for years, items that linked the happy moments in my past. I wondered what it would be like if I had to move and I couldn't bring them with me.




1. Four Boxes of Memories.


Lloyd Minister settled frumpily into his new chair. He drained his busy head of the day’s events resting his foggy colored mane gently on the plush leather. He drew in a huge breath through his nose, the aroma of the tanned hide of his cushioned throne, rich and pleasing.  He pulled the handle on the chair side and a footrest responded like a storm trooper lifting his fatigued legs. On his lap, wrapped in several elastics were a cluster of envelopes that he had kept for many years, nothing special really, the result of a boyish hobby he started over 80 years ago. There wasn’t any room in one of the boxes for it but he couldn’t let them go, it would be losing his own sense of something unique, silly to anyone but him.


He shut his tired and elderly eyes, once a deep brown, now faded of old age. His wrinkled face was wide and square shaped by nature, cheap cigars and the rough seas that blasted winds and water upon his being as he fished the Atlantic Ocean from the time he was a bewildered boy alongside his father. His prodigious hands rested on the arms of the chair, the fingers splayed, they looked like baby squids.  His husky torso was clad in his favourite blue and white plaid shirt that stuck outside of a pair of dark blue Dockers. He was wearing his Dora slippers his four year old granddaughter insisted her Daddy buy for “Gampy”.

He opened his eyes and they were about level with the two little girl explorers on his feet. Like many times before when he laughed at them, he remembered the delight when he wore them for the first time, tiny Gracie danced about overcome with little girl glee, clapping her hands and making him dance in his new slippers, she had a pair the same and he remembered the jolly fun. He laughed now with hearty guffaws until his tummy hurt. He caught a couple of laughing tears with his chunky forefinger.

As his vision cleared he looked around his new home. He had a large bedsitting room, his own washroom, ample fine furniture, a few antiques from his own ancestors and a closet full of good clothes. The walls were bare of course and bore a hellish pink. He had told his son Eugene changing the color would be their first task otherwise he wouldn’t live here. Before Eugene left earlier he assured his old man that they would go shopping tomorrow.

“Don’t worry Dad, we’ll go up to Livingston’s Hardware in the morning and find something with a little less passion, something with some hair on its chest, to make sure people don’t think you’re an old funny guy  with pink walls.”
He smiled thinking of his boy, wrinkles doubled around his eyes.  It was a good thought, safe and cared about. His brief interlude was disrupted as he focused on the four boxes by the front door. They were simple Banker’s boxes, bought flat, resurrected at your office type. They stood in a straight line in front of the closet, decked out with square brown lids. The significant red numbers on the top of each, from 1 to 4, made them look like toy blocks for an adult. In reality it held the most precious items, the bullion of his life. The contents were the dearest of everything he owned. They were his boxes of memories.



The second story was inspired by one of my relatives. A gentleman that helped shaped his own granddaughter's life. When she wanted to get married, she asked him a very important question.


2. Reaching the Pinnacle

Jeb Davis is almost out of breath. The last half a kilometer of hiking up the mountain has been at a 25-degree angle. And it’s starting to get steeper. Mount Carleton in northern New Brunswick is not for cream puffs. He stops where the trail evens out for a meter or so near the exposed root of an enormous birch tree that has to be as old as his great grandparents if they were still alive. The bark on top of the root is rubbed away from countless soles. With one hand on the trunk, he stoops over to catch his breath. He adjusts his backpack with his other hand, hefting it a bit higher, and looks up the trail to check on his granddaughter. Thirty meters farther up, she is going full steam. He chuckles. It has always been so. Mindy Kane does everything at full throttle.

She doesn’t know he’s not behind her and she’s still talking. He can’t discern what she’s saying, but her voice comes back to him like vapor through the trees, a rhythm that’s part of the forest. A chorus of black-capped chickadees with their two note song provides a natural harmony. Breathing deeply he inhales the scent of damp, dying leaves that only autumn can bring. He watches her as she hikes under yet another huge birch tree with a canopy of mighty limbs. Yellow and lime-colored leaves cling to more than half the outstretched arms. The stream of early morning light passes through the half-naked limbs, dappling her lithesome body and bulky pack. She must’ve asked a question and realized something wasn’t right when silence ensued. She stops and looks back. Jeb can see the teasing twinkle in her eyes even from this far. She yells out, “Whatsa matter, old-timer? Can’t hack it anymore?”
He’s smiling when he scolds her.
“Watch your mouth young lady. Respect your elders. Listen, Mindy, you said breaks every thirty minutes. We’ve been chugging up this ruddy hill for almost…”
Standing upright, he checks his watch.
“…forty five minutes. Now get down here and give your Gramps a break.”
 
 
The third story was inspired by three friends
 that liked to get away on camping trips.
 Grown men that acted like boys when they
 were on their own. Trouble always seems to
 follow them.
 
3. Pioneers in a Hurry.

 

It feels lonely where I’m standing even though more than a hundred people are about me, divided and aligned by wooden pews. The church is cavernous absorbing the low buzz of sympathy and disbelief that whispers from the crowd of mourners. I can’t take my eyes from the decorative urn that holds only ashes. The burnished wood gleams; the hockey player etched upon the front reminds me of Robbie, the man that was my friend. The tiny tomb blurs in my vision, memories burst in my head like someone threw a deck of them in the air and you try desperately to see them all. I search for the one that sparkles, of the time him and me and our brother-in-law became boys again, pretending we were pioneers of a sort. It was a defining moment in our lives.

We were all crowding fifty. Robert was the oldest, we called him Robbie and he knew everything, man was a walking newspaper. He was average height, average build but there was nothing average about the confidence his blue eyes expressed. He and I were friends before but by the time the weekend was over we became great friends. Our mutual buddy Nicholas, a slender and kindly man, was also our brother-in-law as we all married sisters; he centered the veneer of our friendship. He was the youngest, certainly one of the smartest. He usually always has the best pot east of Vancouver. He’s the type of guy you always want to hang with, the ones that keep you laughing. We called him Nick. My name is Randolph. I prefer Randy.

We were loading the boat at the marina; it was about 7:30 am on a Saturday, the first week of November. The sun was hidden behind low eastern clouds. The rest of the sky was empty, topaz blue. We joked about our good fortune with the sun about to burst out on our first camping trip together; we had vowed to go rain or shine. I was walking back from parking my truck listening to Nick tell Robby about the time he and I had went winter camping. Every time Nick told it the weather was much worse and quite a bit colder.

The three of us were soon in the boat, Robby and I sharing the middle seat of an eighteen foot dory. Facing the stern of the boat we could watch Nick as he guided us out of the bay towards the nearest shore of the long slender Island about a kilometer away, our adventure destination. Sailing under an aging wooden bridge, Nick steered it through the rippling waters following the starboard shore. Giving the throttle a slight turn lifting us and the bow, he reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing two similar packets of twisted aluminum foil the size of a twelve year olds fist. He gestured for us to each take one. He shouted out over the engine noise,
“It’s not too early to get high.”
 
 
The fourth story is about a detective named
Josephine Naylor. Her friends call her Jo. In
SHORTS Vol.1 she made the most startling
discovery of who was killing the young girls in
her city. This story continues the saga of Jo
Naylor.
 
4. Near Dead.
The wire slowly tightens around her slim neck. With both hands Detective Josephine Naylor desperately claws at the thin cord as it begins to dig deeper into the soft skin of her throat. Her breaths come and go rapidly in short wheezing gasps. In a few seconds she knows she won’t be able to breathe at all.  Fear clutches her every sense as she feels the taut wire break her skin. Her hands reach back to claw at her assailant’s brawny, hard muscled forearms as thick as a block a of wood. She rakes her nails along the leathery skin to no avail. The twisting of the wire stops, just before it cuts through the esophagus. The deepest, scariest voice whispers,
“You Bitch, you arrested your own father.”
Jo Naylor freezes, wanting to choke, barely able to draw breathe. The pitch of the whisper changes to anger, more of a hiss.
 “Now I’ll never be able to kill him.”
She tears at her throat, kicks out one leg connecting with something solid that reacts like stone. She is slowly being lifted off her feet by only the wire. Standing on tippy toes reaching for the hands that hold the wire, she sees death. 
It’s night time. The grisly scene is set in the bluish glow of a full moon. The tall, broad shouldered man holding Josephine’s life in his meaty mitts never saw the shovel coming. It’s a round mouth, curved on the edges, caked with a little brown mud where it joins the wooden handle which is about four feet long. On the opposite end, Jo Naylor’s partner, Adam Thorne, is swinging with his whole body. The flat part of the shovel connects with the side of the big man’s head. It would’ve floored most men but the giant only staggers. His hands let’s go of the garrotte. Jo falls to the ground, gasping in short rapid pants, hands protecting her throat.  Thorne turns to face the snarling man, ready to swing again.
 Pawing at his broken face, the man is reeling from the blow. His bluish presence sways momentarily in front of Thorne. Adam chucks the shovel to the ground reaching for his gun. The assailant stiffens as if sensing his own danger, he moves automatically and unbelievably fast for someone so large. His huge fist is aimed towards the threat, he can only see with one eye. He connects with Adam’s chest driving the air from his lungs, the gun flying into the air. The powerful blow propels the detective’s body backwards ten feet and to the ground almost landing on Jo. The man runs.
 
 
The fifth and final story is my fascination with
the 1800's in the American west and the
settlers that travelled the frontier. My family
has every thing they own packed into a
wagon, even the kids.
 
5. Six Jutlands and a Conestoga
The six Jutland draft horses strain as they pull the Verhoeven family over the last rise of their 1,200 mile journey. Bram Verhoeven walks beside the team, just ahead of the heavy wagon, using the long leather reins to guide the lead horse, front left. The tireless leader, Hercules, with his mate on the right, the grand dame, Ellen – named after President Arthur’s wife – guides the team of sturdy horses. Both are fifteen hands high, large quartered, relentless workers. The hill they are climbing has long grass swaying in the wind that urges them on. The lowering sun is partially hidden behind the crest, casting bright rays.
The groomed heads of first Ellen then Hercules break out of the long shadows into the golden waves of the western sun. Small sharp ears, thick beige manes with loose strands turn bright yellow. Their chestnut fur turns redder still as the animals walk into the sunlight, exposing the short neck, the muscled shoulders, the wide withers and the strong back of these willing animals. Bram watches the horses as they rise, pair by pair, into the brilliance. His dusty face splits with a smile of pure joy. Time almost slows down in his anticipation of the view his family is about to encounter. He’s seen it before. He owns it now.
Wiping the sweat from his brow with his right forearm, he looks back at his wife, Lena, who is standing up inside the front of the Conestoga, awaiting the horizon he has talked about for the last two years. Her right hand is raised above her head as she grasps the outer rib that holds the coarse hand-woven fabric of the wagon’s bonnet. Veronica, the youngest, is beside her, wrapped in Lena’s left arm. Her head, which rests upon her mother’s stomach, is covered with the same dark red curls; her face, with the same orange-ish freckles and the same mischievous eyes he has. Sheila, the oldest girl, leans on the front board, a smaller version of Bram’s wife, with a thin pretty face, straight brown hair tied up in a bun, eyes that study everything and a smile that artists search for. They all catch his movement and wave at him.
His oldest, Jonas, rides their quarter horse, Fancy, bringing up the rear, towing their Jersey, Cinderella. Aron, who is ten years old today, is a year younger then Sheila, two years younger than his brother and two years older than Veronica. He is perched on the lazy board on the left side of the wagon. He braces himself by hanging on to the ropes that hold the water barrel. His father had promised him they would make it by his birthday. Looking at his Pap, he waves a free hand when he sees him looking back.
“Happy birthday, Aron.”
 
Thanks for visiting the Scribbler today. If you
like what you read, you can purchase
SHORTS Vol.2 as an eBook  here.
 
Watch next week when the Scribbler has
Guest Author Tim Baker of Flagler Beach
Florida and you can read an excerpt from his
novel, Eyewitness Blues. Tim is a talented
writer and you will definitely like his
protagonist, Ike.
 


 

 



Friday, 8 May 2015

Guest Author Lisette Lombard. An excerpt from EBO.

Lisette is a native of Monterrey, Mexico. EBO is her first novel and is a YA paranormal romance. It's an exciting story about vampires and love. Lisette is published by Morning Rain Publishing of Ontario, Canada. She is their first international author. The link to Lisette's website is below. Following is an excerpt from her novel.






I impatiently awaited nightfall. Just an hour or so of sun left before it would all be over. It appeared endless and pointless to me. As the chief had promised, the whole village dressed in dark; singing and dancing to joyous tunes as laughter filled the air. Clay pots, filled with food to the brim, covered the tables set along the main courtyard. People from nearby villages had arrived too. Some observed as I walked amongst the Ashanti, others did not notice, yet no one approached or made mention of me.

Josephine came and went from my side, the small mutt always at her heels. Not once did she laugh. Her feet did not dance to the merry rhythm of the instruments played by skilled musicians. She did not cry, either, yet her eyes told me the whole story. Every time those bright green eyes looked into mine, another piece of my heart was chiselled away.

Never did my eyes leave her. My gaze followed her throughout the day, trying to decipher what she might be thinking. She never spoke, but observed all that happened with the curiosity all children her age must have.

Everyone approached Josephine with gifts. She was presented with beautiful necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets made from an assortment of materials: leather, beads, elephant hair, and ivory. Elaborate dresses made by the women, embroidered with beautiful detail. Every time someone handed her a gift, she would look up and nod her head in appreciation, wearing a polite and faint smile on her face.

More than once I recognized a shadow of concern on the cheerful faces of the gift bearers. Josephine’s eyes conveyed the sadness she felt in her heart, but all were surprised by the mature way with which she conducted herself. Such restraint and poise were not normal in one so young. After receiving the offering, she would observe it quietly, turning it this way and that in her little hands and then pass it over to me for safekeeping. After the first dozen or so gifts, I had to turn to Ekuwa for help. She, in turn, stowed them away in Josey’s hut to be packed that night for her travels home.

The chief watched over the whole ceremony. Alert, and always informed of my whereabouts, he tried to anticipate any trouble I might cause. Twice I was asked to his side, and I understood he was assessing my mood, just in case I decided to end the whole ordeal, or maybe snatch the girl and disappear.

Without a clear idea of what weapons or pleas he thought he could use to stop me, at times I was amused, and at others awed by the man’s courage. He must have known in his heart that I would behave – for Josephine.

As dusk approached, the chief walked over to where Josephine and I sat watching dancers move to complicated tunes the musicians played. Taking a seat next to us, he spoke, “Josephine, I know you are in pain. There is not much I can say, or do, to make your heart heal faster, but it will heal. I promise you this: you will always have a home with the Ashanti. Your hut will always stand ready for your return, be it for a visit, or permanently. All Ashanti generations to come will know of your existence and receive you as a sister. You will be reminded of this from time to time, so your young memory will not forget as you grow. Part of you is Ashanti now.”

Unfolding a cloth, the chief revealed two bracelets. Each consisted of a single solid band of gold, about half an inch wide, and each had two solitary diamonds embedded on top. They were simple, yet beautiful. There was something about the bracelets that made me want to touch them, but I held back as he handed them to the child.

Josey looked at them with curious eyes. She tentatively touched the diamonds and turned those wide emerald eyes on the chief, then on me. A tear formed, but it did not spill as she placed her arms around the chief’s neck, hugging him tenderly. Then she straightened and extended her arm for him to secure a bracelet on her wrist while she took the second one with her free hand.


Once he had adjusted the bracelet, she turned and with sure fingers placed the second bracelet on my wrist. I was surprised, but it somehow felt right. Looking into my eyes, she held my gaze with such intensity that I felt the world spin around me – and she was gone, running, brown hair fanning behind her shoulders, to show Ekuwa her new prized possession.

“What is this?” I asked the chief as he sighed, his eyes following Josephine. “She has been presented with numerous gifts today, many are beautiful and colourful, yet she has only shown real appeal for this one. She is too young to know the difference between gold and other materials. Why is this so special to her?”

“There is something unique about this child,” he answered. “She knows this is meant just as she interpreted. The bracelets are meant for both of you to wear. I confess to also using them as a test. I have watched her carefully since you arrived, more so since her parents died. Her reaction assures me she is more than we see, and the connection you feel is just as strong for her. The bracelets will keep your connection no matter how far you are from each other; although in your case I doubt any charm or magic is needed to ensure that.”

“Thank you.” I was touched by the gesture. What was it with these people? If I had only known that night – standing at the edge of the village not long ago – how my essence was to change, I probably would have walked away. So many human feelings, forgotten over a century, now so raw on my skin, in my mind and heart. Yes, if I had only known... now it was too late.

The sun set over the horizon, and just as suddenly the music stopped. Josephine was heading toward me at that moment. Lowering her precious auburn head, she stopped to think for a minute before taking my hand. Tugging lightly, she led me to her parents’ bodies, which lay on a platform to one side of the courtyard. Flowers surrounded them, beautiful bright flowers of all colours and sizes. Sweet incense burned all around them. Just sleeping, I thought. I hope she remembers them as sleeping.

“Ebo.” Her voice was clear as stream water, the first word she had spoken all day. I almost fell to my knees with pain. “They are gone, Ebo.”

This time I did fall, pulling her tight against my chest as I knelt on Africa’s red earth. Tears finally came. She held on to me as her body heaved with uncontrollable sobs. Not the wailing I have heard other children make, just deep, heart wrenching sobs.

Everyone in the village watched. They were not allowed to cry, but I sensed the sorrow pass from corner to corner of the village as sure as wild fire on dry brush.

The minutes were patient as I knelt with her in my arms. Eventually her breathing evened, and her sighs came at longer intervals. She raised her head from my chest and looked into my eyes again. I found it unbearable, for it was I who had brought her such sorrow. There was no reproach in her gaze – still too young to understand that because of me, Mulos had wrenched from her what she loved most.

“I know,” I told her tenderly. “I am forever sorry, my love.”

As I stood, ashamed of myself, she beckoned me to carry her, stretching her little arms to me. I carried her back to her hut. Ekuwa followed closely, but my stare was enough of a warning for her to let us continue alone.

Lost in thought as we advanced, I startled as Josephine’s body stiffened in my arms. “Josey?” Then the scent hit me. Hissing, I swung the child across my back and crouched low to the ground in one flowing motion as she instinctively held on with all her might. Every muscle in my body tense, I concentrated
on where the danger was coming from. I had been too distracted, absorbed in her sorrow, to sense his arrival. I should have anticipated – been ready for him.

“Ebo. The monster is back,” she whispered in my ear.

How had she known so soon? Had she seen him? Scanning the land, I tasted every scent, vigilant for movement or sound. He was alone, disguised as... what was it? Where was he?

Sensing the chief, I turned to find fear, anger, and a million questions alive in his eyes. I nodded, confirming danger was amidst us, and continued scanning my surroundings. By now everyone was still. The soft rustle of leaves could be heard, every night sound amplified by the villagers’ silence.

The chief raised his arm and lowered it slowly. Huddling in groups, all women and children crouched low to the ground, with the young ones in the centre. The men stood tall and strong, alert.

“Josey, do not let go unless I tell you,” I growled. My voice ran a shiver through her body, but still she held me tight.

Close by, Ekuwa longed to take the child. I motioned for her to stay still, unable to decipher where Mulos was hiding. The scent moved too quickly. North, south, northeast.

“Damn,” I hissed. “Mulos! Show yourself!”
 
 
 
EBO is no doubt a story worth reading. Thank you Lisette for sharing an excerpt from your novel. This is the link to Lisette's website where you can learn more. http://llombard.weebly.com/
 
 
Please drop by the Scribbler next week and read teasers from the five short stories featured in my second collection. SHORTS Vol.2