It was the night before Christmas and all through the house…
No, that’s not how it was at all. It was noisy, too noisy and very far from quiet, what with every house in the neighbourhood setting off fireworks. And the telly was on too, with Ant and Dec doing their Secret Santa, tears and gifts at Christmas shmultz.
The neighbours were having a party and I was sure they would cause a power failure with their god-awful lights all over their house blinking and flashing in time to ‘Rockin’ around The Christmas Tree’. Cars had been pulling up with hooting horns all evening to disgorge or collect passengers in various states of inebriation.
For that year’s festivities I was at my son’s. He was on the phone having a row with his ex-wife about the holiday arrangements for their five year old son, my grandson, Ben. She had changed her mind and wanted Ben to be with her and her parents. Honestly, families? At that point, I wished I’d stayed at home.
My son’s girlfriend sat in the corner, with a face like thunder and I knew as soon as the first row had ended another would start with her.
I poured myself a whiskey and soda, which earned me a warning look from my son who thought I drank too much anyway.
The doorbell rang, ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ in electronic monotone. The girlfriend, Pamela, answered as I held Ben by the hand and the singers began their carol. She closed the door on them before they were halfway through the first verse of ‘Joy To The World’.
“What did you do that for?” I asked.
“I don’t have time for carollers,” she said.
“But, it’s for charity.”
“Not my problem. I’ve got Christmas dinner to get ready and John clearly prefers chatting with his ex,” she said, returning to her sulk and her phone. My grandson sat on the floor and picked up his tablet to continue watching cartoons.
I still don’t understand the younger generations. Didn’t they know anything? I may be an old grump, but anyone stupid enough to be out on a night like that, for a good cause, deserved a little appreciation.
I went to the door and saw the group of singers outside another house along the street. Snow was falling, and I only had house slippers on my feet, so I wanted to be quick.
I interrupted the end of ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’ to put five pounds in the collection bucket. Time slowed as I looked in to the face of the woman holding the collection bucket. I recognised the deep, dark eyes and there was a smell of orange and jasmine that brought back the memory of youth and laughter.
“The girl at number ‘42’ should have given you something, I’m sorry,” was what I meant to say, but instead I said, “Didn’t you used to be Carole Hartnoll from Saint Mary’s High School?” and she said, “Yes, yes I did. And I think you’re Paul Browne. After all these years. Why don’t you stay for a bit, sing a carol or two?” I said I wasn’t really dressed for the event but invited her over for a drink after they had finished.
The whole choir arrived an hour later.
We ran out of booze and John had to go to the supermarket for more. Not a task I envied.
The choir conductor, a cook from the local primary school, helped Pamela with food preparations. A lot of fuss was made of my grandson. Songs were sung, and friends were made. Memories were awoken, and arguments forgotten.
It was a brilliant Christmas. The love that blossomed in my heart for Carole was the best present anyone could hope for.
We had five wonderful years together, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
I finished reading Fireburst a little while ago and now have the arduous task of picking my three favourite stories.
Once again, Grant Hudson of Clarendon House has assembled another fine collection.
I joked to some friends on FB that I’d shortlisted about sixty stories for best in book. The quality is that good and at the risk of sounding self-effacing, it’s a wonder my experimental piece was even considered, let alone selected to appear inside.
The very first story by AK Hata, The Girl Who Glowed is a powerful retelling of actual historical events, and one girl’s fight against deadly working conditions. It’s an outright winner, and a blisteringly good start to the collection. One of my votes for best in book.
And don’t think Grant put all the good stuff at the front. Keep reading to the end before moving on to something else. A real gem sits two or three stories from the end from Brandy Bonifas. The Clock Struck Twelve is haunting storytelling based on real life dangers – utterly brilliant. This is also one of my top three.
I have yet to choose my third favourite, it could be
Date Night by Rich Rurshell
Be Nice To Georgie by RLM Cooper
Not Being Me by Gary Bonn
A Dream Life by Lael Brady
Veterans We Two by Jan McCulloch
Seriously, it’s seems unfair to ask is to choose only three when the talent is so amazing.
If you haven’t read Fireburst yet, then try before the deadline for votes on December 24th.
I’ve just finished the current issue of Dastaan World Magazine, entitled ‘Evolution’ and it’s a corker.
In keeping with the title of the current chapter, the Dastaan World website has had an upgrade, with lots panels that slide and flip, both in and up, and other fancy stuff too. Please forgive my overzealous use of technical jargon.
The magazine does not disappoint, in fact it’s a hit. Some highlights follow, although there’s more to it than these excellent stories.
‘The Obelisk’ by Patt O’Neill is worth reading several times. Patt has written a light hearted short that makes you ask the question, What are the politicians really hiding? With each reading a new aspect to the story will present itself to you.
Bruce Rowe’s ‘Deliverance at The Crossroads’ is an excellent and engaging morality tale, that explores one of the great music myths.
Aditya Deshmukh kicks off his residency as master of the drabble with two excellent pieces – ‘Sunlight’ and ‘Madness’. I will look forward to reading more of his work in forthcoming chapters.
And as usual everything is accompanied by great artwork and photography.
Dastaan World Magazine is a new FREE ezine edited by Umair Mirxa.
It has a high-end feel which is beautifully presented with inspiring graphics and artwork. Four issues have been produced so far, and you can see the quality improving with each monthly release. These chaps have a long future ahead of them.
The simple premise behind the magazine is to showcase talent from all areas of art and culture.
The magazine is packed with interesting photography. Has lists and articles about music and films. It also features poetry and fiction, for which artists design interesting accompanying images.
The latest edition included a short piece of flash I wrote called ‘A Bullet for The Horse’ and I was honoured to have a beautiful image, created by Hazan Kazim, to go along with it.
Also appearing is an atmospheric mystery thriller, ‘The Wager’ by Mehreen Ahmed, and poems by Kelly Rivera and Shawn Klemik. (Shawn’s poem is possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever read.) And not forgetting an interesting interview with Grant Hudson of Clarendon House Publishing – if you haven’t heard of him, check out the website http://www.clarendonhousebooks.com
“We wish to record history while it’s being made, and yet with a different global narrative. For there is simply too much talk of war and death, hate and crime, politics and corruption. We talk instead about literature, art, music, film and theatre, sports, and everything else under the sun that is creative, productive, and beautiful.
Dastaan World is a community for writers and poets, artists and musicians. For foodies and travellers and photographers. For singers and actors, performers of all sorts. For readers, movie buffs, and bingers of every show ever made for television. It is a hive for collaboration among creative people. It is the place to meet, work together with, learn from, and maybe even teach, like-minded individuals from a variety of different fields and industries. It is a salon for literary and creative debates late into the night, and for the sharing of ideas, language, and culture with people from all over the world.”
Recently I was challenged by my Facebook friend, Jan McCulloch, to list seven books that were particularly important to me. The deal was to post one book cover per day and nominate someone else on take up the challenge. But it was meant to be without comment, so here is my list and why each book is important to me.
Day 1 - And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
This is in my list because it was the first book by Christie that I read.
Day 2 - A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
This was the first book I read that didn't involve spaceships, time travel, hobbit's, murder, demon cars, dragons or mutant rats. But it is brilliant.
Day 3 - Death in a White Tie by Ngiao Marsh
Murder in 1930's high society - need I say more?
Day 4 - The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The fact of the matter is that if this book hadn't been written, I would never have met my wife to be. You see, my wife played the part of Martha in the BBC adaptation from the 1970's, and it set her on a life course which eventually led to our meeting.
Day 5 - Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
A staggeringly good book from two of the most talented storytellers.
Day 6 - Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham
When I first read this as a teenager I knew I wanted to write, and I wanted to write something as gripping as this - superb.
Day 7 - Heavy Weather by P.G Wodehouse
No one writes quite like P.G Wodehouse writes, and no one writes comedy as well or as insightfully as this great man. Pure genius.
Since I started writing just over a year ago, I have had two stories and a poem accepted for publication in Clarendon House anthologies.
Vortex - Sins of The Father.
Cadence - Run or Hide.
Fireburst - Gods and Owls.
Much of my writing time recently has been taken up with preparing a collection of stories for Clarendon House Publications which I'm tentatively calling 'Deben Market'. The project is currently sitting at about 55,000 words and is about half finished, with twenty stories fleshed out and beginning to take shape.
A 10,000 word murder mystery set in 1930's London has also been submitted to Clarendon House for the Enigma anthology, and also I'm waiting to hear if a little romance will be accepted for their Rapture anthology.
I'm really excited to hear what Grant Hudson, the editor of Clarendon House, thinks of my submission for the Showcase anthology called 'The Old Ways'.
'Serve Cold' has been accepted by Zombie Pirate Publishing for inclusion in their Flash Fiction Addiction anthology. The publication date has yet to be announced.
The mighty and prolific Steven Carr challenged (challenged is too strong a word, encouraged is more fitting), encouraged me to write a western. So I did, it's called 'A Bullet for The Horse' and has been submitted to Typehouse Literary Magazine. I wait with baited breathe.
A sad tale of an immigrant woman is being read by Crannog Magazine - I should hear if it's good enough soon.
And a 1,500 word horror story is looking for a home after not making the grade in a writing contest.