Seven and a Half

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“And what is your name, little one?” I was sitting in Audrey’s family room which wasn’t huge and looked a lot like it did the last time I was in it when the McKilntocks still lived here. Audrey had not made many changes to this fully furnished rental. Most women would have added and removed, but not Audrey.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon that reminded me of my childhood.

“My name’s Betty, and I’m seven and a half,” said Audrey’s daughter, still dressed in her local private school uniform — two sizes too big for her. “She’ll grow into it, and I won’t have to deal with the Mother’s group again anytime soon.”

“Your age was going to be my next question, but you beat me to it,” I said with a friendly smile. Betty smiled back — she got the joke. It is always easier to get to know a child if they appreciate your sense of humour.

Betty had been trying to read a book when I interrupted her. She was amazingly gracious for a seven and a half-year-old.

“Is that something you have to read for school, or is it for pleasure?” I asked.

“It’s for school, but I don’t mind. I like learning big words,” said Betty.

“I’ll bet you do — with those bright eyes. I’ll bet you know heaps of big words,” I said.

“Not heaps,” she corrected me, “but quite a few.”

“Do you have a favourite word?” I asked. Children like absolutes — biggest, highest, loudest, nastiest.

“It changes from day to day,” — good answer — “but today I would say that vegetarian is my favourite. Yesterday it was princess and tomorrow I think it is going to be imagination.”

“Those are all excellent words,” I said with conviction.

While our conversation was continuing, Audrey was in the kitchen with only the island bench separating us. The kettle had boiled, and freshly brewed coffee was appearing. Audrey had not asked if I wanted brewed or instant and I found that interesting. The coffee appeared on an enormous antique silver tray. The cups did not match, but they were both exquisite examples of nineteenth-century pottery making — all English in origin and were showing their age. The sugar bowl was the prettiest, and the coffee pot held just enough for four cups. The silver spoons were solid silver and also did not match. Audrey had enough taste to know that having everything look alike was not always the best way to show that you appreciate beautiful things.

“My compliments on your taste Audrey. These are lovely pieces, and I’ll bet there is a story behind each one of them,” I said as the coffee was being poured into my cup.

“Thank you. Most of these pieces come from my grandmother. She died when I was still young, and I barely remember her, but she insisted that these pieces of china be held for me,” said Audrey.

“I discovered a lot about my grandmother after my mother died. I found her diaries in an old box in my mother’s attic. I sat there and read until the light went out of the sky,” I said.

“Were they interesting?” asked Audrey.

“More than you can possibly imagine. She was an amazing lady — a war hero and much, much more. She has been an enormous inspiration to me,” I said when I remembered that I was supposed to be getting her to talk and not telling her my life story.

“I wish my grandmother had left some diaries. I would love to know a bit more about her life. My mother is wonderful, but she is not a good storyteller. I think her mother was hard on her. I don’t think they had a close relationship.”

While we were talking, Betty had taken herself and her oversized school uniform into her room which came off the family room. She left the door open, and I wondered how many more years would go by before the door would be firmly shut to keep the adult world at bay.

“When my boys were Betty’s age, they slept with the light on and the door open. Is Betty the same?” I asked. This was no idle coffee time conversation on my part. An idea had been forming in my head since my meeting with Barry.

“She has a princess nightlight, and her door always stays open. I guess all kids go through that phase,” said Audrey.

And there it was.

The opening I had been hoping for.

We talked about the usual family things for a while, and I guess I was impatient — I wanted to take a fully formed idea back to Barry, so I took a chance.

“My husband has this routine when he gets home from work. I leave him alone for a bit then I sit and listen while he tells me about his day. I’ve never met most of his work colleagues, but from his nightly debriefing sessions I feel like I could pick them out of a line-up,” I said, and Audrey smiled politely. She hesitated for a moment, and I considered whether I should have spent more time gaining her confidence before heading down this road — the wait was agonising.

“Basil’s job is very demanding,” she said followed by another long silence — I resisted the urge to fill it.

“His work is very important — he’s very important. That’s why the company is picking up the bill for the rent on this house as well as paying all our moving expenses and Betty’s school fees. Your friends, the McKlintocks were a bit greedy about the rent, but the company didn’t quibble. They need him to be close to his laboratory — I guess our needs come second.”

Another long silence.

“He isn’t supposed to talk about his work, but he does. He talks to me. I don’t understand a lot of it, but it makes him feel better to talk out loud about it. I worry about his health. He’s under a lot of pressure.” She looked panicked, as though she ought not to have said anything, but she too needed to unburden herself to someone, and I got the feeling that her mother was not the sort of person who you could unburden to.

And there is was.

The second and most important part of the sting.

Barry was likely to burst a blood vessel.

Dead before Christmas

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When I opened my eyes, there were a bunch of people standing around me silently waiting for me to say something.

“What the bloody hell do you lot want?” I said.

“Tell us what is going to happen,” said a slightly scruffy older lady.

“You knew about the truck driver,” said a tall man in workman’s clothes.

“I’ll tell you what is going to happen. You are all going to bugger off and stop annoying me. I don’t know anything you don’t know.”

This wasn’t exactly true. As I looked at each person, I could see a scene being played out in my head.

The little boy with the scab on his knee was going to get a puppy for his birthday, and they would grow up together. The scruffy old lady would be dead before Christmas, and no one would come to her funeral. The bloke in the workman’s clothes would find a wallet and return it to its owner intact. The owner of the wallet would, in turn, facilitate the entry of the workman’s son into a private school and the experience would lead the boy into a sad life of drugs and crime.

“Don’t give the wallet back. Stick it in the mail and don’t put your address on the package.” The workman looked at me like I had just stepped on his foot.

“How did you know about the wallet. I only found it this morning?” he said.

As I looked at him, I knew he would ignore my advice. I wanted to tell him what was going to happen, but I had a strong sense that what I was seeing was going to happen no matter what I said.

The worker looked shocked as he produced the wallet from his back pocket and held it in mid-air. I had the feeling that he wanted it to fly away so that he would not have to decide.

Things escalated rather quickly from there.

Virtual Papercut

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Yesterday I spent many painful hours pasting up my latest novella (which is due for publication on March 31st). This completes the final stage in a long process. The paperback version will not arrive until the 7th of April which is a full week after the eBook release, but I don’t mind. There is a deadly calm on the day after a book is completed. In place of that nagging feeling ‘something needs to be completed’, comes a sort of fog. Of course, there is another book well under

The completion of the final stage of a long process.

The paperback version will not arrive until the 7th of April which is a full week after the eBook release, but I don’t mind.

There is a deadly calm on the day after a book is completed. In place of that nagging feeling ‘something needs to be completed’, comes a sort of fog. Of course, there is another book well under way, but for today, I want to sit and reflect on the process.

I’m thinking back to the moment that I got the idea for the short story which grew into a novella.

It is a wondrous and terrible thing to create something out of nothing.
We had a spooky moment last night when we were watching an episode of an American TV show, and a scenario came up which mimicked a chapter in my book. Scotty said, “That’s just like that bit from your book!” She was right — different, but the same. I remember my editor saying that he was not sure that anyone would do that in real life! That episode was written four years ago, and I had not seen it before.
Even though I have to wait until April 7th to hold a copy of my book, you can go to Blurb and buy a copy right now. (but don’t tell anyone I told you).
This book is a departure for me. It is very much ‘adults only’ reading. In the past, I have steered away from intimate descriptions. This and my next novel explore more of the private side of personal relationships.
I’m looking forward to holding my new book in my hands, but in the meantime, I’ll be remembering the journey that brought her to fruition.

http://au.blurb.com/b/6967391-keeper-of-secrets

Sample Download: Keeper of Secrets

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The completed manuscript has been uploaded, so now you can download a sample from here. The sample is essentially PG, but the book is definitely adults only. If you are offended by explicit descriptions or adult language, then this novella is not for you.

Publish Date: 31st of March 2016

“Susan, a bereaved daughter, stumbles upon her grandmother’s journals. Stories hidden from the family of adventures, spies, a mysterious, discarded toy, lost loves and revenge flash before her eyes sparking a desire to escape her ordinary life.

In a dusty attic, Susan holds her sadness in check as she attempts to organise her mother’s stored memories. Boxes of journals written by her grandmother reveal a hidden secret life lived out during the modern world’s most dangerous conflict. Time slows down as the young woman relives her ancestor’s exciting life. The quiet dismissive old lady that she knew does not fit with the vibrant idealistic young woman she reads about in these journals. The identity of the mysterious ‘Keeper Of Secrets’ is ultimately revealed and this revelation leads Susan to a decision — she is going to escape from her ‘ordinary life’ and live a secret life of her own.”

SAMPLE DOWNLOAD