Making Connections

I have been connecting with lots of authors, authors groups and readers groups these past few months which is really helping me understand the world of writing, publishing and marketing. One of the groups I have recently joined, which is proving to be invaluable is Mom’s Favorite Reads.

Here, Hannah Howe, co-founder of Mom’s Favourite Reads tells us what it’s all about 

Mom’s Favourite Reads is a community of book lovers. We produce a quarterly book catalogue, which features over 400 books, and a monthly magazine. Our magazines, available as eBooks, in print and audiobooks, have topped the Amazon Contemporary Women charts, the Seasonal charts and the Graphic Novel charts in America, Australia, Britain and Canada. Alongside leading independent authors our magazines also feature contributions from high profile mainstream authors. For example, in the new year we will feature exclusive interviews with a Dr Who screenwriter, an expert on Sherlock Holmes and Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories, one of the most popular series in the history of publishing.

Also, in 2019, we will develop our community to support literacy amongst adults and children. One of the ways we will do this is by offering schools, societies and literacy projects bundles of free books.

Hannah is also a very successful author herself of psychological and historical mysteries. Her books are distributed through Gardners to over 300 outlets worldwide and over the past four years her novels have reached number one on the Amazon charts on fifteen separate occasions. This summer Saving Grace, a Victorian mystery, was a bestseller in Australia.

Hannah, along with Rebecca Carter and Denise Mccabe not only provide fantastic advice and support for authors but also help increase their reach to others

If you are an author, you are welcome to join Mom’s Favorite Reads. If you are a reader, please visit our website and check out our video, book catalogue and magazines https://moms-favorite-reads.com

Check out the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/momsfavoritereads/

If you would like to support a literacy project, please email  momsfavoritereads@outlook.com 

 

 

It’s the 1st December!!

I’m officially allowed to mention the C word! The tree has been bought, the mulled wine is simmering and now to make the gingerbread santas. I thought I’d share my recipe

It’s a tradition in our house to make these on the 1st December, and whilst I say santas it’s actually gingerbread reindeer, Christmas stockings, stars and snowflakes. 

I have no idea where I found the recipe but I love it. The smell of cinnamon, mixed spices and ginger wafts through the house and gets us in the mood for Christmas 

They are supposed to be soft, rather than hard, like traditional gingermen and I think that’s what makes them so moreish 

 You’ll need a glass of mulled wine before you get started, just to get you in the  spiritsanta-claus-1819933_1920

Ingredients 

350g Plain Flour 

1 Teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 

2 teaspoons ground ginger 

1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon 

125 butter 

175g brown sugar

1 egg 

4 tablespoons golden syrup 

 

Method 

Top up the mulled wine 

Sift flour, spices and bicarb into a large bowl 

Rub butter into the dried ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs ( I always end up with lumps of butter which I can’t mix in but I don’t let that bother me!) 

Add sugar 

Beat egg and syrup together, add to mixture and mix with spoon (or if you’re very fancy and modern, mix with food processor) until it clumps together 

Tip out onto a floured surface, knead, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 mins 

Roll out the dough and cut into shapes with whatever Christmas shapes you have 

Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins at 180 

Once cooled, lightly dust with icing sugar. 

You can store them in air airtight container, however, ours never last that long 

Enjoy!

Delighted wo win ‘best dialogue’ for this one




Sweet Revenge


An awkward silence unfolded between them. Polly hadn’t meant to drop the bombshell this early on in their meeting, but her resolve snapped the moment she saw Dexter enter the restaurant. She recognised him instantly. That same self-assured swagger. The same smarmy smile at the waitress showing him to his table.
 His eyes lit up as he approached her. ‘You must be Polly. Hi, I’m Dexter.’ He held his hand out to shake hers.

   ‘Hi,’ she said, hoping her nerves didn’t show.

She studied him as he took his jacket off, shook out the creases and placed it on the back of his chair before sitting down. His hair was greying around the temples, there were a few wrinkles around his eyes, and he was bulging out of his shirt in a way he hadn’t done thirty years ago, but otherwise he had changed very little.
He poured himself a glass of red wine without asking if she minded. She found his confidence galling.

   ‘So, Polly. I guess this is where we tell each other something interesting about ourselves and see if the computer was right. Ladies first.’

She took a large gulp of wine. ‘We’ve met before.’

   ‘Oh? Have we? Well, you definitely have the advantage over me there. I don’t want to seem rude, but you might need to give me a clue. Don’t take it personally, I’m just useless at putting faces to names.’

   ‘We knew each other at school.’

   ‘Really? God, that’s going back a bit. Are you sure?’

   ‘Yes. How many Dexter Zolinskis are there?’ 

   ‘True. I still don’t…’

Polly gripped her wine glass and fixed him with her steely blue eyes ‘Roly Poly Polly. How’s that for a clue? I think you were the creative genius who came up with that highly original nickname. Hats off to you though, it stuck. Remember me now?’

Dexter shifted in his seat. Polly enjoyed watching him squirm as the silence settled between them. She was an introvert and comfortable with silence. Dexter on the other hand, was nowhere as near comfortable with it. He looked away, fiddled with his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie, and ran his hand through his hair, but to his credit, he blushed.

   ‘I didn’t recognise you. I mean…Sorry. That wasn’t the best thing to say. I’ve never been known for my tact.’ He paused and took a large gulp of wine. ‘Jeez Polly, what can I say? I’m sorry, truly I am, but that was so long ago. I was a cocky teenager and probably said lots of things to lots of people, not just you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing it, but I was a different person back then. We all were.’

   ‘Don’t worry about it. You probably did me a favour.’

He frowned. ‘How so?’

   ‘If it hadn’t been for you bringing my fatness to everyone’s attention and humiliating me so publicly, I might never have done anything about it. So, cheers for that.’ She raised her glass to him.

Her cheeks burned and her insides churned at the memory of the taunting. The jeering. The cutting remarks. As a child she had developed a coping mechanism of staying in the background and had managed to go virtually unnoticed amongst her peers, until year five, when Dexter Zolinski, the most popular boy at school had noticed her. Most girls would have been flattered.

   ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it I suppose. You look fantastic by the way. I really wouldn’t have recognised you.’

She hated these back-handed compliments. You look so much better. You always had such a bonny face. Even her own father had said I always knew there was a thin lass waiting to get out. Ironically, she was also addicted to them. Where once she was addicted to food, she now thrived on expressions of admiration on her fantastic achievement and appearance. She felt disappointment when none where forthcoming and resolved to try harder. Eat less. Do more exercise. Make people notice.

   ‘So. What now?’ Dexter broke the silence. ‘I’m guessing this date isn’t just a good computer match? Is it some sort of revenge thing?’

   ‘No! It was pure co-incidence that your name popped up. Obviously, I knew it was you and I was curious, that’s all. It’s no big deal,’ she lied. This wasn’t about revenge. This was about looking her tormentor in the eye and making her own peace. She’d read about it somewhere, although right now, inner peace felt a long way off.  

   ‘Let’s order some food. I’m starving.’ She changed the subject.

Dexter relaxed and signalled for the waitress. ‘Sounds good to me.’

   ‘I’ll have the fish and chips, mushy peas and bread and butter, with sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream to follow,’ Polly told the waitress.

Dexter started to say something but stopped himself mid-sentence. ‘I’ll have the same thanks.’ He refilled their wine glasses.

Polly ate quietly, focussing on the mechanical process of eating. She cut her food into small chunks and chewed each mouthful ten times before swallowing. Her stomach heaved as the heavy, greasy food mixed with the wine. The first few mouthfuls were always the most difficult, but she knew, if she took her time, she could force more down. She would deal with it later.

Dexter didn’t seem to notice. He droned on about himself, his work, his hobbies, occasionally pausing to check if she was listening. Polly had a mastered the art of zoning out of a conversation whilst appearing to listen.

   ‘Polly?’ She looked up to see Dexter staring at her. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, how did you err…?’

   ‘Lose all the weight?’ She knew what he was getting at. Where she had once eaten in secret, she now took great pleasure in eating copious amounts of food in public. She enjoyed remarks such as Where do you put it all? A tiny thing like you. You’re one of those lucky people who can eat whatever they like.

   ‘Ate less, moved more.’ She drained her glass.

   ‘Right. Err…Another wine? Or how about a coffee?’

She shook her head. ‘I have an early meeting at work tomorrow. I need to get back.’

   ‘Okay. Well maybe we can do this again?’

She stood up and gathered her jacket and handbag from her chair. ‘I’m not sure Dexter. Maybe. I need go.’ She left him to pay the bill as she headed out to hail a taxi.

The voices started as soon as she stepped into the cool, stillness of her flat. You’re pathetic. A failure. You’ll get fat. You can’t even diet properly. She reached the bathroom just in time. The saliva rushed into her mouth and she felt relief wash over her as she vomited every last morsel of food she had consumed earlier.

She washed her mouth out with water and set the timer on her phone for thirty minutes, when she could safely brush her teeth. She noticed the message on her phone.

Well, that was different. Fancy meeting up next week? D

She blocked the number, deleted it from her contacts and lay down on top of her bed. The voices silenced for the moment.
 
  
 

The Easter Bunny

A short story for Easter

  

‘Mummy? Is the Easter Bunny Real?’ my five-year-old son asks as we walk to school.

   ‘Of course he is.’ I reply without giving the question much thought, my focus on the mountain of things I need to do today. I’m wondering if I have to cook something fresh for dinner (I know I should) or whether I can justify a quick fish fingers and beans on the basis that it’s Monday and everyone is tired?

    ‘Why do you ask?’ I try to appear interested, guilty at my poor parenting skills.

   ‘Well, Gray May says he’s not real and anyone who believes in him is just stupid.’

   ‘Well, what does Grayson Mason know?’

   ‘Lots of things actually. He’s pretty smart.’

I seriously doubt it if his parent’s intellect is anything to go by. Anyone who names their offspring Grayson and Jason, with Mason as a surname, condemning their children to a lifetime of ridicule, must have the IQ of a rabbit. Although, to be fair Gray May is right. There is no Easter Bunny. It’s all a hoax by the chocolate industry to guilt trip parents into buying hoards of overpriced, poor quality bunny shaped confectionery. But how do I explain this to a five-year-old without sounding miserly?

    ‘Well just take the moral high ground and tell Gray May that in actual fact, Easter is all about God.’

   ‘The what ground? And what has God got to do with it?’

Actually, perhaps this isn’t the best advice. It might provoke a whole new conceptual belief-based discussion which I don’t think my five-year-old is ready for yet. I remember my own father telling my six-year-old self to ask the teacher to explain where Adam and Eve fitted into Darwin’s theory of Evolution. I duly did what I was told and was met with a withering stare from Mrs Templeton, the ogre who masked as a primary school teacher, and told to sit down and stop asking stupid questions. ‘And remember,’ she said, her shrill voice ringing in my ears, ‘No-one likes a smarty pants.’

I resort to my default advice. ‘Err, do you know what? Just ignore Gray May and try to avoid him if you can. Okay?’

He persists though. He is my child after all. ‘But if the Easter Bunny isn’t real, then what about Santa?’

    ‘Oh, good Lord. Santa is definitely real. No doubt about that,’ I laugh gayly. Perhaps too gayly.

I chew my lip, wondering if, in fact, it is me who is condemning my child to a lifetime of ridicule, colluding with him in his belief about, what are, all things considered, totally unbelievable stories.

We arrive at the school gates and I watch my son, face contorted, deep in concentration, trying to make sense of it all. Do all his classmates agree with Gray May? I imagine my precious little offspring being pushed around the playground, getting laughed at because he believes that an overgrown rabbit delivers eggs to all the children around the world in one night.

It niggles at me all day until I pick him up after school. I scan his face for traces of worry, sadness, fear and I make a mental note to check him later for bruises. He looks happy enough though.

   ‘How was school?’ I ask, keeping my tone light and cheery.

   ‘Fine.’

   ‘What did you do?’

   ‘Stuff.’

   ‘Okaaay,’ I try an alternative approach. ‘So, tell me the best bit about today.’

   ‘The end.’

My head whips around. I am immediately on high alert. ‘Oh?’ I am careful to keep the concern out of my voice. ‘Did anything happen?’

    ‘Well, I’m the best at skipping but Natalie Smythe says she’s the best and if she doesn’t win, she cries, so I always have to let her win. And today was a skipping day.’

    ‘Gotcha.’ Relief floods through me and I ruffle his thick brown hair. ‘Any more chat about the Easter Bunny?’

    ‘Oh, well Madeline Morrison told Gray May to shut up and that it doesn’t really matter if it’s real or not and that all children should just ask for one egg each because lots of children all over the world don’t get any eggs, and that if we just ask for one each, we’ll also be saving the planet with recycling and stuff.’ He finally stops for breath.

   ‘Wow! She said all that?’ I wish I had the persuasive and intellectual capacity of the five-year-old Madelaine Morrison, little eco-warrior that she is.

   ‘Yes, and she also said we’re to go to hers on Sunday and her mum will boil five hundred eggs and we’ll paint them and roll them down the hill at the back of her house.

   ‘Really? That’s very good of her. How many people are going?’

   ‘Twenty. But not Gray May. ‘

Five hundred eggs for twenty people? Maybe not so eco-friendly after all, but the thought of a few hours peace and quiet on a Sunday supersedes any thought of saving the planet. I make a mental note to buy Madelaine’s mother a bottle of wine to show my eternal gratitude. How many mental notes can a person make in one day?

I’m still pondering the whole Easter Bunny thing and weighing up the pros and cons of telling the truth versus the magic of childhood, when Nathan arrives home.

   ‘What’s up?’

   ‘Nothing.’

   ‘Okay, so tell me why ‘nothing’ has resulted in frown lines as deep as the Samaria Gorge then?’

I proceed to tell him about the conversation with Cameron and the whole Easter Bunny thing, hoping he’ll offer some support, re-assurance and fatherly words of wisdom, but instead he snorts.

   ‘Well, I’m not sure why you ever filled his head with all that nonsense about a whopping great Rabbit in the first place. He would have been just as happy with a chocolate egg which came from us.’

I look at him aghast. ‘I didn’t fill his head with that nonsense. I have no idea where it came from, nursery probably, but once he believed in it, I couldn’t exactly burst his bubble, could I?

   ‘Why not? I would have,’ he shrugs, taking a beer from the fridge.

   ‘Okay. I’ll let you explain away Santa as we approach Christmas then, shall I?’

   ‘Aw, that’s different Cats. Come on, every kid believes in Santa.’

   ‘They don’t actually.’

   ‘Look all I’m saying is, I don’t think he’ll be heartbroken to find out it’s not real. As long as he gets an egg.’

   ‘I know. It’s just that he expects shitloads of eggs from the rabbit.’

   ‘Well get him shitloads of eggs then. Just say they’re from us. You’re over thinking it. Now, at the risk of appearing insensitive, I was hoping to catch a bit of the football if that’s okay.’

   ‘Fine. Thankfully Madelaine Morrison has played the eco card, so we’ve been saved, as has the planet.’

He looks at me perplexed.

‘Don’t ask,’ I say, as he heads for the living room.

I try not to think about it anymore. I buy one large chocolate egg, and that’s that. Happy with my purchase I am fully confident that my intelligent, sensitive son will understand when we explain there is no bunny, but in effect, it doesn’t matter. He still gets an egg. He himself seems resolute that he will receive one egg thereby saving the children of the world and the planet itself.

So why, at bedtime on Saturday night, after I’ve had a few glasses of wine, does he announce that he’s super-excited about the Easter Bunny coming tomorrow and can’t wait to hunt for eggs in the garden.

‘But I thought we had agreed on just the one egg? I thought Eco princess Maddy Mo was all for one egg per child?’

   ‘Oh yeah, but she said she thought the Easter Bunny probably didn’t know about all the poor children and would still hide eggs in the garden. I think she’s right because it’s not like we’ve written a letter to tell him, so I think he’ll come anyway.’

I kiss him goodnight and race downstairs to explain the impending disaster to Nathan.

   ‘Och, don’t worry, he’ll be fine. Once he sees that giant egg he’ll forget all about it.’ He drains his glass and pours another.

   ‘It won’t be fine. He’ll be heartbroken and probably scarred for life. It’s the same as waking up on Christmas day with no presents. Would you say that’s fine? Oh God, I wonder if anyone has any spare eggs?’ I mutter, more to myself than Nathan.

   ‘Seriously, Cats, you’re not going to go begging eggs off people. Look, if he’s upset, we’ll just say the big daft rabbit made a mistake. I mean they’re not known for their intelligence, are they? And we’ll go to Tesco and get a few more. Half price. Win-win.’ He turns back to the TV. Conversation clearly over.

   ‘Aaaagh, why are men so one dimensional?’ I storm off.

There is clearly nothing I can do at this hour, but I fret for most of the evening, finally retiring to bed for a night of broken sleep. I toss and turn, vivid dreams of oversized rabbits and a small, sobbing boy, interrupting my sleep.

I am awoken at what feels like an ungodly hour by excited yelling.

   ‘Mummy, mummy. He’s been. I knew he would come. I knew he was real!’

I find it difficult to speak, my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. ‘Oh Cameron sweetheart, I don’t think he has been. I think there is maybe just one egg. It’s big though.’ I say hopefully.

   ‘No, he has been. I went into the garden just to check, and look? My bucket’s full of eggs.’

I manage to prise my eyes open to see him standing at the edge of my bed in his gorrilla onesie, chocolate smeared around his mouth and a bucket brimming with eggs of varying sizes.

‘And look, he also had a bite of a carrot. Just like Rudolph!’ he squeals

‘But?…what the?…how?…’

Nathan sits up in bed next to me, rubbing his eyes. ‘Eggscellent. Any for dad?’ he smirks, raising an eyebrow. ‘Good old Easter Bunny, eh?’

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge 2021.’ Week #40 Entry Part 7) by Kirsten Nairn @KirstenNairn #FlashFiction #WritingPrompt #WritingCommunity

Enjoyed the challenge this week

Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke.

Hello everyone and a warm welcome to Part 7)  of the entries for my weekly: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021” Week #40.

Today I’m featuring contribution Part 7) By Kirsten Nairn

Last week I set the following Challenge:

Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words.

Here is the image prompt and Kirsten’s contribution.

mask-2014551_1280

Mr. D Bruce.

Chairman of the Hillside Bowling Club

Hillside Bowling Club

29 Nairn Road

Newton Hillside

Dear Mr Bruce,

Re: Masked ball

Firstly, please accept my apologies for my non-attendance at the committee meeting last week. Unfortunately, I was called away to attend to old Mrs Duncan down the road, who had once again misplaced…

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