Julia Hughes - writing thrilling adventures - time after time after time.
Yesterday, I set off for the Notting Hill Carnival, but as someone once said "the best laid plans go astray". I bumped into an old friend, and couldn't refuse when he offered to buy me a drink. In my defence, not many people say "no" to Wren Prenderson.
We decided to sit outside the pub, in the enclosed slab of concrete "The British Volunteer" calls a beer garden, to shot the breeze. The clamour of steel drums filled the air and now and then a flurry of children shepherded by carnival goers swept by. But otherwise, we had the place to ourselves. The skies were low and grey; the atmosphere was muggy and oppressive, it felt like a day out of time.
Wren returned with the drinks, placed them on the table, and then sat on the bench opposite me. He lifted his glass and tapped it against mine.
'To old friends,' he said, and sipped at his beer. I replied 'To absent friends,' and the laughter left his blue eyes momentarily. But then he smiled again and asked if I'd stumbled over any more griffins lately. Having barely begun to sip at my own lager, I couldn't be that easily diverted.
'Griffins are mythical and belong in story books, it's you I want to talk about.'
Wren widened his eyes, and threw an exaggerated glance over his shoulder before asking, 'Me? What am I supposed to have done now?'
I gave him a friendly punch on the arm. He was wearing a long sleeved white shirt, but the sleeves were rolled back and the scar on his forearm was clearly visible.
'Come on Wren, just a few questions,' I pleaded. He was clearly in a good mood; I was clearly in danger of ruining it.
'I can tell you what Carrie's doing right now,' I offered.
A shadow crossed Wren's face. 'She left me. She thinks I'm a manipulative bastard,' he gazed mournfully into his beer, and ran a finger around the outside of the glass.
'She's probably right, but now she understands why you did what you did,' I was deliberately harsh, in an attempt to shake him out of self-pity. A hardness entered Wren's face, he kept his eyes downcast, but the corner of his mouth twitched. I held my breath. After a couple of seconds he nodded.
'Okay, ask me any question you like, and I'll answer,' his eyes sparkled with mischief; I could question Wren for eternity and still not have all the answers I wanted.
'Two,' I countered. Wren shook his head and laughed silently. 'Just the one question, Ms Hughes – and that's only because it's you – and everyone knows you're a bit of a story teller.'
I realised Wren meant no-one would believe me, and would have punched him again, but instead blurted:
'How does it feel to be a finalist in the eFestival of Words awards for "Best Hero"?'
Wren smirked, and lifted his glass to his lips. 'Runner-up, I came second, can you believe that?!' He flushed with pleasure, and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls of beer. When he set his glass down, he burst out laughing, 'I know what you're thinking – Rhyllann was the real hero,' Wren sobered. 'I guess you could say he's my better half.'
I managed to bite my tongue; the phrase "better half" surely belonged to Carrie, the love of Wren's life. As usual though, Wren could read my mind. 'It's true you know,' he said softly, 'loving someone makes you want to be a better person, for their sake.' He grimaced, glanced at me, then looked away. 'You don't have to tell me what's she's doing right now. I know she's safe, I think … I'm certain I'd know if Carrie was unhappy, or in danger.'
He drained his glass, and replaced it on the table. When he looked up, his eyes were as grey and bruised as the skies.
Fool, I scolded myself, stay away from that subject. To give him time to recover, I knocked back my own drink, and jumped to my feet. 'Same again?' I asked brightly.
Wren glanced up at the darkening clouds 'it's going to pelt down any moment, I think I'll be on my way.'
He stood, and leaning over the table, put his hands on my shoulders, and kissed my cheek. 'Give my thanks to your readers who voted for me to be a hero,' he said, and with another of his wry smiles added, 'keep scribbling away.' Then he turned, climbed over the bench seat, stepped over the knee high "garden" fence and onto the street.
As usual Wren was right. Bullet sized raindrops sizzled as they hit the slabbed pavement. Wren's head was down, and his shoulders hunched against the downpour. I watched him wheel around the corner into an adjoining street, heading away from Portobello Road and the main carnival. I guess he didn't feel in a party mood any more. Neither did I. Copying Wren, I stepped over the wooden fence and began to walk back to my car. The rain felt warm against my skin, and smelled of red earth.
What strange weather – almost tropical I thought, and as though agreeing with me, the shower became a monsoon. I began jogging, blinking hard to see where I was going, but still managed to collide with a young woman running towards "The British Volunteer".
'Whoops, sorry,' we gasped at the same time, and exchanged smiles. Then before I could stop myself, I exclaimed 'Carrie!'
Her smile faltered, she studied me with curiosity in her greeny brown eyes, and pushed back a tendril of matted hair, made dark by rainwater.
'Sorry,' she repeated, 'I'm just off the plane from Africa, I'm still a little jet-lagged, do I know you?'
I shook my head no. The rain petered into a drizzle, and the sun came out, creating a rainbow. I pointed towards it, 'Wren went that way,' I said.
She looked a little taken aback, but nodded, and began running again.
I watched her slow outside "The British Volunteer" and then, almost as though she'd caught his scent, she ran along the street, and rounded the same corner as Wren.
For once in his life, Wren had been wrong. Carrie wasn't pretty, she was beautiful.
I hope with all my heart she caught him up, and then allowed him to catch her again.
Many thanks to all my friends who voted, you guys rock and I'm thrilled and honoured to have your support. Grateful thanks to Julie Dawson of Bards and Sages, and her hard working team of judges for organising a wonderful eFestival of Books, your hard work and dedication is truly appreciated. To discover who beat Wren and griffin Balkind and for a full list of winners across a wide range of genres and awards, visit the "eFestival of Words Award site".
means summer holidays – for the next month or so, I'm taking a vacation – as are all my stories.
Having seen the difference a good editor can make, I've turned over all my indie titles to Talon Publishing for re-editing and a professional polish. The Celtic Cousins' Adventures and other novellas are being professionally edited, and will be re-launched in the autumn.
I will continue to review and am always happy to help out with other indie artists' promotions, just shoot an email to my agent Mervyn @talonpublishing[dot]com - over on the "Words" site, 140 little words will continue, as will the opportunity for indie artists to talk back, once again the go-to guy is Mervyn@talonpublishing[dot]com.
With an hour to kill yesterday, we paid a visit to our local car boot market – there's a decent plant stall and always the allure of picking up a bargain! My most exciting find ever was a tatty old cloth covered book, with the remnants of "Public Library" sticker over a handwritten "Lord of the Rings" title. Sotheby's eventually identified it as one of only twenty-five proof copies of Tolkien's classic, so unsurprisingly, I never judge a book by its cover!
Not every find is as valuable, but today we picked up an interesting piece of history. A metal RAF pass to get into Biggin Hill – it bears the stamp of George V, so has to predate 1936. Even more interesting was the elderly gent who sold it to us, he'd been based at Biggin Hill, flown the planes and not only that but taught the instructors who would go on to teach the pilots. There's quite a few old folk behind stalls, running their own little businesses and treating the whole carbooting experience as an excuse to socialise. I'd love to listen to all their stories, and I'd love to know more about the original owner of what is now our RAF pass to Biggin Hill. I often fantasise about flying …I know many people share this dream – maybe because it's the ultimate freedom?
Speaking of classic fantasy and flying "The Griffin Cryer" is my debut giveaway on the readers' site Goodreads. Okay, this plug's a bit clunky, and I don't for one moment expect a future treasure hunter to swoop on my little book with bated breath – but you can win an autographed copy just by clicking on the link below. Have fun and fly safely!
Many thanks to all readers and book reviewers who have dropped by over the past week to request a review copy of the newly edited "A Ripple in Time". I hope you enjoy the new intro, which was especially re-written to take full advantage of Amazon's "Try before you buy" free sample for kindle.Book image LLPix.com
This offer has now closed, but you can still snap up any - or all - of my e-books for the summer sale price of only 99cents in the US, 77p in the UK - so grab your bargain while stocks last, or until August ends - whichever comes sooner!
Another big thank you to my editor, Mervyn, who has been hard at work formatting and proofing the paperback version of "An Explosive Time". This will be released in September - watch this space for more details. If you haven't already, scroll down and nominate your favourite fictional detective for a chance to win an autographed copy of "An Explosive Time".
There will be more giveaways organised via Rafflecoptor; if you'd like to get involved with this promotion, I'd be delighted to share the giveaways with your readers. Please contact me, or shoot an email to Mervyn@talonpublishing.com. I'm always extremely grateful for any and all support, and as always, will strive to pay back, and pay it forward.
Bleeding brakes is not recommended for ladies of a certain age, but is probably required car maintenance if you want to reach your dotage. However, changing tyres and pumping the brake pedal has given every neighbour in the Close an excuse to wander over and express surprise that I'm still in the land of the living. I like my neighbours. They make me appear fairly sane. Paul for example recently dressed up as a teddy bear, climbed aboard his Harley Davidson and rode through London to attend a mate's funeral. Said mate happened to be a druid, and the coffin was delivered via a motorbike's side car, especially adapted for the occasion. I'm still scratching my head over where teddy bears come into the picture – but I'm too scared to ask.
Our immediate neighbour has had his house up for sale for months now (hope this isn't a reflection on us!) and finally the 'sold' sign has been slapped up. At the ripe old age of fifty-two bachelor Joe is off to make his fortune in Australia. I'll miss him, but not the loud hip-hop parties that broke out at the drop of a hat. Wonder what the new neighbours will be like. The last new neighbours moved in around five years ago. The people before them kept pigs. Not the little cutesy pot bellied pet types – these were bigger than shire horses, and mean with it. Talking of funerals, one of the pigs died, and I kid you not, was buried in the back garden. Luckily the people who bought that house don't seem to be very keen on gardening. Unlike Paul's ex-wife – they still live together, along with Charlotte's latest husband – well – as she said, what's a girl to do when a man cries and begs to be allowed to stay? Secure parking spots in London for motorbikes are thin on the ground. Charlotte is our resident gardener, and every year – no doubt in quiet desperation – presents me with a beautiful hanging basket. Which promptly turns golden brown within two weeks.
In every neighbourhood, there's always the cat woman. Spotting a captive audience, Veronica rushed over and regaled me with tales of her seven hundred and twenty four cats. They all have human names, and if you happen to drift off mid sentence and then return to "Robert got his ear bitten off in a fight, and I told Timothy that was naughty …" make sure you're wearing protective goggles, else you'll get brake fluid in your eye. Veronica's also a soft touch for any injured wildlife, and last I saw of her she was trying to stuff a very reluctant goose into the boot of her Nissan. "Tiggywinkles" has banned her from delivering any of her 'rescued' furry or feathered friends. So usually any hapless owner of a suitable estate car (me) is roped into ambulance service. I learned my lesson last year, when I got shanghaied into taxi service for an angry seagull and three disorientated hedgehogs.
The brakes have now been bled four times, and I hope that's the last of the pesky air bubbles. But as far as Veronica's concerned, the car's still out of action – while the weather lasts, I'm cycling everywhere. Not having any wheels is a great excuse for getting out of invitations.
You can call it being anti-social. I call it self preservation.
Writer's block was invented during the 1960s in California, as an excuse to sit around bars and cafes and not do a stroke of work all day. We have this on good authority from Douglas Adams "Hitchhikers Guide".
Four fail safe cures:
In approximately two thousand words, explain why you cannot write today. Rinse and repeat. Writer's block should be gone within the week.
(Lawrence Block, "Telling lies for fun and profit").
Read a newspaper. Choose three articles, and invent back stories to each event.
("I defy anybody to make this up!" Sheriff Bear, "No Country for Old Men").
Take a bad book and make it better. Take a good book, and make it great.
(Wm. Shakespeare, and latterly The Beatles). No plagiarism please!
When all else fails, drop an alligator through the transom.
(Apologies to Jack Bickham, "38 Most Common Writing Mistakes in Fiction" – what Mr Bickham actually said, was "Don't drop alligators through the transom.")
Wren Prenderson; "A Ripple in Time" best hero.
"The Griffin Cryer" best Urban Fantasy. Thank you to the hard working judges and everyone who voted at the eFestival of Words, organised by Julie Dawson, of Bards & Sages.
A Raucous Time, A Ripple in Time, and The Griffin Cryer. Thank you to Julie and her hard working panel of judges and reviewers.
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