๐™ณ๐š˜๐š•๐š˜๐š›๐šŽ๐šœ ๐™ฒ๐š•๐šŠ๐š’๐š‹๐š˜๐š›๐š—๐šŽ – ๐š‚๐š๐šŽ๐š™๐š‘๐šŽ๐š— ๐™บ๐š’๐š—๐š | Book Review

โ€˜๐šƒ๐š‘๐šŽ๐š›๐šŽโ€™๐šœ ๐š—๐š˜ ๐š‹๐š’๐š๐šŒ๐š‘ ๐š˜๐š— ๐šŽ๐šŠ๐š›๐š๐š‘ ๐š•๐š’๐š”๐šŽ ๐šŠ ๐š–๐š˜๐š๐š‘๐šŽ๐š› ๐š๐š›๐š’๐š๐š‘๐š๐šŽ๐š—๐šŽ๐š ๐š๐š˜๐š› ๐š‘๐šŽ๐š› ๐š”๐š’๐š๐šœ.โ€™

๐™ณ๐š˜๐š•๐š˜๐š›๐šŽ๐šœ ๐™ฒ๐š•๐šŠ๐š’๐š‹๐š˜๐š›๐š—๐šŽ – ๐š‚๐š๐šŽ๐š™๐š‘๐šŽ๐š— ๐™บ๐š’๐š—๐š

๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—บ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜†:

Dolores Claiborne has a story to tell. But not quite what the police had expected. Dolores Claiborne has a confession to make… (taken from the blurb).

๐—•๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ธ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐˜„: 4/5 โญ๏ธ

A good read if youโ€™re looking to dip into Stephen Kingโ€™s mind without delving into the abyss that is The Green Mile (Iโ€™ve never been brave enough!)

The main character, Dolores Claiborne, spends a long time telling a long story – and every word is necessary.

The book is written primarily in a one-person stream of consciousness, in the voice of a 66-year-old housekeeper and carer from Little Tall Island, Maine.

Stephen King has always been a truthful, visceral author, and he has no problem capturing the voice of an old, troubled woman.

My only qualm was that I struggled to get into it due to the way itโ€™s written, but once you get over the colloquial style – it sucks you in.

Would highly recommend!

Immoral Immortal | PART SEVEN | Flash Fiction

Click here to read Parts 1 – 6.ย 

PART SEVEN:

Irving tried to blink several times before his eyes would fully open. They felt as though they had been glued shut for weeks. As he would later discover โ€“ it had been six days. Six days since he had been gunned down in his own home; his sanctuary. It wasnโ€™t his first flirtation with a fatality, but he didnโ€™t care for it all the same.

Reality came shuddering back around him; the sound of nurses busying about their day in the corridor, the distant screams of a woman in labour. A building in which life and death both fought a daily battle; contending for the populace. Irving had always felt safe in hospitals; the familiarity of a medical environment, but waking up alone in a dimmed and empty ward, hidden behind the blue screens took the comfort away. He was very much on the back foot. He pushed his palms into the hard mattress, raising himself up in the bed until he found a vaguely comfortable sitting position. His legs seemed heavy and led-like and utterly no use at all, and Irving presumed it was the fatigue.

The curtains around his bed were drawn shut, but he could make out the human-shaped shadow approaching his bedside. The woman who emerged was altogether alarmingly unexpected. She greeted him with her usual sweet smile, tinged with a deep sadness that could not be ignored.

โ€˜Kathy? What on earth are you doing here?โ€™ Irving didnโ€™t know what else to say.

โ€˜You never allocated a new next of kin, so they contacted your old one instead.โ€™ Kathy bent slightly and kissed Irvingโ€™s forehead. She wore a soft, grey roll neck jumper that forgivingly clung to her gracefully aged curves and bootcut trousers that exposed a pair of black kitten heels. Irving could smell her perfume lingering in the air; sweetening every breath he took as if in a field of daisies.

โ€˜Iโ€™m sorry they bothered you. Itโ€™s nothing to worry about.โ€™

โ€˜Nothing to worry about?โ€™ Kathy looked confused and outraged all at once, but that sad smile never vacated her lips. โ€˜You were shot at.โ€™

โ€˜Yes, well it was a tad unexpected. But Iโ€™m right as rain, just a bit tired is all. You really donโ€™t need to be here. Iโ€™m sure the doctor will be round to discharge me soon.โ€™

โ€˜Irving.โ€™ The confusion on his ex-wifeโ€™s face melted away and left something else in its place. Pity. โ€˜They told me the doctor would have already spoken to you before I got here.โ€™ Irving had Kathy had lived very separate lives for over ten years, but he still knew every inch of her face.

โ€˜Not good?โ€™ His voiced piqued.

โ€˜No, not good.โ€™ Kathy hastily wipes away a year and sniffed; attempting to curtail the oncoming cry at bay.

โ€˜Tell it to me straight, love.โ€™ An old familiar affection slipping from his lips as naturally as air escaped his lungs. They were both older and wiser now, but as she sat perched on the edge of his bed, stroking his hand with her thumb โ€“ it was if the pain and heartache of their divorce had never happened. Instead, of a world-worn middle-aged woman, she was the matter-of-fact young solicitor with a closed heart and an open mind who he had been charmed by all those years ago.

โ€˜It shattered a rib, punctured your right lung, and there is shrapnel embedded in your spinal cord.โ€™ She took a deep breath and tried to keep it together for a moment longer. โ€˜Operations would probably paralyse you from the neck down, and leaving it will eventually kill you if it decides to move. Thereโ€™s nothing to be done, my love. Stalemate.โ€™

โ€˜Bugger.โ€™ Irving knew that if Kathy said it was hopeless, then that was that. She would have called in favours from the best doctors in the city. Everyone who was anyone owed Kathy Stiles a favour.

โ€˜I am truly sorry.โ€™ She squeezed his hand, unsure what else to say.

โ€˜Iโ€™ve got a question for you.โ€™

โ€˜Anything? What do you need? What is it?โ€™

โ€˜Is my apartment in better or worse shape than I am?โ€™

โ€˜Your apartment can be repaired and replaced. You cannot.โ€™

โ€˜Know any good workmen? I might need a bit of help fitting the wheelchair ramps.โ€™ Irving smirked, swerving to dodge a swat from Kathy. He became worryingly aware for the first time since opening his eyes just how little of his body he could feel. He stretched his arms out to test them; bending, twisting and wiggling everything possible. All seemed to be in working order. Then he moved onto his toes, commanding them to dance under the thin blanket. Nothing. Irving asked his knees to bend, but there was no response. Nothing Irving asked of his lower body was permitted. He was communicating, screaming internally at anything below his hips to move โ€“ even a little โ€“ but nothing happened, and nothing kept happening. His jokes about a wheelchair ramp now seemed naรฏve.

โ€˜Iโ€™m never going to walk again, am I?โ€™ It was a question but he didnโ€™t want to hear the answer, and she didnโ€™t give him one. Kathy had told him plain and simple that he was paralysed, but his mind had chosen โ€“ much like his legs โ€“ not to listen. ย She sat silently holding his hand, and finally, let her own tears flow. Irvingโ€™s tears soon followed suit.

They were eventually interrupted by his doctor, an hour too late to break the news to Irving himself. Irving was deaf to his commiseration and feeble strategies for recovery. Nothing in his medical toolkit could make walk Irving walk again. He just wanted to go home and fix his apartment, to have a large glass of whisky and to keep helping young Ric with the mystery of the long dead. Perhaps even return to work with witty quips about his new wheels and recant brave and elaborate tales to his eager students. Instead, Irving politely let the doctor say his piece, nodding every twenty words or so. Once the doctor had left him, and Kathy had said her goodbyes โ€“ promising to return later on โ€“ Irving closed his eyes to the world and wished he had never opened them.

Immoral Immortal: Flash Fiction (Part 2)

Part One Summary: Ric sees a woman on the shuttle who looks just like the infamous serial killer, Ruby Bennett, whose look was modelled on the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. Ric is left wondering whether the woman he saw was the real serial killer, still alive over 300 years later, or an imposter โ€“ both options are highly unlikely but possible.

Part Two:ย 

In the days that followed, Ric spent every spare moment researching Ruby Bennett, which was hard as he didnโ€™t have Additional Education Clearance. He was a semi-skilled worker with Basic Education Level 4, with some Leisure Privileges – meaning most info stamps were out of his grasp. Ric had reached out to an old professor of his, Prof. Irving Stiles, implying it was research for a friend and was awaiting a response but didnโ€™t hold out much hope.

In the meantime, he sought out as much as he could about Wards. He had seen them in the shuttles or on the streets, and the occasional one in a bar – but they wore a brighter red and never clothes so revealing. It was all part of the chase, the modesty, the allure of the hidden beauty under all the layers of scarves and linen robes. Men would pay a fortune just to see them naked – not even to touch them. Only the wealthiest men could afford such pleasures. Some of them even had Personal Wards – loyal only to them – but they were rare as many Wards lived in huge mansions in groups for their safety.

Ric had never considered paying for a Ward. He had encountered free-women in his youth and had even once had a wife for a brief but happy four years, but then she caught the Fire Fever during an outbreak and died. They had no children so Ric was left a widower and was free to marry again. But he never met another woman that held a candle to his departed wife, so he remained alone.

Ric kept looking for the woman on the shuttle, but after nine days of no sight of her, he began to wonder if he had made the whole thing up. Had he been dreaming; tired from a laborious day in the forest? Or had he truly seen a woman dressed as Ruby Bennett, and if so โ€“ why on earth would a woman dress as a 300-year-old serial killer from the 21st century?

Just as Ric had begun to give up, he received a comm from Irving with a vague message and an address. โ€˜Meet me to talk about your project. 122 34. JR D245โ€™.

After his shift, Ric jumped on the shuttle heading North instead of South, and got off in the JR subsection. The country was divided into divisions, and then each division was split into subsections. Within each subsection were numbered blocks with individual living units. Ric headed through the streets to find Block 34. It was a much grander block than the one he lived in. it had plants out the front, and six steps leading up to huge wooden doors. It was unusual to see wood used in an almost decorative function after deforestation led to near-extinction of many species of trees. It had taken nearly two hundred years to genetically modify the spores to grow trees again, making them rare and very expensive.

Ric climbed the steps and put his thumb on the touch pad to the left of the door. The screen lit up with a keypad, and he typed in 122 for the unit number. The AI selected โ€˜122โ€™ on the screen, and started to flash yellow. After a few seconds, the number turned green and Ric heard the door click open. He entered the lift and it zoomed up for a moment, and then to the left for several seconds, before stopping at 122. The lift doors opened into the unit, and Ric saw Irving sat on his sofa, surrounded by piles of faded papers and comm-screens.

โ€˜Get in here.โ€™ Irving said, a concerned look on his face. โ€˜Tell me everything you know, Ric โ€“ and donโ€™t spare a single detail.โ€™

Immoral Immortal: A Fantasy Crime Flash Fiction (Part One)

What would you do if you met a serial killer from the past that looked just like Jessica Rabbit?

Here is Part One of my new Flash Fiction – let me know what you think in the comments, and if you would like a Part Two. 


Immoral Immortal – Part One

As Ric looked up from the floor, a flash of deep crimson caught his gaze. He no longer found his shoes satisfying enough to ponder, and instead set to task trying to work out what he had glimpsed. A longer look intrigued him even more. He had seen pictures in the info stamps of old of the image before him. A woman in a svelte red crushed velvet dress, long auburn waves tumbling over her shoulders and black heels that would pierce even a giantโ€™s skin. Ric often thought the shuttles in his hive were some of the cleanest, but she was out of place, making it seem dingy and dark compared to her.

Ric tried not to gawk as he attempted to remember the tale. Back in the 20th century, there was a film with a cartoon woman called Jessica Rabbit – who was apparently rather pretty and illustrious – and decades later a serial killer emerged, dazzling her victims dressed as this character. She was never caught in the twenty-five years she was active – she just disappeared one day and was never heard from again. Ric knew it couldnโ€™t be the same woman, nearly 300 years later, but it made him wonder what would compel a woman to dress like that these days. It was hardly inconspicuous – only Wards wore red in public, and they were never left unaccompanied.

A Ward or Wardling was a member of an elite group of women, said to be the most beautiful and alluring women from all over the world. They would be chosen from their hometown as a young girl and trained and transformed into Wards. Men would pay a whole yearโ€™s wages just for an hour with a Ward. They were said to be multi-lingual, excellent dancers and able to charm men into abandoning their wives and children with just a whispered sentence in the ear of a willing man. But even Wards didnโ€™t wear dresses like that.

Ricโ€™s brain noticed before the rest of him had time to catch up, but the woman was slowly slinking towards him, and before he could close his mouth, she was sat on the seat next to him, her legs daintily crossed over one another. He attempted a casual nod but felt he probably looked like a seal pup begging for fish. Ric looked at his shoes again.

They were standard issue black shoes, leading to the plain black trousers and a black polo shirt. Some people chose to buy clothes themselves, but Ric had never much minded the government-issued wardrobe. He had seven of each item of clothing – in case they needed to be washed or mended. And every year he received a new pack in that yearโ€™s chosen colour. This year was black in tribute to the cenotaph of the Fallen Founders – the legendary warriors that had overthrown the monarchy and tragically lost their lives in the battles that followed.

Most people on the shuttle were wearing the same thing or had the additional black jacket for warmth. Ric was glad he hadnโ€™t grabbed his before work that morning, as he could feel the heat swelling through his body as the woman glanced sidewards at him with a slight smile on her red lips. Several minutes passed before the shuttle began to slow and the conductor announced the next stop. Ric snuck glimpses to his left every now and then, pondering her clothes. She truly looked the part of the Jessica Rabbit killer, although he couldnโ€™t remember the real womanโ€™s name.

She stood up as the shuttle came to a stop and the doors slid open. Just as she reached the doors, the woman turned to face him, smiled and said, โ€˜Her name was Ruby Bennettโ€™, and stepped off onto the platform.

To Finish or Not To Finish: a Novel in Limbo

I spend a lot of my time sat in the dark as I feed my baby, staring at a picture of a girl in a yellow dress. And now one thing for sure: her story isnโ€™t over yet.

When I started my Masterโ€™s a year ago, I did it with the intention of using the time to work on the sequel to Searching For Katherine (r.2014), which has sat unfinished in my proverbial desk draw for the past three years.

However, three months into my course – I found out I was pregnant. Overwhelmed by work, university and now pregnancy – the novel remained unfinished.

Well now I am on maternity leave, my degree has come to an end, and I have a month-old baby boy – my time is both free and less so at the same time.

Hanging on my living room wall is the original sketch – done by an old friend of mine – of the cover for Searching For Katherine.

It is of Katherine in a torn yellow dress, walking through the forest. I always loved the drawing because it was of a pivotal moment in Katherineโ€™s story; of limbo. She finds herself leaving one hell, with no promise of salvation or safety once she gets wherever sheโ€™s going – but she still takes the journey. And thus, I too am in limbo when it comes to this book.

But now itโ€™s time to come out of the forest and choose a path. Do I scrap the book altogether, and take time as a sign that some books just shouldnโ€™t be finished? Do I pick up where I left off? Or do I start the manuscript again; and embellish it with the things I have learned in life since last writing it?

I always felt a duty to Katherine to finish her story, I still intend on doing so, but perhaps not in the way I originally planned.

I think Iโ€™ll dust off the old hard drive tomorrow and see where we left off, and if there is a story yet to be salvaged.

We Are Flowers | Stream of Consciousness

A field, full of armoured tanks and soldiers and guns – covered in beautiful, cut and wild flowers.

We march past, and people stop to take photos – turning war into Instagram.

We are flowers – once growing and beautiful but cut for the purpose of display and beauty, so we die. We add chemicals or dyes, we flatten and press them to try and preserve the life we have already taken. But we are flowers – once cut from our stem, we perish.

And as is the way of things. A beauty designed not to last. We are ruined by the spoils of greed and war – wanting more world than our home grown field. But one flower only needs one home to nurture it.

We long for youth and beauty and longevity- but they cannot co-exist. Time will make graves from us all.