Short story : The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Ok, now I know it’s not Christmas yet but I posted a short story, Hunted, on here well over a year ago and it’s getting regular views still so I thought I would post this up and see what people thought. If it looks familiar to anyone it’s because it was on Portobello Book Blogs 12 Days of Christmas in 2017.

Let me just warn you now, not everyone in this story gets a happy ending……….

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Enveloped by the darkness and shadows Emily sat and watched, waiting patiently for the occupant of number 3 to return home.  Number 3 was an unassuming terraced house that looked exactly the same as its neighbours though Emily knew there was something quite different about it.  For the past few weeks she had watched, careful not to arouse suspicion. She had enough doubts of her own about what she was doing without getting unwanted attention from anyone else.  She had used the local shops so that her presence in the village seemed less strange but at the same time she had tried to not visit them or speak to people too much so that when she was gone, when her task was done, no one would remember her.  This was a small village and Emily had realised quite quickly that people were friendly. If you were walking around, particularly in the evening, people assumed you were out for an evening stroll and said hello. Lovely as this was she didn’t want to have any more contact with other people than was absolutely necessary. 

Emily shivered sitting on the wooden bench.  Although she was wrapped up warmly the cold bite from the frosty air found its way through to her limbs, frozen from sitting in the same position for too long.  Wiggling her toes she huddled into herself a bit more, trying to minimise the amount of her body that was exposed to the cold. Being in the north of Scotland on Christmas eve it was no surprise that the temperature was so low.  The snow that had fallen the day before was crispy and, thankfully for her, covered in footprints so hers would not stand out. Clearly everyone in the village was sensible and either away or cosily tucked up at home as there was no one around, the stillness and silence was broken only by an occasional car passing through.  

Her planning had been meticulous, or so she had thought, but despite the fact that her quarry had returned by 8pm every night she had watched Emily was beginning to get concerned about his continued absence tonight given it was now well after 9pm.  She wasn’t concerned for him as such, his safety was of no issue to her. What worried her was that she would be deprived of the closure that she and so many others needed. It had to be tonight, that way Christmas would be untainted by it and she and everyone else could enjoy a fresh start in the New Year, something they all deserved.  

A sudden noise broke the silence, startling her and she realised that she had dozed off.  Trying to clear the fog of sleep from her brain she noticed that the sound was of a car door slamming.  It was him. Typical that he would make so much noise on such a quiet, peaceful night. Watching as he fumbled with the key for his front door before heading inside, Emily then carefully looked around to ensure that she was alone.  She hunched further into the cold bench, pulling her scarf up round her nose and mouth.  

“This was it”, she thought, “this was what everything had been building up to”.  Everything she had done over the past few weeks had led up to this. Now she just needed to find out if she really had the courage to go through with it. “After all”, she mused, “no one would notice if I did nothing and just went home, although I would know…….no, I have to do this, I’ll regret it if I don’t.”

With that final decisive thought Emily stood up, wiggling her legs to wake them up before walking in the direction of number 3.   The blue door stood out amongst all of the other white and cream ones, almost as if it was a beacon for her in the snow and frost.  As she walked she thought through her plan while removing the scarf from her face. It was just starting to snow again, big, wet flakes were landing on her face as she walked, making her cheeks feel tingly and damp.  Reaching the door she pulled the envelope from her pocket, another part of her plan, before ringing the bell and waiting.

As she heard footsteps inside the house her nervousness increased.  There was no turning back now. Suddenly the door opened and there he was, looking at her with absolutely no recognition at all.  Realising he was waiting for her to speak she went into her pre-prepared pitch.

“Evening! I’m collecting money for the local animal shelter, or any donations of blankets or old bedding that you might have?”  Emily showed him the envelope with the shelter’s details on it. It was genuine although they had never canvassed in this village before.  

“Huh, oh, ok, I suppose I might have something”, he said, sounding a bit surprised. “Come in and I’ll see what I have.”  He opened the door wider, letting her inside. Emily walked past him into the lounge. “She was in, this was going to work!”, she thought trying to contain the fear and excitement suddenly coursing through her.  “Wait here”, he said, “I think there are some spare towels upstairs.” He took the stairs two at a time and soon she could hear him walking around above her head.  

Before she knew it he was coming back down the stairs, carrying some old but clean towels.  He handed them to her and she started to take them. Just as he was about to let go, her right arm came from behind her back and in one swift movement, hidden by the towels, the knife in her hand went into his stomach.  A cry of pain and surprise came from him as he stepped backwards in shock. Automatically his hand had gone to the knife, and both were quickly being covered in blood. The towels dropped to the floor with a soft thump, both he and Emily ignored them.  Although she knew what she had done she hadn’t expected there to be quite as much blood so looked just as stunned as he did, though obviously for completely different reasons. He took a few more steps backwards before his legs gave way and he fell onto the floor.  

Lying there, still bleeding profusely he looked at his hand and then at her. “Why?”, he gasped, clearly in a lot of pain.  “Why?”, he repeated when she didn’t answer. She blinked, realising he had been speaking to her. “Why?” she said, “Why for all of the women, myself included, that you duped into believing that you loved.” He looked confused and she knew he didn’t recognise her so she elaborated. “You don’t recognise me because I lost weight and changed my hair after you dumped me.  I thought we were getting married but you never intended to marry me did you? Just like you never intended to marry any of the other women you strung along.” Emily could see from his expression that he knew exactly what she was talking about but she wasn’t finished yet. “After I realised how much of a toad you are I decided to take revenge so I used social media and found a group, a whole group, just about you.  The women that you have used and tossed aside found each other and grouped together to plan payback, but they were taking too long so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’ve ensured that you won’t do this to anyone else ever again. You’re pathetic, you really are.”  

She realised, looking at him as he lay dying, that she felt nothing for him.  She had expected to feel something, even some strange form of joy but there was nothing. She had researched stomach wounds and knew that loss of blood was the main cause of death so all she had to do was wait.  He tried speaking, possibly to defend his actions or ask her for help but he couldn’t get the words out so she ignored him and looked instead at the room she was in. She hadn’t paid it any attention till now but Emily was relieved to see that the blind on the window was closed, something she scolded herself for not checking on her approach to the house.  It was a pleasant room, a little small but nice and cosy and she hoped that this death wouldn’t put people off living here in the future. She looked back down at him, suddenly wanting to leave this place. He was barely conscious. Prodding him with her foot she got only a faint groan in response. Emily bent down, loathe to touch him but wanting to check his pulse.  It was there but very slow. She stood up again, noticing that the towels he had brought down were now soaking up his blood. They clearly were very good towels, it was a shame they would be wasted on him. Taking one final look around, she decided to leave.  

Opening the front door slowly she glanced out but saw no one.  She stepped out into the snow, now falling thick and fast and pulled the door closed behind her.  The Yale lock clicked shut and she started to walk away, across the street and through the square to where she had parked her car.  As she walked she decided this was going to be the best Christmas ever.

 

THE END

Advertisements

Mid-year thoughts…..

So it’s now the middle of June and almost halfway through the year and time, I feel, to take stock.

Many of the ideas I had on my 2018/19 post are still around, they’ve not worked quite as I’d hoped but that’s ok. One thing that did happen was my US trip and I did bring back a couple of books and lots of fabulous memories. I never imagined I would be comfortable this high off the ground or able to see this skyline with my own eyes but it happened and I will never forget it. The other skyline below was pretty impressive too…..

DSC_0087.JPG
New York skyline with Empire State Building.
DSC_0160.JPG
Manhattan at night from the Staten Island Ferry

It’s a bit tricky to take pictures on a ferry when it’s breezy but I’m happy with how this one came out.

I also had a random, impulse trip to Newcastle Noir for a day on the Saturday. It was great fun and I even found time to sneak off to the coast for an hour or so which was amazing and definitely blew the cobwebs away.

I’m typing this sitting in a cottage near Loch Lomond having a weekend to myself and enjoying a break from everything. I’ve been finding out more about myself recently. I always knew I was an introvert but now I know more about the type of introvert I am I’m hoping a few other things in my life will make more sense, for instance the fact that I work in a noisy place with almost 200 other people and can cope with that everyday.  I’ve realise however, particularly with so many changes having happened in the past year, that I need to be careful that I have proper time for myself, like this weekend for instance. There is no one here but me, a laptop and a pile of books, the nearest neighbours are birds, cows and sheep. I know this isn’t for everyone and some people won’t understand how I can be happy spending over 48 hours not physically talking to anyone but I can and I am sometimes.  Thankfully I also have an amazingly supportive partner who may not understand my need to do this but realises that I do need it and supports my decisions as he always has. Makes a huge change from my ex who would have had a completely different reaction to me doing this.

Anyway, back to the blog. I’m still sticking with one of my plans from earlier this year, I want to take part in fewer blog tours so I can focus on reading some of the books I’ve had sitting at home for too long. It’s been harder than I thought to do this but I think I’m improving. I’ve also decided to not take part in any tours in August bar the two I have already signed up for. For August I am going to read what I want and review that and see how that goes. I do have some tours in September onwards already booked but they will be getting kept to a minimum.

I’m hoping the blog will keep growing, I joined The Write Reads earlier this year and recently they shared a post of mine about why I blog. The responses I got to that post being shared were huge and lead to me getting about 4 times as many blog views one one day as I normally do so that was an amazing response. I’m going to focus on reading and reviewing and seeing if I can get my NetGalley percentage to a figure it’s never reached before. I’ve requested and been sent so many books from them that I really do need to make a dent in the big pile that I now have. So the second half of my year is going to be about reading, reviewing and trying to keep everything balanced. I’ve learned that stressing about things is a complete waste of time and uses way too much energy so I’m going to try and worry less about things.

Here’s to an interesting few months, lets see what the rest of 2019 brings, and if you’re heading to Bloody Scotland in September I’ll see you there. Can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite reads of 2018. @OrendaBooks @ConcreteKraken @radiomukhers @SapereBooks @_caroroberts @LucyVHayAuthor @angryrobotbooks @JosephBrassey @HarperImpulse @swperry_history @CorvusBooks @JillMansell @Heidi_Swain @GrahamBrack @west_camel @will_carver

It’s now 2019 and although everyone else appears to have already posted their favourite reads of 2018 I’ve decided to be fashionably late and post mine today.  I’ve whittled the 67 books I’ve read this year down to my favourite 12 and linked my reviews to the book titles, where I haven’t (for some unfathomable reason) reviewed the book I’ve linked it to Amazon so you can find out more about it there.

These 12 are books that have stayed with me since I finished them, I’m still raving about them to anyone who will listen, have blown me away with the story and how it resonates with me or a combination of these. They are listed only in the order in which I read them with the earlier reads first.

So without further ado:

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee.

Historical crime is a favourite genre of mine and this story, particularly with the memorable characters stood out for me.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski.

My Summer of Magic Moments by Caroline Roberts.

Dragon Road by Joseph Brassey.

Sunshine and Sweetpeas in Nightingale Square by Heidi Swain.

An absolutely amazing read that needs to be on everyone’s list.

This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell.

Do No Harm by Lucy V Hay

The Angels’ Mark by S.W. Perry

Lying and Dying by Graham Brack

Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Attend by West Camel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

I’m not really into celebrating the new year but during that odd time between Christmas and New Year I was reflecting on how much has changed for me over the past 12 months. I stopped studying and changed jobs and while, on the surface, that doesn’t sound like a lot there was a lot of upheaval surrounding both of those changes. I went from doing 6/7 days a week at 50+ hours per week to 2-4 days and 14+ hours to 5/6 days and an average of 35 hours. The plan I started the year with went completely out the window and I never envisioned ending up where I am now. Don’t misunderstand, I like my new job, the pay and benefits are good and it gives me a good amount of free time (perfect for reading!) but I never expected to end up working in the industry I’m now in.

These changes have been huge for me on a personal level, my goals have vanished because they no longer apply and I have no plan or idea for my future. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have found a job I enjoy with a short commute and good pay but getting used to the rest of the changes in my life is going to take a bit of time.

Unfortunately this huge upheaval has impacted my blog. I had plans to have numerous authors on this year and while some of that was successful much of it wasn’t and I’m disappointed by that. I have managed to keep up with blog tours for the most part, if I hadn’t done any I would have read very little and as reading helps my stress levels and overall health, clearly this is something I want to ensure I keep doing. I am hoping to still have some authors on the blog in the coming year, I need more than an hour or two to properly sort things out but I’m hopeful it will happen soon. I’m also making some changes, some are minor and cosmetic and others less so. After a discussion with the lovely Kelly from LoveBooksGroup I am considering having a special feature for myself and blog tour guest posts, this is still in the pipeline at the moment. I’m changing my profile picture for twitter, Facebook and Instagram and having a general overhaul of the blog. I am also hoping to have a guest reviewer join me but this is in the early stages at the moment so we’ll see how it goes.

Because of last year’s changes I’ve also decided to take on less blog tour reviews this year. I will still do other tour posts but not as many reviews as I want to have a proper go at reducing my ever increasing to-read list and be able to read what I fancy more often than I have been able to of late.

I enjoy doing blog tours and they are important but as I get older I’m realising that I need to find a balance in my life that works for me and getting my to-read list and Netgalley percentage under control is going to go a long way to achieving that.

I haven’t made many plans for 2019 but my biggest one at the moment is my first ever trip to the US in April. I’m visiting Boston and New York and making sure I a) visit some book shops and b) have space in my luggage to bring a few books home. I’m so excited about this holiday, I’ve had to renew my passport because it’s been so long since I’ve been abroad.

In a bid to be better organised and make the most of my non-work time this year I’ve decided to try bullet journalling instead of keeping a normal diary. It’s off to an interesting start so we’ll see how it works out.

I’ve got some cracking books lined up for the beginning of the year, both tour reviews and ARC’s and also some reviews of books I read last year but haven’t yet reviewed. I’m thrilled and hugely grateful to all the publishers, blog tour organisers and everyone else who emails and sends me books. I never thought this would happen when I started my blog and while it may still not be the biggest blog out there but it’s mine, something I started from scratch and grew myself and that is what makes it special.

Despite the upheaval and changes in 2018 it still had a lot of good points and I’m hoping that now things are starting to settle down, there will be even more good things awaiting me in 2019. Time will tell.

#Play #Review : A Christmas Carol at Stirling Castle by Chapterhouse Theatre Company @chapterhouse_co @stirlingcastle

I don’t normally review anything except books but today I make an exception. Last night I went to see a showing of A Christmas Carol by Chapterhouse Theatre Company at Stirling Castle. It was so good I felt I had to review it and spread the word about this fabulous company and their amazing work so read on and see what I thought, along with a few pictures I managed to take during the night. 

Walking through this passageway we could see a little of the building the play would be held in. This is the Great Hall, the restoration of which was finished in 1999.

The hall is a stunning building with a massive vaulted ceiling which I couldn’t resist taking a picture of.

I’ve been to some Chapterhouse plays at the castle before but they were always outdoors in the summer so you have to provide your own seating. Last night, however, seating was provided for us. Once we had found suitable seats we took in the hall and the stunning set. 

And now for the play itself.  As I said this is not the first Chapterhouse play I’ve been to so I knew it would be good but this time it was not just good but stunning. I honestly couldn’t fault it at all. The performances from the actors were pitch perfect and, as far as I could tell, word perfect too. Even more impressive when you consider that many of them played more than one part. 

Bob Cratchitt, Fred and Scrooge
Fezziwig, Dick Wilkins, Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge
Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present

Some of the scenes were funny which I hadn’t expected. I loved the Ghost of Christmas Present, he was very much the most likeable of them all and very well played. Whereas the Ghost of Christmas Future was almost frightening when it appeared as it wasn’t quite was I was expecting. With it came some creepy, almost scary scenes which had even me feeling a little apprehensive.  

And, of course, the Ghost of Christmas Future with Scrooge

There were some quite moving scenes involving Tiny Tim during which you could have heard a pin drop, the atmosphere was like something I have never experienced before. No one moved, no one made a sound. It was like everyone was holding their breath waiting to see what happened next. 

Chris Gilbey-Smith was amazing as Scrooge but particularly at the end after all of the ghosts had visited.  It was as if he genuinely had changed as a person and wasn’t just acting a part. 

The full cast taking a very well-deserved bow.

I tried to get tickets to see this last year but by the time I did it was sold out. I am so glad I was able to get in this time as it was definitely worth the wait. Sadly the last showing is tonight at Stirling Castle again and it is sold out but Chapterhouse will be touring again in the summer and, hopefully, winter 2018.  For further information check out their website at www.chapterhouse.org and if you have the chance to go to any of their shows, go, they are definitely worth it, especially this one,  it was absolutely spell-binding! 

On the blog in November……

I’ve had quite a few blog posts recently and a lot more to come in November so I thought it would be sensible to do a blog post detailing all of them, something I haven’t done for a while.

Everything kicked off today with my stop on the Clipped Wings blog tour.

Tomorrow I have a review of Murder Game by Caroline Mitchell as my stop on the Bookouture blog tour arrives.

On the 6th I have a review of Zenka by Alison Brodie. You might remember I took part in the cover reveal for this book recently.

The 12th sees a review of a book I received a few days ago, the CWA anthology of short stories published by Orenda books.

I take part in another Orenda blog tour on the 18th with a review of White Out by Ragnar Jonasson.

The 25th brings another review, this time A Pearl for My Mistress.

Then I have a slight change with 2 guest posts, on the 28th for the Blood Rites blog tour and, on the 29th for the Christmas at the Little Knitting Box tour.

Also around the end of the month I have a review of Letters from the Pianist.

As you can see I have a busy month ahead. I may also manage to pop a review or two up as well depending on how things go.

Bloody Scotland 2017

So, days after moving house I spent the weekend volunteering and attending events at Bloody Scotland in Stirling.

The weekend kicked off in style with the announcing of the winner of the McIlvanney prize (Denise Mina) and then with a torchlight procession from Stirling castle to the Albert Halls.

As a volunteer I was positioned about halfway down the route so was able to get an amazing view of the procession as it came down the street. All the volunteers were also offered the opportunity, as we made up the rear of the procession, to carry a torch of our own (something we never expected).  This made an already impressive experience even more amazing and was the perfect way to start the weekend. I headed home after this as I had an early start the next morning.

Day 2 

On Saturday I had the pleasure of working two events.  One was with C.L. Taylor, Sarah Pinborough and Clare Mackintosh who were a joy to listen to and were an excellent panel. The conversation flowed well and I couldn’t believe all 3 of them had only met the night before!

The second panel was Catriona McPherson, C.F. Peterson and Michael Ridpath. This was a fascinating hour in which all three authors discussed detting their writing in villages and remote places rather than the cities of Scotland such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Shift over I whizzed off to one of the other venues to catch Peter May in discussion with Lin Anderson.

I’ve seen Peter May talk before but it was a pleasure to hear him again. This time he discussed his Enzo series, the fact that all of the publishers in the country turned down The Blackhouse when it was sent to them and becoming a French citizen amongst other topics. All in all a fascinating and entertaining hour.

After that it was time for a quick lunch before more of Lin Anderson, this time with Ragnar Jonasson and Thomas Enger.  (And the news that Scotland won the Bloody Scotland football match 6-3!!)

During this hour we heard a lullaby that Thomas Enger’s Henning Juul character composed for his unborn son and a lot of discussion about setting novels in countries which get little, if any, daylight in the winter months. It was another excellent panel and I ended up leaving with a copy of Lin Anderson’s new book simply for asking Ragnar where his inspiration for the character of Ari Thor came from.

Day 3

A shorter day today. First I went to the Denise Mina and Liz Nugent event.

I missed the beginning of this due to watching Mo Farah win the Great North Run but it was still interesting nonetheless. It was fascinating to hear Denise Mina talking about the people in her latest book, The Long Drop, and her concerns about the book itself. Hearing about the inspiration for Liz Nugent’s, Lying in Wait (a stunning novel), was equally fascinating and added a little more depth to the novel itself.

After that it was back to work where I had a surreal few minutes in a minibus-taxi with the panelists on the next panel and the lovely Karen Sullivan. Bloody Scotland allows some authors to pitch their novels to publishers in the hope of getting a deal or, at least, a bit more exposure. This next panel was some of the results of that pitch opportunity from the past few years.

Steph Broadribb, Jospeh Knox and Matt Wesolowski have all had books published as a result of taking part in pitch perfect. I was already aware of them having read Deep Down Dead and had the pleasure of meeting Jospeh Knox at my book group a few months ago but it was fascinating to hear their stories of what happened after they had pitched their novels and how they got from that to being the published authors they are now.

My last and final event of the day was working on the Chris Brookmyre event.

Chris spoke for the whole hour (apart from audience questions).  There was an extract from his new book, out in November called Places in the Darkness which sounds like a mix of science fiction and crime and is set on a space station orbiting Earth.  While quite different from his usual books this one does sound intriguing and may possibly bring him a host of new fans.

That was the end of my weekend and what an ending it was. Bloody Scotland is back slightly later next year on 21st September and I, for one, can’t wait. See you then!!