Tag Archives: Free

A Christmas Present

A short read … for those quiet few minutes that occur every Christmas.

The Writer

A Short Story

Cafe

I walked into a bar. Well, I couldn’t very well ride my bike through the door.

In truth, it was a café; my summer holiday, a cycle tour of the South of France had degenerated into a café-crawl. The intense heat, that arrived with the rising sun and lasted until well after it had set, meant my original fifty-k-a-day plan was in ruins. I knew that five minutes after leaving this place, I’d be looking forward to my next drink break.

Inside it was dark, cool and pretty quiet. A small group sat around a table, not watching the pop music videos playing on the television, passing the odd comments to and fro. There was a solitary man, propping up the bar, a half-finished beer in front of him.

“Bonjour!” I greeted him, while I waited to be served.

“Nothing bon about today mate!” He continued to stare at his beer.

The Proprietor arrived, I looked at the clock, nearly midday. Lunchtime; I allow myself a longer break for lunch and it would be too late by the time I’d climbed the hill to the next village.

“A large bottle of cold water and a beer, please. What is the plat du jour?”

“Confit de canard, avec frites et salade.” He put the beer down in front of me.

“His duck and chips are good.” The eyes were still on his beer, condensation running down the glass.

“Can I buy you another?” I point at his glass. One of the problems with cycle touring solo, it is a bit lonely. A conversation with an English speaker over lunch would be pleasant.

“Yeah, why not. Thanks.”

“Seeing as you know about the food here, I guess you live locally.”

“Lived. Sold up and I leave this evening, going back to Kent. My wife has found  a houseboat on the Medway that we can afford to rent while we search for a house we can afford.”

“Oh, didn’t you enjoy ‘la vie française,’ I have always quite fancied the laid-back way of life here.”

“I used to really enjoy it, but it has all gone wrong.”

I sense a story worth listening to, so I offer to buy him lunch and a pitcher of wine. He readily accepted.

“So, what has gone wrong?” I ask, as we move to a table ready to get our starters.

“I cocked up. I mean I made a disastrous mess of things.” I pour us both a glass of water, we were nearing the end of the beers, and encourage him to continue.

“We moved here two and a half years ago; I was going to write my great novel. Ha!” He drained his beer glass. “I’d spent the last few years of my working life writing bids for government funds, I was good at it. Bids I wrote often attracted the funds they were supposed to. The sad thing from my point of view was that most of them were totally fictitious, I assembled a set of stock phrases and buzz words and used to arrange them into a coherent story. I thought if I can do this, I can do the great book too. We sold up and moved to this beautiful place.”

Our starters arrived, along with the wine. He poured a glass of the rich, red, liquid and held it to the light. He took a sip and sighed. We sat in silence for a while, eating our melon with ham.

“The move here was an interesting experience. We met some of the locals and eventually we hooked up with an ex-pat group. We started going out to lunch with the local British group almost at once. Over lunch, we would all exchange anecdotes and war stories about the idiosyncrasies of French administration, laws and drivers. Imagine, thirty boozy Brits sat around a table, the banter, witticisms, laughter and gossip. It was an incredible source of material. I started plotting my version of ‘A Year in Provence,’ based on what we were hearing at these lunches. Ah, the duck!”

Our main course had arrived. He had been right when he said it was good, the confit de cerise tasted just like a genuine home-made cherry jam.

“You were telling me about your idea for Not A Year in Provence,” I prompted my companion.

“Ah, yes. I had all these snippets and anecdotes but no real theme to hang them all from. With that in mind, I invented a couple, retiring to France and wrote it so that almost everything happened to them. It wasn’t autobiographical, apart from a chapter about the useless estate agent, that was based entirely on our Immobilier. No problem. I wrote the whole thing, both my wife and I proofread the manuscript, several times. We corrected the spelling and changed the point of view of some scenes. Once we were happy, I posted it to Amazon as a Kindle book. Then I made the mistake of turning it into a Print-on-Demand paperback.”

“Doing a paperback was a mistake?” I asked, as I used a piece of crusty bread to wipe up the last of the tasty sauce on my plate.

“Hindsight is wonderful; if only you could have it before you make the mistake.” He took a sip from his glass. “I was excited about having my first book published and I wanted to share it. I ordered several copies of the paperback and sent them to the family. Hoping they would write nice reviews. Some did, some didn’t.

“The Kindle sales were steady, low, but steady at two, maybe three, copies a week. I got on with writing my great novel. It was tough work, each sentence made up of the very best handcrafted words. Arranged and rearranged until they were all in a perfect sequence, leading smoothly from the preceding sentence to the succeeding one. Paragraphs that took what the last one had said, and building on it, passed the narrative forward. Or some such bollocks!” He paused to pour the last of the wine into his glass.

“All the ex-pat group knew I had retired here to write; they would ask time after time about how things were going, blah, blah, blah. Slowly, I’d reply and leave it like that. The conversation would move on to a new topic and my writing would be forgotten about.” He raised his hand to attract the Patron. “Dessert? Tarte Tatin avec crème anglaise s’il-vous plait.”

That sounded like a good idea, “Apple pie for me too, but with vanilla ice-cream instead of custard, please.” I placed my order.

“As I was saying, the Great Novel was slow work. Writing a serious book was nothing like as much fun as that first book. Then, just for a giggle and to make the sales look better, I bought a copy of my own story for my Kindle. Then one wet and windy autumn evening, some months later I started to read it. I was surprised to find myself laughing at some of the tales. That was when I found the error.”

“You found the error? Why was it such a disaster then?”

“I’m coming to that. I needed someone, a character that would know everyone, to let a semi-secret about a couple, who were only part of the group during the summer months, out of the bag. Someone in a position like the organiser of our little lunch group. I changed his whole personality, writing him as a short, posturing, bombast, a cross between Colonel Blimp and Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army fame. Nothing like Jerry, who is the group organiser. I needed a name for this character so I used Jerry as a placeholder and had never got around to changing it.”

Our desserts arrived and we ordered coffees to follow.

“So, you found your mistake, what happened next?”

“Ah! That was easy. One of the joys of ebooks and Print-on-Demand is you can make almost instant changes to the manuscript, repost it to the website and within hours the new version takes over. I went through the file on the computer, I took out all the references to ‘Jerry’ and replaced them with ‘Charles’, reposted and went to bed. The next morning, I had emails telling me the ebook was updated and later, that my paperback had been too. Job jobbed.” He scraped the last of his custard up onto a spoon and popped into his mouth. “That is my last taste of real French food. I don’t think I’ll ever persuade my wife to come back to France.”

I raised an eye at that.

“She couldn’t stand it any longer, she went back to England to sort out somewhere for us to live. I had to stay while I dealt with winding-up everything down here.”

“What happened? It sounded like you had a pretty good life here.”

“We were ostracised, dropped from society. People stopped inviting us to dinner, to barbeques, even the emails telling us where the next ex-pat lunch was stopped coming. My wife told me she was ignored and even snubbed by our former friends in the supermarket. She is a far more sociable person than me so it was very hard on her.”

Our coffee arrived, he paused while I paid the bill. “This is on me, call it a leaving present. Did you find out what had caused your fall from favour?”

“Yes, my wife eventually trapped one of the other women and forced it out of her.”

“And?” We were both toying with our spoons in the coffee saucers.

“It was the book. My wife had tired of me evading questions about my writing. She had passed a copy of my book onto one of the other women at the lunch club. They had read it a few weeks after that, then passed it on, in anger. My wife, unaware of that grievous error, had introduced a ‘first edition’ copy of my book into circulation. Eventually, they all agreed that what I had written, was if slanderous, not only about Jerry, but the characters that they imagined were other people in the group. Mind you, I think that it says more about how they see each other than anything I would have put on paper. In the end, the book got to Jerry and the rest is, as they say, history.”

We both picked up our cups and toasted each other with the bitter taste of coffee. We both stood up, I went to buy another bottle of water for my onward journey. The writer headed for the door. By the time I’d paid and stepped out into the solar furnace, he had gone. I strapped the bottle of water to my luggage pannier. A quick check of the tyres and brakes and I was ready to go. I clipped my helmet straps together, then looked up at the road that lay ahead as the Proprietor emerged from the kitchen door carrying a bundle of ready meal cartons to the bin.

Au revoir, Monsiuer.” he called as he stuffed the frozen chip and heat and serve Confit de Canard packages into the overflowing trash receptacle.

C’est triste!” I gestured towards the bin with the bike wheel. I was bitterly disappointed to see another bit of French culture going down the chute.

Oui, Puis, il raconte la même histoire tous les midis!” With a gallic shrug he turns back to the kitchen. I point the bike up the road and start to peddle in the blistering heat.

I’d gone about a kilometre up the road when I started to unravel that parting comment from the Proprietor. I’d caught the bit about the same story every lunchtime and accepted that. ‘Puis, il raconte …

Finally, I got it. “Then, he tells the same story every lunchtime.” The cunning old scroat!

Books for September

September has been a strange month, still very hot here. Lots of writing being done too. So the list of books for September is quite restricted. The books this month have in general been rather weak reads too!

Cupcakes and Casualties (Peridale Cafe Cozy Mystery Book 11)

Cozy Mysteries 10 Book Box Set: The Peridale Cafe Series

by Agatha Frost

Cupcakes and Casualties (Peridale Cafe Cozy Mystery Book 11)

Why did I do it? I mean reading the whole ten book box set and then book 11?

Well despite the appalling lack of accuracy about English life and the nature of small Cotswold villages, they are fairly engaging characters. OK, there is death, multiple deaths where ever Julia goes. Even a simple birthday party for her new man results in a killing! And it is not the first illegal death in the family. Julia’s baking must be pretty fantastic, otherwise, the whole population of Peridale would have moved out to escape the Grim Reaper.

Book 11 sees an actress, a diva, buying the remains of Barker, the boyfriend’s, house damaged in a storm (and uninsured) to build a modern monstrosity on the site. Until murder takes a hand!

All very silly but easy reading

3 Stars

Buy from Amazon

Naked Crow 7 – Sacred Arrows by P.Z. Walker

Naked Crow 7 - Sacred Arrows by [Walker, P.Z.]

Ah, that is why! Mr Walker has come up with an inventive set of stories for his heroine Shelia, the modern day Crow nation Shamen, her friends and her spirit guide. At least four different storylines intertwine their way through the book, some light-hearted others potentially darker.

A fun light read. I loved it, even the sometimes idiosyncratic use of English!

5 Stars

Buy from Amazon

Gallows View (Inspector Banks Series Book 1) by Peter Robinson

Gallows View (Inspector Banks Series Book 1) by [Robinson, Peter]

Mentioning darker plots … I was tempted by a low-cost edition of book one of the Inspector Banks series (the first of twenty-four, it could be expensive). On the other hand, it was not a strong book.

Written in the 1980’s which I managed to pick up from the smoking in public buildings and one mention of synthesiser and drum music, some of the plot devices had not stood the test of time. The opera-loving hero and the Radical Woman character. Some of the writing was very repetitive ‘Banks lights another cigarette!” Headlines in the Eastvale Herald. Many of the characters are very one dimensional, all the women are stunningly attractive, the bad guys are irredeemably evil, petty but evil.

If I was going for a post-Rebus detective … Derek Fee’s character Ian Wilson is far better. Definitely in the

I gather there is a TV series based on these books. Reviews indicate they might get better so I may try another.

2 Stars

Buy from Amazon

What Have You Done by Matthew Farrell

What Have You Done by [Farrell, Matthew]

Another dark and nasty American murder psycho-drama with a twist in its tail, story. I am struggling with this book. So much so I re-read the Lady Hardcastle mysteries to avoid it.

Buy from Amazon

February’s Books

February 2018

I was busy doing a lot of writing in February, see the previous post! The Uncovered Policeman: Made for TV

I managed a rather fun series of fantasy books. I probably started in the wrong place, although I might not have done … So I’ll review as I read it

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem Book 1)

by KF Breene

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem Book 1) by [Breene, K.F.]

http://getbook.at/NatWitch

This is the one that might have been out of sequence, but it appears to have a sequel in preparation.

We meet Penny Bristol, a young woman with known but suppressed magical talent, standing outside a church in New Orleans. She is supposed to be attending a magical retreat. Somehow the dates have  gotten confused. Preparations for a battle between good and evil are underway. The question is who’s side should she be on?

After having accidentally helped to turn a coven of witches into zombies she ends up hiding in a cupboard  while a pitch battle rages around her. Being found by a self declared ‘good guy’ another young woman dressed in leather armed with a gun and sword she survives and is taken into the care of an older couple of ‘mages’ (magicians).

From then on we follow her tale as she tries to return to her old life, correcting the grammar on public notices with her friend Veronica, for example. However, her magic won’t let her and soon the corrupt Magicians Guild of Seattle have her in their sights.

Pace, humour and a strong internal logic hold this well written story together. A very entertaining read I’ll give it

A Good Read

I then followed back to the parent series, starting with;

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 1)

By KF Breene

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 1) by [Breene, K.F.]

http://getbook.at/BornF

The lead character in this series is a certain leather clad, sword wielding,  female Super Natural Bounty Hunter, Reagan.  As you may have surmised this is the same self proclaimed ‘good guy’ who appears in  Natural Witch.

There is far more to Reagan, as learn across the rest of the series …

Raised in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 2) by [Breene, K.F.]
http://getbook.at/RaisedF

 

Fused in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 3)

Fused in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 3) by [Breene, K.F.]

http://getbook.at/FusedF

and that is a problem with trying to do a review of a series like this. The books are pretty well continuous  and to review Fused in Fire without giving spoilers on the earlier stories is rather tricky. So I won’t go there other than to say that the journey to the Cracks of Doom in Fused in Fire is very derivative of the Lord of the Rings, not that that is a bad thing in its self!

If you enjoy magic, dragons, vampires and unicorns with a bit of violence and a twist of humour …. You should find the whole trilogy worth the read!

Three Good Reads!

All four KF Breene stories are free for Kindle Unlimited.

Just to prove that not everything gets a rave review

The Hundred Grand Banana (A Raucous Giles Curtis Comedy)

By Giles Curtis

The Hundred Grand Banana (A Raucous Giles Curtis Comedy) by [Curtis, Giles]

https://amzn.to/2GgVdnV

I should have know from the title – I mean – A Raucous Comedy by The Author? As part of the title?

This just didn’t work for me.
I found the premise absurd rather than witty and the humour rather desperate.

A biochemist has made a (presumably) genetically modified drug producing banana. Some klutz confuses another klutz for the biochemist and I lost the will to turn to the next page …

Far from ‘Raucous’

Don’t bother

And for something a little different

We Have Lost The President

By Paul Mathews

We Have Lost The President by [Mathews, Paul]

http://getbook.at/LostPres

Start with the concept,  London, 2044. Britain is a Republic. President Jan Polak has vanished overnight from Buckingham Palace, just weeks before an election.

Howie Pond – the President’s official spokesperson is determined to find out what has happened- as soon as he’s eaten his breakfast.

A very British comedy, occasionally a slightly desperate comedy, ensues. Cue failing technology, robotic security systems that mal function.  Yep British comedy!

Not badly written but nor is it a book to stop you putting it down and going to sleep either.

I might read more of the “We have lost …” books. They are part of Kindle Unlimited .. so nothing lost!

And Finally

Mirror Earth Network

By PZ Walker

Mirror Earth Network by [Walker, P.Z.]

http://getbook.at/MENetwork

The third Mirror Earth series from the prolific pen of Paul Z Walker.
This tale of travel between largely benign friendly worlds, all called Earth takes a twist and arrives at the beginning.
Meanwhile the wicked Prof Holgar, the principle of the Laboratory where we started (on ‘our’ Earth) is still in pursuit of his dinosaurs that live on the first Mirror Earth.
Add in strange ‘going ons’ at Ayers Rock, flowers with power and data, a few Aliens and we are dashing across curved, distorted time and Space with out rockets or pockets!

Another great yarn from PZ!

A Good Read

Free Short Story Weekend

Free Short Story weekend (Jan 14 -15, 2016)

This weekend you can read some examples of my writing for free.

Yes you read it right …. This weekend all four of the Rags to Riches short stories are available to download and keep for absolutely nothing, zip, nahda, bugger all, that is to say FREE.

As Leo Sayer sang back in the 1970’s I’m “Giving It All Away” … Because it is a big thing to do to invest in a book by a writer you have heard of and a book in a genre you have never tried.

  • What if I hate it as a result of the way it is written?
  • Maybe I’ll not be able to understand the subject?
  • Supposing I am embarrassed or offended by the content?

It is just a case of following these links to Amazon .co.uk to buy, read and keep or throw away at no risk, for nothing, for Free.

 

Free Weekend The Girls Trip to the Beach
The Girls Trip to the Beach

It is the weekend, Bea on a language course in France, she and a new friend take a trip to the beach. In addition it is a naturist beach.

Free Weekend cocoa-and-pyjamas-cover
Cocoa and Pyjamas short story

Invited to dinner and to stay over … what happens when the evening finishes with cocoa, dressed ready for bed … since you don’t own any pajamas?

 

Free Weekend Naked Warriors Cover
The Naked Warriors,
A Rags to Riches short story

A tale about a war damaged army officer and the a junior officer, a woman, who saved his life.

The Cutter's Tale - Free Weekend
The Cutter’s Tale

The prequel to the Uncovered Policeman, how does a normal couple from middle-England come to manage a naturist resort?

This Weekend …

Firstly 0rder one book or order all four. After all the price is the same this weekend absolutely nothing! All four books are Free.

Then (I hope) enjoy reading these stories, because

Next weekend …

Most of all, I’d love you to read the novellas and novels in the Rags to Riches series.  They are available as Kindle downloads and also as real paperback books!