Posts Tagged ‘lemon tree writers’

ImageAt the tail end of last year I once again entered the Aberdeen University Special Collections Flash Fiction competition. Once again I didn’t win anything but hey-ho…

Anyway, since I haven’t posted anything for a while I thought I may as well share it here. The story was inspired by the picture.

Strictly Business

‘How was Bogota?’

They were standing in front of the model globe. Anderson could feel the slight chill of air-conditioning through his suit. Outside the muggy New York streets waited for him.

‘The arrangements were excellent as usual.’

‘And Señor Mendoza?’ Philips let the question hang in the cool air. He was close enough that Anderson caught a faint whiff of his cologne. He remembered the heat from the car bomb washing over him even from a safe distance. The plume of black smoke had stretched above the city streets like a crooked exclamation point confirming that Carlos Mendoza had ceased to exist.

‘Will no longer be a problem.’

‘And the authorities?’

‘Mendoza frequently criticised the drug lords so everyone assumes the Cartel did it.  So far the press hasn’t made the connection to his campaign against foreign investment.’

‘Excellent,’ Philips turned to the younger man. ‘I believe there was some collateral damage?’

Anderson nodded.

‘Senor Mendoza’s wife and his daughter were also in the car.’ Ana Maria Mendoza had been just six years old.  Her smiling, gap-toothed school picture had stared out at him from the front pages of the newspaper while he waited for his flight.

‘Unfortunate,’ Philips shrugged. ‘However, these things happen in our line of work.’ He smiled. ‘You’ve done well Jimmy. Your name is going to be heard by a lot of important people after this, you mark my words.’

‘It’s good to know that my work is appreciated.’

‘That’s the spirit Jimmy,’ Philips clapped him on the shoulder. ‘I have another assignment coming up if you’re interested.’

Anderson hesitated. He was exhausted after the Mendoza mission but perhaps keeping busy would be for the best under the circumstances.

‘What’s the job?’

‘Bit of a change from the last one,’ he rotated the globe. ‘How’s your Russian?’

‘Pretty good. I have a slight southern accent but not enough to make me stand out.’

‘Perfect.’ He reached into his inside pocket and handed over a small black box. It looked just like a regular Smartphone.

‘You can download more information via this once you leave here.’

‘Any other special instructions?’

‘You’ll need to pay a quick visit to the Lab before you go.’

‘The Lab? What for?’

‘This job needs to be a little less …public shall we say, than your last one. The political situation is more delicate. We need this to look like natural causes. From what I gather the eggheads downstairs have concocted something using polonium to do the trick.’


‘It’s a radioactive isotope. The effects won’t be immediate but they should be fatal in the long run. You’ll be completely safe of course.’

‘I see. Well, I’d best be get down there and make a start.’ He made as if to leave.

‘Jimmy?’ Philips called after him. Anderson turned back.

‘Mendoza’s family – I trust you aren’t being troubled by any pangs of conscience.’

He thought again of the photographs and shook his head. Conscience was a luxury.

‘Strictly business, Mr Philips.’


Once upon a time there was no Bill. In his place was Billy, a young lad who sometimes entertained the fantasy of being a writer one day.

In 1989, young Billy was sitting one of those English exams where they give you a booklet full of prompts and tell you to write something about one of them. He spied a newspaper headline which proclaimed, “Man to be freeze-dried” and the wheels in his mind started turning helped along by his regular intake of sci-fi stories from the local library.

Billy’s teacher read the story and insisted he put it into the school magazine. This was very nice of her and Billy was very chuffed as it was the first story he ever had published. Sadly, Billy’s copy of the story was lost in the great clear-out under the bed of ’95 and the story was thought to be lost forever.

Untill now…

Thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook and old school chum told me he had visited the old school recently as it is scheduled to be demolished soon. On his visit he found an old pile of school magazines which had been collected together for vistors to browse. Knowing that I still entertain notions of being a writer he sent me a picture of the long lost story and suggested I ask the school if I could get a copy.

I took his advice yesteday an envelope arrived containing the words written by little Billy when he was only 14 and a nice letter from the Deputy Head Teacher.

So here it is: The Man To Be Freeze Dried. Presented in all it’s badly punctuated glory. Some readers out there may think that not much has changed …apart from being a bit clearer where commas, colons and semi-colons go now!

Now, if only I could get someone to track down my long lost Christmas massacre story…

cover concept version 2

After a bit of faffing around converting it to a Kindle Friendly format I am pleased to announce that this year’s Christmas story is here for you all to enjoy.

The plan has been to write a Christmas themed short story every year to give away to friends and family. Last year I put out Reindeer Dust which was my first foray into the world of electronic publishing. As usual I’ve opted for a non-traditional Christmas story – this time we have Elves and Zombies running amuck at the North Pole with typically gruesome consequences. Don’t worry though, it’s all a bit tongue in cheek – think more Shaun of the Dead than Walking Dead.

As usua, in keeping in the spirit of the season, I am giving it away for free. The story went live in the Kindle Store today but from tomorrow you will be able to download it for zilch. The promotion will last until Saturday the 22nd as I can only give it awy for a maximum of five days. If you don’t have a Kindle (and who knows, maybe Santa is bringing you one) you can always download the free Kindle Viewer app from Amazon which will allow you to still read it on your computer, ipad etc.

To keep you going until then I have also made all of my other e-books free from today until Friday.

Get them here:

Christmas Night of the Living Dead (UK)

Christmas Night of the Living Dead (USA)

Reindeer Dust (UK)

Reindeer Dust (USA)

When the Revolution Comes (UK)

When the Revolution Comes (USA)

Himself by the Seaside (UK)

Himself by the Seaside (USA)

If you like what you read, please, please, please leave a review telling people what you thought.

Updated: after contacting the University I have been given permission to include the picture prompt that I used to come up with my competition entry. Many thanks to Scott Byrne from the Special Collections Centre for allowing me to use the image.

from Robert Ker Porter's Travelling sketched in Russia and Sweden during 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, published in 1813. Copyright, University of Aberdeen.

from Robert Ker Porter’s Travelling sketched in Russia and Sweden during 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, published in 1813. Copyright, University of Aberdeen.

Earlier this month I spotted a sign advertising a flash fiction competition organised by Aberdeen University. The entries had to be based on one of four pictures taken from the University’s Special Collections Centre’s rare books and archives. Figuring there was nothing to lose I went home,  found the pictures (I chose number 2) and had bashed out a 500 word effort in a couple of days. I was quite pleased with it as I normally hate “writing to order” as so many competitions seem to insist upon these days. I also rather enjoyed the period feel of the story that developed which was a bit of departure from my usual style.

The winners were announced today and sadly I did not feature in the top slot or even get a special commendation. However, the story is published along with many others on the University’s website. There you will find the overall winner and links to all the other stories and, most important of all, the pictures which started it all.

I’ve included the story below for you.

The Pit

‘This way Sir,’ Drummond said as Porteous stepped out of the basket.

Porteous followed the younger man through the tunnel. The stifling heat of the jungle lay over a hundred feet above and the walls sweated and ran with constant moisture. A cool draft teased his exposed skin. There were no mosquitoes this far down either which he supposed was a blessing. He detested the bitter taste of the quinine pills the Professor insisted the men take daily.

‘How is the dig progressing?’

‘We seem to be back on schedule now.’ The locals Drummond had hired had strong backs and toiled night and day for their few pennies.

‘Just as well – London is becoming impatient. Several telegrams have arrived insisting that we make haste.’

‘Yes Sir I realise that but…’ Drummond hesitated.

‘Well? What is it? Out with it man.’

‘With all due respect Sir, I don’t think they appreciate our difficulties. The locals say this place is haunted.  It took a lot of persuading to get them to overcome their reluctance to dig here.’

‘Stuff and nonsense lad,’ Porteous snorted. ‘Let me tell you, I have travelled far and wide and I’ve yet to encounter anything that can’t be seen off with a taste of cold steel.’

‘If you say so Sir.’

The tunnel broadened out into a wider cavern. Porteous could hear the scrape of shovels from up ahead.

‘Are you sure the map is correct?’

‘Positive Sir. It took us a while to translate all the information on it but this is the place all right.’

The map had passed through several sets of hands before coming into the possession of Porteous’ employer. It purported to show an ancient burial site hidden deep in the jungle where untold riches were said to lie.  Porteous had been hired to lead the expedition – a task which he had gladly accepted. Civilian life was far too mundane for his tastes although the heat made his old wounds throb.

There was a sudden clamour of voices raised in agitation. One of the workers, his face streaked with dirt ran up to the two men jabbering excitedly.

‘He says they’ve found something,’ Drummond translated once he got the man to calm down.

The diggers stood at the edge of the shallow pit as if unsure what to do next, a few shifted from foot to foot nervously. A stone casket lay at the bottom of the hole. Porteous could see the intricate carvings decorating its surface even through the dirt.

‘Out of my way,’ Porteous said, shoving them aside. He grabbed a pick from one of the men and jumped into the hole. He grunted as he hefted it over his head and brought it down to strike the stone.

A flash of light burst from the shattered casket, consuming all of the men. It burst through the tunnels and shot up to the surface. When it subsided the excavation had been erased and only the sounds of the living jungle remained.

English: Little Red Riding Hood

English: Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I was away on holiday,  the Shortbread Short Stories website launched their annual Halloween writing competition. I won last year with my flash fiction story “Trick or Treat“. I didn’t think I had any creative gas left in the tank after finishing two complete drafts (plus minor polishes) of my forthcoming Christmas ebook, “Christmas Night of the Living Dead” but as I sat at around two in the morning having just saved my work I felt compelled to start a new story. Once I started the words just seemed to pour out and before I knew it the clock had spun around to nearly four o’clock and President Obama was giving Mitt Romney a good doing in the last Presidential debate. In front of me were around 1,500 words of manuscript – pretty much the complete story. When I got back home on Friday I sat down and redrafted it and fired it off to the competition.

The brief for this year’s competition was to take a traditional fairytale and give it a supernatural twist. I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve met the criteria. What I have done is write a sort of tongue in cheek version of the familiar tale of Red Riding Hood. It remains to be seen if the story will be accepted but I was pretty pleased with the results regardless and I have copied the story below for your enjoyment…

Once upon a crime

‘So tell me again what happened?’ Henderson said putting down the phone.

Wolff rolled his eyes.

‘I already told you a dozen times,’ he said.

‘I know you did,’ Henderson said. ‘But I want to hear it again – just to check that I’ve got all the facts straight.’ He gave Wolff a disarming smile as if to say: I know this is ridiculous – but I’m just doing my job. ‘Indulge me.’

‘Okay, okay but after this either you charge me or let me go.’

‘It’s a deal.’

‘I was out for a walk in the forest, minding my own business…’

‘When was this exactly?’

Wolff shrugged. ‘Around eleven thirty I guess. I’d been doing some bits and pieces around the house and was planning on going out and getting some lunch.’

‘I see. Carry on.’

‘So as I was walking I see this kid.’

‘Uh-huh. Can you describe them?’

‘About twelve or thirteen I’d say and wearing one of those sweaters with the hoods all the kids seem to have these days. She was carrying this wicker basket over one arm and looking a bit shifty. Well, you know how things have been on the estate lately. I heard the Three Bears’ place got done over a few weeks ago – somebody smashed their place up and even ate the food right off their table – can you believe that?’

Henderson shook his head. ‘It’s a crazy mixed up world we live in alright.’ He made a few notes on his pad. ‘So what did you do?’

‘Well, I’m a very community minded person Mr Henderson – it was me that organised that benefit concert for the old woman who lives in the shoe and I’m always popping round to Mother Hubbard’s with a pot of soup so the old dear doesn’t starve.’

‘What was all that business with the Three Little Pigs all about?’

Wolff bristled. ‘That was just a big misunderstanding – we settled the matter amicably in the end and took out a joint case against the building firm who put those hovels up.’

Henderson raised his hands in a placatory gesture. ‘Just being thorough, Mr Wolff,’ he said.

‘Anyway, I goes over to the kid and I says “Where you off to then?” and she looks at me like something you’d scrape off your paw and says “none of your business you big hairy git.”’ Wolff sighed. ‘Kids today eh? You ask a perfectly reasonable question and get a mouthful of abuse in return.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Henderson said. ‘I’ve got two teenagers at home – never pay a blind bit of attention to anything me or their mother tells them.’

‘Well, I wasn’t standing for being fobbed off so I asked her again and threatened to give you lads a call so she finally gives in and gives me some cock and bull story about going to visit her old granny and that the basket has got some goodies in it for her. I’d finally gotten a good look at her by this time and I recognised her.’

‘And who was she?’

‘She’s one of those Riding kids. She’s got quite the name on the estate I can tell you, hangs around with that Little Boy Blue’s gang – nasty piece of work him. He’s supposed to have been the one that shoved poor old Humpty Dumpty over and put him in the Infirmary. So anyway, alarm bells are ringing in my head. I know the granny’s a bit dotty you see. So I tells her she best be running along. “Whatever fuzz face,” she says. I tell you Mr Henderson, it took all my self control not to give her a proper talking to at that point.’

‘Got a bit of temper have you Mr Wolff?’ Henderson asked innocently.

‘Are you trying to put words in my mouth?’ Wolff said.

‘That’s not my intention Mr Wolff – I just need to make sure that I’ve correctly established what was going on during this, uh, altercation. The girl does have a few bruises that need explaining.’

‘I never laid a finger on her, whatever she might have told you. My point is that nobody should have to put up with that kind of abuse. When I was a kid we had a bit of respect for grown ups.

‘Anyway, I was going to carry on and get my lunch but I kept thinking about that poor old woman and her horrid brat of a granddaughter. I know a short cut through the estate so I thought why don’t I pop over to granny’s house and check that everything’s ok? So that’s what I did.’

‘And what happened when you got to grandma’s house?’

‘Oh she’s such a lovely old dear, she invited me in for a cuppa and a chat and I told her about little Miss Riding Rude. “Oh I know,” she says. “She’s gone right off the rails since her mum and dad split up. What she needs a good short sharp shock to turn her around.” Well, as I said, I’m a very community minded person so I says to grandma – look here, why don’t I help you out and maybe get my own back a little bit at the same time. Well she loved the idea, she dug out some old clothes from the back of her wardrobe that she was planning on giving to charity and I put them on and go climb into the bed while Grandma nips off down the bingo for the afternoon session. Pretty soon I hear a banging on the door – of course, it’s the little madam herself.’

“Hey grandma, open the flipping’ door and let me in, it’s bloody freezing out here,” she says.

‘“Come in my dear,” I says. “Door’s open.”

‘So in she comes “Come a bit closer luv, I says, my poor old eyes can’t see as good as they used to you know.”

‘You would’ve thought I’d asked her to jump under a bus or something – “dunno why not grandma your eyes look pretty big to me.”

‘That’s just my reading glasses,’ I says, ‘They magnify things a bit – I think maybe I need to change my prescription. Come on and tell me what you’ve brought.”

‘Well sure enough the little brat had scoffed half the stuff she showed me in the forest. I was about to say something when she starts again.

“Jeez Grandma look at the state of your ears – you’ve got tons of hair growing out of them. We should get you one of those Fuzz Away gizmos for Christmas.”

‘“Listen dear,” I says. “You’ll be old and hairy as well one day and we’ll see if you’re so smart when the time comes. Anyway, come closer so your dear old granny can give you a kiss for bringing me a present.”

‘Did you kiss her?’ Henderson said.

Wolff looked aghast.

‘I most certainly did not,’ he said. ‘At that point she screws up her face and says, “Phew grandma, your breath is proper honking and your teeth look like they could use a good brush.”

‘That did it. Now I’m very particular about my personal grooming and I take good care of my teeth. I pulled off grandma’s bonnet and glasses and jumped out the bed.’

‘Did you touch her?’

‘On my mother I never laid a finger on her. She tripped over a table and banged her face on a lamp. “Ha! That’ll teach you,” I said. Of course, that’s when the waterworks started.’

“That’s it,” she says. “I’m off to get my dad. I’m going to tell him you tried to touch me up you furry freak. He’ll turn you into a nice rug for his flat.” And she scarpered off out the door.

‘I see,’ said Henderson.

‘Well, I didn’t know what to do Mr Henderson. I was only meant to be playing a little prank on the little rotter. I hadn’t meant for her to get hurt. Before I know what’s happening she comes back with her dad and half the estate shouting about how I’m some sort of cross-dressing pervert and how they should string me up from a lamp post.’ Wolff shook his head.

‘I can laugh about it now Mr Henderson but if your lads hadn’t shown up when they did I do believe you might have had a murder enquiry on your hands.’

Henderson silently agreed. He had read the statements from the arresting officers and Mr Wolff had been lucky the story had not had a grimmer conclusion. Apparently Riding Hood’s dad had been found with his hands around Wolff’s throat. It had taken a shot of taser before he would let go. An axe had also been found near the house. There were no useable prints on it so the charge would probably be aggravated assault rather than attempted murder. The only loose end had been the whereabouts of Grandma whose whereabouts had been a mystery until his phone call a few minutes earlier.

‘Well Mr Wolff, it would appear that today is your lucky day – one of our patrols called in to say that Grandma has been found. Apparently she won a few quid at the bingo and decided to get a few gins down her neck at the Derby and Joan club. She’s corroborated your story about colluding with you to play a prank on the kid to teach her a lesson.’

Wolff gave a sigh of relief. ‘Oh thank god for that. Does that mean I can go home now?’

Henderson pushed over his statement pad to Wolff. ‘I’ll just need you to sign this and then you’ll be free to go.’

Wolff left the station with an escort – it would take a few days for the furore to die down on the estate. Windows had been smashed and someone had already spray-painted the words “paedo” and “beast” on the gable of Wolff’s house.

‘All’s well that ends well then Guv?’ Constable Watson said as he left the custody suite. He was holding a case file in his hands. Once upon a time this had been a fairly easy patch to manage but these days the Fairy Tale Forest estate was a hot-bed of criminal activity.

‘A happy ending this time,’ Henderson agreed. ‘What have you go for me there?’

‘Local cobbler says some elves are trying to run a protection racket on him.’

Henderson took the folder, ready to begin another story.