Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Making Changes - An Advent Calendar Full of Stories

Well, we hope that those of you who have been following our blog or indeed have bought and read the book have enjoyed all of our stories. I'm sure you'll agree that they're timeless and not just for Christmas. I'm afraid that's all for this year.
But Bridge House has other plans. There'll be an audio version of this next year and a brand new collection for 2009. Alongside it will appear a similar publication for children. And for after Christmas, our longer slightly darker stories.
But you won't have to wait that long. We have new anthologies coming out in the spring, summer and autumn.
So readers, stay tuned and writers get writing.
We hope you've all had as much fun with this one as we have.
Bridge House and all of its authors wish all of their readers a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2009.

24 December, Advent 24, Gill James, Mantek's Journey

Two days later we set off at dusk. The star shone brightly even then. We planned to travel mainly by night, so that we could always see the star. I believe it was actually so bright we would have still been able to see it during the day.
All went well at first. I was pleased that I had chosen the right horses. Each day we rode three and three carried our extra supplies. Archamid, the longest-serving of the Master’s other servants, accompanied us. The horses were well-behaved and strong. We made good progress, though I was not sure exactly where we were going. The Master talked to Archamid as though he were a friend and not a servant at all. They said little to me, and I was left to my own thoughts. But they didn’t treat me like a boy and they showed me every respect when they wanted to know about the animals. I was the expert then. I was allowed to do everything for the horses on my own. Except that the master always insisted in packing his own things. Every evening, I saw him place very carefully into his saddlebag. something wrapped in several pieces of cloth
We slept by day. It was warm then and we could get snug in our tents. I was much better cared for there than I was at home: the stable master always sleeps in the stables with the horses. Here, the horses were kept outside the tents and my tent was as fine as those of Archamid’s and the Master’s.
But on the third evening the trouble began.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23 December, Advent 23, Jean Lyon, Before Twilight

It was that time of day before twilight when you can still see the colour of things, although the brightness is dimmed, a time when you might walk in the garden to check the growth of new carrots and wonder at the beauty of the magnolia, walk past the herbs and press a few leaves together to release their smell. It was the time just before the street lights at the end of the lane responded to the low light levels, opened their eyes and lit up the road for the motorists. Drivers need the street lighting so that they can get to where they were going in a hurry, she thought, but they miss so much. They miss the fading of the day, and the pleasure in that. It was early spring, before the clocks were moved forward to give the extra light in the evening. The weather was mild and the smell of freshness was in the air. All the people who lived in the village and worked a regular day had returned home by now, even those who worked in town, and so there was little traffic on the road as Betty left the house and walked towards the village.

Monday, 22 December 2008

22 December, Advent 22, Sarah Harris, A Present for St Nicholas

St Nicolas was tired. This time of year was always extremely busy but the older he got the quicker December seemed to arrive and the bigger the pile of presents seemed to become. The letters had been streaming in for weeks now and were in the process of being sorted. The 6th of December was looming. Mostly he looked forward to it. It was his big day, after all. The reason he existed as Pete, his assistant, kept pointing out. 'If only I had a day named after me,' he would grumble. 'Always doing things for other people and never getting noticed. But if it wasn't for me they'd all be getting the wrong parcels, the way you've been carrying on these last weeks.'
St Nicolas was usually able to cheer him up by promising him the pick of the presents and a slap-up meal at the end of it all, but this year was different. Pete was right. He seemed to have lost his touch, both with customers and colleagues. The trouble was he just couldn't get himself going. And there was so much work to do. Along with the dinosaurs and the dragons and the dolls that could dance, there were stacks of letters asking for Star Wars 6 or Harry Potter 7 and it all had to be compatible with Windows 3000. All these numbers and he never had been good at mathematics. It was making him feel positively dizzy. 'More post,' grinned Pete, as he dragged in another sack. St Nicolas' heart sank. He wondered what was wrong with him. He hoped he wasn't coming down with something. That would be most unfortunate.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

21 December, Advent 21, Rosemary Bach-Holzer, Sally and the Sign People

My name is Sally and I live by the sea.
It’s my home. And by the way, I’m a seagull. Although, science bit coming up... are you concentrating? What do you mean, no! Tough. Here it comes. Officially there is no such thing as a seagull. It’s a commonly used name to describe all the different types of gulls who live near the sea. Lesson over.
Where am I supposed to live? London? And catch the tube every morning while carrying my little briefcase under one wing. Or, perhaps I should move to the North Pole? Be a bit cold with only my feathers to keep me warm.
Do I sound a little angry? That’s probably because I am.
It all began the other day. I was on the seafront waiting for Mrs. Harris and her sardine sandwiches. My favourite! They were meant for me. Mrs. Harris had made that very plain.
“Come here my feathered friends,” she called out. “Let’s be having you.”

Saturday, 20 December 2008

20 December, Advent 20, Wendy Busby, No Smoking Please

‘You still serious about giving up then?’
Steve looks across at his colleague who is silently releasing wisps of grey smoke through his nostrils.
‘I don’t really think I have a choice Barry, the wife’s been ranting on for ages about my smoking contaminating the children’s lungs’
‘You smoke around your kids?’ asks Barry astonished
‘My missus wouldn’t let me get away with that, I’m not even allowed to smoke in the garden!’
Steve smiles at Barry who has just lit up his second cigarette in 15 minutes.
‘It was different before we started a family, Stephanie never seemed my cigarette butts or the smell, but now she’s like a lioness protecting her cubs’.

Friday, 19 December 2008

19 December, Advent 19, Linda Lewis, First Impressions

The roads narrowed. Trees were replaced by tall dark hedges.Tricia’s unease grew. Even the landscape was strange. She had no idea how different it would be. She’d been to Devon many times as a child, but they’d always stayed near the sea, never venturing more than a few miles inland. She glanced across at James. He looked as relaxed and happy as she was tense.
“We’re here,” he said at last as with practised ease he swung the car into a wide drive. “Come on, we can fetch the luggage later.”
She stepped cautiously out of the car and gazed up at the house. Several wide steps led up to an imposing front door. It looked enormous, easily twice the size of her parents’ terraced house in West London. She took a deep breath. Even the air smelled different.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

18 December, Advent 18, Yvonne Walus, Murder in the Air

“Belinda, are you all right?”
Belinda flinched, but she kept her on-the-job smile on as she turned to face one of the other girls. “Sure, Cathy. Why do you ask?”
“You look flushed, darling. Does it have anything to do with that passenger you are seeing? You know, the one who travels first class with us from Bangkok every week?”
“I’m not seeing anybody,” Belinda could feel the heat in her cheeks. “I’m engaged, remember?” She held up her hand so that Cathy could look at her ring. If you didn’t know, you might think the diamond was real. “Whatever made you think -”
“Don’t worry, Bel. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Won’t tell what?”
“That I saw the two of you together yesterday. In the centre of the Patpong red light district? Whispering like a pair of lovers -”
“Someone’s calling you,” interrupted Belinda. She felt dizzy. Damn Cathy all the way to hell! What was she doing in that part of town, anyway? There was nothing but sleaze in Patpong: no jewellery shops, no interesting temples.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

17 December, Advent 17, Linda Lewis, The Blue List

I turned the piece of bright blue paper over in my hand. It was last years’ resolutions made in an after midnight haze. Most of them made sense, but help an old lady with her shopping? I had no idea where that one came from.
I had achieved none of them. I managed without a cigarette for exactly one hour. A year on and I was still eating the same diet of pizzas, burgers and take aways, still a slave to the one eyed God as I called the TV.
I found the list as I rummaged in a drawer looking for a piece of paper on which to scribble this year’s resolutions. All at once, there didn’t seem to be much point.
I was nearly thirty. Still on my own, living in an easy to care for flat, conveniently situated ten minutes from work and five minutes from a fish and chip shop. Worst of all, I still had no steady girl in my life.

Monday, 15 December 2008

16 December, Advent 16, Oscar Peebles, Toast and Jam

Great Granny’s eyes were a marvel. I don’t mean to make fun. I adored her, and still do. But as kids, it was great fun. We’d creep to halfway down the stairs each morning, and watch through the banister rails as she groped her way to the kitchen sink where she’d left her eyeballs soaking overnight in a jam jar. She’d take them out, shake them off, then pop them in. Then she’d turn around, and that was the fun part.
Granny’s glass eyeballs could be anywhichway in! One up, one down: crossed: both pointing the same way. It was a hoot.
Strangely though, once she’d put her eyes back in her face, it was as if she could see. She couldn’t of course. But I guess it was psychosomatic stuff, a sort of optical delusion.
Great Grandpa was all right too. A tall, gangly, scrawny man with a thin reedy voice … mostly dozing in his deckchair in the shade, or in his armchair beside the fire.
When we kids came to sit with him for a breather between games, he’d come alive and begin to tell us tales. But he was so slow. It was months between each word. We got fed up, or slumped down waiting, so the story lost all connection or interest. Half way through it, we’d either have gone to sleep, or gone off to play again, and Grandpa would lapse back into comatose.
It was Granny who told us his stories, sitting around that big old wooden table in the middle of the kitchen each morning … her eyes in all sorts of positions. It was spooky sometimes. It was always toast and jam for breakfast.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

15 December, Advent 15, Linda Lewis, Please Don't Call Me Herbie

This isn’t one of those clever stories with a twist ending, so I’ll come clean straightaway.
My name’s Gertie and I’m a car; an old Volkswagen Beetle to be precise. And before you jump to any conclusions, any resemblance to a certain Herbie, otherwise known as the Love Bug, is purely coincidental.
Unlike him, I can’t fly, or swim underwater, or do lots of clever tricks, but we do have one thing in common; owners who need a push start with their love lives. Take mine. Susan had been on her own for three years, ever since Patrick passed away.
I was his pride and joy, which explains why Susan didn’t want to part with me even though I’m not in the first flush of youth. It didn’t even cross her mind to get a new car, at least it hadn’t until six weeks ago. Now, it’s all changed. She’s met a man, thinks she likes him because he’s so very different from Patrick. I’m worried in case it gets serious.
Don’t misunderstand me. I want Susan to be happy. She’s only forty-four, she deserves to have a man in her life, so long as it isn’t this one.

14 December, Advent 14, Michael O'Connor, Slight Expectations

Some small flying creature brushed against his face and he waved his hand to deter it from landing on him. Suddenly, he felt lonely and helpless: a writer who could not see to write any more, standing in the graveyard where ‘Great Expectations’ had begun, with no expectations, great or otherwise, left to him anymore. ‘What would you do, Boz?’ he murmured aloud. ‘You never gave up. How can I imitate The Inimitable?’
There was a rustling of dry grass which he wasn’t sure could be attributed to the wind. ‘Is someone there?’ he asked. ‘Is that you, Jennifer?’ He knew it could not be her, for he would have heard the car return, but wanted to give the impression that he was not alone.
‘My apologies, sir,’ came an animated voice. ‘It was not my intention to disturb you. I come here sometimes to relive my past, but there is rarely anyone else present.’
Arthur turned to face the direction the voice came from. ‘That’s all right,’ he said, affecting an air of bonhomie. ‘It’s a free country.’

Saturday, 13 December 2008

13 December, Advent 13, Joyce Hicks, The Keeper's Keeper

AS TOM walked along the pathway for the last time that day, he was certain Rita would be there. She’d become a regular fixture in Victoria Park of late, and always sat on one particular bench. A strange old dear, certainly, but always friendly.

Sixty-odd he guessed, and overweight, she usually had a roll-up in one hand and a small bottle of mineral water in the other. At least, the bottle would originally have contained water. These days, Tom suspected, it was almost certainly neat gin or vodka. The most outrageous makeup (almost theatrical, Tom felt), and violent red hair with grey showing at the roots, meant Rita could never be overlooked, or ignored. Where, or how, she lived was anyone’s guess. She never discussed it.

“Isn’t it time you were going home, Rita?” he called out as he drew level. “You’ll freeze to death if you sit there much longer.”

“Impossible, dear,” she answered. “And as for ‘home’, don’t make me laugh!”

Friday, 12 December 2008

The London Do 6 December 2008

12 December, Advent 12, Noreen Wainwright, Choices

“If you don’t mind just taking a seat for a few minutes, someone will come to you. They’re expecting you. Would you like a coffee?”
Joe returned the receptionist’s smile and shook his head. “No, I’ll be fine thanks; I had a drink in town before I got here.” He sat on the edge of the comfortable seat in the foyer, and tried desperately to relax. It took a conscious effort to stop fiddling with his cuffs, his watch, his mobile; and sitting still didn’t come naturally - he was a fidget at the best of times. He wore a dark warm and expensive jacket, fairly new black jeans and the grey jumper Jackie had bought him for his birthday.
“It’s got cashmere in it,” she had told him, her eyes shining, her expression eager to please, and loving.
I’m a lucky, lucky man, thought Joe.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

11 December, Avent 1, Moving Magic, Nurgish Watkins

‘Hold it right there,’ she shouted. Like we were going anywhere, we were too shocked to move.
Within fifteen minutes we were at school and Mr Kemp, our headmaster, decided I should go home with Mum for the rest of the day, which seemed a pretty harsh punishment for half an hour up the town.
‘Have you done that before?’ Mum asked on the drive home. Her mouth was such a tight line she could barely get the words out.
She didn’t seem to take much notice of my answer for she said. ‘I’m glad we’re moving. That Frankie Mason is a bad influence on you,’ which was an unforgivable thing to say and I really hated her then.
Back home in my bedroom I slumped on my bed staring at the stars that Dad and I had carefully stencilled on the ceiling. I squashed my face into my pillow and howled. I’d never felt so miserable. Suddenly I heard my name being called, well shouted actually.
‘Lucy! Lucy, would you shut your noise?’

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

What inspired you to write "Dancing Man"?

I based the Dancing Man on a real-life character who resides in North Wales. I won’t say any more than that! I suppose Graham has elements of me in him (I was a journalist), but I’m pleased to report that my life is happier than his.

What other material do your normally write?

I like doing horror and spooky stories, though I also like contemporary stories such as Dancing Man that try to get under the skin of everyday life. There’s more to life than what we see and hear every day – I like taking that “ordinary” and expanding on it a little.

What made you become a writer?

In primary school at the start of every term we would be asked by the teacher to write a story. Most of the kids wrote about what they did during the holidays. I wrote fiction stories about haunted castles and the like. I used to draw a lot, and then I seemed to realise I was quite good at painting with words.

Which writers do you admire?

I have to be honest and say I’m not a huge fan of the literary style. You have to enjoy reading to do it, and if I’m finding each turn of the page a struggle I tend to put it down after a while and not return to it. I always liked Stephen King but haven’t read him for some time now. I like crime novels but I’m not a fan of series, which seem to be all the rage. I grew up reading George Orwell.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

This’ll be quick – I don’t have a writing routine! Or maybe I do…It starts with a blank word processor page. Then it breaks off for coffee, then a quick look at the BBC website, then back to the blank word processor page, then maybe another coffee. Seriously, starting is the hardest part. The second hardest part comes about halfway through, when you realise what you’re writing is not what you set out to write. I’m learning to go with it, because that’s what rewrites are for.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

No, but I’d like one so I can develop a writing routine! I’ll have to cart the laptop around the house and experiment, to see where I do my best stuff.

10 December, Advent 10, Phillip Dean Thomas, Dancing Man

The Dancing Man was performing on the pavement at the side of the road. He had the windowless wall of the social club behind him, and in front, across the road, a grassy slope which led away to a low cliff and a restless sea. Graham parked some distance away and watched him for a few moments. A driver tooted. Graham watched to see if the Dancing Man reacted to this, but wasn’t surprised to see he didn’t.
For his first approach, Graham decided to keep his notebook hidden. God knows if he’d get any sense out of him anyway. He’d asked the police about him and they claimed they didn’t know anything. Even his sources were no use. Their silence only made Graham more curious.
“Hi,” he said, standing on the pavement about twenty feet away.
The Dancing Man didn’t respond. His clothes were scruffy but in direct contrast, Graham noticed, were his shoes. They looked like new, gleaming in the sunlight.
“Fancy a chat?” Graham asked amiably.
There was no reply.
“How about a coffee? I’ll buy.”

Monday, 8 December 2008

9 December, Advent 9, Annie Bates, On the Feast of Stephen

But let me tell you about the workshop. For it is full of magic, like walking through a fairy tale or enchanted land. At least this is how it has always seemed to me: Glass is everywhere, shimmering and swaying, filling the room with light until it sparkles like sun dappled water on a mid summer’s day. Chandeliers, baubles, angels with outspread wings, all float in the air and cast their spells upon the animals and trinkets that nestle below amongst soft white tissue. Sometimes the light makes them ripple with life. It is as though they stretch and crane to see what he is doing. And sometimes they speak. Sometimes a gentle movement of air wakes them. And then eyes begin to glitter and to smile. “Tell us who we are.” They whisper. "Tell us."
Mother is shouting me to go down.
So now I must pull on my socks and tie up my heavy boots, for it is cold out and we have a long journey ahead of us. I must stand up and leave my room - for the last time. But before I do I take my special trinket out of my pocket and place it on the window ledge where I leave it to gather dust. I am not sure why I do this. Except I am angry. Inside I am angry and I am frightened.
I leave the room without looking back.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

8 December, Advent 8, Rebecca Holmes, Winter Blooms

Don’t hold with flowers in winter,’ Len grumbled when I told him what I’d been doing. ‘They aren’t natural. Winter’s a time for the earth to sleep. It’d be like us staying up all day and night, otherwise.’ He tapped his stick on the floor of the mobile library. ‘There should be no flowers till the first snowdrops.’
I could have pointed out the winter-flowering jasmine cascading over his garden wall, but I kept my mouth shut. He’d only say they didn’t count, or something along those lines.
I didn’t mind. I was used to Len, since meeting him on my first day on the ‘bookbus’, back in the summer. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. My new job, that was, not meeting him. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t prefer travelling along winding country lanes, verges frothy with cow parsley, to being stuck in a dark building all day? I’d briefly been down similar lanes before, in the backs of cars, between foster homes. But that’s another story.
‘What’s up with your nose?’ His gruff voice that day had made me jump. Looking up, I saw opaque, almost milky, eyes magnified behind dark-rimmed glasses, a grizzled face complete with grey beard, and fingers that were stained, but not with nicotine or ink. ‘Had a fight with a stapler?’

7 December , Advent 7, Rosemary Gemmell, Midge and the Pony

The field where they played was really a big grassy waste ground that the village hadn't found any other use for. To get home, Midge had to walk up past a stream and round by the farmer's fields. He stopped as he always did at the field nearest to home. The two horses, both a chestnut brown colour, were grazing as usual. Midge stared at them longingly; that was what he really liked – horses. He had asked over and over if he could learn to ride, but his mum's answer was always the same.
"You know we can't afford something like riding lessons, Mark, since your dad died and anyway you're a bit small yet for even a pony you know." And she always finished with, "Wait till you're older and you might get a pony ride at the beach."
As Midge watched the smaller of the horses nuzzle the other one before they cantered off across the field, he longed to be on the back of one, riding off like the boy in a film he had seen on television. He was nine already and somehow he thought he was never going to get much taller.

Friday, 5 December 2008

6 December, Advent 6, Jennifer Robertson, Tricks of Firelight

“Look, the first star’s come out.” Antek had been clearing a small breathe-hole in the frost that iced up our one small window pane.
“The Watch Night star,” he said and scattered the traditional handful of straw over the log that we used as a table – we had no white cloth to put on top.
“Shepherds run to Bethlehem through the snow…” Antek tried to cheer us up with one of our beautiful Polish carols. I joined in, but Adam shook his head.
“It’s not safe!” he warned. “Those patrols are still out there. The slightest sound carries…”
“Adam’s right, it isn’t safe,” I told Antek. He stopped singing, too. “I suppose you’re right,” he agreed, “ and yet, the night’s so clear and frosty you can almost hear the stars sing.” He pulled on a tattered sheepskin coat and went outside.
He didn’t stay long. When he came in, stamping snow off his boots, we asked, “Well, did you hear the stars sing?”
“It was a hungry song,” Antek said, ruefully. “But I heard something else. Listen. Voices certainly carry.”
The tune was so, so familiar and so were the words. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht… Silent night, holy night…
“They’re allowed to sing,” Adam said bitterly.

Submission Guidelines for Short Story Anthologies with Bridge House

General notes about our titles
Bridge House publishes books which are a little bit different. Making Changes gives you the flavour of what we are looking for. Each of the books listed below show working titles only. The title eventually comes from something in one of the stories.
12 Days of Christmas 2009
Thought-provoking stories 4,000 – 8,000 words long. See Making Changes “Jigsaw” and “Dancing Man” for guidance. 12 stories will be published.
Deadline: 30th June 2009 Publication November 2009
An Advent Calendar of Stories –children’s version 2009
These should be non-religious, thought-provoking, life affirming 1,000 – 3,000 see – Making Changes “Midge and the Pony” or “Toast and Jam” for guidance. 24 stories will be published. They should be suitable for junior school children. It should make a good assembly read.
Deadline 30th May 2009 Publication date November 2009
A suitcase full of stories – adult version 2009
Stories which will make you laugh or make you cry. 3,000 to 6,000 words. 15 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st January 2009 Publication May 2009

A suitcase full of stories – children’s version 2009
Adventure stories suitable for junior school children 2,000 to 4,000 words. 15 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st January 2009 Publication May 2009

Ghost Stories
Ghost stories, possibly true, 2,000 – 4,000, suitable for adults. These should be convincing and not gratuitous horror.
15 -25 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st March 2009 . Publication October 2009

Horror Stories
Stories suitable for teens and young adults. 2,000 – 4,000 words long. 15-25 will be published. Horror stories with a literary touch.
Deadline 31st March. Publication October 2009
Real Bible Stories
What was it actually like in those days? How did people see Jesus, or Noah? Most likely as really strange people. Tell it the way it was. See Making Changes “Ramini’s Eyes” and “Mantek’s Journey”. Aim for older KS2 and KS3. Also, Gill James on Author’s Den – “The First Pot Luck Supper”
Deadline 28th February Publication August 2009

Two sides to every story
Tell a well-known fairy story from the point of view of a lesser character or even the baddy. 3,000 – 6,000 .12-15 stories. Suitable for all ages.
Deadline March 31st Publication September 2009
Submission Process
Please email your submission to
• Your submission should be sent as a Word document attachment to you email.
• Use standard format: double-spaced, indent paragraphs, justified left, ragged right.
• House-style: double curly quotes for direct speech, italics for thoughts
• Please use a header and footer on your document. In the header, please put your name as you would like it to appear in the book, should we accept you, the full title of the story, the page number and the number of pages. Use the “view” function on Word. e.g.
Mantek’s Journey 2 of 17 Gill James
• In the footer, please put your full contact details and your name as you would like it to appear in the book, should your work be accepted. E.g
Gillian M. James, 43, The Crescent, Benton, Lancs M24 9BC, 0161 453 675,
• Please name your document the title of the story and your surname. You may shorten this if you wish; e.g.
Curious Incident Haddon.doc
• In the subject of the email, please put Submission for …. E.g.
Submission for Ghost Stories 2009
• In the body of the email, tell us a bit about yourself. This is just so that we get to know you and will not be used for anything. If you’re successful, you’ll be asked for a full bio later. No more than 200 words, please.

Decisions will be made within a few days of each submission deadline. However, we may reject your manuscript before that time if it is obviously unsuitable. Do try again.
If we hang on to your script for longer, this is a good sign. We may ask for revisions, sometimes substantial. Some scripts need less revision. Those are of course more attractive to us. This can lead to a later rejection of some scripts. In this case, we try to give you some feedback.
There were a lot of “almosts” for “Making Changes”. We hope those people will try for one of our other anthologies.
We offer a high royalty – it is in effect a 60% profit share pro rata. That’s the equivalent of a single author 15%, after first 100 books have been sold. Authors may also purchase books at 75% of retail price and may sell them on. They still get the profit share royalty on these.
We do not have a massive publicity budget – we market to the big guys and hope you will do the small stuff, but we’ll give you masses of help and pointers.
Everyone involved in our first anthology will probably agree it has all been great fun.

5 December, Advent 5, Linda Lewis, It's a Wonderful Life

“I can’t stand it any more. I’m going to jump off the nearest bridge.” Helen’s outburst got the response she’d half expected – nothing.
She looked round the room. The table bore the remnants of their meal, red, gold and green garlands criss crossed the walls. Dozens of cards covered the mantelpiece, but despite all the glitter, it didn’t feel Christmassy to her. Even the wonderful tree, festooned with tinsel and dozens of twinkling white lights didn’t lift her spirits. All Christmas meant to her was extra work.
As she cleared the table, her brother Bob looked up from the TV. “If you’re going to the kitchen, make us a coffee, will you, sis?”
“I’d rather have tea,” said his wife, Patty, “and the kids could do with some more lemonade.”
“I wouldn’t say no to a sherry,” added Helen’s mother.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nott'm Writers at the Royal Concert Hall

Ian Douglas reports:
"Last night's event, organised by the Nott'm Writers was reasonably attended. I presented a snatch from the book along with five other writers and actors doing their presentations. Feedback recieved afterwards indicated the audience greatly enjoyed the snatch from 'The Croc at Coopers Rock'. I sold four books and donated one to the Writers Studio library.
The event was held at the Royal Concert Hall, with the Human League in the auditorium next door. Luckily their music didn't filter though to our event. Phew!"

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

4 December, Advent 4, A. J. Humphrey, I borrowed a Poltergeist

“If this place is practically deserted,” I mused as I perched on the end of the bed and pulled off my boots, “how come they stuck us in the smallest room in the place?”
“We only got what we paid for,” she replied from through the doorway into the en-suite. “Anyway, what are you complaining about? You could get the court of King Caractacus in this bathroom!”
Lucy was right. Although the bedroom was small and narrow, dominated by the sturdy double bed on which I was perching, the bathroom – inlaid with black and white mottled marble, with polished brass rails – was little short of palatial. I could almost imagine a movie star of yesteryear, draping herself becomingly in the magnificent stone bath. Lucy was plucking her eyebrows in front of the mirror, possibly aiming for something of that old sophisticated glamour herself. I was now down to bare feet and had abandoned my tie, letting it fall in a heap on the edge of the bed. At least, that’s what I thought I had done with it. When I looked again, not half a minute later, it was neatly folded and resting on my pillow.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

3 December, Advent 3, Ian Charles Douglas, "Cooper's Croc"

“What ya doing?”
The words caught Jana by surprise. She wheeled round. It was the Aboriginal boy, coming down from the guesthouse. Jana had seen him before, running errands for the landlady. Jana’s mother didn’t approve of her talking to the Aboriginal children. Still, Mum wasn’t there now.
“I’m waiting,” she said grandly.
“Waiting for what?” the boy asked, scratching his thick mop of hair.
“Waiting for Mum to come back. Waiting to go home to Sydney. Waiting for the world to end. Waiting-”
“Alright. I getcha Missy. Where’s your Ma?”
“At the Observatory, she’s important.” Jana was talking in her queenly voice.

Mum said she had a gift for it.

Monday, 1 December 2008

2 December, Advent 2, Sally Angell "Ramini's Eyes"

Uncle was leaning against a rock half way up the hillside. He didn’t seem surprised to see Ramani, and nodded quietly. His flock were roaming, or standing in the sheltered place. The shepherd boys, Aman and Rajive were sitting under a tree.
“Greetings Uncle. Greetings Rajive, Aman.”
Ramani knelt down by a small sheep that wasn’t standing up.
“Hello, little one,” she murmured.
The sheep was black and frizzy and not like the others. Ramani remembered helping with the birthing, back in the spring. She loved to see the tiny creatures fall out and wake up to life, and she never minded the blood and strange smells and the wetness. She had named this lamb Night, fed it with milk and took it home with her to keep it warm. Night had been so weak they didn’t think she would live. She was still much smaller than the others. Ramani held out her finger and the little sheep nuzzled it.
“Ramani, will you watch the flock. We are needed down in the village.” Uncle looked at her as if not wanting to frighten her. “A babe has died. They need all the men down there.”