Darlene Foster's Blog

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This is my entry in Stevie Turner’s November short-story competition. Let me know what you think. Why not send in one of your own.

https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/share-your-short-story-november/

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The Special Date

Decision made, she laid out her clothes and applied two coats of a subtle shade of melon nail polish to each fingernail and toenail with meticulous detail. Retiring early, the mirror reflected a well-rested woman the following morning. This pleased her. It was important that she look her best for this date.

A girl needs to get her beauty sleep you know, she could hear her mother say.

What would Mother think about this date? Did it matter? Mother passed away many years ago. Why did she still feel the need for her mother’s approval? Was it because she didn’t get it as a young girl, trying so hard to please?

She returned to the mirror and stopped thinking about such things while she dabbed ivory concealer under her eyes and on various spots on her face.

Get rid of those dark circles and spider veins, and ten years will be erased, she assured herself. Like an artist putting the finishing touches to a masterpiece, she applied the rest of her makeup. She needed to look perfect.

Would he appreciate the effort? she wondered while slipping on her new black underwear; bikini panties and a lace push up bra. She glanced at the full-length mirror. Not many women her age could wear this stuff and look good. She kept her body toned by working out regularly and she watched her diet for the most part. She looked closer, noticed a few bulges here and there, and planned to forgo dessert in the future. Although, she was sure he wouldn’t mind.

She stepped into the slinky little black dress with ease, pulled up the zipper in the back and took another look in the mirror. The cleavage looked inviting. Perhaps it was a bit much though. She didn’t want to send out the wrong message. She reached for her favourite silk scarf and tied it loosely around her neck. The black, grey and melon swirls complemented her nail polish. Pleased with the result, she smiled at the reflection in the mirror.

A giddy feeling came over her, making her feel like a school girl. Perhaps she should have a drink, or better still, something light to eat. There was no point being nervous. It will be all right, she reassured herself. She nibbled on a piece of Brie on a slice of a baguette topped with a chunk of cantaloupe while sipping a small glass of chardonnay.

“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou,” she murmured to herself.

She looked in the mirror once more to fix her hair and felt a burning sensation in her chest. Her breath started to come in short gasps. The recognizable signs of panic began to take over.

I can’t go through with this. What will people think, what will they say?

She wanted to stay home, go back to bed and forget everything. Those old enemies, tears, were about to revisit her.

“Stop it!” she shouted out loud at the confused image in the mirror.

When are you going to stop worrying about what other people think, you stupid woman? 

She managed to pull herself together in time to save her makeup from running. What was she thinking? She certainly didn’t have time to redo it. All she had to do was look lovely, say the right things and keep cool for a couple of hours, and it would soon be over. She reminded herself that she was doing this for him and he was special.

After running a brush through her nutmeg coloured hair, she applied a light coat of hairspray to the bob. She liked the colour of her hair and refreshed the roots every four weeks. She could not understand women who let their hair go grey and grinned when she thought of women not much older than herself with shades of pink and blue-grey hair. They would bury her with nutmeg coloured hair.

She lined her lips with a pencil to make them look fuller and filled them in with lipstick, a melon shade to match the nail polish and scarf. Taking the new, long black jacket off the hanger, she slipped it on over her short dress. It was well tailored and fit her toned body perfectly. He was sure to be impressed.

Something simple but elegant would be the best choice for jewellery. She rummaged through her jewellery box and found a small pair of black pearl earrings that would do the trick. She tried a couple of pins on the lapel of the jacket but nothing looked right, not the butterfly or the cat or the rose. Time was running out. She slammed the lid of the jewellery box as she decided not to wear a pin.

The limousine arrived to pick her up. A quick spray of her favourite perfume before she slipped on her black patent pumps and she was ready. Making her way downstairs, she felt faint and grasped the railing for support. Would she be able to do this? She had never done anything like this before. She took one last look in the hallway mirror, smiled faintly and took a deep breath. She could do this. He was worth it.

Heads turned as an attractive woman walked into the funeral service to say goodbye to the only man she had ever loved; her husband of the past forty years.

 

 

 

I am sooo pleased to announce that my story, As The Crow Flies, won runner-up in the September short story contest run by Stevie Turner. Check out the winning story, it is so good, and all the other wonderful entries.

Stevie Turner

Thanks to everybody who submitted their lovely stories this month.  It was hard to pick a winner and runner up, but here goes:

The winner for September is Kelly Wallace-Artieri with her rather touching story ‘I Rang the Bell’.

https://www.kellyartieri.com/single-post/2018/09/16/I-Rang-the-Bell

Congratulations Kelly, you can use this laurel on your website:

SHORT STORY LAUREL WINNER SEP 2018

And the runner-up is Darlene Foster with her horror story ‘As the Crow Flies’:

 https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/as-the-crow-flies/

Congratulations Darlene, and here’s your laurel to use:

SHORT STORY LAUREL RUNNER UP SEP 2018

Do check out all the other great submissions below.  I enjoyed reading them all:

 

Lady Pamela Rose – Petals in the  Wind:  http://achronicalofhope.com/2018/09/03/petals-in-the-wind/

 

Lilly Orchid – Of Dreams and Flying Things:  https://inthesilenceoftheday.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/of-dreams-and-flying-things/comment-page-1/#comment-41

  

Merchant Writes Again – Lips don’t Lie:  https://merchantwritesagain.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/lips-dont-lie/comment-page-1/#comment-518

 

Patrick Walts – With New Eyes:  https://patrickwaltsfiction.wordpress.com/2018/09/09/with-new-eyes/  

 

Phil Huston –  Evan Who?  https://philh52.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/evan-who/ 

 

Robert Kirkendall – The Hill:  https://robertkirkendall.com/2014/10/17/the-hill/comment-page-1/#comment-765  

 

Tallis Steelyard – Sometimes One…

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Stevie Turner is running another short story competition for the month of September over on her blog. The deadline is September 27, so there are still a few more days to enter so why not give it a try and submit something. Here are the details.

This is my entry.

Inge's Denmark photo

photo by Inge Bessmann Norris

As the Crow Flies

by Darlene Foster

A multitude of crows sprang from the misty marshland like bullets fired from a Winchester rifle. Their sorrowful caws fell on deaf ears. The smell of death rose with their nefarious wings as they vanished into the low-lying, ominous clouds.

Leasha absently followed the familiar path. She could have walked it with her eyes closed like she did when she was a child. When she danced happily along the path she loved so much, making up stories in her head and believing her handsome prince would come around a corner any minute.

Before her mother went missing and her father went mad. Before her brothers went to college and her sister moved to the States. She alone remained on the home farm tucked in among the fenlands.

Someone had to be there in case Mother returned.

She looked up at the darkening sky to see crows swarming. She ducked as they whooshed over her. Never before had she seen so many at one time. Trying to recall the collective term for crows, she bent down again, holding her hands over her head as they zoomed by once more.

The crows flew into the marsh, landing in a cluster. Leasha stared at the black mass with raised eyebrows. A whiff of decay drifted her way. She left the path and crept closer.

Feeling her way in the soggy bog, her heart thundered and her breath caught in her throat. She was never allowed off the path. But the crows summoned her.

The crows shrieked louder. The dank, fetid smell grew stronger. She drew nearer.

Images of her mother flashed before her. That last day. Her mother at the sink washing the breakfast dishes, so pretty in her red and white checked shirt-waist dress. Leasha shook her head to erase the image from her mind. It hurt too much.

“I’m going for a walk,” she shouted as she skipped out the door.

“Be careful and stay on the path,” her mother warned, as always.

“Don’t worry. I will.”

She got caught in a sudden rain shower and found refuge by a large rock. When she arrived home everyone was waiting for her. Everyone but her mother. Her lovely mother who had gone to look for her but never came back.

Leasha squeezed her eyes shut and brushed a tear from her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw it. A piece of red and white checked cloth in the beak of a wicked crow.

“Where did you get that?” she shouted as she stumbled after the pilferer, her water laden hiking boots heavy and cumbersome.

She fell face first in the slimy mud. She reached for the reeds to hoist herself up. They parted revealing the myriad of crows. Crows resting on bones. Bones partially covered with a grimy ripped red and white dress.

Leasha choked back a scream.

Mother had returned as she knew she would.

She remembered the term.

A murder of crows.

 

 

I am submitting this story to Stevie Turner´s Short Story Competition  You may want to submit one as well.

This story was inspired by a visit to Clifford´s Tower in York.

Terror in the Tower
By
Darlene Foster

The tower ruin overlooks the city from high on a grassy mound. Angela pulls her sweater tighter around her as she glances up. She experiences the same chill every time she walks past the site.
When she was seven, her mother took her up to the old stone keep. From a small window, she saw a girl looking out at her through iron bars. Fire blazed behind the child. It had frightened her so.
“Mommy, we need to help that little girl,” exclaimed Angela.
Her mother took her hand and said, “There are no children in there. It must be a trick of the sun reflecting off the water.”
The sad, terrified and helpless child appeared very real.
Angela shudders as she recalls that day. She rushes to work.
***
It was the feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol. Instead of the usual tables overflowing with food, around her lay the dead bodies of friends and neighbours. The smell of fresh blood and smouldering wood filled the thick air. Ester searched for Jacob and Marta in the crowded tower. She witnessed parents slitting their children’s throats and then their own. Terrified, Ester tried to look away, but it was the same everywhere.
Since she didn’t have any parents, she stayed with old Jacob the moneylender and his kind wife, Marta. For her board, she cleaned the house, made meals and ran errands. Ester stumbled in the smoke-filled keep looking for the only family she knew. Eventually, she found them, dead in each other’s arms on a bed of straw soaked with maroon blood. A curved butcher’s knife lay beside them.
Did they forget about me? Did Jacob slit his wife’s throat and then his own?
The flames and smoke of the burning wood tower closed around her.
A growing mob outside yelled, “Come out, you dirty Jews.”
Why is this happening? We were promised safety in the tower.
She peered through the iron bars of a low window. Angry people outside the tower waved swords, scythes and pitchforks. It was safer to stay inside. It was better to die by your own hand. That is what the Rabbi said.
In the crowd, she caught the clear blue eyes of a girl her age. A girl dressed in fine clothing. Maybe she can help me. Ester mouthed the word Help.
The girl pointed to the window and said, “Look, Mother, there is a little girl in the tower. It is burning. We must help her.”
Ester saw an elegant woman take the child´s hand and pull her away. “There are no children in there, Angelina. Let us go away from this awful place.”
Ester coughed from the thick smoke and fell backwards. The flames engulfed her.
***
Nine centuries later Angela feels the eyes of Ester pleading for help as she hurries past Clifford’s Tower on the way to her Hebrew lessons. One day she will stop and help the child.

The Bess Time cover Nov7

“Have you ever wanted to go back in time? Here is your opportunity.” Bess Turner, a woman of the twenty-first century, would like to invite you to accompany her on a journey to London, England. The season is Christmas. The year is 1847. The adventure begins with a light in a window. Mesmerized, Bess hears street noises behind her. No, that cannot be; she is in her living room, looking at a miniature building on the mantel. True, but …. Meet her colourful Victorian family, stay for a cup of tea, and taste the flaming plum pudding. Hold your breath and squeeze into the dreaded corset. Swirl around the majestic Vauxhall to the Viennese Waltz. Take in the smells and sounds of the horse-drawn carriages along busy Fleet Street. Enjoy the ride; it is The Bess Time.

My review of The Bess Time

Who wouldn’t love to go back in time to visit Charles Dickens’s London at Christmastime? This is what happens to Bess Turner when she stares into the lights of the miniature Victorian street scene on her mantle. A delightful venture into time travel, the author does an excellent job of transitioning from the twenty first century to the nineteenth century with ease. The many unique characters are well developed and you will definitely fall in love with them as they become as familiar as your own friends and neighbours.  Even the charming Mr. Dickens himself makes a cameo appearance. The setting, the accents, the food, the weather, the clothing and the customs of the time come to life on the page. There are many laughs and a few tears as Beth divides her time between a modern North American Christmas and a traditional London Christmas of 1847. I didn’t want the story to end and am happy to hear there is a sequel in the works. You will need to buy two copies of The Bess Time, one for yourself and one for a friend as you won’t want to give this one away. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!

Interview with the author Yvonne Pont

How long have you been writing?

Since I was in high school, but not seriously till about 2009. Before that, I have written for my various club newsletters, letters to family and friends and minutes for meetings. I took various writing courses and joined a writers’ group. Both of which have helped tremendously to hone my craft. 

What gave you the idea for this book?

The miniature buildings and the built in curiosity and imagination to discover what goes on behind closed doors. Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time and observe? So I did. 

What made you decide to self-publish?

I tried the traditional way, but it is not easy for an unknown author to have a publisher in today’s market take a chance on them. So I took the bull by the horns, took a deep breath and plunged head first into another world I knew nothing about. Each day brings new challenges and tests the will to continue. A relative once told me if you sit in the safety of your backyard and never venture out, life passes you by. 

I just love the characters. Did you pattern them after people you know?

Yes, a few are, and others have the names, but not the personalities of the namesakes. Observing people while in restaurants, shops, etc. is a good way to add or start on a character. 

How did you manage to get all those accents down pat? It wasn’t long and I knew who was talking without the tags, just from the accent!

I made a profile of each character and added their special dialogue. I wanted the reader to experience what Bess did and that was to listen to their different accents of that time in history. It had to be as real as possible.

I also love the cover art work. Was this your idea? How did you find an illustrator for the cover?

I told the artist exactly what I wanted, and she went from there. I also took pictures of figures and buildings in shadow to get the idea across to her. Fortunately, my good friend and artist, Connie Wicklund, did a great job. Iryna Spica of Spica Design in Victoria gave me samples for the title printing and holly emblem. I picked what I felt went best with the book and artwork.

What authors have inspired you? Who are your all time favourite authors?

Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. 

Do you have a writing routine?

I try. However, life keeps getting in the way. Thank goodness, I have not experienced writer’s block, so it is not difficult to get my thoughts on paper on short notice. I always write in long hand and then transpose it to my laptop. My thoughts, my hand, the pen and paper work as one. Transferring it to the laptop is another step to further editing the piece.

Are you a plotter or a panster? (do you plot the story out before hand or write by the seat of your pants as ideas come to you?)

Yes, I have a plot. Yes, ideas come while the hand is on the paper too. Does that make me a plotster? 

Tell us a little about you including some quirks or funny habits.

I love animals, travel, gardening. I tend to relate an object such as my car, a book as human. Each has its own personality and story to tell. As far as the funny habits, you will have to ask my husband………. 

What is the name of the next book in the Christmas in Time series and when do you expect it to be completed?

“Nick Of Time” I hope to have it finished and published for fall of 2015. 

What advice would you give someone thinking of writing a book?

Go for it! However, learn your craft and join a writers’ group who will critique and give you sage advice. Editing is a must and must be done many times before the work is finished. But above all, don’t forget this is your work. Be true to it! Heed others advice, but if it is not what you want or had in mind for your story, let them write their own book.

Great advice! So happy to meet yet another Jane Austen fan too.  Thank you, Yvonne for sharing a bit about yourself and your book.

You can buy The Bess Time here or here

Visit Yvonne’s website  http://www.yvonnepont.com/ to learn more about her.

The author is giving away a copy of her book to one of the lucky readers of this blog. Just add a comment and your name will be put in the draw. Don’t forget to comment before the deadline, February 14.


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