Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why not!

It's been a crap few days for us with Immigration woes looming large. Working on 'A Poppy for Christopher' has been a welcome distraction so I thought I'd post another Teaser.

This scene takes place after Christopher has been posted, with his Regiment, to Afghanistan.

Gracey, darling, are you there?

The messenger box popped up as Grace finished studying the online form for the next day’s races. Her heart hammered against her ribs and her hands shook as she typed a response.

Yes, I’m here. What time is it there?

It’s nearly midnight. I stayed awake, hoping I’d catch you. I wanted to say goodnight.

I’m glad you’re awake. I’ve missed you.

I know, same here, baby. Miss you so much. Taking lots of cold showers.

ChristopherBeau1066 has invited you to view his webcam

She sent the same invitation back as Christopher appeared on the screen. She enlarged the picture and grinned foolishly as he waved.

“Can you see me?” The sound wasn’t great but, to hear his voice and to see him once more. She watched him lean forward and touch the keyboard. He grinned and blew her a kiss.

“God, Grace you look gorgeous.”

“So do you.” He was dressed for bed, in his shorts and nothing else. Grace looked at his chest and wanted to weep because she couldn’t touch him.

“You’re still dressed. I insist that from now on, we conduct these conversations in a state of undress.”

Grace giggled. “That wouldn’t do either of us any good. This house is too cold tonight for cold showers.”

“No, I don’t suppose it would. I don’t think I could bear the torment.” His smile was sad. “It’s bad enough as it is. I love you, Gracey.”

“I love you too.” She bit her lip.

“Is that a glass of wine I see in your other hand? Have you taken to drink now that I’ve gone?”

“This is my second bottle today. I had the first with lunch.” She tried to keep it bright. She didn’t want him going to bed with her sorrow on his mind.

He shook his head. “Disgusting. I’ve scarcely been gone two days and you’ve already fallen back into the gutter.”

“I couldn’t help it. Without you here, I had no choice. I have to take refuge in the demon drink.”

“Don’t drink it all. Save some for me.”

“I will, I promise.”

“If your liver hasn’t gone west by then.”

“Don’t worry. If I get really bad, I’ll just check into rehab.”

He laughed softly. “Did my boxes arrive yet?”

“No, not yet. I’ve had Harry keeping an eye out while I’m riding out. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when they get here.”

“I don’t want to clutter up your spare room.”

“There’s nothing else in there. Just odds and sods. I like the idea that your things will be here. It’s not the same as having you here, but it’s better than nothing.”

“You can open the clothes box and have your pick of shirts to sleep with…kinky girl.”

“I like the blue and white one. It has good memories.”

“I wish I’d taken something of yours.”

“I can send you something, if you like.”

He grinned. “I want your old slapper tee shirt, because I know you are not sending me knickers.”

Grace laughed. “I’m definitely not sending you my manky old knickers. I’ll send the old slapper tee shirt. It’s my favorite but, because I love you, I’ll let you have it.”

His face was suddenly serious. “Will you sleep in it first, Gracey? I just want to be able to remember how you smell when you sleep.”

She nodded, unable to speak for a moment. “I’ll do that.”

“Don’t look so sad, Gracey.”

“I’ll miss that shirt, that’s all.”

“Liar.” He smothered a yawn. “Darling, I’d better go. I’ve just realized I’ve got to be up in five hours. I just wanted to see you and talk to you.”

“I’m glad you did. It’s lovely to see you and hear your voice.”

“Same here.” He blew her a kiss. “Goodnight, Grace, I love you.”

“Goodnight, Chris. I love you too.” She blew him a kiss back.

ChristopherBeau1066 has turned off his webcam

ChristopherBeau1066 is offline

Grace stared at the blank, white box for a long time before she switched the lap top off.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I really wasn't going to post another one...

...but, I am really thrilled with the way "A Poppy for Christopher" is coming along. I'm posting another bit from it because I'm still in that 'I love my WIP' stage.

Back at the yard, Grace fixed a bran mash for the colt and sent Harry home. She noticed that he drove off in the direction of ‘The Palomino’. She didn’t think that the fifty pounds that Mr. Tattenham had given him would last until morning. He’d be eating beans on toast for the rest of the week, as he always did. She wondered how a person could drink so much and live. She poured the mash into the colt’s manger and checked his water before turning out the light. Bats fluttered in the dusk and a nightjar called out from the poplars. She locked the tack room and stood for a moment, enjoying the silence. The horses were all at rest. Allonby slept with his head over the stable door and his white star gleamed softly. He jumped a little when the gates opened. Grace wondered if Harry had forgotten something and walked towards the cottage. She wanted to get out of her suit and lounge about in her Homer Simpson pyjama bottoms and old slapper tee shirt. It was time to pull up the drawbridge for the day and wonder what she was going to do with her useless weekend off.

“Grace.” He stood in the middle of the drive. The night breeze ruffled his hair.

She knew she wasn’t dreaming. She heard the slow tick of his car’s engine as it cooled and the scent of juniper and lemon drifted across the space between them. Grace stopped and looked at him, not sure what to say. She ached to touch him, to assure herself that he was real.

“Christopher?” She put her trembling hands into her pockets and waited.

“I’m sorry, so sorry.” His voice was husky, soft. He took a step towards her. “I’ve done nothing but try to think of what to say to you.”

“About what?” she asked. She felt numb and scared. Afraid of what he wanted to say.

“About us, about being scared. I couldn’t phone you, Grace. It sounds so stupid, but hearing your voice just makes me realize how much I miss you. It frightens me how much I miss you.”

To hear her own words and feelings echoed made her want to weep. She wanted to tumble into his arms. Instead, she swallowed and looked up at the night sky, the first stars winked against a backdrop of deep, velvety blue. “I know.” She said, finally. “If it’s any comfort, I feel the same.”

“Thank God,” he whispered. He crossed those few feet between them and held her. He sighed into her hair and Grace felt his heart pounding against her breast. “I thought I was going mad.”

“No.” She kissed his throat and closed her eyes. She trembled as he kissed her. His hand curled around hers and she let him lead her into the house.

Monday, June 15, 2009

all right, just one more and that's it ...

This is another bit from "A Poppy for Christopher". This really is the last bit I'm posting until I'm done and it's all nice and polished and Beta'd and ready to enter that compulsive Den of Torment known as Query Hell. This story has taken on a momentum of its own. I'm astonished by how quickly it's rolling along. This, of course, means many, many revisions but I think it's going to be worth it.


“Bloody hell Gracey. I can’t remember the last time I saw you in here.” Billy leaned against the bar. “Are you all right?”

Grace struggled onto a barstool. Three gin and tonics had left her boneless and headachey. “I’m just fine.” She gave him a loose-lipped grin. “I just needed to have a night out, that’s all.”

“You’d better have another drink, then, the usual?”

“No, just a diet Coke, I think I’ve filled my quota for alcohol for the night.” She didn’t want to spend the rest of the night sleeping with one foot on the floor to stop the bedroom spinning.

“Lightweight,” Jane giggled.

“I’m out of practice.”

“Nah, you’re just in love.”

Billy handed her the Coke,. “Are you really?”

“She’s been obsessively checking her phone all night.” Jane sipped her vodka and Red Bull.

“I wish you hadn’t reminded me of that.” Grace had tried very hard to forget that Christopher hadn’t phoned.

“Come with me.” Billy took the glass from her hand and led her onto the dance floor as the DJ played a slow song. The floor was filled with couples necking but, at least, it was quiet enough for talking. He took her hand and put his arm around her waist.

Grace sighed. There was something so comfortable and familiar about Billy. She wished he were taller.

“Why are you so upset, Gracey? You don’t go on benders.”

The gin made her weepy. “I don’t know. I really don’t. I think I love him, Billy.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about time you had someone.”

“I’ve only known him for two weeks. It’s not supposed to happen that fast.” She closed her eyes and rested her chin on his shoulder.

“Sometimes it does. Sometimes you can’t help yourself. What did I tell you at Wolverhampton?”

“Bollocks and enjoy the ride, I believe.”

“There you go then. Don’t think too much. Sometimes you do that, Gracey. Sometimes you just need to let things happen.”

“Or not, he phones every night. He hasn’t tonight.”

Billy kissed her cheek. “Did it occur to you that he’s feeling the same? That he’s as scared as you? We get scared too. I saw the way he looked at you, the way he stood so close to you. You’ve got to get over this crazy idea that you’re not good enough. You are.”

“Really? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?”

“There are times when I could just shake you. It’s the truth. If you weren’t taller than me, I’d … well, you know.”

She smiled. “I know.”

“Now, do yourself a favor. Call a taxi, go home, go to sleep and try not to get your knickers in a twist. What happens will happen. Love isn’t supposed to mess you up inside, it’s supposed to make you feel good.” He stepped back. His eyes glittered in the spinning lights of the room. “Promise me that you’ll not get all churned up over this. Promise me that you’ll just let things happen.”

Grace looked at him. For once, he was serious. “All right, Billy. I will, I promise.”

He grinned. “That’s my girl. Come on, I’ll get you a taxi. I’ll sort Jane out too. Go home and sleep.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Power of Twitter #Iran Election

I am a member of a forum where, a few months back, someone started a very disparaging thread about the Twitter phenomenon. The poster believed that Twitter marked the end of intelligent written discourse as we know it.

Needless to say a heated debate ensued.

I don't subscribe to that notion. I follow friends, agents and writers. The latter two because I've learned a fair bit from the links that they post. Friends, well,that goes without saying.

One thing that has emerged, is the use of Twitter to chronicle emerging news stories. Today, the Twitterverse is alive with terse, horrific and frightening reports from Iran following this week's election debacle. It is a sad and sobering experience to see these short bursts of information, of riots, of tear gas, of protests and, worst of all, the state clamping down on those who are questioning the 'results' of the election. Tweeters (is that the proper word?) are retweeting the user names of English-speaking Iranian tweeters, the information is spreading across the Twitterverse.

If you Tweet and you want to know what's going on. Get on Twitter and do a search, #IranElection should get you where you want to go.

By all means, watch the news, but find some locals and hear what's going on as it happens. Wish them luck, tell them they're in your thoughts and your prayers and don't let what's happening in Iran be confined to a few minutes of gloss on the nightly news.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Something new for this Tuesday Teaser

All right, so I went back and had a look at my first completed novel, 'Fields of Gold, Fields of Red'. Sadly, I could finally see why no one was jumping up and down to read it...it's kinda...well...slow. One agent, commenting on the first 5 pages had complimented me on my writing but suggested there would be more interest if it was set today, rather than during WW1. I thought about it and decided that my heart wasn't in it.

Until last week.

Thursday morning, I was hit upside the head with a sledgehammer and now I'm possessed. This is the first few paragraphs from my new WIP, A Poppy for Christopher. This is all I'm putting up on this blog from this, for now. There's a long row to plough before it's finished. But, I wanted to put it 'out there'. Enjoy.

“Arse like a fry cook,” Harry declared.

Grace glanced up from the hoof she was examining. “Whose got an arse like a fry cook?”

“This horse, Boss.”

She straightened up and looked at the second travelling lad. He had just finished putting the shark’s tooth quarter- marks on Allonby’s hindquarters and had stepped back to admire his handiwork. Considering that he had probably spent at least three hours in the pub after morning stables, he looked relatively sober. The quarter-marks were perfect and the colt’s coat gleamed like varnished oak, even in the gloom of the saddling enclosure. Grace had learned that Harry could be as pissed as a rat and still turn a horse out to a very high standard.

“He does look good, doesn’t he?” A racehorse trainer had once said that a good horse should have ‘the look of eagles’. Grace was pleased to see that Allonby had that look as he lifted his head and surveyed the activity on the lawn beyond the enclosure. His ears were pricked and his eyes were fixed on something that no mortal creature could see. That serene and arrogant stare gave her goose pimples and she knew that she was looking at the winner of the night’s five-furlong sprint. She patted his neck and glanced at her watch. “The General should be here soon.” The paddock was filling up with other horses, trainers, grooms and owners, standing in knots on the lawn. Women dressed in summer finery enjoying the soft warmth of the July evening as they strolled across the lawn. Grace envied them their Pimms and gin and tonics as she took a sip of lukewarm water from her plastic bottle and searched the crowd for Allonby’s owner. The jockeys were already making their way out of the weighing room and she spotted Billy Riley in the General’s grey and claret silks. To her relief, Allonby’s owner, guest in tow, was right behind him.

Grace allowed herself a relieved smile as Billy handed her the saddle, grateful that the General was one of those owners who stayed out of the saddling enclosure. She hated the owners that lingered in the box, pestering her with questions and talking as if they knew something. She tightened the girth and patted the colt on the rump as Harry led him out towards the paddock. She watched Allonby walk, remembering another pearl of wisdom, ‘walk like a hooker’. He had a loose, easy swinging walk and, although he was busy looking around, the lead rein remained relaxed and his ears twitched as he listened to Harry talking calming nonsense.

“He looks good, Miss Webb,” Billy observed as they walked towards the owner.

“He does. I reckon, if you behave yourself, we might win this one.”

The jockey laughed, “Don’t you worry. I’ll save the bad stuff for after, fancy joining me?”

“No thanks. You know me, no stamina these days. Plus, Dad’s up at York tonight so I’m in charge tomorrow.”

“You always have an excuse, boss.”

“With good reason, remember the last time we went out? I don’t think I stopped vomiting for days. You have lousy taste in restaurants, Billy.” Grace smiled as she approached the General. He was easy to spot in a crowd, with thick white hair and an alarmingly red complexion.

“Hello Grace,” he took her hand and kissed her cheek. “It’s lovely to see you.”

“It’s lovely to see you, too.”

“I brought a guest, I hope you don’t mind. Mary couldn’t make it, bridge tournament or something.”

“No, I don’t mind.”

“This is Christopher Beaumont. I served with his father in the Army. His family and mine have been friends for years.”

Grace became aware of his companion for the first time, a tall lanky man with short, tousled hair and almond shaped eyes the color of strong tea. “It’s nice to meet you,” she murmured as he shook her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’ve heard a lot about you, Miss Webb.”

‘How,’ she wondered, ‘am I supposed to concentrate on a race with this distraction?’ “All good things, I hope.” She offered him a smile and took in the jeans and the blue and white striped shirt. My God, he’s beautiful.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

First Teaser of June

This is from 'A Kestrel Rising'.

Edited to add: This will be the last excerpt from this book that you see on this blog.

This takes place not long after Francis and Ilona had met in Duxford. The disastrous allied raid on Dieppe has just taken place.

“ACW Lowe,” The Depot Sergeant found her in the garage, checking the tires of her lorry. “There’s someone to see you.”

Ilona felt a sudden cold knot of ice form in her stomach. “Yes, Sergeant Sharp, Sir.” She thrust her hands into her pockets and curled them into tight fists until her fingernails dug into her palms. She could feel her legs begin to shake as she followed the Sergeant into the office.

“Hello, Ilona.” Harry, Francis’ wingman stood by the door, twisting his cap in his hands.

She did not know how she managed to find her voice, “Harry?” She sat down, aware that the Sergeant was listening. “Is it Francis?”

Harry took the other seat. “Yes, but it’s not what you think.”

“What’s happened?” She could not bring herself to speak above a whisper and she could feel her heart hammering against her ribcage. “Something happened to him at Dieppe, didn’t it?”

“We were on bomber escort. We had just crossed the coast and the bombers were beginning their run.” He paused and took a deep breath. “We had open sky, or so we thought. Then a whole swarm of Messerschmidts fell on us from out of nowhere. We had to turn and fight, you know, to let the bombers do their job. They were all over the place, swarming like goddam wasps. Francis and I stuck together and then someone behind us said that we had bandits on our tails. Francis loves a good scrap, so he went after them. He climbed fast and put it in a turn that brought him right on the bandit’s tail … brought him down before the pilot knew what hit him. We were outnumbered and we were running low on fuel and these fighters, they were from fields close by so they had plenty of juice. We had to turn and run and one of them had Francis at six o clock. He was right beside me and he tried to climb again before they took a shot.” Harry paused and looked at his shoes. “His plane got hit. It all happened so quickly, but I did my best to stick around and see what happened. The plane was going up in flames but he got out in time. That’s what I wanted to tell you. I saw his ‘chute open so that means he got out of there in one piece.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’d be willing to bet that he’s been picked up by the French Resistance by now and they’ll get him out.”

She stared at him, trying to take it all in. “How can you be sure?”

He shrugged. “I can’t, at the moment, but someone will get the word to us and as soon as I hear anything. I’ll let you know, I promise. I have to, because Francis would have my balls on a plate if I didn’t tell you.”

“He would?”

Harry offered her a weak smile, “Most definitely.”

Her hands were in a knot and her palms hurt from where her nails had dug into them. She was trying to be brave and trying not to cry but all she could think about was standing in the dusk in the middle of a country lane and the warmth of him