Friday, 28 December 2012

Timber (Part 2)



“Anyway,” said Tommy, shuffling his freezing feet across the compacted ice, “As I said, I thought I’d better talk to you. About your tree.”

“My tree?” Now Sally was a mix of emotions, and so confused that even the simplest words weren’t making sense.

Your Christmas tree.” Tommy pointed in the general direction of the living room. “It really shouldn’t be there. I can see it from the window, you see, and I’m worried about it.” The boy really did look worried. He bit his lip as he spoke and wrung his hands together. It worried Sally more than she liked, and she leaned down to him.

“What’s wrong with it?” she whispered. Her thoughts ran to angry neighbours, light being blocked, a stray electrical spark fizzing in the window… Her heart raced, and her eyes stung with the sudden pressure of fear. “What’s the matter?”

Tommy leaned in to meet her. He lowered his voice to match hers. “It’s Twelfth Night. The tree… it has to come down, or you’ll have bad luck for all the year!” He spoke as though he meant it, pure panic now running through his words, and across his face.

Sally, relieved that it was nothing serious and mildly angry that Tommy had scared her as he had, stood up straight, made sure no little fingers or toes were in the way, and pushed the door closed. Hard. Loud.

What did the boy know? If she wanted to keep her tree up all the year round, she could. It was none of his business. And as for all this Twelfth Night superstition, bad luck forever, she couldn’t be doing with it. She liked the tree, liked the idea that Christmas hadn’t happened yet, liked the build up and the anticipation. So no, she would not take the tree down just because a child was afraid of an old, old story. A silly story. A nonsense story.

Sally stalked back into the living room, her breath coming fast in her irritation. Silly boy. And then she saw the tree and was so pleased to see it that she slumped against the doorframe just to stare at it. The Night Before Christmas came back into her head, and she saw her television and the Radio Times and her chair and decided that she would forget the strange morning she had had, and watch her film.

She had just enough time to make a cup of tea and gather together a lunch of Jammie Dodgers and Custard Creams on a plate. It was Christmas, after all. What better time to eat strange things and treat oneself?

She had a Christmas card to open as well.

Sally was still clutching it, and she could feel the stiff greeting between her fingers. She ripped open the envelope and pulled out the card, eager to read it, nervous to read it. She took in the front of it, a photograph of footprints in the snow, and then went to the inside. She scanned the festive greeting and the glitter and the long, long note, and let her eyes rest on the name at the bottom.

Victoria.

Oh! Sally felt her face break into a genuine smile, happy, warming, her fingers tingling with pleasure. She forgot the film, and she forgot the biscuits. Her tea went cold. The tree kept twinkling and the darkness came. She read and re-read the note inside the Christmas card from her adored niece, and the more she read it, the happier she became. The girl – barely a teenager when she last saw her – was coming home. She had moved to Australia with her parents twenty years before, and Sally, not able to afford the travel, had only seen snapshots of her life since then. But now she was coming back, bringing with her a husband and three children; two girls and a little boy.

And she wanted to visit. She wanted, in fact, for Sally to show them around the area, since she was going to rent a house just down the road.

Finally, Sally would have a family again.

Sally glanced at the tree. At the presents. At the calendar. At the card. Three days. They would be here in just three days, and there was so much to do.

With a smile and a shake of her head, Sally launched herself out of the chair. She span around the house gathering more biscuits, cakes, savoury snacks, she even found a bottle of fizzy pop at the very back of the larder and a tin of drinking chocolate in the corner of a cupboard. She laid everything out on the coffee table in the living room and shrugged herself into her warm winter coat. Wellies snagged on too. And then she made her move, out of her door, across the path, and up the step of her neighbour’s. She rang the bell. She waited, understanding how Tommy had felt earlier. She should have invited him in, poor kid.

Eventually the door opened and Tommy peeped out. He was wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown and Mickey Mouse slippers. He looked sleepy, and Sally felt even more guilty than she had before. But she knew she had to do this. “Tommy, are your parents in?”

They were, of course. They appeared, curious.

Sally had to laugh. “Can Tommy come over to mine please?” she asked, feeling ten again. “I’ve got a little job for him to do. I understand it’s a little late, but it won’t take long. And you’re welcome to come.”

Before they could say no – which they would have done if given the chance – Tommy leapt up and grabbed their hands. “Mummy! Dad! Please can I? Please? I’ll be good and go to bed straight after!”

There was no denying that face, those excited words, the joy.

Tommy’s parents sat on the unused sofa in Sally’s living room. Uncomfortable at first, they began to relax when Sally offered them food and drinks and began to chat about her life and her family. They would have talked for hours, the old woman’s life had been so interesting, but Tommy grew bored. This was not why he was here. He tugged at Sally’s sleeve and pointed at the prettily twinkling tree. “Can we?” he asked, whispering as though to break the magic. “It’s getting late. It’ll be tomorrow soon.”

Sally nodded. “I don’t need any bad luck now. I’ve got too much good to look forward to.”
She took the boy’s hand and led him to the Christmas tree, taking in the beauty for the last time until December. “Are you ready?” she asked, looking down at Tommy. He nodded, bouncing on the soles of his feet. “All right then. Timber!”

©Lisamarie Lamb 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

Timber (Part 1)



’Twas the night before Christmas… Only it wasn’t. It hadn’t been for some time now, the festivities over, the food eaten, the jolly, happy, Christmassy spirit starting to leak away from the people in the street. There were no more cheery smiles, and no more strangers wishing one another a merry Christmas, a happy new year.

Sally was less inclined to worry about the date these days. She had the traditional old verse in her head and ran it through and through and over again, smiling at the words as she sat and watched the twinkling lights on her plastic Christmas tree. They sparkled like coloured diamonds and she felt calmed, almost hypnotised, by them. Underneath the tree was a handful of presents, neatly wrapped, each one covered in red paper patterned with holly leaves; each one tied with a golden bow.

They looked beautiful. It all looked beautiful.

Sally knew that Christmas had been and gone, and she was aware that the presents were still waiting patiently to be opened, but if she did that, if she ripped away the paper and delved into the goodies beneath, then what was left? It would be over then, and she would have to face the reality of another year gone, another Christmas spent alone with only the gifts she had bought herself for company.

So she did not open them.

Instead she sat, content, and whispered the old poem to herself and the prettily decorated room.

A knock at the door roused her, and she frowned at no one. Perhaps if she waited long enough they would go away and leave her alone. But the knock came again, louder, and Sally shifted in her seat. One more time, she told herself. If they knock once more, I’ll go to the door.
There was another knock.

With a sad sigh, Sally rocked out of her seat and shuffled to the door, her slippers sliding along the polished wooden flooring. She stood on tiptoes and peered out of the spyhole, hoping the person would have gone away in the time it had taken her to get to the door.

They had.

Instead of looking out and meeting a stranger’s eyes, she saw no one. Her first feeling was one of relief, but disappointment came quickly on the heels of it. It might have been nice to have someone to speak to.

Sally’s hand fell to the door handle, and she left it there for a moment, thinking. She could open the door anyway. She could open the door and lean out into the bitter wind and see if she could spot her visitor retreating and maybe, possibly, if she could make her voice heard above the coming storm, she might be able to entreat them to return to her, to try again.

Without knowing exactly why, regretting it as soon as it happened, Sally pressed down, pushed down on the handle, and pulled the heavy door towards her. She made to lean out, but a small face stopped her. It was grinning up at her with gapped teeth and dimples.

Sally said nothing because she couldn’t think of anything to say. The shock of finding a small child, grimy and jolly, on her doorstep when she had been expecting no one numbed her tongue and froze her brain for an instant. It was just long enough for the child – a boy – to speak in a high pitched tone, full of conviction; “Oh, you’re in. Good. I wanted to tell you something.” He waited, not moving from the step, for Sally to respond.

She wished she was still in her chair, watching the fairy lights on her Christmas tree and reciting poetry to herself. “Where are your parents?” she managed to croak, not having spoken aloud in a proper voice for some time. A whisper to herself was all she had uttered for months.
The boy looked nonplussed. He clearly hadn’t anticipated that question, but he rallied. “At home.”

“Shouldn’t they be with you? You’re only little.” Sally hadn’t intended to get into any kind of conversation with the boy – or anyone – but now that she had started, now that he was there, she couldn’t very well slam the door in his chubby face, no matter how much she was tempted. She wasn’t that mean.

Now the boy really looked confused. His smooth brow furrowed and his bright red lips pouted. And then Sally could see the understanding drop over him, and he smiled again. “Ah, you don’t know how I am, do you?”

He was so sure of himself, so confidant. Sally had to remind herself that he was only… what? Eight? Nine? She shook her head, hating to feel even the slightest bit intimidated by a little boy.
“I live next door.” He held out his hand, ready for it to be taken and shaken. “I’m Tommy.” His hand remained there, sticking out in front of him, not wavering, not fading.

Sally had to take hold. The stubby fingers were frozen, but Tommy didn’t seem to notice. He grinned wider, happy to have made her acquaintance.

“I’m Miss Stark,” said Sally slowly. She wanted to close the door now, and she placed her hand on the edge of it, hurrying things along with her mind. Hoping this would be over soon so she could go back in. She turned just enough to catch a sight of the clock in the hallway. Almost half past twelve. Almost lunch. Almost time to find the channel showing that old film she hadn’t seen for years. Miracle on 34th Street. She was quite looking forward to it. 

“I know,” said Tommy, nodding. “We sometimes get your post. I usually just put it through your door, but this time, I thought I should speak to you.” He fumbled around in his jacket pocket, and withdrew a square envelope, a little bent, but otherwise unharmed. He thrust it at the hand that was clutching the edge of the door, and Sally instinctively let go and took the letter.
Card.

It was a card.

And the envelope was adorned with a colourful stamp, larger than the usual type, depicting a snowman and a reindeer. It was cheerful. Sally stared at it. She had thought she had been forgotten. Perhaps she had been wrong. 

©Lisamarie Lamb 2012 

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Brick and Mortar Bookshop - Nickel Books


Nickel Books is a gorgeous treasure trove of an independent children's bookshop in Sittingbourne, Kent. Located on the high street, it is easy to find and hard to forget once you've stepped inside this Aladdin's cave of interesting books, games, and toys. And if by any chance they don't have what you're looking for, Andrea, the incredibly friendly and helpful owner, will source it for you (assuming it's in print).

But it's not just a children's bookshop. Nickel Books is host to numerous events through the month, including Musical Bumps, children's parties, and story time which takes place every Tuesday at 11am. Check the shop's website for more events as they come along. There's always something going on!

Not only is Nickel Books a lovely place to visit, but if you can't make it, their online ordering service is second to none. With an easy to navigate online shop, free postage, and a personal service, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

2012 is the year of the independent trader - buy local, support local. And Nickel Books is just the sort of shop that deserves our custom.

Now, you may wonder why I'm writing about a children's bookshop as I don't write for children. Well, the Sheppey Writing Workshop's book, A Roof Over Their Heads, about the inhabitants and places on the Isle of Sheppey, is now being stocked in Nickel Books! Not only does Andrea cater to children, but she also has a local interest section, and our book fit in nicely.

Whether you want to learn about Victorian Kent, or you want to know more about good walks to take small children on, they've got the information.

And they've also now got A Roof Over Their Heads.

Please, take a look at this fabulous shop, and enjoy!

Friday, 7 December 2012

New Anthology: Legends of Urban Horror


Urban legends. You know the sort of thing. Long ago known stories of nastiness that everyone has heard but no one is quite sure where it came from. It's just there, as though already implanted into the brain at birth, ready and waiting for the opportunity to be told.

And there is always an opportunity. Always a good time to tell a tale of urban horror. It's because they are based on such normal, everyday things (a car with its headlights off, a darkened bathroom mirror, a spider laying its eggs...) that at any given moment something will spark off the memory of that story you heard once upon a time. The story that a friend of a friend told you.

Since these stories are so well known, it may seem odd to base an anthology around them. Who needs to see them written down when they are so firmly entrenched in the world's subconscious? This is where Sirens Call Publications' newest offering changes the game. Yes, the stories are urban legends, but they are different. New ideas, new reasons, new legends to scare you.

Perhaps you can tell a friend of a friend about it? See how far we can spread the stories here...

Contributing authors include:
Morgan Bauman, Kimberly A. Bettes, Matthew Borgard, Alex Chase, Austin Fikac, K. Trap Jones, Sean Keller, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, C. M. Saunders.

It can be purchased through these links:
Amazon.co.uk: paperback or Kindle
Amazon.com: paperback or Kindle
Smashwords

Friday, 30 November 2012

Over The Bridge - It's Out!


Friday 23rd November 2012 is a date that will stay with me forever. Friday 23rd November 2012 is the date that my short story collection, Over The Bridge, published by Dark Hall Press, was released.

A launch party took place on Facebook - the page is available to scroll through here: https://www.facebook.com/events/127428337414054/

That was a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work! But I hope everyone had a good time, and enjoyed themselves. And the enormous pizza that arrived to keep guests going!

The book itself is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online stores. Both Dark Hall Press and myself are now starting the job of finding bricks and mortar stores to stock the book; we're working on both sides of the Atlantic, so I'll be updating this page when we have more information!

Dark Hall Press has been a great publisher to work with - helpful, professional, and enthusiastic. See what they have to say about Over The Bridge: http://darkhallpress.com/over_the_bridge

"Over the Bridge is a chilling collection of sixteen short tales exploring the darker side of human nature. Through employment of supernatural elements, folklore, and allusions to predestination, Lamb has crafted a provocative and refreshing collection of the macabre."

Over the Bridge can be purchased through these links:

Amazon.co.uk (paperback)
Amazon.co.uk (Kindle)
Amazon.com (paperback)
Amazon.com (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble

Friday, 16 November 2012

Sheppey Writing Workshop - We're Famous Now!

The Sheppey Writing Workshop found itself in the local paper (the Sheerness Times Guardian) this week.


There we all are! The photo shoot at Warden Bay was a lot of fun, even if I was holding the book back to front for half of it! Thankfully I realised and, rather red-faced, I managed to get it the right way round (you'd never know I'd made an error from the photo though).

If you'd like to hold your own copy of this fascinating book about the Isle of Sheppey (although don't let that put you off, the stories are universal tales of smugglers, con artists, masked balls, and struggles during war time), please click on this link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/lisamarie-lamb-and-geof-reed/a-roof-over-their-heads/paperback/product-20348882.html

If you're local to the island, you can buy the book from the Blue Town Heritage Centre, or Castle Connections in Queenborough.

And if you have an eReader, the eBook is available through Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/218801

If you do purchase it, please let us know what you thought by leaving a review - we'd love to hear from you!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Over The Bridge - The Book Trailer


As some of you may already know, the fabulous Dark Hall Press has accepted my short story collection, Over The Bridge, for publication. It should be out this month, and I'm incredibly excited about it! It's the perfect early Christmas present for me, the result of many years of writing, writing, writing... I feel that 2012 has been the year I have finally got somewhere with this 'hobby' of mine.

And I can now reveal the exciting, terrifying, and really very creepy book trailer for Over The Bridgehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqMmCU9ddF4

Please have a look, make a comment, let me or Dark Hall Press know what you think... We'd love to hear from you!

If you want to contact me directly, take a look at my Contact page. Get in touch!

Friday, 2 November 2012

National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo


I won! I won! 50,000 words written in just 30 days, and I've done it! Now that's a good feeling. 

Now what?

In 2011, I took part in NaNoWriMo for the second time. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is, as the website says, "30 days and nights of literary abandon". The aim is to write a novel - at least 50,000 words - during November. Stats are counted, work uploaded, and if you manage it, you get some nice looking graphics to put on your blog (see above...) or wherever.

You also, maybe, get people congratulating you. 50,000 words is a lot. It sounds pretty impressive when you tell someone you've won NaNo and what it means you had to do. I'm always impressed when my writing friends tell me they've managed it. In 2010, I was more than impressed. I was envious. I tried, got to 32,000 words, and ran out of time. So the accolades from fellow writers was the thing that meant the most to me.

NaNoWriMo equates to 1667 words every single day. For a professional, full time writer, this is nothing. Probably. But for people like me, people who have a full time 'day job', who have children to look after, who have other commitments, who can't just hole up and write, write, write for a month (oh! the wonder!), 1667 words in a day means battling with heavy eyelids and writing when all you want to do is sleep. It means setting the alarm clock an hour (at least) earlier than usual. It means creeping upstairs when everyone is settled doing something or other, when they don't need you for ten minutes, to get another hundred words or so down.

It means a lot. And this doesn't even count all the preparation that needs to be done beforehand. Character profiles, plot ideas, scheduling... So October is NaNo prep month, full of sleepless nights and wondering what you've signed up for. Even if you've done it before.

But, apart from people being happy for you, a colourful picture for the blog, a certificate, and bags under your eyes, what do you get?

That's down to you. You might get a half written novel of somewhere around 50,000 words that, when read back, is no good to anyone. You might get something half decent. You might get something you think you can work on. It's unlikely (although not unheard of) that you'll end up with a perfect novel that's ready to be sent off to an agent and make you millions.

Last year I had half a book. I didn't know it was half a book at that point, I just knew that it was something I wanted to keep working on. I liked the characters (even the nasty ones), and I could see the story going somewhere. I could even see sequels and prequels. And this being my first attempt at something that wasn't horror, I was rather pleased with my attempt.

One year later, I've got a complete (110,000 words) novel, edited, and sent off to an agent. So we'll see. You never know. Fingers crossed.

The problem is, I'm not sure I can do it again. By the time 1st December 2011 rolled around, I was so relieved that NaNo was over that I promised myself I'd never put myself through it again. And now that I've done it once, I've proved that I can do it. If I don't sign up this year, I won't have to worry about it. I won't have to think about it. All I'll need to do is congratulate the friends who win.

I won't look a fool for failing after I've won.

But, what if I can do it? You see, I've got half a book written. A strange little thing, a murder mystery, something completely different to everything and anything I've done before. I like the characters (even the nasty ones), and I can see the story going somewhere. Another 50,000 would finish it. And even if I don't get to 50,000, with a full time job, no free November weekends, and a two year old who likes to help Mama 'type', I'll be closer than I was.

We'll see, shall we?



Friday, 26 October 2012

Moving Shadows Part 3



Evie followed the headmistress to a chamber she had known as the sewing room (and even as a girl she had considered it too grand), and sat down on a comfortable old chair. The big oaken desk in front of her looked familiar. “This desk was here when I was,” she told Mrs. Warren. “Look, here’s where Tommy Waghorn carved his initials one day. You should have seen the trouble he got into!”

Mrs. Warren smiled excitedly. “I wondered what that stood for! All the years I’ve been touching it, thinking about it, and now I know... This is exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. The children are in the process of finding out about the history of this school. I was wondering whether you might like to come in, maybe once, maybe more, just to tell them some stories of the time you were here. I think they’d like that.”

A thrill rose up in Evie. She would love to do it, and told the headmistress so immediately. “And now,” she said, “Perhaps you can help me. I came here looking for a teacher I met yesterday. She was really kind to me and I wanted to thank her for a present she gave me.”

“Certainly,” agreed Mrs. Warren, pleased to help. “What’s her name?”

“I only know her first name; Ivy.”

“Ivy?” asked Mrs Warren, her brow wrinkling, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, absolutely.”
           
Mrs. Warren shook her head. “I think there must be some mistake. There’s no Ivy working here. Could you describe her?”

Evie did so, all the time wondering more and more if Ivy had been lying; why was she outside the gate anyway?

“The only thing I can do to help you is to show you some photos of the staff. Perhaps you can point out the woman there.” Mrs Warren rose from her desk and picked a large photograph album from a high shelf. “There are photos in here dating back to before your time. Every year a photo of the entire staff is taken and added to this. You should find your Ivy in here.”

Evie leafed through the pictures, starting with the most recent. No Ivy. No one who even looked faintly like her. She shook her head sadly. Mrs. Warren poured out a cup of coffee as Evie looked even further back through the album, just out of curiosity now, having given up her search for Ivy. She went back to her final year of schooling. She picked out faces she recognised and told Mrs. Warren a few facts, although her heart wasn’t really in it now, not after such a disappointment.

“Look at this one,” commented the headmistress, sipping her coffee. “That dress; very similar to yours.” Evie looked closer at the picture. She froze. In the front row of the group of smiling staff members was a young woman wearing a beautiful dress. The photo was in black and white, but Evie knew the dress was blue. Because now she remembered.

“That’s Miss Shaw,” Evie told Mrs. Warren. “The other children called me teacher’s pet, but I didn’t care. She looked after me. I had forgotten.”

“Forgotten what?” asked the teacher, concerned about Evie’s ever-paling appearance.

“Do you have any information about this woman?” asked Evie desperately.

“Of course.” Rising, Mrs. Warren pulled open a drawer in a large metal filing cabinet. “Shaw you say? Here you go.” She flipped the small file open and handed it to Evie.

“Ivy Shaw,” the older woman read out in a whisper. “I remember now. She died. A bomb. She was coming to my house. I invited her to my birthday party. She was bringing me a present, a dress she had made herself, and the siren went. There was nowhere for her to hide. I suppose I blocked it out of my mind; I blamed myself so much.” Tears were running down Evie’s face now. “But she came back and gave me this dress.”

Mrs. Warren was pale. Normally such things didn’t faze her; she was used to dealing with hysterical children saying they had seen a ghost somewhere around the school; the ghost of a young women in a blue dress. But something in Evie’s face and voice made her believe it. From now on, although she would still tell the child there was no such thing, she would no longer be so convinced that what she was saying was true.

Evie stood. “I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. Give me a ring and we’ll arrange a date for me to talk to the children.” The women silently shook hands.

As Evie reached the door to the office, Mrs. Warren spoke; “I’m glad Ivy still cares.”

Evie smiled, silently left the room, and left the school. She walked home, hoping to see some sign of the woman she had so looked up to.

Later that evening, as the sun turned into a fiery ball of pure gold, she watched the shadows moving, and knew that one of them was Ivy’s, finally saying goodbye.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Moving Shadows Part 2



Evie shook her head. “Oh no, I was just watching the children.”

The woman, a teacher, Evie guessed, frowned. “You really shouldn’t do that, you know. Not that I think you’re a danger, but we have to be so careful these days, I’m sure you understand.”

“Of course,” said Evie, “But I wasn’t doing anything-” she paused, then continued after finding the right word, “Strange. I used to go to school here, during the war. I was just having a look, to see how it had changed. I don’t live far but I haven’t been here for decades. I’m Evie, by the way.” She held her hand out.

The younger woman smiled. “I’m Ivy. I get so used to using my last name around here I almost forget I have a first.” She laughed lightly, shaking Evie’s hand.

Definitely a teacher then, thought Evie. “I’d better be going anyway,” she told Ivy. “It’s about time I got back home.”

Ivy thought for a moment. “Where are you going to?”

Evie told her and Ivy smiled once again. “If you like, I can walk with you for a little of the way. I live in that direction too and I was only on until break today.” Evie nodded gratefully. She enjoyed walking, but walking with a companion was so much more entertaining. On the journey the two women discussed many things; Ivy seemed to have a store of knowledge about World War Two, and Evie felt as though she was talking to an old friend rather than someone she had met only a few bright minutes before. Evie could not help but admire the lovely dress that Ivy was wearing. “Where did you get it from?” she asked, half tempted to get one for herself although not sure it would really suit her.

“This?” Ivy said, looking down, smoothing out the material; “Oh, I made this at home. I make a lot of my own clothes, it’s cheaper that way, and at least you know they’ll be one offs.”

As they neared the corner of Evie’s road, Ivy slowed and stopped. “I’ll leave you here, if that’s all right. I’m in the other direction, really.”

Reluctant to say goodbye, Evie spoke; “Perhaps you’ll come over later? That’s my house, the red brick one with the magnolia tree outside. We’re having a barbecue, and I’d love you to meet my family. The way I’ve been rambling on, I expect you feel as though you know them already!”

Ivy smiled. “Well, perhaps I will pop round later. Thank you for the invite.” And, waving and smiling, Ivy trotted away.
***
At six o’clock that evening, the family get together was underway. Everyone was interested in Evie’s long walk, and were hoping that Ivy would arrive; she sounded lovely.

Going inside to bring out some more condiments, Evie heard a slight knock at the front door. When she opened it, there was no one there, and at first she thought it was some children playing a prank. But as she stepped back into the house, she looked down and saw a parcel on the ground by the step up into her front porch. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Picking it up gingerly, she took it inside and placed it on the kitchen table.

“You all right in there?” called Jim from outside. “Where’ve you got to?”

“I’m just in the kitchen,” Evie answered. She poked at the parcel. “I’ve got a present.”

Jim popped his head around the door. “A present?”

Evie gestured to the brown package as though it were a dog threatening to bite. “One of your favourite things?” asked her husband. “A brown paper package tied up with string,” he explained when Evie looked blank. “Never mind. Are you going to open it then?”

Biting her tongue, Evie cut the string and the loose ends flopped sideways onto the table. As nothing dreadful had happened, she began to gain a little more confidence, and began to undo the rest of the parcel. As the folds of paper were carefully left to rest on the table, a scrap of blue could just be seen. Evie caught her breath. It looked so similar, but really, it couldn’t be, could it? The parcel was open and there, lying on the kitchen table, was Ivy’s beautiful blue dress. A copy? Perhaps, but hadn’t the teacher said she made her garments to be one of a kind? Evie was lost for words.

“Oh, that’s lovely, Eve,” Jim said, looking down. “Your colour, too. Who’s it from?”

There was no card, no note of any kind, but Evie knew. “Ivy.”

“Oh? That teacher?” Jim seemed pleased. “Maybe next time she’ll come in.” With that he left, going back into the garden to enjoy the sun and his family.

Evie could not be so dismissive of what had happened. She would have to go back to the school next week, Monday morning, and ask to see Ivy, to at least thank her. It was a beautiful present.
***
Monday morning rushed in with unstoppable force. The weekend was over and the usual routine would begin again. But Evie, wearing her new blue dress – a perfect fit for her, and flattering - was going to leave the housework this morning, and instead go for another walk. This time, however, she knew exactly where she was going.

The school was quiet now. The lessons had just started and Evie could imagine what the children were thinking; break time was a million long years away. She wanted to tell them not to wish time gone, but they wouldn’t understand, thinking themselves immortal. So she paused at the gates, wondering whether, in the twenty-first century when the human race was supposed to be civilised, the entrance to the school would be locked to prevent any strangers from intruding. She pushed tentatively, her fingers brushing the cold steel as though it were burning, and the left-hand gate moved. She pushed again, harder, and the gate opened all the way. Evie, making sure to close the gate behind her, walked purposefully towards the front door of her old school. If anybody saw her they said nothing.

She remembered exactly where the headmaster’s office had been, perhaps not surprising since she had spent many hours there being punished either with the slipper or the threat of letting her mother know what she had been up to, and made her way there. But when she got there she discovered that what had been an office, functional and feared, was now a cloakroom. She turned, looking for any recognisable landmarks but everything inside the familiar building had changed. Evie could have cried as her memories of how things had been were slowly and methodically replaced with the knowledge of what things were now. The only thing that was the same was the smell – disinfectant, poster paint, plimsolls, chalk… That at least hadn’t failed her. Tears pushed themselves into her eyes and she angrily wiped them away, telling herself not to be so sentimental. She was here for a reason.

Evie stared down the hollow corridor with its strip lighting and shiny floors dulled by the dirt of hundreds of small feet, black scuff marks on the skirting board still in evidence. She heard the unmistakable sound of high heels on school surfaces and rushed towards the woman heading in her direction. “Can you please tell me how to find the headmaster?” Evie asked, knowing she sounded desperate but not caring.

The woman raised one carefully plucked eyebrow, looking Evie up and down. “There is no headmaster, I’m afraid, madam. But I’m the headmistress, Mrs. Warren. Will I do?”

Evie blushed, embarrassed by her old-fashioned views and memories. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Warren,” she said, feeling exactly like a contrite schoolgirl which, she reflected, was most likely how she was supposed to be feeling. “When I was here we had a headmaster, and I suppose I just assumed.”

Mrs. Warren nodded, smiled, realising she had treated the woman like a wayward pupil; “You came here? When was that?”

“During the war.”

“Really? Would you mind following me to my office? I know you wanted to speak with the person in charge, and I have a favour to ask of you too, since you’re here.”

Friday, 12 October 2012

Moving Shadows Part 1



And as the wind moved softly across the earth she thought she saw a shadow. Her mind saw the shadow, but she… she saw nothing. Not really. This was life; seeing things and clinging to them, like pleasant dreams. And just like a dream you can wake up and realise that what you thought you saw, thought you had hold of, was not really true. It was never yours to see, or yours to hold.

Sometimes people wake and are convinced that what they saw belonged to them, confident in the certain belief that it was real. There is even, on occasion, when the mists of sleep have faded from the eyes and mind of the dreamer, the feeling that what had been dreamt really did happen, when it could not conceivably have done so, and these feelings are impossible to dilute with a cup of morning coffee. And so it was with her – the shadows moved, but when she turned to see them, they were gone.

***
Evie was tired. Her legs ached and her back was sore. She had been walking for hours, going nowhere.

Early that morning, when the first slivers of light were trying to slip unnoticed through the miniscule gap in her bedroom curtains, Evie had turned to her husband and, shaking him tenderly awake, had told him that she was going for a walk. His response was to stare at her blankly and silently. He then painfully turned his head, his neck stiff with old age, and tried to focus on the small alarm clock with its luminous hands that sat on the bedside table next to his wife. “But it’s five o’clock!” he managed, swallowing a yawn. “I know,” Evie had murmured, slipping out from the sheets and padding across to the window. She held back one side of the curtain and peered through. “Look at it out there,” she said, not turning, keeping her eyes locked on the view, “Everything is awake, and we’re in bed. I want to be part of the world outside.” Evie stopped what she was saying, sensing the room was too quiet, and turned. Her husband was asleep.

As soon as she stepped outside of her front door, she felt different. Less frail, less fragile, less old. The crisp air that only existed in the first few hours of morning, before the day had had a chance to pollute it, flowed into her lungs and she felt purified. She was reminded of childhood holidays with her parents when the days stretched out forever and the fear of old age didn’t yet exist. She momentarily felt the sharp tang of grief for people and years long gone and then she had set off with a strident, purposeful air, humming to herself some nondescript but tuneful song of her own composing.

She found herself on top of a small hillock in the middle of a park that she had played in when she was a little girl, her feet joining forces with her nostalgia to take her there. From there she looked at the sky, seeing how the newborn sun painted the clouds pink. It didn’t last long. She had felt so alive that morning, just standing there, watching, drinking in all the sights, sounds and smells around her, but now her legs were slowing in their stride and she reluctantly felt it was time to return home again. She looked at her watch and was shocked to discover that it was ten o’clock. She had been awake for five hours, out walking for almost four and a half. No wonder her legs were beginning to ache. But the idea of going back home was no longer appealing; breakfast sounded a lot better.

Evie cut through the park and strolled towards a little café she knew. It had been there since before World War Two, and it had been a ritual to quickly pop in there on the way home from school; the owners would always have a piece of bread and jam ready for Evie when she stopped by. Since then, of course, many owners had come and gone, but the friendly atmosphere still remained and the food was good enough even if she did now have to pay for it. They would even do a slice of bread and jam if she asked for it. This morning she asked for three.

There was a payphone at the back of the café. It was hardly used now in the age of the mobile, but Evie wandered over to it and quickly dialled her own number after fumbling in her purse for some coins. “Hello? Jim? It’s me, it’s Evie.”

“Where are you?” asked Jim, concern on the edge of his voice. “You’ve been gone hours.”

“Oh, I’m just walking around. I’m having breakfast, actually. What are you doing?”

“Me? Not much, just getting things ready for this evening. What time are you getting back?”

Evie ignored his last question and asked one of her own; “This evening?”

Sighing, Jim explained. “It’s this barbecue thing we’re doing, remember? The family’s all coming over.”

“Oh!” Evie exclaimed, “I forgot! I’ll be home in a bit, I promise, then I’ll help you.”

Jim paused and then grumbled something in answer (probably to do with her not worrying, but Evie didn’t quite catch it) and the couple said their goodbyes.  Evie wondered how she could have forgotten something that had been arranged for at least a week; she supposed it was the excitement of this spontaneous bit of exercise, something so out of the ordinary that the usual run of things went by the wayside.  

Not wanting to think too much about forgetting and full of nostalgia after eating in one of her childhood haunts, Evie decided to walk home past her old school. She would have dearly loved to go inside, but couldn’t see how that was possible, she didn’t want to be thought of as a weirdo sneaking around the little ones. Instead she paused by the gate, wrapped in a cloud of memories; rather than the children of today, she could see her own small companions running and skipping about the playground.

Immersed as she was in her own warm thoughts, Evie did not respond immediately to the authoritative voice in front of her. It took a firm hand on her shoulder and an even firmer voice, to snap her back to the here and now. Evie turned to see a young woman, vaguely familiar, standing by her side, wearing a beautiful blue summer dress. “Can I help you?” she asked. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Rich Fabric - A Different Kind of Anthology


What do I know about quilting? Well, a lot more than I did in May this year when author Melinda McGuire (Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey, When I Met Crazy in the Morning, Nelson and Cora) contacted me to ask whether I would like to contribute a story to her new anthology.

Of course, I said yes.

But this was not the usual type of anthology that I tend to contribute to. Most of the collections I have submitted to in the past (and the ones I plan to send stories to in the future) are horror anthologies. And Melinda's was about the traditions and techniques of quilting.

Rather different!

I wasn't sure whether I could write something that would work in the context, but I thought I would try... It would test me, if nothing else!

And the profits from the anthology are all going to The Twilight Wish Foundation, a charity set up to help the elderly, and to ensure they have a fulfilling old age.

The Twilight Wish Foundation wants to make the world a nicer place to age, one wish at a time. Through donations and volunteers, the foundation is able to assist those less well off to enjoy their old age. On the website there is a list of 'open wishes' which includes everything from donating to enable a chronically ill artist to have her paintings framed to helping a senior with terminal cancer visit her childhood home for the last time.

I had never heard of such a charity before becoming involved in Melinda's wonderful anthology, but I think it is a wonderful idea. Old age can be lonely, frightening, and something to ignore. The Twilight Wish Foundation shows that, with a little compassion and a little heart, the elderly don't have to disappear.

Rich Fabric is out today, 28th September, and can be bought from Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Rich-Fabric-Anthology-Symbolism-Tradition/dp/1479278378/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1348655663&sr=8-13&keywords=melinda+mcguire)

or Amazon.co.uk (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rich-Fabric-Anthology-Symbolism-Tradition/dp/1479278378/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1348655663&sr=8-13&keywords=melinda+mcguire)

It contains short stories, illustrations, essays, memoirs, and photographs.

The eBook will be available in December.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Book Launch! A Roof Over Their Heads - Stories from the Isle of Sheppey



On Friday 21st September, we officially launched our beloved project as a paperback book - A Roof Over Their Heads!

As part of the Promenade 2012 events, the Sheppey Writing Workshop were invited to give a reading in front of Mayor of Swale Pat Sandle, MP Gordon Henderson, and an audience who were offered traditional cream teas for elevenses! 

To start, Geof Reed, the man who organised the Roof Over Their Heads project, as well as Jo Eden, one of our writers, entertained us with a rousing rendition of the beautiful Summertime from Porgy and Bess. If you would like to hear Jo sing (and it's certainly worth it), she will, I'm sure, be engaged in events all over the island in the coming months. 

We have sold out of our first run of books, but don't worry, we're taking orders for more! If you would like to buy a copy, you can do so through Lulu http://www.lulu.com/shop/lisamarie-lamb-and-geof-reed/a-roof-over-their-heads/paperback/product-20348882.html;jsessionid=4AAFDC370536D709B4F9C28E7A520936

It will soon be available through Amazon as well. 

Alternatively, you can contact me (lisamarie20010@gmail.com) to order a copy (you never know, we may even sign it for you!).

We hope to soon be stocking the book in local shops and we will be updating this page as the exciting new things happen! 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for making this project come to life. Here's to the next one! 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Published: From Stage Door Shadows


Blurb:
Twenty-six authors trade Tiny Dancer's California-blessed lyrics for the shadowed recesses of stages large and small in From Stage Door Shadows, a speculative fiction homage to the darkness just beyond the limelight of the entertainment industry.

The stories re-introduce the woman Bernie Taupin wrote about and Elton John sang about: blue jean baby, LA lady, the band's seamstress, the music man's wife, and the girl dancing in the sand, along with a stellar cast of musicians, singers, thespians, fans, managers, dancers, DJs, magicians, talent show contestants, stars, and has-beens.

Frome Vaudeville to opera, piano bar to street corner, hotel suite and beauty pageant, From Stage Door Shadows is a backstage pass to where dreams of fame, fortune, and fulfillment live and die in a heartbeat.

History:
From Stage Door Shadows is the fourth Literary Mix Tapes and the final LMT anthology for 2012. It follows in the footsteps of Nothing But Flowers: tales of post-apocalyptic love, Eighty Nine, and Deck The Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer.  

From Stage Door Shadows is based on Bernie Taupin's lyrical tribute to California in the 1970s, "Tiny Dancer". The song appears on Elton John's fourth studio album, Madman Across The Water and although not a hit at the time of release, it went platinum in August 2011.

Release Dates:
The paperback and eBook will be released simultaneously on the 29th September 2012. The paperback will be launched at Smith's Alternate Bookstore in Canberra (Australia) on 29th September as part of Conflux 8, and will be accompanied by an online celebration.

Pre-orders open Monday 3rd September 2012. Books may be ordered via the eMergent Publishing Bookstore for the reduced price of $12.99 (RRP $19.99).

Table of Contents:
Rites of Spring by Graham Storrs
Torch Song by Andrew J. McKiernan
Fear Is The Sin by Alan Baxter
Candentia by Clive Martin
Luminaire by Joanne Anderton
House of the Cantomancer by Jennifer Muirhead
White Poppy Serenade by S. G. Larner
Time Signature by Melanie Saward
Tiny Dancer by Emma Kerry
Sing to Me by Laura Meyer
Discovering the Gift by Len Lambert
Indigo by Jodi Cleghorn
The Last Illusion by Rus Van Westervelt
Dancing in the Sand by Rebecca L. Dobbie
A Perfect Evening by Sam Adamson
My Moment by Theresa Milstein
Music Box by Laura Eno
Open Audition by Devin Watson
A Living Doll by Monica Marier
The Last of the Undead Beats by Daniel Wynne
The Gods Are Just by Janette Dalgliesh
The Music Man by Lisamarie Lamb
The Colour of Blood by Cath Barton
Velvet by J. M. Donellan
The Twilight Dream by Tom Dullemond
Muted by Jessica Bell

eMergent Publishing
eMergent Publishing is a cutting edge Anglo-Australian small press founded by authors Paul Anderson and Jodi Cleghorn in 2009. eMergent produces conceptual fiction anthologies which push the boundaries of form and structure.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Poem: I Forgot To Say 'I Love You'


I Forgot To Say 'I Love You'

I watched you drive away that night
From the open window on the landing.
The one you said you'd always paint,
But hadn't yet got round to.
I watched you drive round the corner
And I hoped you'd be back soon
Because I missed you already,
And needed you home again.

You went out to get a takeaway -
Chinese, I think. You wouldn't be long.
So I ran myself a hot bath to relax.
And then the phone rang.
You went out at twenty to,
And the call came in at eight,
Making me jump because it was
Unexpected; no one calls on Friday night.

They said there'd been an accident,
And you were just about hanging on.
I ran from the house and drove to you,
But by them it was too late.
They said you hadn't suffered at all, 
But I was barely listening; all I 
Could think as I sat, watching nothing move,
Was that I forget to say 'I love you'. 

And now I sit alone on Friday nights
Imagining you walking through that door,
Bag of food in one hand, wine in the other,
And a ready smile on your lips.
The window still needs painting, but I
Haven't got the heart to do it.
I sit and pick the old dead flakes ff,
As I listen for the sound of your key in the door. 

©Lisamarie Lamb 2012 

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Roof Over Their Heads - Project Update



For a year now, a group of six writers from the Isle of Sheppey have been meeting in order to put together a book entitled A Roof Over Their Heads.

The idea behind the project was to choose a building on the island - and there are so many to choose from, all with so much history to use as inspiration (see the 7th century Minster Abbey, or the Victoria Club, or what about HMP Elmlea?) - and to create a story based around it.

We researched, using the local library in Sheerness, looking at old copies of the Sheerness Times Guardian, taking to locals, and visiting the Blue Town Heritage Centre.

And then we wrote. And rewrote. Ad edited. And read to the group. And rewrote. And spoke on BRFM. And finally, finally, we put it all together!


To download from Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roof-Over-Their-Heads-ebook/dp/B0091JN2YW/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1345796055&sr=8-13

To download from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Roof-Over-Their-Heads-ebook/dp/B0091JN2YW/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1345796055&sr=8-13

To download from Smashwords (all formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/218801

The paperback will be available from Amazon soon, but can currently be bought through Lulu.com: http://www.lulu.com/shop/lisamarie-lamb-and-geof-reed/a-roof-over-their-heads/paperback/product-20348882.html