Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Writer Wednesday takeover - Angela Wren interviews me

It's all about fantasy today.  So wishes can come true and authors can be anything they want to be!  And I am Angela Wren and I am temporarily taking charge of Stephanie's blog so that I can interview her about her writing and her wonderful book 'Djinn and Tonic'.

AW  What is your current release?

SC Djinn and Tonic is a fun, fairy-tale inspired romance novella involving a photographer and a genie.  Sal is determined to win a photography award for an atmospheric photoshoot, but her wish for the perfect model is more effective than she expects –  she inadvertently conjures up Ashtad, who’s not only tall, dark and handsome, but also a genie.  Sal can have everything she’s ever dreamed of but, as in all the best fairy tales, she soon learns to be careful what she wishes for…

AW   What first got you into writing and why?

SC I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  My first love was poetry, but as a child I also used to make up long, rambling tales starring me and my friends, and loosely inspired by the adventures of the Famous Five.  I loved (and still love) writing because of how the imagination can take us to all kinds of places that we’d never go in reality, and open up the most amazing adventures.  It’s like having the opportunity to live dozens of different lives, instead of being limited to one.  

AW  You write Romance novels.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?

SC I like to write about settings and situations that feel a little familiar in some way, as it makes them easier to imagine.  For example, at university I was a keen ballroom dancer, and I was fascinated by the romantic and dramatic potential of the competitive dancing world, so I used it as the setting for my first full-length book, Perfect Partners.  My starting point may be real, but then I’ll add large doses of imagination – such as the Strictly Come Dancing meets Blind Date TV show which brings Redmond and Lisa back together in Perfect Partners – and I’ll also research specific details to add depth to the story. 

I had to do some interesting research for ‘Music to Her Ears’, my contribution to the Modern Magic anthology – my story was a quirky take on Goldilocks, with Goldie gatecrashing the mansion of three famous musician brothers, so I had to read up about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, including comparing journey times between London and New York by commercial and private jet. 

AW  Have you ever had to write a scene that was especially difficult and how did you do it?

SC I can’t think of a specific one, perhaps because every scene has its own challenges.  In general, I think I struggle more with overall structure than with individual scenes.  I was going to say, the hardest thing is often knowing where to start a story, but then I remembered that I also often find it hard to wrap the plot up neatly.  Oh, and saggy middles are always a struggle.  So no, I wouldn’t say there was one particular scene. 

AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’?

SC No.  I mostly write on a mini laptop so my writing is very portable.  I sometimes write at home, either at the dining table or on the sofa, but in the summer I also enjoy taking my writing outdoors, and I quite enjoy writing in coffee shops, although I can be distracted by people-watching.  Just now I’m writing on a train, but my dream writing spot would be curled up on a sofa in a conservatory overlooking the sea.   

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with anyone, living or dead or a character from a book.  Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?

SC That’s a tricky one!  There are a lot of people I’d like to meet, but at the moment, with all the publicity surrounding the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the discovery of another first folio, I’d go for the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.  I’d like to settle once and for all the question of whether he wrote all the plays attributed to him, or whether Bacon or someone else was involved… although I don’t suppose Shakespeare would want to give up the credit for his famous plays, and you can never quite trust a fiction writer to give you true answers, so maybe we’d still never know. 

Thanks, Angela, for visiting today and for some fascinating questions.  Thanks also for having me to visit on your blog, James and Me.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview and GIVEAWAY with Elizabeth Meyette

Celebrate the Audiobook Edition of The Cavanaugh House with this Giveaway

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card below!

Welcome, Elizabeth!  When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I was smitten with writing from the time I could hold a pencil and scrawl nonsense scribbles on paper. Mrs. McGrath, my third grade teacher, told me I was a very good writer and that affirmation launched my love of words. My first poem was published when I was a high school sophomore, and I wrote for our high school newspaper. I majored in English and minored in Journalism in college, and I wrote for my college paper. On a dare, I wrote a romance novel. Eventually, it became my first published book.

'The Cavanaugh House' isn't a traditional romance - what makes it different?

One convention of a traditional romance is scenes that alternate between the heroine’s and hero’s point of view. The Cavanaugh House is told in limited omniscient point of view through my heroine Jesse. So the only way we know what Joe, the hero, is thinking is through his words or Jesse’s observations of his facial expression or body language. Other than POV, it’s a pretty conventional romance—they meet and fall in love, there are complications, they are separated, they reunite, a happily ever after ending.

It's just been released as an audiobook - what is it like hearing your story read?  Does it sound as you imagined?

As I began to listen to Amy McFadden narrate my story, I got teary-eyed. It was overwhelming. Those were my words! Someone was reading my words! My husband Rich walked in and gave me a hug—he totally gets it. Amy warned me that my characters would not sound like they had in my head all the time I was writing the book, and I was grateful that she said that. But even though some of them didn’t sound like I’d imagined, Amy nailed it, especially with Jesse. I was thrilled.

Who are your favorite romantic authors?

My older sister introduced me to Victoria Holt and her gothic novels when I was in high school. I devoured them all. Of course, now I read Nora Roberts and Diana Gabaldon. I’ve been reading romances by authors I’ve come to be friends with, but I’m afraid if I only name a couple I will miss someone J. I especially love historical romance and romantic suspense. Oh, and Shakespeare—there’s lots of romance in his works LOL.

Which other genres do you like to read?

I have to admit that I like some romance in any genre I read. Mystery is my favorite, so I love Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell. I’ve read every mystery Agatha Christie wrote, and love Sherlock Holmes and other British mysteries. I also like paranormal, fantasy and some sci-fi. I used to teach high school English, so of course I love the American classics. To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite, but I love The Great Gatsby, Dandelion Wine, even The Grapes of Wrath!

Janet Evanovich always makes me smile, and I love a good mystery too.  To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book as well - I so admire Harper Lee's writing.  Speaking of writing, what’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

HOKBIS. Hands on Keyboard; Butt in Seat. There is no other way for this to happen, my friend.

The Cavanaugh House excerpt:

This house held secrets.  Secrets that wafted through rotting window sashes on the winter wind.  Secrets that spiders wove into webs anchored between the ceiling and walls. Secrets that scuttled on the feet of cockroaches across stained kitchen linoleum and scurried into its cracks. Secrets that peered from holes in the baseboard from glinting mouse eyes. This house held the secrets close to its bosom where they had slept for decades. No one had disturbed these secrets in all the years the house sat decaying from neglect. There was no reason to, and there was no desire.

The Cavanaugh House blurb:

When Jesse Graham unlocks the door to the deserted house she inherited from her Aunt Helen, she doesn’t realize she’s unlocking secrets that had lain dormant for years. Reeling from a broken engagement to acclaimed musician Robert Cronmiller, Jesse wants to leave the city where her name is linked to his in all the society pages. Her best friend Maggie, aka Sister Angelina, convinces her to take a job at a private girls’ school in the pastoral Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Anticipating a quiet, revitalizing life in her aunt’s deserted house, Jesse is instead thrown into a maze of danger. Questions about her aunt’s death lead Jesse to investigate events surrounding it and the people involved, but she uncovers a web of deceit that reaches far beyond the occurrences of over two decades earlier. Still dejected from her broken engagement, Jesse finds it difficult to trust anyone, even her self-absorbed mother. Joe Riley is irresistible, but secrets obstruct involvement with him until Jesse can solve the secrets of the Cavanaugh House. Someone doesn’t want those secrets unearthed and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep them hidden.

Where can readers find you and your books? 

Thank you for inviting me to your lovely blog today, Stephanie. Readers can find me and my books at the following:

In the UK:

In the US:

My audiobook version of The Cavanaugh House is available on:

I love visits, and you can find me at

Enter the Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Click here: GIVEAWAY

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Writer Wednesday interview: Mary Morgan

Today on my blog I welcome Mary Morgan, author of the Dragon Knights series.  Hello, Mary! When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started at a young age with poems and plays. With an overactive imagination, I loved creating stories within my mind and writing them down. However, it took decades for me to have the courage to bring them out into the world for others to read.

What gave you the idea for the Dragon Knights stories?

On my first trip to Scotland sixteen years ago. I was sitting all alone on a boulder in the Highlands, surrounded by the magic and mists of the land. The Dragon Knights were born that evening.

You write about Scotland, which seems to be a favourite setting for romance writers (my friend Lizzie Lamb sets most of her stories there and they have been very popular).  What drew you to it, and how do you evoke the setting in your books?

My love affair with Scotland began decades ago. I blame it on my own bloodline—a yearning to return to the land of my ancestors. I have visited Scotland twice, so I put into my stories what I’ve seen, felt, and experienced. I took a travel journal and wrote daily, which helps in my research, too. Of course, my husband took many wonderful pictures that captured the majestic scenery of Scotland.

What's the most interesting thing you found out while researching the stories?

There were several, but the one that still stands out was finding a trading post in Ireland called Dunnyneill Islands. I needed a place for my hero and heroine from Dragon Knight’s Axe to meet. The hero bartered and sold goods along the Irish coast, so it was a serendipitous moment finding these islands. There is an ongoing archaeological dig on these islands, too. It was a trading post as far back as the 7th century. 
Who is your favourite romance author?  Or who are your favourites if you can't narrow it down to one?

I love romance, but I’m more a historical kind of gal. Some of my favorites: “Hawaii” by James Michener. “The Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn, and “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Never, ever give up! My mantra before I was published was, “I will find the right publisher. Readers will love my books.” Both have come true, because I believed in my dream. Therefore, I tell aspiring writers the same. My rejection letters were a path leading to the “right fit” with an editor and publisher.

Where can readers find you and your books?  

Here's a picture of my writing space.  I love making new friends. Here is where you can find me online:

Buy Links for Dragon Knight’s Shield

Angus MacKay, leader of the Dragon Knights, failed his brothers and his clan upon the death of his sister. Now he must fight the darkness of despair tempting his soul. Back on Scottish soil, he comes face to face with Deirdre who can wield a sword as mightily as his warriors, and takes her captive. Yet, with each passing day, the fire dragon inside him roars to claim the one woman fate has destined for him. 

Famed mystery writer, Deirdre Flanagan, is unprepared for the next chapter in her life. On a vacation to Scotland, she steps through the mists and enters into a skirmish alongside a Highlander. However, the fight has only begun, and now she must battle Angus as well as evil in order to claim the love of this Dragon Knight.

Will their love be powerful enough to shield them from danger, or burn them to ashes?

His look was predatory, lustful, inviting, and she took a step backward. Words failed her as she took another step back.
He arched a brow and his smile became seductive. “Do I frighten ye?”
“No!” she lied. Like hell you do! You’re as gorgeous as sin standing there, and I want to rip your clothes from your body.
Pushing off from the wall, he stepped into the room and silently closed the door behind him, his eyes never leaving hers. His hair hung in soft waves past his shoulders, and her fingers itched to twine within them. Her body ached in places so deep—longing for even the slightest touch. 
“Are ye unwell, my lady?”
The burr of his voice so low—so sexy, she could only stare at him until his words resonated in her mind. “No,” she replied softly, feeling the flames of desire heat not only her face, but also her entire body.
This time when he took another step closer, Deirdre didn’t back away. Now he stood so close she could feel the warmth of his breath across her face—a mix of wine and pure male.
She watched mesmerized as he reached for a lock of her hair, twining it around his finger. “So verra soft.”
Deirdre couldn’t breathe, as he let the curl unravel and cupped her face in his hands. “Ye confuse me. Ye torment me in my dreams,” he whispered against her cheek, sending a wave of pleasure down her spine.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Djinn and Tonic: Release Week

A huge thank you to all the people who've helped Djinn and Tonic get off the ground over the last week!

My lovely fellow authors at Wild Rose Press helped create quite a twitter storm over the first few days, and I've done some very enjoyable interviews - if you've missed any of them, here are the links:  Nancy C Weeks finds out about the inspiration for Djinn and Tonic, and challenges me to write an 8 word love story.  Joyce M Holmes asks about my writing habits and my tastes in reading.  Mary Morgan finds out about my writing inspirations, and asks some entertaining personal questions.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview: Iris Blobel

Welcome, Iris!  A few weeks ago I posted your cover for Echoes of the Past.  Thanks for coming back to tell us more about the book.  What gave you the idea for Echoes of the Past?

The funny part is, I started the first paragraph as a post for “Tuesday Tales” where authors write to a different prompt each week. Coming back from a holiday in South Australia, I picked it up again, wondering what it’d be like to return to such a beautiful place after so many years. Family and friendship has always been an important theme in my books, so the story developed around these three issues.

Is Echoes of the Past a single title, or part of a series?
Echoes of the Past is the first book in the Fermosa Bay series.

The story is set in Australia.  How important is the setting to the story?
Very important. I write while visualising the scene and I have to like what I see. It’s like placing yourself into the story looking around and be the little spy in the corner. If you don’t like what you see, how can the reader like what they read?

How has your love of travel and your move from Germany to Australia influenced your writing?
I moved to Australia well and truly before I started writing, so in a way I’d say no. But I’d have a guess if I lived in Germany, my stories would have a different touch to them, more local, more European, more … not sure … not-Australian ;-)

I love the soft, almost wistful, tone of your covers.  Does that reflect the tone of the story?
Wistful is a good word to describe it. I’d say it does reflect Connor’s story to the dot. When I handed in the details about the story and what I had in mind to the cover artist I was curious what she’d come up with. I expected many variations, but she absolutely nailed it with this one. Yes, as much as it is a romance story, it is also about Connor re-connecting with a life he could’ve had … many “what-if” questions in the story.

Fermosa Bay #1
New Adult Contemporary Romance

::: SYNOPSIS ::::

Emily Bradshaw waited over twenty years to see Connor again…

When her childhood friend, Connor Walsh, returns home to see his ailing father, Emily is elated to be reunited with the handsome man who moved to London so many years ago. But excitement fades to disappointment when he doesn’t remember her—or their first kiss. With her crush on Connor still in full swing, she’s determined to enjoy the short time he’s in Fermosa Bay, even though she knows her heart will break when he returns to his life in London.

When Connor receives news that his biological father is terminally ill, he returns to Fermosa Bay, Australia. 

With memories of his childhood tucked fondly in the back of his mind, returning to the small, coastal town leaves him to wonder how life would have been if his mother had never taken him away. Would he have been married and had children? Perhaps with Emily Bradshaw…

Secrets from long ago begin to unfold…

As Connor and his father grow closer, Connor learns his parents have a broken love story of their own. Will the echoes of the past lure him into staying, maybe for good? Or will he relive his parents’ tragic story and flee to London? 

Walking away from a real chance at true love…


Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she met her husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only emerged recently, but now her laptop is a constant companion.

Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

Next to her job at a private school, she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Look, I made a book trailer!

It's been a fun release weekend.  I've made a book trailer for Djinn and Tonic...

Djinn and Tonic

... and visited the blog of the lovely Angela Scavone to talk about my dream date

I've got a few more interviews and visits lined up over the forthcoming week, so watch this space!

Friday, 19 February 2016

OUT NOW: Djinn and Tonic

 Publication day nerves never quite disappear.  I imagine it's a bit like sending your child off to school for the first day.  How will they fare out in the world?  Will the teachers be kind?  Will the kids want to play with them?
Writers want our book babies to be loved, and so we worry.  Will anyone read the book?  Will anyone like it?  Is there some terrible mistake that both I and my editor have somehow overlooked?  (And I don't mean the slight liberties I may have taken with the geography of Whitby for artistic effect, or the major liberties I take with the laws of space-time for the sake of the pararnormal aspect of the story.  I mean something huge and unanticipated of which I was utterly unaware).
I'm not sure how I'd have the nerve to send the book out into the world at all, if it weren't for the support of so many lovely people who've read and improved various versions of the story.  So a big thank you to the ladies from the Leicester and Yorkshire Terriers chapters of the Romantic Novelists' Association for their input, and of course to my wonderful editor and cover designer at The Wild Rose Press.  And now, before this turns into an Oscar acceptance speech and the tears start, I'll sign off and leave you to enjoy the story...

Here is is on amazon
and on barnes and noble

And, if you didn't catch it yesterday, here I am chatting with Nancy C Weeks on her blog about the inspirations for Djinn and Tonic (and, for good measure, writing a love story in 8 words).

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview: Queenie Black

I don't often read erotic fiction but I make an exception for Queenie Black, because I enjoy her well-developed characters (no, that's not an innuendo) and exotic settings.  Today I've invited her to my blog to chat about her short story collection, 'Love Bites'.  

When and how did you first become interested in writing? 
I’ve written for almost as long as I’ve been reading and I was a fairly confident reader when I was four! I got my first ‘proper’ book when I was five and it was called The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton. I started by making up more stories about characters I liked or rewriting endings in my mind when I didn’t like the author’s. It was a kind of fan fiction I suppose. By the time I was in my third year at primary school I was writing short stories that were entered into National story writing competitions. So from about the age of seven I don’t think there was ever a time when I wasn’t writing stories or at least making them up.

The four stories in Love Bites are very varied, with contemporary, historic and paranormal elements.  Besides the fact they're all erotic fiction, what else would you say they have in common?
All four stories are about the protagonists having to come to terms with something that challenges them and perhaps changes their view of themselves. For example in Elevator Magic Cass has to come to terms with the fact that she has fallen in love with two sexy men. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t say anything else except that each heroine has something to learn about who she is capable of loving and what her boundaries are.

One of the stories is set in Greece, a favourite setting for romance writers.  What drew you to it, and do you have any advice for writers who want to set a story in an exotic location? I love Greece and the generosity of its people and there’s an air of mystery to it. It’s so ancient that it feels like anything can happen. It has a rich historical and cultural heritage and it’s also so varied in its geography that you can go from sea to mountains in the blink of an eye almost.
Greek heroes are also very sexy and when they’re hot Greek Gods and two have their eye on you… well I leave that to your imagination (or you could read my story).
If you are going to use exotic locations then I’d say make sure you do your research properly. It’s so important and now with Google and other sites it’s possible to see things almost first hand and it’s so easy to do in an instant from your computer.

How would you describe the difference between romance and erotica?
The difference between romance and erotica as far as I understand it is that erotica is much more explicit. It also has broader boundaries and the relationships can be a little more out of the ordinary. They often contain adult themes such as ménage and BDSM, and sex has a much more central role throughout the story. The erotic stories in my collection are relationship stories with happy ever after endings but they are very graphic and explicit and definitely not appropriate for under 18s..

Which romantic and erotic authors would you recommend to someone who hasn't read much in those genres before? 
I really like Cherise Sinclair and think that she would definitely be a good start. Also Anne Marie MacKenna. They cover menage relationships and BDSM and I have always found them to be enjoyable reads. Sylvia Day is also a good choice.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Write every day and never give up. Such simple advice yet so hard to follow. It’s still not something I’ve fully mastered even though I keep trying. By keeping that advice at the back of my mind I’m much better at being a productive writer.
Tell us a bit about yourself.  
I’ve been writing pretty much since I was able to read. I juggle charity fundraising, family life and writing with varying success. My children have mostly flown the nest and I live in a small village in North Yorkshire, England with my husband and some chickens. I write in an old caravan in the garden where I can’t be tempted to procrastinate on the internet.

Where can readers find you and your books?
I have a facebook page called Queenie Black Author: and I can also be found on Twitter @queenieblackwr1

 I’m selling on Amazon only at the moment and the collection is available for sale in most Amazon stores and on Kindle Unlimited. The link below should take you through to your country’s Amazon store whichever county you’re in.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview: Angela Wren

It's a great pleasure to welcome to my blog today my multi-talented friend: author, actor and director Angela Wren.  Hi Angela!

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I think it was story telling that first captured my attention as a very young child.  Apparently, from being only a few months old, I was mesmerised by voices, and I suppose I still am, as I have an uncanny ability to recognise voices in an instant.  When I was a little older I would listen to my Dad and my uncles telling me stories, for hours if I could, and all three of them were excellent narrators.  So bedtime stories were a must at home and later, when I was deemed too old to have them, I made up stories for myself.  Writing them down became the next logical step and I’ve been doing that since I was about 8 or 9.

Where did the idea for Messandrierre come from? 

The very first idea came whilst I was travelling in the Cévennes in September 2007.  Overnight the weather changed dramatically and the next morning the village where I was staying and surrounding countryside where covered with snow.  I started thinking about how snow could be used to cover someone’s misdeeds and the opening page of my story began to form.  

Three years later I was staying in the Charente and met a lovely English couple in the local supermarket.  A few days later I was invited for tea and cakes – and who can turn cakes down?  A single, innocent remark during the course of conversation stayed with me and kept circling at the back of my head for the next few days.  When I knew I’d got a story I jotted down some notes and the rest is what it is!

You are obviously fond of France as a setting.  Tell us more about your connection with France.

It’s a long and enduring one as my very first visit was as a teenager and I’ve been visiting, living and travelling there regularly ever since.  The country is vast; geographically about 6 times the size of GB, but the population is similar.  There are some really remote places and the scenery is very varied and, in some instances, absolutely spectacular.  France also has a fascinating history, which is inextricably linked with ours.  Then there is the weather.  Need I mention the cuisine, the wine, and the culture?  Not to mention the fabulous shops in the cities and the relaxing and peaceful solitude of the countryside.  I always feel completely at ease and safe whenever I’m there.

Who is your favourite crime writer?  Or, if you can’t pick one, who are your favourites?

That’s an almost impossible question to answer; there are so many good crime writers out there.  To distil it down to just a few is just as difficult.  I loved Stewart and Christie, both of whom I read avidly as I was growing up.  In my teens I moved onto Collins, Dickens, Doyle and Poe.  As I kept reading I gradually progressed through all the shelves at the local library.  I really don’t know how I can measure one against the other and come up with even a small selection of favourites.  But I do have two favourite characters and always have had – Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes!

What other genres do you like to read?

I’m unhappy with that word ‘genres’.  It’s a label that immediately defines a book and I like to make up my own mind.  I suppose I would have to say that, as a collector of books, I don’t read in genres, I read in words and authors.  At the moment I’m gradually working my way through my collection of Patrick Hamilton’s books, alongside which I‘ve just started an e-book called ‘Love Bites’ by Queenie Black.  It is not unusual for me to be reading more than one book at once.  Sometimes you have let the last paragraph or chapter sit in your mind for a short while before you continue. I also have a beautifully bound little book about T. E. Lawrence on my bedside table, and only last month I finished, and thoroughly enjoyed, the anthology ‘Modern Magic.’  I will read anything if the words truly capture my interest.

You’re also very involved in the theatre.  How do you think that has influenced your fiction writing?

Greatly I think.  As an actor it is important to understand the character you are playing thoroughly before you walk out on the stage.  For me, in preparing for a role, it is not just learning the lines accurately that counts.  I also search those lines for clues to the make up of my character and then search the rest of the play to pick up on how the other characters react and interact with mine.  If it’s a period piece then I checkout the clothes, the attitudes of the time and consider what life-shaping events my character might have lived through.  When I first started trying to create credible stories I found this approach of great benefit in helping me to create the characters that now walk across my pages.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Believe in yourself and don’t give up.

Where can readers find you and your books? 

Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Sounds of Marina Bay

Chuck Wendig's challenge this week was to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by a photo, and the picture I've used is this:

I slightly overshot the word count, but since I don't have time to edit it down, here's my 1200 word flash fiction, The Sounds of Marina Bay

Marina Bay wasn't pretty, but it was lively.  Jon liked to walk there, especially in the afternoon, when the kids were out of school and groups of them huddled on the steps, drinking, or chased down the sidewalks on skateboards and motor scooters.  Sometimes you had to be quick to dodge the teens on their quirky, not quite legal, vehicles; even the hulking great picnic tables on wheels seemed to have a knack of appearing silently out of nowhere.
This particular Thursday afternoon, Jon had ducked out of his PhD research, promising himself he'd make it up later, because hell, you could research when it was dark, but walking the streets in the dark was both less fun and more dangerous.  He was outside the cinema, the big modern bubble bding with its shell-like shape that was supposed to funnel the sound in all the right ways to create the perfect acoustics, when it happened.  Maybe it happened because he was watching the sun sink behind the bubble and observing the way the light reflected off the curves, instead of watching his feet.  Maybe it happened because he was thinking too much about his research project, and the likelihood of getting enough MRI time and enough volunteers to get to the bottom of the anomaly he'd noticed regarding the part of the brain that activated when listening to voices, and the way that, in some people, it seemed to become active even when another of his volunteers attempted to 'think loudly' at them.
Whatever the reason, he didn't spot the pony-tailed girl wobbling towards him, despite the flashing neon on her wheels, and when he did, he moved to one side without looking.  And stumbled.  And fell.  Towards the road.
Afterwards, he couldn't remember the car hitting him, though he did remember realising what must have happened when he awoke in the hospital with bandages round his head.  For a moment, he thought he was blind, or had bandaged eyes, but then he realised the room was just dark, and the bandages only covered his crown and ears. 
The room was silent. He looked around and the darkness resolved itself into the faint glow of the heart rate monitor beside his bed, its sinuous curve scrolling across the screen, peaking and troughing like the waves of the sea.
Didn't those things normally beep?  Jon was sure they did.  And when the sun rose and the nurse came in with a tray of lumpy porridge and pills in a little plastic cup, she also came silently.  And then, as she approached the bed, her neat blonde bob swinging as she moved, he finally began to hear her voice.
"He's awake now.  I wonder if he knows it's been three days.  I shouldn't tell him, the doctor will be coming soon to talk to him, tell him about the auditory nerves, but he looked like a smart guy, well apart from all the blood, I think he knows something is off."
Jon did.  He could hear her voice, but her lips weren't moving.  And her voice wasn't exactly in his ears, it was more as if it was arriving somewhere inside his head. 
"I need to get an MRI on this."  He said the words out loud, he thought, but heard nothing.  The nurse turned her head towards him, though, and this time it was the other way around: her lips moved but he heard nothing.
He remembered the words she'd used: auditory nerves.  Had the crash damaged his hearing?  Presumably.  But it seemed to have left him with something else. 
When she realised what she'd done, her shout of remorse echoed through his head.  She looked far too sweet and innocent, with her rosy cheeks and blue eyes, to be using the language that landed in his mind.  He was interested to observe that her inner voice, as he'd begun to think of it, had a discernible accent: Aussie, maybe, or New Zealand, and he wondered if it was the same as, or distinct from, her external voice. 
Her lips moved, and he judged from the wide open mouth and flexing vocal chords that she'd shouted, though he heard nothing.
The chatter in her mind went on, and he learned that she'd called for a doctor, and she hoped it would be the charming Doctor Singh who answered her call rather than his grumpier colleague, Doctor Collins, whose bedside manner was distinctly suspect.  Then another voice joined the chatter. 
Jon was momentarily confused, wondering who was mumbling about the expectation that doctors would fulfil so many roles: medics, administrators and counsellors.  A moment later a lanky, balding guy, nearly as white as his coat, came through the door. Doctor Collins, then.
Since Jon couldn't hear, the doctor had brought a pad and pen with him and proceeded to write notes explaining the situation, though Jon had to smirk as he squinted at the near-illegible writing, all the while listening to the Doctor's mental monologue.  With the nurse's still going too, Jon was getting a little confused.  It was like being in a noisy pub, with the conversation at the next table overshadowing the one you were actually interested in.
He nodded and shook his head - gently, because he still had one hell of an ache from the crash - in response to the Doctor's scribbled messages. 
And yes, he nodded, he felt well enough to see a visitor, though he couldn't imagine who was visiting.  His family were half a continent away, so presumably someone from the lab.
And indeed, his lab partner walked in, smiling nervously as she carried on an interior monologue, trying to make herself act cheerfully as she took in the damage.  Hell, she was a scientist, shouldn't she be able to take a few incisions and abrasions in her stride?
She hadn't yet figured out what to do about his hearing loss, though, since the doctor suggested it was likely to be complete and presumably it was too early days for him to have sussed lipreading.
And he could hardly tell her that he could hear everything she was thinking, so he let his eyelids droop closed and sat in silence until she retreated, taking her tiresomely self-centred thoughts with her. 
As the day went on, Jon's new sense seemed to become keener, so that he was hearing thoughts from the rooms next door, down the corridor, and eventually even the busy cafeteria below. The chatter was exhausting, and since the hospital was a 24/7 operation, he couldn't even wait for it all to turn off so he could go to sleep. 
Finally, in desperation, he unclipped himself from the monitor and headed outside, dodging in and out of lifts and doorways whenever he heard some thoughts approaching, until he reached the open street.  Even there, though, he found he could hear the thoughts of drivers passing, and the occupants of the high rise apartments he walked by.  He put his hands over his ears, but it made no difference. 

By the marina, it was a little easier.  Thoughts assailed him only from one side, and he turned with relief to the silent sea.  
The water was dark and cold and still and silent, and he hardly hesitated before stepping off the dock into one of the small dinghies, and unhitching it from the pier.  He didn't have the keys, so he just pushed away from the jetty and paddled with the small oar he found under the seat, until eventually, mercifully, the voices faded.  Then he curled up, rocked by the silent waves, and hearing nothing more than the tiny rustle of fish thinking of plankton and predators, he slept.