Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Candy's Man - An Excerpt



The clock on the wall seemed frozen and Candy sighed.  The afternoon had dragged on and on until every minute seemed like an hour.  Everyone was on edge as, one by one, they had been called in to the new boss’s office.  Candy was so tightly wound, she could snap any minute.
“Oh. My. God,” Amanda said in Candy’s ear as she sidled up to her.
Candy looked at Amanda’s wide blue eyes.  “What’s wrong?” she asked and a current of fear crept up her spine.  “Did you get the sack?”
“No,” Amanda replied in a low voice.  “It was worse than that.”
Candy frowned and Renae moved in on them.
“What happened?” Renae asked.
“I met the new boss,” Amanda replied.  “Mr Hammond.”
Candy's heart raced.  “Is he an ogre?”
Amanda looked fit to burst.  “Worse!”
“Worse?” Candy said, as she bit her bottom lip.  “How bad is he?”
The laughter burst out and Amanda put a hand over her mouth.   “You should see the look on your faces,” she said, grinning.
Eyes turned towards them.  “Shh,” Candy said, with a finger to her lips.
“Come on, spill the beans,” Renae ordered, as she moved in close.
“Mr Hammond is...” Amanda began and took a breath.
Amanda’s face glowed.  Candy was confused.  What was the big secret?
“He’s...the most gorgeous man I’ve seen in a long time,” Amanda confessed.
“What?” Candy said, scowling.  “I thought it was something bad.”
Amanda laughed, her brown curls springing about her face.
“That wasn’t very nice.  You scared us,” Renae said.
“Oh, but you should be scared.  I walked into his office and didn’t hear a word he said.  I’ll probably get sacked tomorrow,” Amanda declared.
“Amanda, sometimes you drive me crazy,” Candy grumbled.
“Me too,” Renae added, her arms folded across her chest.
“Oh, chill out,” Amanda told them flippantly.  “I was only having a bit of fun.  Everyone’s walking around with frowns on their faces.  Besides, he has a big gold ring on his wedding finger.”
“Well, thank heavens for that,” Candy said. “I don’t think I could handle another handsome man in the spate of two weeks.”
Amanda punched her playfully on the arm.  “Go on, rub it in.  So did you get your man’s phone number?”
“No...”
“Why not?” Renae asked.
“I...he was asleep...”
Amanda stared at her and Candy quickly looked at the floor.
“And you ran out on him?” Amanda asked.
Candy nodded.
“And you say I drive you crazy?  Why would you do such a thing?” Amanda queried.
She shrugged.  “I didn’t want a relationship.  I just wanted a fling.”
“But to run out on the poor guy...” Renae started.
A voice broke through their conversation and Candy turned to see Mary standing only two feet away.  How much had she heard?
“Candace,” Mary said, patting the flawless knot of hair on her head.  “Mr Hammond would like to see you in his office.”
“Oh.  Of course.  I’ll be five minutes,” she replied, and watched Mary walk away.  “Do you think she heard anything?” she whispered to her friends.
Amanda shrugged, “Who cares?  Let her have something to think about.”
“Easy for you to say.”  Candy frowned and smoothed down her black pencil skirt and tucked her white shirt neatly into the band.  “How do I look?” she asked.
“Neat as a pin,” Amanda answered and moved her hand to the loose strand of hair on the side of Candy’s face, tucking it behind Candy’s ear.
“Good luck,” Renae told her with crossed fingers as Candy began her walk to the boss’s office.
Candy stared at the closed door and swallowed.  Her gaze took in the bare name-plate where her boss’s name used to be.  She slowly brought up her fisted hand and knocked.
“Come in,” said a muffled voice.
She took a breath and walked in the room, closing the door behind her.
The room was light and airy.  She stood, silent, looking at the man seated behind the huge wood-carved desk.  He had his head down and pen up.
He was a large man.  She could tell by the span of his shoulders and he had dark, tousled hair.  Her brows furrowed.  There was something about him…
The scent of spicy cologne reached her nostrils and she chewed on her bottom lip.  There was something familiar...
“Sit down, Miss Walker,” the deep American voice resonated.  “I won’t bite.”
‘Well, only if you don’t want me to’.
As the words fought their way back through the recesses of her memory, Candy gasped and took a step back, her back to the door.
“What...?” he began.
She watched as he looked up.  Saw his frown.  Saw his eyes turn to slivers of ice.  With her hand behind her, she worked desperately to find the door handle so she could escape...
“Stop!” he bellowed, and quickly stood.
Where was it?  She had to get out of there!
He began moving towards her, a mountain of a man dressed in black pants and a grey shirt, and her heart thumped relentlessly in her chest. 
There, she found it.  She turned the handle but before she could run out of the room a large hand covered hers.  A hand that knew far too much.
Her chest heaving, she looked up at him.  His ruggedly handsome face was only inches away.
“Well, well,” he snarled.  “If it isn’t the elusive, Candy.”
She felt his breath on her skin and closed her eyes.  The memories of their time together came crashing into her mind and made her put out a hand to steady herself.  She found cotton-covered, hard, solid muscle and quickly pulled her hand away.
He laughed then, throaty and cruel, and stepped away from her.
She opened her eyes.  He moved back to his desk and sat on the edge.  The king in his domain.  What now?
 “Well?” he asked.
Oh, God!
“Can’t find your voice, Miss Walker?
She couldn’t find her brain!  Everything was jumbled and her stomach was churning.
He shook his head and moved back to his chair behind the desk.  “If you haven’t anything to say then you may leave the room.”
What?  Did he say she could leave?  The buzzing noise in her ears was deafening.
“Go,” he said louder, and motioned towards the door with his hands.  
The glint of the gold band on his finger almost blinded her.  She was the other woman.  She felt sick to her stomach.
“Oh, and Miss Walker,” he began, looking at her with eyes that sent a shiver down her spine.  “I never mix business with pleasure.”
Her heart pummelled her chest.  Did that mean she was fired?
With eyes wide, she looked at him one more time before getting the hell out of there.
                                         



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Sunday, 25 November 2012

A Poem by Mary Aris



The Christmas Cardinal


I saw a sweet cardinal chirp away;
Singing an ancient Christmas Carol
On a frosty Christmas Day;
filling nature with its Canticle.


Winter spread her white kerchief;
The heavens lit Earth's path..
Underneathe the tree, quiet and attentive,
Enthralled I sat there like a good little lass.

No choir ever sang so divinely
Than this little Christmas Cardinal.
Crusoe, Pavarotti or Boccelli
To him can never hold a candle.


Like a good lass I sat listening
As the Christmas cardinal began to sing.




Written Dec 13, 2001 © Mary Aris, All rights reserved 

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Hands of Time


When a young woman vanishes without a trace from a quaint fishing village on the coast of England only one person knows the truth, but he remains silent allowing the authorities to search for her in vain. 

Meanwhile, Valerie Crane finds herself transported to the year 1605.  Terrified and confused she turns for help to the Whitfield brothers, who take her in and offer her a home.  Both Alexander and Finlay Whitfield fall in love with the mysterious woman who shows up on their doorstep creating a love triangle that threatens to consume them all.  Valerie must make her choice, deciding between the brother who will lead her down the path of destruction or one who will give her a love she couldn’t find in her own time. 

Excerpt

I was lying in tall grass, dotted with wildflowers and warm from the summer sun.  I just lay there for a few moments enjoying the peaceful feeling of floating, before suddenly realizing that this was somehow all wrong.  I sat up and looked around puzzled.  There was no sign of the shop I’d been in or even the village.  Sparse trees surrounded the meadow I was lying in, and I could see the river flowing to my left through the gap in the trees.   There were two fishing boats tied up to posts rising out of the muddy bank, but no sign of the marina or the shops that were there just a few moments ago. 


I turned to my right, and my blood ran cold.  I could see the castle perched on the hill above me, except it was no longer a sinister relic of another time.  The castle stood intact and proud, the honey-colored stones warmed by the sun, and its leaded windows reflecting the afternoon light.  The wall encircling the castle rose high and impregnable, broken only by the arched wooden doors studded with iron nails and partially opened.  I could hear distant voices, and the barking of dogs carried on the wind.

What was going on?  One minute I was in the shop looking at the cupid clock, and now I was lying in a meadow not too far from the castle; that up until five minutes ago was just a sad ruin.  I looked at my watch.  It was 4:10pm.  Only five minutes had passed since I turned the hands on the ormolu clock.  How did I get here?  I looked around again.  In relation to the river and the castle, I was sitting in about the spot where the shop would have been, except there was no shop and no street.  I could see some fishermen’s huts off in the distance, where there were holiday cottages just a few minutes ago.  I closed my eyes, shook my head and opened them again.  I was still in the same spot.  Reluctantly, I got to my feet and looked around again.


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Friday, 16 November 2012

Journeys

I live in the south west of Western Australia, about one and half hours’ drive from the city of Perth.  Ours is a vast and solitary state and I’ve travelled far and wide. 



My travels gave me a better appreciation of the journeys of our pioneers and the difficulties they must have encountered.  The sheer size and environmental conditions of the outback can be isolating and unforgiving, but its unique beauty helps to compensate for that.

Perth

My family is much more widely-travelled than I.  I have to confess that I'm a bit of a homebody.   The only other state I've been to is Victoria when I visited Melbourne.  I thoroughly enjoyed that trip with its busy shopping precinct and distinct dining experience. 

Melbourne

The next place on my agenda was Sydney because I’ve always wanted to see its landmarks, namely the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.  

Sydney 

But, as things have panned out, my daughter has decided to continue her studies at a university on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Gold Coast

I guess that’s an excuse to visit, though the humidity will probably kill me, and I’m yet to make it through the harsh Western Australian summer. 

For now, I will enjoy each day of spring and start saving.


Pictures: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and photobucket.com

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

Ode of Remembrance
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal,
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation,
And a glory that shines upon her tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known,
As the stars are known to the night.
As the stars will be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

English poet Laurence Binyon, overwhelmed by the carnage and loss of life by British and Allied forces in World War 1, penned one of the most moving tributes the world has known to our war dead.
Titled; For the Fallen, the ode first appeared in The Times of London on September 21, 1914. It has now become known in Australia as the Ode of Remembrance, and the verse in bold above is read at dawn services and other ANZAC tributes.
At Returned Sevicemens Clubs throughout Australia, members observe one minute's silence each night at 6:PM. The verse in bold is recited in memory of those who died.
It is followed by the response, "Lest we forget".
Note: Every single man of the 331,781 who went overseas during World War 1, was a volunteer. From the landing on Gallipoli onwards, the Australian troops were used as the spearhead of every attack carried out by the various British armies in which they served. For this honour, they paid a terrible
price: 59,258 were killed, 166,815 suffered wounds; 4,084 became prisoners of war.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states that the total casualties suffered by troops of the British Empire during the First World War amounted to 35.8 per cent of the forces mobilised for war service. The total Australian casualties however, amounted to 68.5 per cent of their armed forces, one of the highest percentages of  any nation engaged in that war.

Pictures: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Welcome Author Dean Mayes


Author Bio:

In one form or another, Dean Mayes has been writing and creating for most of his life...or at least for as long as he could wield a pen and knew how to use it.

Born in country Victoria, Australia, Dean grew up with an early love of words - a trait a little out of step for most children of his age. His creative streak was inspired by his third grade teacher, Mrs. Furnell, who challenged him in his creative writing exercises which he initially "sucked at". After producing a surprisingly poignant piece about a soldier's experience of war (based on his grandfather), Dean received his first writing award - a Purple Dragon sticker.

Dean's journey to publishing actually came about after he had virtually given up on the idea of ever being published. He had a story he wanted to tell and decided instead to start an internet blog where he began posting the first chapters of a love story with a twist. Week by week, Dean added chapters to the blog and, quite unexpectedly, he found himself with an enthusiastic following – one that was growing more voracious in their appetite for the story he had to tell. Out of the blue, Dean received a message from one of those followers, Michelle Halket the Creative Director for a Canadian publishing house, Central Avenue Publishing. She gently encouraged Dean that he should take this project seriously and from there – a unique publishing partnership was born.

Dean's blog evolved into his first published novel “The Hambledown Dream” in 2010. Now Dean has returned to the international stage with his follow up novel “Gifts of the Peramangk”.

Dean is represented by Michelle Halket and published internationally by Central Avenue Publishing (Vancouver).

Dean lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife Emily and his children Xavier and Lucy.

About Gifts of the Peramangk:

In this landmark new novel, Dean weaves an sprawling family saga that takes place across two time periods in the South Australian outback and the struggle streets of Adelaide's suburban fringe.

1950s Australia, during the height of the divisive White Australia Policy, Virginia, a young Aboriginal girl is taken from her home and family and put to work on an isolated, outback station, in the cruellest of conditions. Her only solace: the violin, taught to her in secret by a kind-hearted white woman - the wife of the abusive station owner. However, Virginia's prodigious musical gift cannot save her from years of hardship, abuse, and racism.

Decades later, her eight year old granddaughter, Ruby, plays the violin with a passion Virginia once possessed. Amidst abject poverty, domestic violence and social dysfunction, Ruby escapes her circumstance through her practice, with her grandmother's frail, guiding hand. Ruby’s zeal attracts the attention of an enigmatic music professor, and with his help, Ruby embarks on an incredible journey of musical discovery that will culminate in a once in a life time chance for a brighter future. But with two cultural worlds colliding, her gift and her ambition will be threatened by deeply ingrained distrust, family jealousies and tragic secrets that will define her very identity.

Excerpt from Gifts of the Peramangk:

The breeze rustled through the tops of the plane trees lining the street and the eucalyptus behind the buildings. The strong scent from the eucalyptus wafted through the main street catching Virginia's attention and she stopped for a moment to appreciate it. It was her most favourite smell of all. It was clean and crisp. It was home.

"Hey!"

All of the children turned then, almost simultaneously at the sound of Bobby's voice and followed his outstretched finger as a trio of vehicles came into view from the far end of the township. As they approached, the children could make out the familiar black and white colours of a police sedan leading the convoy of three, followed by a grey sedan which was in turn shepherded by a rickety looking tray truck.

They glanced at each other with a hint of nervousness.

Mrs. Stinson appeared at the entrance to her shop, having heard the approaching vehicles and she crossed over the street to stand next to Sylvia.

The vehicles slowed to a stop, drawing close to the curb on the opposite side of the street. The children watched as the engines were silenced and the three cars sat for a moment. Bobby stood, growing suspicious of the new arrivals.

The doors to both the police sedan and the grey sedan snapped open. Two constables stepped out, as did two suited men after them. They inspected their surroundings with a mixture of befuddlement and barely concealed distaste.

Virginia's attention was drawn to the two suited men who stood directly across from her.

The first man - the driver - was tall, possibly the tallest man Virginia had ever seen. Dressed in a drab, grey tweed suit and colourless bow tie, he sported spiky, balding hair that was perfectly manicured into an impeccable short back and sides. His features were sinister, with long sallow cheeks that gave his thin lips the appearance of being permanently pursed. His eyes were distorted behind thick, black rimmed glasses that sat, perched precariously, on the tip of his nose. He held a clipboard in one arm as he swiped his free hand down his jacket absently.

His colleague, who emerged from the far side of the sedan, rounding the vehicle to stand next to him, was an equally dour presence. This man was barely half his colleague's size, his head reaching to just past the top of his chest. Dressed similarly in uninspiring grey tweed, his slick, brown hair was combed severely to one side with Bryll Cream. It did not move at all in the afternoon breeze. This man sported a pair of gold rimmed glasses over small eyes and large, bushy eye brows and a short, thick moustache that gave him a perpetual scowl.

Virginia's mother glanced at Mrs. Stinson then placed her hand protectively on Virginia's shoulders, drawing Virginia close to her as the tall man set his eyes upon the group. She glanced to the old tray truck from which two more men had stepped from. She recognised one of them right away - the township's kindly local doctor, Dr. Flaherty, a man who usually wore a smile, no matter what his disposition might be. Today, however, he appeared particularly troubled. He was accompanied by a second man, unfamiliar to Virginia and her mother. He carried a battered leather Gladstone bag which was partly opened and revealed the end of a stethoscope that hung lazily down one side.

When Virginia looked up at her mother, the worry etched into her features was palpable and Virginia felt that worry seep into her pores, into her blood and it coursed through her.

The tall man adjusted the clip board he held in his arm and gestured wordlessly to the two medicos, approaching the two women who were now joined by the proprietor of the general store, the butcher immediately next door and the post mistress. The children, who had retreated a little further under the verandah of the store, watched as the man nodded to the police constables on his left.

Mrs. Stinson stepped forward through the group, puffing her chest out boldly, setting her expression like steel as the men approached.

"What seems to be the trouble Wally?" she queried Dr. Flaherty malevolently. "This is all a little theatrical, even for you."

Dr. Flaherty was unable to make his jaw move immediately and he looked down awkwardly at the bitumen.

"Routine inspection Grace," the doctor grumbled, gesturing to the two suited men. "This is Bytes of the Aborigines Protection Board. He's here to..."

"There have been reports, from this District," the tall man, Bytes, interjected abruptly, eye balling Mrs. Stinson. "...of mal-nourishment and serious illness among the blacks. It is our job under the Act to investigate any reported cases of neglect and intervene accordingly."


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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Where The Heart Is - An Excerpt

     Set in my hometown in Western Australia in the early 1980s, WHERE THE HEART IS, is based on true life events and people I’ve known.  It is a story about the struggle for tolerance and acceptance in a tumultuous time in the country’s history.     
    Multiculturalism was something most people had to adjust to.  Some did it well, some, not so well.  



Setting her luggage on the verandah at the back of the house, and then grasping a suitcase, she moved to the backdoor. She was about to turn the handle of the door when it opened. Expecting her mother or sister, Dani grinned but her smile quickly faded when she saw a strange man standing there.
Silently, Dani stared at the stranger through slanted eyes, noticing his jet-black hair, dark eyes, and square jaw with a cleft in his chin. ‘Kissed by an angel’ her mother would say. “Who are you?” she asked, suspiciously.
The man’s eyebrows rose in surprise and Dani straightened her back, defiantly.
“Antonio Bartolini,” he said finally, his voice heavy with accent, the ‘r’ rolling over his tongue.
‘Couldn’t be any woggier,’ she thought in disgust, as his large hand pushed thick, dark hair from his eyes. ‘Antonio Bartolini,’ she pondered, and remembered a phone conversation with her mother a few weeks earlier.
“And who are you?” he enquired, looking her over inquisitively, the brown of his eyes scorching her skin.
That irked her. “I live here,” she replied, a hand on her hip.
With fingers tapping his chin, he appeared to be absorbing that information. “Daniela?” he asked, her name sounding musical on his lips.
Bristling, she tightened her grip on the suitcase handle. “Dani,” she corrected abruptly.
“Excuse me,” he said apologetically. “You look different in your fo...” he paused as if searching for the correct word, “Fotografia,” he finished, using the Italian word for photograph.
Sighing, she stared back at him. ‘I’m in no mood for this,’ she thought, irritably. “Do you think I can come inside?” she asked with annoyance.
Nodding, he moved closer. “Please excuse me,” he said and reached out to take her suitcase.
She pulled it back. “I can carry my own bag,” she snapped. He nodded, and moved aside to let her pass. ‘About time,’ she thought, moving briskly past him, catching the scent of a spicy cologne.
Storming down the carpeted hallway without a second glance, Dani arrived at her room and pushed the door open with her foot.
Flicking on the light switch, she stared in amazement at the refurbishment of her bedroom, and exclaimed objectionably, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Her bedroom furniture had been completely replaced. “My pretty pink room is gone,” she muttered, gazing around. She noticed a pair of black trousers folded over a chair in the corner. Hearing a noise behind her, she turned and looked at Antonio.
“I think your things have been moved to Liliana’s room,” he offered sheepishly, a hand on the back of his neck.
She gave him a look of loathing before pushing past him and moving to her sister’s room. Sure enough, her bed had been squeezed into the room along with her other furniture.
“Is there anything I can do to help you,” he asked from the doorway.
‘Yes, piss off,’ she thought. “No thanks, Tony,” she answered, gritting her teeth in exasperation.
“Antonio,” he corrected, firmly.
She stared at him, noting his strong jaw and cleft chin. ‘Kissed by an angel’ she mused once more and frowned as her mother’s words echoed in her mind. “Antonio,” she repeated, pronouncing it slowly. Rolling her eyes, she closed the door in his face and quickly locked it.
“Shit!” she muttered, as she put her suitcase down. “Shit!” she growled again, kicking the case. It hit the closed door with a thud.

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