Lyra’s Lessons

As some of you may know, my previous hounds have been avid readers, and they all loved a good story. When they appeared to be asleep with their paws twitching, their astral bodies would be racing through Storyland, hunting down good ideas for my books.

I’m hoping to teach little Lyra to follow in their footsteps, but as yet she’s only got as far as trying to eat the dictionary.

This is not the way to learn the wonder of words!

Still, she’s young yet – baby steps, and all that.

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS

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Solstice Greetings

Warm whippet winter wishes from Lyra!

 

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Potluck – #Dogs – The Frustrated Hunter by Annabelle Franklin

Keith has gone to a loving forever home now, but I have many happy memories of fostering him. Here’s one, kindly reblogged by Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord Invitation. Thank you, Sally! xxx

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1100 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine.

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics. This series is along the same lines… but is a ‘Lucky Dip’

In this series I will be sharing posts from the first six months of 2021 and on occasion I might dip into months either side to share gems. Submissions are now closed but there will be another series in January 2022.

This is the first post from children’s author Annabelle Franklin and shares her love of dogs…and her guest is Keith..

The Frustrated Hunter

Hi, Keith here! Annabelle has been telling me about Millie and Pearl, the two dogs who used to…

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Terminal Boredom #shortstory #amwriting #writingcommunity

I was very scared when I died, because I’d done terrible things in my life. I always thought I’d have time to make up for them, but in the end it wasn’t to be. I kept putting off atonement until it was too late.

The accident was fatal for all concerned; I’d been driving drunk and hit a vehicle containing a family with small children. I knew I was going to Hell, and I wondered what it would be like. I’d heard the stories about fiery flames and demons with pitchforks, but I had a feeling it would be worse than anything I could imagine. The fear was intense.

When the confusion cleared, I found myself sitting in a small room. The walls were stark white brick and the floor was covered with brown lino tiles. The only furniture was the plastic chair I was sitting in, and a small table.

There were no fiery flames or imps with pitchforks. The scariest thing about the room was the total absence of a way out. No windows, no door. Just four walls and a ceiling with a single naked light bulb. The silence was absolute.

I immediately understood the nature of the punishment. I was to sit in this depressing little room for eternity, with no company except my own disordered psyche and no entertainment except the memories of my recent sociopathic existence.

Then I spotted something I hadn’t noticed at first. A phone, lying on the table.

I picked it up, not expecting it to work, but it lit up as soon as I touched it. The screen displayed a message:

‘If you wish to leave this room, we must be satisfied you are willing to atone for your sins. You will need to answer a series of questions so we can assess whether your case is genuine. Swipe right to be connected to an operator, or left to disconnect the call. If you choose to disconnect, you will not have another chance for your case to be reviewed.’

Obviously, I swiped right. A recorded message said, ‘We are sorry, but all our lines are busy. Your call will be answered when an operator becomes available.’

This was followed by a repetitive jangling tune.

Then the recorded message again.

Then the music again.

Then the message.

Then the music.

And on… and on… and on.

It’s still going on now. I suspect it will go on forever. But I can’t bring myself to disconnect the call. If I’m still connected, there’s a sliver of hope that I might get to speak to another human being. If I cut off the call, there’s no hope at all.

That fatal sliver of hope.

I wonder how long before it drives me insane?

©2021 Annabelle Franklin

Image by Darkmoon_Art on Pixabay

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The Twilight Zone Next Door #Halloween

I live next door to an Airbnb, so quite often there are people there who don’t know me, or no one there at all. This is a problem when stuff I’ve ordered gets delivered there by mistake – something that happens more often than it should.

On the plus side, it’s inspired a story for Halloween! It doesn’t involve ghosts, but hopefully it’s weird and creepy enough to suit the season…

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

THE TWILIGHT ZONE NEXT DOOR

Bang! Tinkle! Plonk! Screech! Bang! It’s hard to concentrate with all this noise. I’m on the sixth book in a series – first draft – and I need all the peace and quiet I can get.

The house next door is an Airbnb. It’s weird, it could be the same people staying there every time. First you hear their footsteps crunching on the gravel and the sound of their chat as they come up the path. Then the front door opens. Then someone says ‘Ooh! A piano!’ Then some kid (there’s always a kid) starts attacking the keys, bang, tinkle, plonk, up and down the keyboard. No one ever stays there who can actually play a tune.

Brian (the bloke who owns the place) lives in his garden shed. He’s always been a bit weird. His thing is inventions, and sometimes I’ve heard him hammering and drilling at night, building some machine or other. Until recently I never knew what his inventions were meant to be for. They never seem to have made him any money.

Like I said, Brian’s a bit weird. Smiley on the surface, but there’s a dark undercurrent. If people annoy him, he usually gets his own back in some subtly mischievous way that no one can actually call him on. Before he turned his house into a B&B, he used to rent it out. One time, the neighbours on the other side complained to the Council about the noise he was making in the shed, and a week later he moved some lads into the house who were into all-night parties. The neighbours couldn’t accuse him of doing it on purpose, since he’s entitled to rent his house to whoever he likes.

I decided a while ago there’s no point taking issue with Brian about noise. I’m used to the B&B guests now, and most of the time they don’t bother me. But on days like this, when I need to concentrate, it can be irritating.

The kid has stopped playing avant-garde atonal music now. I can hear him – or her – running around the house, up and down the stairs, jumping on the furniture, shrieking. The grownups are out the back, on the patio, talking loudly. Their voices sound like they’re coming through a megaphone.

I’m particularly keyed-up at the moment because the proof copy of my fifth book was meant to arrive two days ago and it still hasn’t come. According to Amazon it’s been delivered, but it certainly hasn’t been delivered here. Why can’t the delivery people get it right? They’re always losing parcels. It seems to be a particular problem around here. We have a community Facebook page, and nearly every day someone posts to ask if their parcel has been delivered to someone else’s house.

I wonder if my book has been delivered to the B&B by mistake? Amazon always say to check with the neighbours if your parcel hasn’t arrived. I don’t particularly feel like going round and asking a load of strangers if they’ve had a parcel, but this parcel is too important to lose.

Oh well, here goes…

As I go outside, it strikes me the B&B guests never arrive in a car. Mind, there are terrible parking problems in our road; people are always moaning about someone parking in ‘their’ space. I expect Brian warns his guests to park somewhere else.

I crunch my way up the gravel path. I can still hear the kid in the house – he sounds like he’s playing football in there. No wonder Brian has to do so much work on the place to keep it up to standard.

The front door is at the side. I can’t see a parcel left anywhere. Looks like I’ll have to ask the party. Damn! I don’t like tackling strangers, especially ones who sound so exaggeratedly extrovert. It’s like they’ve done some sort of acting course in how to sound like you’re having a Really Great Time. Why does no one quiet ever stay there?

When I get to the patio, I have the shock of my life.

There’s nobody there. Just some gadget on a table, attached to speakers. That’s where the Really Great Time is coming from.

I turn to look through the back window, but there’s no kid inside the house. Just another gadget on a table, making banging, shrieking noises.

Then the piano starts up again. No one is playing; it’s one of those pianola things that plays itself. Up and down go the keys, plink, plonk, tinkle, bang. It’s like the whole set-up has been designed with the sole purpose of annoying the neighbours.

Then I notice the weirdest gadget of all. I don’t know how I didn’t see it straight away; my mind must have tried to block it out.

It’s a giant ring made of iridescent metal, containing a whirling hole in the fabric of reality. It looks like those pictures of black holes you see in the space shows on TV. Except it isn’t quite the same, because black holes are empty and this hole has stuff in it.

Parcels. Loads and loads of them, all shapes and sizes, dancing around each other in the void. Any one of them could be mine.

Well, there’s no way I’m going to try and retrieve it from that. I’m going to go away and pretend I haven’t seen it. I’ll call Amazon and tell them I’ve asked the neighbours and they haven’t received it. I’ll tell them they’ll have to send another proof copy of my book, because the last one has disappeared into a black hole.

After all, that’s the truth of the matter.

Image by Genty from Pixabay

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The Great Wotiff

The Great Wotiff is a monster from hell. It has long, tenacious tentacles, and if it gets its claws into you, you can end up totally paralysed.

It doesn’t start off like this. When your parents first instal it in you, it’s just there to protect you. The trouble begins when you overfeed it with imagination. For example:

  • You’re thinking of going on holiday to Spain, but WOTIFF the plane crashes? Better stay home.
  •  You’re thinking of getting a dog, but WOTIFF it gets ill and dies? You’ll be heartbroken! Better not get a dog.
  • You’re thinking of starting a relationship with Prince Charming, but WOTIFF he turns out to be a psycho? Charmers often do! Better pie that one right now.

Once the Wotiff has got all its claws into you, you end up just sitting in a chair doing nothing. Because WOTIFF you trip and break your neck? Better stay in the chair.

The Wotiff keeps you permanently in your comfort zone. It also keeps you permanently useless and depressed.

If you want a life, DON’T FEED THE WOTIFF. Use your imagination for something more creative.

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The New Puppy

This little whippet puppy came into my life three weeks ago. I’ve called her Lyra, after Philip Pullman’s main character in Northern Lights – as a potential Storyhound, she should have the name of a strong female character who is brave, loyal and adventurous.

Although my books are not about dogs, I do believe their playful spirit inspires my work. I  haven’t written a word of my WIP since foster dog Keith went to his new home. For most of July I was too busy looking for another dog to find time for writing, and now Lyra is taking up most of my attention. I eventually hope to train her to be a good Storyhound, but for the moment it’s all I can do to stop her stealing my shoes and digging up the lawn.

Get away from my molehill, you rug on legs!

This is a period of adjustment for me as well as for Lyra. It’s a long time since I’ve had a puppy, and I’d forgotten what hard work they can be. After Keith, who was so calm and quiet in the house, if feels like a tiny tornado has invaded. She may look angelic, but there are times when she seems possessed by demons. She reminds me of those macaqs in Thailand who jump all over the tourists, stealing their food and their sunglasses and pulling down their pants. She certainly lives up to her name as a strong female character.

Last week I took her over to to Keith’s new home so she could meet him. She was a bit overawed by his size at first, but she’s no shrinking violet and she loves meeting new people and dogs. It soon became obvious she wanted to play, and Keith was very gentle with her.

I still haven’t got used to how tiny she is compared to Keith. I have to be careful I don’t trip over her, and when I take her for a walk it’s like having a fly on the end of the lead.

Despite the chaotic days and sleepless nights, I wouldn’t be without her. I’ve always wanted a whippet, and Lyra is a dream come true – especially when she’s asleep!

 

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The Temptation of Eve

It was another sunny day in the Garden of Eden. The birds were singing, the bees were buzzing and that big old snake was sliding around in the grass.

Adam was working in the poly tunnel, and Eve was picking plums. ‘I wish you’d go away,’ she said, as the snake slid around her feet. ‘I don’t know why God put you in here – everything else is nice, and you’re just a nuisance.’

‘That’s harsh,’ said the snake. ‘I’m not doing any harm.’

‘Yes, you are. You keep banging on about the Outside World and how wonderful it is. We’re really not interested, we’ve got everything we need here. This place is perfect – why would we want to go anywhere else?’

‘You only think it’s perfect because you’ve got nothing to compare it with. You think you look perfect, but believe me, you don’t. The naked human body isn’t a pretty sight. In the Outside World you could cover it up with pretty clothes and makeup. You could even have cosmetic surgery to tighten up that sagging belly and make your boobs bigger.’

‘Oh, go away!’ said Eve, kicking out at the snake. ‘You’re so rude! No wonder we don’t want you here.’

‘Only saying,’ said the snake, and slithered off.

He didn’t stay away for long. Eve was still picking plums when he came back.

With an apple.

‘Where did you get that?’ she said. ‘There’s only one apple tree in this garden, and no one’s supposed to touch it.’

‘A ridiculous rule, if you ask me,’ said the snake, with a sneer. ‘What’s so special about that Tree?’

‘God said we mustn’t eat its fruit,’ Eve said primly.

‘Did he tell you why we mustn’t eat it?’

‘No. But –’

‘Don’t you just hate that? When someone tells you not to do something, and when you ask why, they just say “because I said so”?’ It’s so patronising. It just makes you want to do it all the more. I bet you’ve been dying to taste a nice juicy apple off that Tree, haven’t you?’

‘Not in the least,’ lied Eve. ‘Anyway, it’s a test, isn’t it? To see how obedient we are. If we disobey God, we’ll be punished. We’ll have to go and live in the Outside World.’

The snake rolled its eyes. ‘How many times do I have to tell you, it wouldn’t be a punishment? As it happens, this apple is from the Outside World – from Tesco, to be precise.’

‘I still don’t want it,’ said Eve, but her mouth was watering. Apple was the only fruit she’d never tasted. She was eaten up with curiosity, and the sort of craving you get for something you’re not supposed to have.

‘You do want it,’ said the snake. ‘And what’s the harm? God never told you not to eat an apple from Tesco, did he? Just not from that Tree. So go on, have a bite!’

With a quick, furtive movement, Eve grabbed the apple and bit it. Her face sagged in disappointment. ‘It’s not very nice,’ she said. ‘Sort of floury. And mushy.’

The snake shrugged. ‘That’s supermarkets for you. Anyway, at least now you can say you’ve tried an apple – and you’re still here.’

At that moment, Adam came on the scene. ‘What are you doing?’ he cried, when he saw the bitten apple in Eve’s hand.

‘It’s OK, it’s not from the Tree,’ she said. ‘It’s from Tesco.’

‘Oh,’ said Adam. ‘Give us a bite, then.’

She handed him the apple, and he bit it. ‘It’s a bit floury,’ he said. ‘I can’t stand a floury apple.’

‘What d’you mean? You’ve never eaten an apple before, floury or otherwise.’

‘Of course he has!’ said the snake, with a grin. ‘I’ve been smuggling in Tesco apples for your man for a while now.’

Eve turned furiously on Adam. ‘And you’ve been all holier-than-thou about not eating apples!’

‘Only from the Tree,’ he said, putting up his hands. ‘Anyway, I’m sick of this place, it’s boring. I want to go to the Outside World. I want to wear a designer track suit, and have my teeth veneered, and drive a powerful car, and get drunk and play video games.’

‘YOU SHALL HAVE YOUR WISH!’ came a terrible Voice from the sky.

And that’s how we ended up in this mess.

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A Lucky Lurcher finds his Forever Home

A forever home has finally been found for Keith, the dog I’ve been fostering since the first lockdown last year. It’s exactly the sort of home we’ve been looking for, with a massive garden (3/4 acres) where he can run free without encountering other dogs, and a family who has fallen in love with him. They live just across the valley from me, so they’ve been able to take him for walks and get to know him before he moves in.

This is great news for Keith and I’m very happy for him, but not so happy for me. He’s been with me much longer than a dog would normally spend in a foster home, and I’m really going to miss him when he goes. He’s been a handful at times, but with help from GRW trainers he’s really come good and is a joy to have around. Part of me wishes I’d adopted him myself, but because of his size he would be difficult for me to manage when he reaches old age and its attendant mobility issues. I haven’t forgotten how hard it was lifting poor Pearl in and out of the car when she needed to go to the vet; I always had to get other people to help, and I want a dog I can manage myself.

I fostered Keith because I wasn’t ready to adopt another dog when Pearl died. Now I am ready, but adopting a rescue dog isn’t as easy as it used to be. Dogs have been like gold dust during the pandemic with so many people adopting them for company, and dog thefts have risen dramatically, with dogs being snatched from gardens and even from owners while out on walks. With such high demand, rescue centres can afford to be picky when selecting potential owners. Naturally they have to make sure the dogs go to good homes, but I’ve heard people are being refused for all sorts of odd reasons and sometimes for no reason at all. One man in his forties was refused because he was considered too old, which is ludicrous. It’s not really surprising that people end up buying from breeders.

I’ve been researching shelters online, and some have long waiting lists. On one website I found the following statement: “Due to the high volume of applications we receive we are unable to respond to everyone. If you do not hear anything within seven days, please assume that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion”. It reminded me of the more discouraging responses I’ve received from agents and publishers. If adopting a dog is going to be as difficult as getting a book published, I may be in for a long wait.

Keith goes to his new home on Sunday. Wish him luck – and wish me luck too!

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Writer v Inner Editor

Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay

Ed: God, what a clunky sentence.

Me: Never mind, it’ll do.

Ed: It’ll do? That’s the sort of attitude that leads to lazy writing!

Me: I meant it’ll do for now. We can tidy it up later.

Ed: You can’t keep putting things off till later.

Me: This is a first draft. I just need to get the story down, OK?

Ed: OK, whatever. Don’t mind me.

Me: Don’t worry, I won’t.

Two sentences later

Ed: You can’t put that.

Me: Why? What’s wrong with it?

Ed: It’s an adverb.

Me: I know it’s an adverb.

Ed: Adverbs aren’t allowed.

Me: They are sometimes. Where it’s appropriate. And I happen to think it’s appropriate here.

Ed: Oh, you think so, do you?

Me: Yes, I do. Adverbs are fine as long as you don’t overuse them.

Ed: It’s a slippery slope, though. You start using those things and you won’t be able to stop.

Me: I’m aware of that. Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control.

Ed: OK, if you say so.

Me: I do say so.

One line later

Ed: Oops! I spy a crutch word.

Me: I’ll kick your crutch in a minute.

Ed: There’s no need to be like that.

Me: So stop distracting me! You’re breaking my flow!

Ed: Sorry! I’m only trying to help.

Me: Well, you’re not helping. Go away if you can’t be quiet.

Ed: Where d’you want me to go?

Me: I don’t know – go for a walk, or go on holiday or something. I don’t care where you go as long as you wait your turn.

Ed: All right! I won’t say another word, I promise. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.

A paragraph later

Ed: Oh really, I can’t have this. You’ve used ‘began’ once, ‘that’ twice, ‘was’ three times, and four ‘-ing’ words.

Me: (leaping up and wrestling Ed to the floor) Listen, you pedantic pain in the arse! If you keep questioning every word I write, you’re going to be out of a job, because there won’t be any words on the screen for you to edit! Or do you have some wonderful new idea for editing a blank page?

Ed: No! I just thought we could save time later if I did some of the editing now.

Me: I don’t want you to do some of the editing now. I don’t want you to do any editing until I’ve written the story.

Ed: (sadly) Not even a little bit?

Me: Not even a little biddy bit.

Ed: (even more sadly) OK. I understand. No editing until you’ve finished the story.

Me: Good. I’m glad we’ve got that straight.

Two paragraphs later

Ed: Better ditch that passive voice…

Me: AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

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