Season’s Greetings from Keith

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Yule and a happy and healthy 2021!

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A “Gateway to Magic” for the Holidays!

Many thanks to horror writer Willow Croft for her lovely review of my book. Visit her blog to read the full review – you might like to check out her writing while you’re there!

Willow Croft

Happy Hanukkah! Happy holidays! etc etc.!

(Featured Book: Gateway to Magic by Annabelle Franklin which I purchased not too long ago.)

Oddly enough, even though I wrote middle grade manuscript, and tried to read as much as I could in the genre beforehand, I still feel that it’s one of my cutoffs in regards to actual reading-for-pleasure. (In my defense, it probably was even back when I WAS a middle grade reader.)

Luckily for Annabelle Franklin, there are now kids among all us grumpy old people in our family. So now I can say, “they are going to love this book”. 

Well, I don’t really know if they are going to love it, because I’m sure kids get tired of hearing what they like and don’t like and what they should like, but I’m still going to pass on this book to them, in hopes they like it.

After all…

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The Slob’s Fate #ShortStory #amwriting

Here’s a short story with a timely warning – don’t get too cosy in your comfy chair this Christmas!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

THE SLOB’S FATE

Gordon was lazy.

He’d always been lazy. As a child he’d refused to clean his room when his mother asked him, and he never helped with the chores.

‘You spoil him,’ his father told his mother. ‘If you stopped his pocket money, he’d soon brighten up his ideas.’

‘Aw, he’s an only child!’ she said. ‘And his childhood will be over soon enough. Let him enjoy it while he can.’

For a long time, Gordon got away with being lazy. He would spend most of his time in his room playing video games, and in school he would sit at the back of the class and nod off to sleep. In spite of this inactivity, he didn’t put on weight straight away; he was an attractive child, tall and slim, with dark red hair and sea-blue eyes.

His father would look at his school report and shake his head. ‘ “Could do better”,’ he read out. ‘Your reports all say that. It’s such a pity.’

Image by Mote Oo Education from Pixabay

‘I hate it when they put “could do better”,’ Gordon grumbled to his friends. ‘I wish they’d put “terminally stupid, no hope”, then people wouldn’t expect me to make an effort.’

When Gordon was sixteen, he fell in love with a girl at his school. He’d always known her, but he’d never noticed how attractive she was. Now he noticed her auburn hair (which he’d always thought of as ginger), her dancing green eyes, and most of all her breasts, which seemed to have grown overnight.

There was only one problem with Kim: she wanted him to do more.

‘It’s not good for you to do nothing,’ she told him.

‘You sound like my dad,’ he complained.

‘Well, he’s right. You’d be happier if you got out and about and did stuff.’

‘I’d be happier if you’d stop nagging.’

Kim ignored that. ‘We never go anywhere together.’

‘That’s because you’re always out visiting old people.’

‘Not always. And on the nights we see each other, all you want to do is stay in and watch Netflix.’ Then her eyes lit up. ‘You could come with me to see old people!’

Gordon looked at her like she’d suggested he jump off a cliff.

‘Seriously,’ she went on, ‘I love you, Gordon, but I can’t stay with someone who never does anything.’

‘You’re not going to dump me, are you?’ he said in alarm.

‘I will if you don’t make a bit of effort.’ Her face softened when she saw he was about to cry. ‘Just come with me once to Final Retreat. You might find you enjoy it.’

Gordon looked dubious. ‘What, visiting a load of old fogeys who smell of wee?’

‘They don’t smell of wee… well, not always. And it’s very rewarding when you know you’ve brightened up their day. It gives you a lovely warm fuzzy feeling inside.’

In the end Gordon agreed to go, on the proviso that he wouldn’t have to go again if he didn’t like it.

He didn’t like it, of course. ‘That was grim,’ he said afterwards on the bus. ‘Don’t they ever get out of those chairs?’

‘Yes, sometimes,’ said Kim. ‘But they’re old, Gordon, and it’s hard for them to move around without help.’

‘I’d hate to be old. Imagine being stuck in a chair all day – you’d end up turning into a chair.’ Gordon began to giggle. ‘That’s what happens to old people – they end up turning into chairs!’

Kim didn’t find this funny at all. ‘Sometimes, Gordon, you can be very silly.’

All the same, she was besotted with his good looks. She didn’t dump him, even though he never went with her to visit old people again; and when they were twenty-one, they got married.

At first, married life was good. They had a wonderful honeymoon in Tenerife, and Gordon even got off his backside to go dancing with Kim in the clubs at night. They’d put down a deposit on a house that was being built on a smart new estate, and they moved in in time for Christmas.

But things started to go wrong when Gordon said he didn’t want any children. ‘Kids are too much trouble,’ he told Kim. ‘Things are great as they are. Why spoil it?’

She didn’t press the point; she knew it wouldn’t do any good, and hopefully he would change his mind later.

But Gordon didn’t change his mind, and he soon fell into his old lazy ways. He bought a massive green leather recliner chair with special compartments for food, drinks, and remote controls for TV and gaming. When he wasn’t at work or in bed, he spent most of his time in this chair.

He had a good job in an estate agent’s, but it wasn’t long before he got fired for not pulling his weight. Now Kim was the sole breadwinner, and Gordon spent the whole day lolling about in his big chair in front of his big screen. When Kim was home, he demanded she bring him food and drink. She wasn’t happy with this, of course; but like his mother before her, she loved him to bits and found it hard to refuse him.

‘You spoil him,’ said her friend Mel. ‘If you stopped waiting on him hand and foot, he’d soon brighten up his ideas.’

‘Aw, I don’t mind,’ lied Kim. ‘I enjoy spoiling him – and he makes up for it in bed!’

At last, though, Gordon began to put on weight.

Image by Sedat Gunduz from Pixabay

Once the process started, it escalated at an alarming rate. He stopped being good in bed, and found it harder and harder to get out of the chair. His body ached, and things started to go wrong with it. He became too lazy even to play games, and spent the whole time watching crap reality shows and bingeing on box sets.

Kim was losing patience. ‘You’ll take root in that chair one of these days,’ she told him.

‘Don’t nag, woman,’ he growled, through a mouthful of cheeseburger. He turned up the TV and took a swig from a can of lager.

The next day, Kim came home from work and noticed there was something different in the living room. The TV was on as usual and the big green chair was in front of it… but where was Gordon?

Then she noticed it was the chair itself that was different. It had great big bulges in the seat and the footrest. A pair of pudgy green hands grew out of the armrests, and a horrified green face stared out of the headrest.

Kim screamed, as she realized it was the face of her husband.

Gordon had finally turned into a chair.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

©2020 Annabelle Franklin

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What I Drew #inktober #inktober2020 #inktober52

A few weeks ago I posted about artist Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge, which involved making a drawing every day through October and posting it on a social media platform of your choice (Twitter in my case). I didn’t quite manage to make a drawing every day, and I certainly didn’t post all my efforts, but I had fun with my doodles and I enjoyed seeing how other participants interpreted the daily prompts. Most of them were better than mine!

Here, as promised, are a few of my efforts, with prompts.

Chef

Crawl

Radio

Shoes

Sleep

Slippery

Storm

Teeth

Wisp

October may be over, but you can still participate in Inktober52 and post a drawing once a week throughout the year. Drawing – and looking at other people’s artwork – can open channels into the subconscious  and unlock great ideas for stories!

Keith’s dream girl

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Ghosts: A Horrifying Camping Ghost!

Many thanks to Jan Olandese for posting my true ghost story on her blog – I hope you’ll check it out!

Book 'Em, Jan O

Readers, I recently offered a post about ghosts and camping. A reader, Annabelle Franklin of The Literate Lurcher blog, kindly shared this chilling story in response. One can’t begin to think how scary this must have been to experience. Enjoy the following tale, with thanks to Annabelle (do stop by her blog, it’s great!).

“I had my first experience of the supernatural as a teen, when my friend and I were camping in her back garden on a hot, still, summer night. We were pestered by an entity that punched the tent all over, as if with huge hands, at regular intervals throughout the night. At one point, a garden fork came right through the tent’s double wall, narrowly missing our heads. Worst of all was the feeling of evil that accompanied these phenomena, which only stopped when it began to get light. When we told people about it, they…

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Day 1: Fish #inktober #inktober2020

I’m no artist but I love to doodle, so I thought I’d give this challenge a go. You make a drawing on each day of October, using the prompts on the Inktober website, then post it on social media with the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2020.

The prompt for today is ‘Fish’, which is appropriate for me right now – in my current WIP the Bad Boy Wizard gives his uncle the head of a codfish! This is what poor old Uncle Phil looks like with his cod head:

I won’t be posting my efforts every day – like I said, I’m no artist and many of them will be embarrassingly bad. I’ve been looking at other people’s drawings on Twitter and they’re much better than mine, but you don’t have to be a brilliant artist to participate. The idea is to improve your skills by practising every day, and have fun in the process. Hopefully I’ll come up with one or two worth posting as the month goes on. I might post some of them straight to Twitter (especially if I’m derailed by a sudden WordPress enforcement of the dreaded block editor!)

Incidentally, I made my drawing before looking at anyone else’s, and when I did look, I was interested to see I’m not the only one who came up with the idea of a fish involved with a human head in some way. We must be tapping into the same bit of the collective unconscious!

I sometimes find that drawing gives me good ideas for my writing, so this challenge is definitely worth doing for me. If you’d like to have a go yourself, you can find out more here.

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The Search for a New Earth

This was originally a guest post for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. In view of recent events, I thought it was due a rehash.

Image by Skeez from Pixabay

A few years ago BBC2 showed a programme called The Search for a New Earth. It featured physicist Stephen Hawking, who claimed we will have to leave Earth within the next 100 years as it will have become uninhabitable. He listed various possible causes of this catastrophe, including overpopulation, pollution and nuclear war. The programme went on to explore the various measures being taken right now for the eventual colonisation of a new planet.

The technology is mind-boggling. It demonstrates the sheer brilliance of the human mind at its best. It seems there’s nothing we can’t achieve. In which case…

WHY ON EARTH CAN’T WE USE THESE SKILLS TO MAKE SURE THIS PLANET DOESN’T BECOME UNINHABITABLE?

For instance, scientists are developing technology that will utilise the sun’s energy to create superfast rocket fuel. Why don’t they consider using that energy for fuel here on Earth, to replace dwindling oil supplies, dirty fossil fuel and dangerous nuclear power? It would be a lot cheaper and easier than trying to colonise a planet that isn’t designed for human habitation.

Image by Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay

The planet under consideration is called Proxima B. The shortest time it would take to get there – once they’ve got their superfast fuel – is 20 years. The crew would have to go into chemically induced hibernation to avoid radiation damage in space. Most of the planet is too hot or too cold to support human life, so we would only be able to occupy a thin strip around the middle. This would lead to even worse overcrowding than we’ve got here. It’s possible the place has got no atmosphere, so we would have to create one ourselves. This would take about 100,000 years, so the early colonists would have to live in a geodesic dome. They would never be able to walk under the open sky.

Even if we did manage to find a planet that was suitable for humans, chances are that humans would be living there already – in which case, would they really want us showing up and asking to live on their planet because we’ve trashed our own? We might even find they’d made a worse mess of their world than we’ve made of ours.

Maybe we should clean up our act rather than jumping ship. If human science can develop the technology to colonise another planet, surely it can find a way to heal and care for the wonderful planet we live on now.

 

 

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Kids on Holiday

The Airbnb next door has recently reopened after lockdown and once again the joyful cries of excited kids can be heard in the garden. Sometimes (do I dare admit this?) I find it the tiniest bit irritating and I start getting thoughts like ‘Why do kids have to shriek?’ and ‘If they kick that ball against the fence one more time I’m going to seriously lose my shit!’

At times like this I have to tell myself that holidays are exciting and kids will naturally be more noisy and hyper than they are at home. I have to remind myself how much I hated being told to be quiet when I was having fun. Most of all, I have to remember what I was like as a kid on holiday – especially when it rained all the time and I had to make my own entertainment.

I remember a holiday in Swanage (‘Gem of the Dorset Coast’, as it said in the brochure) when I got a sort of random impromptu clown act going. My mother had bought me a Harold Hare bendy toy as part of my costume for the fancy dress competition (I was a Bunny Girl, of all inappropriate things, but that’s another story). One boring afternoon (it was raining, so no swimming) I devised a game that had me hiding at the top of the stairs and chucking Harold down into the hotel lobby to surprise people passing through. No one else found it funny, and the manager definitely didn’t find it funny when Harold got stuck under the revolving door and no one could get in or out.

Another game in another hotel (Ilfracombe this time) involved seeing how many times I could go all the way up and down in the lift without stopping. When it did eventually stop there was an angry little crowd of people outside waiting to use it. The manager grabbed my arm, yanked me out and told me what a horrible little nuisance I was.

So I shouldn’t get irritated when kids make a racket next door. It’s probably just karma.

If your summer holiday has turned into a wet washout that’s driving the kids to delinquency, you may like to check out my middle grade novel The Slapstyx. This magical seaside adventure  might just keep them occupied for a few hours!

Slapstyx Blurb sand3

 

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Bull Breeds are not Bullies

Some of you might know that I’m fostering a dog for Greyhound Rescue Wales. He’s a bull lurcher, which means he’s a greyhound crossed with some kind of bull breed – most probably a Staffy.

Keith sunbathing

Bull breeds get a bad press because they’re often kept by stupid people who use them for fighting. They are well-muscled with powerful jaws, which can make them look intimidating, so some people think they’re nasty dogs. But in reality they’re no more nasty than any other dog – it’s bad owners who are nasty and train them to be aggressive.

Keith wasn’t used for fighting but for hunting. He has a high prey drive when it comes to rabbits, and he can sometimes be over-enthusiastic when greeting other dogs, bouncing and barking around them. For this reason he has to wear a muzzle when we go for a walk. All GRW foster dogs have to be muzzled in public anyway, because GRW would be liable if one of their dogs did bite someone.

The muzzle can make people think Keith is aggressive, but he’s actually the softest, gentlest, most affectionate dog I’ve ever known. He doesn’t look intimidating to me at all; he has the most beautiful eyes, a mixture of brown and blue, like moonlit rock pools.

Keith in front garden (3)

Keith loves people and just wants to cuddle everyone he meets. He’s a perfect companion for anyone working at home, because once he’s had his walk he just sleeps all day. And once he’s been introduced to another dog, he just wants to be friends.

Keith in Castle (3)

Keith is full of energy and hurls himself into life with great enthusiasm. Recently we went out with his friends Snip the lurcher and Frieda the greyhound, and when he found a dog-free spot, we took off his muzzle so they could all chase sticks and balls. Keith was so excited, he tried to jump over Snip to get the ball and landed half on top of him. Snip, understandably, wasn’t happy about this; they had a bit of a spat, and Snip’s human had to separate them. Keith had a cut behind his ear which required stitches. Snip didn’t mean to hurt him – these things happen sometimes – but I found it reassuring that Keith didn’t bite Snip. If he’d been an aggressive dog, things might have been very different.

Keith and friends

There are people coming to see Keith on Saturday with a view to adopting him. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him; at the same time, I’m going to miss him. I’ve loved fostering him, and it’ll be hard parting with him when he finally leaves for his forever home.

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Dog Meat Festival #StopYulinForever

We’re coming up to the Summer Solstice – a time to celebrate life – but in Yulin, China, they choose to celebrate by torturing, killing and eating dogs at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival.

I won’t go into the distressing methods they use to torture these poor animals (many of which are stolen pets). Suffice it to say the purveyors and consumers of dog meat believe it tastes better if it contains high levels of adrenaline, so they do whatever it takes to produce these levels. I can’t begin to understand the mentality of people who think it’s worth inflicting extreme suffering just to make something taste nice.

This is not some ancient and sacred Chinese tradition. It was begun only 10 years ago to boost the flagging dog meat industry, and tolerated by the authorities because they thought it would attract tourism!

For many years the Chinese people and the rest of the world have shown their outrage by protesting, sighing petitions and supporting charities that work to rescue the animals and end the dog meat trade. Live animal markets have been implicated in the spread of coronavirus from animals to humans, and the Chinese Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs has stated that dogs should no longer be considered at livestock, which basically means they shouldn’t be eaten. And yet the Yulin Festival is still set to go ahead this year.

Maybe it’s too late to stop this one, but it’s important to keep up the pressure on the authorities to put an end to it for good. Please sign the petition if you’ve got a moment!

Humane Society International petition to end the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

Humane Society International pledge in support of ending the dog and cat meat trade in South East Asia

Keith in front garden (3)

Keith says they should stick to lychees!

 

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