Karen Fenech -Author

Karen Fenech is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense.  When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, or just kick Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller Writersback in a comfortable chair and read.

Karen, I really appreciate that you have taken time to do this interview for my Blog. I’d like to talk about your writing career, so far.

My great pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. You’ve said, in your bio, that you wanted to write since you were eleven years old, and you actually wrote a book based on the Nancy Drew mysteries. What ever happened to that book?

A. Oh, boy. : ) I remember putting those pages in a binder but draw a blank after that. I can’t recall what happened to that binder. It would be fun to take a look at those pages now.

Q. I imagine, as a young girl of eleven, you were heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries, as is perhaps typical for many girls of that age. What was it about the Nancy Drew mysteries that interested YOU?

A. I loved solving the mysteries along with Nancy and her friends. I loved following the clues along with Nancy.

Q. Your first novel, Unholy Angels, was written over a two-year period and released in 2004. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2004?

A. Yes, writing a novel now does not take me two years. I’m not sure about writing becoming easier, however. I try to challenge myself with each new book, to push beyond my comfort zone. That makes things hairy at times.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have a work schedule to meet writing deadlines. I find that I need to get business work out of the way before I can write and so I do that first thing and then write in the afternoon. If I’m deep into a book, I will often return to write late at night, continuing into the early hours of the morning. There’s something I love about writing late at night.

Q. You’ve achieved an extensive oeuvre so far in your climb to publishing success. You’ve got three series on the go: The Malice Series, The Protector Series, The Surrender Series. In addition, there are stand-alone books and a Short Story Collection. How do you find the time to keep up with all of this?

A. I know what I’m going to write before I sit down to do the actual writing. I outline each book. I may veer in terms of scenes I’d envisioned in the outline, but I don’t veer from the plot points or when each needs to be presented / revealed in the story.

I know the number of words I need to write each day to meet my deadlines. Things don’t always go according to plan. Life sometimes changes things. I account for that in my writing schedule, just in case.

Q. Who decides whether a series has been tapped out and can go no more, and it’s time to start another—you or your publisher? Can you tell us what factors are employed in determining this?

A. The ones who ultimately decide the fate of a series are the readers. It’s reader interest and support that determine whether or not a series will continue. Fortunately for writers, our readers are awesome and very supportive of their beloved series.

Q. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I don’t think creativity will be taxed. It may seem that way, but I think as we mature as writers, we become more selective of the ideas we choose to turn into books. Life experience and the point we are at in our lives also play a factor, I think.

I love the planning process when all things are possible. I get my creative juices flowing by constantly asking “what if”. I like a nice quiet walk along a beach or a snow-covered path to help me plan.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. Research depends on the plot and the time period in which a book is set. For my historical, I consulted non-fiction books for specific information such as medicines and healing practices of the day.

For every day life, I was fortunate to come across a book written as a journal by people who’d lived during the time period I was writing in. The day-to-day accountings of every day life provided good insight into what it was like to live at that time. I found these accountings lent authenticity to my characters.

For my contemporary books with FBI and other law enforcement characters, I usually consult directly with specific agencies. I also consult with professionals in a given area where a book is set. For example, I needed to know decomposition of a body over a certain time period in hot weather and reached out to a coroner in that area for that specific information.

Regarding the length of time spent on research, it varies, dependent upon how deeply I need to go into a subject. Sometimes, though, I do get carried away. I find research fascinating.

Q. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Other than not naming characters after anyone I know, I choose names at will. I feel like a new parent, taking a look at my newborn for the first time and considering what name would suit my child. : )

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. Declaring a book as finished, I think. I tend to go over the material many times before I’m satisfied with it.

Q. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your career be?

A. I can’t imagine doing anything else. : )

Q. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. If I decided to also write in a different genre, I would introduce a pseudonym to distinguish the books.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. That sounds like fun, but, no. That might be something to ask my readers about going forward, to include them in a secret.

Q. There are actors who will not see a movie they’ve appeared in, after it’s completed. Do you ever read your books after they are published? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. I keep notes on happenings in each of the series books, but I always reread the last book in a series before I write the next book in that series.

I also reread the last book to regain the feel for the tone of the series. Each series has a different feel to it and I want to be sure to remain true to that tone.

Q. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. When I began, I read Writers’ Digest and The Writer. Since the advent of self-publishing, I think a lot of good information can be found online at sites about writing and publishing. A Google search reveals many good sites to explore. It’s wonderful to have access to so much valuable information.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success differs for everyone. I think happiness = success. If writers are happy when writing their stories, then they can count themselves a success.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. I take time to consider outlook. Though faced with the same situation, people will not necessarily view it the same. I like to take time to put both my male and female characters in that same situation to find those differences.

Q. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. I’ve read of writers who deliberately write about things that frighten them as a way to work through that fear. I’ve been very fortunate and have never experienced anything that has frightened me to a point where it has stayed with me beyond that moment. That said, I do write through things that are troubling me, be they writing related or personal.

Q. Is there a central theme in your books? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. I hope when my readers close one of my books they feel they have read a story in which women are also heroes, each in her own way, each capable of courage, persistence, strong belief in her own abilities, and of giving great love and deserving of it.

Q. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Protectors series.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Historical Romance Fiction and suspense novels, what would it be?

A. I think to any writer, regardless of genre, I would say, be our own cheerleader. Celebrate each piece of our writing.

Q. Taking into account the massive changes in technology that are spearheading a move towards an electronic medium for books, where do you think the writing profession is heading?

A. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities and outlets for our work. We have the great fortune to be in direct contact with our readers and build friendships. I think this close contact may pave the way for interactive books.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

A. I love to hear from readers. Please do reach out to me through my website email. Due to writing deadlines and the volume of incoming mail, it may take a while for a response. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. Thank you to all for writing

WEBSITE: https://www.karenfenech.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/KarenFenechsFriends?ref=hl

EMAIL: karen@karenfenech.com

Karen, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Here’s wishing you all the best in your future writing and other endeavours.

Ken, thank you. It’s been so nice spending time with you and your readers.

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Raymond Holmes: Writing

Ray Holmes

Raymond Holmes in Brampton, Ontario.  He writes plays, novellas and short stories. His stories have been published in Unleashed Ink, an anthology created by the Barrie Writers Club, The Northern Appeal, a Simcoe County literary magazine and Commuterlit, a Toronto based ezine. His plays Boris and Hermanand The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxterhave been performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario. The latter play was awarded third prize in the 2014 Ottawa Little Theatre Playwriting Contest. His play The Pooman, will be read at the South Simcoe Theatre in June, 2018. Raymond also enjoys making furniture and playing the violin, although he admits to performing the latter activity rather poorly.

 

AN ENEMY IN OUR KITCHEN 

That incident in 1953 when I was nine years old has festered in me ever since; a malignant thing pressing on a nerve. The curtain of carefree, innocent childhood opened to reveal the occasionally hateful, intolerant world of adults.

At public school that year, Rick Sakamoto sat in the desk behind me. Some kids in our class called him names like “slitty-eyed chink.” His race didn’t matter to me. I liked Rick and wanted him for a friend.

A quiet, polite boy, he possessed a remarkable, natural talent for drawing. Anything I drew appeared stick-like and silly, but Rick and his HB pencil made it look effortless. He could sketch military aircraft and war machines that appeared realistic and I admired him for that ability. World War II had been over for eight years by then, but movies and the army surplus stores along Toronto’s Queen Street kept it alive in our imaginations. It was all heroism and excitement to us.

On several occasions I invited Rick to see my collection of model fighter aircraft, but he always declined, offering some excuse. After my birthday, I asked him again.

“We can have chocolate cake and you can see my collection of lead soldiers,” I said.

He accepted. I felt light and excited.

I thought that mild, October day in the classroom would never end. The hands of the wall clock crept like a puddle freezing over. At last the 3:15 p.m. school bell rang and we ran out through the large double doors of the building to my home three blocks away.

Upon entering through the back porch so as not to disturb Dad in his store-front barber shop, my Mother smiled and greeted us as we walked into the kitchen infused with the fragrant aroma of her cooking.

She cut two slabs of dark, three-layer chocolate cake covered with thick icing left over from my birthday the previous Saturday and poured two tall glasses of milk.

We were enjoying this after-school treat when the kitchen door opened and Dad entered. He started to say something to Mom then looked over at us. His mouth curved down; the face twisted and flushed.

“What’s hedoing here?” he said, jerking his head toward Rick.

Mother’s face warped. “Jimmy—please—don’t—” she pleaded, before being cut off by Dad’s yelling.

“You—get out!” he said to Rick. “We don’t want your kind in this house.”

My mind raced and stomach fluttered. What had we done?

Rick’s yellowish complexion whitened. His eyes widened and stared like a cornered animal; right hand suspending a fork in mid-air; unmoving mouth filled with cake.

After a tense, silent interval, my father jabbed a finger at him and spewed a staccato command like a volley of bullets.

“Get – out—of—here—now.”

I watched horrified as Rick laid down his fork, wiped the milky moustache from his mouth with a shirt sleeve, then got up and left. My body stiffened; the skin on my neck and face crawled.

As the screen door on the back porch clicked shut, Dad screamed through the half-opened window, “Don’t ever come back here again,” before returning to his shop, slamming the kitchen door behind him.

The colour slipped from Mother’s ruddy face. She looked down at the floor; white-knuckled hands scrunching her apron into a white rope.

Things had moved so quickly. The world seemed upside down. I wanted to hide.

“What did we do?  What’s wrong?” I burbled, through tears.

Mom’s chin trembled. “You boys didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then why did Dad yell at Rick and tell him to leave?”

“Because Rick is a Japanese boy,” she said.

Why did that matter? I thought Rick was Chinese like the people who owned the corner restaurant.

“Why did that make Dad so mad?”

“During the war, the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour in 1941,” she explained. “Canada believed they were our enemies, too. Some people, including your father, still hate all Japanese people even though the war is over now.”

“But Rick didn’t do anything bad. That was before he was born.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why did Dad blame him?”

“Sometimes grown-ups do, and say things that are wrong and unfair.”

I glanced at the kitchen door leading to the shop and stiffened. Would my father return and punish me?

~~

The next morning I dreaded going to school. Mom yanked the covers off me and said to get up. How could I face Rick sitting behind me in class? I felt ashamed of what had happened.

I pushed breakfast away. Mom sat down beside me and curled her arm around my shoulder.

“Listen. What the military people in Japan did was bad, but Japanese people living here in Canada can’t be blamed for that,” she said. ”What your Dad did was wrong, but the War caused a lot of pain and suffering. War is just a game to you boys, but many people were killed and maimed for life. Some Canadians, including your father, want to blame all Japanese people for what happened no matter where they were born.”

“But that’s not right,” I said.

“I know, but some people can’t forgive what happened in the past.”

“But the bible says we have to forgive others. I don’t understand why Dad can’t forgive.”

“Sometimes when a person feels wronged by a group of people they seek revenge. Innocent people can be hurt.”

“Will you ask Dad to forgive Japanese people and let Rick come here,” I said.

Mother shook her head with eyes sadder than I’d ever seen before.

“I’m afraid my asking him won’t do any good, son, but you must not act the way your father did. Always treat others the way you want to be treated and speak out when bad things are done to them. Wrongs added to wrongs will never make a right. They’ll just make things worse. Hate hurts the hater too.”

“I’m afraid to tell Dad he was wrong. He’ll get mad at me.”

“I understand,” she said. “Perhaps with time your father will realize that what he did was hurtful. Good people like your Dad still have faults.”

She stood up, bent down close to my face, and put her hands on my shoulders. “I want you to do something very important.”

“What?”

“Apologize to Rick. If you do that, I will be very proud of you.”

What could I say that would make the previous day’s hate and abuse go away?

~~

On the slow walk to class my shoes scuffed along the sidewalk. I saw Rick standing alone against the schoolyard fence watching a group of boys kicking a ball around.

What would he do when I approached? Would he strike out at me? I didn’t have the heart to fight back. I kicked at the black cinders covering the yard, avoiding eye contact.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I mumbled. “My father was wrong to say those things and make you leave our house.”

Rick’s shoulders curled in and he bit his lower lip. He wasn’t angry which surprised me.

“He can’t forgive what Japan did in the war and hates all Japanese people for it,” I said.

Rick raised his head. “It wasn’t your fault. We’re used to it now,” he said.

I knew he was bullied, but did you ever get used to it?

“It happens a lot,” he continued. “My parents moved here to get away from it, but last week a man spit at my father and called him a dirty name.”

“Where did your mom and dad come from?” I asked.

“British Columbia. My father was a fisherman. So was my grandfather and great-grandfather. My Dad had a big boat. We have a picture of it.”

“That province is far away in Western Canada. It’s on the map in our classroom,” I said.

“Mom, Dad and my uncle lived near the ocean. My parents said it was nice. There were mountains and lots of trees.”

“Why did they leave?”

“They had to.”

“Why?”

“The government made them go. They said all Japanese people were Canada’s enemies because of the war.”

“My mother told me about that. She said it wasn’t true.”

Ricks lower lip quivered. “They told my parents they couldn’t live near the ocean any more. The government people came at night and took away their house and everything else. A strange man said Dad’s boat was his now. All they could take with them was a suitcase. Mom cried when she left her house.”

A cold dread penetrated me. How could someone take away everything you own?

“Where did they make them go?”

“To a camp far away from the coast. They gave them a small cabin to live in. I was born there.”

“Gee, that’s awful,” I stuttered.

Rick’s head dropped. Sniffling, he went on. “They worked hard all day growing stuff and stayed there a long time. My uncle hated it, hurt himself, and died. After the war, government people said my parents had to go to Japan or move east. They didn’t know anyone in Japan so they came here. My dad works in a factory now, but he’s sick a lot. Mom has bad dreams and pains in her head.”

“Can’t they go back?” I said. “Wouldn’t things be better there now?”

Rick’s face hardened and his voice elevated. “Dad says there’s nothing to go back to.”

 “I’m sorry,” I said.

A defeated look crossed Rick’s face. He wiped his eyes. “Gotta go now—bye,” he said, before turning and walking away to our classroom.

~~

From then on things weren’t the same between us. I felt guilty about what happened in our house and sorry for his family’s ordeal. My father’s words must have cut his heart like a knife. A barrier arose between us; a wall of hurt that saying “sorry” a thousand times couldn’t break down. He still sat behind me, but we rarely spoke, and he stopped showing me his drawings.

Some boys kept calling him names. I wanted to beat them up for that, but they were bigger and tougher than I was.

After Christmas, Rick moved away. I never saw him again and always wondered what his life had been like. I hope it was good.

~~

Decades later the Canadian government issued an apology to Japanese-Canadians for what was done to them and offered compensation. I read that announcement with adult eyes, and memories of that long-ago day returned like the taste of sour milk.

Many of the Japanese people directly affected by those actions were in their graves by then. They were Canadians; born here, who happened to be of Japanese ethnic origin. The idea that Canada could do that to its rightful citizens was chilling. Could it happen again?

Yes, there was an enemy in our kitchen that day, but it wasn’t little Rick Sakamoto.

Michael Joll -Author’s Short Story

 

Born in England during the Late Pleistocene Age, Michael Joll has called Canada home since shortly after Confederation. He has held many jobs, from selling Continental Delicatessen in Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, to temporary part time deck hand and purser on a car ferry plying the North Reach of the Bay of Quinte. In between he was gainfully employed for forty years too many. Retired since 2004 (“The hours are great, the pay not so much”) he has spent most of that time writing fiction. He has lived in Brampton, Ontario since the mid-1970s with a wife (his own) and the memories of the dogs with whom he has been privileged to share his life.

 

MJoll New Background for CS

Author Michael Joll

A HANDSOME WOMAN

by Michael Joll

He studied her through binoculars from the shade of his second floor suite balcony at the Fairmont Colony Hotel. A handsome woman, he concluded. Lissome. Striking even, with her thick, wavy red hair pulled back and tied behind her neck. The late afternoon sun caught the silver strands in her hair and set them glinting like quicksilver.

   She stretched her long limbs, arched her back and reached behind her neck with her fingers extended and her toes pointed, a springboard diver about to enter the pike position. She pushed her sunglasses up over her forehead until they rested above her hairline, and swung her legs over the side of the padded chaise lounge until her feet met the patio pavers.

   The Barbados sun had travelled along its prescribed arc and the umbrella no longer cast its shade over her. She reached past a magazine and a thick paperback novel on the table at her elbow and picked up the plastic bottle of 60 sunblock. She squirted a generous amount onto her palm and smoothed it into her thighs.

   He wished he could do it for her.

   Her thighs firmed to her touch while she massaged the lotion into her skin. She bent forward as she worked her quads, squeezing the firm muscles as expertly as a masseuse She turned her attention to her shins and calves and leaned further when she spread the lotion over her ankles and feet. Her breasts moved with her, straining to escape the skimpy bikini top that revealed a tantalizingly generous, freckled cleavage. He held his breath, hoping for an accidental wardrobe malfunction. When none occurred, he took in the polished toenails and matching fingernails, and the freckles dotting her arms and cheeks.

   He sighed. Without question he was in love with the red-haired goddess lounging beside the pool.

   He set aside his binoculars and rubbed his eyes. A bead of sweat ran from his temple, along his jaw line and under his chin. He made no attempt to mop it as it disappeared into the tangle of grey chest hair sprouting from his pale skin.

   Her calisthenics over for the moment, the goddess sat up again. She applied another generous helping of sunblock to her abdomen and over her breasts and throat, slipping her fingers beneath the cloth of her bikini top. Making sure she had all the bases covered, the man decided, the binoculars back to his eyes again, regretting that he was too late and too far away to offer help. She undid the elastic back strap, reached behind her neck to untie the shoelace thin straps and let them dangle at her side while she held the top in place with one hand. Inviting. If she knew what she was doing to him . . . She pulled the front of her bikini top down until the interesting bits almost peeked out, leaned against the backrest of the chaise and applied lotion to her face and shoulders. Satisfied, she dropped her sunglasses over her nose and glanced over her shoulder toward the hotel.

   He held his breath. “She’s teasing me,” he muttered. “It’s as if she knows I’m watching her.”

   A slight commotion coming from the beach disturbed the man’s thoughts. He aimed the binoculars in the direction in which he saw several people pointing. He focused through the palm trees near the water’s edge, and then he saw them: a shoal of flying fish breaking the surface of the Caribbean, their fins flailing the surface into a maelstrom and showering the still air with a million diamonds. Hard on their heels a pod of dolphins surfaced, basket-weaving their sleek bodies over and through the lazy waves in search of dinner.

   He turned his attention to the woman at the pool edge, on her feet now and clutching her bikini top to her chest with one hand while shielding her eyes from the sun with the other. She turned to a white-haired woman at her side and pointed out to sea. The old woman followed the line of the outstretched arm and jumped with excitement at the sight of the dolphins in full chase. He saw the women exchange words, then resume their seats once the show was over.

   The redheaded goddess hooked her bikini top back together and pulled her chaise into the shade of the umbrella. The man saw her lean toward the elderly woman and say something. She opened her beach bag, reached in and pulled out a diaphanous chiffon top, which she wrapped around her shoulders.

   The show was over for the man, too. He put the binoculars down and turned to his crossword puzzle. He only did the cryptic crosswords, and always in ink, never pencil. He didn’t make mistakes. Not any more. He had made too many in his life. He sipped at a cold bottle of Banks beer, its sides dripping with condensation in the February heat while he wrestled the crossword into submission.

   A movement caught his eye. He glanced up from his crossword in the direction of the redheaded nymph. She stood up, and now she wandered towards the pool edge. He grabbed the binoculars and watched her dip a toe in the lukewarm water, sending ripples scurrying away from her. Her bare, freckled shoulders shone in the sun. The flimsy top lay abandoned on the chaise, a sleeve draped over the side as if it still contained its wearer, the cuff touching the concrete paver. A slight breeze fluffed life into the cloth before fading away, leaving the sleeve a study in still life.

   The goddess slipped into the pool with scarcely a ripple to betray her entry. She surfaced and pulled her hair behind her, squeezing water down her back. She smiled as she spoke unheard words to a young man close by. The man on the balcony overcame a momentary pang of envy, envy that she should be speaking to a good-looking, tanned and lean-muscled young man, and even a little jealous that his own body, now well past its best days, could not hope to compete with that of a narcissist half his age.

   She swam several effortless lengths then hauled her body out of the pool in one movement and sat on the edge with her feet in the water. From the vantage point on his second floor balcony, the man noticed that the young Lothario had already moved on to a trio of much younger women with whom he was obviously flirting. She moved her head. For a moment he thought the woman might have glanced up to his balcony. No, he decided, she hadn’t, but he imagined he caught a hint of a smile flick across her lips before she looked back at the pool. Or maybe not. His rational brain told him that a human heart does not melt, do backflips or any other such nonsense, including standing still. He froze for a second, and then turned his attention to his crossword. 14 Down. Backflip. He wrote the four missing letters in the empty squares, and set his pen aside with a satisfied smile.

   He thought of lighting a cigarette, a Sobrani Black Russian, his favourite for twenty years, ever since his business allowed him to indulge his weakness and he could afford the premium price. His hand twitched involuntarily in a gesture all too familiar, reaching out. The cigarettes were not within reach. They were back home, where he had deliberately left them, in a silver and tortoise shell cigarette box on the desk in his den, the box unopened for four months as a test of will power. He studied the twin purple-blue ridges of the long scar running down his sternum, and the marks left by the staples, a now-permanent reminder of his open-heart surgery the previous fall, and knew he was lucky to be alive. His heart had indeed stopped. Once.

   The sun cast long shadows across the hotel’s spacious palm-studded grounds. He searched the pool for the goddess, but she had vanished from sight. Through the binoculars he sought her by the beach, but could not find her. The large, open sided pavilion where they served breakfast and lunch, accompanied by hummingbirds, lizards and the occasional inquisitive parakeet bent on sharing a meal with the guests, surrendered no trace of her. He noted with satisfaction that the young man with the muscles had also departed the pool. So, too, had the trio of scantily clad women the young man had been trying to impress.

   Then he caught sight of her, the goddess with her skin now aflame in the orange and red fires of the setting sun. A gentle breeze tugged at a strand of unruly hair at her temple. She rescued it with a finger and hooked it behind her ear. She turned, and when she looked towards the hotel he saw a yellow hibiscus blossom tucked behind her other ear, and her chiffon top tied loosely around her trim waist like a bronze sarong, softening the sharp triangle of her bikini.

   He knew he had to go to her. He had to speak to her, to bask in her presence.

   He left the suite and took the stairs to the ground floor. He pushed through the French doors of the hotel’s art deco rear entrance and stopped on the patio, his head swivelling from right to left, searching for her. He spotted her, standing alone, gazing out to sea, one side of her slim, lithe body illuminated by the flame of a tiki lamp flickering by her side, the other cast in shadow. The sun had almost set, dipping the bottom edge of its disk in the sea like a nervous swimmer testing the water. In minutes, night would cloak Barbados in velvet and the steel pan band would begin its off-key duel with the tone-deaf cicadas.

   She turned as the man neared her. Her face registered neither surprise nor fear at his approach. He slowed and came to a stop a step from her side. He tugged at the hem of his Hawaiian shirt, lurid purple and pink glowing in the sunset, and for a moment stared away from her at the silhouettes of the palm trees. Then he lowered his gaze to the flame coloured hibiscus printed on the front of his shirt. He shuffled his feet, fighting to suppress the nervousness that had bedevilled him since he was a gawky teenager with acne and braces and horn rimmed eyeglasses, trying to summon the courage to ask a girl for a date.

   He looked into the eyes of the red haired Athena standing as immobile as a Greek statue. A quizzical and slightly bemused smile crossed her face. He took in the freckles on her cheeks and the tracery of crows’ feet radiating from the corners of her eyes, crinkling with her smile. Her eyes glowed emerald green and sapphire blue with flecks of gold and amber to add to his confusion. He had never beheld a woman more serene or beguiling as the one who stood before him now, eyeing him with curiosity.

   “Hi,” he said.

   “Hi, yourself,” she replied with a broad smile. Her hand strayed to her hip. It swayed slightly, provocatively as she twisted round to face him fully.

   His licked his lips nervously, covered his mouth with a hand and coughed lightly. He gazed into those bewitching eyes again and took a deep breath.

   “I just wanted to tell you,” he said, “how glad I am that you married me all those years ago.”

END

THIS AND OTHER STORIES APPEAR IN MICHAEL JOLL’S COLLECTION

CHECK OUT MICHAEL’S BOOK HERE

 

Stories
by Michael Joll
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Portals To The World

Doors come in all shapes, sizes, colours, construction and styles. They can be single or double doors; French or Dutch doors; louvered or flush doors. There are barn doors and saloon doors; wicker doors and sliding doors; hinged doors and swing doors. There are even False doors that lead nowhere and don’t even open!

But the one aspect that they all have in common: they are meant to keep something or someone in or out.

The earliest known records of doors are those represented in the paintings of the Egyptian tombs and they were either single or double doors, each constructed with a single piece of wood. Over the centuries, apart from the security needs, the door has been recognized as the first aspect of your building that a visitor will encounter and it will thereby contribute to that vital first impression. They are essentially Portals to the occupant’s life and lifestyle.

These are some of the world’s doors that I’ve passed through…

 

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Siem Reap. Cambodia. An open door policy.

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Siem Reap. Cambodia. So many doors that lead to nowhere.

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Hue. Viet Nam. More than just a portal. It’s an artist’s canvas.

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Tunis. Tunisia. When one door is closed, another opens.

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Mumbai. India. The gateway the British Raj passed through.

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St. Thomas. USVirgin Islands. People from all over the world pass through.

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Dominican Republic. The way to the Lord.

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Cop Denmark
Tivoli Gardens. A busy thoroughfare

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Delhi. India. Who knows what lurks behind a closed door?

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Rostock Germany
People with glass doors shouldn’t throw bricks

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Estonia. A door within a portal going who knows where?

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St. Petersberg. Russia. It only takes a small key to open a big door?

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Stockholm Sweden
Carve its name with pride

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Varanasi India
The gateway to the holy city should look good.

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Bangkok. Thailand. Heed the writing on the door?

The Hustlers

According to the International Labour Organization, in 2009 there were some 1.53 billion people in vulnerable employment either working for themselves or in badly paid family jobs. This represents about half the global workforce. This figure is expected to be significantly higher for 2011 and later years.

These are the people who struggle on the edge of survival and carry on regardless…

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Udaipur. India. Back breaking work.

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Mumbai. India. Dhobi Ghats. Not too much starch on the collar, please!

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Buenos Aires. Argentina. Where’s there smoke, there’s fire.

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Nassau. Bahamas. Someday I’ll be a tourist, too.

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Nassau. Bahamas. Counting the day’s take.

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Delhi. India. You have to put your back into it.

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Tallin. Estonia. A woman who finds pleasure in her work.

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Katmandu. Nepal. One man’s burden

The Working Class

These are the working class of the world—the people who perform in mostly labour intensive jobs, at low pay. They do work that is avoided by the middle and upper classes. Without them society would fall apart. And yet, these people labour on, day after day, year after year, never quite receiving the praise they deserve for their menial work.

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Vancouver. BC. Canada. Measure it twice. Cut it once.

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Sint Martin. Neth Antilles. Making a clean sweep of things

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Buenos Aries. Argentina. Some work. Others play.

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Henley. UK. Planning strategy

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Nassau. Bahamas. A painter artist at work.

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Copenhagen. Denmark. All in a day’s work.

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Delhi. India. The Lawn Ranger

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Delhi. India. That pollution can really get to you.

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Rostock. Germany. Keep it in ship shape.

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Tallinn. Estonia. Building it one brick at a time.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Everyone deserves a break.

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St. Petersberg. Russia. Two men aiming for higher things.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Counting the day’s take.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Some jobs are back breaking.

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Helsinki. Finland. Outdoor work is great only in summer.

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HoiAn Vietnam. Mirror mirror on the wall.

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Santiago. Chile. A man who can smile on the job.

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Varpraso. Chile. Waiting for their ship to come in.

 

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Buenos Aires. Argentina. A new coat for a new look

 

Rena Graefner: Poet/ Writer

Rena Flannigan was born in Scotland and many years ago moved to fill her childhood dream to live in Canada.  Her biggest success was becoming the speed skating champion of Scotland and Great Britain.  She became the Canadian Champion at Kempenfeldt Bay, Barrie in 1964.  Always athletic, she was a good tennis player and skier. Later, she found her niche on the dance floor winning trophies for Latin and Ballroom dancing.  Rena was a tailoress, a teacher of Fashion and Design, and she became the Vice-Principal of a private designing school.  These were followed by a career as a Tour Guide and Manager, her all-time favourite occupation.  Now she is learning how to use a computer and wants to be a writer of various genres.

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SPRING, WHERE ARE YOU?

Snowdrops appear

Their bell heads waving in the breeze

There is no sound of ringing

Are they sad because

The April showers are not here

To give them a drink?

Instead of April showers

Bringing the flowers

There are snowflakes

Dancing in the wind

Enough to cover the snowdrops

Holding back other colourful buds

The trees once again have branches of white

There should be green all around

Snow is for winter

It is now Spring, but it is hard to tell

A white carpet covers everything

It is all over the grass and flower beds

Are the buds on the trees also confused?

Are they hiding, waiting for the sun

To warm them and welcome them

To please the souls

Of the winter’s weary people?

Will it end soon is a question we all ask

To see a blue sky during the day

Lifts the spirits and hopes high

The night falls

So does the snow – again

This is not supposed to happen

It is April not bitter winter

Mother Nature fooled us

No snow when it should have been here

Summer in January.  Some days

Shirt sleeve weather,

The climate is so confused

Upside down and back to front

Even the sun is hiding

Above the grey clouds

No warmth can we feel in the air

To lift our spirits out of the doldrums

We must think positive

Spring will come . . . it must.

 



 

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

WHAT IS THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR ?
The time has come . . .
For the leaves of brown
To come tumbling down
The trees of gold are ablaze in the sun
Telling us that summer is nearly done
The colours of Autumn are always so special
Beauty surrounds us at every turn
We mortals will die and never return
But nature sleeps until there’s warmth in the sun
In the meantime the crisp air of winter will come
To nip our noses
To kill the roses
To transform the scene with a blanket of snow
All is not lost as time changes colours
In spring buds will reappear
The flowers will grow in a multitude of blossoms
And, once again, all is right with the world.

All they have to do is say first thing in the morning, I am alive, I will make the best of today. I can get up and move around which is more than millions of people in this world can do. For this, I am thankful.
Go to the bathroom for morning ablutions and be glad they have a toilet, and they do not need to go to the bushes like millions of people who will never know what a flush toilet is, or have running water from a tap so they can take a shower or make their morning coffee.
Even if they don’t have a lot of money they can go to the grocery store to buy food and eat while millions don’t know if they will ever eat again – and often don’t. To have a roof over their head and a stove to cook on, when others are still using outdoor fires with antiquated utensils to cook with, if they do manage to get food, much of what has been found in rubbish dumps. Not to have to huddle in doorways on the street for shelter, or beg for handouts from passers by. For this, they should be thankful.
Hard as life can be for many among us if they think about these things then maybe they will start to look around and realise how fortunate they are. Maybe they will see the marvellous colours of the trees in autumn, the beauty of spring and the smell of fragrant flowers as they emerge from the buds. Even if they find winter chills them to the bone, will they not look at the beautiful trees covered in snow and wonder at Natures handiwork in creating such beauty with ice crystals? There is so much to be grateful and thankful for it is hard to define it all.
Good health, good friends and family, people who care for them and encourage them to live each day and who look forward to being with them. Finding pleasure being with such friends. If a person hibernates at home, alone, it is a sure thing they will only be morose and no fun for others to be around. They might even stagnate by being so much alone. Do they not understand that having friends gives them something to look forward to and that they can be glad and thankful to have such people in their lives? So many people in this world have no one so to have good friends and family is a big bonus to be happy about.
To grow up in a warm family home, to study and find a good job with a reasonable income. Maybe eventually marry and have their own family, even to lose a spouse which is one if the hardest things to do. To reflect and be thankful for the happiness shared knowing that their departed spouse does not want them to be alone or unhappy.
Truly, there is so much to be happy about, just to be able to do anything, no matter how trivial it might be, to share it with friends is a blessing in itself. To bring a smile to a stranger, hoping it makes their day, and that they in turn will share a smile with someone else. Because they gave away a smile -just about the cheapest thing a person can give and share. It costs nothing but can do so much to lift a person’s moral and spirit to set them on a happier path for the rest of the day. Even a pat on the back or a handshake can be stimulating to someone else. Someone who maybe needs that warm touch to make them feel better just when they need it most.
So once again, I pose the question, what is there to be thankful for? If you don’t know by now then sadly, you never will! Life is such a short span to enjoy, be thankful that you had the opportunity.
Rena Flannigan Words 848 October 11, 2012



 

 

Janet Naidu -Poet

Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond.  Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place.  She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.

Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.  Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes. Janet Naidu (4)
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.

Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.


Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.

Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?

A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.

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