Friday, February 28, 2014

The Importance of Illustrations in Works of Fiction by Bryan Taylor #WriteTip #AmWriting #AmReading

The Three Sisters began with two photos that a friend gave me of nuns.  After I created the first two “episodes” of the three sisters with these photos, I used an illustration for each episode that followed. For this reason, it is no mistake that illustrations are an integral part of The Three Sisters.
I think it is unfortunate that very few novels today are illustrated.  Since we assimilate visual information much more effectively than verbal information (“Picture’s worth a thousand words and all that,” as Victor Virga would say), there is no reason why novels shouldn’t be accompanied by illustrations.  Though most novels are abstract in their cover illustrations, not providing portraits of any of the protagonists, I decided to go against this trend and hire someone to provide illustrations of them both on the cover and within the text because I think this will help the reader to identify with the three sisters more strongly.
Illustrations have played an important role in novels in the past.  The Bible (in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry among others) and most “classics” were illustrated by Gustave Doré and other engravers from the inception of the printed book until in the nineteenth century. Most children’s classics, such as Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz are still illustrated today, but why limit illustrations to children’s books? Moreover, many of the anti-Catholic books of the eighteen hundreds, such as Maria Monk or Why Priests Should Wed included illustrations of the horrific deeds the Catholics were accused of committing.
So, I decided, why not continue this tradition in my own book, including illustrations from the anti-Catholic books of the past and adding new illustrations which would comment on the events within the book? For that matter, why not include illustrations in all novels to make the book more appealing to the reader?
When I originally wrote The Three Sisters between 1980 and 1983, the only way I could do this was by including illustrations from other books which would be suggestive of what was going on in the novel.  Today, I can go beyond that.  Not only can I take illustrations from other books and use them in the novel, but I can also have someone create illustrations using Photoshop and other programs, but I can also hire someone to create original illustrations for the novel.  As digital books evolve over time, there is no reason not to add music, a short film, or other interactive features to the novel as well.
At the same time, one purpose of the illustrations is to intrigue someone who picks up the book at a bookstore (assuming these still exist in the future).  Why is there a Wanted Poster?  Virgin Mary Milk? What are three nuns doing on Abbey Road?  The goal is to make the browser curious without giving away the plot of the novel.  I had originally planned on using the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware at one key point in the novel, but did not do so because this illustration might be a spoiler rather than raise curiosity.
Another big difference between today and thirty years ago is that you can have a website for your book, and use this to both promote the book and explain the motivations behind the book to interested readers.  Consequently, not only does this website provide background information on the book, but it also includes numerous illustrations on each web page and in some of the tales and travels relating to the three sisters as well.
For The Three Sisters, illustrations fall into three categories: (1) illustrations from other books or works of art, (2) illustrations put together using Photoshop, and (3) original paintings made especially for the book.
Back in 1983, all of the illustrations were taken from other books, but the ability to put up some of the ideas on the web site and the opportunity to use Photoshop and hire someone to create original illustrations changed this.  Several of the illustrations are from old anti-Catholic books, such as I confessed to the Mother Superior and had to kiss the floor, He finally acquiesced to my delitescent desires, Coito in the Confessional, and Free the Three!, which was photoshopped into a T-shirt.  There were also a couple photos, including those of Jan Van Eyck’s Annunciation and The Warren Commission.
Photoshop allowed us to put together the Wanted Poster and Tabloid mentioned in the novel.  I had created The Cynical Cenacle as a xeroxed work of Mama art back in college, and this work now graces each page of the website. Photoshop was also used for the Virgin Mary Milk and Spanish Inquisition Toy Set commercials during the Festivities.
Finally, we hired Brent Schreiber to create original paintings of the three sisters for the novel. He was great to work with and did an excellent job.  He illustrated the cover, and created three portraits of each of the three, which were incorporated into the Wanted Poster and Tabloid Cover.  I had originally conceived the Lady Justice as the standing Lady Justice with the sword and scales as standing up, but with a habit.  This didn’t really work, so I reconceived it as a more thoughtful, Vargas-like Lady Justice which Brent illustrated wonderfully.  Finally, he did the cover for The Three Sisters’ album which parodied Abbey Road.
Should I write another novel, I will also make illustrations an integral part of that novel.  I can only hope that other authors will no longer see the written novel and the graphic novel as dichotomous alternatives, but will see illustrations as being an integral part of any written novel.
Nuns just want to have fun! But when three former Catholic nuns have too much fun and get in trouble with the law, they become nuns on the run.
Driving back to Washington D.C. where they work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Parts, the three sisters are arrested in Tennessee. After defeating the local deputy in strip poker, they escape from jail, and are pursued by the zealous Detective Schmuck Hole, who has personally offered a $10,000 reward for their capture on The 700 Club. Little do they know that when the three sisters visit the Washington Monument, their lives will change forever.
Set in 1979, The Three Sisters is a sacrilegious satire that skewers not only organized religion, but the government, the media, intellectuals, corporate greed and every other part of the establishment. Maybe not the greatest story ever told, but possibly the funniest.
Buy @ Amazon
Genre – Humor, Satire, Catholicism, Politics
Rating – R
More details about the author
Connect with Bryan Taylor on Facebook

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chance Collision (Crossing Forces) by C.A. Szarek @caszarek #Romance #Suspense #BookClub

“Don’t worry about it. We’re cooped up together—not surprised things can get heated.”
She smiled and gave a small nod. Nikki tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and leaned closer.
Heated. Sure as hell the wrong choice of words.
His gaze travelled her gorgeous form. She was dressed in her same outfit of barely-there sleepwear—a pale green spaghetti-strapped tank and matching shorts that stopped at her ass. Smelt good, too. Something clean and floral.
Damn, she had great legs…arms, neck, everything.
Nikki moved closer, her thigh touching his. She put her hand on his leg. The warmth of her touch sank into the jeans.
Pete’s cock jumped, begging her to move closer to his crotch. To touch him. Stroke him. Free him.
Their lips met on a mutual groan and he yanked her onto his lap, deepening their kiss. Nikki straddled him, her thinly covered sex hitting him with enough impact he was rock hard in less than a second.
She pushed her hands up under his shirt at the same time he spread his palms beneath her tank across the soft skin of her back.
He needed her bare. Now.
She rocked in his lap, her tongue mingling, dancing and duelling with his.
His abs quivered under her seeking fingers and Pete’s heart hit overdrive. He kissed her harder, pressing her into his chest until her hands had no room to roam and her breasts were flat.
Nikki moaned and kept his pace, slanting her mouth against his again and again.
A voice popped up in his head to stop, reminding him this wasn’t right, but there was no saying no.
She was passion and heat, and he needed her.
“Pete,” Nikki breathed against his mouth.
He stopped kissing her though his body screamed a protest, and pulled back to meet her eyes. Heavy-lidded and almost black, he read desire as strong as his. Pete’s cock throbbed.
They panted against each other.
“Darlin’? Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head. “I want to go to your room. Now.”

Crossing Forces series:

Small Town Texas doesn't always mean small time crime.
Welcome to Antioch, population fifty thousand.
With a police department full of detectives and officers who are good at what they do, throw in the occasional FBI agent, and the bad guy doesn't have a shot, no matter how big the crime.
They work together and fight together. Relationships will be forged and changed along the twists and turns.
When fate intervenes, love and happiness can be found in unlikely places.

Crossing Forces by C.A. Szarek

This is book two in the Crossing Forces series
Vowing to protect her had nothing to do with feelings.
Detective Pete Crane catches a new shooting case and considers it business-as-usual. But when the lead witness is the Chief of Police’s fiery assistant, he never anticipated she’d challenge him—personally and professionally. Especially while under his protection.
Little do they know, the shooting she and her grandmother witnessed was anything but random.
Thrown together, their attraction sizzles, even though she’s squarely in the no-fly zone. She makes him break every rule in his little black book.
Nikki Harper has been attracted to Pete since they met two years ago. Witnessing a brutal shooting throws her into a stigma that’s always been her greatest fear—a victim. She has no choice but to accept his protective custody and let him help save her and her beloved grandmother.
Can Pete protect his witness and solve the case, while fighting the intense heat with Nikki?
Buy Now @ Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Totally Bound | ARe | Sony | Kobo | Barnes&Noble
Genre – Romantic Suspense
Rating – R
More details about the author
Connect with C.A. Szarek on Facebook & Twitter

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fool for Love by Merry Farmer @MerryFarmer20

Chapter Four

The Majestic rose up out of the water in its Liverpool dock with all the glory of its name.  Amelia held one hand to her hat and stared at its iron sides, its two dun-colored funnels and three tall masts.  The ship was a strange thing to her, a mixture of old and new, progress with hints of the past.  It had sails that could be unfurled in a pinch, but with its powerful new engines, the ship could cross the ocean in a week.

Seven days to a new world.  It was an exact description of everything her life had become.  It was every bit as daunting.

“What am I doing?” Amelia whispered, staring at the hopeful monstrosity in front of her.  It was one thing to accept an offer for a new life.  It was another thing entirely to go through with it.

She turned away from the ship, swallowing the nausea that had plagued her since she’d left her mother’s house.  This time it wasn’t morning sickness.  That was long past.  At the moment, the baby was the least of her worries.  Her stomach rolled over the idea that she was about to board a ship heading for a new life at the mercy of a stranger, a man, no less.  The last time she had trusted her life and her future to a man had been a disaster.

She paced, purse clutched to her chest, scanning the busy dock in search of her American savior.  Men, women, and children crowded the gangplanks, eager to start their journeys, excited and hopeful.  Many of the third-class passengers carried bundles that indicated theirs was a one-way trip as much as hers was.  Eric had left her there to go buy her ticket, but there was nothing stopping him from running off and leaving her stranded.  Like her father.  Like Nick.  She was a fool to agree to this.  She pivoted and marched away from the ship.

No, she stopped herself after a handful of steps, this was the best decision she could have made.  She may have felt small and lonely standing by herself, waiting, heart and stomach fluttering, but she was as much a part of the intrepid adventurers seeking a new life in America as any of her fellow passengers.  This was right.


“Well, we got a minor problem on our hands.”

The twang of Eric’s accent shocked Amelia from her worries.  She spun to face him as he approached her with wide strides, scratching his head and looking as guilty as a schoolboy.

“A problem?” she asked, voice fluttering.

“Yeah.  I went to buy you a ticket, but they’re plumb sold out.”

Amelia’s chest tightened and her tender stomach lurched.  “Oh.  Oh dear.  Well I suppose….”

She lowered her eyes, heart aquiver.  As quickly as it started, her chance for a new life was over.  All that worrying for nothing.

She squared her shoulders to face her fate.  “I … I thank you for your efforts on my behalf regardless, Mr. Quinlan.”

Eric’s brow crinkled into a curious frown.  “Regardless?”

“I suppose I could find work here in Liverpool,” she explained.  “Surely there must be a shop somewhere that would look the other way from….”  She lowered her hand to the mound of her stomach.

Eric’s lips twitched.  The morning sunlight caught in his eyes.  “I didn’t want to have to put you in third-class, so I told them you were my wife.”

Amelia blinked.  “You what?”

“I told them we’re newlyweds.  I reserved my stateroom in first class last year when I came over.  Good thing I paid for it then too, ‘cuz after this fiasco of a trip I’ll never ride first-class again.  Anyhow, when they said they didn’t have any more rooms, I told them you were my wife and that we would be staying in the same stateroom.  They sold me a ticket for that.”  He handed her a fresh, clean ticket with her name written as ‘Mrs. Amelia Quinlan’.  “Sorry.”

Amelia held perfectly still on the outside, but on the inside her heart pounded and her stomach rolled with guilt for questioning him.  He wasn’t abandoning her.  He had gone out of his way to help her.  Her heart squeezed as it never had before.  She took the ticket from him with a trembling hand, hardly noticing when her fingers brushed his.  She was rescued after all.

“Thank you, Mr. Quinlan.  You have no idea how much this kindness means to me.”  She had to concentrate on breathing, standing straight, and looking up into his handsome eyes with a smile to keep her tears at bay.

“You don’t mind sharing then?” he asked her.


Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Western Historical Romance

Rating – R

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Author Interview – Ian Truman @iantruman

Image of Ian Truman

When did you first know you could be a writer?

Only a few years ago. I was always writing songs for my bands or short, short stories. I tried writing political essays or papers, did a few zines. I studied political science for a year then left because it really wasn’t me. I didn’t even know you could go to college to study writing (like, fiction writing) until my spouse (who was then my new girlfriend) just said one day “Why don’t you go back to college. You can take writing classes and you’d be good at it.” And I said “That’s a program?!?” Turns out Concordia admitted something like 40 new student a year in creative writing programs (drama, fiction and poetry combined). I had to apply twice before I got in, but I did.

What inspires you to write and why?

All things of life and a lot of art. I feel inspired by the everyday lives of “common” people. But on the other hand, I also like these huge surrealist worlds where you can allow your imagination to run wild. So far my work had been very realistic, very down to earth, but I know I have these stories in me that will require me to work in more surrealist ways.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?


I didn’t plan to be a noir writer. It’s not like it’s a very popular genre anyways and I thought “Wow! I can make a fuckload of money doing this.” But what I do comes out dark, so I roll with it. I’d like to think I write what Lehane once called “literary noir,” and hopefully that’s what readers will feel as well.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first (short) novel was The Factory Line and it’s a true-ish account of life in a Montreal factory. I worked a lot of shitty jobs and odd jobs back in the day and it provided me with enough material to write a novel.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

When I was younger, it was Bukowski, but I don’t think I write like him or that we are driven by the same things. I like the fact that he “had” to write, but then again, his stuff is mostly about being drunk and/or an asshole. I mean, I loved Post Office because I felt I could relate to a shitty work environment, but the whole “I’m drunk so fuck you” thing is really not like me at all and I got out of it quickly.

I then found Mordecai Richler and Truman Capote. I mean, you can’t try to write like someone else did, it probably won’t be good anyways, but I think that we’re in the ball park if you compare my stuff to Richler and Capote.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

Music is always important. There are a handful of artists and songwriters that have influenced me in a positive way. I often cite Jabob Bannon, but I could also include White Trash Rob from Blood for Blood, As far as novelists goes, one professor game me Faulkner to read a few years ago and it change the way I see literature.

What made you want to be a writer?

I can’t pin point one thing. I just always kinda wrote. I used to think I could be the lead singer in a successful punk/hardcore band. When that went south, I turned to writing instead. At one point, Mary (my spouse) just turned around and said, “But why don’t you make a living out of this.” I never thought I could and writing still don’t pay the rent but the inspiration still keeps coming, so why stop?

A Teenage Suicide

“All they really wanted to do was fuck around, be creative, listen to music, skateboard or go to shows. People kept telling them growing up was supposed to be tough but it’s not like they didn’t know that already. Timmy had listened. Timmy had finished school and got himself a job. That didn’t stop him from running his van into a pillar one night so what was the fucking use? Nobody seemed to have an answer.“

Conor and his friends are growing up in a one factory town where the most likely employment prospect is the assembly line or the farmer’s coop. Aiming higher than the local college, Conor finds himself spending more and more time in downtown Montreal, discovering himself through punk and hardcore music. But as his girlfriend wants nothing to do with the city and his friend Jake loses his brother when the factory closes, Conor’s ambitions could require him to burn bridges he might not be ready to burn.

With A Teenage Suicide, Ian wanted to write a story about kids making decisions and kids making mistakes. Stylistically, it is fair to mention influences of Truman Capote and Mordecai Richler. Imagine of the “cold-hard-fact” descriptions of In Cold Blood mixed with the realistic and witty dialogue of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

Ian Truman is a hardcore kid turned writer. He proudly claims to be from a working class family and has been straight edge and vegetarian for at least a decade now. He hopes to bring the passion, verve and dedication of hardcore into the art form of the novel. Born and raised in Montreal, he is a graduate of Concordia University’s creative writing program. A Teenage Suicide is his third novel.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords

Genre - Literary, Coming of Age

Rating – PG13

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Monday, February 24, 2014

RJ Blain's Thoughts on Why Mentors are Important @RJ_Blain #writetip #amwriting #amreading

Many amateur writers work alone, trying to navigate through the murky waters of traditional or self-publishing without any form of mentorship or help. Some turn to websites for knowledge, other turn to books. Some turn to critique partners or other writers they know.
Very few connect with a mentor who can help guide them through the more difficult elements of the publishing world.
Who is a Mentor?
Mentors are individuals with experience in the field you need to learn about. They’re teachers, coaches, advice givers, and people you trust to give you information. They’re often people who have been in the same situation you have been in, so they’re able to share their personal experiences with you as you work on finding your own way.
Why are Mentors Important?
Those who don’t learn the past are doomed to repeat it. This saying is a pretty good explanation about why having a mentor is so important. There are a lot of dos and don’ts in the publishing world. Sometimes, breaking the rules (both unspoken and spoken) result in nothing more than embarrassment. Sometimes, however, these rules can lead to closed doors on good opportunities. Learning from a mentor gives you a much better chance of not accidentally burning bridges with publishing professionals, cover artists, editors, and readers.
Some bridges can be mended with time. However, some mistakes can live on to haunt you months and years down the road.
In addition to preventing errors, mentors are able to point out ways you can increase your chances of breaking out as a successful author. What worked for one person may not work for another, however. It’s important that you remember there is a certain amount of luck involved with a writer becoming successful overnight.
Mentors can help you Strategize. 
For those of us who don’t become an overnight hit, a good long-term strategy is a requirement. Mentors can’t (and shouldn’t) do all of the work for you, but they can really help you learn about what makes for a good author strategy. Depending on your relationship with your mentor, they might even be able to help you execute that strategy by offering suggestions on improving your newsletters, your website, and all of the elements of your book.
Agents and Editors can be Mentors
Mentors may sound like something up the alley of a self-published author, but in the traditional publication world, your agent or editor may also be the one serving as your mentor. These people make their living helping authors become successful in the mainstream markets.
Other Authors as Mentors
More often than not, your mentor will be another author who has been there and done that. This has the potential to cause friction, however.
Making the Most of your Mentor
If you’re asking an author, editor, or agent for advice, it is important that you consider what they have told you before reacting or making a decision. Having a mentor is pointless if you don’t listen to what they say. You may not use the advice that they give, but consider their advice seriously. This way, you make informed decisions about your growing career while still forging your own path.
Good luck!
Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.
When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.
But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG - 13
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Survivors of #sexualabuse are invisible? ... Chatting with #Author Ty Johnson-Anderson @invisible_soror

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I have it a lot. To get over it I usually have a conversation with someone or myself. That usually gets my ideas to flow.
How did you come up with the title?
Survivors of sexual abuse are often demeaned down to statistics, in essence we are invisible. We walk among society wearing a mask. We are a sorority of women invisible to even each other, hence, The Invisible Sorority.
Who designed the cover?
My cover was a combination of my ideas and a contracted individual. She does a lot of my work, from my eBooks to my published works.
Who is your publisher?
I self-published my book. I could not wait for someone else to deem my topic important enough to want to publish. If I would be still stuck with marketing my own material I might as well have creative control over the book as well.
Why did you choose to write this particular book?
I write to inspire survivors of sexual assault with my story. As survivors, we often walk around in our own little bubble thinking we are alone in our plight. And we aren’t. I want them to know, there are other Invisible Sorority members among us and we need to step out of the shadow of guilt and support one another.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Putting it out to the public and opening myself up to criticism. My life is in the book, it isn’t fiction, it’s all me. Bare to the world. That’s totally scary, but it’s a story that needs to be told and if it helps one person than it is totally worth it.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
One should stop holding on to negativity. I was once told that holding a glass of water for an hour may not prove hard, but holding it for hours may leave your arm numb. Think about what that is for when you hold that negativity in your heart. Your heart will become numb, incapable of loving someone else because you are too absorbed about the past. We have to let it go.
How much of the book is realistic?
Absolutely 100%. Every horrid detail in the book is something I went through/felt/still feel. I’ve left some details out as it brings back so much bad juju but, my book is my soul on paper.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Absolutely! I carry a book around I call my “Wild A$$ Ideas” book that is full of book titles and synopsis’, so there will definitely be follow on books.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I see myself hosting annual Invisible Sorority slumber party retreats. Speaking at schools, trying to change the way we teach our children about sexual relationships. Eventually, The Invisible Sorority will be a non-profit organization that can host summer camps for preteen girls to teach respect for themselves and to build a network of adult women they can speak to for matters they wouldn’t want to bring to their parents.
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
One should stop holding on to negativity. I was once told that holding a glass of water for an hour may not prove hard, but holding it for hours may leave your arm numb. Think about what that is for when you hold that negativity in your heart. Your heart will become numb, incapable of loving someone else because you are too absorbed about the past. We have to let it go.

Ty Johnson-Anderson is the creator of The Invisible Sorority, a community of intimate partner sexual assault victims ushering one another into healing and thriving post-assault. Ty launched the movement, I Am Not Invisible, in an effort to humanize the victimless statistics. Once a young adult spiraling out of control, she has managed to emotionally liberate herself from her dark past and move forward to manifest her future. She lives in Edgewood, Maryland with her wonderful husband and beautiful little girl. Visit her at
The Invisible Sorority will show you:
Why forgiveness can be your best healing tool
Several techniques you can use to heal your heart through mastering your mind via hypnosis and guided meditations
How to increase your ability to manifest your ideal future
How to embrace your tears to strenthen your emotional stability
Improve your sex life using several intimacy exercises designed to show you to live in the NOW
The invisible sorority is like a phone conversation with your best friend. It will inspire you to make positive changes in your life while helping you to ease the pain of your past assault.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Non-Fiction, Self Help-Abuse
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Ty Johnson-Anderson on Facebook & Twitter

Friday, February 21, 2014

A 3rd Time to Die by George Bernstein @georgebernstein #pnr #bookreview #reviewshare

A 3rd Time to DieA 3rd Time to Die by George Bernstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is so well written and heartfelt that without the paranormal elements, it is hard to believe it is fiction. The major question A 3rd Time to Die tries to answer is - what is another definition for love? Commitment? Devotion? Sweet pain? Perseverance? Acceptance?

Both main characters have to make choices which helps them learn, give, receive, and grow in a relationship. Maybe all that comes close. Imperfect people loving imperfect people, finding out who they are between their past lives and present time.

I delight in being surprised in the books I read, and it's fun to discover the surprises in this one. Authors who give courageously, who put themselves out there for the world to see, who help me see the world in a new way, are tops in my estimation, and George Bernstein does it with A 3rd Time to Die.

This book is so worth reading, it is thought provoking and very real. The author is so accomplished at characterization that I could clearly see from Ashley's viewpoint and why she acted in the manner that she did. I truly felt a strong connection with the main characters.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

The Flowers Sleep Tonight: #Excerpt from Shy Feet by Frances M. Thompson @bushbirdie #contemporary

The following is an extract from The Flowers Sleep Tonight, one of the twelve short stories in Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel.
Finding her was easy. Approaching her was not.
We made “friends” on the night we met, thanks to an Internet connection and an app on our phones. Like me, she has people that she needs to keep in touch with, so I was able to keep my eye on her from that moment onwards. And when I felt the time was right, I made sure I saw her again. I didn’t even have to change my plans much. I was back in Europe. She was just a flight and a little organisation away.
I was called an “old romantic” seven times today as I flashed her photo in the faces of hostel owners. Yet none of them would tell me if they’d given her a bed to sleep in. None of them even seemed that keen to help me, despite my wide smile and clean shirt.
Foiled and frustrated, I began walking back to my hotel so I could go back to the Internet for answers. With each step, I felt Barcelona’s late summer heat rise through its pavement and bursting bubbles of sweat quickly dirtied my shirt. I started thinking that I would never see her again and that I would never get to finish this. It was then that my old friend Fate stepped in, as he often does.
There she was, literally crossing my path.
She walked out of a shop door ahead and sauntered away from me. I checked for the skinny ankles, the silver bracelet on her left wrist and the bouncing blonde hair. It was her.
El Born’s narrow alleyways allowed me to follow at a short distance. I watched her meander without a map, her pace slow and her feet happy to pause in front of graffiti-covered doors and shop windows. When she reached a square and looked around her, I hung back in the shadow of a shop awning and lit a cigarette. She eventually sat at a table and that was when I started to notice the changes in her.
When we first met she sat in on herself, folded arms and downward eyes. Back then, she was still finding her feet as a solo traveller; she didn’t yet know the liberating power of time alone in a foreign land. You can’t teach people that joy; that pure pleasure of taking time to roam the world by yourself, doing exactly what you want, what you please, what you love to do. But now she knows. Her back was flat against the back of the chair and her head was tilted up to the sun. She was in no rush. She was content. And she was very much in public.
Maybe this was going to be harder than I thought.
There is only so much travel a girl can take.
I felt it grow inside me like a tumour; the realisation that I don’t want to travel anymore. It happened gradually but now I am swamped with symptoms. Everything I hear is tinged with a high pitched shrill and my insides ache from too much alcohol, too much sugar, too much too much. Seventeen months, twenty-eight countries, one hundred and twenty-seven different beds; it’s too much and I give in. I fold. Travel has lost its spark, its charm and its preciousness.
I am full of experiences, but I am empty of energy.
Thailand, Cambodia and Laos you were a trio of goodness to me, my mind and my bank balance, but you were lousy for my liver.
China, you blew my mind, not always in a good way.
Japan, you kept me longer than you should have. That’s a compliment.
India, you ruined my insides but enriched my soul; I’ve never seen colour or chaos like you.
Brazil, you were a welcome detour, opening doors to the continent that changed my understanding of passion. For passion is not just what happens when the lights and your clothes go off, passion can and should be found in the everyday things that enrich your life; the wine you share with a friend, sitting down to a family meal or singing along to your favourite song, no matter how badly.
In Mexico, I rediscovered the calming sensation of sand between my toes and sun on my back. Your beaches were beautiful but your nights were boozy and I have the awkward memories of a German guy - whose name I forgot - to prove it.
Europe, you felt like home, but a more mature version. It’s you who made me start to slow down. Trips went from days to weeks and I followed my dreams without consideration of the cost. I climbed your Alps in Switzerland, I saw Greece’s infinite islands from the side of a boat and I ate Italy’s sun-blessed food with delicious abandon.
And now I’m drowning in the noise and smells of Spain, a country I thought I’d love but am struggling to even like. But I know it’s not Spain, it’s me.
Surrounded by the bustle of Barcelona – an unforgivingly alive city - I feel at peace with what I must do. I can feel the pull. I must return to my little big island on the other side of the world.
I needed calm and quiet to come to these conclusions. The hostel wasn’t a bad one. It was clean and my earplugs kept me asleep, but this morning I waited many minutes before opening my eyes because I didn’t want to wake up and see another stranger. Instead, I lay still, praying for solitude and letting a few tears slip down onto my musty pillow.
It took me twenty minutes to pack up, pay up and leave. An hour later, I was lying on the cool cotton sheets of a four-star hotel bed. Apparently privacy costs 150 Euros a night in this town; the same price as three weeks in a Thai beach hut. I handed over my credit card without blinking.
The room wasn’t perfect but once the door was closed, it was paradise.
I’m not sure if I fell in love. I don’t think so. I’ve been in love before, when I was eighteen years old. It was wonderful and horrible. I couldn’t see straight for weeks after it ended. I said never again. But as soon as I saw this woman with wild hair and a curled smile, I felt something wake up inside me.
The moment she went cold on me is a vivid, frozen memory. I was inside her and I was so aware of it that I couldn’t catch a breath, let alone move with any grace or tenderness. I knew what was wrong; I cared. I cared for her and I didn’t know why. I barely knew her. How had she tricked me into caring?
It left me stilted and almost paralysed. She turned her face to the side and didn’t look back until it was over.
The following morning she was gone. Nobody knew where or why. I spent the next few days searching other hostels and hotels. It’s maddening that I had to use the same photo and broken Spanish today. It shouldn’t have taken me that long to realise she’d left to escape me.
That was when I got angry and I knew I had to find her.
"This collection of stories is like a blanket woven from 100% wanderlust under which you can hide as Frances M. Thompson tucks you in with her words and keeps you warm with her descriptions of characters you'll love and places you can tell she knows by heart." Gesa Neitzel,
Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel is a collection of twelve quirky, charismatic and touching tales of travel.
The inquisitive Ruth tells the story of The Lost Children of Gatwick Airport and in Max's Holiday we learn what a seven-year-old boy considers a "proper holiday" to be. In The Flowers Sleep Tonight, we meet Thomas and Carly, two solo travellers whose paths keep crossing... because that's exactly what Thomas wants. A spontaneous plan to elope is revealed in The Runaways and Homes from Homes is about the lessons Patricia learns from the hotel bellboy she has a fling with. Oh, Henry is the story of how a dream holiday can mean two different things to two lovers and Katie's Maps is an offbeat love letter to a vast collection of maps. Extracts from a travel journal tell one woman's life story in All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles and find out what Australia and underpants have to do with Claudia wanting to leave her husband of forty years in The Road is Long.
From the unforgiving Australian Outback to the jagged beauty of the Amalfi Coast, along the pebbled beaches of Brighton & Hove and down the busy streets of late night Barcelona, this collection of short stories highlights how travel intersects and enriches all of our lives, often without us realising it...
"Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel transports you to exotic locales without leaving your armchair and leaves you wanting more... Frances M. Thompson has a novel in her and I can't wait to read it." Nathalie Harris,
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Genre – Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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