Wednesday, 6 January 2021

A Story Based (Partly) On My Father's WWII Experience

 


This picture was painted by my father in 1944 during his time in Egypt, WWII

My father enlisted with the British Army in 1939 and was sent overseas from England to Egypt. I have the diary he kept during 1943. He was a Captain.
This painting is obviously not of the desert where he was stationed, but was painted during his time there, in 1944. He would have been 27 years old. 

This is a fictional story, but is partly based on his experience as well as on my mother's. I have taken lots of liberties! (My father didn't suffer from dementia, for example).

Also, you will note that there are six words shown in italics. This piece was written for, and read to, the Uxbridge Writers' Circle, as a 'word challenge' story - these words had to be included!

I hope you enjoy this story.
You will find many more in this blog!

THE DESERT

He liked to reminisce about his time in the war, and his propensity to live in the past had increased during recent years.

Gertie was thoroughly fed up with hearing the same old stories over and over again. It wasn’t as if there was anything interesting, exciting or thrilling about them. Roger spent almost all of the war in the desert, and it sounded virtually serene to Gertie. While she was hiding in the dark, dank bomb shelter, he taught art to his mates, and perhaps went to see a movie in Cairo. While she heard the muffled sounds of bombs exploding and pulverizing homes, he listened to ballads sung by crooners in the hotel he visited several times.

Roger held their first great-grandchild in his arms, and this gave him a captive audience, who’d listen without comment on the story of his life. Gertie thought it was just as well he had no horror stories, that he’d been spared from front-line action, and had worked on designing camouflage for the desert environment.

Gertie didn’t like to reminisce at all. If she started to think back to before her emigration to Canada, the memories disturbed and agitated her. She’d trained herself to switch her focus to pleasant thoughts, to more recent events, such as their grandson’s wedding. Unfortunately, she couldn’t talk to Roger about that because he couldn’t remember anything about it. He’d immersed himself in the sands of the desert to such an extent - the camel rides, the horses, the tank he nearly buried by driving it around in circles - that it had become his current reality.

Gertie had teetered on the edge and even packed a suitcase, but then changed her mind. If you can’t beat them, then join them, her father used to say. So, she bought an old army tent, and cut it up, hanging pieces of it on various walls. She researched and collected World War II British Army memorabilia and converted the house into a kind of museum. She never had liked Vera Lynn’s singing – she was one of the few who wasn’t a fan – but his favourites were played repeatedly during each afternoon. He was served his lunch in tin containers on a tray.

Not entirely true to the time, he ate while sitting in his recliner with a cushion at his back.

Gertie believed that her acceptance of his short-term memory loss and her encouragement of him to remember the past, had helped to slow his inevitable decline. Perhaps it wouldn’t have worked for others whose memories were filled with traumatic events.

Gertie had no desire to live in the past. It was just as well that Roger’s early life had been completely separate, and rarely conjured up bad recollections for her. They had been in different parts of the world, and encountered different challenges. Roger dealt with heat and sandstorms, Gertie dealt with cold and hunger, and shrapnel falling around her. Roger had bedbugs for company at night, Gertie had a dirty blanket to pull around her as she sat on the cold, wet floor in the near-dark bomb shelter. Roger swept sand out of the huts. Gertie threw buckets of water on roofs.

Roger couldn’t remember where the baby had come from, who he was holding in his arms and telling stories to. Gertie didn’t push it, but just mentioned he was Simon’s son, knowing full well he wouldn’t remember who Simon was. He handed the baby to Gertie, having lost interest, and picked up his pipe. He didn’t smoke any more, but the feel of it in his hands gave him comfort.

He looked at Gertie and she knew he couldn’t figure out who she was. His eyes lit up a little, but Gertie could see that he didn’t really know.

The baby left, and the sadness at the family leaving her, hit her deep and hard.

Back to her life in the desert.

He took the cup and saucer from her but didn’t seem to know what to do with them. After some encouragement from Gertie, he took a couple of sips.

It happened like a lightening strike, out of nowhere. But it was as if he’d planned it. In a flash, he leant forward and pulled out a large kitchen knife. Gertie thought he was adjusting the cushion.

He stabbed her in the stomach and then stabbed himself.

He died before the ambulance arrived, but Gertie eventually recovered after some time in hospital and more time with her daughter. The house was sold.

The family blame Gertie. They say, because she allowed him to believe he was still in the army, he thought she was the enemy. But Gertie says he wouldn’t have killed himself, and he’d never killed or attempted to kill anyone before.

But her son asked how she knew that.

Anything could have happened in that desert. 


Vicky Earle Copyright 2021



Friday, 11 December 2020

Our Horses!


 I'm a Kittyhawk 

We're caring for two retired thoroughbred racehorses/broodmares at home (Lions Raw and I'm a Cheetah), as well as I'm Dashing, our two-year-old, who we plan to race next year at Woodbine Racetrack. He's taking it easy because he has the beginnings of a bone chip on his left knee. We want the bone to heal well before he goes back into training in the spring. He's on a special supplement as well as good feed, and he's restricted to a small round pen or his stall. 

We also have Dani's Victory at home. We own 50% of this racehorse. He did well this year, including a win on August 9:

I'm a Kittyhawk is the daughter of I'm a Cheetah and the granddaughter of Lions Raw and the mother of I'm Dashing. She doesn't live on our farm at the moment because we don't have sufficient space to provide a separate area for her. 

We also own 30% of a two-year-old we co-own with some friends. He suffered a minor injury and is also taking it easy and will go back into training in the spring.
 
I use my experience of horse ownership and horseracing, as well as country-living - including pet ownership - to fuel ideas for stories for my books. 
So far, I've written three mystery novels - the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series, and am editing the fourth in the series. Check out the December e-book promotion! 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Mystery Series E-Book Promotion!

 


All three books in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series are available at special discount prices during the month of December: each reduced by about $1. E-book retailers' prices can vary, so these are approximate:

What Happened to Frank?: 99c;    Link to 1st book in series

Over Frank's Dead Body: $1.99;    Link to 2nd book in series

Pointed Attacks: $2.99                    Link to 3rd book in series

Each link takes you to the e-book retailer of your choice.

Soft-cover versions are available at Blue Heron Books located in Uxbridge. These are being offered at the special price of $17.99 each. 

If you can't make it to Blue Heron, contact@vickyearle.com and I can arrange to get copies to you!

Boxed sets of all 3 books are available upon request. Books make great gifts!

And - yes - a fourth book in the series is on its way. I'm editing! I'm hoping for a book launch in late spring/early summer. 

Happy Reading! and stay safe and healthy. I hope that 2021 is a better year for all of us. 



Monday, 16 November 2020

The Cavern - A Story

 


Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabyay


This story was written for a Uxbridge Writers' Circle Meeting. The words in italics are the ones we were challenged to include in our writing. I hope you enjoy "The Cavern":

Carter had no desire to visit Benwick’s Cavern near the Devon coast. It was bad enough that he’d allowed himself to be cajoled into a trip to the southwest of England. He considered the area to be backward – what it lacked in culture it made up for with noisy amusement arcades and trashy souvenir shops.

Carter was a city man who loved the world of finance and international business, with its busy days and packed schedules. He even liked riding up the lift in the centre of Toronto, to the 60th floor, and striding along the corridor to his corner office to sit in his executive leather chair.

But he did allow himself a seat in the theatre now and again, or a ticket to a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert.

He sat in the Palace Hotel that morning, and appreciated the white linen tablecloths, the silver cutlery and the real carnation. The buffet breakfast was pretty decent too. This was better than he’d feared. His room was tolerable, with its large ensuite bathroom and comfortable bed.

But all these satisfactory things weren’t enough to persuade him it was worth his while to dress down – to don jeans and a sweater to visit a dark, dank, dripping cavern. He’d picked up a pamphlet on Benwick’s Cavern from the display in the hotel lobby. But the poor quality pictures of stalactites and stalagmites, along with the slimy, shiny walls, just served to make him even more disgruntled.

Carter folded his linen napkin and placed it with precision, parallel to the table’s edge. He finished his strong coffee and replaced the cup onto the saucer without a sound, and prepared to leave. Maggie and John said they would pick him up at ten. They were bound to be late but he needed to be on time.

He stood outside the revolving door and the damp air seeped through his clothes in an instant. He viewed this as an ominous omen for the day. He put his new rain jacket on and told himself if Maggie and John didn’t show up within five minutes, he’d go back to his room.

But they did show up, laughing at some idiotic joke as they waved and came to an abrupt halt in front of the hotel. Maggie had yet to master a manual gearbox, so the drive to the cavern was far from smooth, and the space in the back of the car didn’t come close to being enough for Carter’s comfort, being much more cramped than he was used to. He tried to cross his legs and couldn’t. Maggie’s sparkly eyes caught his, in the rear-view mirror, and he gave her a weak smile.

There was an introduction to the guided tour, with great emphasis placed on how dangerous it was to attempt to go under or over the railing. Children must be supervised at all times. Carter tuned out and looked around him. The predictable gift shop guarded the entrance and notices had been erected in numerous spots. The lawyers would have made a buck or two out of these, Carter thought. His feet were cold. His leather shoes were not a good choice. He noticed a lot of colourful rubber boots.

At last, the guide beckoned the group to follow, but Carter hung back. He planned to trail behind. He’d let others be within earshot of the enthusiastic commentator. The gravel pathway gave way to slimy stone and Carter grew concerned as his shoes failed to grip. Their leather soles gave no pretense at providing any traction. Traction was not something Carter needed. His driver would bring the car to the door in the heated garage at work and the same at home.

Carter was glad he was at the back of the group. He could hold onto the railing as they descended down the slippery slopes which led further into the hillside. He thought of turning back but hadn’t made note of which way they’d come, or if there were several choices or not – he thought there were. He’d noticed that the lights came on automatically as the group approached them. Would they light up for him if he went back? What if they suddenly turned off? He wasn’t sure his mobile’s flashlight would be enough.

A scream. And it didn’t come from him. It was piercing and followed by sobs. But the guide hadn’t heard it and, if anyone in the group had noticed, they didn’t let on. The lights behind Carter went out, but there was still enough light for him to make out a mother crouched down, holding a child who had an arm outreached towards the railing.

Carter edged towards them. They were in semi-darkness now.

“What’s the matter?” asked Carter.

“My giraffe. I dropped my giraffe.” The child burst into uncontrollable sobs as the mother, crouched down beside him, held him firmly in her arms.

“It’s okay,” the mother said to Carter. “He has other toys.”

“I want my giraffe.” The child kicked out and hit his mother. Carter became concerned. What if the child broke loose and got under the railing?

“I’ll get it,” said Carter, before he had a chance to think rationally or develop a plan. He took his mobile out of his pocket, got the flashlight working and shone it over the railing.

“Please don’t even try,” the mother said as she held onto the child’s writing body. “It’s not a stuffed toy, it’s made of wood and it’s breakable. It’ll be in pieces, falling on the rocks like that.”

“Ganpa gave it. Ganpa made it.” The child kicked out again.

“I will get it,” Carter said, as he placed a hand on the boy’s head. “But only if you stop kicking and screaming.” His deep, authoritative voice seemed to do the trick. The child turned his flushed face with its swollen eyes towards him and stopped his tantrum.

Carter took off his shoes. To give her credit, the mother didn’t make any comment – on this lack of suitability for a visit to the cavern. He rolled off his socks and folded each of them and placed them in his shoes. He could see the giraffe in the gulley and asked the mother to hold his phone so the light would stay focused on the toy.

They were right. It was dangerous to venture past the railing and negotiate the downwards slope of smooth, wet stone. He lost his balance and fell, but only his dignity was damaged. The gulley was about 15 feet deep and he’d slipped about two feet from the bottom.

The giraffe was lodged into a crevice but Carter was able to remove it with just one minor scratch. He crammed it into his pocket and scrambled back up the slope.

The child hugged his legs so hard that Carter thought he might lose his balance, and the mother gave him a peck on the cheek. What was this strange warm feeling tingling his insides?

“We need to catch up with the group somehow,” the mother said.

Carter said the child could ride on his shoulders, but the mother would have to alert him when they came to low parts. By the time they got back outside, Carter had a sore head from being pummeled by a wooden giraffe and a stiff back, but he’d made a lifetime friend in Annie.

He was so glad he visited Benwick’s Cavern.

It changed his life.


Vicky Earle Copyright 2020


Thursday, 1 October 2020

Here's a bit of flash fiction!

 


This piece was written in a flash - ten minutes during a meeting of the Uxbridge Writers' Circle

The prompt was "Children in a Tree" by the artist Alex Colville (sorry, the image above is obviously not that picture!). 

Lewis has always contended that being left stranded in the large, leafy oak tree caused him permanent damage. It wasn't so much the broken leg that he suffered when he finally tumbled to the ground, but the sense of abandonment. He'd thought that his older brother, nine years old at the time, loved him, or at the very least cared about him. He believed they had fun playing together, laughing together, chasing the dog together. To find out, in such a hurtful way, that he was completely and utterly wrong, shattered him. His legs had trembled and the tears flowed, seemingly unstoppable, as he'd tried to climb down. Losing his grip, he'd landed on the acorn-covered ground and heard someone screaming - it had been him. 

     Several years later, he enrolled in the same university his brother was attending. He'd managed to keep his distance, somehow, all that time after the oak tree incident, but their father had decided that they were to share an apartment, and wouldn't hear of anything different. Neither boy, or young man now, wanted to live in close proximity to the other. 

     Lewis moved in first, followed the next day by Bret, who didn't say a word. But after a couple of beers, Bret told him that their father had caned him for leaving Lewis in the tree and he still had the scars. 

     They talked at last. 

Vicky Earle copyright 2020

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

New Stories Posted On Short Stories Page

 




I belong to the Uxbridge Writers' Circle uxbridgewriterscircle.blogspot.ca and part of the fun is writing stories that use pre-selected words. 

I have just posted seven stories that I've written over the past few months. The pre-selected words are shown in italics. You can click on the Short Stories header, or you can click on this link: Short Stories Page

Here's a few words on each:

"Plans": About a person who has a troubled upbringing and is in a "weird" relationship. 

"Moxie": About a horse that is at the racetrack during the pandemic. 

"Dream Vacation": About making a significant life-changing decision (very loosely based on my own experience).

"A Little Too Late": A woman's three marriages, her role in their deaths, and her financial ups and downs. 

"Horace and Me":A life-changing event throws two people back together. 

"Gritty Compromise": Winnie wrestles with who she wants to be, reluctant to follow in her father's footsteps. 

"Sisterly Love": I think this says as much as I want to give away!

Hope you enjoy the stories.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

EXCERPT FROM FIRST DRAFT OF FOURTH BOOK IN MEG SHEPPARD MYSTERY SERIES

Painting by Amanda Morgan

There's no book cover design yet for the fourth book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series. 
I have almost finished the first draft, but there is a lot of editing to do!
I am, what they call in the writing world, a 'pantser'. I don't develop an outline for each book before I start writing the story. So, I can change my mind about characters part way through - their traits, their actions, their guilt or innocence.
Even though it can be a challenge, I love editing. 

Here is the promised excerpt, but remember that it's a draft - and the final version could be different!
This starts on page 2:

'Melissa won’t get checked out. She implores me to help find out how the fire started and is convinced that it was no accident. She points out that fire safety regulations are much improved and there are regular inspections. Melissa’s so adamant that I relent, even though I’m to start my volunteer work with the Racehorse Rescue Re-homing and Retirement Society tomorrow.
            Cooper watches us with whiskers twitching as Melissa prepares a light dinner. She won't heed my pleas for her to rest in one of the recliners in the family room while I see to the barn chores.
            After I finish my work in the barn, I put Eagle and Bullet into their stalls for the night. I double-check that I haven’t overlooked any fire hazards before leaving. Images of barns burning and of horses trapped inside disrupt my thoughts and distract me, so I do another inspection and make sure that I maintain my focus this time.
            As satisfied as I can be, I emerge from the barn. Kelly races ahead of me in a silky black and white blur. William is at the back door and she almost bumps into him in her enthusiasm to greet him.
            A whiff of a heavy honey-like scent wafts my way from the large patch of echinacea. A milkweed butterfly flutters across my path as I walk towards William, who stops petting Kelly and puts his large hand on the doorknob.
            “What’s wrong?” he asks.
            “I was going to ask you the same question.”
            “Let’s go in. I expect Melissa will want to hear this.” He opens the door.
            We sit around the kitchen table. Despite the horrific news of the fire, tears of joy threaten to well up in my eyes. Surrounded by trust and love, this is the family I’ve always wanted and never had, until now. I have an urge to hug them both, and have to swallow hard. This isn’t the time to share my feelings. I’m certain William has heard about the fire. It would have hit the news by now.
            “Melissa,” William says, “I can’t remember if this is one of your workdays at the track.”
            “It was. You’ve heard about the fire, haven’t you?” She coughs. William gets up and pours a glass of water for her.
            “You should have that cough checked, and you’d be well-advised to get some eyedrops.”
            “You see, Melissa, William agrees with me.” And, although she won’t admit it, I think she's been traumatized by the fire. She might need counselling as well as a medical examination.
            “What do you know?” asks William.
            “What do you mean?” I ask.
            “I suppose Edwin must have had to euthanize that horse," Melissa says. "I don’t even know his name. That’s two dead. It’s so horrible.” She lowers her head and rests it on her folded arms which lie on the table. Her blond hair hangs like a curtain around her.
            “I don’t know about the horses,” William says. “Is there anyone you work with who’s missing?”
            Melissa snaps her head up, eyes wide, mouth gaping. “I don’t think so. Why?”
            “A friend from the Coroner’s Office, who knows you work at the track, called to tell me that they’ve received a body recovered from the scene of the fire. A human body, of course.”
            “Oh no!” Melissa grabs her phone and runs upstairs to her room, slamming the kitchen door on her way.
            “I wonder what happened?” I ask, not expecting William to answer.
            “There’s conjecture at the moment that the body is of a hotwalker who was known to sleep in one of the stalls that’s used for storage.”
            “That wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. Every stall would have been full. That’s irrelevant to your story. Who is or was this person?”
            “A lad called Dan, but the identity has not been officially confirmed yet. That’s all I could find out.”
            “That’s so tragic.”
            “Perhaps your racehorse trainer, Neal, knows more. The barn was close to his.”
            “He might have had to evacuate all the horses. I hope they’re okay. Melissa would have said something if not, I’m sure.”
            Just as I pick up the phone to call Neal, his image glows at me.
            “Hi, Neal. What a tragic accident. Are you okay? And the horses?”
            “We’re fine. We didn’t have to move the horses. But it was no accident.”
            “Oh, no.”
            “I overheard the Fire Department guys talking, and they think it was set deliberately. Arson.”
            “That’s disgusting. What a horrible thing to do to the horses. How could anyone do that?”
            “That’s not all. There’s a rumour going around that they took out a body, and it wasn’t a horse.”
            “I’ve heard that too.”
            “News spreads fast here.”
            “I know.”'

Vicky Earle Copyright 2020

To keep updated on my progress on this book, sign up to get email alerts. See my blog. 
Or follow me on twitter or Instagram.
Links are on my blog: Vicky's Blog

If you haven't already read the first three in the series, here are quick links to your favourite e-book retailers: 

And blueheronbooks.com has all three books on their shelves and on their website!

Happy reading!