Thursday, 29 November 2018

"Operation Caper": a story

I wrote this story as my submission to our monthly "word challenge" _ the words I had to use are shown in italics. I had some fun writing this: a departure from the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series (I should be editing my third book!).
Hope you enjoy this!



Mitch was sure he was about to die of boredom as he pushed the tea trolley along the interminable length of the shiny corridor, towards the secret, underground offices of the MI32. The clatter of the cups on the saucers rebounded off the walls and he was pretty sure any enemy of the state could pick up the racket anywhere in the world, given today’s technology.
            A hand dove around in front of him and grabbed his badge.
            “Hey!”
            “It’s okay. It’s me. You can have my badge in exchange.”
            “Come on, don’t be nuts. What’s going on?” Mitch watched with his mouth gaping as his brother, Joe, took off his suit.
            “There are cameras everywhere,” Mitch reminded him.
            “I’ve seen to that,” Joe said. “Now give me your uniform.”
            “What’s going on, Joe, for Pete’s sake?” Mitch could get muddled, but even his brain could tell something was amiss.
            “I’m Mitch now. You’re Agent Joseph Fond, just for one day. Nothing’s going to happen, I promise. Just a routine day at the office. All you have to do is sit at my desk and stare at the computer screen. You’ll be fine.”
            “What about everyone’s tea?”
            “I’ve arranged for Tinman to take over. He’s coming now.” They turned and watched the slow, ponderous metallic robot whirring and creaking. “He’s programmed to deliver the tea, and he knows who wants sugar.”
            “He’ll do a better job.”
            “Yes, he probably will.”
            Mitch smoothed down his hair as Joe gave the black shoes a buff with a bit of spit and a rub with the sleeve of his brother’s uniform.
            “Okay, you’re ready. My badge works the same way as yours, but it gets you in everywhere except the dungeon.”
            “The dungeon’s where they keep the Elephant server.”
            “Only two people have access to the Elephant and I’m not one of them. So, don’t go down there.”
            “Why am I doing this, by the way?”
            “So I can play a round of golf on that new course up in Scotland.”
            “I thought it’d be something important.”
            “It is for me. See ya.” Joe sprinted back down the corridor.
            Mitch soon caught up with Tinman. He had an urge to spray some oil into the robot’s joints. What with the rattling tea trolley and the clanking robot, Mitch could feel a headache coming on. It wasn’t helped by the fact that he sensed eyes on him and that these eyes would know that he’d recently failed all of the MI32 analytical examinations and that he didn’t have the fortitude to be an agent. 
            He accessed Joe’s office without a hitch and sat in the chair which adjusted itself to fit his back, legs and arm lengths, as well as his distance from the computer screen. The sensation of being positioned by the chair made Mitch nauseated and he glanced around to see if there was a waste paper basket. None. No paper anywhere either, he noted.
            “Ah, glad I found you here.” A large man with an incongruous moustache, deep gravelly voice and thick lenses in black-framed glasses almost filled the doorway. “Joe, you must leave immediately. You’ve been assigned to “Operation Caper”. You’ll be briefed by Agent Barking.”
            “Operation Caper?”
            “Thanks, old chap.”
            I’m not old, Mitch thought. He dared not move for fear of the chair re-positioning him again but he would have liked to look in a mirror to check if he’d aged dramatically since he got out of bed that morning.
            “Agent Barking here. We’ve not met.” A lithe woman with long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes grabbed Mitch’s hand with such vigour he reckoned he should ice it afterwards. He moved and the chair started purring, so he sprung up.
            “Oh, is your chair faulty?” Agent Barking asked.
            “I think it must be. Tell me about ‘Operation Caper’.”
            “This is of the utmost importance and, of course, top secret.”
            “Top secret.”
            “We must leave within the hour to fly to Paris.”
            “To Paris.”
            “We must retrieve the stolen data which was collected by the Bubble Telescope and stored in the Elephant.”
            “The Elephant.”
            “Were you aware that the invaluable pictures of AMIS training camps had been stolen?”
            “No, I don’t think I was. Was I?”
            “Probably not. That’s top secret too. Pick up your bag and follow me.”
            Mitch saw a bag in the corner of the office and followed Agent Barking, clutching it to his chest. He wondered if everyone got their tea. He hadn’t seen any sign of Tinman outside his office.
            “Look as relaxed as possible at the airport,” Agent Barking said. “We have special clearance, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
            It was a pretty short flight across the Channel but Mitch was disappointed that he wasn’t flying business class. He wanted to ask Agent Barking so many questions about “Operation Caper” but she was snoring. He could hear her rumbles above the engine noise.
            They landed safely.
            “Once we get to the hotel,” Agent Barking told him, “we must be very cautious. There is a change of clothes in your bag. We have to lie low and not draw attention to ourselves.”
            His room was nice but not extraordinary. Weren’t MI32 agents given suites? He found a pair of jeans and a shirt in the bag, as well as socks and loafers. He changed and made sure he was in the lobby to meet Agent Barking at the precise time she had instructed him to be there.
            She walked towards him wearing slim black slacks and a red, silky blouse. Her make-up highlighted her shimmering blue eyes and bright smile. She grabbed his arm.
            “We need to look like a couple.”
            “A couple.”
            She led him to a pair of imposing, dark-oak doors.
            “We have to meet some important people in here,” she said.  She opened the doors. It was dark. Lights flashed on and a room full of about seventy-five people yelled “surprise!” and then “happy birthday!”.
            Joe bounced over to Mitch and gave him a bear hug.
            “It’s not every day you turn forty and I thought this should be an extra special celebration. I can never thank you enough for saving my life in that op. I know things have been rough for you since then, because of your injuries. Just want to say thanks and many happy returns of the day!” Joe handed him a glass of beer.
            They all lifted their glasses and cheered, breaking into “for he’s a jolly good fellow”. Mitch beamed at them, but deep inside he yearned to be Agent Mitch Fond again, speeding after the bad guys in his Aston Martin, switching on the jet propulsion, firing his missiles and bringing those devils down. But his muddled brain was uncertain as to whether that memory was real or not. He looked around the room and decided that he’d best enjoy this party in Paris. Life is short.
            Agent Barking poured him another beer.

Vicky Earle Copyright 2018
           

           
           

Thursday, 22 November 2018

First Book in Meg Sheppard Mystery Series Available on Kindle

"What Happened to Frank?", the republished version, is now available from Amazon Kindle, ibooks, and many other ebook retailers. If you haven't already read it, you're missing a good mystery!
Bill Bells says "This book reminded my of why I like a good "whodunit". The tight writing and fast pace quickly drew me in and didn't let go of me until the last page. Move over Hercules Poirot and Inspector Banks - there's a new sleuth in town!".
Another review by "Mamoset" says "Thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot and multiple subplots certainly keep you guessing along with the characters - hard to put it down even when my eyes were telling me to sleep."
Danielle Crean says "A terrific read. I loved that every suspect had a secret, making the twists and turns very intriguing."
Please leave your own review at your favourite retailer.
You can find the ebook by clicking here: Universal ebook link to "What Happened to Frank?"
Enjoy!
The second book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series will also be released as an ebook soon.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Writing Tips From Authors' Events

Blue Heron Books organizes great Authors' Events and I've attended most of them this fall (I recommend them!).

I jotted down some notes when Kate Morton, Patrick Dewitt, Iain Reid, Craig Davidson and Nathan Ripley talked about their books and their writing.
They, of course, don't use the same approach to writing and these notes reflect that.

These are some of the points the authors made about structure and planning:

  1. I use layering of time and tether the "then" to the "now". 
  2. I use structure - not random.
  3. I like to have a sense as to where the book is going.
  4. I don't plot and plan but the ending is so crucial. I believe that you have to know where you're going. I wrote the last line early on and worked towards that last sentence. 
  5. I have an idea or image but no outline - seems bizarre to outline a story you don't know.
  6. I have disparate ideas which then grow together. 
These are some points related to description and setting:
  1. I take photographs, use visual images to provide references for description. 
  2. I research the area where the book is set.
  3. I like to reference specific detail rather than a lot of general description. 
Some comments on character:
  1. Need to do research so that characters as well as the historical period are authentic, including how people spoke. 
  2. Ability to be in that particular character is important. 
  3. Usually takes a while to get a fabricated character to be three-dimensional.
  4. Moving character - hard to walk away without some degree of empathy.
  5. Some of the characters won't have names at first - a name eventually emerges. 
  6. There is a lot of dialogue - my novels feel personal. 
General comments:
  1. Complicated and surprising and also in line with my take on the world - subversion of what's expected.
  2. Grounded in realism but open to the hint that more is happening than we're aware of in our real world. 
  3. Appreciation of poetry is helpful - for rhythm and making it pleasant to say (audio books are more and more popular).
  4. Memories - people can hold different perspectives - why do our memories change? We tend to want to make them more palatable - this is a rich and shifting terrain for writers. 
  5. Used present tense to allow room for instinct - not too intellectual. 
  6. My books don't fit a specific genre. 
And a couple of my favourites:
  1. Write with genuine passion and love - put some of yourself into it. 
  2. It's impossible to please everyone with a book!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Excellent Review for Second Book in Meg Sheppard Mysteries Series!

William Bell is a fan of the Meg Sheppard Mysteries Series. He gave my first book "What Happened to Frank?" a rave review and I hoped very much that my second book wouldn't disappoint. 

Apparently, it didn't!

Hearing from readers that they enjoy reading my books and stories lifts me up and encourages me to keep on writing! (My third book is in rough draft form).

Here's William's review, which I sincerely appreciate:

"This is a great follow-up to “What Happened to Frank” and another great mystery by writer Vicky Earle.   Once again, Ms. Earle keeps things moving at a torrid pace, wasting no words while winding the main character, Meg Sheppard, into the centre of a complex web of crime, including of course, a murder.  This book would adapt well to a thrilling stage play like Sleuth or The Mousetrap, with key events unfolding in surprising ways literally at Meg’s doorstep.    

“Over Frank’s Dead Body” is much more than a mystery however, it’s also a treatise on love.  While I found myself trying to sift through the clues along with my new favourite, albeit somewhat reluctant sleuth Meg, to connect the dots and solve the crime, I also realized that I was witnessing the disturbingly wide scope of love’s power. Ms Earle skillfully reveals Meg Sheppard to us in ways that makes the reader share in the main character’s emotional journey - sad, angry, and tortured at one moment, and then hopeful, grateful and even blissful the next.  Love is perhaps life’s greatest mystery and this book is a reminder as to why." 

Thank you!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Meg Sheppard Mystery Series Now In Books Galore!





Thrilled that the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is now available at Books Galore, Port Perry.
It's a great book store - check it out!!

Friday, 2 November 2018

Ten-minute On-the-spot Writing!

I wrote this in ten minutes during our October Uxbridge Writers' Circle meeting (check out our blog: uxbridgewriterscircle.blogspot.ca
The prompt was a bookmark with a picture of a branch with lichen growing on it.

LICHEN
She sat and stared at the grey and yellow fuzzy lichen clutching to the old branch lying on the thick, green grass. It  had missed her by a couple of inches. She'd felt the cold breeze on her face and in her hair as it tumbled down.
    Hadn't she told Angus at least ten times to cut that tree down? If he'd done it twenty years ago she wouldn't have had this near-death experience.
    She turns her body and heaves herself off the wet ground as her hyper-active border collie runs backwards and forwards to the barn. Looking around, she wonder what on earth Angus has been doing. Nothing, obviously.
    The fences are missing rails and, as she touches one of the posts, it wobbles precariously, signifying its separation from its anchor in the ground. The vines obliterate the fence in some areas, making it look as if there are escape routes for the horses.
    Where are the horses? She can't see them anywhere. She fights with the sliding door, stuck on its rusty wheels, as she peers into the dark, damp  gloom inside the barn. No sign of life. No smell of wood-shavings, hay, grain or cat food. Her dog wags his tail and turns towards the house, as if encouraging her to leave. She mumbles that she really must have a word with Angus. Things have gone to rack and ruin. 
    On the verge of a panic attack, she takes off her boots and coat, climbs the stairs and a strange looking container sitting on her mantle-piece catches her eye. The urn has a simple inscription on it. She gasps as she reads her husband's name and that he'd died fifteen years earlier.

Copyright Vicky Earle 2018

Saturday, 20 October 2018

A Short Memoir: Arrival in Canada as Immigrants!


This is a picture of the Stefan Batory - the ship which transported us across the Atlantic from England. We landed as immigrants on November 19, 1973.
For the August 2018 word challenge piece, which I read out to the Uxbridge Writers' Circle, I wrote a short memoir, copied below, giving insight into our naivete about Canada.
The words which we were to use in our writing are shown in italics.

Naivete

As the ship rumbled and vibrated, cutting through the chilly waters of the St. Lawrence, I leant on the rail, disappointment cooling my excitement. The topography was flatter than I’d imagined. The only photographs of Canada that I’d seen were of the Rocky Mountains and I’d assumed that these pictures represented the country from coast to coast. My only geography lessons at school had focused on the Great Lakes, but I had only a scant understanding of their size and significance. Such was my ignorance as we made slow steady progress towards our new home.
            When we docked at Montreal the bright colours and welcoming atmosphere astounded me. This place was in vivid contrast to the dull dreary Tilbury Docks we’d left behind. Everywhere was alive with bustle. Such was the efficiency and helpfulness of the Canadians who guided us, that we were ushered onto a train to Toronto before we had intended to leave Montreal.
            We were young, having just graduated from university in England. We didn’t know where we wanted to live but all recommendations pointed to an apartment in the High Park area. Within six weeks we bought a house in Streetsville, and within ten months after that move, we bought a small brick bungalow on eleven acres in Uxbridge Township.
            We’d neither of us lived in the country before and still knew little about Canadian life.
            We adopted a town-raised Irish Setter the day after our move, and she was equally as na├»ve. The first thing Tessa did was visit the next-door neighbour’s bull, circling him and barking, her silky tail swinging from side to side. Fortunately, the bull wasn’t a particularly aggressive animal and probably had not seen an Irish Setter before. He appeared to have a quizzical look on his face as our neighbour helped me to rescue our townie dog.
            Despite the certainty that this incident raised their eyebrows, this neighbour and his wife have been our friends for the forty-three years since the interesting encounter.  
            Tessa also introduced us to our neighbours on the other side of our property. She had an uncontrollable urge to chase their ducks. At first, these neighbours were, naturally, upset. I think a couple of their ducks died as a result of our dog’s pursuit of them and her picking them up in her mouth. She was a gentle dog with a soft, retriever’s mouth, but the ducks hadn’t been told that. Despite these sad and distressing outcomes, we later discovered that these neighbours fed Tessa biscuits every day, so she must have used her special charm on them with some success.
            One particularly challenging Canadian phenomenon we knew nothing about until Tessa introduced us to it, is the skunk. I couldn’t believe that its rank stink couldn’t be washed off with shampoo. I didn’t know about tomato juice or the concoctions which I’ve since learned can be helpful. So, we just had to put up with it until the sticky smelly stuff wore off.
            Tessa learned her lesson though. If ever there was a sign of a skunk, by sight or odour, she would half-close her eyes as if to wince and beetle back to the house.
            We’ve lived in Canada for almost forty-five years, and we’re still learning about this amazing country and what it has to offer. We’ve had many adventures and hope to enjoy many more memorable experiences. We believe that we were fortunate to be approved for immigration in 1973 and are eternally grateful for the warm welcome we received.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2018

For more writing/stories, go to: Short Stories