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suzannebowditch

Writer of historical fiction, blogger, mum, pet lover :)

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contemporary fiction

June 30 Challenge

June 1-30 challenge

Day 30 Thirty Books

June 30, 1936. Margaret Mitchell’s book, Gone with the Wind, was published. 

Your last Challenge!

Have you dreamed of writing a novel? Set a timer for thirty minutes and free write! Write whatever comes to mind, then take just a few moments to do some simple editing such as correcting grammar and spelling.

Alternative: Have you read Gone with the Wind? Do you want to read it? What books do you want to read? What books have you read that you recommend? What books do you not recommend or will you not read?

Then grab a cool drink and relax. Sit down and read a good book. You’ve worked hard and completed the June 1-30 Challenge for 2016! Congratulations!

 Books I recommend (and loved!)

  1. Elizabeth Gilbert – The Signature of All things. This book blew me away with its total research of the Victorian era and the evolution theory. Also beautifully written by Gilbert.I will never look at  moss the same way!
  2. Tracey Chevalier – At the Edge of the Orchard. A historical fiction book.This tells the story of the first apple trees that were cultivated across the US. The research is excellent, and I loved the main character, Robert Goodenough and his adventures.
  3. Peggy Frew – Hope Farm. Just finished reading this and it is wonderful. Silver lives in a hippie commune in rural Australia with her mum Ishtar. She is the main storyteller, and as the story unravels we understand the awkwardness of a teenager growing up in that environment. Gorgeous book.
  4. M.L.Stedman – The Light between Oceans. This is another historical fiction piece ( I love them). Its set at the start of the last century, and tells of a lighthouse keeper who finds a dead man and a baby washed up on the beach whilst he’d maintaining the lighthouse. Set in Western Australia it is a remarkable read. I loved every page
  5. Hannah Kent – Burial Rites. A historical fiction book, it tells of Agnes Magnusdottir,  the last woman to be executed in Iceland. A glorious read! 

    Book The signature of all things
    Loved this.
  6. Mary Kubica – Pretty Baby. Set in Chicago, this is a psychological thriller that I read in one weekend! A real page turner, I could not put it down. It was fast paced and intriguing until the very last page.
  7. Stephen King  – 11/22/63  Anything by him really, but this is a recent favorite, a time traveler gem.What would you do if you could go back in time? What would you change? King covers the problem and the solution in this book.
  8. Geraldine Brooks – Year of Wonders. A fabulous story set in northern England during the Black Plague, in which a village decides to cut itself off from the rest of the world to avoid spreading the disease. Based on a true story, I loved the main character of Anna, although it was an intriguing ending!
  9. Jodi Picoult – The Story teller. Beautifully written, the main character of Sage is lovely as she listens to her grandmother Minka’s experiences of the Holocaust. It moved me to tears, it is such an emotive book. I also loved her book Leaving Time.
  10.  Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This is a YA book, recommended to me, and I am happy to recommend it to everyone. It follows the story of 15 year old Christopher, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, who manages to solve the crime of the dead dog and become reunited with his mum. A heart warming tale, well worth a recommendation.
  11. Graham Masterton – White Bones. Masterton usually writes pure horror books, but this book is a horror/crime, and has the leading character as a female detective, Kate Maguire. Its set in Ireland, and is a superior horror crime read.
  12. Emma Donoghue – Room. Now an Oscar winning film, Room tells of little 5 year old Jack and his mother (ma), who are living in a confined room, after ma is kidnapped. Emotive and well written, I would recommend reading the book before seeing the film!
  13. Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train. Also becoming a film shortly, this is a psychological thriller that everyone raved over last year. And with good reason; its a real page turner that had me reading it all in a few days. Well worth a recommendation.
  14. Rosalie Ham – The Dressmaker. Set in rural Australia in the 1950’s it tells of  the outcast Tilly who arrives back in the small minded town to look after her mother. Another book that’s now a film, well worth a recommendation.
  15. C S Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia. I have to end my list with these books, as they alone enhanced my childhood reading. I read all seven and loved them all.

Phew! That challenge took longer than I expected, but I hope you enjoy glancing down the list. Happy reading !!

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Anna

Garden City shops

‘Whaaaat! What did you say?’ Josh stared down at her open mouthed, like he could not believe what he was hearing

‘I’m pregnant.’ She answered. Plain and simple, as if the world had not just crashed around her.

‘Is it mine?’ he reacted quickly, brutally even, but regretted the words as soon as he had spoken them.

‘Of course! What type of girl do you think I am?’ her eyes filled with tears as she looked up at him, and he felt a first class cad.

Just then a tinny rendition of ‘We are the champions’ filled the air, and he reached into his hoodie pocket for his phone.The screen said that it was his mother.

‘Hi mam, what’s up?’ he tried to stay as normal as possible after this world shattering revelation, but his voice seemed high pitched and weird even to him. Fortunately his mother had not noticed, as she rattled on about his aunt Julie.

-‘Yes, and she’s having a baby now, what do you think of that?’ his mother’s voice became loud and clear, and he realized that he’d put the phone onto loud speak. His heart was in his mouth – did his mother know about Anna already?

He looked at Anna, still sitting on the bench. She looked suddenly fragile and unsure of herself, and he realized that she had never even met his mad but fun loving mother. An image of her came into his mind; the photo of her and his dad at a New Years Eve party taken before he was born. They have their arms around each other and look so happy. His mother has a bright pink jacket on and matching lipstick and his dad’s dark locks are in  his eyes.Josh barely recognizes his dad from that; before he died he was completely bald. The photo is framed and has pride of place on the sideboard; a reminder of a happier time in his mother’s life.

A surge of loneliness hit him and he felt homesick. All he wanted to do at that moment was to curl up on the sofa at home and listen to his mother rabbiting on about the family, the neighbors – anything but stand here. The weight of responsibility hit him like a ton of bricks.

Anna was a lovely, quiet girl; he knew that. He had treated her appallingly.

He said goodbye to his mother quickly, promising to call her later. He took his hoodie off and placed it over Anna’s shivering shoulders. She leans into him, placing her head on his shoulder and he realizes that he likes it.

‘I know that it’s a shock to you; it was to me. We have to talk though; sort things out. I’ll be at the markets in Edinburgh all weekend helping my friend Georgia out. Can you meet me there on Saturday?’

Josh nodded a yes.

Copyright: Suzanne Bowditch, 2016.

 

Edinburgh gig

Josh loved Scotland. As a child, his dad would take him fishing on Loch Awe, under the shadow of Kilchurn Castle. They would spend hours on their small tug in the middle of the loch, searching for the biggest pike that they could find. Then they would go back to their hired stone cottage, wet and cold but happy, and fry their catch on a small skillet until they were stuffed.

Josh sighed at the memory. A happier time in his life; now gone. His dad had passed away several years back; it was just him and his mum at home now. He suddenly felt very alone. Jazz had not spoken since their debacle hours earlier. His face had been set straight ahead, just focused on the road ahead.

Luke sidled up behind him, and grabbed his shoulder. Josh was grateful for the distraction.

‘Hey guys, let’s stop for something to eat. There’s a cafe up ahead that does a real mean burger and chips.’

Jazz turned his head and grunted. ‘I’ll take that as a yes, then!’

Moments later they pulled up outside a row of low slung cottages sat on the side of the road. The end cottage had a couple of tables and chairs outside, with umbrellas blowing in the wind. A sign swung from the cottage, with ‘Cocoa Cola’ etched onto it in white and red. A board stood alone, held down with a couple of stones. It read ‘Maggie’s Cafe.’

‘There’s no Maggie here that I know of, but they’ve kept the sign the same.’ Luke noted, as they piled into the small doorway. Inside, it was even gloomier than out. The sun had decided to hid behind the neighboring trees, casting a shadow over the interior.

Just two men were in the cafe, sitting in a corner table against the window. They nodded as the lads entered. After ordering his meal, Josh went back outside and sat on a narrow stone wall. He pulled a a clump of weeds absentmindedly and tried not too think too hard. He could not face Jazz and had no desire to sit at a table with him. This tour was starting to turn into a nightmare.

The door to the cafe slammed shut, and Luke joined him.

‘Thought you’d be out here.’ Luke sat down and pulled out a cigarette. For a few minutes, there was silence, just the rushing of the wind in the tall firs behind them. Then Luke spoke, and his voice seemed to startle Josh from his reverie.

‘Me and the other lads have been talking. It’s no good having a atmosphere like there’s been. Mikey thinks we should bale and pick up a few gigs elsewhere.’

‘Split up the band you mean?’ Josh looked shocked. ‘It’ll blow over between me and Jazz; you’ll see. He’s a bully, but has a short temper. I’d hate to see us split ‘cos of this. I can handle him. Known him since school, and he hasn’t changed. But he’ll never get a decent lass if he acts like that; Sophie will lose interest; he can’t cover up his temper forever.’

Just then, his mobile buzzed. Josh reached into the pocket of his hoodie, and looked at the screen. It said ‘Anna.’ He groaned inside, then retrieved the message.

Hi Josh. I don’t know where you are, somewhere outside Edinburgh, Luke told me. I have to meet up with you. I have something to tell you; it’s important. Anna.

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

Payback

It was deadly quiet in the van. The only sound was from the swish of the tires on the wet tarmac. Every so often, the van would hit a pothole, and Josh would jerk in his seat. The other lads in the band, sensing the atmosphere up front, spoke quietly which was unusual for them.

‘Look, I didn’t know that you was interested in her did I?’ Josh was looking at the side view of Jazz, who had barely taken his eye off the road ahead.

‘Whatever.’ Jazz grumbled, and Josh was taken aback by his subdued tone. Was this a good sign? Or should he be worried? It was hard to tell by his profile; the set line of his jaw, the large hairy arms gripping the wheel, or the trickle of sweat running down the corner of his face.

Jazz took his grip off the wheel and wiped his brow with the back of his hand, then turned to look at Josh.

‘No need to look so worried, Josh boy. I want a good lead singer, and your ‘it.’ The ladies love you that’s for sure.’

Suddenly, Jazz pulled the van into the kerbside. Straight ahead lay the road to Edinburgh, and Glasgow beyond that. Jazz turned off the engine and lent over to grab a cigarette. He sat there quietly smoking.

‘We’ll leave you boys to it. I need a pee and some fresh air anyway.’  One of the lads spoke up from behind. Josh heard the van doors being pulled open, and then silence. He watched as his band mates walked over to a gate and disappear behind some bushes. Luke, ever the loyal friend, stood next to the van, a worried look on his face. Josh could see his pained expression through the dusty streaks on the window.

Not speaking a word, Jazz lent into the glove compartment in front of where Josh sat. Josh got a whiff of the rancid smell of cigarettes and beer. He turned away, but not before Jazz grabbed his chin and forced him to look straight in his eyes. He had a torch in his right hand and with a smooth movement that belied his size, he swung it at Josh’s knee.

The pain was sharp and immediate.

‘I won’t touch the pretty boy face; we need that for the fans.’ he growled quietly into his ear. ‘I’m warning you – don’t ever show me up in front of the ladies, or the other lads, is that clear enough for you?’

Josh nodded, sweat pouring down his face. Moments later, the van slid open and the other lads piled in.

Jazz switched on the ignition, and they were on their way.

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

Jazz

Jazz was waiting outside the pub when Josh finally left the dining room. He was just standing there, a cigarette perched on the corner of his mouth, looking for all the world as if he did not have a care.

But Josh knew him better than that. He had known Jazz since their misspent school days at Newtown Comp. He knew his old school friend of old – he certainly held grudges. Josh’s heart gave a leap in his chest as he crunched his way across the car park towards him. Jazz had finished his cigarette and now had his head down in the bonnet of the car. He pulled the oil stick out of its holding, and peered at it as if his life depended on it.

‘Alight?’ was Josh’s greeting.

Jazz stopped what he was doing and slowly replaced the oil meter. ‘Alright? Is that all you can say? After last night’s performance? You need your head read mate.’

Jazz slammed down the bonnet of the van, and climbed into the driver’s side.

‘Get the others will you?’ he growled. ‘We have to get to the next venue; we’re running late as it is.’ Josh swallowed quickly. He felt as nervous as a school boy in his first day at school. He looked down at his hands; they were shaking. How ridiculous! he thought. I have known this guy for years; he’s a mate! What am I scared of?

But he could not get that image out of his head. The one image that had left him feeling a sense of wariness towards Jazz, however much that he had covered it up in the pretense of friendship all these years. Now, the image forced its way to the front of his mind – Jazz standing face to face with another student, pointing at him because the lad had spoken to Annabelle Forster, whom Jazz had had his eye on for quite a while.

They had been at the back of the tennis courts, by the dilapidated shed that was rarely used except as a venue for smokers and lovers. Josh had stood at the back of the small gang gathered around the victim, and had watched as Jazz had thumped the boy, and then kicked him when he was down. The others had walked away, but Josh had never forgotten the mean look in Jazz’s eyes, or the way that he had kicked the boy as if he had been a useless object to use and abuse.

Jazz had never gone out with Annabelle Forster. She had learnt of the incident and had given him a wide berth.They had all left school at the same time, and Josh had heard that she was studying Art at uni.

He turned and went back into the pub. This was not finished by a long chalk.

 

After effects

Josh woke to the sound of a drill being used just outside his window. He raised his head off the pillow, and felt nausea creep up his throat. It took a moment to realize that the drilling was in his head, not outside. The after effects of a noisy gig; he should be used to it by now. His head felt hot to the touch and he could feel beads of sweat forming under his hairline. He groaned and reached across the bed.

He was alone. He laid back against the pillow, loathe to face this day.

No Anna. A mixed cacophony of feelings washed over him.

Was he relived that she had not shared his bed? Or had he missed her? An image suddenly appeared in his head, a memory of last night that he so wanted to forget – Anna and some random bloke, laughing together as if they were lovers; his arm around her in that familiar way. A wave of jealousy washed over him (at least it wasn’t nausea this time!) and he felt sick.

He crawled out of bed, and made his way to a sink in the corner of the room. He vaguely remembered checking himself into the pub, but it was so foggy as to be surreal. He retched into the sink, and was pleased that it was just bile. He washed his face and pulled on his crumpled jeans.

Outside the room, the corridor was silent. Doors stood either side of him like silent sentries. The carpet was a garish mix that looked like a throw back from the seventies. This time there was no smell coming from the kitchen; just silence. Stumbling downstairs, he entered a small dining room and saw Luke at a table under the window.

‘Josh! Get yourself over here! There’s some tea in the pot, come and sit down.’

Luke had a cereal bowl in front of him, with the dregs of Weetos lining its bottom, and some milk.

‘No fried breakfast this time, boyo. We have to make do with toast and cereal.’ Luke lent forward conspiratorially. ‘Hey, what’s the news on last night then? I heard from a good source that you attacked Jazz? He’s real mad at you for trying to get between that Sophie and him. He’s fancied her for ages – didn’t you know?’

Josh groaned as Luke’s Welsh lilt rabbited on and on. No, he didn’t know! He poured himself some tea and sipped the warm liquid.

What had he done this time? 😦

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

The Dog and Duck pub

Anna was standing at the corner of the bar when he approached. He didn’t see her at first, so small was she squashed up against the tall rockers. Even with high heels on she looked positively hobbit-like. Still, it was hard to miss those big blue eyes. They seemed to fill her face, almost luminous like. They reminded him of an exotic cat. He had certainly delved into their depths.

‘Buy me drink? To make up for what you did, leaving me at that pub, alone in bed! I could have been attacked, do you know that?’

Josh shook his head. ‘You can take of yourself Anna. I have the scars to prove it.’ He pulled up his left sleeve as if to prove his point. A feint scar ran from elbow to wrist; made by long talons. He’d hidden them from the other band members for weeks, ashamed to tell then that this fragile creature had used them on him. How would his reputation stand up to that?

She sure was a feisty one, he’d give her her due. And persistent too, judging by this evening. Josh was starting to feel the stirrings of flattery. She was getting under his skin….:)

Besides, she did not look that shabby, he had to admit. Tonight, she had a skin tight top on, her nipples poking through the flimsy material. Hip hugging jeans and high spiked heels completed the look. She wore a deep red lipstick, and her hair was arranged differently. For the first time, Josh noticed how hot she looked.

Someone shoved him from behind, spilling his beer onto the already sticky carpet.

‘Look – we need to talk. Let’s go somewhere quiet.’

Anna’s face froze, as she looked over to the door behind him.Sophie was by the edge of the stage, her lips locked around Jazz. Josh felt a wave of anger wash over him. Jazz knew that he fancied that Sophie! Forgetting all about Anna, he stormed over to confront them.

‘What’s this then?’ He grabbed Jazz by the shoulder, and pushed him. Jazz fell flying, ending up in a heap in the middle of the music stands. Sophie rushed to his side shouting for help.

The room went quiet, as everyone stopped to look at the commotion.

‘All over folks. Nothing to see here.’ He held his hands up in submission. ‘We’re just fooling around.’

He retreated hastily, to look for Anna. She will console me, he thought.

At the bar, he stopped in his tracks. Anna was standing close to another guy, who had his arm around her shoulder. The guy was whispering in her ear, and they both laughed, oblivious to anyone around.

The night could not get any worse….

 

 

The Gig

The crowd went wild. The music seemed to pulsate from the very core of the gig. Josh sang the last song, his powerful voice blasting out the sound. Behind him, Jazz belted out the beat on the drums, his background vocals perfectly complementing Josh’s voice.

On the stage was where he felt more alive than anywhere. Up there, in front of a raucous crowd, he could forget his paltry life; the council house, the dole and the meagre existence.

He was appreciated.

As he looked down at the crowd of jiving bodies, partially covered by masses of long hair as they swung their heads in time to the sound, he felt a connection. They wanted the same as him; to forget the troubles of life, poverty and shallow lifestyle. To forget sullen partners, whinging girlfriends, and judgmental parents.

The song ended on a high with a final crash of drums. The room went wild.

At the bar, the queue was three people deep. Josh approached, the lights from the rows of scotch beckoning him to drink some of their nectar. A group of lads around his age stood back, making a space for him to order. They patted his shoulders, looking in awe.

‘Great man, you were just great.’ the nearest lad sang, in a thick Geordie accent.

Josh never failed to enjoy the adoration of the crowd. This spurred him on; the thought that he could get out of his dull existence.

Just last week, he’d had a bluey with his uncle, who’d called him a ‘no good dole scrounger.’ Josh had not risen to his bait; he knew how dull their lives were, existing for week to week with barely enough left for cigs and fags.

He was going to be different. he was going to change the world….

Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

The Swan

The lights of the city appeared up ahead and Josh removed headphones. Then, the pub on the left hand side, shining like a beacon in the night. As they pulled up into the car park, Josh wound down the window of the van. Music blasted out of the pub, giving it the feel of a ghetto blaster. The pub sign was lit with a picture of swans on a lake illustrated the name of the pub.

‘Here we are then lads, my favorite venue, The Swan. I have to get a pint in me before we go on tonight, then someone else can take the wheel in the morrow. What say you lover boy?’ Jazz giggled as he poked Josh in the ribs. The sound of a childish chuckle coming from such as great lump always amused him.

Luke pulled across the van’s sliding door and jumped onto the tarmac. Stones crunched as he walked to the pub door, stretching and yawning. Then he stopped at the door and pointed in the other direction. The expression on his face was a picture. He looked as if he were going to burst with laughter.

‘Josh, me laddo, look over there!’

Josh had just opened the van door ready to jump down. He was parched, but looked to where Luke was pointing anyway.

Parked on the other side of the car park, tucked up under the pub sign, was Anna’s car. 😦

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