Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Christmas Candle

Last night I declared the beginning of my festive holiday which meant leaving my work on a new novel in a good place so that I can take it up again after Christmas. The question is: Will I be able to ignore it that long?
Once I'm fully immersed in new characters and their story then it is a difficult thing to do but... I have family commitments and my calendar is full for next week too.
My characters are whispering to me to join them in their journey and there is a kind of magic in that. At this time of year in particular the magic of being able to step into a literary world of "anything can happen" appeals to the parts of me that are still a seven-year-old child sitting on a window ledge and reading. My one wish then? To be able to make someone else feel exactly how I felt at that moment when reading about Mrs. Pepperpot's adventures. A wish I wasn't able to see realised until much later in life.
At my recent book launch of Crushed in Ireland a member of the audience said that I was like two people - one was the older woman benefiting from a long business career and the other was the seven-year-old. Her observation intrigued me. She was correct. My older side is nurturing the little girl who still sits on the window ledge. An example of this is in the brief story I wrote for the Dec/Jan edition of The Link magazine. I hope you enjoy my last Christmas story of the month. Merry Christmas!
The Christmas Candle by Denise Greenwood, The Link Magazine

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas Story - SCRUFFY by David McAdam

This week's Christmas story was written by David McAdam, an artist and also the author of Unlocking Carol's Smile. David spent six years working with the socially marginalized and brings his life's experience alive in his novel and in this short story.

by David McAdam

It was Monday, Scruffy didn’t understand why he suddenly felt different about Annie. They had enjoyed the usual playground games on Friday without him feeling like this. As an eleven year old Scruffy was experiencing puppy love’s first stirrings. He didn’t just want to be one of Annie’s pals; he wanted to be her best friend but realised his chances of this were slim.
Dressed scruffily in odd socks, split plastic sandals, moth eaten sweater and hand-me-down short pants held up with twine had earned him the mocking nickname of Scruffy. Annie, on the other hand, was affectionately nicknamed ‘Granny’ though never by him because of her thick, black framed spectacles, pulled back hair and pinafore dress. A real Georgy Girl. However, what she lacked in the 1966 fashion stakes she made up for in personality. Scruffy also had rivals in Kenny and Derek whom he, because of his heavily freckled face, drooped bottom lip and pudding-bowl haircut, felt were better looking than him. They were certainly better dressed. Along with this different feeling was the awareness if he wanted to be Annie’s best friend he had to impress her. His opportunity came at the pool.
Scruffy was swimming by the diving boards when he saw Annie at the shallow end. He looked up at the boards and was struck by an idea. He ascended the top board three metres above ground. It appeared higher still when Scruffy looked down at the water. ‘Gulp!’ Barely able to dive from the poolside never mind this height he nonetheless determined to impress Annie. ‘C’mon, Annie, please look this way,’ he pleaded under his breath as he stood trembling. She finally did. Taking a deep breath he plummeted landing with a belly flop: ‘Ouch!’ Clutching his stomach underwater with one hand he surfaced hoping to meet with an impressed Annie only to discover she’d left the pool. ‘Tch.’ The next opportunity was the rope swing by the river.
Seeing Annie draw near the tree Scruffy swung out and let go one hand from the rope. Unable to hold on any longer he dropped into the shallow water landing feet first then falling back onto his bottom: ‘Ooh!’ Meanwhile, Annie walked by unimpressed. Scruffy had one more card left to play.
He and other boys were making flatulent sounds in the playground by flapping one arm over the hand of the other held under the armpit when he caught sight of Annie. ‘Annie!’ he shouted running towards her, ‘Listen.’ Scruffy stopped before her and with a beaming smile repeatedly flapped his arm. ‘You’re rude,’ Annie retorted and pushed past unimpressed. ‘Uh?’ Scruffy gave up.
The school Christmas party had arrived, the minister had finished preaching the Christmas message and the game of Pass the Parcel had ended. The Scottish dancing segment was now in full swing. ‘Girls’ choice!’ the headmaster’s voice suddenly boomed. ‘Girls line up on the right side of the hall, boys to the left. When I give the signal girls will choose the boys for the St Bernard’s Waltz.’ Scruffy, dressed no differently than usual except for the addition of an elastic bow tie stood between Kenny and Derek.
Annie stood directly opposite the three. Conscious of his failed attempts to impress her earlier in the year Scruffy feigned a cavalier posture. ‘Right, girls! Choose!’ the headmaster’s voice boomed. ‘Me, me!’ the boys, including Kenny and Derek, began pleading again and again to the approaching girls. Scruffy stood silently, his head tilted back as if admiring the garlands hanging from the high ceiling.
The girls strode across each taking a boy’s hand of her choice and led him to the dance floor. From the corner of his eye Scruffy saw Kenny’s being taken but dared not look by whose. He also saw Derek hold out his prompting him to thrust his unchosen hands deep into pockets already made deeper by the holes in them and lift his now glazed eyes back towards the ceiling. The ‘Me, me’ pleading had now stopped. Suddenly Scruffy felt a tug at his arm. ‘Give me your hand, Peter,’ the accompanying soft voice said. Wiping his eyes with frayed sleeve as he lowered his gaze Scruffy’s eyes lit up when he saw who the voice belonged to. ‘Annie!’ he uttered in wide-eyed disbelief. She smiled, took his hand and led him to join the rest. 
Glimpsing the minister as they waltzed, Annie guiding them through the dance steps, reminded Scruffy of the theme of his message: ‘The most precious Christmas gift came wrapped in coarse swaddling cloth. It’s not the outward appearance but what’s inside that matters nor is it what we do but who we are that counts. Together these make for the most precious gift we can be to each other.’ ‘Thanks, Annie.’

David McAdam's Book

"Homelessness is not only the abscence of a roof, it is the absence of love"


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Snag Tooth Nell

My short #story in this months edition of The Local Link #magazine is Snag Tooth Nell. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Short story by Denise Greenwood in The Local Link Magazine

‘Can I get you anything?’
Whatever IT was, an elusive quality to separate everyday females from the Siren, the waitress had IT in abundance.
IT made her two male customers ache with schoolboy intensity. She circled then stepped between their knees as they sat in armchairs around a table. Gazing down into their eyes, her honeyed voice dripped: ‘Let me fill you up.’
The first man was instantly lost, swimming in her gravity. ‘Yes, please do...’ he murmured and raised his cup.
He gazed at long fingers with scarlet nails as they held a carafes nipple-lid firmly in place. He was filled. She filled a void he didn’t know he had.
She slid around him, releasing a bewitching fragrance before leaning over a bald man to repeat her innocent suggestion. Sleek long hair brushed across a shiny bald pate sending a shiver of delight down the man’s spine like an ice cube on skin. He breathed in her perfume then leaned his head back so that long hair fell across his face. Its delicate feather touch caressed closed eyes. He melted, his heart reduced to a doughy consistency. Her soft delicate hand steadied his rattling cup.
‘No, no coffee for me. I want a Snag-Tooth Nell.’
The waitress stared at him with wide eyes. ‘Oh, I’m not familiar with it. I’ll see what I can do.’
‘What’s a Snag-Tooth Nell?’ The man’s friend looked incredulous.
‘It’s a drink.’
‘Yes, I gathered that! What is it?’
‘You’ll see.’ The bald man smiled mischievously.
The waitress returned with a glass in her hand which she set on the table with some degree of pride. The man took up the glass, smelled it, winked at his friend then took a swig. He smacked his lips and opened his eyes wide before saying: ‘It needs more gin.’ He held out his glass.
The waitress returned a minute later, handed it back to him and she was ready to go when he called her back. ‘Still not quite right, you did put sweet and dry vermouth in?’
‘Sorry to be a pain, it needs a little more of each,’ and he held out his glass.
‘What are you up to?’ The man’s friend asked. ‘Don’t mess with the girl!’
‘Me? Mess? No!’ The man smirked. ‘I just fancy seeing a pretty young thing run around after me.’
The waitress returned but again she was stopped as she attempted to leave. ‘Still not quite right, you put an orange slice in when it should be a drop of juice to mix.’ He held out the glass. The waitress looked alarmed but took it.
After she’d gone the man’s friend had something to say: ‘Don’t be evil. She’s a waitress, not a cocktail wizard!’
The man held his cupped hands up and tried to look reasonable. ‘I want a cocktail and she should be able to supply it.’
Again, his glass was returned but he didn’t attempt to try it, instead he held the glass up to the light. ‘No ice,’ he stated then smiled. The waitress took the glass and it was obvious she was upset, her hand trembled. She turned away with a quivering lip.
The man’s friend was astounded. ‘What a pathetic thing to do!’ he barked at his grinning companion. ‘You know we come here just to see her then we go home to our wives with renewed passion.’ Just then, his periphery vision was blocked by a large hairy hand. It held his friend’s glass.
‘Here!’ a deep voice ordered, ‘your cocktail. Drink-up, it’ll be your last.’ The glass was plonked down on the table and drops sprang from its contents. Both men looked up with surprise. A huge tattooed brute hovered menacingly over them.
‘Why, what have we done?’ one of the men asked weakly.
‘You’ve outstayed your welcome, that’s what you’ve done. So drink up!’
The two men looked questioningly at each other then cricked their necks to catch a glimpse of the waitress but she was nowhere to be seen. ‘I only asked for a cocktail,’ the bald customer whined.
‘Yeah, but you were rude to Wilf after he’d tried his best and I hate to him reduced to tears.’
‘Wilf?’ The customers looked bewildered. ‘The waitress is a man?’
‘For now.’
The bald man reached for his glass and didn’t hesitate to down it in one then arose from his chair.
‘I can’t believe it!’ his friend said out of the corner of his mouth as they neared the exit.
‘Nor can I,’ said his bald companion. ‘He didn’t charge us for the drinks.’
‘Is that all you have to say?’
‘No!’ the bald man objected then shook his head incredulously. ‘I always knew about Wilf.’ and then pursed his lips to blew his companion a kiss.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Five Charms

My Halloween story in The Local Link Magazine this month is one that could leave you guessing how much of it is true....

Halloween story in The Local Link magazine Oct 2015

Mrs. Partington wore a wrap-around apron printed with faded pink roses and fur-topped slippers on thickly socked feet. Her face was wrinkly and almost as white as her short curly hair. Crevices appeared at the sides of her eyes whenever she smiled. I was four and I talked to Mrs Partington through gaps in our garden fence and all our talks ended with a story. If I didn't speak to her then I would pull myself up so that I could see over the fence and then shout until she waved at me from a window.

Mrs Partington bought me a toy make-up set which I used as war-paint when I fought battles against neighbouring boys when they attacked our front hedge. She was always there, quietly watching and smiling from her window. Later, we discussed why I'd eaten a green caterpillar from the hedge. It had been a dare.

One day, fine misty rain hung in the air but I went into the garden anyway. I was surprised because even though I could hear Mrs Partington talking I couldn't see her through the fence gaps, not until her liver-spotted hand reached through to give me something. It was a gold charm-bracelet. ‘There are five more charms to collect but you must promise me something.’
‘You must promise to tell the stories I’ve told you and for every twenty new stories you make up you must add another charm.’
I said I would, thanked her and put the bracelet in my pocket but I was then called in for tea. I forgot about my gift.
‘Who were you talking to?’ my mother asked.
‘Mrs Partington.’
‘No you couldn't have. She went away weeks ago. Her house is empty.’
‘Oh,’ I replied as accepting as Mrs Partington. ’She must’ve come back.’
A few days later I remembered the bracelet and tried to wear it but it was too big for my wrist. ‘Will you shorten this for me?’
‘Where did you get this from? It's very expensive.’
‘Mrs Partington gave it to me.’
‘It was the other day when we talked. She said there were five charms to collect.’ My mother held the bracelet up so that its charms dangled. Her face was so close to mine that I could feel her breath. She had a strange look on her face. I never saw our neighbour again although my mother often asked about her. I was too young at that time to understand death.
Aunt Bridie came to visit. She was a unique and eccentric personality who turned up on the front door step on Friday night. She dressed like an actress from a black and white film. A fox fur around her neck had a head with glassy eyes and she always had a copy of The Telegraph under her arm. She stood out in the sixties but people rarely blinked an eye back then.
She said she didn't sleep or eat much but we knew it was due to the constant cups of black coffee she requested. She sipped through ivory teeth. I was allowed to stay up late but I had to plead until I became a nuisance. I loved the stories she told. She told them late at night, huddled in a chair closest to the open fire, her profile lit by lamplight. Her coffee was gripped between two hands and she would first stare into her cup for ages and when ready, raise her button eyes and begin. Her soft lilting Irish accent was like listening to music. In hushed tones, she told me about The Dullahan or “dark man” and petrified me. Next, Dearg Due and then the Banshee, a black-haired woman who’s wailing foretold death. Bridie knew how to ensnare me in a story and then leave me with a cliff-hanger so I had to check over my shoulder before daring to leave the room and a net of safety she’d cocooned. She called me ‘creature’ pronounced ‘Creta,’ I almost felt like one of the mythical beings she spoke about.
I begged for another story and then Aunt Bridie noticed my bracelet and asked to see it. Then, she took my face in both her hands and searched my eyes. She smelt of coffee and stale perfume. ‘I see you met Mrs. Partington.’
‘You knew her too?’
Aunt Bridie didn’t reply. She pulled up her sleeve. On her wrist was a gold charm-bracelet and it was full of charms. I compared it to mine and smiled. Aunt Bridie smiled too. ‘Did you make the promise?’
‘Yes.’ I nodded with pride and rattled my bracelet.
‘Then promise me something.’
‘What Aunt Bridie?’
‘Tell my stories too.’
For a moment, and only a moment I thought I saw Mrs. Partington reflected in Aunt Bridie’s eyes.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Touching the Divine

My short story in The Local Link magazine may raise a few eyebrows this month as well as the corners of mouths.

Touching the Divine, short story by Denise Greenwood, The Local Link Magazine

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Unlocking David McAdam

Traditional romance stories tend to leave me cold. I could perhaps name only a handful which will pass the test of time. It was refreshing therefore to read an unusual story by David McAdam and after I'd finished reviewing it I was interested in asking the author what makes him tick.

Born in Scotland, David McAdam spent some six years working with the homeless in a major English city. As well as bringing his life's experience and common sense to bear upon the work he also applied insights derived from studying social psychology, sociology and social policy. His interests include art, music (especially The Beatles) and current affairs.

What made you want to write?
I've been interesting in writing for as long as I can remember. I used to produce comic strips as an academy pupil. As an adult I began writing short stories for my own muse. It was only after I'd left my work with the homeless did I realised there was a book in me based on that world.

What's different about your book?
It is 'faction' rather than fiction even though identities are protected and locations have changed. It is naked in its representation of the world in which vulnerable homeless men and women and their support structure exists. It is highly emotional reminding the reader just how fragile life is. It has a different love-interest. The unrequited love between the two central characters trembles throughout then finally explodes in a frenzy of brute passion upon a barren, sea battered wall emphasising the nakedness and vulnerability of their world.

How important is humour?
Despite the books overriding theme of vulnerability humour is added to bring light relief in certain of the story's episodes. The humour is wry, pedestrian and lavatorial in places.

Do you just write novels?
I have written short plays and reflections on my life, particularly my youth and childhood. I 've also written for Open University's Society Matters and had an essay on colour blindness included in a language textbook.

Who influenced you?
I cannot pin-point any author who influenced me to write. Possessed with a creative psychology I realised early-on that I could paint pictures with words as well as with paint.
LINK TO David McAdam - Artist

So what's next?
Swineabbey (a fictitious market town somewhere in England) is my next project. It deals with the metaphysical and paranormal and is subtitled 'where one man's future never is'. It opens with a disturbing encounter that provides a recurring backdrop to the life story of the central character Eugene.