March’s Guest Storyteller, Björn Rudberg

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Björn Rudberg is a blogger and a poet hailing from Stockholm Sweden. He has a PhD in physics but works with businesses in the tech-industry. He writes flash fiction and is a regular contributor to Friday Fictioneers. He manages an online community for poetry, dVerse (http://dversepoets.com), and is also one of the contributing toads at Real Toads (http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com). He is a member of a writing community in Stockholm that has produced one collaborative collection of short stories, Keyhole Stories, and is in the process of producing its second collection.


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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome Björn as my guest storyteller this month. I first met him through Friday Fictioneers, where his almost weekly contributions have always impressed me. He’s an adventurous writer, who is happy to experiment with various techniques of storytelling, sometimes combining poetry and prose. Whatever he produces, he always manages to surprise and intrigue me, whether it’s dark, satirical, or on a subject he feels passionate about. Do visit his blog, Björn Rudbergs Writings  after you’ve finished here, and I’m sure you’ll agree with what I’m saying.    

But enough from me. I’ll hand you over to Björn now, who will tell you what his story is about, and he has provided us with a soundcloud recording of his story too!

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Björn says: Writing flash-fiction is very much like writing poetry to me, I try to keep a rhythm in my language (actually it’s often close to iambic meter). I have chosen a story from last year that represents the writing I like best. The story is actually a parable about human trafficking where I have chosen Charon the ferryman as the trafficker.

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PAYING THE FERRYMAN

My boat is ready when they come in groups. Orphans, elderly, unshaven men and teenage girls.

The mica in their eyes reflect the river; fear; and in their hands they clutch my fee. But there are those I leave behind. They sleep in tents, and call for help.

They try in vain to trade their goods for coins.

I have a small collection, bribes and trinkets, and my bed is always warmed by girls believing they can melt my granite soul.

I am Charon and my fee is fixed; and worse than Hades is the nothingness of being left behind.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

       

January’s Guest Storyteller, William D. Holland

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William D. Holland is the author of five full-length novels, one non-fiction book about the craft of writing, and five novellas in the “Billy the Kid” chronicles.  He can be found hanging out on his website https://artistrywithwords.com/ when he isn’t tending to his urban farm in Olympia, Washington.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome as this month’s guest storyteller, one of my newer blogging friends, William (his WordPress username Billybuc). I really look forward to his weekly Tuesday posts that are always packed full of interesting and informative things.

Time to hand over to him now,  for a two-sentence hook, followed by an extract from his latest novel, Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose…   

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HOOK 

Eli Baker has dreams, and Melanie Hooper has visited him in one, along with four other orphans who are also missing.

The search is on, and Eli Baker is the right man to delve into the case of the missing orphans; however, Eli soon finds that evil acts are not only performed by evil men, but by Evil itself.

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EXCERPT

“I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist.  I don’t know a damned thing about how the human mind works, why one abuse victim will become a counselor while another will become an abuser, why serial killers snap and feel a need to destroy innocence, or why one day a soccer dad buys an AR-15 and unloads a magazine in a crowded mall.  All I know is the aftermath stains us all forever, and the whys will visit us in our dreams until the day we draw our last breath.

The second case I had as an army investigator was a child abuse case, a little nine-year old girl in the hospital for a broken arm, doctors and nurses suspicious about bruises on her upper arms.  They made the phone call that dragged me out of bed at two a.m. on a muggy night near Fort Hood, Texas.  The girl, curly blond locks pasted to her forehead, her mother holding her good hand, her two sisters standing nearby, told me she fell down the stairs and she was so sorry she bothered everyone, and mom nodding and saying her daughter was just clumsy like her mommy, laughing with a little too much nervous energy to appease me.

I coaxed an address out of the mother, drove to the off-post housing and found dad, a master sergeant, sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  He wasn’t too happy, me waking him up, and he was even less happy when I mentioned the bruises on his daughter’s arms, and he was downright pissed when I asked him if he had anything to do with those bruises.  He pulled his right arm back, fixing to turn out my lights with a massive punch, and I snap-kicked his kneecap.

That was ten years ago. The master sergeant is still in prison on three counts of child abuse, a history of beating his three kids in some confused attempt to quiet the demons only he could see and hear.

No, I’m no psychiatrist.  All I know is the stain never goes away, and rabid dogs need to be shot.”

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From “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” the third in the “Shadows” series, available in hard copy and Kindle at Amazon.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

December’s Guest Storyteller, Sherri Matthews

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Sherri has been writing full-time since 2011.  Currently working on her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, she has been published in a variety of national magazines and two anthologies.  Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief gardening, walking and snapping endless photographs.  Her garden robin muse visits regularly.

You can find Sherri’s links of interest at the end of this post.

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Sarah says: I’m thrilled that Sherri  has agreed to make a return visit to my blog as guest storyteller with a seasonal story to delight us all. Some of you might remember her Christmas-themed story Chocolate Umbrella from December 2014. This story received 54 likes and 79 comments, which was a fantastic response, considering my blog had about a quarter of the followers it does now! I’m guessing that Sherri brought along some of her fans with her,  from her wonderful blog A View From The Summerhouse.

In June 2015, we met up for the first time and got on so well, we’re now firm friends and try to get together as regularly as our busy lives permit. We also have long telephone conversations with each other, as we’re both very talkative.

Sherri & Sarah 

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A Blue Coat for Christmas

Grey, angry waves smashed into the pier. A gust of sea air whipped Piper’s hair into a salty slap across her face. A short walk to the beach had taken longer than she had anticipated, but she was wearing her new coat, and nothing was going to keep her indoors today.  Especially not babysitting her brother.

‘Look what I’ve found,’ Max shouted as he skipped across the sand.

The sight of her brother’s skinny legs poking out of his shorts made Piper laugh.  “I told you to wear jeans. Your knees have turned purple with the cold!’

Max stopped, looked down at his knees, and shrugged. ‘I don’t care. See, I found this!’ Piper stared at the dead starfish in her brother’s wet hands as she pushed her hands into her pockets.

‘Can I bring it back to show Dad?’

‘Yeah, why not…think of the stories he’ll tell us about it,’ Piper said with a wink.  ‘C’mon, it’s getting dark already and your legs might drop off if we don’t get back soon.’

They climbed the stairs leading up from the beach and walked along the promenade, the wind catching their breath.  Piper made sure to take the long way back through the side streets, wanting as many people as possible to admire her in her coat.

When she had opened her present on Christmas Day, she couldn’t believe her eyes.  It was just what she wanted, a blue, military style wool coat with brass buttons and red piping along the collar and sleeves. At twelve years old, all legs and no curves, she felt like a fashion icon in it.  Heck, maybe even the up and coming new Twiggy.

Piper and Max watched cartoons and when their father came home, he made beans on toast while he drank beer and made them laugh at his funny story about the starfish and his hermit crab friends.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered to Piper later as he kissed her forehead.  “Keep an eye on your brother, I’ll be back in a jiffy…” Piper nodded with a half-smile, knowing it would be hours before he staggered in through the front door.

‘Nice coat,’ their mother said back home. ‘Surprised your father can afford such a thing…’ she trailed off.  Piper didn’t know either, but she was happy prancing about the place in her beloved coat.  One thing she did know: she wouldn’t breathe a word about her father’s late night visits to the pub.

© Sherri Matthews 2016

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Connect with Sherri
Blogwww.sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts

Memoir Book Blurb
http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/memoir-book-blurb/ )

Heart Whispers: A Poetry Anthology available at
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

November’s Guest Storyteller, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Kansas City native Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is a woman of Jewish descent and the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants. She has a close personal connection to Jewish history, which has been a recurring theme throughout much of her writing. Growing up, she was heavily influenced by the Sholom Aleichem stories, the basis for Fiddler on the Roof. Her novels Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can were born of her desire to share the darker side of these beloved tales—the history that can be difficult to view, much less embrace.

She is also the author and illustrator of This, That and Sometimes the Other, an eclectic anthology of short stories.

Before becoming an author, Rochelle attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied painting and lithography. Her preferred media are pen and ink, pencil, and watercolor. Her artwork is featured on the covers of her books and within them as well. Her coffee table companion book to her trilogy which will feature character portraits, A Stone for the Journey, is due out in the spring 2017.

Rochelle maintains a blog called Addicted to Purple where she facilitates the internationally popular flash fiction challenge known as Friday Fictioneers. She and her husband, Jan, raised three sons and live in Belton, Missouri. When she takes a break from writing and illustrating, Rochelle enjoys swimming, reading and dancing.

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Sarah saysI’m delighted to welcome Rochelle to my blog as this month’s guest storyteller. I know her as a  person of great talent, both on the writing and artistic front, and have read her two published novels, both of which I’ve awarded 5 stars (links to my reviews below, plus links to the books on Amazon). She’s also known to me for her inexhaustible commitment to running Friday Fictioneers on a weekly basis, which I can only imagine is a huge but rewarding undertaking.

It’s now time to hand you over to Rochelle for a beautiful, tender, and haunting piece of storytelling…        

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DREAM GIRL

The splintered sign above the door hung by a single nail.  The red paint boasting “Miller’s Burger Barn” had faded to pink. With his handkerchief Neil brushed a layer of dust from the window and peeked inside. The counter where he used to chow down on grilled cheese sandwiches and grease-laden Suzy-Q fries was piled with trash. Broken chairs littered the chipped linoleum floor. Hard to believe this ramshackle building was once the hub of youthful activity.

He took a step back and stared at his mottled reflection. A spindly old man with thick-lensed glasses and stringy white hair returned his stare.  His rumpled suit and skewed bowtie wanted for attention. He shrugged. What difference did his appearance make now?

His mind backtracked to his senior year in high school. 1955. That’s when the Millers moved to town and opened the diner. Their curvaceous daughter Evalyne served up sodas and snacks three afternoons a week and all day Saturday.

Every muscled athlete in school hung out there to compete for the pretty blonde’s attention. Neil didn’t stand a chance. Myopic and thin as a barber pole, he was a straight ‘A’ student and captain of the debate team. What chick would want to be seen with a square like him?

He’d accepted his lot until one Saturday the object of his secret fantasy asked him for help with her geometry homework. After dinner on Sunday, his sweaty hands shook as he rang the Miller’s doorbell. Evalyne opened the door, displayed a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and flashed a timid grin. “I baked them myself.”

While geometry was not her strong suit, she excelled in chemistry and biology—a goddess with a brain. For the next five years they studied together, sharing complex equations, chemical formulas and dreams. Like brother and sister.

Music from inside the deserted building brought him back to the present. The Platters sang “Twilight Time.” Evie’s favorite. How could it be? It had to be in his addled, grief-stricken head.

He pushed open the door. The air smelled of hamburgers and onions. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Balloons and streamers hung from the ceiling. It was June 1961 again. The day of their college graduation.

Hands on her hips, Evalyne tapped her saddle-shoed foot. “Neil, where have you been? I called your house three times. Your mom’s worried sick.”

“I…I went for a walk…to clear my head. I’ve been accepted to Harvard Law School.”

“Terrific! I’ve been accepted to NYU’s med school. That’s not too far from Boston. Isn’t it exciting?  I’m going to be a doctor!”

“Of course! You were…are… I mean…will be a cardiologist. One of the nation’s best.”

Her aquamarine eyes glittered. “Neil, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tears fogged his glasses. “Your…funeral. It was…today, Evie. We were married for fifty years. We have three sons, four grandkids and a great granddaughter.”

“It was just a dream and this silly thing is always crooked.”  She straightened his tie with both hands and pressed her lips against his. “Married? Us? Oh, darling, I thought you’d never ask.”

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Available in print and on Kindle

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 amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

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amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

Review: Please Say Kaddish For Me

Review: From Silt and Ashes

And not yet published but on its way, the last part of the trilogy! 

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

— October’s Guest Storyteller — J. S. Strange

j-s-strangewinter-smithJack Strange, or J. S. Strange, is a Welsh author who writes fiction. His début novel, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, is a zombie apocalypse novel and is available on Amazon. London’s Burning is the first in a zombie apocalypse series, but there are twists that make it different from your typical zombie story. Jack is twenty-one, and lives in Wales. He is currently working on the second instalment of Winter Smith.

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Sarah says: Welcome to my blog, Jack, and I can honestly say that you’re the youngest person to have guest-posted here. I’m in awe of you having already written and published your first novel; a most exciting read it is, too. When I was your age, I just wrote naff poetry that was meant to contain profound truths but was probably a load of twaddle. It’s wonderful that you have so much direction and ambition, plus a whole creative life ahead of you following a decent head-start. 

The story below is a write-up of a project Jack may be working on in the future  a collection of short stories following other people during the zombie apocalypse in London, at the same time as Winter is escaping. 

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I Take Thee

A wedding day is something special, especially a wedding taking part in the middle of London. My wife had arranged it, completely blowing our budget on a venue that was a step down from where Princess Diana had married Charles.

But I was excited. Five years with the beautiful girl and I was about to become her husband. It was all I wanted. My friends told me I was too young. We had met at twenty, now we were twenty-five, but when you know, you know.

The venue was magnificent. Tall arcs of grand stone, moulded by people whose talents were incomprehensible. Rows upon rows of pews lined behind me, and I was surprised that we had managed to fill out most of them. Everyone looked beautiful. It really was going to be a great day.

I turned to my best man besides me. A man who had been in my life since I was twelve years old. We didn’t like to talk about it, but we both loved each other greatly.

“You ready for this?” He asked me, a grin across his face. “It isn’t too late to turn back.”

I held up my middle finger at him, and we laughed.

The vicar stood before me adjusted his position, and I knew that we were about to start. I heard the heavy church doors open behind me, and the music began to play. I heard everybody standing, murmuring with excitement, getting ready for the main ceremony.

The bride walked down the aisle. She held her flower bouquet in her petite hands, a smile on her veiled face. When she came to stop next to the man she was about to marry, she seemed to be afraid of looking at him.

I turned to her. She was stunning. I knew this wasn’t a mistake. This was the girl I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. Someone coughed behind me, and someone whispered something in response, but I didn’t care about that.

“We are gathered here today, to welcome…”

There was a cry behind us. At first, I thought it might be a baby. But it sounded manly. It sounded pained. The vicar looked over our heads, at the source of the sound, and visibly paled.

Then someone screamed. I turned and saw a man rising out of the crowds. It was an uncle of my soon to be wife’s. He wore a charcoal suit, and had gone a dark shade of purple. He opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the woman in front of him, her beige dress soon stained with her own blood.

In seconds she was convulsing. Her skin tightened and cracked. Her eyes became bloodshot. She had changed before everyone’s eyes.

In that time, the uncle had bitten others. People were scattering, forgetting the wedding and prioritising their right for survival.

I took my wife’s hand and tried to pull her away, but she remained rooted to the spot. I looked at her, confused. She lifted part of her dress, revealing her leg. I gasped. She had been bitten.

“When?”

“When getting ready.” Was all she said.

Her skin was turning a nasty shade of purple. I wanted to vomit. I could hear people calling my name. I could hear them calling her name, too. I didn’t know what was happening, but the girl I loved had died before my eyes.

But she hadn’t fallen. She didn’t lie still in death. She stepped forwards, rather rigidly, and came for me.

I moved out of the way, so she took the next best thing: my best man.

He screamed as he was bitten. I was pulled away from the altar by my dad. Blood stained the stone floor, the decorations falling off walls as people ran by.

The vicar stood where he had stood when he had been about to marry us. My sister was biting into him. He was mid prayer.

I ran up the aisle at the end of the church, joining guests that had been invited. I recognised the odd cousin, an aunty from my childhood.

We burst out of the church, and my world fell apart. The wedding cars were left open, a body on the grass nearby. The photographer was in the middle of turning, into whatever the hell these things were. London was burning all around. It seemed the end had finally come.

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Winter Smith: London’s Burning is available at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

To receive updates about the Winter Smith Series, you might like to check out J. S. Strange’s Website and his Goodreads Author Page or follow him on Twitter

My review of Winter Smith: London’s Burning

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at