To celebrate my 20 years in France, I’ve decided to publish a collection of a dozen of my short stories. They are all linked by being set in France, many of them in the southwest region, where I live. This part of France has rich and varied landscapes and a strong tradition of separatism and independence.
Where’s Parisot? It’s a hilltop village in Tarn-et-Garonne, Southwest France. You could be forgiven – but would be mistaken – for passing it by. Mistaken, not only because it has some interesting historical sites to see, but also because it hosts an Anglo-French literary festival every October.
You’ve no doubt heard of Google alerts. They’re a useful way of keeping abreast of new items on a topic that interests you, without having to scroll through search engine pages to find them. You can try different keywords and set the alert to varying frequencies and in several languages.
A tongue in cheek post today, but with a grain of truth. Readers I meet at parties or other events usually have very interesting and perceptive things to say about books and writing. I love having the opportunity to talk with them, which doesn’t happen often living down here in la France profonde. You learn so much from it, and they are an excellent sounding board.
The noble art of letter writing seems to have gone into freefall. I think this is a shame, although I am the first to admit that I rarely find time these days to write more than the tersest of emails. As a literary device, letters are a gift for authors, as I know from my own experience. But are their days numbered?
I’m delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard, to the chaise longue this week. Not only is Sue an author in her own right, but she’s also an editor. More precisely, she is my editor. And a cracking job she did, too, of The House at Zaronza. She saved me from many a howler and smartened up my prose no end.
So you think you want to be a published author…? Karen paints a worst case scenario, but we all have to find these things out through our own experience. Like her, though, je ne regrette rien.
I am delighted to welcome back a valued friend, Karen Charlton, from my Authonomy days. Her little piece is so, so true. And the strange thing is, we all have to learn every one of these lessons by personal experience; sometimes more than once.
In a recent survey carried out by YouGov and published in The Independent newspaper, 60% of UK adults declared that being a writer is their ‘dream job.’ 14,294 adults were interviewed for this survey. I can only assume – that they all assume – that being an author is both stress-free and lucrative.
In response to this article about the YouGov survey I stuck my tongue in my cheek and jotted down a few observations about the truth behind a publishing contract – especially with a small publishing house. This list of observations is gathered from my own experience and that of fellow authors. I…
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Continuing the Christmas with the Crooked Cats seasonal feast of literary offerings, here is a short story about a Santa with a difference.
Apologies for the possible lack of political correctness. Not to be taken seriously.
[P.S. Check out our books at the Crooked Cat Bookstore – plenty of Christmas ideas there.]
Leroy and the Camel
It was Leroy’s 25th year in the store as Father Christmas. He hated it a bit more every year.
When he applied for the job, Ralph, the Toy Department manager, had sucked his teeth.
“I don’t know; a black Father Christmas. Mmm. Well, why not? It’s a novelty. Might well draw in the punters.”
Warming to his theme, he mused out loud, “Since you come from Africa, we can’t have a reindeer. What do they have down there? Lions – no that’ll frighten the kids. Elephants – too big. I know – a camel!”
Leroy sighed. He’d never been to Africa. He was born in England; he was just as British as Ralph. But he needed the extra money at Christmas.
Leroy and the camel had been together for a quarter of a century now. It was a real baby camel that had died in captivity at the zoo. Embalmed, stuffed and mounted, a sleigh was attached to it with a harness.
Instead of a frozen grotto, Leroy’s empire was a desert oasis, complete with plastic palm trees and a trickling fountain that went wrong and sprayed the customers from time to time.
Just my luck, thought Leroy, I didn’t get any belly dancers to go with it.
But Ralph had insisted on retaining some of the traditional trappings. So Leroy sweltered under his nylon beard in his Father Christmas outfit.
The camel was a bit motheaten, the result of generations of kids climbing on it, but Leroy camouflaged the bursting-out stuffing with tinsel and plastic palm leaves. He had grown fond of it.
“We’re both a bit long in the tooth,” said Leroy to the camel, “but we go along well together. I wonder how much longer we’ve got.”
The camel’s glassy eyes stared into infinity.
Ralph had been right. The first few years, people flocked to the store to see the exotic Father Christmas. Then the numbers fell off a bit, but Leroy and the camel had managed to keep their jobs so far.
The kids have changed in that time, thought Leroy. Now their parents let them get away with murder. And they can’t sit on my knee any more – I’d get arrested.
He’d had problems already this year.
“You aren’t Father Christmas. He comes from up north and he isn’t black,” one kid had said, the previous week.
“Well, you see,” replied Leroy, “the chief Father Christmas has a lot to do these days. There are so many more children than when he started out five thousand years ago that he has had to take on helpers from all over the world. I’m one of his main helpers.”
The kid scowled and wandered off to look at a Play Station.
Yesterday there had been the little girl and her older brother.
“There isn’t a Father Christmas,” said the boy. “Our teacher says it’s religious bogitry. Anyway, it’s my Dad who brings my presents into my room. I stayed awake last year so I know.”
His sister’s face crumpled and she sat down on the floor and wailed. Their mother, who had been tapping away on her smartphone, looked up.
“What have you been doing to my little girl?”
“He says he isn’t really Father Christmas,” said the boy.
Leroy opened his mouth, but the mother glared at him, picked up her daughter and strode towards the exit.
The boy smirked at Leroy and slouched after his mother.
Leroy looked up from his reverie. A small boy with an angelic face stood in front of him. Leroy smiled.
“What would you like Father Christmas to bring you this year, sonny?”
“I’m gonna tell my mum you’ve been touching me.”
“Tell her what you bloody well like, son. I’ve had enough.”
Leroy dragged off his red robe, threw aside his cushion padding and made for the store exit, his beard still attached.
“Here, Leroy, where are you going?” Ralph dashed up behind him.
“I need some air. It’s too hot in here,” Leroy lied.
“You get back to your oasis right now,” said Ralph, his finger jabbing Leroy’s chest. “This is one of our busiest days before Christmas. You can’t just go wandering off.”
His shoulders sagging, Leroy turned and shuffled back through the store.
The next day, he found an envelope pinned to the camel. The management regretted…economic situation…appreciated his long years of service…but had to dispense with his services next year.
Ralph shrugged. “Sorry, mate, you know how it is. Tell you what, though, you can keep the camel.”
Crooked Cat Publishing authors are running a Christmas promotion on Facebook starting on Saturday 29th November and continuing until Friday 9th January.
During that time, we’ll be posting on our blogs/websites and in the Facebook group. You can read stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, jokes, etc. – all with a Yuletide theme, some light-hearted, some a little more sinister.
What’s more, there’ll be freebies, giveaways, competitions and other promotions of our books. So if you’re short of ideas for presents, or looking to fill up your Kindle or spend that Amazon token post-Christmas, look no further.
Crooked Cat covers a variety of genres, including romantic, historical, contemporary fiction, crime, thriller, mystery and young adult. So there’s something for everyone.
I’ll be posting on this blog and linking to the Facebook group on the following days:
- Friday 5th December – “Bertie’s Buttons”, a short story about a strange event on the Western Front at Christmas 1914.
- Wednesday 17th December – “Leroy’s Christmas”, a short story about a department store Santa with a difference.
**And look out for a competition featuring my novel, The House at Zaronza.**
My online, expat writers’ group, Writers Abroad, will be publishing its third anthology this year, Foreign Encounters. We are seeking submissions of short stories, non-fiction pieces and poetry on the general theme of relationships around the world. Contributors must be expats or former expats. The anthology will be print-published and later available as an e-book.