When I first thought about bringing Bitter End, Oscar Chump and Bermuda Short together, I wasn’t sure what connected them. The differences were easy to pick out; each story is unique to its setting, both in time and place, and their central characters are as idiosyncratic as you and me.
But what they did have in common was the desire for revenge. They might go about it in different ways, and for different reasons, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting your own back even if it is only on the page!
Which led me to my title: Revenge With A Twist, three mystery shorts varying in length from 2,999 words to 5,200.
The longest in the collection is Bermuda Short, my first adult fiction.
I had just returned from a family holiday in Bermuda with the sights and sounds of the island still fresh in my mind, when there was a call for submissions to Cold Blood IV, part of a long-running anthology edited by Peter Sellers, and published by Mosaic Press. They were looking for original stories and dangling a huge carrot…the book would be launched at Bouchercon, the international convention for mystery writers, to be held in Toronto the following autumn.
Talk about motivation! I confess it took me several months to “get it right,” but by then I’d made the leap from writing exclusively for nine-to-12 year olds.
And then there’s Oscar Chump, a small-town mystery with a fifties’ feel. For years, all I had was the title and the lyrics from a 1956 rock-and-roll song by Jim Lowe. He kept asking “Green Door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?” I had no idea, so I asked Oscar Chump. I’m pretty sure the secret I came up with wasn’t exactly the answer Jim Lowe had in mind, but I had my story.
We’ll file that one under writer’s revenge; I had way too much fun with my cast of characters!
And while divorce does turn deadly in Bitter End, I swear this one’s total fiction. Except for maybe the odd bit about sailing (I had a part interest in a twenty-one-foot Shark at the time), and an article I had recently read about forensic accountants searching for the hidden assets of a deposed dictator. In my short story, the assets are, shall we say, far more personal…and it definitely ends with a twist!
Bitter End first appeared in the May, 2016, edition of Mystery Weekly Magazine which publishes original short stories in print and digital form. Once they no longer hold exclusive rights, authors are free to publish elsewhere which is exactly what I did.
I had my title ready and waiting, and a few ideas for the cover which I sent to Heather McIntyre at Cover&Layout in the U.K. And voilà, in March, 2017, Revenge With A Twist appeared “in print” as an eBook with an eye-catching cover and a brand new audience.
From the archives: how my love of silver played out on the page!
I love silver. In all its guises. From silver cuffs and statement rings to sugar bowls and tea pots, the lure of a finely wrought piece of silver is irresistible. The hours I’ve spent in the silver hall at the Victoria & Albert museum gliding from one stunning display to the next, have given me an appreciation for silver as art, as utilitarian, and as historical record.
But, as a child, silver meant only one thing. We were eating in the dining room, and all the knives, forks and spoons had to be polished before company arrived. These days my flatware spends more time in the drawer than it does on the table, but not my silver candlesticks.
They are a thing of beauty.
Nothing is more elegant, or flattering, than basking in the soft glow of candlelight. Or more romantic. But before the advent of electricity and gas lighting, candles had a far more practical use, as did silver. Its reflective qualities made life, upstairs at any rate, a little easier and a whole lot brighter.
And there was the beginning of the story.
A single 18th century antique candlestick, rumored to be part of a much larger collection once belonging to King George II, has come on the market. Attracting our modern-day silver expert Samantha Redfern and her boss, Chas Porter, who for very different reasons, are both desperate to own it.
The candlestick was in superb condition.
Just under nine inches in height with a circular base, swirling shell motifs rising up its stem and a petal-shaped lip surrounding the socket. In a London sale, he would expect it to sell for another five hundred pounds. At least. A pair wouldn’t just double the price, it would triple it.
The candlestick’s monetary value has little to do with the story. It’s all about history, Chas’ and Sam’s, and how a single candlestick can change everything.
When Chas asks Sam about her interest in silver in Chapter Two of Outbid by the Boss, her passion bubbles to the surface. She reveals more than she knows, about herself, her childhood and her family.
…“I saw a painting when I was a young girl…called Five O’Clock Tea. It was only a picture in a book…about women silversmiths,” she blushed slightly. “Two young Victorian women sitting on a chintz sofa. There’s a silver tea service arranged on the table in front of them. One wears a hat and gloves and sips from a delicate porcelain cup. She’s the visitor. They’re just friends having tea, yet it was so…captivating.”
Enchanted, Chas watched the memories play across Sam’s face. She really was beautiful, and so much more real to him than she had ever been before.
She must have sensed he was looking at her. “I guess I was hooked.”
“On silver?” asked Chas.
Sam laughed. “Tea parties. My grandmother was a good sport.”
The painting Sam refers to is by Mary Cassatt, an American artist who lived and worked for much of her life in Paris. And the book Sam refers to is on my shelf. Published by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, it catalogues the museum’s collection of works by women silversmiths from 1685 to 1845.
“Businesswomen,” Philippa Glanville writes in the book’s opening chapter, “are not 20th-century phenomena.” Nor was their contribution to the silver industry. They were active business partners, owners and artisans making beautiful and functional objects from buttons and christening cups, to jewellery and candlesticks.
The threads of history continue to intrigue and inspire no matter what I write.
Outbid by the Boss is by Anne Stephenson & Susan Brown writing as Stephanie Browning.
The choice was hers. To follow her dream or stay home and live his.
THE BOY SHE LEFT BEHIND
Last spring Susan and I were asked by Seattle-based author Sierra Hill if we’d like to be part of The All-American Boy Series.
Fifteen stand-alone romances from fifteen best-selling authors all set in the fictional town of Merlot, California. It was a perfect fit for us. And a chance to explore the new adult market which has become increasingly popular in the last few years,. We knew right away we wanted to write a “second-chance” love story…
The second I saw Brock Jamieson, I knew I was in trouble.
The boy I’d left behind four years ago had become a man, rugged, handsome and oozing sex appeal. My mouth watered, but we weren’t high-school sweethearts anymore. And I’d be damned if I’d fall for him again.
My plan was to stay in Merlot for the summer, then head back to the big city and pursue my career. Unlike Brock, I wasn’t heir-apparent to a family winery. I’d fought hard to get into art school.
But none of that mattered to him. He wanted me, Zoe French, back in his arms and back in his life – and this time he was playing for keeps.
The Boy She Left Behind is ready and waiting for you on KIndle Unlimited!
And click here for more books to enjoy in The All American Boy Series
Welcome to Merlot, CA, an idyllic all-American town in wine country where love is in the air, the boys are grown as fine as the wine and the town is a breeding ground for second-chances, weddings, and brand-new beginnings.
The All-American Boy Series gives you a taste of 15 of your favorite bestselling authors’ brand new stories in this shared world experience. All books are standalone but may include cross-over in characters or scenes. Including our very own tale of lovers-reunited, The Boy She Left Behind.
Releases begin January 25th through February 12th on Kindle Unlimited and are now ready for you to pre-order.
Click here for more info and direct links to all 15 titles in the All American Boy Series!
Then grab a glass of wine, put your feet up and let us whisk you away to wine country.