Scrivener and why Sarina Langer of Cookie Break writes with it!


Sarina Langer at Cookie Break is the author of the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. The first book of which – Rise of the Sparrows – was released in late May 2016. She’s currently working on the sequel, a new fantasy series as well as her first sci-fi novel.

Here’s Serena …

Scrivener is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in 2016. If you were already following me earlier this year, when I was knee-deep in the formatting for Rise of the Sparrows, you may remember my love/hate relationship (mostly hate) with OpenOffice and my steady decent into madness. I wanted to purchase Word but couldn’t afford it, so I turned to Scrivener which came with a free trial and was a bargain when I purchased it! (I should say at this point I’m not getting paid to say this – I just love this program and want to share my experience with you, because it’s made writing my novels so. much. easier!)

At the time Scrivener popped up across my feeds rather a lot, so eventually I caved and had a look at the incredible tutorials by Kristen Kieffer at She’s Novel. Her whole blogsite is an invaluable resource for writers, so I suggest you click that link regardless of whether you’re interested in Scrivener!

But back to the program. Scrivener looked too good to be true, but the trial was free so I figured Why not?

Now, I should say, I know I’m not using Scrivener to its full potential. There are so many awesome things you can do with this program, and I highly recommend checking out Kristen’s website if you want to know what its full potential can offer you. I’m only using the basics – but the basics I adore!

Take a look at my favourite features:

Full screen mode

This is great because it gets rid of all distractions. You’re left with your draft and nothing but your draft – even the small task bar at the bottom disappears unless you hover over it. If you get distracted easily by social media (and who doesn’t? You’re in good company!) then this is the tool for you! Don’t worry if grey on black doesn’t work for you – you can customise full screen mode (and many other aspects, but we’ll get to that in a moment) to suit you!

Word count goals

This is one of my favourite features. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the progress bar turn from red to orange to yellow to green!

You can set your overall word count goal for the whole draft, or you can set individual session word counts which you can adjust every day, or even while you write (*ahem* if you feel like cheating… Go ahead, I don’t judge. We’ve all done it.).

I admit I don’t use this that often, but they do include some intriguing options such as Ancient Sumarian or Hawaiian. If you’re just writing a quick short to get the inspiration going you might not want to spend a lot of time naming a character you won’t use again afterwards, so this is great for quick suggestions!

And where else would you get ancient amazonian names from? Scrivener’s got you covered!

Auto saves

Accidentally closed your WIP without saving first? Don’t worry, Scrivener’s got your back. Every time you close the program, it does an automatic backup first so even if you did close your manuscript by accident, you wouldn’t lose anything. I wouldn’t rely on it, though. It’s never not worked for me, but I’m a paranoid girl and I’m used to saving before I close anything.

eBook conversion

I haven’t tried this myself, but I bet quite a few of you just looked up! Scrivener can save your file as a .mobi, .ePub and loads of other formats. When I uploaded the .pdf of Rise of the Sparrows to KDP they did that automatically, but you don’t get a copy and many reviewers will ask for something other than the .pdf.

The cork board

I adore this, especially because it looks like an actual cork board. With this ‘tool’ you can plan out every chapter, and refer back to it again easily at the start of every writing session to remind you of what needs to happen next. You can also open the relevant note next to your chapter (including full screen mode, of course) so you have your notes right there without needing to click away from your chapter. I use it to plan all of my chapters in advance as much as I can to avoid getting stuck. If you’re doing NaNo you’ll know that not getting stuck is vital to NaNo success!

Customise everything!

Scrivener allows you to customise just about every part of it, so you can really make it look the way you want. Remember what I mentioned when I talked about full screen mode? If you don’t want to write black on white (the standard), you don’t have to. If a pink background with green writing is more your thing (and doesn’t burn your eyes) then you can adjust it. I’ve set mine to a black background with dark grey writing, which makes a nice change and allows me to see it a little differently, too. Remember the cork board? If the cork board look isn’t doing it for you, you can change it to a couple of other textures or one colour. You can even change the index card edges from pointy to rounded, and the colours!

You can make Scrivener look the way you want, and I’m in love with the options it gives you.

Words of warning: If you’re like me you’ll have several backups of your WIP. I had the original files on my memory stick, but eventually moved the main file to my desktop for one simple reason: Loading it and saving it from my memory stick was slow. Maddeningly, insanely slow. So, if Scrivener looks like it might be for you, learn from my mistake and use memory sticks only for backups. Keep your main file on your desktop, or else you’ll feel like pulling your hair out. Writing and editing a novel is hard enough as it is, you don’t need to make it worse for yourself.

If I’ve tempted you and you’re wondering about giving the free trial a shot (I’ve mentioned it’s free, haven’t I? It’s free!), you can download it here.



David & I would like to offer our sincere thanks to Sarina Langer for allowing us to re-post this really useful and informative piece on Scrivener. I’m guessing there may be a few more converts to Scrivener after reading this!


Two goodbyes


The prompt:
Write a goodbye
… the first between two people who only met for a single moment
… then one between people who have known each other all their lives

Mark was late, as usual. “I shouldn’t have picked up the phone as I was on my way out” he muttered to himself as he pushed through the crowds heading towards the tube stop. Finally, breaking through, he started to run. Arriving at the bar wet and panting, he spotted Caro in the far corner. She was wearing her new emerald green dress – and she was right, it did set her off her dark red hair perfectly. Smiling as he weaved his way through the tables, Mark suddenly realised she was talking to someone at her table. A man. A good-looking one at that.

As he approached, Caro spotted him and smiled. Mark dropped his soaking raincoat onto the stool and swooped her up in a massive hug before kissing her fiercely. Caro didn’t respond, but nor did she push him away, despite her loathing public displays of affection. Mark turned to the man, held out his hand and said: “Hi, I’m Mark, Caro’s boyfriend.” His hand was taken and shaken warmly, but the smile couldn’t hide the amusement being felt: “John, Caro’s new boss, good to meet you Mark.”

Realising he’d committed a faux paux and would be given a serious talking to later, Mark offered to buy both a drink. But Caro reminded him that they’d miss the first half if they didn’t get to the theatre on time. Mark, nodding his assent, helped Caro on with her coat and shook John’s hand once more saying: “Hope to be less rushed the next time.” He stood aside to let Caro make her farewell and steeled himself for the ticking off that would start as soon as they left the bar.

Mark, amazingly, was bang on time. He pulled in to Jen and Richard’s and carefully parked to one side, knowing more would be following him into the already crowded driveway. Jen’s mother opened the door with a wan smile and kissed his cheek. “How’re you doing Mrs P?” he asked as always and she replied in kind: “I’ve been better young Mark, c’mon in.”

Mark walked through the hallway filled with the usual detritus of family life – wellies, coats, school bags, dog’s lead – and went through into the kitchen. As he greeted those already there, he reflected when they’d all last been together – someone’s wedding probably. This time, the occasion was going to be less easy.

Mark and Jen had lived next door to each other since birth. Their mothers had attended the same mother and baby group, had been in hospital at the same time and used to push their prams down into the village to do their shopping together. When it came time for playgroup, they’d started together and gone on to the same primary school, all as natural as night following day. It had never occurred to either family that their being best friends was unusual due to the differing genders, they just got on and that was that.

As they started secondary school and puberty started to hit, Jen sought out the girls more while Mark found himself playing football with the lads and they slowly drifted apart. The families remained close though, as did their friendship, only now it was on a slightly different footing. They were like brother and sister, independent, but fiercely protective of one another. The friendship continued until both went to Universities at opposite ends of the country. They saw each other – briefly – at Christmases when the families got together, but each was now busy following their own passions the rest of the time.

Just after his finals, Mark broke his leg. A stupid accident, it made living in a second floor flat a bit of a trial. So when his parents persuaded him to come home until he could have the cast removed, he accepted with alacrity. Jen was home too, working hard to save up for a trip to the Far East and they fell back into their easy friendship, as if there’d been no gap. When Mark’s parents went away for a weekend, Jen stepped in to make sure he was well looked after. But Mark had invited his flat-mate Richard to visit for the self-same purpose. He spent the weekend watching as his two best mates seem to have been struck by the same thunderbolt. One from Cupid.

They’d stayed in touch as Jen travelled, with Richard running up an enormous phone bill. Clearly it was worth it as, only a few months after she returned, Richard told Mark he planned to propose and was hoping that Jen would move in with him in the build-up to the wedding. Happy-go-lucky Mark easily found another flat-share and had given a hilarious but heartfelt speech as best man at their wedding.

But about six years ago, after the birth of their youngest, Jen had discovered a lump. It turned out to be cancer. Everyone rallied around whilst Jen had the full treatment. After a long, hard 18 months, Jen started to show signs of being her old self. She seemed to recover her physical strength and certainly recovered her sense of fun. Yes, she was eating a careful diet, drank very rarely and exercised regularly, but she was still the funniest woman Mark knew and he began to believe – with huge relief – that she’d cracked it.

Then two years ago, he realised she’d not rung for a few weeks. She’d always found time to check in on him – OK, to give him a hard time about his love life. She was ever on at him to find someone, to settle down, so he could be as happy as she and Richard were. When another week passed without a piss-taking phone call, he drove round … and that’s when he and Mrs P had started their fateful doorstep exchange.

Now the cancer had spread and Jen had a terminal diagnosis. A short one at that. So she’d called for her friends to come round for one last gathering before she became too ill to enjoy their company. And to say goodbye.

The time passed quickly, what with Jen being on great form and having asked everyone to be happy and light, there was much talk and laughter. Naturally, there were a few tears when it came to saying goodbye, but everyone did their best to blink them back. Richard had asked Mark to stay behind and it was, finally, just the three of them. Mr & Mrs P had taken the children off to bed and the house was quiet. Richard kissed Jen on the cheek and left them alone.

Mark started to speak but Jen hushed him: “Will you take care of him for me? Will you look after Richard? Mum and Dad will help him with the children, but will you look after him?” “Oh babe, of course, I will, but …” “That’s good” interrupted Jen, “he’ll need someone to get him out of himself. To make sure that once he’s grieved, he gets on with living. I don’t want to be forgotten, but I do want my kids to have two parents again … and I really don’t want him feeling guilty about that. Mum & Dad will find that hard, so you’ll have to help them with that too. Will you do that for me Markie?” “I will Jennie, I promise you that.” “Then kiss me, give me one of your special big hugs and go, I don’t want us to bawl all over each other.” Mark did as he was asked, his tears pouring down, as were hers. “Bye babe” he said with a final kiss. “Don’t come back till he calls you” were Jen’s parting words.

Richard was waiting at the door. They hugged – something they’d never done before. “I’ll call you” said Richard and they turned away from each other, wiping away tears. Mark had to sit in the driveway for a full ten minutes before he was able to drive away. Six weeks later, Richard rang.


© 2016 Debra Carey

#secondthoughts – Generating your characters


Back in the day I used to be into RPG.  But in a world which seems to run on the Microsoft Windows of D&D, I used to immerse myself in games set in the dark, forbidding world of AppleMac Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay (WFRP).  This is probably the only context in which I can use this analogy, but it certainly feels as though any RPG reference in popular culture leans towards Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, or AD&D, the Advanced flavour).  I suspect at least part of this is down to the popularity of the films and the (older) cartoon series, but perhaps also because my sense is that WFRP never really made it global, whereas D&D spread across the world.

I’ve come across a couple of examples recently of people advocating the use of RPG based elements in writing.  One is a very thorough piece on the use of D&D style summaries of moral codes to help shape characters and character driven conflict, which you can read here, preferably after you finish the post you are currently reading!  Another was on a Twitter, with the Theoretical Physicist (what is it about Physicists and RPGs?) Robert McNees (@mcnees) advocating replacing Twitter profiles with D&D character sheets.  His included three brilliant pieces of equipment: vorpal chalk, tweed jacket (cursed) and the Shield of Tenure.

I’ve occasionally used the technique of looking through the source books to come up with what are essentially writing prompts, or to think about how a reasonably major character might develop over time, but with the various articles floating around, I thought that it might be interesting to give it a more serious go and see where it might lead.  As a starting part to practice with, I thought I might try to work out what my character sheet might look like.  I used to be something of a “munchkin” when I played in the past, which is to say someone who had to have the shiniest sword, the biggest axe, the toughest shield the next best advance profile available…this does not necessarily make for the best RPG experience.  So my rules for the process were to: i) be as honest as possible, ii) avoid the magic side of things within my own profile and skills, iii) not be a munchkin and iv) not get tied up in a not if things didn’t work out perfectly straight off.

I should probably explain at this point two key things.  Firstly, WFRP uses a system of characteristics which affect various tests that you might make in trying to achieve a certain goal.  These tests are all percentage based, so the higher your characteristic the better, and this might be modified by skills, equipment and circumstance.  So, a nefarious example might require you to access a hidden room, open a strong box and abscond with someone’s treasure.  This then requires tests to find the door to the room, figure out how to open it, perhaps pick the lock of the box and do all this without being noticed by the dozing guard…  Choosing one of these at random, picking the lock would be based on a Dexterity test, which would be modified by the possession of proper pick locks and the knowledge of how to use them.  Taking two D10 (i.e. 10 sided dice), nominating one as tens and one as units, you make the roll – anything under your modified dexterity = success.

Secondly, when you play the game for real, you generate a character by rolling dice for particular characteristics, which then steer you to particular classes – Warrior, Ranger, Rogue and Academic. You then select an initial career and away you go.  Along your adventures there are opportunities to change career and hence learn new skills, gain advances characteristics and so on.  In the current context then, what I’ve done is to review my career and try to match this to some of the careers available.  Clearly there are some challenges to this, what with the difference between 21st Century Earth and the WFRP ‘Old World’.  Still, I’ve clearly ended up as an academic kind of character, albeit with some forays into the other classes.

I’ve taken a couple of short cuts and simply taken a straight average in places where you would normally roll a dice, except where I think* that I’m above average.  I’ve then worked out what my starting profile would be and then ‘taken the advances’ that fit for where I am today.  My starting profile is in brackets, and I’ve added some comments, where appropriate.

*Know that I’m demonstrably above average.

So my profile looks like:

Move: 5 (I’m quite tall, I walk fast, I can run quite fast when I can be bothered, or keep going for a long time, ditto, although not usually both!).

Weapon Skill: 40 (30) (Swings and roundabouts – maybe I’m not that bad, but I’m definitely not that good! These days I’d try to talk my way out, or ‘Brer Rabbit’ the situation somehow – which is what a good academic should do!).

Ballistic Skill: 50 (30) (I might possibly have been better than this in the past, when I was shooting for my University team.  I think I’d probably pick it back up pretty quickly, but who knows…).

Strength: 5 (4) (Again, nothing spectacular – I definitely don’t pump, bro’, but when you’re the Breaker of Things and things can range up to big slabs of cast iron, concrete and the like, you don’t exactly waste away).

Toughness: 5 (4) (Pretty good constitution and, for the record, I do not believe in ‘Man-Flu’: suck it up guys and GET ON WITH YOUR WORK).

Wounds: 10 (6)

Initiative: 60 (30) (Got to be quick on your toes when those pesky students are asking awkward questions.  I try to avoid them as much as possible, which also contributes to good initiative!).

Attacks: 2 (1) (pretty standard).

Dexterity: 60 (30) (See strength and initiative).

Leadership: 40 (30) (I’ll take the lead when I need to, but am also happy being part of the team.  The part of the team that goes and works over there.  On my own…There are some rules where I could claim an extra +10 to base given my height, but I’ll keep that in reserve).

Intelligence: 70 (40) (Academic class requires a good starting Int score, and that’s been buffed along the way).

Cool: 60 (30) (Again, pretty average.  That said, the GM is laying some pretty heavy negative modifiers for certain situations at the moment, although I’m starting to fight back…).

Willpower: 70 (40) (See Intelligence).

Fellowship: 50 (30) (See most of the points above!  When I can be bothered, I’ve got some skills that will buff this a bit).

Skills (alphabetical order): Astronomy, Carpentry, Cartography, Chemistry, Drive Cart*, Engineering, Etiquette, Heraldry,  History, Marksmanship, Metallurgy, Numismatics, Read/Write, Secret Language – Classical**, Set Trap, Smithing, Spot Trap, Specialist Weapon – Longbow**, Super-numerate,

*I can drive, so that’s ok, although I don’t think I could really drive a cart, at least not without a bit of coaching.  This is one of those skills that it is almost impossible for your character not to get – at least that was the running joke in the group that I played with.

**Not really, but sort of – I’ve definitely got an advantage over most people, but I’m not sure I can claim a +10% bonus in good faith.

When you look at it like that, it doesn’t look like a great list!  I could potentially claim Arcane Language – Magical, Magical Sense and Rune Lore, but they only really work in a magical world and don’t have an obvious parallel on Earth in the 21st Century.  I could also claim Consume Alcohol, which is a free skill for the Student career(!), but I didn’t really have that kind of university experience – honest.  I might also lay claim to Storytelling.  It’s not really a new venture for me, but it is something that is still being developed, so may be I’m still learning that one.

As for equipment, I think that’s all pretty standard, but could have a bit of fun with, oh, The Toe-Tectors of Resilience (+2 Armour Points), Lab Coat of Protection (purple glow in the presence of spilled chemicals),  and Pen of Truth (magically the ink turns red when writing criticism).  That’s probably enough!

I’m not sure I’d go into this much detail with every character, but it is a bit fun, and does get you thinking about how people might react in certain circumstances.  You can add in the alignment (Good/Evil etc), social standing rules and things like that, and you can think about how people might deliberately avoid certain situations but then think about how they might deal with those situations when they turn out to be unavoidable…It can be quite quick thought, so it’s also a way of providing some extra detail to otherwise bit part characters who might be in danger of being two-dimensional.  I mean, did you know that Jimmy the Jaws’ henchman was also a juggler?

What about you?  Would you give it a go?  What would your profile be like?  How about your Main Character?

© David Jesson, 2016

Where are the rules?


There are many staircases in the castle.  Some are rickety wooden structures, mere centuries old.  Some seem to be early attempts at pictorial definitions of words like ‘decrepit’ and ’creaking’ (although time has mellowed these definitions against their real-life counterparts).  The staircase up which the young man bounds, three-at-a-time, is neither decrepit nor creaking despite being older by nearly a millennia than any other staircase here.  This is not a ‘temporary’ staircase, added for convenience.  These stairs embody the primal solidity of the fortress; they were carved from the living rock of the mountain.

From the young man’s actions we can conclude that he is athletic, confident and more than a little foolhardy: the stair case was old even before the castle was built and the treads are deeply and unevenly worn.  Once this staircase was open to the elements and here and there the scarifying lacerations of the wind and rain, the subtle fingers of ice finding their way into the cracks, have taken their toll, leaving the scars of time.  Foolhardy in double-measure because the lamps (which should have been re-filled and the wicks trimmed an hour past) are burning low and guttering in smoky-gasps.

At the top, he paused.  Once a gaping maw let into a labyrinthine gallery of caves and passages, some natural and some the result of quarrying for stone and ores and the belief that precious stones were buried just another few feet in.  Once, too, these galleries were turned into some semi-habitable dwelling, where the predecessors of the builders of the castle once lived.  Over time the life lived in this dark world, that was both above and below began to pall.  The caves were abandoned and the castle built, eventually encasing the stair.

Well, almost abandoned.  There have always been those who prefer to live apart and many individuals had, over the centuries, taken to losing themselves in the galleries inside the mountain.  Some would simply hide away in some nook, some would extend the diggings, when they thought they had cracked the secret of the mountain and they knew where to dig, where others had given up too soon.  As the years passed, more and more regions became inhospitable, and even the most ascetic of hermits began to find other places to haunt.  Sometime, century past, the King’s brother caused a door to be put in the opening of the cave.  (At this time the top floors of the castle had not yet been completed and even today the plain wooden door bore the marks of wind-burn).  The last vagrants were chased away.  Most of the chambers were abandoned, although guards would still make a periodic sweep through in order to ensure that there no unexpected arrivals.  Two score paces inside the entrance was a very comfortably sized chamber, which was mercifully free of damp and not so far inside the caves that the air became stale and foetid.

The present king had enough children that he didn’t have to worry too much about the youngest, which was just as well: the two furthest from succession were twins.  Coincidentally, the time of their birth had been a time of great turmoil and no-one was entirely sure who, in fact was the eldest.  But as neither was likely to inherit, it did not matter.  Alfher and Beraht were identical and completely different.  Beraht had always been the dreamer, easily distracted by, for example, a flight of birds, but would then spend hours concentrating fully on sketches of those creatures trying to understand how they flew.  Alfher would was more focussed on becoming a knight, but for him this didn’t just mean learning to fight: he studied the sagas and the consulted the bards and wise men and tried to understand how battles had been fought.

And so Alfher, for it was he, paused from the long climb up the stairs.  But only for a few seconds – one of the advantages of youth.  He remembered the first time that he and Beraht had visited this door, when his uncle was still alive and, hermit-like, lived in these caves, emerging infrequently.  Beraht had bethought himself of his Uncle’s dwellings and accoutrements a few seasons past, and seemed to be set on becoming as reclusive as his relative.  Alfher had helped his brother to oil the lock and hinges on the great wooden door, and to clean away the years of neglect in the living quarters themselves, but spent as little time as possible in the dark and forbidding lodgings as he could.

He pushed open the door and called out to his brother, whom he expected to find within the first large space just off the man corridor, a few tens of paces beyond the door.  He did not bother to light a torch from the supply by the door, as he had no intention of going very far into the system.  Instead, he took a deep breath and marched in, calling his brother again: “Beraht! You must come – it is nearly time for the evening meal and Father is expecting us all to be there”.

Beraht looked up as his brother walked in.  “I can’t find the rules!” he wailed.

“Isn’t that why they call it magic? There aren’t any rules.  It just happens.”

“No!  It’s not that simple.  If it just happens, then we couldn’t direct it, we couldn’t produce certain effects –“ Beraht snapped fingers and a small flame appeared at the end of his thumb.  He made the flame dance across his fingertips and then propelled it across the room to light a candle.

“That’s impressive! You’re getting really good at that”.

“Look at this then.”  A second flame appeared and did a more complex dance before, again, flying across the room.  This time though, the flame split into three and lit three different candles.

Together the boys talked of magic, and how it might be used, as they descended the stairs, towards a much cosier, domestic scene.

(~1000 words)

© David Jesson, 2017

One damn thing after another …


from Debs:

“Really? Really? And you thought that would be a good idea because …?” Melanie’s voice was increasing in volume and pitch. If this argument went on much longer, Adam feared for his eardrums. Luckily, there came the sound of a door slamming and the rapid click clack of high heels crossing the hallway at high speed. Melanie stopped at her desk, grabbing a packet of fags out of her handbag, said “later” to Robert when he foolishly attempted to speak to her before storming out.

Adam decided this was a good time to pop out for a sandwich where he passed Melanie furiously smoking by the back door. Raising a hand in greeting, he kept walking. On his return, he showed Melanie a box containing her favourite danish pastry and simply asked “coffee?” Stamping out her cigarette, Melanie followed him into the kitchen. Handing Melanie coffee, made just the way she liked it – black, one sugar – Adam put danish pastries on a couple of plates and sat down. Sipping his own coffee – milk, no sugar – he waited. “That bastard sent Angus in to close the deal with the Swedes. Unsurprisingly his racist misogynist comments meant that they decided to go with our competitors. I had them ready to sign.” I waited, knowing there’d be more. “Alastair’s such a dick, he just can’t help favouring one of his idiot mates. I’ve told him that’s the last time he’s to let one of the scottish mafia muscle in on one of my deals.” I raised my eyebrows at her only to get the ripose: “I’m his top salesperson – by miles – and I reminded him of that fact.”

The office went back to its normal hum of the phones being worked, with the odd bits of printers whirring out proposals. I figured Alastair had learned his lesson. Until Friday that is, quarter end, the day when sales figures get tallied for commission payments. Melanie had gone out to pick up the papers which her latest prospect told her had been signed. She’d not been gone long when Jen, the sales administrator’s phone rang. I picked it up to Melanie asking for Alastair, in what could only be described as tight, polite tones. I put her straight through, then walked down the corridor, ostensibly to make tea. It put me next door to Alastair’s office and I could hear him stuttering out some form of defence. I think the scottish mafia may have struck again.

Next morning, Melanie walked in with two take-away coffees, a couple of pastries and headed to he kitchen. I took the hint and joined her. “He did it again” she spat out, “only this time he sent Bruce in to pick up the contract and allowed him to claim the sale for himself.” “Can he do that?” I enquired, only to be told in no uncertain terms that Melanie had put forward a formal complaint via the HR Department and Alastair’s boss. Walking back to my desk, I pondered who was going to come out the winner in this battle of the big hitters. There was no doubt that Melanie was in the right, but that scottish mafia was pretty damn powerful.

Whilst the complaint was working it’s way through the formal steps, things went back to that everyday hum. Melanie’s next few deals went through without interference. The office grapevine churned out the progress of her complaint and it became clear that Melanie was not going to accept a polite knuckle rap for Alastair and/or the scottish mafia, together with the return of her usurped commission. She wanted Alastair’s head on a plate. The gossip mainly centred around whether she was brave and principled, or foolish and vindictive.

As I left the office, my mobile rang. “Adam?” asked the familiar tones of my grandmother, “will you come for dinner tonight?” I accepted with alacrity, for my grandparents had an excellent cook and wine cellar. I dressed for dinner – formally – in my best dress kilt. Dinner was up to its usual high standard, but it was not until we retired to my grandfather’s study with a couple of brandies that I was asked: “So, this young lady who wants us to remove Alastair – what’s your view Adam?” I answered honestly “She’s in the right. She’s a good salesperson, her technical skills and knowledge outstrips any of the team which is almost certainly one of the reasons she’s so good. But she’s also professional and principled, so all client encounters are free from laddishness, vulgarity and off-colour jokes.” “Hmmm” said my grandfather thoughtfully as I continued: “I think the firm should have more like her and less of the scottish mafia. She’s the future and they should be the past.”

First thing Monday, Alastair summoned Melanie into his office. I could hear Melanie’s voice rising in pitch so, when a client called, I persuaded Jen to interrupt Alastair whilst I texted Melanie. When she finally left Alastair’s office, Melanie’s face was flushed a bright shade of red, but they’d been no sound of raised voices. I asked Melanie to look over a proposal of mine and we spent the morning in quiet discussion. At midday, I suggested “lunch?” and we wandered down the road to the pub. Alastair had clearly been pushing Melanie’s buttons hard and she admitted being close to handing in her notice.

As we walked back, I spotted my grandfather’s chauffeur in the car park. Inside we found my grandfather chatting away amiably to Jen. But, all around the office, various members of the scottish mafia were packing up their desks, each of them with a member of senior management checking every item that went into their boxes. It had – indeed – been one damned thing after another … but this time, they’d gone too far.

[981 words]


© Debra Carey, 2017



From David

Do you know how long it is since I’ve had a lie in? No? Me neither. I can’t remember the last time I had an honest-to-goodness lie in. You know, the kind where you don’t even bother to set the alarm, you have no plans and not even the brightening of the walls with the morning sunshine can stir you from the7& pit of bedclothes. If you’re very lucky then someone will leave a cup of tea by the bed, and it’ll be just at drinking temperature when you do finally bestir yourself. If you’re not that lucky, then you’ll finally drag yourself out of bed in search of it yourself. Bizarrely, I think I had a dream about that kind of lie in the other day.

There are some days when it’s just not worth getting up. A lie in, as aforementioned, would’ve been lovely, and with the benefit of hindsight that’s exactly what I should’ve done. But you know what I always say? Hindsight is 20-20. And you know what my old Nan, godresthersoul, would’ve said? There’s no use crying over spilt milk. Mind you, where’s the fun in that, eh? You just sit there and drink up and I’ll get the next round in, but I’m determined to get this off my chest.

So, where was I? Oh that’s right. I nearly got a lie in, because there’d been a power cut in the night and it had sent the clock funny. What do you mean an alarm on my phone? Haven’t you heard about the problems of keeping those things in your bedroom? No thank you. I leave it downstairs like any sane and sensible person. No, I’m pretty used to my alarm going off and then it’s time to get up but yesterday, no alarm so I just sort of mentally got cosy again – until the foxes did a duet on the back lawn. I was awake in an instant, I can tell you! As was the rest of the house.

There we all were, behind schedule for work, school and all the rest of it. With ‘diverse alarums and discursions’ as the bard would have it, we managed to get ourselves sorted. We all piled in the car and were only a few minutes later getting out of the house than I like, but I was really on edge by that time. We got to the end of the street and I remembered why I like to be out of the house on time. Wall-to-wall traffic. And would anyone let me out? Would they…ever. All the blighters studiously avoiding making eye-contact. Still, it’s like my old Nan, godresthersoul, used to say: “least said, soonest mended”.

I managed to get everyone where they needed to be without anyone getting in trouble, and I was only a few minutes late myself. Normally that wouldn’t matter, it’s not like the old days when you had to clock on, but the boss was clearly on edge himself. Again, it wouldn’t normally matter as the chances of me crossing paths with him first thing in the morning a usually pretty miniscule. Of course this was the day when we crossed paths in the locker room. He really bent my ear, accused me of sneaking in late and all sorts. What? No, I wasn’t being ‘surreptitious’, thank you very much. I might have been a bit more subdued than my normal effervescent self, but after the morning I’d had so far, so would you be.
I was smarting a bit from the boss’s tongue-lashing, but it does no good to answer back, so I just got on with it. Pulled me boots on and all the rest and went to my workbench. What I should’ve done was gone and got myself a cuppa, but after the earful I’d just had? No chance. Within five minutes my hand slipped and I’d put a gouge in the piece I’d been working on all week. Gutted? You bet. Took me until morning coffee to get back to where I’d been. So it goes. And then after the break I get back to my bench and I’m rummaging around for a tool and can I find it? Can I…heck.

Well, by this time I’m just about ready to blow my gasket, I can tell you. Who’s got my 3/8ths I yell. Everyone, and I mean everyone, looks up. The foreman raises an eyebrow, but leaves it at that. Fred comes over with that stupid grin on his face and just puts it on the bench, doesn’t say a word and walks off. Two minutes later and Charlie’s at my elbow, ever so ‘umble, asking if he might have the half-moon file back that I’d borrowed from him last week. I mean, I ask you!

And that was just the morning. I limped through to lunchtime when I realised that I’d left my sandwiches in the fridge at home. Major despair, I can tell you. A brief moment of happiness when l remembered that I ‘d left something in the fridge at work, which disappeared when I spotted the Tupperware all washed up on the draining board.

I’ll spare you the trauma of the afternoon , but it didn’t get much better. And when we got home, no tea ! In all the kerfuffle of the morning we’d forgotten to reset the oven clock after the power cut.

Some days, it’s just one damn thing after another. Same again?

[914 words]

© David Jesson,  2017


FF Prompt: One damn thing after another!

Well, in the light of how 2016 went for those of us in the UK and the US, it seemed impossible to avoid …

So, step right up, let your imaginations run riot and let’s hear your tales of disaster, in no more than 1,000 words.

Deadline for submission is 2pm on Friday, 6th January 2017.


A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.