As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.
Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.
Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accomodate those wanting to take part.
Submission length is limited to no more than 5,000 words, and a suitable spellchecker should be used to remove errors beforehand. A personal photograph should also be included (no avatars please), together with a brief biography.
Mailing address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The French Escape
What could be better than the chance to start again?
It’s fair to say that Flick has had a terrible year. Her beloved father died, she had the wedding of her dreams and only hours after the ceremony her husband ran out on her.
Brenda, fed up of her daughter living like a hermit, decides to drag Flick off to France to stay in a chateau. What could be better than an idyllic escape?
But when they arrive Flick discovers the chateau is all but abandoned.
The only upside of her French escape is the handsome and mysterious neighbour, Nate.
Nate loves his life living in the cottage on the grounds of the abandoned chateau but that is about to be put in jeopardy…
Can Nate and Flick ever learn to come to terms with the past and find love again?
The French Escape is a heart-warming, happy ever after, love story. Follow Flick and Nate’s laugh out loud and emotional journey as they negotiate matters of the heart and learn to trust again.
A laugh out loud romantic comedy.
In two hundred metres, cross the roundabout, third exit.
Flick let out a heavy sigh, wanting to just throw the satnav out of the car window. After hours of driving she was sick of listening to it, its voice having long gone from politely monotone to distinctly patronising. Forced to ignore the temptation though, she resisted tossing it out onto the roadside. With only a vague address to go off and no idea how to get there, she needed all the help she could get, even if that did mean being spoken down to by a bit of technology. Easing her foot onto the brake, she slowed the car, ready to do as she was told.
Cross the roundabout, third exit.
Turning the wheel, she glanced at her mum, Brenda, snoozing in the passenger seat. “A fine travel companion you turned out to be,” she said. Not that she begrudged her mother sleeping, of course. Well, maybe a little. A rhythmic guttural sound emanated from the woman’s gaping mouth and unable to help herself, Flick stifled a laugh. Her mum might not be providing much by way of conversation, but she still managed to entertain, and Flick shook her head, intent on teasing her about it later. She chuckled, knowing her mother would never admit to snoring. Purring maybe; this, definitely not.
Flick returned her attention to the road ahead, wishing her dad were here too. Flick felt sure he wouldn’t have abandoned her for the land of nod; his excitement at having crossed the Channel wouldn’t have let him. A definite Francophile, he loved everything that France had to offer – its history and culture, the food, and most certainly the wine; J’ai le hangover being an often-used phrase of his. She smiled, recalling his linguistic efforts. Try as he might, the language was one of the things he never could quite master. The man spoke more Franglais than Français.
It might have been a year since his passing, but Flick still had to swallow hard, attempting to quell the lump in her throat that always accompanied thoughts of her dad. Tears sprang in her eyes and blinking them away, she silently scolded herself, insisting she was merely being daft. Thanks to recent events, her emotions were all over the place and if truth be known, she didn’t really know what she was crying about these days. Her father? Matthew? The Andrex puppy on the TV ad?
She wished she could be more like her dad. He had had such an enthusiasm for life no matter what it chucked his way. Like now; Flick knew if he were here he wouldn’t just be sharing the driving, he’d be sharing all the information he’d gathered about where they were headed. “Unlike you,” Flick said, back to looking at her mum, a woman who’d been determined to share nothing.
She thought back to when her mum first suggested their holiday. Flick hadn’t been sure, it felt like too much of an upheaval. She’d gotten so used to hiding herself away, summoning up the motivation to go anywhere with anyone proved hard. Not that she’d really had a choice in the matter. Her mum had an uncanny knack of persuading people around to her way of thinking. And when all else failed, she wasn’t averse to just putting her foot down, a tactic she’d resorted to in this instance.
“It’ll be an adventure,” Brenda had said, ignoring Flick’s pleas to the contrary. “The beginnings of a new start, which is just what you need after everything you’ve been through.”
Flick had scoffed, insisting what she needed was to remain in the safe confines of home. The last few months had provided her with all the excitement she could take, thank you very much. Besides, could a mother/daughter trip to this part of France really be described as adventurous?
Flick took in their surroundings. Weaving through the sleepy Breton village with its shuttered stone cottages and quiet cobbled streets, a part of her could still argue not. Yes, she appreciated the place’s natural charm, who wouldn’t? And passing through the village square, she easily envisaged herself sitting outside the little coffee shop enjoying a pain au chocolat and a grande café crème. Looking at the currently empty tables, however, the words fun and frivolity didn’t exactly spring to mind. The village couldn’t have been further from Gay Paris if it tried. “Still, it is beautiful here,” she supposed, trying to remain positive as they meandered out of town, leaving it behind in favour of cornfields and autumnal sunshine as far as the eye could see.
In two hundred metres, keep right.
As she once again did as instructed, the car groaned. Flick sympathised. No doubt it felt as eager to reach their journey’s end as she, due to all the weight it was carrying. Also courtesy of her mum, Flick noted, who’d insisted they pack everything from a pair of sleeping bags, to their Sunday best, along with everything in between. Unable to see through the car’s rear window, Flick yet again had to wonder what this French escape of theirs entailed. Even her dad’s casket of ashes had been squeezed in, for goodness sake, her mum describing his presence as some sort of swan song, whatever that meant.
Naturally, Flick had enquired about where they were headed. Numerous times, in fact. But while, much to Flick’s relief, her mum had readily confirmed they would not, indeed, be camping, no other clues had been forthcoming. She glanced her mother’s way once more, recalling how according to this particular Sleeping Beauty, the element of surprise only added to the adventure.
Continuing to drive, Flick knew her mum meant well. Both her parents had never had anything but her best interests at heart. And now they’d gotten to France, she had to admit she was glad of the opportunity to get away from it all. In France no one knew, no one could judge.
She tried to dismiss the unwanted thoughts invading her head. The shock and confusion at Matthews’s disappearance, the downright humiliation as events had unfolded. She didn’t think she’d ever forget the gossip she’d had to contend with, she could still hear the whispering behind hands as if she’d somehow brought everything on herself. Thanks to everyone’s eagerness for the next juicy instalment, it was as if her life had turned into a soap opera. She cringed. No wonder her embarrassment over the whole thing was as strong as it had always been. No wonder she had a mother hell bent on getting her away from it all.
As usual when Flick thought about Matthew, the same question arose over and over - Why? The hours she’d spent wracking her brains trying to come up with some sort of answer. She’d even questioned herself. Should she have seen it coming? Were there any clues that she’d somehow missed? Did he try to tell her that he’d changed his mind and she just hadn’t heard? To this day she came up with nothing and with Matthew in the wind, it wasn’t as if she was going to get an explanation any time soon.
Brenda’s snoring suddenly got louder and Flick grimaced, as it went from slightly hoarse to downright throaty. She struggled to decide which was worse, thinking about Matthew or listening to this? Thankfully, she spotted a tractor up ahead and, forced to slow down and drop a gear, she breathed a sigh of relief. Never had the sound of a rumbling vehicle engine been so welcoming. She wound down her window, happy to amble along behind. Not that she expected her respite to last, if her instincts were right the tractor would be turning off into an adjacent field soon, its driver intent on harvesting his crops in preparation for the coming winter.
Passing a line of trees, she took in the fallen leaves and spikey chestnut husks that littered the ground. She’d always loved this time of year and not just for the windfall of food supplies it provided; thanks to the rich riot of colour, in Flick’s view, autumn seemed to show nature at its very best.
Sure enough, the tractor’s right indicator blinked, signalling it was about to turn before going on its way. Back to focusing on their journey, Flick checked the timer on the satnav. According to its display, it wouldn’t be long before they reached their final destination and she’d, at last, find out what she was letting herself in for. Her stomach churned. She didn’t like surprises, not anymore.
She caught her reflection in the rear-view mirror and giving herself a long hard stare, the face looking back wasn’t pretty. Even to her own eyes she looked tired and miserable, she’d lost her spark. Her once bouncy, dark hair appeared dull and lifeless and her skin on the wrong side of pale. Not that her choice of wardrobe helped. Looking down at her all-black ensemble of jeans, T-shirt and cardigan, she looked like a vampire on hunger strike.
Fed up of looking at herself, she flipped the mirror away from her eye line, one voice in her head blaming him for the sorry state looking back at her, another insisting that she had to take some responsibility. After all, it wasn’t as if anyone had forced her to live on a diet of self-pity and ice cream for the last six months. Not exactly the best combination when it came to looking after one’s personal health.
Her mother stirred. Thank goodness, Flick thought, as the snoring stopped.
“What time is it?” Brenda asked. She straightened herself into a more upright position. “Sorry about that. I must’ve dozed off.”
Flick cocked her head in her mother’s direction. “Mum, you’ve been asleep for hours.”
“For at least the last couple.” Flick paused for effect. “And you were snoring.”
Brenda scowled, just as Flick had anticipated, refusing to believe her. “Rubbish. Now I know you’re exaggerating.”
Flick laughed, as her mum glanced left and then right through the windows as if trying to get her bearings.
“Are we nearly there yet?” Brenda asked.
Flick shook her head at the question, considering all the secrecy how would she know? Looking to the satnav for the answer, the chequered flag suddenly appeared on the screen, leaving Flick wondering how on earth her mother did it. Either her mum’s awakening was pure coincidence, or she’d developed yet another uncanny ability. And knowing her mother, Flick was inclined to believe the latter. “It would seem so.”
In two hundred metres, turn left.
Flick slowed down and indicated, before turning onto what appeared to be a little-used lane. Bumping along thanks to the potholes, goodness knew where it led. “This doesn’t seem right,” she said, hoping it wasn’t one of those occasions when satnavs got it wrong. Not only were they in danger of losing a tyre, one she wouldn’t have a clue how to change, being stranded in the middle of nowhere would be just her luck.
“I’m so excited,” Brenda said, failing to share Flick’s concern. “Are you?”
Trees towered above them, a ceiling of yellow and orange leaves blocking out the sunlight as they approached an open set of large iron gates. Covered in what looked like years of rust, they definitely hadn’t been cared for in a while. Flick scanned her surroundings. The atmosphere felt almost eerie, as if they’d driven into a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. “What is this place?” Flick turned to her mother, eager for an explanation.
“You’ll see,” Brenda replied, all smiles and anticipation.