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Happily Never After

Cover HNA paperback med

‘Happily Never After’ is the first in a series of anthologies written by authors hosting and attending the Crime & Publishment yearly workshops.

As the jacket cover above details, ‘Happily Never After’ contains twenty-two stories written by members of Crime and Publishment, yearly crime-writing workshops based in Gretna Green, the home of British weddings. We meet fools, dysfunctional families, spoilt brats, brides, monsters, and mobsters. There are trains, mud-holes, empty nests, battered vans, farmhouses and ornate rooms… and a variety of ways for the long-suffering to dispose of their spouses.

You can read one of the stories below (after the contents and authors biographies) and purchase the book in eBook from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, and in paperback from CreateSpace.

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Contents

  1. The Train Now Leaving – Tess Makovesky
  2. Two Rooms – John S Langley
  3. This Time There Would Be No Witnesses – May Rinaldi
  4. Collateral Damage – Jackie Baldwin
  5. From This Day Forward – Ann Bloxwich
  6. Dutiful Bride – LP Mennock
  7. Fallout – Les Morris
  8. There Goes The Bride – Graham Smith
  9. Sealed With A Loving Kiss – Lucy Cameron
  10. A Job Well Done – Janet Williamson
  11. How To Bottle Starlight – A S King
  12. April’s Fool – Morgen Bailey (you can read this below the authors’ biographies)
  13. One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison – C G Huntley
  14. It Is The Cause – Gillean Arjat
  15. The Gift – Andrew Leslie
  16. In A Whirl – Carol McKay
  17. I Do – Mike Craven
  18. Coming Home – John Coughlan
  19. All In The Jeans – John S Langley
  20. Timing – LP Mennock
  21. The Wedding – May Rinaldi
  22. Kick Off – C G Huntley

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Tess Makovesky – Liverpool lass Tess is now settled in the far north of England where she roams the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep. Tess writes a distinctive brand of British comédie noir and her short stories have darkened the pages of various anthologies and magazines, including Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, Betty Fedora, ‘Exiles: An Outsider Anthology’ (Blackwitch Press), ‘Drag Noir’ (Fox Spirit), ‘Rogue’ (Near to the Knuckle), and ‘Locked and Loaded’ (One Eye Press). Her debut novella, a psychological noir called ‘Raise the Blade’ is published from Caffeine Nights in 2016. You can follow her ramblings (both literary and literal) at her blog: http://tessmakovesky.wordpress.com and her books at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tess-Makovesky/e/B00KL7NC16.

John S Langley – Born and raised in the North East of England, John qualified as a Chemical Engineer and travelled the world peddling his wares (sometimes more successfully than others). He has enjoyed writing for as long as he can remember and has previously had one of his short stories published in South Africa. His first novel Abuse of Privilege has his go-between tasked with flying to Peru, delivering a ransom and returning an American teenage girl home; but what he learns along the way causes him to make some hard personal choices of his own. The book is available through Amazon and as a Kindle e-book; it is the first in the ‘Agaricus’ series of novels and the second and third books are currently in the pipeline and should be available in 2017. His short story Two Rooms was inspired by a trip to Gretna Green and rubbing shoulders with some truly encouraging people. You can find out more about John’s books via https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abuse-Privilege-John-Langley-ebook/dp/B00VPA3LUA.

May Rinaldi was born at some point in the 50s in Airdrie, Lanarkshire to May Hamilton and a passing itinerant Italian ice cream man hence her love of Equi’s double cream vanilla. Sharing her time between Dumfries and Galloway and the Island of Gozo in the Med she writes cosy crime with noir edges and a touch of Scottish humour. Put her in a box? With that hair? Not a chance. When not writing about the characters and sites of her second home she is a regular attendee at local salerooms and has furnished her home with bargain auction finds. Her husband’s most hated phone call is “Bring the van!” She shares her home with her husband, three cats, seven hens and approximately 50,000 honey bees and spends hours in the garden growing flowers to keep the bees fed. Her writing career was started by Maggie Elliott’s creative writing group in the Scottish Borders, and she is now an active member of Moffat Writers and Moffat Crime Writers. In another incarnation she writes children’s books set in Norway with trolls, huldrus, and other Norsk mythological creatures interacting with the locals with exciting and hysterical results.

Jackie Baldwin is a former solicitor specializing in family and criminal law. She now practices as a hypnotherapist in Dumfries. Married, with two grown up children and two dogs, she is an active member of Moffat Crime Writers’ Group. Her debut crime novel, ‘Dead Man’s Prayer,’ is published by Killer Reads, a digital first imprint of Harper Collins, in August 2016. Jackie can be found on Twitter @JackieMBaldwin1 and also on Facebook at Jackie Baldwin Author and her book is available via https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Mans-Prayer-Jackie-Baldwin-ebook/dp/B01DT37ZIE.

 

Ann Bloxwich is a writer who lives in the West Midlands, but is currently in the process of selling her house and relocating to Scotland. She is happily married to Paul, and they have four children, three cats and more books than the local library. Ann enjoys reading Crime Fiction, Action and Adventure, Mysteries and Psychological Thrillers. She has, by her own admission, over one hundred books on her to-read pile, but still buys a new book every week (usually more than one). Her first book, a thriller about a murder at a strip show, will be available soon. She is also a co-owner of Pleasure Ladies Nights, a male revue group based in Birmingham, who tour all over the country.

LP Mennock lives in the mountains of Southern Scotland with her five crazy rescue dogs, two cats and two sons (who have been known to deny all knowledge of her existence, along the lines of ‘She’s not with me, officer!’). Armed with a deeply disturbed and twisted imagination she writes dark crime stories with gusto. A founder member of Moffat Crime Writers, she is an enthusiastic performer at Noir At The Bar events. You’ll find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LPMennockWriter and she blogs at www.lpmennock.wordpress.com. She hasn’t worked out how to use Twitter yet but will post on Facebook when she does.

Les Morris is an author with a lifelong love of books and storytelling that he developed as a child. After a career in the Royal Navy which spanned most of the 80s and 90s, he now lives in Cumbria, with his wife and children, where he writes at every opportunity. His short stories, ‘Blood on Their Hands’ and ‘Cold Redemption’ were published in Volumes 1 & 2 of Matt Hilton’s anthology series ‘ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales’. Les was featured on the Thrillers, Killers and Chillers website with his story, ‘Meltdown’ and has two tales ‘An Eye for an Eye’ and ‘Blood on Their Hands’ available as eBooks at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Les-Morris/e/B0084Z2WAY. He is currently working on a novel. You can find him at http://www.lesmorris.com, and also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LesJMorris.

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last eleven years he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well respected review site CrimeSquad.com for over two years. As well as reviewing for Crime Squad, Graham has also interviewed such stellar names as David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Matt Hilton, current CWA Chair Peter James, Mark Billingham and many others. When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family. You can find out more about Graham via https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor and his books via Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU.

Lucy Cameron – Born in London and having lived in South Wales, Liverpool, York and Nottingham, Lucy currently lives in a shed in her dad’s garden in Scotland where she wears thermals for warmth and writes by candlelight. Lucy studied Fine Art at university which allowed her to get a glittering career in… food retail. Working sixty hours a week in retail management hampered Lucy’s writing until a career-break took her to Scotland and the rest, as they say is history… or should that be (crime) fiction? Lucy’s debut novel ‘Night Is Watching’ is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing in 2016. To find out more, visit www.lucycameronwriter.co.uk.

Janet Williamson was born in 1953, in Rawmarsh, Rotherham, in what used to be the West Riding of Yorkshire. Choosing nursing as a career, she attained many post-qualification certificates and awards, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree. A volunteer for the Samaritan organisation, Janet became a Counsellor, then expanded her skills by becoming a Further Education Teacher, leading to the position of Specialist Trainer in health-related subjects with Sheffield City Council and later, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. When her career was curtailed by a serious illness, she directed her attention to her lifelong passions of reading and writing. English Language and Literature classes had been her favourite subjects since childhood, and she wrote stories to amuse her friends. Janet joined the Workers Educational Association Creative writing classes and advanced to the position of Tutor, holding Creative Writing classes in several Coal Field Regeneration Enterprise Centres after the pit closures. Having attained a Creative Writing Certificate with Lancaster University, Janet began researching Victorian criminals and developed a story which consumed every waking thought, demanding that her characters’ stories are told. Janet works from home as a writer, tutor and book reviewer and can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/janet.williamson.794.

A S King is a designer, trained in the spirit of William Morris, that even mundane things should be well made and beautiful. Writing is the means by which she uses to navigate her way through life, the means that renders her capable of coping in a crazy world. Until recently, she admits to lacking enough courage to share her deepest imaginings but she now blogs at https://annaking969.wordpress.com where you can read more of her writing.

Morgen Bailey – Morgen with an E – is a freelance editor, tutor, (in person and online – she is one of Crime & Publishment’s 2017’s tutors, alongside Lin Anderson and Martina Cole), blogger, reviewer, speaker, author of eleven novels (at various stages), 400+ short stories, novels, articles, and has dabbled with poetry but admits that she doesn’t “get it”. Former Chair of three Northampton-based writing groups, she has judged the H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, RONE and most recently BBC Radio 2 500-word competitions. She can regularly be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, and when not online, she is a British Red Cross volunteer (sorting their donated books), walks her dog (often while reading, writing or editing), reads (usually for review) and somewhere in between all that, she writes. Like Morgen, her blog https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com is consumed by all things literary, and her email address is morgen@morgenbailey.com. You can read / download her eBooks (paid and free) at Amazon USAmazon UK, Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo.

C G Huntley was born in Glasgow in the late 1950s. Brought up in Easterhouse and the tenements of Springburn allowed her to watch the hardships as well as the humour in the daily lives of the Glaswegians in the 60s and early 70s. In the mid 70s her parents moved her to London. She has three grown-up children who are never shocked or surprised by her actions. She also has two grandsons who are the only two men in her life who can interrupt her reading and writing without being scowled at. After living abroad for many years she is now back living in Scotland with the husband she has shared her life with for thirty-eight years and a complex rescue dog called Alfie, (Alien Life Force In Espania). She enjoys taking an active part in a creative writing group where her life long love of reading has allowed her writing to flourish. She is also part of a crime-writing group and is working on her first novel.

Gillean Arjat – With a professional background in English teaching and university administration, Gillean Arjat has written off and on as a hobby most of her life, occasionally having a few short stories and articles published in Scottish literary magazines and, more recently, in the online Scottish Review. She became interested in crime writing after reading a Henning Mankell novel she bought on a whim in a branch of Waterstone’s and was hooked. She lives in Edinburgh with her British Moroccan husband.

Andrew Leslie – Born in Scotland, Andy has travelled south to Bristol, back to Scotland, returning to Bristol, and is working his way back up north, currently as a Self-employed Insurance Contractor in Derbyshire. When his body is willing, Andy is a keen amateur tennis player – a big supporter of his namesake Andy Murray – and he loves skiing, although his latest visit to France didn’t go without incident. He would love nothing more than to give up his job (just don’t tell his boss!) and write full-time, although his muse can be often be an obstinate creature. His first love is crime but he also has a romance in the works! He can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/andrew.leslie.54.

Carol McKay won the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2010 and has been the recipient of a Creative Scotland writer’s bursary and a professional development grant. She co-wrote the autobiography of Eileen Munro As I Lay Me Down To Sleep (published in 2008 by Mainstream Publishing), which became a Scottish bestseller. In 2013 her eBook Second Chances: true stories of living with Addison’s Disease was featured on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Health Check’. Carol’s short fiction and poetry have been published widely in literary magazines such as Gutter and Mslexia, and a collection of her short fiction is available as an eBook called Ordinary Domestic. She reviews fiction for Northwords Now and has written and reviewed for UK literature charity Booktrust. She lives near Glasgow, has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, and has been a teacher of creative writing at undergraduate level through The Open University since 2004. Because writing doesn’t pay, she’s recently turned to crime. Carol’s website is www.carolmckay.co.uk and you can find out more about her books via http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B003VIY324.

Mike Craven – Although he was born in Cumbria in 1968, Mike Craven grew up in the North East. In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years later, he took the plunge and accepted redundancy to become a full time writer. He now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals. Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and was published in June 2015 by Caffeine Nights. Also available is his award winning collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge EverythingMike is a member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the International Thriller Writers’ Association. He is represented by David Headley at DHH Literary Agency. Mike’s website is www.mikecraven.co.uk. And you can find his work at Amazon on: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Burial-Gown-Avison-Fluke-ebook/dp/B00YNYSY5W.

John Coughlan – Born in 1949, John is married with three children. With a background in the Royal Marines, John spent thirty years in the Fire Brigade but is now retired and is an avid hill walker and climber. A sometime-poet when moved to it, John has been writing since he was a youngster, is in the process of writing a crime novel, and has a collection of short stories set in Ulster called ‘Shrapnel’ as well as two very tongue-in-cheek travelogues: ‘Wurild Tour of Scotland’ and ‘The Skye Lye’.

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Example story: 12. April’s Fool – Morgen Bailey

Her wrinkled right hand clasps the side of the bowl while her left beats the mixture. April thinks of her husband and growls. She pictures him downing his beer, chatting to friends, letching at the bimbos by the bar, and smiling, his loose tooth wobbling in its socket.

As she adds the final ingredient, her hand beats faster to match her brain, the spoon clanks against the glass bowl and a small dollop of pudding flies over the top. “Damn it,” she says, and uses a cloth to wipe up the slimy green goo. She stares at the clock and growls again. He’ll be on his ninth pint by now, and never stops at single numbers.

Thumping down the bowl, another blob escapes. This time she grabs one of his clean vests off the chair to her left, wipes up the spillage, then neatly folds the vest with the newly acquired marks hidden, and puts it on top of a pile of freshly ironed clothes. She smiles, turns, then pulls open the fridge door, oblivious to the sound of the seals peeling apart. She makes a space for the clear Pyrex bowl and dumps it on the shelf, letting it clunk against the plastic-covered metal bars. Grabbing a bag of home-grown mixed veg out of the salad drawer, she slams the door to, reuniting the seals which kiss shut.

Ignoring the greens, she selects the carrots which she peels roughly before slicing them lengthways into delicate strips. They lie on the chopping board in disorderly lines but the regiment leaps to attention as they’re boiled alive, joining the salted peas cowering at the bottom of the saucepan.

Carrying the laundry, she stomps upstairs and into his bedroom. She opens the wardrobe door, supporting it as she does so, cursing at the loose hinge which she’s nagged him about time and again. She hooks a hangered shirt over the rail, smoothing its sleeve down as it catches on its neighbour. Her right foot knocks against a battered suitcase as she lifts the door to shut it in place, and she smiles again and returns to the kitchen, bobbing her head as she ducks under the beam.

With the vegetables cooked, she bashes the boiled potatoes to within an inch of their lives then finishes them off with a fork as she lays the mash on top of the mince and skims the fork in smooth long strokes back and forth, emulating her husband ploughing his field. After sprinkling a cheddar topping, she returns the clear glass dish to the oven and lowers the heat. There’ll be hell to pay if his dinner gets burned. She scrapes the peelings, gooseberry tops and tails into the compost bucket then crashes the pots and pans into the sink, as if the louder the noise the better she feels. She looks at the clock and sighs. He’ll be back soon.

April checks the pudding in the fridge, shaking the bowl to check the content’s solidity. The recipe says ‘leave to cool’ but she’s getting impatient.

 

The kitchen door swings open and he wobbles in. He’s got tart red lipstick on his cheek just above the nick where he caught himself shaving that morning.

“Dinner ready, woman?” he yells as he kicks off his boots as if she’s miles away, not just the other side of the farmhouse kitchen.

“Sit down, it’s on its way” is the only order she dares to make but it does the trick.

He shouts a “get me a beer, April” and it duly appears, April somewhat surprised that the ‘woman’ is now personalised.

She watches him eat and it puts her off her food. The shepherd’s pie is thrown down his throat at the same speed as his drink and he isn’t fussed which he has. His mouth greets one while still full of the other. A dribble of beer rolls down his chin and April’s stomach lurches.

 

She clears away the plates and goes to the fridge. The dessert is extracted and dispensed into two single portion glass dishes.

He looks down at his and belches. “What’s this?” he asks, before issuing another.

“It’s gooseberry,” she pauses, “fool”, the delay quite deliberate.

“Don’t call me no damn fool, woman”. He scrapes back his chair and faces her, just inches between them, before she turns away from his beery breath.

“No, that’s what it is. Gooseberry fool,” and she turns to the sink mumbling “tho’ takes one to know one” just out of earshot, as he sits back down.

Saying a louder “it’s extra sweet, just how you like it”, she leaves him to eat his dessert and finish his beer.

Removing her wedding ring, she rinses the plates under the hot tap, empties the washing-up bowl and re-fills it with warm soapy water. Ignoring him as he leaves the kitchen, she hears the TV start up. No doubt he’ll soon be shouting at the screen to Jeremy Paxman or one of his guests; some politician or other.

She can feel the water softening her rough hands and once the plates and cutlery are washed, she puts her palms flat on the bottom of the bowl until she can feel her fingertips wrinkle.

Turning back to the table, April picks up his empty dish and accompanying spoon and throws them in the bowl. The water splashes against the tiled wall behind the sink but she doesn’t care. She’s past all that.

For a moment she remembers their early years and the husband who used to take her on holidays, would remember their anniversary and kiss her goodnight in the bed they shared; his bed now. She hears his moans of indigestion from the other room and a smile slowly comes to her face when it finally sinks in that she won’t have to put up with him much longer.

 

With the washing-up done, April goes upstairs, leaving the dishes to dry. She pulls out the old suitcase and begins to pack. She knows what is needed and it doesn’t take her long. She lugs the case down the stairs but the handle slips from her grasp as she nears the corner, three steps from the bottom. The case plummets into the kitchen and he stomps through to meet it.

“What you doing, woman?” he asks but she just smiles and looks at the contents of the case which have spilled onto the kitchen floor.

He looks down at the clothes then back at his wife.

“April?” is all he can say and she tilts her head towards the back door.

“I’ve been a fool long enough, it’s time to go,” her face as hard as his heart.

He walks towards her but she backs away.

She looks at him, the case, the cascade of clothes, then at the door again. He opens his mouth to speak or belch, April isn’t sure which, but he closes it again.

She stares. He sighs.

 

As she closes the door behind her, her grip tightens on the suitcase handle. As she walks up the path, towards their car, a row of pink sweet peas either side of her, bid her farewell. She starts thinking of the holiday that’s been long overdue and as she drives off towards the hills, she wonders how long it will take the police to find his body.

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