Book Review: The Lady in the Spitfire by Helena P. Schrader

It is appropriate to reblog my review of this book on the occasion of the death of Mary Ellis, one of these brave WWII female pilots.

Write to Inspire

The Lady in the SpitfireThe Lady in the Spitfire by Helena P. Schrader
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another WWII story of love and conflict

This book is one more reason for me to declare my love for historical fiction. The facts behind the female flyers that moved the aircraft to operational airfields were fascinating. However, without the story that Helena P Schrader, I would have struggled to wade my way through the dry descriptions.

The story brings the well researched facts to life. I have to say that the ending, well, the ending before the end of the book, is rather predictable. What would often be entitled “Epilogue,” wraps up all of the loose ends very nicely and made me feel good.

There were a few surprises littered throughout the text. Without spoiling them, I shall reveal one of them. Remember that this story is based in the days when radar…

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Postage Stamps

Recently, I bought a card to send to a good friend of mine who lives in Denver, Colorado.

Shirley was diagnosed with double cancer about two years ago. A melanoma and breast cancer. The melanoma was removed early on and she has been through every treatment possible for her breast cancer including double mastectomy and rebuilding. She thought she was through it all.

She wrote a tremendous, courageous blog journal of her experiences along the way. Throughout, she was so stoic and strong and she maintained her sense of humour. I was inspired, as were many of her friends around the world.

Then, about three weeks ago, her daughter, McKenzie, posted on her Mom’s Facebook page. That, in itself, is most unusual. No matter how down Shirley was, she would always create her own blog and Facebook posts. McKenzie revealed that her Mom had gone into a Rehab Centre (like our hospices in Great Britain), with a recurrence of her melanoma.

So I bought a nice card to send to Shirley. I deliberately chose a card with an English scene which is blank inside so that I could write a personal message for her.

When I went to post it, the lady at the counter put an Airmail sticker on the front and gave me the stamp to lick and stick. When I looked at it, it was like this….

doomed-stamp

I thought, “That’s inappropriate!” Shirley is American and may never have heard of the British comedy show, Dad’s Army. She may not get the joke. What a thing to send to somebody in her circumstance.

So I went back to a counter to exchange the stamp. Different counter. The lady said that she couldn’t exchange it because that is the only £1.45 stamp. She said that I could go to the automatic self-service area and get a blank sticker stamp to that value, so I asked her for a refund. She said that she couldn’t do that either. The supervisor arrived and told me that I could get a refund, but I would have to go to the counter where I’d bought the stamp.

So I queued again and got back to my original server and asked her for a refund. I explained the situation. She told me that it was alright because she could give me a £1.45 stamp with a different picture. I said that her colleague told me that wasn’t possible. The supervisor arrived and told me that this server had different sets of stamps.

Great! I couldn’t be bothered to discuss. I took the new stamp, which looked like this…..

2018_Species_03_Beaver

Well! You probably know what “Beaver” can mean in American English!

My immediate thought was, “If Shirley notices this stamp, she will laugh.” It would make me happy to make Shirley laugh. She deserves it.

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Latest review of Knitting Can Walk!

I couldn’t resist sharing this link to the latest five star review of my second novel, Knitting Can Walk!

Mandy Cowley’s review of Knitting Can Walk!

Please take a look. It’s a review to be proud of.

 

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Flash Fiction: Big game hunter shot friend while aiming at lion he wanted to kill

James and Stewart went hunting.

James shot Stewart.

You couldn’t make it up!

After putting in years of planning, James Brown and Stewart McAlpine finally set off on their big game shooting and fishing holiday of a lifetime to Kenya.

Their fishing trips went well. They caught dorada, yellow-fin tuna and Stewart even managed to hook a marlin, which weighed in at 183 pounds. The dorada was served up by the head chef at their hotel. Their fellow guests were very appreciative.

Things started to go wrong almost as soon as they arrived in the Tsavo national park. As they stopped to admire some elephants, which were covered in local red dust, the leading bull charged at them. Only the quick wits and action of their driver allowed them to avoid serious injury.

On the first afternoon, their objective was to bag a lion. The king of the jungle would make a magnificent trophy. They had paid a fortune for the privilege.

The guide was excellent. He took the two hunters to the spot where he had previously tracked a pride of lions on several occasions. He positioned them, concealed behind two adjacent, large bushes and told them to wait.

The guide’s assistants ensured that the lions were driven towards the intrepid pair.

The huge male,  his expansive mane making him appear to be even more massive than he actually was, ran between the two bushes, unaware of Stewart and James.

James became over-excited and, with complete disregard for his companion’s position, swivelled and fired both barrels at the frightened lion.

He missed the lion.

He hit his friend.

The lions were long gone by the time the ambulance arrived.

James is currently recovering well in hospital in Nairobi.

“I was very lucky to only lose my right arm,” he told our reporter. “It could easily have been much worse. If my friend hadn’t fired at that exact moment, that vicious beast would have surely killed me!”

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Flash Fiction: The Flying Athlete

The athlete sat in the waiting area at Gate 23 in London Heathrow’s Terminal Three.

His athletic prowess was obvious to all around him. His shirt told us that he was superior to the rest of the mere mortals who were waiting to board the flight. He proudly sported his golden Under Armour t-shirt.

When he rose to head for the plane in response to the call for the first ten rows, I was mightily relieved. He would not be sitting next to me.

Phew!

The man in the sporty t-shirt weighed about twenty stone. The size label read XXXXXXL!

Rock, flab and roll.

It makes you wonder.

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Flash Fiction: The Bottle Dungeon

There was only one way in and one way out of that hellish hole. I could imagine the prisoners languishing, helplessly down there in the bottle dungeon in days gone by.

The condemned man’s fate was sealed as soon as he was lowered into that damp, rocky cavern beneath St Andrews Castle. Within a few weeks, he would emerge as a corpse, tied to the end of a rope which had been lowered from the surface by the guards. That same rope was also used to lower pig swill and water as sustenance for the prisoners and to raise the bucket of excrement and urine.

Us boys would lower ropes into the dungeon for a different reason. We would use ships’ lead lines, loaded with tallow, to pull up some of the coins that the tourists had thrown down there. We viewed these riches as our just rewards for persuading the visitors that the practice would bring them good luck and that the spirits of the past would grant them their wishes. We were great tourist guides!

On a good weekend, our coin-fishing expeditions could yield as much as ten shillings each.

Peem had once pulled up a really old coin. It was over four hundred years old. We took our find to the bank to be valued. It was worth more than five hundred pounds. We were rich! But not for long. It was declared as treasure trove and became the property of the Crown. We had to donate it to the local museum. We lied. We told them that we’d found it on the beach, just in case they stopped us from fishing for more in the dungeon. Next time, we’d find ourselves a buyer.

That’s when Peem had his brilliant idea.

“Why don’t we actually go down there and see what else we can find?”

That night, he lowered me down on a rope, torch in hand. We’d managed to prise the iron grid off the top of the hole. I have to admit that I was very scared.

When I got to the bottom, I swept my torch around the walls. It was obvious that there were a lot more coins near to the edges of the cavern than there were in the centre. I started to fill my bag.

As I got nearer to the perimeter, the temperature fell noticeably. I was freezing.bottle dungeon

My bag was getting heavy.

I touched the wall. It was damp and slippery. I continued to harvest coins and reporting my progress to Peem.

“There are loads down here. I bet some of these are ancient.”

I had no time to examine the coins as I scooped them up and put them into my bag.

As I bent down to collect them, I kept my balance by resting my free hand on the wall, which had been carved out of solid rock, hundreds of years ago.

Suddenly, the wall moved. A piece of the rock was loose! I jiggled it around a little until it came away from its seating. It dropped to the floor.

I shone my torch into the hole but it had no effect. It was pitch black in there.

I put my hand into the hole and felt around. I touched something that felt like a piece of soft, damp leather. I gripped it and pulled. There was some resistance but the wet piece of hide was coming slowly out of the cavity.

Without warning, what felt like a huge blanket came flying out of the hole. I over-balanced and fell onto my back. The blanket landed on top of me, enveloping my whole body. It came to life! Slippery arms bound around me, hugging me tight. Hands closed on my throat, squeezing.

I screamed.

I struggled to free myself. I was panicking.

“What’s wrong, Jimmy?” I heard Peem’s voice in the distance, very far away.

“Pull me up” I yelled at the top of my voice.

The rope tightened and so did the grip of the beast.

I was sure that I was moments away from a gruesome death. I was terrified.

As suddenly as the horrible being had grabbed me, it let go and retreated quickly into its hole. I was violently whisked off my feet and was dragged upwards as Peem jerked the rope frantically. My shoulders hit the sides of the opening, painfully as I emerged into the fresh air above the ground.

Peem and I landed in a tangled heap on the grass, breathless.

It took a while for us to calm down.

We secured the grill and collected our belongings. Our torch was shining brightly in the depths of the bottle dungeon.

We buried our ill-gotten gains in a nearby field and marked the spot with a pattern of stones. As far as I know, that bag of coins remains buried in that field to this day. It may be very valuable. I don’t care. The thought of going back to retrieve it is too much to contemplate.

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June 16th: Flash Fiction Day 2018

For the many writers who follow my blog, here is a fun flash fiction event to join. It is hosted by Damon L Wakes, author of Ten Little Astronauts.

It would be great to see a few entries from my friends and please check out his books.

Damon L. Wakes

This year National Flash Fiction Day is June 16th, and so that’s the day I’ll be hosting my annual flash fiction extravaganza. The rules are simple, so I’m just going to go ahead and copy the same ones as last year:

Before June 16th:

  1. Comment on this post letting me know you want to take part.
  2. I put together an “official” Flash Fiction Day post listing all the participants.

On June 16th:

  1. The event begins at the very start of June 16th, your local time. You can start writing any time after that.
  2. Write your first piece of flash fiction. Maximum 1,000 words, minimum 1 word. (I have read every conceivable 0 word story and am now bored of the genre.)
  3. Publish a blog post (or equivalent) titled “Flash Fiction Day Submissions” (or something more imaginative) containing that story.
  4. Post a link to…

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