Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sample Sunday - The Story of Plan B

Sample Sunday, a twitter phenomenon. Search for the hashtag #samplesunday and you can find links to indie authors posting up samples of their eBooks. A painless way to find your next read.

I haven't done it before so here's mine. Enjoy and but my ebook on Smashwords here $2.99 but currently half price for their July Promotion. Or on Amazon here for Irish and US readers and here for UK readers.

Chapter 1

The woman beside me on the bus home was reading a magazine with a photo of Larry Harte on the cover. He was gazing sensually at a pot of yellow tulips. I leaned towards her casually, trying to read the blurb. She edged away. The headline said something about a woman scorned. I was intrigued. I leaned in further and tried to angle my head so I could read it. My neck was starting to ache. The woman turned and glared at me, pursing her lips so tight her pink lipstick was pushed up a wrinkle towards her nose. I rubbed my neck and moved it slowly from side to side, pretending I had been stretching the muscles, pretending and failing. She jammed the magazine in her bag and took out her mobile phone.

He was everywhere I looked, “Flash Larry Harte,” the gorgeous gardener. He was on TV with his own programme, “Flash Gardens,” of course. He popped up on chat shows and on the odd, ill-advised celebrity game show. That phase seemed to have passed, thank goodness. Perhaps he had a new publicist. Now I saw his bronzed face in shop windows, on an advert for environmentally friendly tea, and I’d heard him guest presenting the gardening program on the radio. It was a first for me, tuning in to a radio show on gardening. I wasn’t the only one. Their ratings had been seven times the average listenership that week. I wiped a circle on the steamed up window and went back to staring out at the murky Dublin evening.

My apartment was midway between two bus stops but I got off early and walked the rest for a bit of exercise. The sky, which had been grey all day, was turning blue and the Dublin air smelled fresh. Daffodils were starting to bloom in sheltered spots and everything felt full of potential. My flatmate, Sarah was in the bath when I got home. I felt a tidy phase coming over me so I washed the kitchen floor before the feeling wore off. The kitchen was small but all the same, I bet Flash Larry Harte doesn’t get the mop and bucket out when he gets home and washes his own kitchen floor. I scrubbed at a stubborn but unidentifiable sticky patch by the fridge. I bet Flash Larry Harte doesn’t have to stop at Tesco to buy peanut butter, milk and biodegradable bin bags on his way home from whatever garden he’s been digging that day.

The phone rang as I was putting away the mop. I tiptoed across the clean, damp floor, leaving a trail of grey steps across what had briefly been a pristine, shiny floor. Clean for a grand total of twenty-three seconds. Almost a record.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello Zoë. How are you keeping?”

It was Mrs Boland, Sarah’s mother. They spoke at least twice a day, always had. And about nothing much, as far as I could gather, although with Sarah’s pending nuptials, they had more than usual to discuss the last year. She was a nice lady, so different to my own mother. I wouldn’t know what to talk to my mother about twice a day. Mrs Boland wore sensible pleated skirts and lace-up shoes, like a nun in civvies. My mother wore hand-woven, loose-draped creations and environmentally-friendly, woven espadrilles. I told her Sarah was in the bath and we chatted about the seating plan for the wedding. She had taken me under her wing when I first arrived in Dublin. She taught me which Irish tea to buy, where to find a good doctor, how to get candle wax out of carpets, that sort of thing. My mother would say something like “Leave it where it is, darling. It’s a sign. What does the shape say to you, Zoë?” And then tell me there was a positive time coming and I would be part of it. Some generality like that. Big into omens, was Georgia. Mrs Boland hung up and I was plumping the cushions when the phone rang again.
“Hello?” I said.

It must have been the evening for motherly calls. This was my mother, Georgia. She lives in an elaborate ranch house on the outskirts of Santa Fé in the Land of Enchantment, as she always calls New Mexico State. We talk more often now than we used to, maybe once a week. But still, sometimes America felt a long way away and I missed her.

“Zoë, Darling,” she gushed down the phone. “I met the most wonderful Shaman last week. He laid his hands on me. It was like a burning warmth surging through me.”

“Hello Mum. Have you been on the cheap tequila again?”

I had learned a long time ago that when my mother was in mid-gush, I could say almost anything in reply. The last time we had spoken, she had spent the whole, expensive phone call, describing some new, holistic water feature in her desert garden. She had hung up without asking how I was. I hadn’t volunteered.

“He just laid his hands on me and I am rejuvenated, totally alive. So I had to do your cards.”

“Oh Mum. Surely I’m not due the cards yet?” Some mothers think that a regular appointment with the dentist is a necessity, some mothers expect their offspring to go to mass/church/temple every week. Some mothers make regular hair appointments for their daughters. Mine makes sure I have a regular card reading. It used to be tarot cards but lately she’s taken up some wacky Native American spirituality. Call me cynical but I couldn’t see much of a difference.

“I know I only did them recently but I had a hunch that something was shifting.”

“A disturbance in the force, is it?”

“I laid out your cards, a simple spread and it’s a good thing I did. Here goes.”

“Mum, I really don’t have time for this. I’m going out in two minutes.” I looked at my watch. I had nearly half an hour before ‘Flash Gardening with Larry’ started on TV but Mum and punctuality didn’t co-exist in the same universe. And I couldn’t tell her I was planning to watch a gardening programme. She’d either laugh at me or not believe me. I didn’t know which was worse.

“Two minutes is all you can spare your mother so far away?” She sniffed slightly.

“We’d barely scratch the surface.”

I sighed. “Five minutes then.” I studied the kitchen floor. There was a blob of something brown under the oven.

“Your present is looking very mixed, sticky,” Mum started.

It was certainly sticky from where I was standing. Had I dropped some Hoi Sin sauce from yesterday’s spare ribs?

“The cards are showing signs of major shake-ups on both the career and personal fronts,” she continued.
“Were you thinking of moving?”


“Ah. What about this one? The job? I see major changes in direction, in creativity and prosperity.”

“Nothing doing there. My contract has months to run and there’s no chance of a raise in the current climate.”

“Maybe so, but keep your mind open, Zoë. I only see changes for the better, though they may not seem so at the time. You were never very good at handling change.”

“I guess not but who is?” I could hear her moving the cards around.

“Yes, drastic changes on the career side.” She said this every time. She didn’t like me nine-to-fiving. “The cards know, Zoë.”

“OK Mum. I’ll bear it in mind. Anything else? What’s the word on the tall, dark handsome stranger?” Mum had often been quite accurate in this quarter. She had predicted my split with my ex, Sam, unless that was just motherly intuition as well, disguised as card reading. Although the actual, devastating details were not predicted and came as a shock to us both. “Is there the wheel of fortune? I always have the wheel of fortune.”

“It’s called ‘The Ring of Tiwa.’ But you don’t have it this time. But I see a new, serious side in the love quarter.” This sounded hopeful. “No, wait. Two love possibilities I see there. Disruption, jealousy, intense light,” she continued. “And water. Lots of it.”

“That’s the rain, Mum. It’s always raining here this time of year. It’s Ireland.”

“Listen Zoë. It’s crossing water and…oh this doesn’t look good at all. There’s going to be an accident of some kind.” That didn’t sound good. “A collision. Be careful, Zoë.”

“I always am.” I had been brought up to walk on the paranoid side of careful. “I know. Forewarned is forearmed, Mum.”

“Really Zoë. You’ll have to choose between two roads.”

I sighed. This card reading had turned out to be a real downer. My earlier bouncy mood had dissolved into glumness. I caught a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror. Dowdy and a bit podgy. I pulled in my stomach and fluffed up my hair. It didn’t make much difference.

I brooded about her predictions and the possible interpretations while I cooked the dinner. I always mean to write them down so I don’t forget the details, to help me make whatever decisions came my way. I have always been bad at making decisions on my own, usually dithering so long that all but one option has expired.

I whizzed up a quick bowl of pasta with a handful of soft, special offer tomatoes. Sarah emerged from her herbal bath. She made a salad with dressing that smelt almost exactly like her shampoo, I opened a bottle of red, retrieved the remote control and we were primed and ready for our weekly, half-hour dose of Larry.

We assumed our customary positions on the sofa, plates balanced on our knees, wine glasses in hand, salad jammed between two cushions and turned on the TV. The starting strains of the jazzy saxophone introduction to ‘Flash Gardens’ were the signal to tuck in.

Larry was wearing his trademark, hand-knitted jumper, sky blue this time. He was holding the hand of an old lady in a wheelchair. All over the city, all over the country, women melted into puddles of hormonal goo. Larry described how he was going to transform her dilapidated garden, in his usual speedy way, to a haven of flowers and shrubs. The lady was a retired entomologist, specialising in butterflies. The camera showed the long hall in her house lined with glass cases full of them, pins through their bodies like insect voodoo dolls. Some were as small as a fingernail, some as large as lettuce leaves. I picked at my salad. They were a bit hairy and too insect-like for my taste.

“Did you wash the leaves?” I asked Sarah, memories of biting an earwig in half when I was twelve flooding back. I had gone off salad for years.

“I did, of course.” She pointed at the TV. “Shush. He’s doing the plants now.”

Larry’s selection of plants was designed to attract butterflies and birds to the lady’s garden.

“No more catching and killing them,” he said. “Just admire them and let them go free.”

The elderly butterfly-killer simpered and pinked under the full heat of his gaze. He started talking about compost, a favourite subject of his and also now of half the country. I ate some more pasta. Just as he was ripping open a large bag of the stuff and plunging his hands inside to check the consistency, the phone rang. I looked at Sarah but she was scrabbling around on the floor after a loose cherry tomato. The call was definitely for her. The phone had been ringing like a teenager’s mobile since she and Jack set the date a year ago. At this stage, I was immune to fielding calls about the endless wedding arrangements and a little fed up. If it wasn’t the caterers calling, it would be the bloody band.

I put my plate on the floor and went over to the phone. I swallowed my mouthful of pasta and stabbed the on button.

“Hello,” I said with a venom-stained voice.

“Hi,” said a transatlantic-accented voice. “This is Carrie Anotoli, Larry Harte’s personal aide calling for Zoë Madison.”

Larry Harte’s aide? “Yeah, right,” I said. Sarah was often pulling elaborate practical jokes, but this one was not one of her best. “Thanks Sarah. And I’m the pope’s girlfriend.” I hung up.

“Thanks for what?” said Sarah, turning round from the sofa.

“You weren’t just on the phone to me?”

“Me? No. Shush. He’s talking.” She turned back to the TV.

I looked down. Sarah’s new all-singing, all-dancing mobile, pink and barely larger than a credit card was charging beside the phone book. It couldn’t have been Sarah calling me. What had I done? Who had I hung up on? I pressed the Caller Display button. It showed a Dublin number I didn’t recognise. I started to breathe a bit too fast. Who had she said it was? Carol someone? Kerry?

The phone rang again as I was close to hyper-ventilating. It was the same Dublin number. I nearly dropped the phone in my hurry to press the connect button.

“Hello, hello?”

“Hello, can you hear me?” The voice was faraway.

“Hello?” I said again. Something was wrong. I looked at the phone. It was upside down. I turned it the right way up. “Hello?” I said for the fourth time. “This is Zoë Madison. Who is this?”


Now buy it on Amazon here for $2.99 for your Kindle or Kindle reader on a PC or mobile phone or on Smashwords here in loads of formats including Kindle, the one for a Nook or Sony Reader, PDF and pure text. For July, it's in the 50% summer read promotion.


Titus said...

Why haven't I tackled the technology and bought this yet! Thursday, it will happen Thursday.

Emerging Writer said...

Titus, you're such a tease! If you have a technology problem, let me know and I'll try to help and maybe blog about it later.

Brigid O'Connor said...

Kate, I started your book the day I downloaded it. I think the voice is really fresh with a lovely touch of humour. I also like the contemporary tone of it, no trip down nostalgia lane happening.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of it.
Have you thought of doing a Web Splash to promote it? I have seen some writers have great success doing this, check out Talli Roland's blog to see how she did it. Ignore me if you like, just my tuppenceworth.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks for your kind words Brigid. I'm going straight off to Talli Roland's blog to find out what a Web Splash is...

Unknown said...

I want this book; I need to find out what happened. Love your blog, have loved it for years. I am so happy you have a book out, cannot wait to buy it.


Unknown said...

I want this book; I need to find out what happened. Love your blog, have loved it for years. I am so happy you have a book out, cannot wait to buy it.


Niamh B said...

You're calling Titus a tease with that tantalising end to the sample. Love it, great characters - can I get it on my kindle I wonder?

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks Michelle, Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks Niamh. Have you got a Kindle? Samples have to be teases, no?

Niamh B said...

Yep, I have a kindle indeed

Emerging Writer said...

Well, Niamh, no excuse but to buy my book!
Question: Shall I post up Chapter 2 next week?

Niamh B said...

have it bought now, will be reading it next! The sample idea deffo works, ie worked for me, but if you give ch 2 this week and ch 3 the week after etc cheapskates (like me) might hold off buying in case you'd put it all up, maybe repost the sample every so often for anyone who missed it, and also post the blurb perhaps?
Great value pricing on it btw, looking forward to reading on

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks a mill, Niamh. Words of wisdom indeed.
I did see on ebook that did a Mexican Wave where excerpt 1 (not a whole chapter) was on one blog, the next day excerpt 2 was on another blog etc. (Only problem was the book was rubbish!)