Out today from Lulu, this version preserves QR code access to the voice files, adding full web addresses for touch-capable readers, and the Readalongreads address for readers needing to access them from a different device.
Kindle doesn’t support the ePub format; Calibri is a small free app that will convert it to MOBI which you can send by email to your Kindle account.
‘Are you sure you want to go through with this?’ Hannah paused, giving Lou a moment to consider, her fingertips tightly pinching the edge of the paper strip.
With eyes tightly closed her best friend nodded. ‘Do it.’ As Hannah tore the waxed paper downwards Lou let out a shriek, the piercing cry of a doomed creature caught in a snare.
‘Told you it would hurt,’ said Hannah, suppressing a smile. ‘Do you want me to carry on?’
They both appraised the runway, a rectangle of white skin trailing from kneecap to shin, bounded by the remaining forest of chestnut hairs. ‘You’ve got to do the rest – I can’t go out looking like a half-skinned bear in a dress.’
Tracy Fells was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2014 and Phoenix and Marilyn won 2012 ChocLit Publishing’s Summer Short Story Prize. Read the rest of this story and others by Tracy Fells in Let me Tell You a Story and hear Tracy’s own narration by scanning a QR code on the page. Available from Luluand Amazon.
On August 22nd 2015, a display jet ploughed into traffic waiting at lights on a main road near the airfield, killing eleven people and injuring sixteen others. Shadow and Ducks in a Row were written in the shocked aftermath and are dedicated to those who were lost, those who were injured, and the community that watched stricken as a brilliant blue summer’s day turned black.
Shadow by Lyn Jennings
Sky achingly blue
empty of clouds
sun a glowing ball making up for
weeks of showers and cool winds,
grass with that warm smell
of fresh cut hay.
cold boxes full of well-filled sandwiches and ice for drinks,
children running ahead,
doing those little skips
your legs need to do when you are young,
calling out to each other
excitement quivering in the air.
Older folk, sensing the nostalgia
that will take them back to skies awash
with planes – Spitfires, Hurricanes,
today there’s even a promise of a Vulcan.
Close your eyes, they say
and you could be back in the Andersen
listening to the hum of engines,
waiting for the whine of bombs, the thud
before the explosion,
tension clenching fists, making the gut churn
waiting for the throb of Spitfires,
or the welcome wolf howl of
the “all clear”
Days long gone, nothing to fear today,
comfy seat, glass of beer,
bit of shade from the sun,
it’s going to be great!
Cars gleam in neat stripes
across the field,
everything well organised,
masses still on the approach road,
let the show begin!
could have foreseen
that would darken
the so-bright day
the busy road
blotting out the sun,
great wallowing bird of prey,
to lift itself
out of its daring swoop and dive
losing the power of its wings,
coming in to land
screeching its metal – wrenching way
across the crowded road
destroying everything in its path
shooting a great fireball
shrouded in black smoke
high into the cobalt sky
in a tragic instant
to terror and sadness,
changing lives forever.
How could the sun
still be shining?
Why does the sky
tell us it is summer
when it feels as if winter has come?
In the pattern of planes
flying away from the airfield there is
a great gap
throbbing with questions.
The ducks are in rows three across and four deep, waiting for the lights to change. The young man glances to his right and lightly depresses the accelerator; he will race away if the glance is returned and the vehicle worthy. But the driver is old and the car sedate so he waits, softens the engine, checks his mirror and waves back to friends in the car behind. They’re going to the same place and they’re travelling in a laddish two-car convoy aiming to get there at the same time.
The old man smiles to himself; he has just been kind and his journey today is a warm one for that reason and others. The sun is not melting the tarmac but it is making rolled-down windows and an elbow on the sill a summer pleasure after the days of rain. He glances left; in his younger days he would have given the laddie in the next car a run for his money when the lights changed. In his older days, he is content with some tuneless whistling.
Two cyclists weave to the front. Some disdain traffic lights but not these; they each put a foot down and pause, taking in the brightness of the day, the summery whispering of the roadside trees, the midday blue of the sky, and the glinting rear windscreens of vehicles that got lucky by arriving at green. They are well on their way now to shops, the beach, grannies or aunties waiting to be taken for a pub lunch. The air has a slightly metallic tinge to it, of fuel maybe. Someone’s engine needs adjusting.
The men in the row behind pass sandwiches between them; it may not be possible to eat when they get where they’re going. They salute a can of fizzy drink at the windscreen but their friend up ahead doesn’t see it. He is looking in his rear-view mirror once again but the shiny can is not as important as the dark shape in the sky that is looming and growing and makes no sense.
The driver to his left sees it too and his brain throws up words such as ‘thrill’, ‘danger’, and ‘excitement’, which seem to apply but in the exact moment in which he sits, feel somehow wrong and inadequate.
The people at the roadside are about to cross but with their ears unhindered by cocoons of glass and metal stuffed with airbags, or the clamouring streams of noise coming from in-car entertainment systems, they stop and look up. There is impossibility in the sky accompanied by roaring, shrieking, and not enough space left between its world and theirs. Some run; others are transfixed because of the words that push reality away – these things do not happen.
The traffic lights are extinguished amid a greater brightness. Red and amber but not green.
The tarmac boils and burns billowing black.
There are no ducks at the oncoming lights, only witnesses.
“THE RAIN RUNS in muddy rivulets off the pile of earth beside his grave. No softening of the edges of this funeral. No fake grass discretely covers the mound, just a heap of mud, a pair of dirty spades, and two reluctant gravediggers in fluorescent jackets leaning against the neighbouring gravestone, silently willing us to move on so they can get the job done and head to the pub. Of course nothing will do the Ma but she has to wait until the last shovelful is put on. They pat down the soil with the backs of their spades as though they’re on a building site.
‘Don’t worry that it’s a bit high Missus. It’ll settle down grand in the next few weeks…’
Settle down on top of him and in time, when the wood rots and the earth seeps in, settle down until it kisses his face. I wish I’d kissed him now.
We place the wreaths on the grave as the rain buckets down,
‘Sincere condolences from all at Fahey’s.’ I tear the card off and stuff it my damp pocket before she sees it.”
Read on in ‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ where you can also hear Anne’s own narration by scanning a QR code. Available from Luluand Amazon.
@TheLiteraryPig, aka Tracy Fells, was one of the first who agreed to have her work included in Let Me Tell You a Story when it wasn’t much more than a twitch of an idea. In her blogshe asks the questions neither of us could even have framed in those early days and hopefully gets some answers. It starts with people facing eviction or criminal prosecution …
Tracy has an extensive catalogue of writing ‘hits’ and read her work regularly at West Sussex Writers. Her contributions include Tantric Twister, Wood, and Phoenix and Marilyn.
If ever you wanted a voice warm and enveloping as sun baked earth, here it is. But if you want gentle thoughts and pretty images, this is not what you’ll find. Phillippa’s poems come from a place of deep emotional insight and connection to her world. One that has turmoil in its history and also its present, and through which people do ordinary things; they grow up, fall in love, become mothers, and they manage the hopes, dreams, and despairs of their lives. Ordinariness written and narrated extraordinarily. And while Phillippa’s Origin closes the book, her last word opens the deepest of chasms.
This anthology began as a small local project, which is why I find myself both editor and contributor, and it grew. The reasons behind it are hereand they have to do with literacy and privacy, and the indignity of having things read to you when you’re an adult. This book provides a model of what could be done to alleviate those problems by delivering short stories and poems to your eyes and your ears at the same time via a QR code printed on the page. My offerings include science fiction, fantasy, a bit of creepy noir, and some contemporary realism.
This is an exciting moment because, in a world crammed with books and content in print and digital form, I believe this is different. Each story or poem has at its head a QR code; scan it and you go directly to the voice file of its author, which means you can read along with them; hear the words, the rhythms and the pauses the way they were written; get to grips with unfamiliar words or find a beat in a poem you didn’t know was there. This is what Ian McMillan says:
“Sometimes I can read a poem on the page and I can’t quite make out what the author’s intention was: there’s something there, I can tell, but it’s hidden in the language-mist. When I hear the poem read aloud, (or accompanied by music, or acted out by a variety of voices: anything is possible once you start down this road) then the clouds are blown away and the poem does what it meant to say on the tin, to re-fashion an advertising slogan.”
The contributors are accomplished writers (although I can hardly speak for myself, that must be in the eye of the reader) but they have gone out on what is for some, an unaccustomed limb and recorded their stories or poems too. I’ll be forever grateful that they were willing to take this step and help bring to fruition a project that has been stewing for many years, one that I hope will help enhance the reading experience for many, and make it more possible for those put off by their early struggles with it.
I believe it’s a first. I believe this hasn’t been done before. And I believe the technology and the incentive just came together to make reading a much more enjoyable thing for many more people. There are applications beyond fiction though – look out now for this #QR4PR; a campaign to get QR codes on public information leaflets so that no adult need have essential information read to them by a stranger, their nine year old son, or perhaps the person who will use that information to abuse them. There’s more about those issues herebut in the meantime, please consider purchasing a copy of the book or asking your library to get it for you. Let publishers know you’d like QR codes in some of the classics when they come up for reprint, tell local language schools they could do this themselves for their own students with their own material. Give it a go yourself for your village newsletter, your promotional leaflet, your birthday card to the auntie who can never find her glasses. Let Me Tell You a Story – out now.