Jan Hurst-Nicholson – Something to Read on the Plane

Title: Something to Read on the Plane

Author: Jan Hurst-Nicholson

ISBN: 0-9584978-4-2

Page count: 164

Genre: Humor – Fiction/non-fiction

Price: paperback $12.95 Kindle $2.99

Author Bio:

Hurst-Nicholson has been reliably informed that website biographies are typically written in the third person, thus giving them the air of being penned by an authoritative third party and allowing the author carte-blanche to embellish without the restraints of false modesty.

Hurst-Nicholson is the author of several published books, both children’s and adult, and of numerous articles, humorous articles and short stories (some of which have won awards – modest cough and pause for applause), plus an occasional dip into poetry. Hurst-Nicholson started writing on a ‘hunt and peck’ typewriter when cut and paste literally meant cutting up the page into paragraphs and pasting them together in a more pleasing arrangement.

Personal awards: voted ‘humorist of the year’ by the immediate family, and ‘chuckle-maker of the day’ by a customer perusing ‘Something to Read on the Plane’ in a check-out queue.

Hurst-Nicholson was born in the UK but now lives in South Africa with a spouse, two spoilt rescue dogs and three very spoilt rescue cats.

Tell us about your book:

It’s a light-hearted variety of humorous articles, short stories ranging from hypochondria to murder, an agony aunt column and limericks, plus a few shorter bits for those with a gnat-sized attention span. For travelers requiring an intellectual challenge I included a flying quiz, and some guess-what-they-really-meant malapropisms, all aimed at keeping passengers amused. For your reading comfort I have used a decent-sized font and made the book pocket-sized, and for those who only read books with pictures I have included a few illustrative drawings. If you’ve ever found yourself stranded on a plane with nothing to read, then this book is for you.  It’s great to keep with you whilst travelling, and a perfect gift (suitable for both men and women) for someone who is going on a trip.

How long did it take to write the book?

The majority of the articles and stories have been published in a variety of magazines, so it was just a case of adding a few extra snippets and putting it all together. However, it still took 12 drafts to perfect the layout and spot all the errors, which never show up on a computer screen, but shout out from the printed pages of the book.

What inspired you to write the book?

While working as a volunteer in a charity bookshop I would often help customers who came in looking for ‘something to read on the plane’. After conducting a comprehensive undercover survey in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms, and watching incorrigible magazine readers who do their reading at magazine counters, I discovered that readers like the humor, letters and agony aunt pages. Those who actually buy the magazines prefer to sit down with a cup of coffee to enjoy the articles and short stories. This inspired me to give readers a bit of what they fancy and I put together a collection of my articles and stories.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I write very much in fits and starts as I am constantly opening doors for my dogs who are the originals for the adage ‘whichever side of the door the dog is on, it’s the wrong side’; being interrupted by a spouse whose conversations invariably begin, “Where’s my…?”; chasing monkeys who pound across the roof and tightrope walk the telephone lines threatening to cut off the lifeline of my broadband, as well as setting all the neighbourhood dogs into a frenzy of hysterical barking.

I do lots of research and checking of facts knowing that readers will gleefully write to point out errors.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

A lighter mood; and a bagful of Something to Read on the Plane as gifts for friends and relatives.

Where can we go to buy your book?

www.Amazon.com.

www.just4kix.Jimdo.com

Exclusive Books and Adams Bookseller, South Africa.

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
http://amzn.to/d9mIqa Amazon.co.uk Kindle

http://soc.li/IChpzqY read excerpts on BookBuzzr

Reviews

“It would make a perfect traveling and holiday companion. The quirky short stories – some a little naughty – might well prove the book’s strong point.” The Mercury.

“Covering a diverse range of subjects, and written in a feel-good style, it’s little and can slip into a travel bag and be dipped into in-flight.” Daily News

“It’s flying off the shelves.” Write Now.

“There are short stories to suit all tastes, from humour to crime.” Berea News

Something to Read on the Plane is a collection of delightful short stories to take the tedium out of flying and provide reading pleasure anywhere else.” The Independent on Saturday.

Excerpt from book:

Short story  – Poste Haste

Frank heaved a sigh of relief when his wife’s relatives went home. Little did he know his troubles were just beginning.

As Frank watched the plane finally lift into the South African sky he allowed his hands, teeth and buttocks to gradually unclench. Three weary months of his in-laws were at last over and they were safely on their way home to Liverpool.

He had nursed secret doubts that he’d ever be rid of them. Only hours before take-off panic had broken out when Walter had once again mislaid his false teeth. “I’m not going nowhere without me teeth,” he’d announced, gums stubbornly set. But for once his absentmindedness was not to blame. They had been found in the kitchen where Gert had put them to soak in a cup of mild bleach solution.

Hunched beside Frank in a misery of post-holiday mourning, Mavis sniffled her regrets into a sodden tissue. “I wonder when we’ll see them again. They’re in their seventies you know. And what with Aunt Lil being taken, so sudden like…”

Frank’s eyes rolled back. Aunt Lil had been a bone of contention, or more precisely a charred bone of contention ever since his in-laws’ arrival.

“You’ve brought what with you?” Frank had spluttered, staring in outraged disbelief at the shiny ceramic tobacco jar.

“You heard me – yer Aunt Lil,” confirmed Gert, tweezer-lipped.

Restraining himself with difficulty, Frank watched his mother-in-law place Aunt Lil’s ashes beside the red pottery cat atop his new telly.

And so Aunt Lil had remained a member of their touring party; Gert’s chinking reminder of the suddenness of death whenever Frank was tempted to exceed the speed limit.

They drove home from the airport in cautious silence, punctuated only by Mavis’s sniffles, plagued by a misguided guilt that by immigrating to South Africa she’d wrenched their Gerry from his devoted grandparents.

Frank smiled a secret smile. Stretching luxuriously before him lay an evening in his own chair, a pristine newspaper, and command once more of the telly remote control.

Twenty minutes later he sank gratefully into his chair and switched on the television. But his newly discovered happiness was short-lived. For there, spotlighted by a shaft of winter sunshine, sat the shiny tobacco jar.

A red mist descended.

“Worra we gonna do Frank?” wailed Mavis through streaming eyes. “Me Mam’ll go spare when she finds she’s left our Lil behind.’

Frank thought for a moment before deciding. “We’ll put her in the post.”

Mavis gave him an uncertain look. “Can you do that? She wrung her hands in anxious doubt as she stared at the remains of her relative. “What happens if the jar breaks?”

“We won’t send her in the jar. We’ll put her in an envelope.”

Mavis had misgivings. “I don’t know, Frank. It seems sorta disrespectful.” And then, suddenly afraid. “Maybe there’s a law against sending ashes in the post?”

“We won’t tell ‘em what it is. We’ll wrap her in birthday paper and let on it’s a present.”

“But what happens if they find out we’ve been fibbing? They might confiscate her. What would I tell me Mam?” Distraught at the thought of Lil being impounded Mavis allowed fresh tears to flow.

“They haven’t got time to open every parcel,” Frank reassured her. “Get the postal rates and one of them customs forms you kept from last Christmas.”

Mavis, a weepy and reluctant accomplice to what might be a criminal offence, set off in search of the relevant forms.

Frank carried the jar to the kitchen, holding it with the trembling caution of an altar boy caught in a cross draught with a flickering candle.

He took out the kitchen scales and set them down in readiness.

“Worra you doing?” asked Mavis, returning with the forms.

“Weighing her,” said Frank, the jar poised over the empty scale pan.

Mavis was outraged. “You can’t tip Aunt Lil into a scale pan as if she’s half-a-pound of self-raising!”

“Why not?” asked a disgruntled Frank. “We have to know how much she weighs for the postage. What d’you want me to do – anoint the bloody scales first?”

Mavis threw him a look that would have withered a giant redwood. “You could’ve lined it with a bit of paper first.”

Frank was not keen on bits of Aunt Lil contaminating the next batch of bread pudding, Frank allowed Mavis to spread a piece of greaseproof over the scale pan, reverently, as if she were conducting a religious ceremony.

“Careful,” she chided as Frank heavy-handedly spooned the last few ashes in. “We don’t want her blowing about the kitchen.”

“Just over a kilogram,” he announced. Consulting the postal rates, he carefully removed a spoonful and then re-checked the scales.

“What d’yer think your doing?” demanded Mavis.

“It’s extra if you go over a kilogram,” explained Frank with aggrieved logic.

“And just what do you propose doing with the surplus spoonful?”

Frank’s gaze wandered to the rubbish bin.

“Oh no you don’t. That could be a foot or a hand you’ve got there. You put it right back, Frank Turner!”

With a resigned shrug, Frank tipped the ashes back into the scale pan just as a sudden draught gusted through the window. For a few blustery seconds grey dust floated about the kitchen like holy dandruff before quietly settling on Mavis’s shiny Dri-Brite floor.

Frank reached for the Dustbuster. But Mavis was across the room and wrenching the machine from his startled grasp. “What’s the matter with you?” she spat out the words through clenched teeth. “It’s my Aunt Lil, not your bloody ashtray.”

“I was gonna put her back,” he offered lamely.

“Together with the biscuit crumbs and cat hairs I suppose!” Using a pastry brush, she carefully swept up the scattered ashes while Frank rummaged for an envelope.

Taking pains to disturb the ashes as little as possible, Mavis carefully slid Lil’s remains into the envelope and gave it a little pat to more evenly distribute the contents.

Frank was busy with the forms, filling in the ‘description of contents’.

“You can’t put that,” she choked. “Free gift. No commercial value.”

“Why not?”

Mavis was horrified. “What’ll me Mam think? It sounds awful. And what’s more, they’ll chuck her away if the parcel goes astray.” This was a new fear. “I want to insure it,” she suddenly decided.

“Insure it! For how much? Its replacement value? And how d’you know they’re Lil’s ashes. They could’ve come from someone’s grate for all we know.”

This was too much for Mavis. Her Mam and Dad gone, and now this new worry. She burst into fresh tears.

“Come on, Mavis,” coaxed Frank, giving her a hug. “We’ll insure it if that’s what you want.”

But Mavis wouldn’t be consoled.

“Tell you what,” said Frank. “I’ll phone the funeral parlour. Maybe they’ll know what to do.”

Mavis thawed and the gasping sobs were reduced to a sniffle. It would be best to do it proper. Maybe the funeral people had a courier service, or someone to look after it, like they did with children and elderly people.

The undertakers proved sympathetic and promised to make suitable arrangements for Aunt Lil.

Let’s hope that’ll be the last of it thought Frank, filling the kettle for a good cuppa. But his eye was suddenly attracted to a lone teacup sitting forlornly on the draining board. Oh no, it couldn’t be. He glanced into the cup. It was. There, set in a malevolent whiter-than-white grin, lurked Walter’s false teeth.

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Elmore Hammes – The Cloud

Title: The Cloud

Author: Elmore Hammes

ISBN: 978-0615147154

Page count: 238

Genre: Science Fiction

Price: Paperback $9.95, e-book $1.99

Author Bio:

Elmore Hammes has written several novels which may be found on online book sites and ordered through most retail bookstores. His short stories have appeared in various online and print publications, including The First Line, Espresso Fiction and St. Anthony Messenger. He is an avid reader, enjoys golf and sand volleyball, and participates in Mainstage Community Theatre productions.

Tell us about your book:

The Cloud is really a two-part story. In the first part, the last survivor of a planet doomed by an approaching menace – the Cloud, a cosmic entity absorbing all life in its path – is rocketed to Earth (this part was done specifically in homage to the origin of Superman). He falls in love with a farm girl from Indiana, and together they must stop the Cloud from destroying Earth. The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of their love, and has a few harsher elements of violence in it. Overall, the book is a modern space opera, with elements of action, romance and a bit of mystery, and is appropriate for teenage and older readers.

How long did it take to write the book?

The first draft took several months. Revisions happened over the next year before I decided it was ready for publication.

What inspired you to write the book?

I have always enjoyed science fiction, particularly where the characters took precedence over the science. I also wanted to pay homage to Superman and pulp classics like Flash Gordon – which is done through the opening chapters.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

For this novel, I wrote almost every day during the first draft. I also did more research, primarily using the internet to verify certain astronomical terms and facts such as distances between planets. While the book certainly isn’t focused on science, I didn’t want to just make up things that I could record accurately.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

Foremost, I hope they come away with a sense of enjoyment from being entertained, with hopefully a few surprises along the way. The story is also representative of my views on the ‘good overcomes in the end’ tale – as I do believe that in the end, good will triumph over evil, and that people making choices for love will be successful.

Where can we go to buy your book?

The paperback is available by order at retail bookstores as well as all online stores, although Amazon is typically the cheapest price for that. The e-book is available in Kindle, Nook and i-Pad editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple, and in a variety of formats at Smashwords.

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
My very simple web-site is www.elmorehammes.com and has an option for ordering autographed copies of all my books. It also has information on some of my other activities such as my mission trips to Mexico.

Excerpt from book:

He got up slowly. He offered his hand to Char, wanting to lead her, to touch her, to comfort her. She pulled hers back and folded her arms, pulling them tight against her chest.

He sighed. “Follow me, Charlotte. It would be best to show you, first. Then I will explain it all.” He started off across the meadow. He looked back and saw she had remained standing beside the tree, arms still crossed, swaying as if unsure which direction to take. “Please,” he called to her. “It will all be clearer if you just let me show you.”

She hesitated, then walked up beside him. “All right, but if this is some kind of trick, you’ll regret it.”

“I already have my regrets,” he said.

He led her across the meadow to the spot where he had hidden the rocket ship. He held out his arm, concentrated on the cells, making them softer on top and firmer below, pushing the communicator up through layers of skin until it was completely exposed, then sealing the skin beneath it so it remained outside his body.

Char blinked, not sure what he was doing. It looked like the band around his wrist had emerged from his flesh, but she knew that couldn’t be right. Maybe he was some kind of government man – that might explain the mystery about him. Might explain some things, she thought, but not her dead herd.

He noted the puzzled look on her face. It would only get stranger for her, he knew. He felt she was strong enough to handle the truth. It was the only way to explain things. It was the only way she might again look at him the way she had at the kitchen table, would connect with him, would link her life force with him. He entered the command in the communicator.

Char drew a breath in when the ground in front of them started to shift. She took a step back as a large metallic object rose from the earth, seeming to float on air before settling back down on the meadow grass. Settling down on grass and dirt that did not show the slightest trace that a large metal object – oh, admit it, she thought – did not show the slightest trace that a spaceship had just come out from it.

“Oh. My. God.”

“No,” he said. “I am not a god…”

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