Tag Archives: writing competitions

Friday fiction: Part 2 of The Journey (The Dakota Duels trilogy)

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with part two of a 1st chapter competition entry – this time it’s young adult fiction.

The Journey (The Dakota Duels Trilogy) – Part 2 (final)

 The train flashed into daylight and Hannah could see her cell. Her fingers moving fast, she tracked her calls, searching for the number. Nothing. Caller ID withheld.

            She thought of the voice – a river, a bolder. It sounded like her father, Isaac, her father, leader of The Order, leader of their group of Christian followers, the group who had been chosen by God, who were the divine righteous ones, who would one day see The Plan God had for them, for all, even for the sinners, the doubters, the non-Christian ones who spat and scorned.  Pressing together her lips, she slipped off her shawl and, folding it four times, she placed it on the table. Outside the Dakota terrain washed by, a watercolour of trucks, land, outhouses, fields appearing like a mirage through the sun. Picking up a discarded pamphlet, Hannah fanned her face, thinking, when her cell vibrated. A text. Bolting, she grabbed the phone and scanned the message.  She felt her mouth drain dry. Four words. Leaning sideways, she glanced up and down the carriage, then back to her cell. Four words: They are watching you.

Her pulse fast, her palms sweating, Hannah opened her rucksack and, seizing the parcel, rammed all her belongings into the bag and zipped it shut. In the seat ahead, a man turned and smiled. Hannah froze. The four words flashed across her eyes. Suddenly, everyone, she felt, was looking at her. This was crazy. Seconds, minutes passed and as her final destination came nearer, she tried to slow her breathing.

            ‘Devil’s Lake next stop,’ announced the tanoy.

            Her cell shrilled. She stared at it. It shrilled again. Hand shaking, she took the call. ‘Hannah!’ the voice shot. ‘It’s Noah. Don’t hang up. The man, the Pilgrim Director you are to meet, he is not who he seems. You are not who you seem. Don’t go with him. When the train pulls in, run, run far. I will contact you when it is clear.’

            ‘But-’

            The line cut and the train creaked to a halt. She’d arrived. Leaping up, Hannah tried to think fast. Should she listen to him, this Noah? Stumbling forward, she kept her head down, shivering until she heard the whoosh of the door and felt the heavy heat surge in. Disembarking, she stepped on to the platform, pops of sweat trickling down her back. Within three seconds she caught sight of the Pilgrim Director, and, smiling, she began to walk towards him when something made her stop. He was flanked by two unfamiliar men. They are watching you. Something wasn’t right. Truth, she suddenly thought, the ugly truth. Without warning, the two men sped up. Hannah’s breath quickened. Ahead, the Director lost his smile and strode towards her. Noah. Who was he?  Should she run? What was wrong? Turning, she bumped into a passenger, but instead of helping her, he gripped hard.

            ‘Let go!’ she yelled, ripping away from him, her rucksack flying to the ground. Just as she grabbed it, she spotted them, the men, running now towards her. Scrambling upright, she spied the exit and without looking back, she ran as fast as she could.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  I’m on holiday at the moment and will post more fiction when I get back. Have a great weekend!

 

Friday fiction: Part 1 of The Journey (The Dakota Duels trilogy)

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with part one of a 1st chapter competition entry – this time it’s young adult fiction.

The Journey (The Dakota Duels Trilogy) – Part 1

Earlier, life had been lighter. Getting on the train at Fargo was fraught, but then it always was when the sun hit 34 degrees and your skirt stuck to your legs like glue after you’d been sat squashed on a bus with no air conditioning for five hours.  Peeling a hair from her mouth, she yawned and flipped open her cell. No messages. She sighed and gazed out of the window.  The Empire Builder. What a strange name for a train. Stretching out her hand she patted the seat to check if the parcel was still there. The envelope rustled under her palm and, reassured, she resumed her gazing. South Dakota was the only state in North America without an Amtrak train service, and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.

            ‘It is the way it is, Hannah,’ her mother had said to her at the roadside as she prepared to board. ‘After the bus, the train will take you on to North Dakota.’

            Hannah frowned. ‘But why me? Why now?’

            Her mother, a whisper of a woman, reached up and adjusted Hannah’s collar so the white starch circled her neck in the way it was expected. ‘Now, now. We’ve been over this. Your father needs you. You are 18 now, a woman, and as such The Order requires you to make the journey to the annual pilgrimage early, cast your eye on the eligible men.’ Hannah blushed. ‘And besides,’ her mother continued, picking a speck of dust from her daughter’s skirt, ‘you need to deliver the parcel from your father to the Pilgrim Director. Remember your name, Hannah. Remember what it means.’

            ‘Grace of God, mama.’

            ‘Good.’

            Hannah chewed on her lip. ‘Why can’t he mail it?’

            Her mother smiled. ‘Because it is too important.’

            ‘And he trusts me?’

            She nodded. ‘He trusts you.’

 As the train sped forward, Hannah let her eyelids droop, the jostle of the carriage and the crank of the air-conditioning lulling her to sleep.  Around 3p.m. her cell shrilled. Waking with a start, Hannah blinked, then grabbing the phone, she picked up.

            ‘Hello?’

            ‘Hannah?’

            ‘Yes. Hello?’

            ‘My name is Noah…I’m your-’

            The line crackled. ‘I’m sorry,’ said Hannah, one finger in her ear, ‘you’re breaking up.’

            ‘I’m Noah,’ came the voice again.

            Noah? Hannah frowned.  ‘I’m sorry, but, I don’t know a-’

Without warning, what sounded like a gunshot blasted through the line. Hannah jerked up. ‘Hello?’

 ‘Hannah, listen!’ tore the voice. ‘I’m your brother. They’re coming for us. You’ve got to-’

            The carriage suddenly went black and the signal cut. Overhead the lights flickered as the train shot through a tunnel. Hannah’s heart banged against her chest. Brother? He said brother. But why? She had no brothers, church colleagues, yes, families she had grown up with since birth, but no brothers.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Part two is out next Friday. Have a great weekend!

 

Friday fact or fiction: How to wear shoes in Paris…

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with another of my travel articles for The Guardian newspaper.

Paris – the city of love and sore feet…

‘Shoes?’ says hubbie. ‘But we’re off to Paris. The city of love,’ he cried. ‘Look, Mister,’ I say.’ If we’re going to wander around Paris, love or not, I’m going to require suitable footwear.’

And with that, grateful that we weren’t flying pay-as-you-carry, we set off on our 4-day, 10th anniversary break to Paris. With the weather predicted 24-7 sunshine, we decided to see the city by foot. Having done the tourist sights 5 years before, this time we wanted to potter through the side streets of Paris thankful that: a) we had no kids to entertain; and b) we had no bunions (yet).

Arriving at 4-star Les Jardins du Marais, we high-fived each other when we saw our room (i.e. large – Parisian hotel rooms are notoriously petite). Having jumped on the huge bed and checked out the marbled bathroom, I took one whiff of the heat from the window, opted for Birkenstocks (comfort!) and off we set. Walking around the district of Marais was bliss. A warren of cafes, high-end shops and museums, it was once the place of the Royal residence and is now, as we discovered while on our third cafe noir of the day, the centre of the Parisian gay scene. Oh yes, for the first time since parenthood, we felt hip. Donning our shades, we crossed the Seine into the Latin Quarter, bustling with Sorbonne students and tortured artist types, where we stopped for a petite bierre followed by some second-hand French book purchasing. ‘But you can’t speak French,’ I said to hubbie. Handing the man the Euros, he said, ‘They’ll look good on the coffee table.’ Hmmm, good point. We ended the day with swollen ankles and tapas at a Spanish restaurant, Caves Saint Gilles, frequented by locals where the chef was grumpy, the food cheap but good, and not a Laboutin in sight.

The next three days were a sun-soaked meander of walking and Metro rides. We ambled through the expensive streets of St.Germain (think Gucci, Armani), had our breath taken away in the Opera district (by two things: one, the view of the Opera National as you come out of the metro station – wow; and two, coffees at 9 Euros a pop in the Cafe de la Paix.), wandered the Champs Elysees by night (busy but exhilarating), gawped at the Pompidou centre, and relaxed in the enchanting Jardin de Luxembourg. Our anniversary meal (pre-booked on-line) was at Le Petit Bordelais, a restaurant run by Michelin-starred, and jolly friendly, Phillipe Penecote (choose the ‘Degustation’ menu with wine – yum). My pearl shoe clips fell off on the walk back, but with the Eiffel tower lit up behind us, the last scent of summer in the night air – and French wine in my system – it didn’t matter. I turned and gave hubbie a kiss. ‘What was that for?’ he asked. I linked his arm. ‘The city of love, right?’ He grinned. ‘Shall we head back?’ I nodded. ‘Please. My feet are killing me.’

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday fact or fiction: A travel article for The Guardian on a spot of French cricket…

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with my travel article for The Guardian newspaper competition. *I accidentally posted this on Monday. Don’t quite know how. Either way, hope you still enjoy. I am going to check my fingers for butter right now…*

French cricket, but not in the USA…

Boyhood’s a funny thing. When my husband was a boy, he used to play French Cricket. If you’re saying, ‘French what now?’ – a quick synopsis. Player one stands still with a tennis racket by their legs while the fielding team chuck a tennis ball at them with the aim of trying hit the racket-holder’s legs. You hit the target, you’re up next to hold the racket, and so on. Not a cricket bat in sight, but you get the idea. Well, with school out for another summer, it was French cricket and other assorted childhood memories that were on our minds as we arrived tired but buoyant at our gite in the Brittany village of Lintivic.

Cottage
Our gite in France – we hid round the back…

Magically named “Little Orchard”, we smiled as we parked under a plum tree to see grape vines draping the windows and a farmer puffing on a Gauloise, batting away flies in the adjoining field. This was France circa 1950. At the sight of all the grapes, our 8-year old shrieked, ‘Ooo, can we eat them?’ While the 6-year old took one look at the apple trees, and piped up, ‘Cool! Grenades.’ Oh to be a tomboy. As I cracked open a bottle Brittany cider left as a welcoming present by the gite-owners, and checked out the 18th century fire hearth and open-plan living area (so clean!), hubbie sighed as he gazed through the window. I took a swig and narrowed my eyes. ‘Pelted with a plum already?’  He shook his head as he took his glass. ‘No,’ he said, his arm levitating forward. ‘Look.’

 I followed his eye line and stopped. The garden, all ours, was almost as big as a football pitch, with a pool, also ours, tucked in its sidelines, blue water winking in the sun. ‘Wow’, I said, wondering where the inflatables were. ‘The girls will love that.’ But, as I began the search for swimming cossies, my husband simply grinned and said, ‘French cricket.’

 Games with tennis rackets were just the start of our two-week trip back to childhood. The gite garden was stocked full of delights such as petanque (tricky), football (mum as goalie – ouch), badminton (monopolised by us grown-ups) and hoops (a kid winner), to name a few. Five minutes drive away was the zip-wire Adventure Forest in Camors, suitable for even the 6-year old, who promptly declared it ‘awesome’. And it was. We hit the 3km beaches in Carnac,  ideal for rock pooling, and the town of Auray, with its hilled streets and sweeping river that caused our 8-year old to declare –whilst scoffing Moules Frites, a Brittany classic- France to be her favourite because, and I quote, ‘it’s looks nice, has good music and good food.’ Well said. Perhaps apart from the music.

Such a blast to our childhood past did we have, that we’re now planning a road trip up the Californian coast, to which the girls asked, ‘Do they play French Cricket there?’ Hmmm. French cricket in the USA? Pass me the racket.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Next Friday I’ll be posting another Guardian travel-writing piece of mine. Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday Fiction post: Our family holiday to France

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with my article written for The Guardian Travel writing competion… 

Boyhood’s a funny thing. When my husband was a boy, he used to play French Cricket. If you’re saying, ‘French what now?’ – a quick synopsis. Player one stands still with a tennis racket by their legs while the fielding team chuck a tennis ball at them with the aim of trying hit the racket-holder’s legs. You hit the target, you’re up next to hold the racket, and so on. Not a cricket bat in sight, but you get the idea. Well, with school out for another summer, it was French cricket and other assorted childhood memories that were on our minds as we arrived tired but buoyant at our gite in the Brittany village of Lintivic.

Magically named “Little Orchard”, we smiled as we parked under a plum tree to see grape vines draping the windows and a farmer puffing on a Gauloise, batting away flies in the adjoining field. This was France circa 1950. At the sight of all the grapes, our 8-year old shrieked, ‘Ooo, can we eat them?’ While the 6-year old took one look at the apple trees, and piped up, ‘Cool! Grenades.’ Oh to be a tomboy. As I cracked open a bottle Brittany cider left as a welcoming present by the gite-owners, and checked out the 18th century fire hearth and open-plan living area (so clean!), hubbie sighed as he gazed through the window. I took a swig and narrowed my eyes. ‘Pelted with a plum already?’  He shook his head as he took his glass. ‘No,’ he said, his arm levitating forward. ‘Look.’

            I followed his eye line and stopped. The garden, all ours, was almost as big as a football pitch, with a pool, also ours, tucked in its sidelines, blue water winking in the sun. ‘Wow’, I said, wondering where the inflatables were. ‘The girls will love that.’ But, as I began the search for swimming cossies, my husband simply grinned and said, ‘French cricket.’

            Games with tennis rackets were just the start of our two-week trip back to childhood. The gite garden was stocked full of delights such as petanque (tricky), football (mum as goalie – ouch), badminton (monopolised by us grown-ups) and hoops (a kid winner), to name a few. Five minutes drive away was the zip-wire Adventure Forest in Camors, suitable for even the 6-year old, who promptly declared it ‘awesome’. And it was. We hit the 3km beaches in Carnac,  ideal for rock pooling, and the town of Auray, with its hilled streets and sweeping river that caused our 8-year old to declare –whilst scoffing Moules Frites, a Brittany classic- France to be her favourite because, and I quote, ‘it’s looks nice, has good music and good food.’ Well said. Perhaps apart from the music.

            Such a blast to our childhood past did we have, that we’re now planning a road trip up the Californian coast, to which the girls asked, ‘Do they play French Cricket there?’ Hmmm. French cricket in the USA? Pass me the racket.

 © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading! I’ll be posting another travel writing article next week.   Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**