Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – Short Stories – #Fiction – Father Christmas by Sally Cronin – Have you a story to share?


Today I am sharing one of the last stories from my collection Flights of Fancy as it is one I wrote for Christmas.

I would also like to invite you to share your fiction here too in December with one of your stories.

  • I know how busy everyone is at this time of year, but perhaps you have a short story you have already published on your own blog and would like to share with another audience over here.
  • I will leave the word count to you but as an approximation I would be happy with stories between 500 and 1,500 words…if longer then I am sure it will not be a problem.
  • If you are an author I will also be delighted to share the link to buy your work on Amazon.
  • Some of you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore and I have all your details, so no need to include again, but if you are new to the blog then I will need some information.

If you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore then please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story.

If you are new to smorgasbord the please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story
  3. Your amazon author page link for your books (so I can find your bio and book covers)
  4. Links to your blog and two other main social media links.

Here is my short story from Flights of Fancy which I hope you will enjoy….

Father Christmas come to visit

The little girl lay in bed, her blonde hair spread over the pillow. She was asleep, but from her restless movements it was obvious that she was in the grip of a disturbing dream. Dark rings beneath her eyes gave her small face a pinched and unhappy look.

Downstairs, Jenny looked at the Christmas decorations hanging from the pictures and light fittings around the room. In the corner, the tree lights sparkled and flashed through the tinsel, and presents for Sophie were piled beneath its green spiky branches in a colourful heap. The family and the neighbours had rallied around, determined that Sophie would have everything that her father would have bought her this Christmas.

Jenny rested her hands on the mantelpiece and stared at the photograph in front of her. It was the last that was taken of them all together. They smiled out of the picture, brown and happy on their holiday in the south of France at the end of October. It had been their first family holiday in three years as business had been tough, and there had been no extra money for trips or any other luxuries. Ironically, she now had more money than she knew what to do with, but she would give it all back in a heartbeat.

Jack had inherited his father’s building business and although in the initial few years work had been plentiful, there was now more and more competition for fewer contracts. He and his small team worked seven days a week usually, and she could see from his face that this heavy load was taking its toll. Just after their holiday in France, Jack began to experience chest pains that he dismissed as indigestion after eating and drinking too much while they were away. Jenny had at first asked him to go and see their family doctor, but after two weeks and getting increasingly concerned about Jack’s lack of energy and grey pallor, she had then begged him to go and get checked out.

To keep the peace, Jack had begrudgingly taken a couple of hours off one evening and gone to the surgery. The next day he was in hospital undergoing tests and that afternoon it was decided that he needed an emergency operation. It had all happened so fast they had barely time to talk about the situation and Jenny had been unable to take Sophie into to see her father before he was rushed off to theatre. Jenny had called out to him as he was wheeled away but she had no way of knowing if he had heard her soft “I love you.”

She and Sophie had sat in the family room, playing with coloured bricks and a jigsaw to pass the anxious time. There had been other families in the room all looking nervously at the clock until doctors or nurses entered to reassure them that their loved ones were safely recovering from their operations.

As the evening wore on, more and more of the waiting families left the room to visit their relatives in recovery or back on the wards. Jenny and Sophie were alone when finally a tall man in a green scrub suit entered the waiting room, loosening the mask from around his face. Jenny took one look at his eyes and knew from their bleak directness that there would be no visit to the recovery room for them.

Resting her head on her hands she allowed the tears to fall; here in private she could grieve. Away from the eyes of her small daughter who could not understand why Daddy was not coming home from work every night. She had tried to be strong for Sophie’s sake, but she had watched her normally lively child lose weight, become silent and withdrawn. Jack was gone and tomorrow was Christmas Day. How could she face it without him?

She heard a noise from upstairs. Sophie would be having one of her nightmares, crying for her daddy, tossing and turning, and reaching out into the dark. Wiping the tears from her face, Jenny walked upstairs to her daughter’s bedroom. She opened the door quietly and was startled to see Sophie sitting up in bed, clutching her teddy bear and staring across the room.

Her mother looked across and saw the toy cupboard with a plate of mince pies and a glass of sherry on the top. Suddenly she felt warm air flow over her. She blinked and stared at the glowing light that grew brighter and brighter. Clamping a hand over her mouth, she darted a glance over at Sophie. Her daughter was smiling and holding out her hand to the light. Jenny’s eyes were drawn back across the room and she gasped as in the glow, she saw a figure materialise.

“Jack” she gasped. Riveted to the spot she watched her husband reach out a hand, take a mince pie from the plate and raise it to his lips. He ate the pie and grinned across at her. She felt the warmth of his gaze as it rested on her eyes and her mouth and an overwhelming sense of peace passed through her. Jack nodded once and then walked across to his daughter’s bedside. In complete silence, he reached out and touched Sophie’s outstretched hand. A radiant glow spread across her face and she lay back down on her pillow, still clutching his fingers. Her smile transformed her face and the dark rings and pinched, sad look disappeared. Her eyes closed and her breathing settled into a gentle rhythm and she was peacefully asleep.

Her father turned away from the bed and crossed over to the door. Jenny stood absolutely still as his body passed in front of her. He stopped and she looked into his eyes and felt a gentle touch on her shoulders. He smiled at her and all the love that they had shared was in that wonderful look between them and she knew that he was saying goodbye. He moved out into the hall and turned for one last glance over his shoulder. Gradually the light faded and the figure disappeared, but the warmth inside her remained.

She stood for a few minutes with head bowed, absorbing and taking strength from that feeling before crossing to her daughter’s bedside. She looked down at Sophie, sleeping peacefully for the first time in weeks. She kissed her forehead gently and then moved over to the toy cupboard where she stared at the plate with its two mince pies.

Three had been put out for Father Christmas. Jenny smiled; everything was going to be fine. It would take time, but the warmth inside her would carry them through.

This year Father Christmas had really come to visit.

©Sally Cronin 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews Sally’s books and reviews 2019

Available: Amazon US

and on: Amazon UK

More reviews can be found on: Goodreads

Thank you for dropping by and if you have a short story that you would like to share then please get in touch..thanks Sally.

Flights of Fancy Short Story Collection – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – The Sewing Circle Part One by Sally Cronin


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

The Sewing Circle Part One.

The sewing circle met at Betty’s flat on the ground floor of Malcolm House, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. There were six regular members and the odd person who dropped in who appreciated that the group was the source of gossip and information about the Redgrave Estate.

Copious cups of tea were provided with members taking it in turn to produce homemade cakes that were judged critically during the course of the afternoon. Recipes were swapped and toppings envied as the ladies knitted and embroidered the hours away.

All of the members were over eighty and had lived varied and sometimes tragic lives. All had been born and brought up in this deprived area of South London and the fact that they still participated so fully in their lives was a testament to their strength of character.

The tenant of the flat, and gracious hostess, was Betty Smith. She had been lucky in as much as her husband had lived long enough to enjoy ten years of retirement with her. They had lived in the annexe of their son’s lovely house near Chelmsford but after Arthur’s death, Betty felt lonely and isolated, with her son and daughter-in-law out at work every day. She moved into the flats five years ago and was delighted to find that several of her old friends were not only still alive but resident on the estate. She was now eighty-six and a firm favourite with the younger children on the Redgrave who were the eager recipients of her cupcakes.

Mary Jones was eighty-three, had lost two husbands in the Second World War, three children as babies, and had toiled into her seventies as a cleaner at an office block in the heart of the City. Her wrinkled face identified a life-long affair with nicotine and her skin had the patina of a well-polished piece of walnut. Mary was the matinee-jacket expert, having knitted for four generations of the offspring of her two surviving daughters. Her eyesight was not all that it used to be but her loving family forgave her the odd dropped stitch. Arthritis made it difficult for her to get out on her own and the other more mobile members of the circle would walk with her to the post office to collect her pension on Thursdays and to the convenience store on the corner of the estate. She had recently started using a wheeled stroller and was very pleased with her new-found independence. With the help of her neighbour she had even made it down to the Red Lion pub for the pensioner’s special one week and was planning to make this a regular outing.

Sylvia Ross, the youngest member of the circle, was a bit of a mystery as she always changed the subject when asked about her early years. She had no family, by all accounts, and even when firmly pressed, refused to give details of where she was born or brought up.

She once let slip that she had been married but then changed the subject which, of course, elevated the curiosity of her fellow members to extraordinary levels. This resulted in a certain amount of behind the scenes digging, and once or twice snippets of an enticing nature were ferreted out, only to fizzle away from lack of information. She was just eighty and extremely elegant. She always wore a smart suit to the sewing circle although it was obvious that the classic clothes were decades old. Her blonde hair was touched up every month by the hairdresser in the high street and her nails were the envy of all the teenage girls in her block.

The circle marvelled at her ability to embroider with her extended, red talons but liked her too much to pass comment. They doubted that they would ever get to the bottom of the mystery, but Sylvia was a lively and generous member of the group who was always there if one of them was ill or needed something special brought back from the shopping precinct. She truly had a heart of gold.

Maggie Baxter was originally from Jamaica and had married a seaman from Hackney in the fifties. She had the most wonderful laugh and her generous spirit was well known throughout the estate. A trained nurse, she had acted as the community midwife for over twenty-five years and even now, at eighty-five, was called upon regularly by the young mother’s on the estate for help and guidance during and after their frequent pregnancies. Nothing shocked Maggie and she could be relied on to keep a secret. She was not above giving some of the younger, more obnoxious, residents of the estate a quick smack if they got out of hand on the stairwells, but on the whole even the toughest of adolescent boys who roamed the estate, jobless and bored, knew that Maggie Baxter would be there if they needed them. Her friends in the sewing circle warned her however that she needed to be careful. In recent months, several new families had been housed on the estate and their rowdy kids were an unknown quantity. In fact, petty crime was on the increase despite the fact that they had their own community police presence, and on two occasions recently elderly residents had been mugged and injured on their way back from the local shops.

The frailest of the group was Flo Miles, a tiny little woman who had amazingly borne twelve children, all of whom had survived wars and sickness. She had thirty-six grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren and at ninety years old was considered the queen of the Redgrave. She had lived there since it was built, twenty years earlier, and knew every little bit of gossip there was to be had about the residents. The other members even suspected she knew more that she was telling about Sylvia Ross but on this subject, she was strangely close-mouthed. She was also fearless and despite her fragile appearance walked herself to and from the local Bingo Hall despite her friends’ insistence that she go by taxi. The fact that she was a prolific winner also worried the members of the sewing circle, but she did make the compromise that on nights that she won money she would get a cab home and get the driver to walk her to her ground floor flat, conveniently close to the parking area.

Sarah Dempsey or big Sal as she was known to her friends and neighbours was a gregarious and fun loving Irish woman who had come over to London as a spinster of thirty-eight, in the late 1950’s. She had cared for her parents until their death and then found herself evicted from her family home by her brother who had inherited the lot. He had begrudgingly given her forty pounds and bought her a one-way ticket to England. Luckily, Sal found a job as a waitress in a large department store in Knightsbridge, and being the hard worker that she was, she remained in that job for over thirty years. She had a lovely little pension as well as her State benefits and she adored giving unusual and unexpected gifts to every one of her acquaintance. She was treasured by everyone, especially when she burst into song at quiz nights, and other functions, at the community centre in the middle of the estate.

So, here was the sewing circle, a group of friends who were independent and who took care of each other lovingly. All very different, but all intent on one thing, ending their lives with dignity and in the company of people they cared for.

There was just one problem and that was the Jackson family. The Jacksons had moved onto the estate after being moved from two other communities because of their unreasonable behaviour. Archie Jackson was in prison for violent offenses more than he was out and his wife Sharon was a loud-mouthed harridan who could be heard through the thin walls of the flats, shouting and swearing throughout the day and long into the night. They had five children although it was a mystery to everyone how she had so many bearing in mind that Archie was inside most of the seventeen years they had been married. The more uncharitable amongst the residents speculated on the difference in look and colour between the offspring and there were certainly enough suspicions to cast doubts on Archie’s participation in some of their conceptions.

Everyone on the estate gave the Jacksons a wide berth. Since their arrival, petty crime on the estate had risen dramatically and the residents’ committee had even requested a meeting with the Police representative to try to stem the tide of thefts and muggings that suddenly affected the area. The police did what they could and in fact, they did catch the older Jackson boy, Darren, red handed shoplifting from the corner shop. But because he was only fifteen he was let off with probation. Next, the committee tried the council who said that having moved the Jackson’s twice already they were running out of options. There were suggestions from some of the residents that a prison ship or deserted island would be a suitable place to move the family but in the end, the council promised to try to find alternative accommodation away from the Redgrave.

Hoping that a resolution was only a matter of weeks away everyone on the estate held their collective breath and trusted that not too much damage would be inflicted on property, or themselves, in the meantime.

This wish was not to be granted and for one of the members of the sewing circle, life was about to take a desperate turn.

One Wednesday evening Flo Miles won over £500 on the bingo. She was ecstatic and could not wait to share her news with her closest friends in the sewing circle. One of her bingo pals owned a mobile phone and with great delight, Flo called Betty to tell her the news. What she didn’t know was that Sharon Jackson and her sister were sitting right behind her and had made note of the substantial win.

Betty suggested that her friend come round for a sherry to celebrate and Flo decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to the estate straight away. She left the bingo hall and looked up and down the street for one of the cabs that normally parked outside. Unfortunately, there was still two hours to go of the evening bingo session and the usual line of cars was not to be seen.

Flo was so elated by her win that she decided she would not hang about any longer and would walk the short distance home, something she had done many times. She was blissfully unaware that at precisely the same time Sharon Jackson was on her own mobile phone nor did she know that the woman was setting her up for another surprise tonight.

Despite being on probation, Sharon’s eldest son Darren had made little effort to control his violent and anti-social behaviour. When his mother had rung him, he was hanging out on one of the stairwells with two of his mates from his previous address. They had been drinking vodka and smoking shoplifted cigarettes as they sat on the steps leading to the top landing and they were fired up and ready for trouble.

Darren snapped shut his mobile phone and looked at his mates. “Mum says some old bitch has just won over five big ones at the bingo and is on her way home.” He smiled evilly showing brown discoloured teeth. “She says I can have half if I get the cash without being seen! Anyone fancy a laugh?”

With his two mates in tow, Darren scurried rat-like down the darkened stairs to the parking area below. Flo was just entering the estate from the main road, trying to move as quickly as possible in and out of the shadows that stretched outside the reach of the street lamps. She was looking warily around her but she held her head up high and marched determinedly in the direction of the flats.

As she approached the entrance to Betty’s block, she had to pass some dumpsters on her left and failed to notice the movement in the darkened recesses between the bins. Suddenly a hand was clamped over her mouth and her bag, which was held tightly under her arm, was ripped away. She struggled as she fought for breath and she found herself on the ground feeling the jagged gravel through her clothing. Her eyes widened as she put her hands up to try and pry loose the hand around her mouth, and they looked pleadingly up into the hard eyes of her attacker who she recognised immediately.

Darren knew that the old bitch had made him and he had a decision to make. Should he do a runner with his mates, with the bag, and wait for the coppers to catch up with him? He was on probation now but this would certainly get him inside some juvenile detention centre. On the other hand, he could finish the job here and now. He held his hand tightly cupped over Flo’s nose and mouth and pressed down steadily as her struggles weakened and finally stopped. Satisfied that he had eliminated his victim and witness to his crime, he slid back into the shadows where his friends waited in breathless admiration.

Betty laid out the sherry glasses and some special crisps that she had bought for the next sewing circle meeting. After half an hour, she became worried that Flo had still not appeared and crossed to her lounge window overlooking the parking lot. At first, she saw little but as her eyes adjusted to the dark outside, she noticed a heap of what appeared to be clothing lying by the dumpsters. For some reason a feeling of dread passed through her and she rushed to the phone to call Big Sal who lived two floors up from her.

“Sal, can you come down, I think something has happened to Flo and I don’t want to go outside alone.”

Within minutes Sal was at the door and the two elderly women walked hand in hand towards the dark shape lying motionless on the ground. As they got closer they saw a hand, palm up stretched pleadingly in their direction. Hearts beating rapidly they drew closer and looked down at the frail face of their beloved friend. Betty immediately knelt down and touched Flo’s face.

“She’s still breathing Sal. Quickly, go and call an ambulance from my flat while I stay with her.”

She handed her keys to Sal who hesitated for a moment tears pouring down her face. “Hurry Sal, don’t worry I will be fine.”

As Sal hurried inside, Betty cradled Flo’s head in her lap and leaned as close as she could to her motionless friend. As she bent forward, she thought she heard a whisper coming from the bruised lips.

“Flo, it’s me Betty, what is it love?” She gently stroked Flo’s forehead.

“Jackson……boy…..” With that, Flo breathed softly and for the last time.

©Sally Cronin 2009

The second part of the Sewing Circle tomorrow morning….

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Part two of the Sewing Circle tomorrow….

Flights of Fancy – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – Albert – The Perfect Candidate by Sally Cronin


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

Albert – The Perfect Candidate

On Friday night, Albert sat in the white walled room, his eyes closed against the glare from the fluorescent lighting, with his hands over his ears to shut out the infernal racket from the wall-mounted television. He did not have to watch the screen to know what images it displayed. Twenty-four hours a day, it brought the fear and disasters of the World into each room in every house and workplace. Terrorism, financial and natural catastrophes and of course superbugs were all guaranteed to make the headlines. He shook his head. Where did all the ‘good news’ stories go?

His mobile telephone had rung several times in the last hour and he knew that it was Marjorie, his partner, no doubt reminding him for the fiftieth time that he must not be late for dinner.

He opened his eyes, switched off his phone and thought about the pile of folders still unopened on his desk. There was also an e-mail from his boss demanding that he should be in his office first thing on Monday morning. Why do they do that? Under normal circumstances Albert would have spent the whole weekend desperately worried in case he was going to be fired. He had every reason to be stressed out anyway – he was late with this month’s mortgage payments, his doctor had told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were through the roof and his blood sugar was not far behind.

He didn’t need the doctor to tell him he was six stone overweight, needed to give up smoking and drinking and was a candidate for a heart attack. He only had to look at his face in the mirror every morning to see that he fell neatly into the 95% of the population who suffered from a lifestyle induced health crisis.

Everyone he knew amongst family and friends was equally unfit. Most of them were on pills of one sort or another and it seemed that once you were put on medication you were on it for life. Sure, most of the major diseases had been eradicated in the last fifty years, but it was easier and quicker to give you tablets to control your blood pressure and cholesterol than go to all the trouble of showing you how to change your lifestyle.

Anyway, what pleasure was there in life if you couldn’t eat a whole pizza with a bottle of wine two or three nights a week? Albert hated fruit and vegetables anyway. Besides which, who needed to stand out in a crowd? When all your friends and family and even your doctor were fat and unhealthy too, why change? Still, he wished he could remember a time when he had felt well enough to get up in the mornings.

He looked around him and smiled wryly. At least in one very important aspect he had been extremely successful. He was a perfect example of modern man and this was precisely what they had wanted. All his financial problems would be solved now that he had been accepted into the programme. Marjorie would be well taken care of if the worst happened and he was contracted not to make any improvements to his lifestyle for the duration of his lifetime. Bring on the Pizza!

Animal testing had finally become redundant. Eventually it became impossible to recreate, in animals, the levels of physical, mental and emotional stress that humans suffered after prolonged exposure to their modern lifestyle and diet. Scientists could no longer manipulate the gap between species to obtain reliable test subjects without compromising the safety of human trials. Medical records were accessed and from the millions of suitable candidates and the most qualified specimens were recruited.

The door opened and two lab technicians walked in wheeling a trolley containing medical instruments.

“Hi Albert,” one of them smiled at him. “This is not going to hurt a bit.”

©Sally Cronin 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy – Serialisation -#Wartime #Romance – Curtains by Sally Cronin – Free Book Offer


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

Curtains

The curtains at the small window fluttered in the slight afternoon breeze. The doctor has told me to rest, so here I am, tucked up under the pink eiderdown, a cup of tea cooling on the bedside cabinet.

I am not ill; I have just been overdoing it a bit lately. There has been a great deal of excitement in the family, my great grandson has just got married, and I was not going to miss out on something like that. After all, I had my reputation to uphold, as the fashion doyenne of the family. Much had been made of my emerald green suit with extravagant, black, straw hat. I had heard their comments ‘Trust Sarah to stand out in a crowd’ and ‘Doesn’t she look marvellous for her age’.

No, I was definitely not going to miss the opportunity to show that there was life in the old girl yet. It was a bit depressing really, as although I am nearly ninety, I still feel like a young girl inside. I often sit and remember the old days when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Those pre-war years were so much fun. The first war had been dreadful, taking away so many young men, that those who were left behind felt the need to live life to the full. It was almost as if we knew that the good times could not last. A premonition, that was to be fulfilled far too soon in our young lives.

I must admit that it is rather cosy, lying here under the cover, letting my mind wander. The curtains dancing at the window in their silly way are quite hypnotic. If I close my eyes, they seem to change colour from pale green to a pretty, flowery pattern, very similar to the first pair that hung at the same windows over sixty-five years ago.

‘Sarah, Sarah.’ I could hear my mother’s voice calling to me up the stairs. ‘Hurry up, your cousin will be arriving at the station soon, stop admiring yourself in the mirror and come down here.’

‘I’m coming mother.’ I called down, and with a quick adjustment to my saucy new, feathered hat, and a quick admiring glance in the mirror, I raced down the stairs in a very unladylike fashion.

My mother stood in the hall, her white apron gleaming in the dim light; sleeves rolled up and flour dusting her arms. I smiled; she always managed to get a white patch of flour on the end of her nose whenever she baked.

‘Sarah, how many times have I told you to act like a lady?’ She paused, mystified as to how she had produced someone as clumsy as me. ‘You are too old to be galloping around like a carthorse, try and behave with a little more decorum please.’

From my vastly superior height, I leant down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
‘Sorry mother, I’m going right now, have we got some of your special cake for tea?’

‘Food, food, food, don’t you ever think of anything else, you will end up fat and no one will want you.’

I laughed and opened the front door, and when I reached the little white gate, I turned and waved at my mother, standing in the cottage doorway. She lifted her hand and smiled, she looked so beautiful that I raced back and gave her a hug.

‘Oh Sarah,’ she laughed, ‘get along with you.’

I ran back down the path and crossed the village square to the small railway station. I arrived just as the train was pulling in, and as I reached the platform, the train doors started to open. Not many people were getting off at our village and I excitedly scanned all the faces as they appeared. Suddenly I saw Peter, my cousin, in his smart new uniform and I ran down the platform and was swept into his arms.

‘Peter, it’s so lovely to see you, and you look so handsome.’ He hugged me tightly and breathlessly I looked over his shoulder and up into a pair of twinkling blue eyes.

‘Do I get one of those too?’ A deep voice with a soft Irish brogue said.

I blushed furiously, and disentangled myself from my cousin’s arms.

‘Sarah, I hope that your mother won’t mind, but I have brought a friend of mine from the camp for tea?’ Peter smiled.

‘This is Patrick, Patrick meet my scatter-brained cousin, Sarah.’

For some reason, as soon as Patrick took my hand, I started to tremble. I was never usually at a loss for words, but right now, I couldn’t think of one single thing to say. He just kept smiling, holding my hand and looking down at me from his great height.

I came back to the present with a little start. I realised that I was breathless; the memory of our first meeting had exactly the same effect on me now, as it had then. I felt quite light-headed and as I looked at the curtains, they seemed to change colour again to a deep rich blue.

It was my wedding night and I lay in the big bed, staring at the new dark blue curtains, made by my mother in honour of the new status of my childhood bedroom, as bridal chamber. As I lay waiting for Patrick, I tried to calm my nerves by going back over this wonderful, exciting day. My beautiful dress, the simple service in the small village church and the reception at the hall in the square. Wartime had almost been forgotten, as dashing young men in uniform twirled the pretty village girls around the dance floor.

There was no time for a honeymoon, as Patrick had to re-join his unit tomorrow. My mother and father had gone to stay with an aunt and uncle for the night, and now we were alone together. I sensed movement by the bedroom door and I realised that Patrick was standing there watching me. He had removed his shirt and as I looked at his finely muscled, strong body, I shivered.

‘Are you afraid little Sarah?’ he said softly. I nodded; I could feel the trembling of my knees beneath the covers. ‘I love you Sarah, and I want tonight to be very special for you, something for you to look back on when I leave tomorrow.’

I reached up and touched his bare arm. With my other hand, I drew back the covers and without another word, he slipped off the rest of his clothes and lay down beside me. I felt his arms go around me, he kissed my lips softly and then with more urgency. His passion enveloped me and I felt myself responding with sensations running through my body that I had never known existed. Those feelings took over, blocking out my fear. As his hands caressed me, the girl disappeared leaving a woman deeply in love.

In the morning, I lay with my head on his shoulder. The window was open and the curtains moved gently back and forth across the opening. I sighed happily and felt Patrick stir beside me. We made love again, gently, slowly, only too aware that our time together was running out. I tried desperately to put the thought of his leaving out of my mind, but a cold fear of what the future might hold in store for us began to grow inside me.

The next time we lay together in our bed it was winter, and the curtains were drawn to shut out the cold, grim day outside. Patrick had been wounded and had come home from hospital the week before. He had changed so much in the year he had been away, his blue eyes were pain filled and he had lost a great deal of weight. He would lie upstairs in our bed for hours, recovering in body, but something was terribly wrong. He would smile occasionally, and accept everything that my mother and I did for him quietly and gratefully, but as if we were strangers. At night, we would lie in bed, not touching and if I reached out my hand to him, he would gently draw away and turn over silently to face the wall.

I felt devastated, as if I had been wounded too. I didn’t know what to say or do and I finally turned to my mother for help.

‘Be patient Sarah, give him time,’ she said softly. ‘We don’t know what he has been through, apart from being wounded; he must have seen some dreadful things in the last year. Keep loving him and let him know you care.’

This particular morning, I rose quietly, knowing he would only be dozing. I went downstairs and met mother coming out of the kitchen.

‘There’s an official letter for Patrick,’ she looked at me worriedly. ‘I do hope that they don’t want him back yet, he’s just not ready.’

I walked slowly up the stairs and opened the bedroom door. Patrick turned his head towards me and saw the letter in my hand. He held out his own and I gave him the envelope but I could not bear the suspense, and I left the room and stood with my back to the door on the landing. There was a moment of silence and then I heard great, tearing sobs coming from inside the room. I couldn’t bear the strain any longer and I flung open the door and threw myself on the bed beside him. I put my arms around him and held him tightly. The sounds that he made were terrible, I could feel his hot tears on my skin and I cried with him. I caught my breath as I felt his arms take mine and put them by my side and the next thing I knew, I was crushed against him and this time it was his arms that brought comfort.

‘Sarah, darling Sarah,’ he said haltingly. ‘I don’t have to go back; I don’t have to leave you again.’

We talked a great deal that morning. It was not fear for himself, that had caused him to be so distant, only the feeling that if he didn’t touch me, love me, share things with me, it would be easier for me when he left again. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving me with a child, knowing as he now did, that there was a distinct possibility that he might never return. As we talked all that fear was swept away and when we hesitantly made love, I felt that he had finally come home.

The blue curtains fade away, to be replaced by a bright, cheerful pair. The bedroom had been redecorated and in the corner stood a crib. I lay in bed listening to the gentle snuffling noises, which filled the room, and I had never felt so happy in my life. I heard Patrick coming up the stairs and open the door. I turned and smiled at him.

‘You’re awake then,’ he said softly. ‘Is she awake too?’

I looked at the crib that held our daughter Elizabeth. ‘Not yet, but as soon as she gets hungry, we will all know about it.’

‘Sarah, I have something to say to you.’ I looked at him and saw the bleakness in his eyes.
‘I have to go back.’ He gripped my hand tightly in his. ‘My regiment is going to be returning to France in the next few weeks and I need to go with them. They say that in the next few months we could end this war and they need every trained man they can find.’

I stared at him, hoping that this was all a bad dream.

He gently placed his finger across my lips before I could speak.

‘I have been so happy this last year, now that I have you and the baby everything is complete and I can’t bear the thought of leaving you, but please try to understand.’

The tears poured down my cheeks and I realised that I was back in the present again. The sights and sounds of the past faded away and the gentle knock on the door reminded me that I was not alone. I rubbed my wet face with a tissue.

‘Come in,’ I called, trying to control my quivering voice. My daughter Elizabeth stood in the doorway.

‘It’s four o’clock mum,’ she said. ‘I thought you might like another cup of tea before I go home.’

She looked at me carefully. ‘You still look very tired mum, are you sure you’re feeling alright, would you like me to call the doctor back again?’

‘No darling, I’m fine, just a little tired, that’s all,’ I smiled reassuringly. ‘It was all the excitement of the wedding on Saturday, it’s not every day that you see your great grandson walk up the aisle, and I must have overdone it a bit.’

Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed and took my hand in hers.

‘Actually, I was having a lovely dream,’ I looked up into her youthful looking face. ‘It’s hard to believe that it is over sixty years since your father was killed. I so wish that you could have known him.’

It is night now and Elizabeth has gone home with the promise of returning first thing in the morning. My companion, Betty has been in with a lovely cup of cocoa and gone to bed, as tired with the last few days’ activities as I was.

The window is open slightly and the curtains drawn back to reveal a clear, starry sky. I feel so tired, but somehow content, my eyelids drop and then I hear his voice as clearly, as if it was yesterday. His soft gentle tones came from the end of my bed. My eyes open suddenly; I am trembling and excited, my heart pounding in my chest.

He is there, in his uniform, looking so handsome and as strong as ever. He is smiling and his arms are outstretched towards me.

‘Sarah, darling, I’ve come to take you home with me; I have been waiting for such a long time.’

I flew into his arms, feeling them close around me. I felt so young, so alive and so safe.

Together we walked towards the window, and the fluttering floral curtains of my youth.
I took a last, long look at our bedroom and in the bed, I saw an old woman. Her eyes were closed and she was lying very still. On her face was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy Serialisation – #Fantasy – The Psychic Parrot by Sally Cronin and a Free Book Offer


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

The Psychic Parrot

I wasn’t sure how I was going to break the news to my husband Simon that I had managed to add another dent to my car. Living in Spain had many advantages — such as the glorious weather, but the roads were not the safest, and parking had its dangers too.

My car was only three months old and already there were scrape marks down one side, two dents in one of the rear doors and this morning I had been involved in an accident with another car. It was not my fault; I was driving slowly down the exit lane from the supermarket when a blue Seat shot out of a side parking area straight into the front passenger door. The impact had jerked me into the steering wheel and I had banged my head on the side window.

The young man driving the Seat had reversed and driven off without stopping leaving me shaking and clutching my head tightly in both hands. Luckily, a lovely couple stopped and came round to my side of the car and helped me out into the blazing mid-day sun. I have only lived in Madrid for a few months and my Spanish is still embarrassingly limited but the man spoke some English and insisted that the police and an ambulance were called immediately. The woman had made a note of the other car’s number plate and they offered to act as witnesses to the accident.

The police and the paramedics arrived within minutes of each other and I sat in the back of the ambulance being examined while the car was checked by the police officers. I don’t know what was more upsetting, my pounding headache or the prospect of Simon’s anger and recriminations. He had been more than scathing about my two previous encounters; one with a concrete post in a parking garage and the other with the metal side of our gate.  I dreaded his reaction to what was turning into a major incident.

The car was drivable but the paramedics wanted me to go to hospital, as they were concerned about my head injury. The police moved my car under some covered parking and handed my keys and handbag to me before driving off with promises of contact when they had found the hit-and-run driver. I thanked the kind couple who had offered me so much assistance and they gave me their card with a request for an update when I felt up to it.

At that moment, I felt like death – my head pounded and the heat seemed to have leached every, last ounce of energy from my bruised body. I lay back on the stretcher and heard the siren wailing above me as we manoeuvred through the busy motorway traffic.

—000—

To be honest I have no idea how I ended up here on my terrace, looking over the garden. The last thing that I remember is wishing that the infernal wailing sound would stop so that my head would be clear enough to come up with a plausible story for the new damage to the car. Simon hates being the centre of attention and he was not going to like the fact that the police were now involved and that word might get back to the Spanish company that he worked for, as an accountant.

My head still ached but I can only assume that they must have given me some painkillers when I got to the hospital. Perhaps they had called Simon and he brought me home, but if that was the case where was he now and how did I get out here onto the terrace?

Wouldn’t he have put me to bed or at least on one of the sofas in the lounge?

I have to say that it was rather pleasant lying out here on a lounger with my feet up even if my head and body still felt painful and lifeless. I couldn’t seem to move my hands or my feet and a dreadful thought occurred to me as I realised that perhaps I was paralysed, but dismissed this as ridiculous. If that were the case then I would still be in hospital under medical care.

I could just about move my neck, which seemed to be trapped in a rigid muscular spasm. My eyes scanned the long terrace on the side of the house and I looked into the garden through the dark metal fencing. A movement caught my eye halfway along the railings and a grey object started moving sideways along the metal. At first, the image was blurred and I could feel fear building up in my chest as it shuffled closer. Within a couple of moments my eyes managed to focus and to my astonishment I found myself staring into a piercingly bright eye surrounded by pearly white skin.

I am not an expert on birds but even I could recognise a parrot when I saw one. The bird cocked its head to one side and we examined each other carefully. I have to say that it looked much more attractive than I felt. A mixture of dark and pearl grey feathers covered its body and in contrast to the white skin around the eyes, the black beak looked almost menacing.

I must have been holding my breath as I suddenly felt as though I was suffocating and frighteningly I heard strange voices speaking in Spanish in my already aching head. The urgency in the voices rose to a crescendo and then faded back down again as I let out a breath, releasing the tension in my body. I felt myself slipping away into sleep and I welcomed the sensation; I knew the pain would be gone and I would not have to explain myself to Simon. I almost smiled with relief as I drifted away closing my eyes against the glare of the light streaming through the railings onto my sun bed. I had not noticed how bright the light was but the strange thing was that the light was getting stronger rather than fading as I slipped into sleep.

“Wake up, wake up.” A forceful voice shook me out of my peaceful descent into rest.
My eyes shot open and I found myself staring right into the parrot’s face as it sat on my chest. I panicked as I couldn’t move to defend myself and I was convinced that this bird was going to peck my eyes out or worse, without me being able to doing anything to prevent it.

“Don’t panic, it’s alright. But don’t go to sleep. Okay!” The voice sounded rather cultured and somewhat familiar and I relaxed a little as the intent behind the words managed to calm my fears.

“You and I need to have a chat and you can’t listen to me if you are asleep.” I realised that the parrot was trying to hold a conversation with me but I found it very difficult to grasp the reality of the situation. How could I be lying on my terrace with a grey parrot on my chest giving me orders about whether I should go to sleep or not.

I managed to open my mouth and croak in its direction. “You’re not real are you?” I tried to focus on the fact that it might be a wind-up toy that Simon had brought home for a practical joke. This I dismissed as unlikely bearing in mind his total lack of a sense of humour.

“I am very real Susan and I need you to concentrate because I am going to help you.”
I blinked my eyes wearily as this was simply not acceptable. I just wanted to close my eyelids and drift off peacefully to sleep.

“Susan, open your eyes and pay attention.” The bird snapped at me as it moved impatiently around on my breasts. It paced back and forth, rocking its head and making hissing sounds under its breath.

“You always do this when there is a problem, run away, hide your feelings rather than confront issues. And look where it has got you.” My eyes jerked open and I stared at a parrot who dared to tell me how ineffectual I was. It was bad enough that I had a husband who constantly criticised and belittled me; I certainly did not need a vermin ridden avian to have a go at me too.

“Don’t get in a huff, just because you know it’s true,” The bird walked right up to my face and glared at me. “You have allowed that husband of yours to get away with bullying you for years now and here you are about to disappear without telling him how you feel.”

It was hard to feel righteous anger at the bird’s words, as I knew, deep in my bruised chest, that it was speaking the truth.

“How do you know all this,” I croaked quietly.

“I am a psychic African Grey Parrot and I can read your mind! You have got one you know.”

I was finding it incredibly difficult to take all of this in and could only assume that they had given me some form of hallucinogenic drugs at the hospital. That would explain everything and all I needed to do was relax and go along with everything that happened, because it was an illusion.

“It is not a hallucination,” the parrot continued, “in fact this is one of the most important moments of your life and you need to experience everything.”

“You have spent the last fifteen years of your life with a man who not only belittles you at every opportunity but has also been unfaithful on several occasions.”

I gasped expelling the breath from my body as I felt two incredible shocks thunder through my chest.

“That is simply not true, Simon loves me he would never do that to me.” My whispered denials fell on deaf ears.”

“You know it’s true but you have shut your eyes to his infidelity and the way he treats you because he has made you feel worthless,” the parrot continued as it walked back and forth across my chest.

“You used to be so bright and enthusiastic, so full of life. But he has sucked you dry until you are now lying here helpless and unwilling to help yourself.”

I wanted to get up and punch this obnoxious bird’s lights out. I couldn’t remember when I had felt so enraged and indignant. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed my body to respond.

“That’s it, show me what you’ve got, haven’t felt as alive as this for a while have you?”

I could sense through my tightly clenched eyelids that there was a presence up very close and personal. I opened my eyes and found myself drawn deep down into the bright face in front of me.

“Keep fighting Susan, great things are waiting for you and you will miss out on a wonderful life if you go to sleep. I will be here and we are going to do all the things that you have wanted to do, but never dared, as soon as you are on your feet again.” With that, the parrot flew away from my chest and swooped over the railings and into the garden.

As it left, I could just hear its voice on the hot afternoon air. “Don’t let me down Susan, open your eyes and see what a wonderful life you could have.”

“Come back, come back,” I cried as I watched the bird fly into the sun-dappled trees at the edge of the garden. Funnily enough, despite the dreadful things that the bird had said to me, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. It was as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend, someone I had known a long time ago who had returned for a brief moment.

Then I heard other voices. A Spanish man who was talking calmly and a voice I recognised raised in anger. “Señor, I really must ask you to keep your voice down as your wife is very ill. We nearly lost her twice and we are still uncertain of the extent of her head injury.” I could sense the voices moving away into the distance.

“I am sure that your wife will be able to tell you what has happened when she regains consciousness but now is not the time to try and disturb her with angry questions.”

Then all was quiet and for the first time in many years, I felt a sense of peace wash through my body. However, it was not just calmness that swept over me, but also a sense of purpose and a determination that I thought had deserted me long ago. I was not afraid to sleep now; I needed my rest as I had a great deal ahead of me.

—000—

It is just over a year later and I am lying on my lounger on the terrace of my house. It is not as large or grand as my previous home but it is all mine, as is the rather battered car parked in my driveway. I am no longer in exotic Madrid but in the picturesque village of Hamble, a stone’s throw from the river. Despite Simon’s initial blustering and his ridicule about my ability to care for myself, I had, with the help of a very efficient lawyer, negotiated sufficient funds for me to buy this modest house and provide a reasonable standard of living. I was not however, planning on being dependent on Simon for the rest of my life, as I had put several plans in motion.

I have just finished writing my first novel and it is being published in a few months. I have a new and very able personal assistant who in fact was the inspiration for the title of the book.

I looked over to the corner of the terrace where Cleo was rolling around with some toys, enthusiastically screeching in pretended anger. Suddenly she stopped and flew through the air, landing lightly on my chest.

“I told you so, I told you so.”

“Yes, you certainly did Cleo; you are a very clever parrot indeed.”

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy Serialisation – #Romance – Mañana, Mañana by Sally Cronin – Free Book Offer


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

Mañana, Mañana.

The hot sun burnt her already tanned legs and she moved them slightly into the shade of the large umbrella overhead. She felt a small trickle of perspiration slide down her back and decided that it was not really that uncomfortable a sensation. In fact, it felt rather sensuous.

She looked out across the summer-bleached grass in front of the small villa and waited, her lower lip caught gently between her teeth. Any minute now, any minute now. Yes, there he was. She released her lip with a sharp intake of breath as he walked out of the water and onto the small patch of white sand at the bottom of the garden. He flicked his head and his long, wet black hair erupted into shining droplets of water in the hot air.

He was breath taking. From his arrogant, hawkish face down to his perfectly proportioned feet, he oozed masculinity. His work in the garden had honed his shoulder and chest muscles into sleek male hardness and her hands waved vaguely in the air in remembrance. His waist was small and his hips flared slightly before plunging into long muscular legs.

As he walked back up the beach towards her, she shook her head in disbelief. Just two months ago she had been sobbing her heart out in the kitchen of her luxury house in Chelmsford. Her husband of twenty years had announced, completely out of the blue, that he had just found someone else. To be honest it turned out he had not just found her, but had been enjoying her dubious company for the last five years.

If it had not been for Marjorie Hamilton, and her puncture, she would never have found out about it and would still be living in blissful ignorance. Well, perhaps blissful was a bit strong a word to use for the rather listless state of their marriage but then again she really had not had anything to compare it to. Until now!

Anyway, back to Marjorie and her puncture. After a trip to the supermarket, and with a laden boot of shopping, one of the rear tyres on her brand new car had suddenly deflated, right in the middle of the high street. Marjorie had got out and having discovered the cause of the sudden tilt to the right began to prepare her “little girl, I’m helpless look” that had worked so well for her in the past. Glancing around, in hopes of finding an available and suitably impressed gentleman, she spied Gregory Davenport at a table in the window of an Indian restaurant. This in itself was not a shocking revelation but the fact that his hand was gently cupping a chin that was definitely not his wife’s, was.

Marjorie was wearing an oiled rain hat and pulling this lower over her forehead she approached obliquely along the wall of the restaurant. Gregory had his back to her and she had a very good view of his companion. Shockingly, she recognised the chin that was being rapturously held by Gregory’s hand. It was Melanie Blake, her own next-door neighbour, a divorcee and supposed best friend to Gregory’s wife Elizabeth.

Marjorie had backed up the high street towards her car where she found a policeman about to write a ticket. In the ensuing pleading, begging and eventual satisfactory tyre change by the rather handsome young officer, Marjorie almost forgot the wonderfully juicy revelation she had been privy to. Almost, but not quite. By dinnertime that night the secret was out and Elizabeth Davenport had received several commiserating telephone calls.

Hence the tears in the kitchen. Gregory was gone, presumably to obtain sympathy from his paramour, now that he had been forcibly ejected from the marital home. Elizabeth had thrown the appallingly dreadful dinner service, that his mother had given them for a wedding present at his head when he had proposed that he have his cake and eat it. She now contemplated the shattered crockery and thought it rather nicely summed up her marriage.

There were some compensations. Her children were both very well adjusted and intelligent girls, at university in their first and second years. They rather flummoxed her by not being surprised at the news and Elizabeth was mortified to think that they had known about their father’s affair and had kept it to themselves. In fact, it appeared that they were not the only ones with prior knowledge, as more and more people rang to commiserate with her and to glean any further gossip that might have slipped through the normal channels.

Something else began to rankle and that was the realisation that up to now, she, Elisabeth, had participated rather vigorously in this community news machine that was now focussed on her, and she did not like it one bit.

She had been the perfect wife, looked after the children and Gregory, always making sure that their needs came first. She had not looked at another man since she had become engaged. Well, perhaps that was an exaggeration. She had looked, but she had certainly not touched. This was her reward and a lonely old age beckoned. She was forty-five years old and on the scrap heap. Well, he was going to have to pay, and first thing in the morning she would be contacting her solicitor.

Elizabeth stretched like a cat in the warm sun as she continued to follow the progress of the Adonis up the beach. There was a small wooden gate that separated the sand from the lawn of her villa. He opened it and suddenly noticed her looking in his direction. The dazzle from his white-toothed smile nearly scorched her already overheated skin.

Following her rather emotional but productive meeting with her solicitor, Elizabeth had rung her cousin Susan. Susan had been through the same life-changing situation two years ago and had been lucky enough to retain a rather basic but lovely holiday villa in the south of Spain. It was on an undeveloped part of the coastline, near a small fishing village with a couple of restaurants and a small grocery shop. There were no golf courses in the area, no tourist attractions and it was a perfect hideaway to retreat to, especially as Gregory would no doubt be desperate to speak to her when he received the first broadside from the lawyers.

It was bit laborious to get to the village but once there, Elizabeth unpacked and took to her bed. The sun-bed! Two months later and here she was, still bedridden, but it was hardly due to grief and desperation.

What her cousin had failed to tell her was that the house came with a sitting tenant. In exchange for gardening and keeping an eye on the villa in its owner’s absence, a young musician called Ramon was ensconced in the spare bedroom.

He had been out on the evening that Elizabeth arrived and so they did not collide until the next morning when they both attempted to shower at the same time. Ramon was only clothed in a very small towel and Elizabeth was just wearing a smile. Fleeing to her bedroom she only had time to hear a wonderfully rich laugh coming from the bathroom before locking her door and throwing herself on the bed and under the covers.

Two days later and they had progressed to verbal intimacy. This had not been easy as Ramon’s English was broken and Elizabeth insisted on speaking her half-remembered school French to him, as that was the only foreign language she had ever tried to learn.

That an understanding was reached was largely due to the chemistry that sprang up between them. Elizabeth felt that she was in a permanent state of shock, with stomach churning, weak-kneed anticipation every time she was near him. He, for some reason, found her fascinating and they would sit closer and closer together as they tried to communicate.

Finally, on the third day, the inevitable happened and for the first time in her life, Elizabeth Davenport visited foreign delights that she never knew existed. If she thought her husband’s affair had been a revelation it was knocked into insignificance by far more explosive forces. Life in England, the divorce and any thoughts of the future were dismissed as she threw herself whole-heartedly into this new and wonderful adventure.

As Ramon approached her across the brown grass, Elizabeth smiled at him and extended her hand towards him. She could see drops of seawater clinging to his oiled brown skin and she knew that it would take several hours to dry him thoroughly.

Elizabeth woke with a start and heard her daughter coming up behind her.

“Mum you’ve let your tea get cold again”. Jane was a good girl and Elizabeth was staying with her while she recovered from a replacement hip operation. Seventy-five years old and they had said that she would have a new lease of life, the new hip good for at least fifteen years. That was a bit optimistic but it she lived to ninety she would not have any complaints.

“Don’t worry darling, I was getting a bit hot and bothered out here in the conservatory and I think a glass of that lovely chilled Cava would be much nicer”.

As Jane went off to the kitchen, Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly to see if she could recapture that wonderful and breath-taking interlude all those years ago. It was gone but she knew that it would come back to her. She was returning to Spain soon, having made an excellent recovery. Back to the villa that she had bought from Susan with some of the proceeds from her divorce.

Of course thirty years on, apartments and hotels surrounded it, but it was still a little oasis with access to the now public beach. It had been lovingly renovated over the years and the garden was absolutely wonderful. Ramon adored growing her flowers and bringing them to her when he came home from the hotel he managed in Marbella. They had never married, but the fifteen years age difference between them had not made the slightest dent in their passion or love for each other.

Elizabeth smiled to herself. Soon she would be lying on her sunbed on the patio watching Ramon come out of the sea and across the sand towards her. Her breath caught in anticipation.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy Serialisation – #Dogs – Trust by Sally Cronin and Free Book Offer


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

Trust

The house was quiet. The men had left a few minutes ago and already she felt alone. The ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall intruded into the silence. Time was passing slowly and each minute felt like an hour.

Claire stared out of the kitchen window at the gathering gloom. It would soon be dark, and she would be unable to see the mountain rising above the house, harsh but fiercely beautiful. It was this mountain that had attracted them last spring, the lower slopes covered in lush grass dotted with the cotton wool white of the ewes and their lambs. The craggy rocks of the mountaintop jutted up into a cloudless, blue sky, like sentries protecting the house beneath them. The building nestled into the hillside. A run-down farm that needed a great deal of work, but it had taken their breath away. The pleasure of the surroundings and the potential of this house, made them smile at each other in shared delight.

Tom’s first novel had been a runaway best seller. At last they could afford to move from their cramped, damp London flat and come back to these Welsh mountains where Tom had been born. He knew that he could write here, creating stories inspired by this stark splendour, and he felt Claire would come to love living here too, as much as he would.

Once they had put an offer in on the property, they contacted a local builder. He spent hours with them in the house, discussing the renovations, planning the schedule, so they could move in as soon as possible. They had returned to London, full of excitement and anticipation for what their wonderful future was about to reveal.

Claire turned from the kitchen window and wandered through the now-completed house. They had kept rigidly to the plans. Used the colour schemes that had caused such argument and honoured the compromises they had reached; often after a bottle of rich, red wine. They spent hours moving furniture around; until it sat in just the perfect place. Painted patches on the walls; until they found just the perfect colour.

Tom’s study and the design he chose, was his alone. He had revelled in the planning of where to place his desk for the best light, the muted colour scheme, the lighting and the placement of all the new bookshelves. He would sit for hours in their noisy, cluttered flat, staring out of the tiny window onto the street, and Claire knew that he was hundreds of miles away, looking at a mountain, through his study window.

She now stood in that study and surveyed the completed picture. The bookcases lining the walls, the solid old desk and its comfortable, leather chair. The pictures of the sea hung around the room, favourite scenes from early childhood trips to the Welsh coast with his family. The colour he had chosen for the walls was warm, clean buttermilk. Dark blue curtains at the large window and upholstery on the sofa at the far end of the room complimented the rich, stained wood flooring. It was exactly as he had planned it, down to the last detail. Tom had simple tastes and this was reflected in the room.

Claire had to be content with planning the rest of the house to fit her more flamboyant tastes. How he had loved working in his study for the last two months, preparing his latest novel for publication. How she, in turn, had loved knowing that he was in that room, a touch or gentle call away. Despite their shared anticipation of the completed project, they had not thought they could be this delighted with their new home.

She picked up the blue crystal paperweight she had given him last Christmas. As she felt the cold heaviness in her hand, the tears started to fall, unchecked down her cheeks. Tom would never be in this room again. He would never read those books that lined the walls, and never walk the mountain slopes again he loved so much. All it had taken was one mistake on a wet road. He had been late and in a hurry to get home. Had known she was waiting for him to take her out for their anniversary dinner. One mistake, one hour late, one tentative knock on the front door. She had opened it full of anticipation, to find a pair of young and concerned policemen standing quietly on her doorstep. Now she sat in Tom’s chair, crying softly and alone.

The dog lay behind the broken, stone wall on the slope above the house. Nose resting on front paws, he watched the open back door, waiting. Every evening for the last week, the woman had put down a bowl of food for him and returned inside. She knew that the stray neglected collie would come no further than the wall, and would not come at all if she stayed, waiting for him. He sniffed the air, trying to catch the scents which normally came from the house. Tonight there was no warm smell of cooking, no gentle tap of heels on the stone floor of the kitchen.

The light began to fade; he was hungry and had become used to this welcome food each evening. He had ceased to scavenge from dustbins in the local town, much more interested in the woman’s food. But now he was puzzled. He had grown accustomed to her gentle voice calling to him, a voice that stirred memories of another time, another woman. Memories of a warm fireplace with food and companionship as gentle fingers ruffled his shiny coat. As the dark closed around him, he at last stood and moved from behind the wall.

No lights shone in the house, but the open door and the food he knew to be inside, beckoned him. Nervously, he approached the building. He was used to people who lived in houses. He had been kicked and shouted at more than once in the early days of his lonely existence, before he learned fear and distrust. But, with an instinct buried deep inside his matted chest, he knew this house was different, perhaps it was the similarity to his old home, or the gentle presence of the woman inside.

There was still no sign of the woman as the dog entered the kitchen. He stood, nose in the air, seeking for his familiar bowl of food. Then he heard a soft sound coming from deeper in the dark house. Something in the sound drew him across the stone floor and out into the hallway. Ears pricked, he turned towards the noise and padded down the passage. He peered through an open doorway, alert to any danger, poised for flight. The woman sat by the window holding a stone-like object in her hands. He tensed, remembering past pain. She stared into the night, making soft sobbing noises, noises he had remembered his mistress making when she was sad, needing him, needing to place a soft arm around his neck and hold him close. He moved towards the woman and stood for a moment as if making a decision.

His tail wagged slightly in a long forgotten attempt at communication, and slowly he inched forward until he was standing at Claire’s side. He gently pushed his long nose under her arm and rested his head on her lap. A hand moved, creeping upwards to gently fondle the soft ears. An arm slipped around his neck and he looked up into her face.

Through her tears, Claire smiled down at the shaggy head. She felt the warmth of his coat spread slowly upward from her hand to the rest of her body. Her grief was there like a sharp pain in her chest, but she was no longer alone. Soon she would feed him and groom his matted coat, but for now this was enough.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy – Serialisation – #Fantasy #Romance – The Other Side of Heaven by Sally Cronin – Free Book Offer


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

The Other Side of Heaven

When Meg saw the cottage she knew that it was the one. She had visualised her dream house so many times in her head that it almost felt that she was coming home.

As soon as she had walked down the country lane that separated the property from the main road she had heard the sound of running water. A river or lake had always been a requisite when imagining her perfect home, and the sound ticked at least one of her boxes. As she rounded the bend in the lane she saw the house for the first time, its red slate roof glistening in the sunlight.

She inhaled the scent of the vibrantly coloured flowers that dominated the small front garden and she smiled at the sight of the roses that surrounded the front door. Meg stood for a moment on the cobbled path and delighted in the fresh, sweet smell whilst she ran her eyes over every inch of the front of the cottage.

Despite its age, the windows were large and you could tell that the sunlight that shone through those panes of glass would make the interior bright and welcoming. Taking a deep breath she opened the old wooden door and stepped inside.

Within a very short space of time, Meg found herself carefully unwrapping a lifetime of treasures from the boxes that sat expectantly in the various rooms in her new home. Jack as always was eager to help and despite the insistent interruptions from the collie, Meg made steady progress as she placed objects and pictures in just their right place. Surprisingly, despite working all day, she felt refreshed and excited as she walked through each room, moving furniture slightly to recreate the image that she had held in her mind for so long. Eventually, she was satisfied and she and Jack turned their attention to the garden at the back of the house that lay basking in early evening sunshine.

The dog, young and excited ran out ahead of Meg and started to race around the immaculate piece of lawn. Flowers crowded the edges around its borders, and as in the front garden, the air was filled with a heady and sweet scent. She walked to the little gate set into a hedge and opened and closed it leaving a frustrated Jack on the other side.

“Good boy, Jack. Stay there; this bit is not for dogs”.

He sat down and watched his owner with head cocked to one side. He would not move until she returned. They had been parted for too long for him to allow her out of his sight now.

For Meg this was heaven. Row upon row of fresh vegetables, a small green house where she could see ripened tomatoes hanging from their vines, and an established orchard at the end of the plot, with trees laden with fruit. For a fleeting moment she wondered why so many of the vegetables and fruit seemed out of season, but she put that down to the fact that this part of the country enjoyed a micro-climate that kept it warmer than the average.

Contentedly she retraced her steps and pushed open the gate separating the two gardens and was rewarded with an ecstatic welcome from Jack as he leapt up and licked her face.
After a simple supper, Meg and Jack sat together on the bench at the front of the house and as her hand gently stroked his head, she absorbed the sounds of the evening. In the background the music of the river accompanied the buzz of insects as they collected their final nectar of the day.

Everything was now perfect. The house waited as did Meg and Jack for that final, finishing touch. Jack had been waiting the longest. Meg had missed him so much but there had been no choice under the circumstances. As she stroked his head as it rested on her knee she knew that she had been forgiven for sending him away, but now they would be together always. However, there was someone who was still missing. Meg had no idea when Sam would arrive; all she could do when she had left was to promise that she and Jack would be there to welcome him home.

The evening moved into starlit night and as the moon rose in the sky it seemed as though time had stopped. Jack’s ears suddenly twitched and he nudged Meg’s knee. She turned her head towards the lane leading to the cottage and she stood, moving down the path to open the gate with the collie at her heels. Jack looked up at her as if asking permission.

Meg nodded and he ran ahead barking excitedly and she hurried after him just as a stooped and elderly man came into view. He was walking with a stick but when Jack reached him and jumped up and down in excitement he threw it to one side and went down on one knee to embrace the dog.

Meg slowed and took in the sight of the two beings she loved the most greeting each other. She felt young and giddy just as she had all those years ago when she had first met Sam. Then before her eyes he stood, tall and straight, the years fell away from him and she eagerly fell into his arms and held him as Jack pranced around them in delight.

Eventually, the three of them walked back to the cottage. Meg and Sam hand in hand with Jack walking carefully between them. They turned in the gate and Sam saw their home for the first time.

“I never thought, when you promised to create a place for us all in heaven, that it would be so beautiful”

Smiling, Sam picked his young wife up and carried her over the threshold followed by Jack, tail wagging and barking with encouragement.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin  October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories Archives – Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin


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FLIGHTS OF FANCY

My head was bent over the crowded library counter as I concentrated on checking in a batch of new books, when a polite voice interrupted my chain of thought.

“Hello, it’s Helen isn’t it?”

I looked up into a face that I thought I would never see again. Robert Brown, the heart throb of the upper fifth at school. I blinked. I could not believe that he had remembered my name, let alone recognised me after all these years. I stared blankly at him.

“You don’t remember me do you?” he said, “Robert Brown, we were at school together.”

As if I would ever forget.

“It’s a long time I know, over ten years,” he paused and looked around him at the crowded library. “I can’t believe that you are working in the library, last time I saw you after our exams, you said you were headed for a modelling career in London.”

The penny dropped, of course how stupid of me. He had always been making eyes at my namesake, Helen Graham. The only thing we had in common was our names and the colour of our hair. She had been sensational looking even at sixteen, while I had been exceedingly overweight, had been forced to wear awful horn-rimmed glasses and was ignored completely by the opposite sex and if I am honest most of my class mates as well.

Don’t ask me why I did it. Just put it down to a desire for retribution for all the sleepless nights I had spent daydreaming about the day Robert Brown would flash that wonderful smile of his at me.

“Robert, how lovely to see you again,” I said demurely, “It has been a long time hasn’t it?”

Four hours later, I was staring at my face in the mirror. Many changes had taken place in the last ten years. Gone were the thick, unsightly glasses, replaced by contact lenses that showed off my green eyes off rather nicely. Three stone had melted away and even though I say so myself, I was now passably attractive. In fact, if I squinted my eyes a little even I could see more than a vague resemblance to the envied Helen Graham.

This little exercise however, was not going to solve my problem. I was actually contemplating getting all dressed up and meeting Robert for dinner at the smartest restaurant in town. I had been the one to suggest La Petite Auberge in a childish desire to exact the most out of Robert before he tumbled to the deception, but now I was wondering if I had enough nerve to carry it through.

Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained I thought as I slipped on the very expensive and daring dress I had bought for the occasion over my head. I flicked a brush through my freshly highlighted, shoulder length hair and headed for the door.

I really don’t know how I got through that evening without giving myself away. Thankfully, we certainly had a great many memories in common. Most of the incidents he talked about I remembered vividly. I used to watch him and the other Helen like a hawk whenever I could and I only had to sidestep once or twice when he started to get onto things a little more intimate. Unfortunately, assignations behind the bike-shed were not stored in my memory banks.

Apart from these slightly embarrassing revelations, the evening passed very quickly and pleasantly. All too soon he was dropping me off at my front door and a desire to make some revelations of my own swept over me. I had just parted my lips to drop the bombshell of my dishonesty on the unsuspecting Robert when he kissed me.

Oh boy, who ever imagined that I would be spending another sleepless night, tossing and turning as I obsessed about Robert Brown. Not only had I not spilled the beans, I had actually agreed to meet him for a drink on Saturday lunchtime. It was the kiss that had undone my belated resolutions to be honest about my identity. I had enjoyed a number of relationships with boys since school but there had never been anything serious. I certainly had never been kissed as thoroughly or had experienced such knee trembling desire as I had in that few minutes on my doorstep. I normally dismissed the love stories in women’s magazines with cynical detachment but for the first time in my life, I finally understood what they were talking about. However, burning desire aside, I had to do some fast thinking before Saturday when I was likely to have to do some fast-talking.

I sipped my glass of white wine and looked across the table where Robert sat talking about his job and how wonderful it was to have bumped into me again.

“I thought that we might go up to Cambridge and hire a punt for the afternoon, unless you have anything else you would like to do today?” He smiled at me and my stomach knotted as I screwed up my courage.

“Robert,” I breathed deeply and looked him squarely in the eyes, “there is something I have to tell you.”

“It isn’t another man is it Helen?” He looked decidedly and satisfyingly worried. “Of course I would expect it, a beautiful girl like you, please tell me you’re not engaged or even worse married?”

The first compliment he has ever made me and I am just about to make sure it’s the last.

“No Robert, there isn’t another man,” I paused, waiting for some inspiration. He looked at me expectantly and there was nothing for it but to dive straight in.

“I was in your class at school with Helen Graham but I am Helen Jett…….”

He looked at me with horror stamped all over his face.

“Not Jumbo Jett, you couldn’t be?”

My goodness, so that was what they had called my behind my back and even after all these years I felt the prick of ashamed tears in my eyes.

“You are joking aren’t you?” He was looking for reassurance where there was none.

“You couldn’t be that huge lump of a girl who was always sneaking around watching every move I made including stalking me after school.” He shook his head in bewilderment.
Being called a stalker was the last straw despite there being a very strong element of truth behind the allegation. I realised that my recent behaviour was not likely to disabuse his memories of our last two years of school, but I was desperately hurt and embarrassed.

I stood up, raised my half-finished glass of wine and threw it all over him. I then burst into tears much to the interest and amusement of the crowded public bar and raced for the door before I heard any more of those scathing home truths.

Apparently, he was as intent on revenge as I had been, because he was right behind me as I reached the pavement. Neither of us saw the pushchair, the two toddlers hanging onto each side of the very plump and tired looking young mother or the dog on the lead.
She blinked myopically at us through her horn-rimmed glasses as we lay sprawled and entangled at her feet.

“Gosh, I am so sorry, I just didn’t see you, are you both alright?”

We stood up and glared at each other, battle not forgotten.

“Excuse me, but aren’t you Robert Brown?”

He turned to look at the woman, an angry frown still on his face.

“Yes,” he said rather abruptly, “I’m sorry but do I know you?”

Her rather pleasant chubby face creased into a smile.

“It’s me, don’t you recognise me?” She looked at Robert expectantly, as I did.

“Helen Graham, you must remember all the fun we had at school together?” She giggled self-consciously as she tried to smooth her wrinkled skirt into place.

Robert and I stared at her utterly stunned. How the tables were turned and I am ashamed to say that a little smugness softened the edges of my anger. This was the woman who used to ignore me at school and call me Jumbo Jett behind my back.

“Well, I can’t stop to chat now.” She indicated the restless brood hanging onto her skirts and the dog that was leaping up and down with impatience.

“Must dash, I’m meeting my husband at the supermarket but it would be lovely to meet up with you again and have a chat about old times. My husband’s name is Darren Fraser and we are in the telephone book.”

She glanced at me without the slightest hint of recognition. Was it my jubilant imagination but was there a slight touch of envy in those pale green eyes?

With a wave of her hand she and her family were gone and Robert and I were left standing on the pavement, staring at each other in bewilderment.

Suddenly he started to laugh, holding onto the pub wall, tears pouring down his cheeks. I glared at him frostily for a moment and then felt my own sense of humour take over.

The two of us finally walked over to where his car was parked. Still wiping the tears from his eyes, he opened the car door for me. As I slid into the seat, he leant across and gently touched my lips with his own.

“Where did you say we were flying to today Jumbo Jett?”

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy

Thanks for dropping by. As always your feedback very welcome.. Sally