9 June, 2010
Somehow I seem to have fallen out of fictional inspiration lately, having difficulties finding the time and inspiration to focusing my mind on it.
It is still my hope and intention to some day get back to the Wordzzle game and finish off The Slumber Party Mystery story.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Raven's Wordzzle # 60

Wordzzle Challenge #60 at Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: preparation, tic-tac-toe, splurge, auction block, the bitter end, milk, papyrus, when the parade passes by, bill of lading, stone wall
Mini Challenge: polar bear, 20 seconds, get it together, spasmodic, antiquity

The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 6 - Fire alarm

With a spasmodic little jump, Bumblebee, the butler, carrying the tray with the ingredients for the Sunburst cocktails through the library, only just avoided tripping over the polar bear skin, which the General had bought from the auction block. The General sometimes liked to indulge in a splurge when it came to aquiring unusal objects from all over the world. Bumblebee sighed and picked up the Antiquity Journal from the desk and put it under his arm. He noted in passing that he must remember to water the papyrus plant in the evening. Then he went out through the open glass doors. On the terrace, he froze. It took him nearly 20 seconds to take in the scene and get it together: the sausages sizzling on the grill, the fire spreading through the dry grass, and the General lying motionless in his chair by the pool. Then he quite calmly put the tray down on the stone wall surrounding the terrace, took the jug of orange juice and splashed its contents over the worst of the fire, went over to the Generals deck chair, which was on wheels, and pushed it gently down the sloping ramp into the shallow end of the pool. Himself standing knee-high in the water, he took his cellphone out of his pocket.

At the fire station it had so far been a quiet afternoon. After having made preparations for next week's fire drill, Joe had read two chapters of a detective novel entitled "The Bitter End", played a few games of tic-tac-toe on the computer, and was just pouring milk into another cup of tea, humming "when the parade passes by" to himself (and thinking that no, he couldn't remember the lyrics properly…) when the alarm call came.

About the same time, the delivery van from the grocery store drove up in front of the General's house. The driver had been delayed because of some problems with a bill of lading back at the store.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Raven's Wordzzle # 59

Wordzzle #59 at Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: prefix, art festival, income tax, chicken noodle soup, jump rope, Dutch Treat, flowering plum tree, bats in the belfry, diamond earrings, tigers
Mini Challenge: book club, organic tea, the cow jumped over the moon, paragon of virtue, wench

This week I'm mixing all 15 words into one new chapter of my ongoing story.

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 5 - More about Diana
 Back in his office, it began to dawn on Dr Adam Challenge how utterly stupid his panic reaction up at the Brigadier General's house had been. He also suddenly remembered the General having mentioned in passing recently, that his granddaughter Diana would be coming home for a weekend soon, to help him sort out some income tax problems. He looked at the invitation card again. Of course! While an invitation to a "slumber party" was quite out of character for the General, it would be Diana's idea of a joke…

Diana had been around 10 years old when she first came to live with the Brigadier General and his wife, after the tragic death of her own parents. She was as wild as her grandparents were strict. Adam remembered the shock he had had on his very first visit to the general's house, seeing what he thought was a dead body hanging from the flowering plum tree on the front lawn. It turned out to be a scarecrow that Diana had hanged there using her jump rope. Another time he had found her chasing the cats around the garden, pretending to be hunting tigers in the jungle – using a real bow and arrow from her grandfather's collection of various weapons. But the little wench's most renowned prank was probably the time when she managed to convince some of the elders down at the church, that they had bats in the belfry, and they took it very literally. A group of male church members had climbed up into the belfry to investigate, but of course found nothing. When they came down again, Diana had said, giggling: "Sorry, my mistake! Seems all the old bats are still down here…"

Among the "old bats" she probably included her own grandmother. This grand old lady, always wearing big diamond earrings, had been considered by the whole town to be a paragon of virtue, always organizing art festivals for charity and chicken noodle soup lunches for the homeless, and serving organic tea at the book club meetings held at her own house.

Diana despised her grandparents' lifestyle, but at the same time remained a spoiled child, never really showing any consideration for other people's feelings. Pranks continued to be like a prefix with her, even as she grew older. For example, if she invited someone to have lunch with her at a fancy restaurant, and encouraged them to choose the most expensive course on the menu, she would suddenly spring it on her guest when it was time to pay the bill, that she had intended it all along to be a Dutch treat. It had nothing to do with money, she just enjoyed watching other people squirm.

Yes, Adam thought to himself, if Diana set her mind to it, she'd soon have you convinced that the cow jumped over the moon… And now it seemed he had fallen for one of her tricks again. Inviting him to a slumber party in the General's name, and then arrange it so that he would find his host asleep when he arrived – that would be Diana's sense of humour in a nutshell. He suddenly began to doubt himself. He had not been able to feel the General's pulse, and had thought him dead – but what if he wasn't? And either way – how could he, a doctor, have just run away from the scene the way he did, just because he suddenly felt haunted by ghosts from the past? At least the fire, and his reaction to that, could not have been staged by Diana – or could it?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 58

Wordzzle Challenge #58

Some readers last week wondered whether I was going to continue with the same story. I decided to make it an extra challenge for myself to try. The plot is thickening; I can only hope for some really helpful words to come along to help sort things out eventually...!

10 Word Challenge: acrobat; grocery store; ceiling fan; dandelion; bumble bee; alabaster; scissors; chartreuse; strenuously; cube
 Mini: iPod; poison ivy; computer; interpreter; optometrist

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 3 - Bumblebee

Bumblebee, the butler, watched the doctor's car disappearing down the driveway. Yes, he thought again, Dr Challenge really did need to get his car fixed. The sudden sound from the car driving off had startled Bumblebee so that he had dropped the scissors he had been using to cut the dandelion leaves for the salad. He bent down to pick the scissors up from the floor. Approaching retirement, he was certainly no longer the acrobat he had once been in his youth. He drew a deep sigh as he got up again. He hoped he would be spared any more such strenuously exhausting exercises today. It was really an extremely hot afternoon. But he shouldn't complain, at least he had recently got the brigadier general's permission to have a ceiling fan installed in the kitchen. He looked at his watch, and again out of the window. Still no sight of the delivery van from the grocery store. Well, the salad could wait; it was probably more important that he brought the brigadier his afternoon drink. He put a a bottle of Green Chartreuse, a jug of orange juice, three glasses and an alabaster bowl filled with ice cubes on a tray, and left the kitchen.

Chapter 4 - Diana

From her room upstairs in the big house, the brigadier general's granddaugther Diana also watched Dr Challenge's car drive off. She made a wry smile to herself, put her iPod earphones back into her ears, and turned around to face the computer screen again. She had to screw up her eyes a bit to see properly, but she had an appointment booked with the optometrist next week. Diana was studying to become an interpreter, and today's assignment was to translate a text from a medical research conference from English into Swedish. Really, the facts one came across in these studies… On the screen she read:

If poison ivy is burned and the smoke then inhaled, this rash will appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty.*

*quote borrowed from Wikipedia

Friday, 3 April 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 57

From original post, dated Sunday 29 March, 2009:
I've been on a random blog-surfing expedition again, and this time I picked up a "wordzzle" challenge from the blog Views from Raven's Nest. (Really, the words one comes across on this voyage - "wordzzle"?!...) I have tried similar exercises before, in creative writing classes. The idea is to weave a number of randomly chosen words or expressions into a story.

Originally, I just did the 10 Word Challenge, but posted it a week before I was supposed to. Then when I found I had more time, I did the Mini Challenge (5 words), too, and added a second chapter.

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 57

10 Word Challenge: apoplexy, doctor, hummingbird, shallow end of the pool, brigadier general, mustard, greed, parallelogram, slumber party, casual

Mini Challenge: Mount Olympus, arsonist, portraits, birch trees, "that car needs a new muffler"

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 1 - Dr Challenge

Doctor Challenge parked his car in front of the big house, got out and looked around him. It was a drowsy sort of afternoon, hot and still. The only thing moving was a few busy hummingbirds hovering above the flowering bushes close to the entrance. Challenge put his hand in his pocket and took out the card again. He knew his host had a very special sense of humour, but it was still an odd invitation. "Welcome to be my guest at a slumber party this Friday evening", it said. He was a little early, so he decided to go for a walk around the house before he knocked on the door. At the back, there was a large swimmingpool in the unusual shape of a parallelogram. His host was known for his greed, but at the same time always willing to pay extra for odd details that made his house and garden stand out from everyone else's. At the shallow end of the pool, there were half a dozen deck chairs spread over the lawn. Some sausages were sizzling on the grill, and on a table nearby stood a single jar of mustard. There was no person to be seen, and the whole scene looked oddly deserted. What was going on here? "Good thing I dressed casual," Challenge thought, "if sausages is all we are going to be served." Then he noticed that there was someone sitting, or rather lying, in one of the deck chairs, facing the pool. Whoever it was, he was wearing only a pair of swimming trunks, and he was lying very still. Getting closer, Challenge saw to his surprise that it was the brigadier general himself - the host of the party, and also his patient since many years. No wonder then that he was lying so still – Challenge knew the brigadier was suffering from paralysis caused by apoplexy a few years ago. But how come he was lying out here in the garden, in the hot sun, all by himself? Challenge coughed discreetly, and said "Good afternoon!" But the brigadier did not even wink. Apparently he was fast asleep…

Chapter 2 - That car needs a new muffler

Challenge approached the deck chair where the brigadier lay with his eyes closed and one corner of his mouth pointing upwards as in a mocking smile. One could still see that he had once been a very handsome man. Challenge thought of the portraits in the gallery, which he often used to stop and look at when he came on his regular visits. These portraits were as extraordinary as the owner himself. They were all of different gods on Mount Olympus, but they all had the brigadier's face. Challenge lifted one of the man's limp arms and felt for the pulse. He couldn't find any. A sudden bang behind his back made him start. When he turned round, he saw that one of the sausages on the grill had exploded and burst into flame. Part of it had fallen down onto the grass, which was very dry. A fire immediately started spreading, and in just a few seconds reached the birch trees nearby. Challenge at first found himself unable move, but then suddenly let go of the brigadier's arm . "Not another fire!" he said to himself. "Why does this always happen to me? People will suspect I'm an arsonist! I have to get out of here, quick!" He started running back to the front of the house. To his relief, his car was still the only one parked there, and the road was empty. He jumped into the car and drove away, without looking back. Behind him, the butler peered out through the kitchen window and thought to himself: "That car needs a new muffler."