True Crime Detection

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Written for one of my writing groups…

This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.

So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.

But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.

I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.

Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.

So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.

I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.

So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.

#author #truecrime #detective #crime #shortstory #shortstories #meredithschumann #fiction #authors

Review of Anne Berry’s ‘The Adoption’

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I am not sure if someone in my position is best suited to review this book. On the other hand, perhaps I am the best person. Let me explain. I have known all my life that I was adopted, and have borne that knowledge happily and without problems. I always believed that my parents were good people who wanted the best for me, and that my birth parents had felt the same.

This book told the tale of a simple Welsh girl, Bethan, who found herself pregnant in the years following the second world war. The father of her baby was an ex-prisoner of war who was working at her family’s farm. Their relationship was loving, though massively disapproved by the Bethan’s parents. Bethan is forced to give up her baby and Thorsten is forced to leave the farm.

I found the book to be initially confusing as I couldn’t always get my head around the characters. However, it didn’t take too long to understand the multiple viewpoints. It also didn’t come easily how Lucilla/Laura would narrate passages about herself in the third person.

Once I realised why this was happening, I relaxed into the book and couldn’t put it down.

The more I read of all the characters and their life difficulties, the better the book became.

I could write so much, but don’t want to give spoilers. All I will say is that most people might read this book assuming that a reconciliation between two lost souls (Lucilla and her birth mother, Bethan) would be the book’s inevitable heart-warming ending. However, the actual ending wasn’t expected, and the book was better as a result.

All I can say is that the book was beautifully written, gorgeous and poetic, particularly in the early chapters set in Wales. I felt such a strong sense of time and place.

‘The Adoption’s heart-wrenching themes are difficult and passion-inducing. So many times while I was reading this, I became angry at the treatment of victim characters.

Of course, Bethan and Thorsten shoudn’t have been forced to give up their baby to adoption, just as Harriet and Merfyn should not have been allowed to take the poor child and abuse her both emotionally and physically. I was adopted at about the same age, but my own experiences were wonderful. All I could think was Poor Lucilla.

Initially I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this book,. I felt it was either going to be too clinical (the name ‘The Adoption’ seemed to imply this) or that it would be saccharine-sweet and unpalatable. It was neither.
Searching for a birth parent doesn’t always bring the expected and desired results, either with relation to the people involved, or with relation to how we might feel about it.

I loved ‘The Adoption’. I loved it far more than expected.

I’ve looked at this subject in some depth in my novelette, ‘Changes’ which is now part of a collection called ‘Conflict Management’ by Meredith Schumann.

#meredithschumann #theadoption #anneberry #adoption #birthmother #changes #conflictmanagement

Resolution

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2020 is the year, for reaching goals and squelching fear.
There’s much to do, so I’ll command, prioritise, set up and plan.
Though short of time, I’m strong and wise. I’m talking time to organise.
I’ll schedule all the months ahead, with useful tasks, more work, less dread.

I resolve to eat less fat, to drink less wine, less this and that.
And use the food that I have got, not let it ooze nor let it rot.
Sugar will be much reduced, and I will thrive on cabbage soup.
And alcohol won’t be a crutch, more of a friend I don’t see that much.

I’ll make a start on leathercraft, I’ve got the gear so need to graft.
I’ve got my dremel, studs and stamps, needles, pins and frames for lamps.
Embossing and pyrography, enamelling, photography. Wooden sculpt, and painted tin, basketry to keep things in.
But aren’t they all a waste of time, these useless, pointless tasks of mine?
So…

I’ll work less hard and play much more. Try not to be a writing bore.
I’ll close my mind, spend time outdoors, I’ll learn to dance, to ride a horse.
Switch laptop off, take time to rest. There’s no need to be the best.
For who and what must I impress? There’s no exam, life is a quest!

I’ll love my life, I’ll light my way, and never dwell on yesterday
When things go bad, I’ll stand up strong, and trust that I’m not always wrong.
I’ll take more care, and get more sleep, I’ll look before I cross and leap.
I’ll rise and shine, enjoy my toil, though never burn the midnight oil.

But something doesn’t feel quite right.
Something keeps me up at night.
Selfish thoughts and selfish needs
Self-centred tasks and boastful deeds.
They swarm through me, those nightmares mount.
With crippling guilt, and dreadful doubt.

So, it’s best to take another heed of resolutions, wants and needs.
To turn things round, to start again, consider women, children, men.
And work for victims, help, assist. To make a difference, help, insist.

So that’s my resolution, now.
Do something useful. Make that vow.
Take time from life to help and serve.
Just hope I have the strength and nerve!

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #2020 #resolution #happynewyear

Unexpected

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Everything is beautiful, she says under her breath. Everything is beautiful. I’m in love with Connor, and Connor’s in love with me. I’m going places. I’m going to the top. And nobody is going to get me down or take me down with them.

At the junction where Bank Street meets the Whitstone Corridor, the traffic lights change to red. Suzanne takes an audible breath, looks in the mirror, fusses with her hair and make-up, then glances in the rearview mirror at the vehicles queuing behind her. Suzanne’s assistant, Jenna, seems to be singing along to the radio, and Suzanne determines to speak to her about her laxity. After all, they were driving to a meeting of grave importance. Surely such a situation would call for meditation?

Suzanne notices the van that’s slipped in behind Jenna. A deep red Peugeot that’s battered and bashed around the edges. She could hear it chugging from inside her car, even contending with the white noise of the faulty aircon. Wasn’t that Pascal Babcock in the driving seat? He looked more like a homeless man than any ex-director had a right to. Suzanne’s neck twitched and shivered in disgust.

Come on lights, she thought, and practically sped into the back of Connor’s car, so keen was she to arrive at her location.  Thankfully, the plaza was only a few streets away, and it wasn’t long before she pulled up in the car park with a relieved smile. She was thankful that Connor had chosen to travel alone and had selected a parking spot with only one free adjoining space.

‘Connor,’ she purred as she stepped from the car. ‘Hi. Are we in a good place for this now? I’m sure that Artie and Donald from CPC would love to see us fail, but I think I’m going to make it work.’

He smiled at her, but not as freely as he usually might.

‘Something’s happened, Suzanne,’ he whispered, and it was evident to her that the look on his face was no act.  He seemed… What was it? Worried? Unsure?

‘Any doubts?’ she continued, ignoring his melodrama.

‘Suzanne, listen. Something terrible has happened. I don’t even know where to start. I can’t do this meeting. I can’t do anything. I have to go home.’

That was when a shot rang out. Connor’s forehead a bloody spot. And another shot splattered straight into Suzanne’s heart.

‘Right in the heart,’ came a shout. ‘She can’t have a heart anyway, not after what she did to me.’ Suzanne’s assistant’s words were victorious.

From behind a car park pillar came Jenna, her eyes blazing and her musical happiness caused by a few celebratory cocaine lines in the company loos. Never again would her boss take Jenna’s work as her own. Never again would a sweet, caring boss as Pascal had been, would be made to be a fall guy for Suzanne’s nastiness.  And never again would Connor look at Suzanne in that way.

‘Gotcha’ Pascal shouted. Hie red van was parked nearby, and in it were the specialist paintball guns his new (and very successful) business was providing.

Suzanne wiped her blouse with a condemnatory pout.

‘Hey, Genna. Calm yourself down. Some of us are more accomplished actors than others. You just have to learn when to start the role-play, and outside the venue is not the right place. I need this blouse for a meeting later. Come on, you lot, this is pathetic. What kind of zombie team building event is this anyway?’

Connor wiped his forehead in an attempt to remove the stain.

‘Too right, Suzanne. We’re not even in the place yet, Jenna. Come on. And no face shots. That hurt!’

Pascal smiled and patted Suzanne on the shoulder.

‘Great role-playing,’ he said, walking over to his intentionally shabby van. How he loved that van. He read its logo for what must have been the hundredth time: ‘Can you survive the Zombie Apocalypse? Team Building Days. Multiple Locations. Mobile Service’.

Pascal had his role to play, as did the rest of his team. So, the apparent shabby down and out who lived in his van took out the large box and handed everyone other than Jenna one of the pretend zombie weapons. He admonished her. ‘No getting them out of the box, love. That’s my job.’

That was when Pascal directed the small group of secondary school teachers to site 1 of the zombie apocalypse experience.

‘For those of you who got into your characters earlier, that’s wonderful,’ said Pascal, with voice-projection skills borne from years in a board room.

‘But from this point onwards, no breaking character, no aiming at the face or groin, and no befriending the zombies. Are you all ready?’

The small group nodded in unison.

‘OK then, you lot, enjoy your apocalypse!’

Pascal swung open the double warehouse doors, triggering a flurry of activity from inside the cavernous stage set he’d spend months creating. From the interior’s urban soundscape came the clamour of an orchestra of moans and screams.

These three teachers from Broad Gate High were to be a quarter of the team that was to fight against twenty-four assorted zombies and a surprise vampire thrown in for good measure. It was all wonderful.

Pascal may have looked like a derelict, but he was anything but. Giving up the pains of the private school boardroom had been done without a single regret. He was raking it in.

#zombie #apocalypse #teambuilding #shortstory #meredithschumann

Inviting Facebook Scams

The online life can be quite an adventure of discovery. Recently, I set up a Facebook page and account under my new author name, Meredith Schumann. I don’t much like social media, but it seems to be an essential tool nowadays for author promotion and integration. As I wanted to keep my personal and author accounts separate, I decided to add Meredith’s account to various writing groups, and to make an occasional post within those groups, suffixed by the words ‘Feel free to add me as a friend’.
I wouldn’t usually be so free with my friendship but was conscious that I was starting from point zero, and I needed to have SOME friends to be accepted as a member of some of the more particular groups.

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At first, things were quiet, but then a couple came through. What to do with a random friend request can be a bit of a grey area, and, yes, for me a few friend requests appeared that didn’t seem quite right. I deleted most as obvious spam, but then I thought, what harm can one new friend do?
As I said, it’s useful to have a few Facebook friends, even on a brand new account, as it gives more of an impression of authenticity.

So, I accepted one request, just to see what happened. And from this (shock horror) there appeared another 500 auto-generated requests from another 500 men that I don’t know. Not a single woman! Most of these profiles indicated males that were from Nigeria, the far East, Arabian countries and the US. Almost all had bland and impersonal profiles and would send bland and impersonal messages.

I’m no scam victim; I’m just a person interested in how the scammers work, what the ‘friendly guys’ had to say, and how their messages aligned with their profiles.

I didn’t make a note of the first fifty messages I received as I was busy with other stuff. But the contacts seemed to be triggered by my logging into Facebook, and they occurred despite my profile clearly stating that I would only respond to messages about writing and books.

The men’s words indicate that they are either not reading my instructions or that their silly little messages are automated. OK, so let’s go. I’m logging on now.

The messages are so bland and NOT writing-related. You are so pretty today. What are you doing? Hello. Hello? Hi? You There? Hey! How You Pretty Lady! And I looking for nice England lady for marry.

The ‘people’ who are messaging don’t look much like my usual friends, though it isn’t always easy to tell. Iyobor has a bike frame as his profile. Innocent seems about 12 and asks if I had a good day at work. Egonu wears a basketball shirt, is from Nigeria, and without my responding to anything he says, informs me that he longs to travel and that he ‘likes big woman’. Ozzy’s profile photo is a nondescript bowl of something unappetising. You can tell it must be food because there is a spoon balanced on the side of the dish.

Oddly (and cynically) I notice that Ozzy’s only friends are also friends with me! Gosh, what an incredible coincidence. We aren’t members of the same groups, and yet from across the globe, I have acquired non-friends of non-friends. I am such a lucky lady.

Donald Smith from Indonesia has a profile picture that shows a very young Asian man holding a cute dog. I delete him as soon as he messages me. I have nothing against Indonesians nor tiny dogs. I do have something against a stranger who informs me that he plans to travel to the UK and that I (not he) would like to meet up. It is the most presumptuous statement!
Henry’s profile picture is of a cute black baby, but I delete him as soon as he tells me he is looking for beautiful woman. One of his friends claims to like guns, and he is also instantly deleted. Uchenna and Ogun say Hi and Hey. Capo says Hello, and so do Iyobor and Kelechi. Gosh, I’m utterly overstimulated and can’t keep up with their incredible witty banter. The latter’s profile picture is dull purple with what looks like a very tiny guy peeping onto the bottom of the photo. I think he’s trying to be cute and quirky, but he just seems as if his photo studio stool is far too small.
After each contact, I delete the sender as a friend, though I respect their astonishing inventiveness and inspirational literacy.

Over a couple of weeks, I also receive fourteen video calls. I ignore all fourteen. I don’t even always answer the phone to people I love, and I HATE video calls. One example was when little Uchenna (who looks about 20) tried to video chat me at midnight. I was asleep, but he was persistent. ‘Hello beautiful, good morning over there, how are you doing over there?’ No punctuation or capitals and wow, I was seduced. Really, I was.
Contacts continued for a couple of weeks. I was deleting everyone who messaged me about anything that wasn’t writing-related, and I lost a couple of hundred so-called friends. I was gutted, of course, to have mislaid such precious life-companions, but it genuinely couldn’t have been helped.

I must resign myself to ignoring every one of these auto-generated unreal characters, and watching their numbers reduce day by day. I look forward to the day when one (just ONE) of these genuine ‘friends’ decide to converse about books or words.

#meredithschumann #facebook #scam #scammers #facebookscam

I Only Cheat For Chocolate

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I only cheat for chocolate, said the diabetic dryly.
At times I pinch leftover treats from off the children’s plates.
I like my crisps, of course I do, but I don’t eat them daily.
I show restraint, especially on the school run, when I wait.

I only take a candy bar or two.
An Allsort here, a Humbug there.
I’ll only have a very few.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little.
I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends.
The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I munch enthusiastically.
Its cocoa dribbles run right down my chin and to my shirt.
A cream egg yolk is what I craved, I stuffed them in quite drastically.
I bought a pack of six, and just one more aint going to hurt.

Its only there a moment on my tongue.
It’s worth it, though. It’s so deelish.
It never lasts for long.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little.
I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends.
The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #food #chocolate #dietcheat

Queen of Hearts

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‘Love you, angel,’ I said and kissed my darling baby girl on her left cheek as her father kissed her on the right. One photographer clicked and took a step, squatted down, clicked and moved further around the hospital bed giving us instructions on where and how to stand. Others stood and clicked lazily.

No, she’s not the first baby to have been born that new year, or a child who fought a terrible illness or accident and survived, but she was special nonetheless. Hence the swathes of reporters and photographers and the overly smiling faces in a room full of media savvy medical staff.

My husband and I had the dubious honour of having brought into the world a child who was special in two connected ways. She was the first baby ever to have been born in the hospital on the 14th of February, who was also born at 2:14 am. I hadn’t thought anything of it until the midwife giggled when completing our paperwork, and told me the news. My daughter had been born on the fourteenth day of the second month. She had also been born at the fourteenth minute of the second hour.

Obsessed as they were with the trivialities of life, and looking as they did for any excuse to not deal with local politics, the papers were already interested, but they became totally and utterly insane when they were informed about something even more amazing.

My daughter was born with a birthmark on the left side of her chest. A perfect, 2 inch diameter heart with clear and smooth edges.

It, apart from my baby, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The reporters demanded that we call our little girl ‘Love’ or ‘Valentine’ or ‘Cherub’, but we had already set our heart on another less gimmicky name – Sarah. Photos and an article appeared in the local Courier a few days after her birth, and as a result we were besieged with calls from crackpots, national reporters and friends and family who wanted to cash in on Sarah’s amazing accident of nature. We even had a call from a young man who had divined that my baby daughter was herself divine. He claimed she had clearly been placed onto the earth as the new messiah who would grow to infuse the world with love.

Our poor Sarah spent the first fifteen years of her life as a very reluctant local celebrity, and in her eyes, her birthmark had little to commend it. So finally, at age sixteen, my beloved child made the biggest decision of her life: to get her second heart removed.

That was why we’d been taken from the hospital’s waiting area and put into a side room already full of reporters and photographers. The police were called, because the man who’d believed my Sarah was the new messiah had brought his fellow devotees to picket outside the hospital. Their mission was to tell the world that Satan had infected Sarah and that he was working his way through to her soul via a birthmark-removing laser gun.

Sarah was devastated, and my own poor heart was breaking in response. She sought anonymity, she sought peace and sought a skin clear of special markings, but in beginning the process, she had inadvertently encouraged the fame she despised.

Our compromise – a half hour press conference then the promise of future anonymity – was the best we could negotiate.

Once the photos were taken, the questions were asked and the video was shot, three members of the hospital’s security staff escorted us to Sarah’s laser session.

Sarah was feeling positive as she’d made her first step towards a happier future, and typically, her dad was ranting about the invasive nature of the press. I, on the other hand, was a blank face atop a world-weary body.
I had reasons of my own for this ambivalence.

Sarah and I had quite a bit in common, as I was also special. Not only had I been born on the 25th day of the twelfth month, but I had also been born at the 25th minute after the twelfth hour. And, more than that, my own chest displayed a clear, angular birthmark in the shape of a crucifix. That was how I knew the cult guy was wrong. My daughter was no messiah. But I was keeping my own messiah status well and truly hidden. I was playing my own cards close to my chest.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #fiction #shortstory #shortstories #queenofhearts #birthmark #valentines #birthmark #indieauthor #writers #writinglife #writingcommunity