Challenge: Short story – part two

Continuing with my self-imposed challenge of writing a short story of less than 1500 words.

If you missed part one, click here.

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating.  (continued)

silver appleSoon, Igor set about creating a new look for his restaurant, offering a fresh menu based on ancient recipes. Gone were the gourmet courses, in their place more rustic fare of heartier proportions. The dishes delighted his customers, returning in their droves to sample his Compost (mixed roots with a honeyed, wine-based sauce) and Pegions (stewed pigeon).

For some time, Igor enjoyed great success, but when a notable food critic presented himself at the restaurant, suspicions were raised. Having read Laurel’s articles, he noticed similarities whilst eating Igor’s food, “Hm, this stew is not dissimilar to the young lady’s Stue Capon, and the sauce with these roots resembles her poiteven version. I smell a rat!” Rather than confront them, he – as critics are prone to do – wrote an inflammatory report calling into question their claims of creating the controversial menus


Igor, seemingly unperturbed, launched a preemptive strike and headlines soon followed, Igor Romanski Plagiarised! Laurel’s reputation suffered, immediately attracting criticism from throughout the industry. Incensed, she swooped upon the only chance to prove her innocence by challenging Igor to a cook-off, with a blind taste test to determine the true menu creator.

With staunch backing from her readers, Laurel insisted upon a fair trial – by taste. Naturally Igor refused, believing his acknowledged talent and ancestry lent him the advantage. Repaying his tactics, she contacted the press, who pounced on the idea and harassed Igor, until he had no option than to agree or lose face.

The cook-off date was set for the following Saturday, the rivals were asked to create a new, original recipe to showcase their understanding of the period. Laurel was cock-a-hoop, sensing victory from the start, assuming that Igor, notorious for having drunk away his profits, no longer had the focus to concoct a winning dish. He retreated into his kitchen and remained unseen, the restaurant closed, until the day of the contest.



I’ve been more than a little distracted recently and editing has fallen by the wayside.

However, all is not lost and tomorrow (promise!) will see me back on track. Six out of twenty-two revisions made to date, so there is still much to do.

Oh, and my distraction is loosely connected to The Nasrid Charm. Very loosely! It’s a short story with a revenge theme. I’ve never written anything less than a zillion words long, so keeping the word count below 1500 was a major challenge. I also tried to write a funny story – you’ll see for yourself if I mastered that task!

I’m going to post the story here – in four parts – so please check in for the later episodes. Be sure to tell me what you think too. Feedback is important – good or bad – I can take it.

So, here’s part one:

honey almond

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

Whilst the innocent might deserve rewards for good behaviour, so might the guilty fear retribution, for eventually Fate will dispense their just desserts.


Igor Romanski, a highly acclaimed chef, paced the floor of his office. His once thriving riverfront restaurant had steadily been losing clientele. His flair for delicious, high-quality-verging-on-luxurious meals left most customers out-of-pocket and often hungry – due to his insistence on haute-cuisine-sized portions! His moules marinière bounced with rubberiness, his Vichyssoise curdled from being heated and his speciality dessert, tarte tatin, suffered the worst fate of all – a soggy bottom!

Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed his cherished Silver Apple trophy, awarded for Excellence in Pastry. ‘Ugh!’ he groaned and with an impatient flourish sent the award toppling onto the floor, landing amid countless unpaid bills. ‘It’s all over!’ he sighed and stormed out, shoulders sagging, towards the village pub.



Laurel Leeffe, a recipe writer for a small-town lifestyle magazine, sat nestled in front of the pub’s cosy, roaring fire. Weekly, she posted features extolling the virtues of the latest super-foods, or denigrating the failings of celebrity diets.

After another boring day at work, Laurel met with her sister, Clover. ‘I’m thinking of creating a Medieval menu,’ the words rushed out of her as, fidgeting in her seat, she began to outline her plan.

‘Hush Laurel. You’re shouting.’ Clover insisted. Other customers were glaring at her, tutting and rolling their eyes at her outburst. One stranger, however, raised an inquisitive brow and pulled his chair a tad closer to the girls, intent on listening some more. With her spiel over, she sat back, a satisfied, almost smug look on her face, and shook her empty glass in her sister’s direction pleading for a refill, allowing the eavesdropper to sneak away unnoticed.

The editor loved her ideas and petitioned series of six articles, together with taste-testing sessions at the supermarket. Her first feature led to a flood of rave reviews, and so, keen to continue her run of good luck, the sisters discussed each subsequent article in the same pub, at the same table, and – unbeknownst to them – with the same interloper hidden in the shadows, secretly taking notes.


 to be continued


“While action needs context, mystery doesn’t — in fact, one of mystery’s strengths is that it demands the reader wait for context.”

I saw this remark and felt a huge wave of relief flood through me. I’m usually charged with not revealing the whole plot in the first sentence of my writing (OK, slight exaggeration, but it feels like I am always guilty of making the reader READ the damn story!)

Now, I feel vindicated – because mystery stories are not all scenes from a Columbo movie. I don’t have to say who did it, or how in the very beginning.

After all, it is not said that everything good comes to he who waits!


bernie I just heard from a fellow author, Steve LeBel – for whom I did some beta-reading and reviewing – that his book The Universe Builders won the Grand Prize in the 2015 Writer’s Digest book contest, beating out every book in eight different categories! Writer’s Digest will publish an interview with him  in their May issue.  Winning comes with other prizes, too, including a $3,000 cash award.

He began 2014 with an unpublished manuscript and went on to publish both an ebook and a print book that reached best seller status on Amazon in three categories.  He attended lots of book signings and finished the year by winning the grand prize in a major book contest.

I’m not surprised, it was one of my favourite reads of 2014, and well-deserving of such an accolade.

Well done Steve, your success will inspire lots of other writers.

PS – can’t wait for book two!


Book Review – The Good Girl

good girl

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

4/5 stars – Aside from the unusual style of writing, which took some getting used to, this story had me gripped until the end – with an ending that I did not expect in the slightest. Written from a variety of perspectives, it is both a suspenseful mystery and a tender romance.

Definitely an author to follow.

Synopsis (taken from Goodreads):

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.
Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.