New year, same old me, just a bit better… (hopefully)
A long overdue Happy New Year. I hope 2016 is a good one for you.
I used to set myself new year’s resolutions, but more often than not they were just too big, or too optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I like a challenge but it needs to be achievable! Right?
Hats off to anyone who is doing a dry January by the way. I’ve ditched the resolutions and am going for ‘Achievable Goals’ instead. I like to set my goals mid-Jan (when I’m slightly less optimistic and back in the groove). I don’t think that’s actualy a bad thing. Better that way than look back in Feb and think… I haven’t come close!
So, here goes.To be clear, I’m not a big drinker, but sometimes habits just creep up on you, like old age, or zombie nuns.
- Get to the the gym and do more Pilates (This is recommended for us writers who tend to sit and tap for weeks without moving if we’re allowed to!)
- Enter a few short story competitions (see below : )
- Grow my reader list to 8,000 (currently 5,000)
- Stop drinking alcohol during the week (The weekends are so good!)
- Increase sales by 20% (By investing sales in Facebook advertising)
- Finish my third Hibernation book (Starting was tough but now going really well at 38,000 words)
- Start Downstream Season 2 (Very exciting)
- Try and get more reviews on Amazon (I have some lovely reviews, some shockers too but you toughen up eventually. If you haven’t already, why not drop me a review?)
That’s it. All achievable I think. Will check in occasionally and let you know how I’m doing. Unless I’m doing badly, in which case expect no updates.
In terms of short stories, I wrote the one below over Christmas (it had to be no more than 1,500 words, which is a tough brief). The story idea came in one hit, after playing Roulette with my family. Great fun, but man, it was a reminder of why I don’t gamble real money in the real world.
I hope the judges like it but more importantly, I hope you do too.
Ps. Would love to hear your resolutions / goals!
THE LUCKY CHARM
‘There has to be a catch,’ Dylan Murphy said, staring blankly at the brown paper bag on the table in front of him. The edges of the bag were folded neatly like a packed lunch, the kind his ex-wife used to make.
‘I can assure you,’ the man said, flashing a Tom Cruise grin, ‘there is no catch. You gamble the money at the roulette table and we share the winnings fifty, fifty. Simple as that.’
Nothing, Murphy thought, is ever as simple as that. He instinctively fumbled for his lucky charm, a silver rabbit’s foot around his neck.
‘So why not go in there and gamble it yourselves?’ He glanced out of the diner’s window, onto the Sunset Strip. ‘Why do you need me?’
The immaculately groomed couple nodded their understanding. Murphy studied them carefully. His mother always said if something was too good to be true, then it probably was; surely this was one of those occasions. The money was probably stolen and these two lovebirds were on the run; a regular Bonnie and Clyde. The man leaned back in his chair and glanced at the woman beside him. She was beautiful, a red-head with milky, porcelain skin – luminescent in the morning sun – and green eyes that could drown a man. She spoke, her voice calm and considered. ‘My husband and I have had some…’ she paused, thoughtfully and then said, ‘…some money difficulties.’
Murphy glanced at the bag. ‘If there’s five grand in there lady, I’d say you’re doing just fine.’
‘I appreciate how it looks,’ she countered, softly, ‘but this is an all or nothing deal for us. We owe some people a lot of money and if they saw us gambling, well let’s just say they wouldn’t be too happy.’ She leaned in. ‘You, on the other hand, well in the nicest possible way…’ She paused and smiled.
Murphy sighed, shoulders sinking. ‘I’m a nobody.’
‘Exactly,’ the man agreed.
Murphy took a gulp of coffee and spilled some down his front. The stain spread like a gunshot wound over his white shirt. ‘Damn’, he said, mopping at it awkwardly with a napkin. ‘I’m not sure you really understand,’ he said absently rolling the silver rabbit’s foot between his thumb and forefinger, eyes fixed on the bag. ‘Casinos and I don’t get along so well. They’ve not been kind to me if I’m honest.’
This was the understatement of the year. Murphy had once made the mistake of totting up how much money he’d lost in his lifetime. The answer was enough to own a house, mortgage free. What else he’d lost didn’t bear thinking about.
The woman nodded towards his lucky charm. ‘Maybe it’s your turn for a bit of luck?’
‘Maybe,’ he heard himself saying, heart pounding the tribal rhythm of expectation. There was five thousand dollars in that bag and he could smell it now, crisp and green and filled with latent potential. He licked his dry lips. ‘No catch?’
The man grinned. ‘You meet us here afterwards and we split the winnings.’
‘What’s to stop me running off with the money?’
‘Nothing,’ the man replied with an easy shrug.
‘And what happens if I lose the lot?’
The woman took her husband’s hand. ‘Then we all lose.’ She sipped the last of her coffee and wiped the corners of her mouth daintily. ‘We just need a break, Mr Murphy, one thing to go right for us.’
Murphy nodded. He understood that well enough. He looked around the small diner. A man in greasy whites at a grill, a waitress serving three customers on stools and a family eating burgers at 11 a.m. His gaze returned to the bag. Five grand, ready to burn.
Only in Vegas, baby. Only in Vegas.
At just after 2pm that afternoon, the red petals of the Flamingo Casino enveloped Dylan Murphy like a Venus flytrap. Yet, once inside, Murphy felt anything but trapped; he felt right at home. The bright lights, endless chatter and whooping machines filled him with yearning, the promise of that elusive big win.
The slot machines were busy, the roulette tables quiet. Murphy found an empty table beneath a ceiling of rainbow lights. The croupier, a young woman, smiled. Murphy placed his bets, grinding between the first and final thirds of the table. He best small to begin with, then ramped it up. He lost twice but then won a decent amount back, almost half. Was the woman right? Could this finally be the start of his luck changing?
Twenty minutes later, Murphy seriously doubted that.
He loosened his collar, a thin film of sweat covering his brow as he watched the ball bounce over the rutted numbers of the roulette wheel.
Come on black. Come on!
He pinched his eyes shut and although he wasn’t a religious man, he prayed. Finally the chrome ball of destiny settled and when Murphy opened his eyes again the casino flooded back.
It was red.
He hunched over his remaining chips, a thousand dollars worth, and heard the woman’s voice from the diner drift up from subconscious:
This is an all or nothing deal for us.
For you and me both lady, he thought, gripping his lucky charm. He was suddenly compelled to pick up his remaining chips – four of them, two hundred and fifty dollars a piece – and place them all on black, thirteen. Black, thirteen was going to win! Murphy swallowed, his throat clicking loudly. The world desaturated as his fingers – gripping his remaining chips – hovered over the number thirteen. He stared blankly at the table.
‘Sir?’ the croupier asked, concerned.
Murphy nodded. It was make or break.
No! he almost cried out, What the hell am I doing? With a burning hot flash of absolute confidence he finally ignored his mad compulsion to risk a single number and placed his remaining one thousand dollars on red.
Oh God, please, if you’re up there, Murphy begged, please let me win, just this once. I will never gamble again.
‘Any more bets?’ the croupier asked, ball glinting momentarily between her thumb and forefinger.
A man to Murphy’s right – how long had he been there? – pushed a tall stack of chips to the centre of the table. The croupier nodded and span the ball. ‘No more bets, gentlemen.’
Murphy counted the brightly coloured disks, mouth hanging open. The new arrival had just placed ten thousand dollars on a single number, the largest bet Murphy had ever seen, the highest allowed in the casino. ‘Thirty five to one,’ he murmured, voice cracking.
He closed his eyes and prayed but somehow wasn’t surprised at all when the croupier called, ‘black, thirteen.’ He’d changed his mind at the last minute and lost it all. One of his ex-wife’s favourite put-downs came out of nowhere; somehow, even after all these years Marlene could still bite. You ‘almost won’, doesn’t pay the bills!
Dylan Murphy finally opened his eyes, turned and stared at the man who had just won three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And again, part of him – the cynical, empty part – wasn’t surprised to see the man from the diner. The man smiled at Murphy, oddly genuine, thankful even.
‘Your usual account Sir?’ the croupier asked.
‘Yes, thank you,’ the man replied, although his eyes remained fixed on Murphy. There was something shifting in those eyes, something dark behind his polished facade that said I will be civil but don’t mess with me. Murphy noticed two heavy-set men nearby. They stared at him.
‘No need for a scene,’ the man advised, quiet but firm.
Murphy tried to speak but his mouth was as dry as the sand surrounding this hell hole. The man nodded to the croupier, slid from his seat and walked away. Murphy felt hypnotised, totally unable to move. Pale-faced and slick with sweat he came close to letting the man drift from his life forever but somehow managed to heave himself forward and catch up with him in the casino’s flamboyant entrance hall. The bodyguards stepped forward but the man waved them off.
‘Wait,’ Murphy begged, ‘you can’t just…’
The man observed him coolly. ‘Can’t just what?’
Murphy’s mind was spinning again and all he could think to ask was,‘Why me?’
The man inhaled and flexed his jaw. ‘You were carefully selected. I’ve been watching you for some time.’
Murphy swallowed, eyes dancing crazily.
‘Some advice, Mr Murphy,’ the man said. ‘People believe that they bring luck to the table.’ He tilted his head and looked upon Murphy as one might a wounded animal. ‘I believe in the opposite.’ He glanced at Murphy’s necklace, the silver, dulled an oily blue by constant attention, ‘I believe in bringing bad luck.’
‘You mean me,’ Murphy hissed, wide-eyed. ‘You deliberately bet against me.’
‘Precisely,’ the man nodded. ‘You, Mr Murphy, were my unlucky charm.’
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