Thursday photo prompt – inside-out #writephoto

This piece of flash fiction was written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. You can join in the fun at this link

The young woman sat in her rocking chair gazing out of the window. The baby clutched in her arms continued to scream. His little face was red and screwed up with pain. The baby’s ceaseless screaming disturbed her but she still loved her little boy with a fierce love like a flame. Sitting there, she thought of a story she had read a few years ago about a mother who had thrown her screaming baby out of a fifth floor window. She felt sympathy for that woman who had cracked under the stress of a continuously crying baby and an abusive husband. While she adored her little man and could never imagine harming him, she could understand how an additional stress like abuse or financial strain could lead to a complete breakdown by a new mother. She closed her eyes and continued to gently rock her squalling infant.

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series

The little girl who loved dolls – Plaster of paris figures and the apricot tree


When we were living in the house on the plot, we used to often visit our Aunt and our two boy cousins. You have already met Ian and Gary in the story about the mud house that collapsed. Our Aunt lived in a lovely house in a suburb in Johannesburg. She had a very nice garden with a proper swimming pool, a swing and a huge apricot tree. During the summer when the apricots were ripe, they used to fall to the ground. A lot of them burst and were spoilt during the fall but there would be a few nice ones if you were prepared to look through the fruit on the grass under the tree. The fallen and smashed fruit attracted a lot of insects, including bees and fruit beetles. I was scared of both of these as I had an allergy to bees and the fruit beetles were big and black with yellow on their wings.

One warm, sunny afternoon we went to visit my Aunt and cousins. Ian was making figures out of plaster of paris using a moulding set he had been given for his birthday. I had never seen anything like this set. It contained bags of plaster of paris, a white powder that you mix with water and which sets quite hard once it has dried. Doctors used to use plaster of paris to make castes for broken bones when we were children. These castes were much more fun than the current removable castes made from plastic and all your friends would be able to write nice messages on your caste. It was a sign of great popularity to have a caste filled with messages and signatures when it came off at the end of four to six weeks. The set also contained three moulds of Goofy, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and tubes of paint to paint the figures with once they were dry. Ian had made a few figures already and he showed Catherine and me how to make plaster of paris by mixing the white powder with a bit of water. You needed to be careful not to add to much water as then the figures would be to “sloppy” and would not set properly. The mixture felt quite warm once you had added the water and mixed it well. Once the mixture was the correct consistency, you scooped it into the moulds and left them to set for about an hour. Ian said that Catherine could have one of the figurines we made and that I could have two. I choose Goofy and Mickey Mouse and Catherine got Minnie Mouse.

We swam in the pool while we waited for the figurines to dry so that we could unmould them and paint them. My Aunt’s pool was very big and the shallow end was not all that shallow for us at that time. We still had a lovely time swimming and splashing and making water bombs by jumping into the pool with our bent legs clasped to our chests. The result was a huge splash and lots of waves in the pool. We also made swirl pools by wading around and around the shallower part of the pool in a circle until the water gained momentum and created a current that helped pull us around. The swirl pools used to get so fast that it used to pull us younger children under which was a bit scary.

Eventually, after we had checked on the progress of the figurines countless times, they were dry, and Catherine and I could paint ours. We painted them quite meticulously. Making sure we didn’t mix the colours and that we outlined all the facial features and clothes before filling them in with colour. I was very proud of my artwork at the end of the painting. I took one of my figurines outside into the garden to play with around the pool. Being of a curious nature I decided to dip my new figurine into the pool. Disaster struck immediately, just like the little girl in the story book who was curious and fell down a deep rabbit hole. The paint on the figurine ran and, worse still, the plaster of paris melted into a sticky mess. That was the sad end of Mickey Mouse. I kept Goofy though and gave him to my Granny Joan for her birthday. That was the last time I thought of that figurine until four years later when Granny Joan died. We were living in a town in the Western Cape at the time of her death and my Grandparents lived very close to us. I can remember going into Granny Joan’s bedroom after she had gone to the hospital and not come home again, and seeing the figurine of Goofy sitting on her dressing table. I can remember feeling quite amazed that she had kept this all those years and feeling quite tempted to take it. I didn’t though. Somehow, at the time, it didn’t seem like the right thing to do; it felt almost like stealing. I do regret not taking it now as I am sure it was thrown away not long after this.

I digress, however, as our day at my Aunt’s house was not yet over. After the figurine catastrophe, Ian and I decided to climb the apricot tree. It was a very large tree and the branches were quite spread out but I did manage to pull myself part of the way up. Getting down was a little more troublesome for me and I fell, landing in a bruised heap in the rotting fruit at the bottom of the tree. Sadly, this little endeavour resulted in my spraining my wrist and my having to wear a thick bandage around it for a few weeks. This experience did not discourage me, in any way, from climbing trees, roofs and walls. It did have the adverse effect of putting me off apricots which I still dislike to this very day.

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series

Purchase Sir Chocolate at:

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Facebook: @SirChocolateBooks

Twitter: @bakeandwrite


Lemon custard slices

Some of your readers will know that I am making my husband a meringue tower for his birthday day next week. The meringue tower requires six meringues of various sizes from plate size to donut size. That is a lot of meringue and as they take between three and four hours in the oven on a setting of 130 degrees Celcius, I started making them this week. Meringues keep really well so it is not a problem to start making them early. Meringues use egg whites only which left me with ten left over egg yolks. I don’t like to waste food so I looked for a recipe that used egg yolks and I decided to make lemon custard slices.


For the biscuit base:

625 ml cake flour;

1/2 teaspoon salt;

180 grams melted butter;

125 ml castor sugar;

15 ml lemon zest;

1 egg;

7.5 ml vanilla essence

For the filling:

7 gelatin leaves soaked in cold water;

425 ml lemon juice;

30 grams lemon zest;

200 ml cold water;

10 eggs;

10 egg yolks;

675 ml castor sugar;

500 grams cubed, softened butter


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Beat the flour, melted butter, castor sugar, slat and lemon zest together until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Add the egg and vanilla mixture and beat until a dough forms. Roll out the dough and line a 25 cm by 30 cm prepared rectangular baking tin with the dough. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.

In a large saucepan over a medium heat, heat the butter, egg yolks, eggs, castor sugar lemon zest and lemon juice mixed with cold water. Stir the mixture constantly while it heats up to prevent curdling. Once the mixture has started to thicken allow to “cook” for about 5 minutes stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the drained gelatin leaves. Allow the gelatin leaves to melt into the mixture and continue to stir until the mixture is completely smooth. Allow to cool slightly and then pour the mixture over the biscuit base and place in the refrigerator overnight to set.

Cut into slices and serve.

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series

#Booktour Twenty-four Days overview and author interview

Twenty-four Days

Synopsis of Twenty-four Days

What sets this story apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the sentient artificial intelligence who thinks he’s human:

An unlikely team is America’s only chance

World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.

At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI Otto who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.

In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.

But the second, Otto can’t locate.

Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi–the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.

And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.

As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Zeke finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war, but payback against the country that cost him so much.

Kirkus review

A blistering pace is set from the beginning: dates open each new chapter/section, generating a countdown that intensifies the title’s time limit. Murray skilfully bounces from scene to scene, handling numerous characters, from hijackers to MI6 special agent Haster. … A steady tempo and indelible menace form a stirring nautical tale.

About Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Author interview

Welcome, Jacqui Murray to Robbiesinspiration. Thank you for answering some questions about your fantastic new thriller, Twenty-four Days.

Robbie: What inspired you to write Twenty-four Days?

Jacqui: Both my children are in the military. When your kids are in the military, the whole family is. The Navy does a great job of keeping us up-to-date on everything. I got lots of access to the USS Bunker Hill (one of the settings in this book) and the crew–even the Captain so it was no problem making this warship part of Twenty-four Days. As anyone knows who has served in the Fleet, it is a different world. I wanted to share that with readers.

Robbie: How much research did you have to do to write Twenty-four Days?

Jacqui: Lots, but I love research. I dug into the Bunker Hill, lots of quirky science (like the invisibility cloak featured in the book), and artificial intelligence. All so much fun! In another life, I would have been a researcher.

Robbie: Who is your main target audience for Twenty-four Days?

I hope it appeals to armchair sailors and geeks who love the concept of sentient AIs. My artificial intelligence, Otto, was minor in the prequel to this book, To Hunt a Sub, but plays a major part in this plot, often humorous as he struggles to be human.

Book information

Title and author: Twenty-four Days by J. Murray

Genre: Thriller, military thriller

Cover by: Paper and Sage Design 

Available at: Kindle USKindle UKKindle Canada

Follow Jacqui

Twitter: @Worlddreams


Linked in:



Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series




Answers – where did the children go and which cake – a rhyming verse tale

Some of you  have wondered where the children that featured in my haiku vanished too ( and also which cake I will be making for my hubby’s birthday ( I have decided to answer both questions in this little rhyming verse tale.

Where indeed?

The children had disappeared,

Where on earth could they be?

Their parents entered the cave,

Afraid of what they would see.


They stepped through a crack,

Leading into another world.

They were astonished at the sight,

That before their eyes unfurled.


A world where you could eat everything,

The grass, the flowers and the trees.

Even the houses were biscuits and cake,

The sight your tummy did please.



They were enthusiastically greeted,

By Sir Chocolate, a little chocolate man.

And the sight of their happy children,

That towards them gleefully ran.



The people of Chocolate Land,

Where having a fantastic time.

Building a delicious pavlova tower,

Decorated with cream, lemon and lime.


It was the children’s Dad’s birthday,

Sir Chocolate explained as work resumed.

They were making him a special cake,

For everyone to enjoy and consume.


Work on the cake was soon finished,

Everyone ate all they could hold.

Making the most of Chocolate Land,

Which was never too hot or too cold.



Far to quickly the time passed,

It was time for the family to go home.

They would return another day,

Chocolate Land to explore and roam.


By Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series