Archive for the ‘Short stories’ Category

This week I will not talk about my other work (other than this!).

This week, I have got my little anthropomorphised character Fred time travelling to Egypt. He is currently walking on the Giza Plateau to watch the Great Pyramid being constructed. It’s a pretty interesting spectacle for him, because not only has he never seen sand before, but he has never seen a man-made monument before. He’s trying to think it through but really has no idea what is going on.

I am enjoying writing this little tale of intrigue; although it’s a children’s story I am working to get the details right, and yet I can stop as I like so I don’t have to get into too much research detail.

It’s letting me play about with some fun ideas too, and gradually I am starting to feel more ‘writerly’, if you know what I mean.

I’ve also been spurred on by a trip I had to the theatre this weekend, to see a Harold Pinter play called No Man’s Land.  It was described as a comedy but it really wasn’t: there were many points in the script which were funny or slightly unexpected and we audience members laughed out loud, but there was a pathos in it, a sadness and a loneliness that I had not expected.  I am not sure I like the work tragicomic, but it does highlight the way the tale leapt from one emotion to another.

Works like that make me want to test my capabilities, push myself to  produce something thought-provoking.  I know my voice in writing is quite light but that doesn’t mean the content has to be, or that I am limited in genre.

I just have to believe I can do it.

Interestingly enough, this week started with the theatre too, albeit on a somewhat reduced scale – I am back rehearsing for the next am dram performance… Once again I am the principle boy – I’m not sure if it’s typecasting yet but once more and I’ll be sure!

It is clear to me that with everything I have on at the moment I need to be really strict about my daily writing again and with that in mind, I am considering an ‘all in, in October’ premise to share my wordcount.  With Fred as my star, I don’t think it’s going to impact on quality of writing, but will certainly help with the quantity.

I will think about it – if I go for it, you’ll know soon enough!

Until next time – whenever it may be!

Happy writing,



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I said on Sunday that I would swap my posts around so here is my writing update…

It’s not much of one, to be honest. Fred now has a list of times and places to travel to but I am still working on exactly what he will discover at each of his stops. I already have a few plans but they need fleshing out which I aim to do soon.

I also have to write a marketing blurb for a friend’s memoirs – they are extremely interesting and I want to do them justice.

Finally I have an article to write about our writing group which is changing format soon…

My problem at the moment is actually sitting down to write. It’s a big couple of weeks at work – the project I have been working on for a year is coming to fruition, and it’s pretty hectic.

But hopefully in a couple of weeks it will calm down, and if all I do until then is plan, it’s not a disaster.

Quite honestly, it feels like this year has been against me from start to finish so anything I produce, I’ll be satisfied!

And that is all I have time for today.  I said it wasn’t much of an update, didn’t I?!

Happy writing,

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It’s been a running joke with a friend at work that he wants me to write a story for him.  Based on a variety of strange and unconnected discussions this week I began on an animal time traveller story…

It’s a concept that would work well for children, and therefore the story is definitely being written with that mindset; never mind the age of the audience, the story dictates the style!

This is really how I started writing as an adult – children’s short stories either made us as a joke with a friend or made up for my nieces and nephews. I was often called upon to tell multiple sequences of stories, where the same characters appeared time and time again.

I’d forgotten all that really – children’s writing was not the way I chose to go but there’s a degree of freedom in it that you don’t get in writing for adults.  It was a lovely way to spend time with the kids, and they would even make their own tales up for me after a while.

So in my return to writing, having a fun, silly, pressure-free project is a joy, quite honestly: it’s a return to a more organic nature of storytelling which I love. It’s like going back to basics where your imagination is completely free to go wild, there’s no constraint on the nature of reality and you can anthropomorphise anything you like to make the start of your story.

Maybe I’ll stick with children’s stories for a bit – they are the most effective way I have ever found to stretch the bounds of my imagination.

Happy writing,

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I had very little time over the last few days, so I chose a bit of a cheat rather than to miss a week, and read one of my convention freebies!

Book 16 – The Double Clue, by Agatha Christie.  This is a selection of four short stories featuring Hercule Poirot, and with introductions by Sophie Hannah (who recently wrote a new Hercule Poirot book) and John Curran (an expert on Agatha Christie, who was a panellist at the Crime Writing Convention I attended).  The stories take the reader from London to Egypt, with Poirot and his friend Hastings foiling theft, murder, fraud and misrepresentation.

This was aThe Double Clue really easy, quick read, and had nothing of the complexity I expect from Christie due to the length of the stories; I even knew the outcome in a couple of cases!  However, this book wasn’t designed for that: it’s more a coffee break with a slice of cake book.  You can probably read a story in around 15-20 minutes if you’re a reasonably fast reader so it would be perfect on a train or waiting for an appointment, that sort of thing.  From a practical point of view it’s a great little book.

As for the stories – they were fun, if not complex.  I particularly liked the seasick, dishevelled version of Poirot (briefly) described in the last tale.  My favourite line in the book was ‘Also the heat, it causes my moustaches to become limp – but limp!’. The idea of Poirot ending a sea voyage with his moustache flopping down his face made me chuckle 🙂

I don’t think there’s too much more to say about this without giving away any plot points, but it has made me think about digging out some more short reads for those brief moments in between things when I don’t really want to get into my writing because I haven’t got enough time or peace, but I want to do something other than sit expectantly!


Happy reading,



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This week I’ve split my writing between poetry and prose again.

In the prose corner, it’s all been about whodunnit. I’ve been gaily writing away and building up the story; although I said at the start it would be a short story (I thought about 20,000 words) I think it is drifting towards novella lengths and when completed it’ll be about 50,000.

I know there’s a writing purpose to this – all about the twisty-turny plot points – but the story exists in its own right and I have to go with my gut and get it on paper. I’m going to keep my target at 3000 words this week but hope to exceed that to keep the momentum up.

There are some technical points I need to address but that’ll come with the first revisions.

In the poetry corner sit a few pieces that I’ve drafted up, that now need a bit of tlc to get them reading-ready. I am working on building my set for the listening lunches, as I’ve said before, so it’s important not to lose sight of the flow from one piece to another. There needs to be some link between them, whether that is style, tone, subject, emotion – whatever, really; it just needs to be right.

I started a new one today that sits with a couple I’ve already done – there’s an underwater theme, but each one tells a different story – of hope, finding a place in the world, loneliness, captivity and so on. It’s a really exciting theme for me; almost as exciting as the space theme I was working on a couple of years ago!

In other news – Book 78 on the 100 novels list is another American classic (that I haven’t read): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It came up as an option for reading group this year but based on my desire to read less dramatic/difficult/depressing books we opted for something else first!  I won’t read it yet but it may come up through the group later in the year.

And finally – a bit about B4Peace.  This one is falling well off my radar as I am struggling to find time for two posts a week at the moment, let alone adding in B4Peace posts or Thoughts on a Thursday.  This is bothering me quite a lot!  However, I am trying to keep peace in my life: I am off to a mindfulness in the workplace event (which I’ll tell you about next week) and I am seeking out sayings and quotes I can share to add a little calmness to the end of my post each week.

Here’s one of Cicero’s that I recently found:

Peace is liberty in tranquility

Happy writing



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Three times this week I’ve been amazed we’re in March already – where does time go?

This week I didn’t want to see it slip between my fingers and although a few drops did get away I managed to get a lot done this week. So much so, in fact, that I have about 10 minutes to write this post!

From a writing point of view, the most important aim was to get back on track with my whodunnit and get 3000 words further towards the conclusion. Well, I will tick this one off as completed – I actually came in about 100 words short but we have everything set up for the discovery of the victim, alibis with built-in problems, a breakdown on the way and everyone with a range of motives and unfortunate choices of words.

It’s fun, doing this – if I can just keep on track, and keep building up the story I think I’ll learn a lot about using small details to manufacture misleading strands of stories.

Phew, try saying ‘manufacture misleading strands of stories’ a few times!

Other than writing I’ve had two family events; dance class; gym time; a visit to a charity clairvoyant evening and of course work. Being busy is definitely better than being bored but next week I hope will be a little less frenetic!

The good thing about all this life stuff, of course, is that it inspires many different things, from lines of poetry to scene-setting and character traits.  This week a few things have really struck me and I want to start recording potential character profiles for future use!

I am going to leave in other news for today as it’s gone 11pm and I need to get some sleep soon; however I will take this opportunity to say I’ll set another 3000 word target for this week, which will see me through discovery and the first suspect being identified. This is my favourite suspect so I am looking forwards to getting them into an interrogation!

Until next time,
Happy writing,

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I got through two this week – I couldn’t settle for a couple of nights, so the challenge has benefitted – I only have another three books to go to reach my target, with about 8 weeks to the end of the year.

So, on we go…

Book 48 – The Man Upstairs and Other Stories, by P.G. Wodehouse. This was a collection of short stories, which was a fun change of pace.  There were repeated visits to the same environments, but the characters were different in each story – I half expected some to crash into others as they cavorted around casinos or popped into galleries.  The tales are all various levels of funny – some raised a gentle smile, some a laugh – and as a whole the book left me feeling quite cheery up to the very last tale which was a bit more nuanced.

The downside of the book is that there is no follow-through: some stories could have been whole books in their own right with the number of loose ends available, but that is the nature of a short story I think.  You have to imagine where the story would go, what the characters choose to do next, if endings are left open.

Because there are multiple stories I can’t give a brief synopsis, but I can say that as my first Wodehouse it was readable, engaging and enjoyable.  Not too shabby, hey?!

Book 49 – Haunted on Bourbon Street, by Deanna Chase, was an entirely different prospect.  My last free download by a modern author for this year, I expect, this one is the first of a series about an empath who exists in a modern world where her abilities leave her very vulnerable, and unwilling to tell people what she can do.

I have to admit I chose this one because the front cover reminded me of Bewitched but as the main character does not self-identify as a witch it was a bit random!  As usual, I will try not to spoil the book, but I will say that the storyline was as much about abilities and sex as it was about forging new relationships and learning to trust people.  The sex scenes were over-used I feel, but again not too cringe-inducing!

I found this a little choppy  in some places, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the setting is New Orleans, but for the vast majority of the tale the events could take place anywhere, and I think that was a wasted opportunity.  Secondly, one key plot point was so obvious it may as well have been written straight away because it just made the main character look naive.  Finally, the main character was frustrating.  She seemed to be collapsing and needing a rescuer every night, totally reliant on the men around her.  Plus her aunt, who was allegedly her whole family, and closer than her own skin, was constantly being forgotten, glossed over and generally ignored.

But it was a nice escapist piece of fiction, generally well-paced, with some fun characters.  The development of friendships through the book is engaging and gratifying, and the idea that you have to always look beneath the surface of people a strong message from start to finish.  There was genuine menace in the scary segments, and it made some of the fears very believable.  Finally, it was fun to explore the world through a form of ‘magic’ that is rarely used, giving the autheor a chance to develop the magical realism in a less overcrowded area.

That’s me done for now – I will catch up after my honeymoon!

Until then – happy reading,



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Well, this week’s challenge Tuesday is actually a challenge Wednesday, but you get the idea.

There’s only one book this week:

Book 24 – The Grandmothers, by Doris Lessing. This book is actually four stories, none of which relate to each other.

The theme, if there is one, is life not turning out as you hope; these are not joyful stories and societal norms are challenged repeatedly. I have to admit to not being a fan of Lessing’s writing; I nearly gave up partway into the first of the stories, but I did persevere and read them all.

What I found interesting was the scope of Lessing’s choices – we travel into the future, we see the past; we experience different social classes and experiences. I’m not convinced it all worked as well as it could but it was educational to see the variety one writer can bring to a book.

Overall, it didn’t make me want to seek out more of Lessing’s work but at least now I can see the breadth of her imagination.

Hopefully I’ll have more to discuss next time!

Happy reading,

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This week’s inspiration post is an exercise I have just attempted, to make sure it’ll work.  It’s a bit of fun mixed in with a tried and tested writing exercise – writing to music.  I enjoyed this one so I hope you have a go and let me know what you think!

Firstly, find the theme tune from a TV programme you watched as a child – there are loads of these on YouTube.  In fact, I got lost in the nostalgia when I was looking for something!  Listen to as many or as few as you like, but choose a particular one and listen to it a couple of times, thinking about when you might have watched the programme.  Let your mind wander back in time!  If the introductory video is also attached watch it if you like.  Then write down everything you can think of from your childhood related to that programme – the chair you sat in/the wallpaper in the room/what you might have had for tea/who was with you.  If you struggle to be accurate, don’t worry – you can focus on  a particular day or a time of day, or simply a few clear details from your house as you grew up, or school.  Whatever you find most compelling.

Once you’ve done all of this write a short piece of autobiography or fiction based on what you have written down.  I cheated a little, and used the outcome of this exercise for flash fiction as a possible example for my writing group because my partner and I had, independently, both written about space travel so I needed a new approach!

Here’s the theme tune I started with – I’m dating myself a bit with this and can only say I watched it when it was repeated some time after the original release 🙂

My first thought was tea time with cutlery on the table, the retro place-mats we had (and I think my parents still have – they were built to last!); I then thought about a particular food I loved, about the dogs we had growing up that sat semi-patiently waiting for us to drop something.  I thought about the carpet, the fireplace, the door to the kitchen.  I don’t think all the memories fit together chronologically, but it doesn’t really matter because I write fiction. In fact, what I ended up with was nothing to do with any of these memories, but came from them.

When I’ve shared the piece in my writing group, and had a chance to tidy it up a little, I’ll post it here.  And unlike the poem I’ve meant to finish and post, I’ll actually do it!

I’ve given up on that poem for now, by the way.  I’m not sure I can focus on an Anglo-Saxon feasting hall  – although maybe it’ll be easier than I think, if this exercise took me straight to dinner time..!

Happy writing,



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After a weekend with bouts of sunshine, we’re back to snow here and I can’t help wondering if Mother Nature is trying to tell us something.

I wanted to talk about it in this post – but I couldn’t see a way to revisit weather (again) in a new way.  And then I thought about Flash Gordon – the 1980, Queen-soundtracked film version – which starts with strange weather phenomenon.

I remember watching the clouds billowing over the sun and being gripped when I was little.  That film was so much fun, it deserves a post of its own – but I didn’t want to get too sidetracked by it, so I just watched the song video for a couple of minutes.

The video contains clips from the film and one of these was of hailstones.  That brought to mind the film The Day After Tomorrow which in turn gave me a new idea: I moved away from the weather and into possible futures.  Specifically, futuristic stories.

I’m no expert, but I’ve read a few and watched a lot more, and they seem to fit within particular categories.  Here are three that I’ve come across a few times:


I love a well-written dystopian future.  Books like 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale have stayed with me for years after reading, and have shaped my own perception of what a futuristic novel should look like.  A dystopia is basically a flawed and damaged future, socially and politically undesirable, and it is important to know that not everyone in the society will perceive it as such.  1984 in particular has found its way into our modern vocabularies in a number of ways to describe less-than-ideal matters.


Some futures are defined not by humans, but by aliens.  The story you see is either about the invading alien – a recent example of this is the book The Host – or about the humans fighting back or just trying to survive, as in The War of the Worlds.  The important thing is that the aliens in these examples are an enemy.


This covers many different areas: climate change, volcanic eruption, asteroid impact for example.  The Time Machine touches on this.  When I was in school, there was a series of books about people surviving a nuclear war – sadly I can’t remember what they were called, but they explored how people had to change their behaviour to survive.  When I write futuristic stories this is actually where I start – what has gone wrong?  Why are humans behaving in a particular way?

You’ll notice that catastrophes are common in film, although we don’t really get to see the future so much as know the hero/heroine have survived the catastrophe itself and now have to face the future.  That’s what’s great about writing: you can explore as far into the future as you like.

Any story needs a background: even if it’s not mentioned in the book/story itself you as the writer need to understand the roots of the tale.  If you’re writing about a future society, you need to know how the world has shaped society in that way, and hopefully this list will give you a few ideas.

If you can think of any other categories, please let me know in the comments!

Happy writing,



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