Monthly Archives: June 2013

Editing Progress Report

Visitors are wonderful, wonderful things. They provide company and support, practical help and even babysitting. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

But they aren’t great for editing, so having gone into this last couple of weeks a bit ahead, I’m now slightly behind: 41.5 chapters down, when I should be at 43. I’m hoping to make it up to 42 and I’m still pleased with the progress. I’ve got a month left of this full-scale rewrite to go and hopefully I’ll finish it on time…


Wish me luck!


Filed under Writing

Inspiration Monday – One Click Away

To save time this week, I’m cheating with InMon’s “One click away” prompt. It reminded me of this flash I wrote a couple of years ago. I wasn’t too sure about it, but it won a lot of praise at the time and was runner up in a flash fiction competition, so maybe I just can’t judge my own writing that well. See what you think…


Not with a bang, but a tweet

There is a button which, in theory, only the President can push.

“We have declared war on Iran. Iran is nuclear equipped; all citizens are advised to prepare.”

The message hit every cell, twitter feed and newsreel in the country.

Some whitewashed windows or stockpiled water. Millions prayed. The majority panicked. Shops were raided. Protest groups demanding peace or pre-emptive strike clashed violently in the street. The streets were littered with bodies, whole streets were burning. The army was too depleted for Martial Law to have effect.

By the time the message was declared a hoax, its mission was accomplished.



Filed under Inspiration Monday

Friday Fiction – Louisa

This week’s FF prompt has the slightly unusual description, of being from “Indira by way of Scott Vanatter“. I’ve no idea what that means, but thanks to both of them – and to the driver of our bus, Rochelle – for setting me going on this particular story. I hope you’ll see where the first line came from … I thought it was kind of cute when I spotted it.



My grandmother, never prone to tact, once described Louisa as having “a face like the back of a bus.” But I loved her.

I was seven when I first saw her, intoxicated by the promise of long weeks idle. Louisa became the herald of summer; her annual visits anticipated just as eagerly. September, at thirteen, I found some words to say and she, fifteen and all grown up, responded with a smile, then went away.

The back of a bus, only seen as it leaves you standing, unsure, at the side of the road. Perhaps Granny was right after all.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Paranoia and the Acclaimed Novel

At the risk of dipping a toe into controversy…

Everyone seems to be up in arms at the moment about the government “spying” on their communications. I must admit I’ve not been following it that closely, but I’m not sure what the great revelation is – we known for years that keyword scanning and the like go on, that GCHQ or the like therefore have access to our communications and that therefore (at least in theory) they could abuse that power.

I also happen to have just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’d never read it before, but apparently it was the one book chosen for the “Keep Toronto Reading” campaign. There are obvious reasons why – it’s set in a dystopian future where everyone fills their head with mindless TV and books are not just abandoned but banned. Less obvious reasons and a few conspiracy theories also abound but I’ll leave those to your imagination (or your search engine) to fill in.


It’s a while since I read 1984, but F 451 strikes me as a slightly lighter touch on the whole dystopian future thing. Nevertheless, it has some clear warnings to those who wish to find them there, and received critical acclaim with comments describing its world as bearing “many alarming resemblances to our own.”

So, whether or not we are sleepwalking into a police state in reality, it occurs to me that playing on people’s fears might be a good route to publishing success. At least, if one can’t provide Harry Potter-esque escapism to distract the masses and keep them “happy”!


Filed under Writing

Series and serials

It seems to me that one of the strengths of the Friday Fictioneers group is its flexibility. The rules are there (use the picture, stick to 100 words, read other posts), but some people write poems, others prose. Some are religious about the 100 word limit (hand up!) while others use it as a guideline. It took me a long time to embrace Rochelle’s suggestion to take the picture as “Inspiration not Illustration” but now it’s my motto (although I never seem to get as far from it as she manages; I guess my muse is still stuck within the proverbial box!).

One issue that seems to be exercising the group right now is whether the stories should stand alone or be part of a serial. Personally, I prefer to write individual pieces. There are two reasons for this.

1)      I hate to constrain my writing. Once I start, I infinitely prefer to just let things flow, so I wouldn’t like the constraint of a weekly prompt to incorporate.

2)      I write enough long fiction; I use FF (and the other prompts I follow) to stretch my writing imagination with different settings, narrators and plots.

I sometimes break my own rules. I have a few characters whose stories I don’t feel I’ve told yet. So occasionally, where a prompt reminds me of them, I come back to them. There’s no order or unity to the pieces – they just come from the same universe. They are, if you like, a series rather than a serialisation.

Others choose their own path. The posts from Craig Townsley’s “Owl and Racoon” series are some of my favourite FF stories, while I can’t deny that Joe Owens’ serialised murder mystery had me clicking back each week to see who got accused next.

Ultimately, unless our Great Leader starts imposing restrictions, I think it’s a case of “whatever works for you”. If the writing’s good, it’s good either way around and maybe if the aim is to build up a following, people (outside the FF circle) are more likely to come back for the next stage of a story.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – Ted

Another guest, so another quick post for FF. This week’s picture comes from Cabin Fever and you can see more responses to it at Rochelle’s homepage for the group.

Under my 100 word story is the longer version I wrote first. I sort of prefer it, but a word limit is a word limit! As ever, feedback is welcome and feel free to just read the short version if you prefer.



He came to the Palace every day, to marvel at the guards in their resplendent uniforms and to watch the ships coming in. He didn’t know what resplendent meant, but his Grandfather had used it, back in the days when the old man hobbled beside him, and the word was his only legacy.

The ships carried every sort of cargo, but the trawlers were Ted’s favourite. Piles of fish cast, stinking, onto the jetty.

It was beside a pile of fish that Ted waited every morning for his Father’s ship: last seen heading East in search of the golden albatross.


Swan Song

He came to the Palace every day, to marvel at the guards in their resplendent uniforms and to watch the ships coming in. He didn’t know what resplendent meant, but his Grandfather had used it, back in the days when the old man hobbled beside him, and the word was his only legacy.

The ships carried every sort of cargo, but the trawlers were Ted’s favourite. Piles of fish cast, stinking, onto the jetty. Sometimes one or two were still alive, flicking bright scales across the concrete in a swan song of beauty.

It was beside a pile of fish that Ted waited every morning for his Father’s ship: last seen heading East in search of the golden albatross.

And it was beside a pile of fish that the guards found the man they recognised as their daily visitor. Some had said he was a ghost even before that – even the oldest couldn’t remember a time before his visits began – but the old man’s body was real enough. None had seen him arrive that day, but many people had heard him singing, the same ancient sea shanty he sang every day, something to do with a golden bird.




Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

The Story Behind The Stories

I know that some followers of this blog enjoy reading the story behind the stories I write, so here’s a bit of “process” for last week’s shorts. Spoiler Warning – if you haven’t read the stories, click on the titles and read them first!

Man, What Are You Doin’ Here?

When I saw this prompt, what sprung to mind was the joke which forms the final line of the story. It became the first line, and I imagined initially that it was said by an actor on stage. I envisaged a teenage girl, watching the play and not enjoying it. She was cynical and angry (aren’t a lot of teenagers?!) at the people laughing around her. I wondered why she was there, pondered her being on a bad date, or even being an escort. I added a leery older man beside her, his arm creeping around her shoulders… But the story didn’t go anywhere. It was too long to squash into 100 words and the short version just felt like a prurient snippet rather than a story.

I backed off, but kept the first line. It seemed like a corny joke, but what to do with it? I’ve done stories of Dad Jokes before, so I didn’t want to repeat that. When I hear bad jokes, I often feel like laughing even though they are terrible. And hence Miranda’s reaction was born. The bad date idea returned and I wrote the rest of the story right to the last line. But I wanted her to make a joke back to him, and the pedals line didn’t seem strong enough to end on. Jokes aren’t my forte and I couldn’t come up with anything better, so in the end I swapped the two jokes around, and I think it makes the story work better.

Curiosity Shop

The unhappy escort from the theatre was still in my head when I came to write my InMon story the next day. I liked the idea of someone going into a shop out of curiosity (rather than a shop full of curiosities) and the first few paragraphs came easily after that.

I wanted the girl’s name to tell us a lot about her, especially combined with her Mum’s outlook and behaviour. I hope I’ve made it clear enough that she’s from a rich family, but trying to make her own way in the world.

Having written most of the scene, though (up to the Dad with the credit card), I knew that Minty wasn’t a hooker, high- class or otherwise. But she was doing a job her Mum wouldn’t approve of, and working on the streets, so I wondered what else she could be doing? It came in a flash of inspiration (If the muse is on holiday, at least she’s sending postcards) and then all that was left was to craft the reveal.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Inspiration Monday, Writing

In Mon – Curiosity Shop

I think the muse might be on holiday (or strike – her pay and conditions are not, I suppose, generous) this week, because I’ve really struggled to get anything out of either the FF prompt yesterday or the InMon prompts today. Nevertheless, I think there is something useful in forcing yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it, or when the ideas don’t flow, so here I am, in front of the computer, pondering the prompts.

The “everything wrong” prompt could sort of have applied to yesterday’s story. I’ve gone for Curiosity Shop instead.

Outside Her Comfort Zone

She only went in to look. It was one of those shops where nothing had a price label and if you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it. She didn’t even like that kind of shop: white walls and only ten items on display and staff who made her feel like Julia Roberts without Richard Gere’s credit cards. She almost turned around again, but curiosity got the better of her and she found herself right in the middle of the shop, looking at a pair of black shoes covered in black sequins and standing on a bright white plinth.

They weren’t even her sort of shoes. She preferred a shorter heel; it was more comfortable and made her feel less trashy. Less like what her Mum would have called a “tramp”, or, at her most coarse, a “trollop”. Of course, Mum didn’t know what she did. Mum thought the money came from a nice steady office job; something she could discuss over lunch with Lady Oliver and Mrs Farthingshaw. Something to keep Minty occupied until the right chap came along and saved her the indecency of working at all. If Mum had seen her out on the streets, she’d have … but Mum didn’t come to this part of town.

The shoes, Minty reminded herself, as a gentle cough brought her attention back to the shop.

“Can I help you, Madam?” There it was, the slightly curled lip, the doubtful expression and even … Minty waited until she saw it … the flick of the eyes to the Security guard at the back of the store.

Pa had given her a credit card and encouraged her to treat herself occasionally. Minty could have bought the shoes, saved herself any embarrassment, and walked straight out of the shop with her head held high. But she didn’t even want them. She was just killing time, taking a break.

Minty looked around at the shop. A few pairs of shoes on pedestals, three handbags elegantly presented against the back wall, a single rail of glorious dresses. She didn’t want any of it. She was suddenly desperate to get out, back to the streets where she felt at home, back to the offensive refusals of the people she tried to stop, and the cheerful competition of her colleagues. It wasn’t classy, but there was something real and alive about working out in the rain, doing something you loved, and maybe making the tiniest difference to the world in the process.

Minty pulled her clipboard out from under her jacket.

“I hope so. Are you interested in children’s welfare?” she said to the assistant. The lady took a step back. She was off her stride now, and Minty was back into hers. “Only, we’re looking for people to sign up for a small regular donation to help reduce infant mortality in Africa.”


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fiction – Man, what are you doin here?

This week’s FF photo nearly made me quit. I just couldn’t get the story to work – I had a few “scenes” which I tried out but none of them was really a story or worthy of the group. What I ended up with still isn’t made favourite ever, but I’ve decided to post it so let me know what you think.

You can read other people’s responses to John Nixon’s photo by following the links on Rochelle’s page

Alternatively, just go here to enjoy what a clever writer can do with 300 words and a piano man.


Man, What Are You Doin’ Here?

“I’m worried he can’t reach the pedals from there,” said Darren, indicating a joke piano with two legs sticking out of it.

Miranda felt a giggle creep up from her stomach. The whole date had been a disaster, from the parking ticket on his car to the appalling service at the restaurant. But then, what was it they said about friendships formed in foxholes?

“That’s not funny,” she said, holding back the laughter.

“I know,” he smiled, “But at least you’re smiling now.”

Tears welled in her eyes as she fought back a guffaw. “He gets really into his music!”


Filed under Friday Fiction

What Day Is It?

If you’re wondering why there was no post yesterday, it’s because yesterday was a Sunday in our house. Having missed the previous Sunday traveling for work, hubby got yesterday off in lieu and we did a load of Sunday-type jobs. And today is clearly a Tuesday, which isn’t really a day to post on, so I shan’t (much).

I hope that’s all clear! 😉


Filed under Uncategorized