Monthly Archives: December 2013

Almost 2014…

By this time next week, we’ll all be knee-deep in January. Will you have made any resolutions? My main resolution is just to keep going; 2013 has been a challenging one and I don’t suppose things are suddenly going to slack off.

A Progress Report

Last year, I proposed more writing, editing and submitting for 2013. As Meatloaf would say, two out of three ain’t bad. I’ve written FF most weeks and InMon almost ever other week, as well as an almost-finished first draft for NaNoWriMo and a few other bits here and there. Editing TPF isn’t quite finished, but I’ve made fantastic progress and am keen to get that done and out to beta-readers. There wasn’t much submitting, but the advent of my first ever (part of a) digital publication has made me feel less bad about that.

I also proposed millionaire-dom. That was 0 for 0, I’m afraid, but there’s always next year…

The Plan

A failure to plan is a plan to fail, right? I may not have hit every mark this year, but it’s nice to have some marks to aim for – Stretching Goals, I heard some motivational speaker call them. So here’s my Stretch Goals for 2014. (Presumably this motivational speaker wasn’t friends with the SMART goals brigade.)

Writing: continue FF and InMon, although possibly drop down to one or the other each week to increase time available for other projects. Finish NaNoNovel. Write more varied lengths, in particular fleshing out some of the flash fiction pieces I’ve posted here before. I’m going to pull back on the non-fiction posts, again to make more time for other things, but if I have something to say, it’ll be here on Mondays or Thursdays when there’s no InMon.

Editing: Last read-through of TPF then find some beta-readers. Evaluate and incorporate their responses. Also, obviously, ongoing editing of smaller works throughout the year

Submitting: I’d like to get back into the habit of submitting. And to start hawking TPF around agents / publishers.


It’s said that the more widely you commit to a goal, the more motivated you’ll be to achieving it. So share your goals here, or link to your posts about goal-setting. Have a great 2014 and see you on the blogosphere.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Friday Fictioneers – Acceptance

In haste this morning as there are still mince pies to eat and presents to open, but I couldn’t bring myself to miss a FF prompt! This week, Rochelle has presented us with the photo below, taken by Doug MacIlroy. I’d welcome your comments on my story. And if you’re got extra reading time and missed either of last week’s stories, I would love for you to nip back – they are two of the pieces I’m most proud of from this year.

Have a great Boxing Day!



The boy Frederich arrived in Saint-Etienne with the Volkssturm; a girl called Aimee made the man return. But a happy marriage and five popular children hadn’t won over his neighbours. Women spat as he passed, the men turned away or shouted obscenities.

“Doesn’t it upset you?” I asked him once.

“Why?” The slightest accent tinged his perfect French. “I did bad things in this village and a hundred others. My father taught me to resist abuses of power, and yet I conscripted to save my skin. This is the living death I chose the first time I raised my gun.”

* * *

For more about Frederich’s dilemma, click here.

For more about his father, and a hint about how this connects to the photo, click here.

And apologies for the lack of accents on Etienne and Aimee – I can’t work out how to make wordpress display them.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Merry Christmas!

Whether you’re attending a church, opening gifts, or just having a Wednesday (albeit probably slightly quieter than usual), I hope you have a happy and peaceful Christmas. Thanks for reading Elmowrites and I look forward to sharing more news, grammar and stories with you soon.


Filed under Uncategorized

Inspiration Monday – A History In Scars

It’s so exciting to be writing again. I’m sure I should be doing a thousand other things, but it’s so nice to be writing. And to have such great prompts to write to – this one is from Bekindwrite’s Inspiration Monday series. After yesterday’s darkness, there’s a patch of light in today’s story. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

And while I’ve got your attention, here’s wishing you a fantastic Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not!

A History In Scars

Gerry traced a finger across Ellen’s stomach. Blue lines like tiger stripes coursed down her flesh, but it was the horizontal white one that caught his attention. The tiger stripes were slightly softer than the skin around them; this one was the opposite – a firmer ridge under his finger. He tried not to dwell on it.

He could stretch his hand out and cover the entire thing. That’s how small a newborn is. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. He loved kids; he’d love to raise some of his own with Ellen. And he had long since accepted that dating at his time of life often involved ready-made families, but in almost six months together Ellen had never made any mention of having a child. She lived with her parents and little sister, Hope: a five year old late-arrival into the family on whom Ellen and her parents doted.

Ellen shifted under his touch. “Go on,” she whispered. “Ask.”

Ellen remembered that day in a haze of sadness and pain. She’d gone for a routine scan, but the doctor said her baby’s heart was slow and they needed to get it out. She’d been in surgery less than an hour later, her mother holding her hand, her father pacing outside.

“It’s just like when you were born,” her mother had said softly, a smile on her lips but tears in her eyes. It was, of course, nothing like when Ellen was born. It should be the baby’s father pacing outside, not the mother’s.

Ellen turned her head to face Gerry. “I know you want to.”

“It’s OK,” he replied, looking away from her face. A second white line appeared there. Not like the clean incision he’d been touching; this one was jagged and angry. It slashed up her cheek, over her eye and stopped in the middle of her forehead. He knew this scar well – he had seen it every time they met and he’d heard the story of the man who put it there. Gerry was delighted when Ellen had finally agreed to spending the night together. She had every reason never to trust a man again.

Last night, over dinner, he’d been amazed at how much her family saw past the scar, even Hope, who couldn’t have ever known Ellen without it. They all saw the beautiful woman behind it. That was the Ellen he saw too, the one he had fallen in love with. Unlike his ex-wife, who was flawless on the outside, Ellen kept her perfection hidden away.

“I want to tell you,” she said. “It was him. My ex. He gave me two things to remember him by – two scars.”

“What happened to the baby?” Gerry asked softly. “Did you have it adopted?”

“I was going to, but when they took her out, she wasn’t breathing.”

Gerry let out his breath slowly. “Perhaps it was for the best,” he said. He couldn’t imagine how Ellen would have felt raising the baby of an abusive partner.

“She fought so hard to be with us, I couldn’t let her down after that.”

Gerry felt the breath catch in his throat again, but he waited. Ellen would tell him when she was ready.

“Hope.” Ellen whispered. “When she’s old enough to understand, I’ll tell her. Perhaps she will want to stay with me.”

“With us,” said Gerry, pulling Ellen towards him. “If you’ll both have me.”


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fictioneers – Dreams

Next week being Christmas, I might be skipping FF to celebrate. Sebastian, bless him, found a present this morning and opened it, so he’s obviously ready! I’m close… just one more thing to buy, I think. Whatever you’re doing, even if it’s not celebrating ancient rites or a Christian festival, I hope you have a great couple of weeks and a happy day on the 25th.

As usual, the Friday Fictioneers are hosted by Rochelle and many other responses to the prompt can be found through her master page over the next few days. Our picture comes from Jean L. Hays, who holds the copyright. [I’ll link her site later if I find it, please feel free to send me a link if you have it].  I hope you like my offering; I welcome your critique and comments.



She dreamed of backyard swimming, of friends splashing in the pool. When the dreams grew tired from overuse, she added dolphins. In desperation, she imagined a lazy river and waving to her mother who wore a pretty dress and a wide-brimmed hat.

The hat was necessary, to hide the face she could no longer properly recall. The swishing water drowned out the voice she couldn’t bring to mind. The garden, she knew, no longer looked anything like the one where she had played. Before she agreed to help Him look for his dog. Before the room. Before the nightmare began.


Click here if you don’t think it can happen



Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Statistics and Responsibilities

Hollywood (and its TV equivalents) are often condemned for failing to provide opportunities for members of minority groups. These days, racial and gender minorities are starting to make headway, but the disabled community is still far behind. Sebastian’s and my current crime-drama-of-choice is Lie To Me. In the third season, Shoshannah Stern – an actress who was born deaf – plays a deaf character. She’s a minor character, but it’s reminded me that while the industry isn’t innocent, some of the fault lies with the writers.

How many disabled characters do you find written into the great novels of our time? How many deaf or blind or wheelchair-bound heroes and heroines can you name? For me the answer is not many, and they don’t appear much in my own writing either.

Is this because of some subconscious prejudice? Or because I don’t know many disabled people to bring these characters to the forefront of my mind? Possibly, but I think there is also an element of fear (or, if you prefer, laziness – I’m not good at researching before I write). Last week I mentioned the challenges of writing a character of a different gender, but gender lines are blurry and for the most part the gender of a character has very little effect on their everyday life. A severe disability affects everything. I’m not talking about pity here, I’m talking about practicalities. I have no idea how (as in literally, not emotionally) disabled people do many of the things they not only do, but take for granted. And until I learn that, I don’t think I could write a disabled character with integrity.

But if most writers feel that way, and most writers are able-bodied, we can’t blame Hollywood for not offering decent roles – we’re not offering them to Hollywood either.


Filed under Writing

Friday Fictioneers – My News

I hope I’m not the only one who had to write their news as a child, every Monday morning, a hundred words or so about what you did at the weekend. Maybe it’s the equivalent of Show and Tell, which we very rarely did. I sometimes wonder how much counseling primary school teachers need, and how many of the stories get passed around the staffroom – “George says his Mum took him shopping to Ann Summers!” or “Jane says her Mum was away and her Dad had Auntie Mary to stay!”

I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday Fiction story. We are hosted, as ever, by the incomparable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and this weeks picture comes from Adam Ickes. In other news, the compilation of FF-type stories I’m in is now available in Paperback ($4.49 / £3.09) as well as digital versions (98c / 77p). If you’re in the US or UK, click on the price to be taken to the relevant page. Otherwise, search the books section of your local amazon for “1 x 50 x 100” to get yourself a copy!


My News

On Saturday, we went to the farm. I saw horses and cows and sheeps and trees. Theres a man at the farm called a farmer and he sed that cows is where milk was from. But I know bottles is where milk is from and machines and the man sed yes, now-a-days milk is from machines.

Daddy says in the old days there was real animals and trees and you could climb on the tractor. But Mummy says I would of got my new boots muddy on an olden days farm. I think we are better with the picture one.



Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Write Like A Man!

When a female writer writes a male lead, there’s always a question: “How do you get into a man’s head?” (and vice versa, I’m just going to stick this way round to save a lot of s/he-ing!)

It’s interesting, because the same debate doesn’t appear to come up to the same degree with “How do you get into a Elf’s head?”, “How do you get into a murderer’s head?” etc. Even within the same sex, different genders don’t seem to cause as much of a problem – straight women writing lesbian characters, for example.

I suspect part of the problem is one of audience-accuracy. I find it fascinating, for example, that if I write a character I think seems “Canadian”, carefully using their words and syntax and customs, locals will pick up a lot of problems with it, and if the tables are turned, I rip their British characters to shreds in the same way. Similarly, I suspect a man reading a male character written by a woman, will pick up on things “no man would say”, whereas there are unlikely to be many elves or murderers reading those novels.

Nevertheless, it seems to me an incomplete answer. Lesbians definitely read books, so do murderers and cops and adulterers and all the other characters who get written about by people without first-hand experience. As a writer, I would definitely want a few guys to read my male-centric novels before sending them to publishers, and if I ever write from the POV of a lesbian, cop, etc, I would look for a proof-reader with that sort of expertise too.

But is there also an element of stereotyping? Do we feel more comfortable saying men act / think / feel a certain way than we do with other classes of character?


Filed under Writing

Inspiration Monday – Second Bookmark

Finally, back to InMon and what fantastic prompts this week. One of them, second bookmark, reminded me of this picture that’s been doing the rounds on facebook etc recently. In addition, I’ve talked to a lot fo my fellow writers recently about editing and it seems the highs and lows of pride and doubt are fairly universal. And so my story below was born. I’d love to hear what you think, if you ‘get’ it and if you like it.

***WARNING: Mild offensive language***

Second bookmark

Warren picked up the pad of sticky notes and peeled one off. The only other one he’d used so far flashed at him from the second page of the print-out. He knew exactly what it highlighted: a piece of epic description about Briggs’ descent from low self-esteem into madness. He was no longer certain it was any good, but he’d thought it was at the time, back when he was expecting to need pads and pads of sticky notes.

45 pages further in, it was still the only flag on the manuscript.

He stopped, the single sticky note held in mid-air, somewhere between the pad it came from and the wedge of paper he was going to stick it to. His mind flashed back to the image on Facebook where he’d got the idea: George R R Martin’s Fire and Ice series, with every death labeled by a luminous sticky note. He’d liked the look of it. But his manuscript looked nothing like that picture. And Warren wasn’t flagging deaths. He was flagging passages of excellence. Places he didn’t feel needed radical editing. Parts he was really proud of.

“Parts,” he muttered with a low chuckle. “The part.” The only part so far that hadn’t made him want to throw the entire thing out of the window and sit with his head in his hands rocking and crying and wondering why he’d wasted all those hours on writing this steaming pile of crap.

But now there was a second brilliant passage. He read it through again. This was where his hero, Castor, and his villain, Briggs, came face to face for the first time. It was the scene that had made him want to write the novel in the first place. It was a denouement of sorts. It was the part when he’d really felt as he wrote it, like he inhabited the characters. Briggs especially, who was only the villain at this stage and would later turn out to be the one in the right.

He held his breath as Castor opened the door and saw the whole of New York City set out below him; as Castor searched the penthouse apartment for the man he’d thought was dead; as Briggs – hiding in the shadows of the perfectly-appointed kitchen, his hand resting on the knife block – watched his old friend and sometime rival complete a circuit of the main open plan living / dining room…

The sticky note gradually descended as Warren lowered his arm. It was all too melodramatic. And that New York penthouse was such a cliché. At least he could have chosen a more interesting setting: a city no-one ever used, or a different path for Briggs’ life that hadn’t left him a millionaire.

He put the note back on the pad. It didn’t stick properly and the slight angle it made to the rest annoyed him. He’d drunk so much coffee while writing that now he was on a detox, but the lack of caffeine made him tired and irritable and he could smell it wafting through the apartment. Warren prowled into the kitchen.

“How’s the editing?” asked his wife, her fingers wrapped around a mug. Warren’s eyes flashed to the knife block, then back to her.


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fiction – Testing Spelling

Maybe it’s the grammarian in me, but one thing jumped out of this week’s FF prompt, copyright to and courtesy of Randy Mazie. And it gave me a chance to reprise three of my recurring characters. If you like them, check out their previous exploits here, here and here. However, this story is designed to stand entirely alone. I welcome your honest feedback.


Testing Spelling

“Next one: Trespassing.”

Matty chewed his lip. “T…R…E…S…S?”

“No!” Luke shouted through the wall. “One S, then two!”

“Shut up, Shrimp!”

“Boys,” I warned.

“I’m helping,” Luke said from the doorway.

“You’re not. I can do it.” Matty is sharp as a tack, but he’s not as academic as his little brother. It drives him nuts.

“Luke, back to bed.”

“Think of trees, passing,” Luke whispered. “Then take out the extra e.”

Matty glared at the door as I pushed it closed. “T…R…E,” A longer pause for the e, “S…P…A…SS…ING!”

The muffled sound of proud applause came through the door.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing