Monthly Archives: May 2014

Friday Fiction – Any Person, Any Study

What a surprise to find a photo I’d submitted as this week’s FF prompt. Thanks for choosing it, Rochelle. I’m late (for me) submitting today, but I’m looking forward to reading as many as I can of the stories submitted for this photo over the next few days.

In the meantime, here’s mine – on which your thoughts and comments are very welcome.


Any Person, Any Study

Past the mist and trees, past the archways, steps and bike racks, so small that it was completely invisible even though she knew where to look, Lizzie gazed at the house where she’d been born.

It was less than five miles’ walk down the hill, and less than five years since she’d lived there, but to Lizzie it was another world. Shouting and bruises were things she read about in books. Harry Potter was locked in a cupboard; Celie from The Color Purple was abused by her father.

Lizzie clutched the promise of another year’s funding tightly and turned away.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – The Wisdom of Horses

So, Friday Fictioneers got some publicity this week! I’m looking forward to seeing some shiny new faces among the posters … as well as the rugged old ones of course. My story is below the picture, and I LOVE constructive criticism, so please do be honest about what you like and don’t like.

Photo copyright belongs to Erin Leary, master of the good ship FF is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and other stories can be found through her site.


The Wisdom of Horses

I watched the two of them, nose-to-nose across the fence. Do they envy? I wondered. Does the bay wish for her neighbour’s grassier slopes; the chestnut ache for a foal of her own?

Do they both watch the trailers and suspect their kin of going to better places? When they hear “market” or “knackers”, do they imagine greener fields and juicier apples? When racing news drifts out of the pickup, do they dream of taller studs, or long themselves for rosettes and applause?

Or do they just stand, nose-to-nose, enjoying the fields and the sunshine, the grass and the company?


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Happy Victoria Day

The twenty-fourth of May 

Is the Queen’s birthday; 

If they don’t give us a holiday 

We’ll all run away!

Mum gone home, husband abroad, something resembling a smoker’s cough keeping me up all night … I’m not convinced today’s going to feel much like a holiday for Sebastian and me, but we’ll try not to run away. Perhaps, like, we’ll focus on the 40th Anniversary of the Rubik’s cube instead!


Filed under Uncategorized

Friday Fiction – Uphill Struggle

Friday Fiction is brought to us by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photograph comes from Sandra Crook.

My story today (which has *Moderate Language Warning*) is below and as usual I’d love to hear what you think. I’m thick-skinned, so if there’s something you don’t like (or even nothing you do), never be afraid to say so. Thanks for reading!





Uphill Struggle

Pushing through the fire escape, I felt like such a cliché. Face him, I told myself, Just say you’re not interested. But five disastrous dates this month, I’m done being polite. I’m done with dating. Can’t Mr Right just fall into my lap?

I texted Andy. Another one bites the dust. I know, Diary, you’re thinking: Will you just date Andy already? But you know I can’t. You know about Cyprus.

Soon I’ll be the only guy in London you haven’t rejected, the message came back. Then another: When that happens, I’ll propose 😉

Damn emoticons. Damn damn damn them.


Filed under Friday Fiction

The Trouble With Dreams

I had a dream last night in which someone told me I should start a writing prompt on my blog. Increase the flow of traffic, attract new readers, improve my something or other… just think of all the advantages! So much for reducing the number of times I post, though, so what to do – follow the orders of the great god of dreams, or press on as is?

Well, I’m not really into dream interpretation, but I understand that it’s never quite as straightforward as doing what you’re told, so I think I’ll just file this one in the No column. Along with circumnavigating a small patch of lawn to avoid the rival gang of mice hidden in the grass and finding messages written in between the layers of a piece of paper…



Filed under Uncategorized

Friday Fiction – Just Friends

I know I said on Monday I wouldn’t be posting FF every week, but this week isn’t one of them! I hope you enjoy the story that sprang from Barbara’s evocative photograph. As ever, others can be found through FF HQ.

My Mum’s arriving today, the third in a recent spate of family visits – all very much enjoyed. Family is unique and special, but as they say “Friends are the family you choose” and I’ve been thinking recently about some of the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way. Last night, I was reminiscing about an old friend I’ve sadly lost touch with – I must have another go at looking her up, surely that’s what social media is for. In happier news, my best friend and I are planning a trip for the autumn and I’m at least as excited about spending a week away with her as I am about the prospect of seeing polar bears (!) up close. And this year I’ve started writing more letters (yes, real, paper ones) to the friends who had dropped down to “Christmas cards and Facebook” … it feels good to make real contact, even from 3000 miles away.

Maybe somewhere among all that is where this story came from.


Just Friends

From the island where Jennie was born, everything seemed distant. Her father’s talk of stores and churches seemed as mystical as the aliens and magic in her books, and she often wanted to stop and ask him, “Are there unicorns on the mainland?” “Cows?” “Centaurs?”

When at last he let her board the boat, she devoured the sights, sounds and smells. Rounding a corner, she saw something truly incredible. Two girls, both about her age, leaning in over a magazine and giggling together.

“It must be nice to have a twin,” she said quietly.

“Sisters?” said one, “We’re just friends.”


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Mixing It Up

I’ve started regularly attending a weight training class at the gym. It’s good – I can feel myself getting stronger, and hopefully healthier. Plus I’ve put on weight and that’s muscle, not chocolate brownie, right? Anyway, this morning the class leader said something that flicked a switch in my mind. She reminded us that doing only one sort of exercise isn’t good for our bodies, and we should switch it up by joining another class as well.

Well, let me just be clear. I go to the gym when Sebastian’s schedule, the gym’s babysitting centre and my motivation all come together in beautiful harmony. So it’s no good telling me to add something else into the mix, lady, I’ll workout when I can and I’ll attend whatever class happens to be on then.

But what’s true for the physical muscles seems to me to be true for the writing muscles too. When I started Friday Fiction, I thought 100 words was a crazy limit for a story, but now I’m several years in, and it comes much more easily. It’s not longer an extreme writing workout.

Moreover, writing almost exclusively flash fiction for months at a time has weakened my other writing muscles. I recently showed a longer short story (1600 words!) to one of my writing groups and their response can be summarized as “well-written, but saggy in the middle”. It’s a fair comment; it does feel a little loose.

I go to the gym to avoid a saggy middle, so I think I need to mix up my writing’s workouts too. I’ll still be doing FF and InMon when I can, but I’m not going to let them be all I write, and sometimes that means I won’t be doing them for a while.

I hope you stick with me, but if I skip a day or a week, I wanted you to know it means I’m flexing a different writing muscle … and almost certainly feeling the burn!


Filed under Writing

This acrostic brain teaser (9)

A few weeks ago I introduced a series on Crosswords – how they work and how to solve them. This next post in the series explains the basic nature of cyptic crossword clues and deals with the most basic type of clue in the process. In future posts I’ll look at other types of clue, including ideas how to spot them and of course solve them!

The idea of a cryptic crossword is that each clue guides you to the answer in two different ways. Where those two paths meet, you’ll find the answer. There are occasional exceptions to this, most often marked by a ? or ! at the end of the clue, but we’ll look at those another time. For now, assume that each clue is made up of two parts. These two parts might not be equal in length, but think of them as two halves to the clue.

The simplest type of cryptic clue is two synonyms for the word placed side by side. For example if the clue is…

Shut nearby (5)

… the answer would be close since it means both shut and nearby. Note the clues pick up on two different meanings of the answer word in this instance, whereas in the title of this piece, both halves of the clue and the answer all have the same meaning.

Two-word clues are almost always this type of clue, but they can be longer and still fit this pattern. The trick is then to decide where the division falls between the two ‘halves’ of the clue.

What the bride wore to practise (5)

Here, the division comes before the word to, and the answer is train, meaning both something a bride might wear, and the verb to practise.

In a well-written clue, the two halves aren’t obviously separate and the clue looks like a sentence in its own right.

Line of argument (3)

for example, looks like a single simple clue meaning an element of an argument, but in fact the two halves are line and argument leading you to the answer row. The word of is technically extraneous, which will upset the purists, but happens occasionally.

Spotting synonym clues

The vast majority of clues will have at least one half that is a simple synonym, so spotting these clues is more a question of ruling out other types than of ruling in this type. However, shorter clues are the most likely candidates, so start with those if you are looking for this type of clue.


Leave a comment

Filed under Writing