27/12/2018

WHEN GOD WAS A BOY - a story in 100 words


WHEN  GOD  WAS  A  BOY

Peaceful’s ancestors were goatherds when God was a boy – his grandfather maintained it was goatherds who visited the stable when Jesus was born, but the gospellers called them shepherds because goats were too common.

Peaceful loved his work. It was usually undemanding – you walked, the goats ate everything in sight, you moved on. He much preferred the gentle clonking of their bells to the honking of car horns in town.

But today the graveyard needed cropping, the fence would contain the herd while he ate his mother’s Christmas dinner, and he’d got a decent wifi signal on his phone.


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I hope you all had a lovely Christmas / holiday / festive season, and are now back to what passes for normal in your world. I complicated my life by accepting a challenge to post a Flash Fiction Advent Calendar, which is in my archive for December if you care to look. There were times when the daily prompt in itself was an added challenge, but I kept going to the end!

Thanks as always to Rochelle, who even posted a prompt on Christmas Day! Do follow the Blue Frog trail from her blog  https://rochellewisoff.com/  to read other stories prompted by Randy Mazie's photograph.

25/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY 25


HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all my readers, friends and followers!
This is the last window of my Christmas calendar, and I'm missing Apollo 13 to write it. I was up early to fetch my mother for the day and there's not been a free moment since, but I am determined to finish the challenge. Today's was to write a story with myself in the centre, and I had to write a feel-good story on this day of all days., didn't I? I hope you like it, and will continue to read the stories I post on my blog each week. Also, when you buy my latest book WOLF PACK, or either of my other two novels, A VOLCANIC RACE and HELTER-SKELTER (which I wrote as Elizabeth Young) do please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It would make my year in 2019. 

NOT  AS  PLANNED

Christmas has never been the same since the kids left home – just Keith and me, a turkey crown, a bottle of red, and the Queen’s speech. We went to a hotel one year, but all that forced jollity was appalling so we didn’t repeat it.

This year was going to be more of the same until Fate took a hand – or rather, took my hand. I was coming out of the Co-op after buying a carton of cream to pour over our individual Christmas puddings, when a woman coming the other way let her dog lead wrap round my ankle and down I went. She was full of apologies and drove me to hospital, then home again with my wrist in plaster and, long story short, invited us both to Christmas dinner.

It was bliss - a house full of enticing smells, warmth and noise – and with my wrist in a plaster I couldn’t lift a finger to help  


24/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR DAY 24

The challenge today was to write a story without dialogue - a silent night of sorts - but I've been too busy to write anything new, so here's an adaptation of a seasonal story I wrote two years ago.


NOT ALL SANTAS

I still believed in Santa until he took off his red coat that time and hurt me. When the moonlight lit his face I saw he was my own Dad.
I was too young then to stop him, but this year I couldn’t face Christmas again so I packed my bag and headed for the motorway service station.

I almost didn’t get into Brad’s truck when I saw he was wearing a Santa hat, but I was more afraid of Dad catching me, so I chanced it and got in.

Then Brad stopped at this transport cafe and bought me dinner and I thought it was bound to be payment time soon, but he just sat there, showing me photos and talking about what he’s bought his kids.

Not all Santas are monsters after all.

23/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY 23


The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Los Rábanos) is an annual event taking place on the 23rd of December in the Market Square of Oaxaca, Mexico where artisans make and display beautiful scenes out of carved radishes.  Can we take some radishes of our own and shape them into something surprising?

Find some writing that you did for any purpose other than creative expression.
This could be a shopping list, job application, essay, half-finished letter, financial report etc
Have a read over it and use its words to craft a story. 

The above was today's challenge!
A while ago I translated some documents from Spanish for a friend. By adding the parts in italics I now present you with today's story.

LAND TRANSFER

Part the First. THE VENDORS are the owners of a plot of agricultural land – though we’ve never been able to grow anything worth selling - with an area of approximately 40 hectares – mostly too steep even for goats - who in their turn transfer ownership – with a heart-felt sigh of relief - to THE PURCHASERS -  for whom we thank God on our knees every night. The said land comes with the following neighbours:-
To the North               Alfonso
To the East                Maria
To the West               Jose
To the South              Manuel
and we wish you joy of them. For our part we will be happy never to clap eyes on any of them ever again.
Part the Second. THE VENDORS give for sale the perpetual transfer of ownership – that means they can’t change their minds - to THE PURCHASERS – for whom God be thanked - the ground described in the first clause - 'roughly described' might be more accurate!
Part the Third. This contract – drawn up by my nephew who charged an extortionate fee so he’d better have made it water-tight or there’ll be Hell to pay – to be completed by the payment of the sale price of the property – which these foreigners think is a bargain but is ten times what that robber our neighbour Alfonso offered.
Signed for the VENDORS: Rafael Costa
Signed for the PURCHASERS:  George Sansom
Right – now they’ve got the deeds and we’ve got the cash, the sooner we disappear the better.

22/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY 22

Today's challenge began with a sketch of a woman reading a book, with a child sitting beside her looking in another direction. That was enough to lead me into sketching out this story.


ON THE TOP DECK

It was years since Fiona had been on a bus, but Sophie wanted to go to Hamley’s so they’d taken the train to London. It was difficult finding the correct bus stop and then the wretched child had insisted on climbing to the top deck. Still, at least there were vacant seats up here.

Fiona took her phone from her bag and began checking her messages. They were mostly shared jokes and pictures of puppies in Santa hats, but she didn’t want to miss anything.
Sophie grabbed her arm. ‘Mum – look at the reindeer in that window!’
‘Careful!’ Fiona snapped, ‘You nearly made me drop my phone.’
Sophie turned back to the window, her lips trembling and her eyes moist.

Instantly Fiona was a child again, riding a bus with her own mother. Through the window she’d spotted a group of lambs leaping over a hay-bale, but her mother was too engrossed in her book to look. Fiona’s throat tightened now at the memory.
Slipping her phone into her bag, she put an arm round Sophie’s slender shoulders. ‘Let’s see how many Christmas trees we can spot before we reach Hamley’s.’

21/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY 21

Today I am using even fewer words than you are used to reading in my blog posts.
We were challenged to write three complete but connecting stories using SIX, EIGHTEEN and TWENTY-FIVE words respectively. So here goes - I suggest you take a breath between each story to get the full effect!


NOW
At his funeral Rani didn’t weep.
...................................................

TEN YEARS EARLIER
‘You must not shame the family.’
‘But he beats me.’
‘If you leave him I will kill you.’
......................................................

TEN YEARS BEFORE THAT
‘You will marry him.’
‘But he is old.’
‘He is rich – your children will want for nothing.’
‘If I refuse?’
‘Your father will beat you.’
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That's all folks!! - please don't go without leaving a comment.
And did I mention I have a new book out? Click on the WOLF PACK cover at the top of this blog to go to my Amazon page. Happy Christmas.

20/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY 20 - A Modern Christmas Story

The National Flash Fiction challenge was to write an emotional story without using cliches. After battling round Tesco's and trying to mend a broken drawer, I failed to come up with anything new, so instead I offer you another chance to read the Christmas story I wrote in 2016. 




IF IT HAPPENED NOW

“What’s up, babe? Your latte’s getting cold.”
“I’ve gone off coffee, Joe – get me an orange juice instead.”
Joe returned from the counter wearing a worried frown, “You’ve been moody all week and now you’ve gone off coffee – are you breaking up with me?”
Mary couldn’t meet his soft brown eyes. “You might want to dump me when I tell you – I’m having a baby.”
“I’m going to be a dad? That’s brilliant!”
“It’s not yours.” The words dropped like a stone between them.
Joe leaped up so violently that other customers stared. “Whose is it then? I thought you loved me.”
Mary shrugged helplessly. “I do love you, Joe, but I didn’t have a choice.”
“You mean someone forced you? I’ll bloody kill him!”
“It wasn’t like that." Mary looked up at Joe, willing him to believe her. "This angel turned up out of nowhere and told me God’s been watching me and decided I’m the right one to have His baby. The angel said this baby will save the world one day.”
“And you expect me to believe that?” Joe’s voice dripped scorn.
Mary shrank back in her seat, her hands protecting her belly, and a tear trickled down her cheek. “I’m having a hard time believing it myself, but I swear it’s the truth. I’m dreading telling Mum and Dad.”
Joe sat down slowly and wiped her tears away with his calloused carpenter’s thumbs. “I can’t deny it’s a hell of a shock, Mary,” he said gently. "It's the wildest story I've ever heard, but I believe you - somehow we’ll work it out.” He grinned suddenly. “I’ve always wanted to be a dad.”
And right there, in an ordinary coffee bar in an unremarkable town, Mary and Joseph were enveloped in a glow that the barista swore later resembled the wings of an angel.
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Please don't go without leaving a comment!

19/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR DAY 19 - ONLY WORN ONCE - a story in 100 words


Today I am combining my Advent Calendar with my weekly Friday Fctioneers' flash fiction.
The Advent challenge was to write a story, changing it as it progresses so that the ending is a surprise even to oneself. I suspect the lovely people who set these challenges have twisted minds!
SO - as the FF photo was first published five years ago, I have resurrected the story I wrote then, and changed it. Several times. I was thinking of making it a murder but it didn't turn out that way!

ONLY  WORN  ONCE

He removed the wrapping paper. "They're great - the right size, too," but he couldn't hide his disappointment. 
She smiled with relief - she couldn't afford the Berghaus boots he'd wanted. "You can wear them on holiday.”

As he expected, the boots rubbed, and halfway through their first hike he removed them, claiming his feet needed to breathe.
"Look at the view," she said.
"Never mind the view - I need a leak,” he said and vaulted over the wall. Not surprisingly, the hundred-foot drop killed him.
She coped well with the shock, finishing her holiday by the pool. 

When she arrived home she sold the boots on Ebay – ‘Only worn once’.
..........................................................................................
Thanks to Rochelle for hosting Friday Fictioneers on her blog  https://rochellewisoff.com/  and to Adam Ickes for the photo of the boots. Looking back through my archives, I think the original of my story may even have been my very first stab at FF.
As our next photo prompt isn't due until December 26th, I will take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas, and to remind you that a book makes a wonderful gift, to give to someone or to keep. My latest book WOLF PACK is now out on Amazon in print and ebook - you can find it by clicking on the book cover at the top of my page. WOLF PACK is the second in my Living Rock series, the first of which was A Volcanic Race.

18/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR DAY EIGHTEEN


The challenge for today is to write a story with a list, without any connecting phrases - just the bare list. It didn't inspire me with much enthusiasm, but in the end I wrote the kind of list one might make before a Christmas spent away. I hope you can visualize the family I imagined?

Things to Take to Gerry’s
Pink jumper M&S for Mum
Dad - flat cap / must be grey dogtooth check
Gerry - denim shirt / pref. Dark blue
Samantha – smellies / Body Shop?
Tiffany - goth make-up or skull necklace
Ollie – defo deodorant
Prosecco / Baileys / Mint chocs
Gaviscon / Paracetomol
Cigarettes / Hip flask of brandy / Phone!!!
 .................................................................................

17/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SEVENTEEN


Today's challenge breaks one of the Cardinal Rules of Writing - we were asked to write a story with LOTS of repetition in it. We were also invited to add a poetic slant but, what with shopping, cooking and gardening to do, the title of my piece will have to suffice. I am sure every parent out there will relate to this story. 

JINGLE BELLS

‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!’
Jingle Bells is not my favourite Christmas song at the best of times, but Jingle Bells at five in the morning is taking the piss. I yelled ‘Shut up!’ and the noise stopped – for about five minutes. I was just dropping off to sleep when I heard Jake start up singing Jingle Bells again, in what he fondly considers a whisper, so I gave up and went downstairs to make a cup of tea.

I’m a dreadful parent, I know. Jingle Bells is the song Jake is learning for the school concert, but I’ve listened to him sing Jingle Bells in the car on the school run for a fortnight, and teatime has been accompanied by the musical rendition of Jingle Bells. To be honest, Jake hasn’t got the tune of Jingle Bells quite right, and when he sings ‘Jingle bells’ at full volume, Mrs Smith from next door bangs on the wall.

The moment the concert is over I am going to ban Jingle Bells for the rest of the festive season, even if I have to throw Jake out into the snow – or at least send him round to his Nan, who I am sure would delight in hearing him sing Jingle Bells ad nauseam.

16/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SIXTEEN

'Write a story totally in negatives', we were told, so here is mine, written in a rush after a day with family. Can someone please tell me why I accepted this challenge with Christmas looming? :(


NEVER AGAIN

Never did I imagine our drive into the French countryside would end in disaster. We planned nothing more than to eat moules in a tree-shaded cafė, stock up with goodies and head home.

There was no daylight left as we zigzagged through burning tyres, dodging masked men brandishing weapons.
“They don’t stop cars - only lorries,” Dave said, just before a torch blinded him and the door was wrenched open.
Not a gendarme was in sight as our wine hit the road and two men squeezed into the boot.
“We are not afraid to use these guns,” they said, “Drive.”

If we don’t end up in prison I’m burning our passports.
***

15/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FIFTEEN


"Write a story in which you steal specialist vocabulary from a subject you know little about." 
That was the challenge, but I have written more of a dissertation than a story. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy (if that is the right word) reading it.

The Race for Power and Triumph of Waste

This is the final chapter heading in a book of Modern Inventions given as a school prize in 1916.
At first glance the book is laughable to my modern eyes – the drawings of aeroplanes made of balsa-wood, paper and rope, with their talk of impinging air and cyclic up current – chapters about wireless telephony referring to wave trains – it even mentions television and its selenium cells.
But reading further, the author writes of the human race steadily destroying the world’s reserves of coal, petroleum and wood. I quote – ‘The death of the earth and the sun must both come... but the human race of today is taking care that it shall cease millions of years before...having long ere this exhausted all that it has to live on.’
A hundred years after my father was given this book we still haven’t learned.

14/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FOURTEEN


TODAY'S CHALLENGE - Write a piece in which the setting is one of the main characters. Construct a story that couldn't be told in any other place.
After 24 hours on Nanny duty, I have adapted a story I wrote while living in Tenerife, where witnessing distressing scenes very similar to this one made a lasting impression on me. Rickety wooden boats would set out from Africa to cross the treacherous 100 miles of sea - one was discovered weeks later in America, having missed the Canary Islands altogether. All the occupants were dead.
The text with this photo says 'Cayuco containing 105 immigrants arrives in Tenerife 14/1/2007.' One hundred and five! Seeing the empty boat the next day prompted me to write this story.
CAYUCO
A fishing boat spotted the ninth cayuco of the year wallowing in the trough between massive full-moon waves, its occupants’ faces grey with sickness and terror.
Tourists took photographs as exhausted people clambered up stone steps to be met by policia and medicos on the harbour wall. There were gasps when another layer was revealed – second-class passengers under the feet of the first, their clothing soaked in brine and vomit.
Just one woman remained in the cayuco, searching desperately through the filth until she found, wedged beneath the lowest seat, a bundle that had stopped crying hours before.
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AND - in case you missed my previous post - my book WOLF PACK is now available on Amazon, just in time for Christmas! Wolf Pack is the second in my Living Rock series, the fist of which is A VOLCANIC RACE. When you've read them, please do consider writing a review - an author's lifeblood and incentive to continue. Here's the link for WOLF PACK -   https://www.amazon.com/dp/1790375088

13/12/2018

Advent Calendar Day Thirteen

Today's challenge for me is two-fold: firstly to give a character a weird name and write a story to match: secondly to post my story using my tablet because i am on Nanny duty and didn't bring my laptop with its keyboard. 
I have a valid excuse for my absent-mindedness. Today my third novel goes live on Amazon 😁 Look for Wolf Pack by Liz Young. It is the second in my Living Rock series, an adventure set in prehistory. 
Now for my story, written after putting my three-year-old granddaughter to bed. 

Give A Man A Name

It was the cruellest of throw-away remarks - "Look at you, all dressed up like a dog's dinner! " - and it stripped away Rob's thin veneer of self-confidence. He didn't get the job he'd spruced himself up for.
His fall into the gutter was swift - one hit and he was hooked. To his fellow squatters he was known as Chum - although until he knew you well you had to call him Pedigree.

IMAGINARY WORLDS - 100 word story for Friday Fictioneers


IMAGINARY WORLDS

Terry was so intent on writing that he didn’t notice the supervisor until the man tapped him on the shoulder. “What’s a giant turtle got to do with electricity, young man?”
“It’s all in the flipper movement, sir.” Terry regretted his flippancy the moment he’d spoken – he needed the job – but writing blurbs for the Central Electricity Generating Board was stultifying when a million ideas buzzed in his head like a shorting power cable.
“The office isn’t the place for your imaginary worlds, Pratchett.”
Perhaps, Terry thought, it was time he tried earning a living doing what he really enjoyed.
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Terry Pratchett was 23 when he wrote his first novel but worked in several jobs, including that of Press Officer to CEGB, before deciding to write full time. Sadly, he died in 2015 from early onset Alzheimers, but he left a wealth of inspired writing behind.
He is best known for his stories set in Discworld, which leads me nicely into mentioning my own imaginary world - a prehistoric version of Earth - the setting for my Living Rock series. Some of you will have read A VOLCANIC RACE, the first in the series, and now you can buy the next one, WOLF PACK, which is out on Amazon in print and ebook TODAY!!! Just in time for Christmas!!! This link should take you there:    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1790375088
    if not, just type the title and my name into Amazon Books.
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This is my first attempt at writing about a real person, but the prompt photo looked so like a handmade world that the story just appeared. Thanks to Rochelle https://rochellewisoff.com/ for hosting Friday Fictioneers and to Douglas M MacIlroy for the photo prompt.


12/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TWELVE

Today's Flash Fiction is two separate stories from my archives, linked with another. Apart from changing the names of couple one and three to match the new middle chapter, the stories remain as they were - only the middle one is new. If you've followed all that, read on...


D.I.Y. 
CHAPTER ONE
“It feels like we’ll never be finished.” Julie straightened up from chasing in an electric cable and gestured at the tasks still remaining. Mark murmured sympathy, but they both knew DIY was the only way they could afford their own home.
Spending every weekend working on the house left no time or energy for romance, but Julie was still hurt that Mark had forgotten their anniversary. Until she opened their new front door to the sight of a candlelit picnic table, and Mark ushered her to a packing-case seat.
 CHAPTER TWO
“Get your idle bum off that sofa and cut the grass!” Julie yelled.
Mark sighed theatrically, but he plugged the lawn-mower into the kitchen socket and started up the machine.
Julie was making tea when the fuse blew. Mark stormed through to the fuse box and flipped the trip-switch back on. “Where’s the toolbox? I ran over the cable.”
“Unplug the mower before you touch it.”
“No need - I know what I’m doing, woman.”
Julie stood motionless, counting to ten. When Mark screamed she waited several seconds before she pulled out the plug.
CHAPTER THREE
Mark was building a fence - to stop old Mrs Williams sticking her nose in their business - when Julie brought him a mug of tea.
He gulped a mouthful, spluttered, “Stupid bitch - no sugar!” and swung his fist, forgetting the hammer until it was too late. Acting quickly, he drove into the forest to bury her body deep, then went home and finished the fence. 
When Mrs Williams asked after Julie, he said she had run away, but the old lady suspected otherwise. 
So did the police. Two months later the mushroom spores he’d carried home on his boots put Mark in jail.






11/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY ELEVEN

National Flash Fiction asked us today to write in a genre we haven't tried, but everything on their list I have had a shot at, if only in flash fiction. But - this story is written in the first person throughout, and in the immediate present tense, which is not a method I use often as it's bloody very tricky!

THE SPEECH

“It gives me great pleasure to be here today …”
God! Whoever first uttered those words should be shot. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said them ...  But what am I thinking? I usually charge £250 - and that’s cheap by some standards. If they want a Duchess to open their stupid building or fȇte they have to pay.
“Sir Robert …”
Sir Robert indeed! I know for a fact that he bought his knighthood. He was plain Mister when his firm came to fix the roof all those years ago. There’s a whole acre of it, and we had to sell the paintings to pay for the work. I didn’t meet him then, naturally – Gerald always dealt with tradesmen – but I’ve never forgotten his name. The Long Gallery is horribly bare and the rain still comes in, but that’s not the reason I’m here.
Gerald should never have trusted him, of course, but would he listen? “It’s a sound investment, old girl,” he said, and as he’d always looked after the finances I couldn’t stop him sinking our savings into the man’s Spanish building scheme.
When the investment went sour, Gerald fell totally to pieces, but fortunately I was born with a practical streak. We moved into the old nursery wing – much easier to maintain after we had to let most of the staff go - and we opened the main house to the public. Oliver came down from Cambridge to manage the business side of things, Davinia runs the restaurant and I help out in the tea-rooms – visitors love being served tea and scones by a Duchess. The rest of us have adjusted quite well, but the shame of having to leave his Club tipped Gerald over the edge, poor darling. He spends his days pottering round the garden wearing old tweeds and the gardener lets him think he’s in charge. That is what I cannot forgive, and it’s all the fault of this ghastly little man.
When the agency called to ask if I would open Sir Robert’s latest project I couldn’t believe my luck – I was being handed a golden opportunity for revenge. The man obviously has no idea what Hell his shenanigans put us through – these criminal types never do – but that’s all to the good. If my plan succeeds no-one will even suspect we have any connection.
“Sir Robert has shown me around this excellent facility this afternoon.”
I had to admire every corner of the damn place, and pretend to be interested while technicians explained the machinery. The little creep kept pawing my arm as we walked round and he patted by bottom more than once. He quoted the prices of equipment as if he had paid for it himself, instead of lining his pockets. Careful, Marjorie – don’t give the game away now you’re this close - just get on and finish the speech.
“You must all be very proud of being involved with such a splendid establishment”
That should do it - look at them all, trying to appear proud and modest at the same time.
“And finally, it only remains for me to declare the Sir Robert Catnip Centre open.”
You’d have thought with his money he’d have changed his name before he got his knighthood, but it’s lucky he didn’t - I wouldn’t have known it was him otherwise. Now – all I’ve got to do is cut the ribbon and I’m on the home straight. There, done it – now for the difficult part.  
Take a deep breath, turn, smile, and offer him the scissors. He’s too far away - perfect. Now, step towards him, stumble on the edge of the red carpet. Fall forward with a lady-like shriek of dismay, and the job is done.
Those scissors are sharper than they look - they’ve gone right through his waistcoat. Oh no! I can feel a fit of hysterics coming on, but just one giggle would be fatal – I’ll have to scream instead. A lady is expected to scream at the sight of blood, and there is an awful lot of it.
Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? Steady on, old girl, this is definitely not the time to be quoting Lady Macbeth.
Just keep your head and everything will be all right – after all, a true blue-blooded Duchess should be able to get away with murder.
 ....................................................... Oh - and I don't write murder stories either 😃

10/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TEN

Today's theme is Human Rights. I hope my story speaks for itself on that subject.

PROMISED  LAND

Many in our village listened to the seductive whispers about the journey that promised peace, and after the mosque was bombed Father handed his savings to a stranger in exchange for hope. Our poorer neighbours wished us luck with their mouths while their eyes swept covetously over our home, marking what they would grab when we left.

Crammed into the truck with us were common tradesmen, and farmers still smelling of the soil. At first Mother sat among them rigid with distaste, but it’s hard to stay remote when a child vomits on your skirts. Besides, when we were too far from home to return, they robbed us of everything and we were all suddenly equal.

Time blurred. First my sister – the pretty one – disappeared. Then came the boat – Mahmoud fell overboard and Father drowned rescuing him. After we reached land again we walked, and when Grandmother fell they shot her – Mother hasn’t spoken a word since.

Now we are here, huddled in a freezing tent, queuing long hours in ankle-deep mud for food, and the promised land is still beyond our reach. Mahmoud says he is going to hide in a lorry tonight. He wants me to go too, but I can’t leave Mother and my remaining sister unprotected, so I will stay.

09/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY NINE

Today's challenge from National Flash Fiction is to choose a phrase, and then to write a story starting each line with the first word of that phrase.
As Sunday is a busy day I  haven't had time to write till now, so I worked this out in my head while driving Mum back home. No doubt you can work out which phrase I used :)


THE ICING ON THE CHRISTMAS CAKE

Once I’d decided to make my own cake it was quite easy. I just bunged everything in together, gave it a good stir, and baked it in a slow oven until the house smelled of Christmas.
In the meantime I got stuck into the brandy in which I’d soaked the fruit. After all, it’s only cooking brandy – not the stuff to serve to guests.
Royal icing was next on the list. It looked a bit wobbly but I stuck a snowman and a reindeer on the worst bits. I don’t expect my husband will notice..
David's a bit of a wine buff, or so he likes to think, and he bought the wine on his way home from the match. Fortunately he was in a good mood, and didn’t comment on the empty brandy bottle.
City aren’t the best team in the world, so the icing on that day’s cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, was that they won.

08/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY EIGHT

I am cheating slightly today by revamping an old story - I am heavily involved in our village Christmas Fair and haven't time to think, let alone write!
The challenge for Day 8 is to take a discarded bit of work and write it into a new story. My discarded phrase is in italics and comes from ROCK CHILD, my first attempt at a novel, written about 15 years ago. I have since rewritten it entirely to create my LIVING ROCK series.
Some of you will have read A VOLCANIC RACE, the first in the series, and I hope will buy WOLF PACK, its sequel, due out any day now. So now I've got the sales talk out of the way, here's my story.


BAD OMEN

“Matt – I saw a raven this morning – a bad omen.”
“I was fortunate to get a place on the King’s ship, and God knows we need the money. Now hand me my knife, Jenny – ‘tis honed enough.”

Matt stepped into the tender and was rowed to the ship, scrambled up the net and hurried to his post beside the gun. He was still a strong man despite his age and could lift the heavy cannonballs with ease. At the sound of a band striking up he looked through the gun-port to gawp at the King arriving, but as the sails unfurled with a snap he returned to his work.

Outside the harbour a violent gust shook them. Matt balanced with practised ease for the return lurch but the ship heeled further, cannon-balls rolled, guns careered across the deck, and in seconds the sea had flooded in. Unbelievably, within sight of land, they were sinking!

Matt snatched a breath and swam for the gun-port, but his legs caught in a tangle of ropes. He fumbled for his knife and slashed frantically, blessing Jenny’s honing skills, and burst free to swim to the surface. Far too few followed him.

Through the clear water beneath his legs he watched the ship sink, the crew trapped by the anti-boarding nets. A watery sunbeam flashed on gold paint – MARY ROSE.


07/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SEVEN

Today's challenge from National Flash Fiction is to write a complete story in 50 words or less. It's not easy to get a beginning, middle and end into so few words, but I've done it. Do please leave a comment to let me know I'm not talking to myself!


MAGIC

At the sound of raised voices Tree Fairy sighed. “They’re fighting again.”
“They’ve forgotten the Christmas light,” said Tin Soldier. “Keep watch while I fix it.”
When he lit the candle, spicy scent filled the room and the angry voices stilled.
Tree Fairy blew Tin Soldier a kiss and he blushed.

06/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SIX


Today's challenge is to write a story in the present tense from two points of view.

BELLA

I was christened Bella, but everyone calls me Bell. This was fine until I started secondary school – now, every time the bell rings to change classes, this horrible boy Ryan shouts, “Bell – they’re playing your tune!”

That Italian girl Bell just kicked me! She rises to the bait every time and the other kids think it’s funny, but she’s got no sense of humour.

He shouts it again today - “Bell – it’s for you-oo!” and everyone laughs. I loathe the very sight of him, and it feels like I’ll never be free of him. Until now, when I’m sitting in biology and I see this wall poster – I’m sure I’ve seen that plant somewhere.

Funny – Bell isn’t glaring at me like she usually does. She’s pretending to ignore me, staring at a stupid poster on the wall. I’ll catch her at the Home bell – that’s always the loudest.

The fence around the bomb-site is a doddle to get through, and I find the plant straight off. I pick some berries – carefully - and wrap them in a tissue before putting them in my pocket. Ryan won’t know what’s hit him till it’s too late - school dinners are definitely bad enough to disguise the taste of belladonna.

TIMETABLE - 100 words for Friday Fictioneers


TIMETABLE

The island’s steep lava flows sprawled into the Atlantic like giant starfish arms, each inlet battered by waves that had gained strength across a thousand miles of ocean.

Manuel had grown up here, knew it intimately, and he had a foolproof plan. Rob the village store just as it was closing, then escape along the railway line and hide in the tunnel as he had when he was a boy. The police, having to use the winding road, couldn’t catch him.

Unfortunately, in the years he’d been away, the train timetable had changed. Jumping to the side wasn’t an option.
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 This week's photograph, thanks to Dawn M Miller and https://rochellewisoff.com/ , reminded me of La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. It doesn't have a railway, but the road around the island is cut through each starfish arm and skirts precipitous drops to the valleys. That's the mostly yellow one on this map!

I have taken on another challenge this month - one from National Flash Fiction, to produce an Advent Calendar of flash fiction using a different prompt each day. Feel free to scroll through my archives and read them.


05/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FIVE

Today's challenge is to write a piece of dialogue in 5-12 time - ie: five words to one speech, twelve to the next, with no speech tags. Hope you like it.

DUMPED

“What’s up? You look stressed.”
“Where do I start? Have you got any wine in the fridge?”
“Only Prosecco. Will that do?”
“Perfect. Simon’s dumped me for that tarty girl from the coffee shop.”
“We knew she spelled trouble.”
“She was after him from Day One – he didn’t stand a chance.”
“You’re not sorry for him?”
“Nah! I’ve got my eye on that gym instructor. This Prosecco’s good.”

“I’ll open another bottle. Cheers!”


04/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FOUR

Here I go with Day Four of my Advent Calendar, and today's prompt from National Flash Fiction asked for a story based on a recipe, with instructions to detail the whole recipe. As I love cooking, this was easy to write. Let me know how your scones turn out!


MAGALY’S SCONES

Life has become much more lively since Magaly arrived.
Invitations to tea in her bungalow are so eagerly sought after that it is rumoured she’s had to keep a rota. Anyone who upsets the rhythm of our retirement village finds their name dropped from her list. Last month Barry Evans allowed his dog to foul the footpath and didn’t clear it up – he’ll be lucky if he gets another invitation this year.

Magaly is an excellent cook and has mastered many of our English favourites along with her own, but her cheese and herb scones are exceptionally good. She is happy to share the recipe – best butter rubbed into wholewheat flour, baking powder to make them rise, and a fist-sized lump of Cheddar grated into the mix along with a handful of herbs. It’s the same way I make them, but there’s a subtle difference.

I stayed behind last week to help her wash up, and there was a packet on the table bearing Columbian stamps. I sniffed it when she wasn’t looking.
Now I know why her scones make her tea parties go with such a swing.

03/12/2018

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY THREE

Today's prompt from National Flash Fiction is about mirror images - to write about a two characters, one like myself and one my opposite. As I am old and methodical, my opposite number is young and disorganised!


THE  BENCH

It’s not actually my bench, but I’m here every day, rain or shine. Henry would miss me if I didn’t come, and I’d miss our little chats. If I talk to him anywhere else they’ll put me in a nursing home, and I’m not going – can’t bear the smell of those places.

So it was shock to find a young man sprawled out on it – sunbathing, no less – and I was a bit sharp with him. I was sorry then because he looked about to run off, so I patted the bench beside me and offered him a biscuit.

Unemployed, of course, but he’d been trying. Trouble was, he hadn’t gone about it systematically. Sitting there, we drew up a plan. He’s promised to come back next week and report progress.

I told Henry all about him – he’s a good listener. Nor surprising really – he can’t say much from six feet under.



ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TWO

Today's challenge was to write about my writing routine. Hah! My life is too complicated to have one, so I reverted to yesterday's prompt and chose a poem by Edward Thomas.


NONE SO MUCH AS YOU 

The world is a dark, echoing place when you’re on your own. Each wind that comes blows through the voids in your life, searching out every weakness, chilling each midnight fear.

All it needs is for one person to notice you – one kindred spirit to touch your soul – and the light returns, warmth blankets you against the cold, and fear subsides.

I am still hoping for that moment of recognition. I glimpsed it once but I let it slip through my fingers. Never since then has anyone come close – none so much as you.

ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY ONE


Advent Calendar - National Flash Fiction issued a challenge for December. That for December 1st is to use the FIRST words of a book or poem as the LAST words of a piece of flash fiction. I chose a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

THE POTTER and THE SLAVE

The slave-master yanked the rope that bound Yani and shouted, “Who will bid a hundred for this lovely young virgin?”
“She’s ugly,” a wit called out, “And she won’t be a virgin after a night in your cells.” The crowd guffawed and the slave-master squeezed Yani’s arm. “At least she’s strong, and as it’s a feast day I’ll let her go for eighty.”
“I’ll take her,” a man said and the hammer fell.

Petrus was old and his home in Stabiae was humble – an open-fronted pottery with one room above – but a fig-tree shaded the well in the yard and the kitchen was cool. Also, Petrus was gentle, in bed he was grateful, and when Yani gave birth to a son, he freed her.

Marcus was a month old when Petrus announced, “I am going to sell pots in Surrentum.”
A warm breeze wafted from the north but Yani shivered. “I will come with you.”
Petrus stared as she packed their belongings into the cart – he had heard childbirth made women strange. “Shall I bring my wheel?” he joked.
Yani glanced at the mountain and clutched Marcus. “You can buy another – now hurry!”

They were ten miles away when Vesuvius erupted – a still volcano life that flickered in the night.