Friday Flash Fiction – The Writer’s Tale

 

‘How hard can it be to write a novel?’ thought Joe as he walked through the town towards the Job Centre. Redundancy could be the best thing that ever happened to him; a golden opportunity for a new career as a writer. Passing the library he stopped to look at a notice in the window WRITING CLASS. He went in to enquire for details, couldn’t remember the last time he had been in the library; the sight of all those books intensified his desire to write one himself. He gave his details to the librarian.

‘It’s your lucky day,’ she said ‘the class meets in ten minutes, you could attend to see if it’s what you are looking for.’

The morning flew by, Joe listened to the other people in the group and thought If you can write, so can I. When they did an exercise the words flew out of him. He signed on.

At lunchtime he sat down in the coffee shop to make a shopping list, then strode down the road to WH Smith. Much later he emerged laden with purchases; writing books and magazines, note pads, pens, pencils, Microsoft Word, six Three for the Price of Two modern paperback novels, a large piece of board and a packet of felt pens.

 

Arriving home he staggered through the front door.

‘How did you get on at the Job Centre dear?’ called his wife.

He faltered and nearly dropped his shopping. ‘Fine dear, I’m just going on the internet to look up some job websites.’

He closed the door of the spare room.

An hour later his wife called out ‘Dinner’s ready.’

With no response she stumped upstairs and pushed the door open. On the wall was a large board with strange plans in bright colours. Joe sat at the desk in front of the computer, open notepad by his side. On the screen were written two words Chapter One; absorbed he hadn’t noticed her come in. She looked more closely at the board; at the top was written Dove Street, below were drawn two rows of squares filled with names, she peered at them puzzled. ‘Mary and John White, Mr and Mrs Khan and their three children, young Polish workers, old Mrs Green…’

‘Joe, what are you doing?’ she exclaimed, startling him.

‘I’m going to write a novel,’ he exclaimed proudly ‘in fact I may well do a series, there are so many interesting people who live in Dove Street, the possibilities are endless.’

 

 

 

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“Trash Girl” defies bullies for her environmental actions and is honoured in a superhero cartoon

Not many people get to be a cartoon superhero, but Nadia Sparks is real and my environmental heroine of the week.

Life & Soul Magazine

A 12-year-old school girl, who has been picking up trash along the two-mile route to and from school and collecting it in the basket of her bike, is defying the bullies that have named her “Trash Girl” and is now encouraging the world to pick up litter.

Nadia Sparkes from Norwich, began the litter-picking mission last year. She took to cleaning up litter after being shocked by the number of discarded cans and bottles she saw as she cycled to and from school in Hellesdon.

In spite of children throwing things at Nadia Sparkes and calling her “trash girl”, she has not backed down in her efforts to help protect and preserve the planet, and has even embraced the name, Trash Girl.

Nadia Sparkes said: “I’m not going to stop doing the right thing because of them, and if they are going to call me trash girl, they can say it with respect.

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No Time Like The Present

There’s no time like the present, especially for authors. How long does the present last; a year, a week, a day, a second?

My first novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ was set in the present, that was where I intended it to remain. I did not want to name a year; the characters lived in London and the 2005 bombings were still quite recent when I started writing, I did not want their story overshadowed by such a major event.

But first novels, especially long ones, take a while to write, to be read by others and edited. The present was fast becoming the past. World events were turning out differently to what most of us could ever have imagined and technology was racing ahead. My characters had mobile phones that took photos, they Skyped and went on Facebook, a few of them had SatNav. But they did not have smart phones, tablets, ipads, Kindles etc. and the last thing I wanted them to be able to do was Google their location or look up information on the internet with their smart phone; that would have wrecked the plot. More of the Twenty First Century passed by while I went down the traditional route of looking for agents. In the meantime I had written my second novel, Quarter Acre Block, a shorter straight forward family drama set firmly in 1964 and 1965. It became the first novel I published on Amazon Kindle.

I decided to stick to self publishing, Brief Encounters became a trilogy and I describe all three novels as being set in the early years of the Twenty First Century. As far as my characters are aware, they are living in the present and in a new century.

My work in progress was initially inspired by a local event during the Valentine night storm of 2014 and the novel should come to an end within 2014. All the places the wandering hero finds himself are real. But real places can present problems if your story takes place in the present; pity the author whose character goes shopping or works in BHS, no sooner is it published than the shops close down.

If you avoid ‘the present’ and set a year you still have to be on the alert. London and other cities have many familiar and iconic landmarks, but well known scenes can change dramatically. If you set your novel in a particular year, don’t have your hero enjoying the view from the top of The Shard before it has even been built, or the heroine after years away abroad, tearfully spotting the iconic cooling towers on the horizon that mean she is near home – the cooling towers that were demolished two years previously.

But there is no need to rely on your memory; what did authors do before the internet? Rush down to the library to search through old newspapers. Whether you are writing an historical novel or a millennial saga you can look up when Queen Victoria visited your local town, or what the weather was like in Portsmouth when your hero set sail for his solo trip round the world.

As for getting the future right, you will just have to wait and see; not many writers from the past got it completely right or completely wrong.

 

Weather and Loungers

Weather and Loungers      by an anonymous guest blogger.

February is a dreary month in the Northern Hemisphere and many of us may listen with envy as retired friends and relatives set off on a cruise to the Caribbean, or working friends, who had the foresight to book a week’s holiday in winter, grab a bargain break on an island; anywhere from Cuba to The Canaries.

One rainy day I spotted an email from a relative that was much longer than the usual brief holiday update. I printed it out to enjoy reading properly and messaged back that he should join the blogging world. He suggested I edit it as a guest anonymous blog.

********

I lay on a sun lounger getting sun burn and wind burn at the same time. I remember saying before we came ‘I don’t mind if it’s not that hot, as long as it’s not too windy.’

Earlier this week we hired a car and drove round the entire island. One of our stops was at what I assume was the highest point; it had a visitor centre with lots of interesting facts to read.

As I move through the exhibition, learning about European colonialism, I’m also learning a lot about the geology and geography of the island. By the end of the exhibit my annoyance and unwarranted resentment starts to build from the facts that are becoming ever clearer.

Feurteventura has the lowest overall land height out of all the Canary Islands, this leads to clouds not being forced up as the blow in from the sea. Apparently this means there is less than average rainfall, although that did not stop it pouring down for two days when we arrived.

Right, sit down if you are not already seated. This thing with clouds and not having high mountains also means it is by far the windiest place for a hundred miles. It regularly gusts 70mph and explains a lot of those jaunty looking palm trees. In summary, this is what I have learned.

A: Do your research.

B: Despite what anyone tells you, unlimited beer will not make you cheerful. You have to be cheerful to start with.

C: You can’t blame anyone for the weather, though I bet someone on Trip Advisor will try.

Now to the title – Weather and Loungers.

I’m sitting here with the musings of Tom Wrigglesworth in my ear.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04pbwf3/clips

Occasionally I have a break to read my book. There must be 500 sun loungers round this very large pool and that’s not counting the adults only pool, the chill out pool and the nudists only pool which are all in turn smaller than one another and must culminate in a super relax puddle.

All these sun loungers are meticulously laid out every morning with a level of accuracy that suggests at least a small amount of forward planning. Every so often a couple leave their loungers to get food or sample some of the other wonders this place has to offer. Within no more than ten minutes two members of staff, dressed in white with blue latex gloves, will have reset those loungers to their starting positions; perfectly straight and with the back rest down – I learnt earlier in the week that this stops them blowing away.

As I write, two men have corrected the loungers next to me, the older man seems to be instructing the younger in the correct orientation and optimum lounger spacing. I don’t understand Spanish, but imagine it goes like this.

Look here young whipper snapper, I was arranging sun loungers when you were still at ‘all inclusive buffet’ school.

I imagine his father was a sun lounger arranger and his father before him and his great grandfather was a deckchair; the skills and lessons passed down through the generations. These include minimum distance from lounger to poolside, maximum relative distance between and most important; minimum amount of stacked loungers to prevent them blowing away overnight.

He’s surely a member of the Guild of Master Sun Longer Arrangers and sadly his son has shunned the lifestyle and gone to the mainland to be a jet ski salesman. He toils day after day, trying to pass on his skills to fellow workers, the Guild a dying breed pushed out by low wages and contemporary attitudes. Sometimes he reminisces about the old days; the great strike of 2004 when the lounger arrangers staged a walkout in support of the much abused banana boat operators. He hopes one day to save enough money to fly to a Sandals resort, where they still appreciate his very skilled profession.

So in summary of these thoughts; too much sun on a bald head makes you think up some strange things.

 

Flash Fiction Friday

I was once short listed for a six word flash fiction competition at https://www.magicoxygen.co.uk/    The excitement in the house (mainly mine) was of Olympic proportions. If I had won the £100 prize it would be the most £s per word I was ever likely to be paid. The six words?

‘I am starting again’ said God.

A tale that covers the whole universe and time itself? Is it fiction, does flash fiction need to tell a story. Could ‘Instructions’ be the sequel?

Instructions

‘Just follow the instructions,’ said the exasperated father ‘you put too much water in last time.’

‘But it looked so beautiful and shiny.’

‘Sparkle and glitter are no good if it doesn’t work properly. You need to get the axis straight for a start.’

‘The axis would have been fine if my stupid sister hadn’t thrown lumps of rock.’

‘You must learn by your mistakes, the structure has been unstable all along, you were over ambitious. Now it’s time to get back to basics and before we can do that you need to dismantle E1. It’s all recycling these days… Don’t look at me like that, you knew we’d have to put them down; you can have new pets when I’m satisfied with E2; not so many this time, pets that don’t eat each other or kill one another.’     141 words

 

How long is flash fiction?  Paragraph Planet publishes a daily piece that must be 75 words exactly. Several of us at writers’ group had one or more paragraphs accepted and for a while it became an obsession to tailor a piece to 75 words.   http://www.paragraphplanet.com/

Cold

A crystalline cold dawn; heavy snow had reached their valley for the first time. His master had just made it back. Usually Nicolai hated the long winter nights, but each breath that seared his lungs brought hope. In late afternoon the clear sky brought a violet shimmer to the virgin snow at the graveyard. Nicolai thrust his stick through crystal layers; it juddered on the iron cold ground. The master would not be arising tonight.    75 words

 

Several of us once entered a one hundred word competition with the theme of inventing a new word. We were unsuccessful. The winning entries were very serious and intense.

Reursinement

Her Majesty’s minister barely read the title of the document ‘Reursinement – Natural Culling’ before scanning the paragraphs… environmentally sustainable… ecological balance… and signing his name. His constituents and the Forestry Commission should be delighted, fewer complaints about car accidents, trampled gardens or ruined saplings.

Operation Goldilocks took place at night, the team quickly assessed their new environment; those experiencing freedom for the first time guided by the migrants from North Eastern Europe.

Nearby, a stag sniffed the night air and felt a primeval fear.

Days later the news headlines read

Walker Killed as Bears Introduced to Beauty Spot without Public Consultation

 

Do you prefer something longer?

Felicity’s Farewell

Caroline hated crematoriums, but Felicity had been her best friend. Mathew looked drawn, ill; thankfully the thirty minute slot meant a short ceremony.

Always look on the bright side of life…

Fliss had joked she wanted that song played at her funeral; some of the elderly relatives looked shocked, already upset there would be no vicar, no service. Her friend was an atheist who abhorred hypocrisy. They had discussed funerals after enduring a requiem mass for a colleague. Felicity had not expected hers to be so soon, but she had made one serious request; her body should be used for medical research. Only Caroline and Mathew knew of this request; under the circumstances cremation was the wisest option.

Mathew was seated in the front row, Felicity’s parents either side. Her sister, a tower of strength, now rose to speak. Caroline clasped her open bag, checking again that her phone was switched off and the throat lozenges were handy; she would speak next.

Her eyes darted back to the bag, a glow, a text message…

Seems I got it wrong; I am to meet my maker…

Caroline shivered as the message rolled, was someone playing a joke? She tried to switch off.

No joke Caro, you and Mathew will have to account one day. I was blind, hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially on the other side. Tell the truth, don’t let them press the button, forensics must speak for me. Then I can move on, perhaps forgive you both… Fliss             250 words

If you can think of an original six word story, please add it in Comments.

I included flash fiction in my collection ‘Someone Somewhere’.

 

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Ringing Around by Janet Gogerty

Do you still have a house phone, do you still give your friends a call or have you gone totally digital? Thanks to Sally for sharing my blog from last year ‘Ringing Round’. Let us know what is your favourite form of communication.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Remember the days when it was a weekly telephone call home or a chat with a friend once in a blue moon. As Janet Gogerty points out, the email has taken over for convenience sake as well as to avoid those awkward silences…

Ringing Around by Janet Gogerty

When I was in my last year of The Brownies and aiming to get my Golden Hand badge, part of the test was to make a phone call; a far cry from this week’s news of a major revamping of badges with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides encouraged to take part in new challenges involving app design, entrepreneurship, “speaking out”, upcycling or vlogging.

But my little task was still a big challenge for me. We did not have a telephone at home and it was about this time that my friend and I were sent up the road to the phone box with…

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Lines On The Washing

Winter has the advantage of long dark evenings, but the risk of tripping over on the pavement – if you are nosey and walk with your head turned sideways to see into the windows of homes where they have not closed the curtains. I love seeing choice of colour schemes and furniture, signs of lifestyles; room full of toys, a cello and music stand or a wide screen television hung over the fireplace revealing to the whole street what they are watching.

Being on a train, coach on the motorway or upstairs on a double-decker bus has the extra advantage we can’t be seen spying on the lives of others; peering into their back gardens, watching a farmer walk his cows over a motorway bridge or busy shoppers ignoring a homeless person in a doorway.

When I was 21 and officially on my working holiday, with destination, career path and accommodation vague, I would look down from train or coach windows fascinated, sometimes envious of other people with their real lives. Going to work, pushing prams, shopping, gardening and hanging out the washing; putting washing on the line is one of the few domestic tasks we can observe, from the person leaning over their tiny balcony in a block of flats to a lone cottage on a hill, the wind ready to tear the sheets from their hands.

Hanging the washing up is my favourite domestic task. This is not a discussion about housework and who should do what. Clothes and bedding need to be washed, meals prepared and homes large and small cleaned; somewhere along the line someone has to do it and my favourite job is hanging out the washing. Yes I know towels come out of the tumble drier lovely and fluffy, but it’s hardly a spiritual experience.

When I am in my little garden hanging out the washing this is the real life I observed so long ago. The fact that I am out there means either I’m basking in the sun or being whipped by an exhilarating wind, either way enjoying nature. Looking up at the sky, observing the birds and tidying up the flowers are all part of the experience and an antidote to the internet; though I often grab my phone to take a picture of birds, flowers or clouds to put on Facebook or Instagram.

Of course you will know from books, films and television dramas that secret agents, detectives and important politicians never need to do the washing. But in my novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind, Susan is a very ordinary woman in an ordinary London suburb. It is when she is in the garden hanging out the washing that something strange happens that will change her life.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – St. Valentine’s Day Culinary treats, poetry and music.

A few days away in real life and I’m not as organised as Sally, but join me in catching up with what we may have missed this week on smorgasbord. Food, health and stories from the USA to Afghanistan. Sally also shared one of my blogs from last year, Reinventing the Printing Press; are we living through changes as big as when ordinary people could first access the written word?

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the round up of posts from the week and a very big thank you for dropping in and sharing the articles.

It has been a busy week getting the blog sitting posts scheduled for my time offline. I will be posting a calendar of posts tomorrow but I promise you have some treats in store from some of your favourite writers and some new contributors.

There will be some of the regular posts too, but the one real change is that the blog sitters will be in charge in my absence and I know that they will do an amazing job.

I have mentioned before that I am leaving David at home (he is looking forward to peace and quiet) whilst I join my two sisters for a joint birthday celebration.

This means that if you do send an email to sally.cronin@moyhill.com between Thursday 15th and 21st of…

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Victims of Spite

Another week ends with an issue that is not new, but back in the news. All talk talk in the media, but Scott’s poem sums it up perfectly in a few lines.

thehouseofbailey

By Scott Bailey 2018

Oxfam and the Government
Feels like tit for tat
A fight of spite
All the while
The hungry still go hungry
The victims remain
Victims

The very existence of charity
Condemns those who rule

Image from Pixabay

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Fury and Wonder

I love the rhythm and imagery in this poem.

thehouseofbailey

By Scott Bailey © 2014

We need fury and wonder
to fire our song
But the fire is dim
the spark long gone
So sift through the ashes
for an ember that glows
To tend and to blow
through the wind and the snows
And build from the ashes
a new song, a new light
That burns with new fury
to banish the night

Image from Pixabay

In response to the daily prompt Tend

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting, #postaday

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

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