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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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’.

 

 

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.

Multi Media Muddles and Miracles

When I was four years old my parents got their first television; I thought the people on the screen lived in the cabinet underneath and I was too scared to open the doors. For all I know about computers, it could still be the case that the people who spring to life on Facebook or utube live under my desk, in the black magic box that is called a desk top computer, though it is sitting on the floor.

Even those exalted friends and colleagues who are in computers, do programming or the person who turns up in your office when you call ‘IT’ probably don’t know how the magic really works.

Until it stops working, writers don’t need to know how their computer works; they only need to know how to type and how to use the internet. Indie Authors come via many routes to arrive in the same virtual meeting room, but we have all been told along our journey that we need a media platform.

Ideally this is supposed to be in place before you start your novel, let alone finish it, but many of us would never have got our books written if we had jumped in at the deep end. Instead we learn by osmosis and help from fellow writers; probably once a month discovering some technical short cut that is second nature to everybody else.

My guide to computer technology should not be followed… Never click on any strange symbol in case you wipe out everything you are doing. If something goes wrong, switch off every piece of equipment and announce loudly that you are going downstairs to cook dinner. Then sneak back in when the computer least expects it, turn on and hope for the best.

Anything I have created that appears on line is more by luck than judgment, perhaps even a miracle. When I joined Goodreads my picture insisted on being sideways, it was a long time before I figured out how people put pictures on Facebook and it was only a few weeks ago that I managed to change from a snowflake to a human representation in those little boxes next to LIKE at the foot of Worpress blogs…

But as fast as we establish one base it changes, or our superiors tell us nobody is using that anymore. Hopefully WordPress will be around for a while. I was a latecomer, realising nearly everyone except me was on it. Domains, websites, Amazon Author pages, Facebook pages; whatever you use needs to be fed, nurtured and updated. Nothing looks worse than a website that even the owner has not visited since October 2016. Of course there is no guarantee that anyone will visit your website or blog among the millions out there in the ether. Every day, in cathedrals all round the country, choirs will be singing evensong; even if not a single member of the public turns up the service will go ahead. That is the cathedral’s main purpose. And if a single soul does turn up seeking God, they will be ready for him.

Our websites are unlikely to have such a high calling, but just in case someone finds themselves in our own special domain we want it to look good and grab their interest. My website does not have moving pictures, falling snowflakes or firework displays, but there are topical pictures and enough to read for your coffee break.

Not only is it a miracle that I am on the internet, the internet is a miracle.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

From News Book to New Blogs

Long before the existence of Blogs, long before I had heard the term, I had Writer’s Block. Every morning in my Church of England junior school we had to write in our news books, dinky little notebooks with lined and plain pages; one side for script, the other to draw a picture. One Monday morning I said to my teacher ‘I can’t think what to write.’

Did you spend all weekend in a cardboard box? Was his reply.

Sometimes it was easy, one morning at assembly there was an incident. One boy wrote for his news Tony was sick in assembly. There was a lurid picture, the puddle of vomit had become a lake.

Parents’ evening was the only chance mothers and fathers had to see what their little darlings had written. Apparently I wrote regularly that Mum and Dad had moved the furniture around at the weekend. My mother claimed the teachers were nosy and wanted to know what went on in our homes; she was amused to meet another mother who was mortified. Her child had written Mummy went out dancing with John’s Daddy, her explanation was that their respective spouses did not like dancing…

If we finished our news book we could not be idle, we had to quietly get on with a dictionary exercise, but I enjoyed doing that. Only when that was finished could you do free reading. One time my friend had a new plan. On my unescorted one and a half mile walk to school I would call for her on the way. Her mother would wave us off, once out of sight we would slow down. If we were late for assembly we had to go straight to the classroom and get on with writing our news; thus having an advantage over the rest of the class. I did feel guilty about this, our parents didn’t know, the teacher perhaps guessed we did it deliberately, but God, being Omnipotent, was sure to know we were absent from hymns and prayers.

Scripture lesson was a better opportunity for creative writing. We had a similar little exercise book, but horizontal. We would write that morning’s bible story in our own words on one page and draw a picture on the other. Illustrations were easy, flat roofed houses and people in long robes were simple to draw. I can’t remember how much I elaborated the story, but even then I felt there was not enough back story and character development in The Bible. Maybe if the disciples had kept a news book there would have been more detail in the Gospels.

The first part of my novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by my four years at junior school.

 

 

 

Frankenstein and the Forgotten

For the benefit of those who have not visited one, JD Wetherspoons are a large chain of British pubs where you can eat cheaply all day, take children and have refillable mugs of coffee. Some are in beautiful buildings with amazing toilets and we have visited them from Canary Wharf up to the top of Scotland.

One of the two Wetherspoons in Bournemouth town centre is a former night club with nothing distinctive about its architecture. It is called ‘The Mary Shelley’ and I wonder what a famous authoress and wife of a great poet, would have thought had she known she would end up as a pub, as a result of her final burial wishes.
The pub faces the lovely St. Peter’s church. Bournemouth celebrated its bicentenary in 2010, the church was consecrated in 1845 and was rebuilt from a little rustic church to boast the towering spire it has today.
Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstoncraft, writer on women’s rights, who died soon after her birth, she was brought up by her father William Godwin a writer and liberal thinker. Percy Bysshe Shelley was a friend of her father’s; famously at the age of 23, he ran off to France with 16 year old Mary and her step sister, leaving behind a teenage wife whose life would end in tragedy. Perhaps these days he would have been accused of ‘grooming’ and there would have been an all ports call to find a vulnerable teenager. With Lord Byron as a friend, what parent wouldn’t be worried about Percy? But he was the love of her life.

It was a night like no other that would go down in literary legend. To be precise, three days in June 1816, the Year Without a Summer. Severe climate abnormalities were caused by a combination of an historic low in solar activity and major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years.
The five young people cooped up by the endless rain in the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, could not have known the causes. They passed the time telling fantastical tales and challenging each other to create their own. Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin, not yet married to Shelley, are well known, Mary’s step sister and Lord Byron’s physician, less so.
Mary is most famous for writing Frankenstein and January 2018 marks two hundred years since it was published.

I have always felt sympathy for Doctor John Polidori finding himself in such a writing group. Was he eager to emulate Lord Byron? Apparently the others were dismissive of his poetry and stories. His painting shows a dark good looking young man resplendent in the smart clothes of that era. He was clever; university at fifteen, a degree in medicine at nineteen. Twenty years old in that summer of 1816. He is credited by some as the creator of the vampire genre, his most successful work, conceived in those drug filled nights. But his story ‘The Vampyre’ was at first attributed to Byron, published without the permission of either man. The theme was adopted by others and it is Bram Stoker’s name that comes down in history. Perhaps Doctor John Polidori should become the patron saint of sidelined and unrecognised writers!
Polidori was not completely forgotten, appearing (without permission) as a character in numerous novels and films inspired by Doctor Frankenstein, vampires and the scandalous romantic writers. His diaries were ‘redacted’ by his sister, so we shall never know all his thoughts on that summer.
In the true fashion of the romantics his life was cut brutally short. He died in August 1821, aged twenty five years. The coroner gave a verdict of natural causes, despite strong evidence he took prussic acid – cyanide. Perhaps if he had followed medicine and not Lord Byron things might have turned out differently.

Mary Shelley’s life was longer, but hard, only one of her children survived and thirty year old Percy was drowned at sea, his body recovered and burnt on a funeral pyre on an Italian beach. Legend has it his friend seized his heart untouched from the flames and it is only these remains that are in the family tomb.
Mary’s son Sir Percy Florence Shelley had moved with his wife to Boscombe, near Bournemouth, during her final illness and she requested she be buried there with her parents. This involved the building of a family tomb and the disinterment of her parents’ bodies from a Paddington cemetery. Percy Florence and his wife are also buried in the tomb.
Her family are also remembered in street names, but more importantly Percy Florence built a family theatre at his home, Boscombe Manor, which has now been restored. You can read more about the family history and the theatre at their website.

http://shelleytheatre.co.uk/article.php?sec=ABOUT&articleId=3224

Ask The Author

 

‘Meet The Author’ on the BBC 24 Hour News Channel is usually the cue for Cyberspouse to sigh and reach for the remote control; we’ve caught up with the news, watched tomorrow’s newspapers being discussed, seen Film Review and ‘Click’ featuring the latest technology. No one actually wants to watch news 24 hours a day, hence the interesting filler programmes repeated at intervals.

Meet The Author is a simple formula, a presenter and author chatting. In the unlikely event of me being invited to participate, the interview might not go well. It is pleasing when anybody is interested enough to ask questions, but we Indie Authors must remember that in the real world life does not revolve around our current novel and connecting with other writers on the internet. When someone you haven’t seen for a while, or who has just been introduced, asks if you are still writing, do not reply with heavy sarcasm ‘Does the earth still revolve around the sun?’ Smile and say ‘Oh yes, still writing all the time’ and refrain from adding ‘You obviously haven’t looked at my website lately.’

Another common question is ‘How long does it take to write a book?’ perhaps many authors do know, but I have no idea. I lose track of when I first typed the title, let alone when the original ideas or characters popped into my head. Toby my camper van detective started as an exercise we were given for writing group, he first took an active role in a short story, ‘The Ambassadors’, in An Eclectic Mix Volume One published by AudioArcadia.com 2015. He also features in my two novellas published last year. He must be wondering when I am going to finish his novel; this year I hope. It is nearly three years since I had the idea for an opening chapter of a novel, when we went to the cliff top at high tide the morning after the Valentine’s night storm of 2014, inspiring the title ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.’

The follow on question is ‘How much time do you spend writing?’ Every available opportunity is the simple answer. When I first started with a second hand lap top on the dining table, connected to nothing except electricity, I wondered what authors in writing magazines were talking about; time wasting on social media? Even after acquiring sole use of a desk top it was a while before I realised you could have more than one page open at a time. Now writing my blog or novel is interspersed with messaging friends and relatives, looking at the latest family photos from (depending on the time of day) Australia or USA. And of course chatting with writers from all over the world. Dashing downstairs when the doorbell rings, the washing machine beeps or the oven timer goes off are all ways of avoiding deep vein thrombosis, but can seriously disturb the creative flow. Breaks to hang the washing out or put the chicken in the oven are ideal if you are editing; your brain and eyes need a break from the screen.

‘What sort of books do you write?’ A fair enough question, but ‘all sorts’ would be the best answer. ‘Quarter Acre Block’ is my only novel that could fit a genre, family drama. My trilogy encompasses family drama, love stories, crime, medicine and music; as strange things happen it is also science fiction. The real answer is I enjoy writing about ordinary people; especially when extraordinary things happen to them.

You can read the stories featuring Tobias Elliot Channing, private investigator specialising in missing persons, operating from a camper van, in Someone Somewhere.

Silly Season

2018 looks set to be as doom filled and gloom laden as 2017 and the actions of our leaders as silly and unbelievable as ever. Individuals feel powerless, but the beginning of a new year is the time for individuals to get their own lives in order, a more achievable goal perhaps. But what is taken seriously by one person might seem plain silly to their family or Facebook friends, the latter being the ones who will have to read ad nauseam about their lofty aims. If you became healthier and wealthier after Sober October, perhaps you will be inspired by Veganuary. While millions waste money on annual gym membership for one assessment, a few laps of the pool, a sit in the sauna and a go on the cross trainer that resulted in a pulled muscle, others might decide this is the year  they train for a marathon, or seven marathons in one week across Africa…

Why don’t we just have a silly season instead, to brighten up northern winters or celebrate southern summers. What would your sillutions be? To acquire more Facebook friends in North Korea or Antarctica, to take up guerrilla knitting and dress all the lampposts in your street or why not turn your house inside out; bring the garden indoors with artificial lawn, trees in pots, house rabbits and free range parakeets?

Or you could spend January in the world of fiction and enjoy strange surroundings and events without annoying those you live with. I hope to be busy writing, finishing my latest novel, which has some very strange events and penning a few short stories. In the meantime ‘Someone Somewhere’ will take you into spring and summer with two strange novellas and other weird tales.