Saturday 29 November 2014

Flash fiction - Almost The Last Letter

I am just in time for the deadline over at Studio 30+ this week, with this bit of flash fiction using a prompt from Katy's writing last week: "chills". See what you think. Thanks for reading! Click on the icon below to read more entries. 

Almost The Last Letter

Dear Editor, 

My whole professional life I have been bound by ethics and cloaked in my own trustworthiness. 

But now I am not. I want to reveal those I have harboured in the name of my profession, in the name of science, in the name of what's right. 

For it has been brutally wrong. 

Joanne Cardew, Patient 3682, is a bully. She has systematically emotionally trampled each one of her children so they are mere shadows strewn across our streets. I know this because she came to me in the guise of bettering herself. All she wanted was excuses to stitch into her so on her own deathbed she could say it wasn't her fault. To her children I say, it was. Your mother was never right. Let her vanish and, please, come into the sun. 

Reginald Cross, Patient 0081, should be in prison. A long time ago he was party to something so cruel I get chills thinking about it even now. And he does too, let it be known. But that does not escape the fact that every deed he does trying to undo that fateful day gets him no further away from the tragedy that pumps through his veins. His only completion is justice, and regrettably it is only now, with this letter, I can offer it from whoever is out there that can make it happen. 

Jemima Anne Forsythe, Patient 2003, is a liar. Everything she does, everything she says, simply builds up her house of cards. If you are in her life, you are not alone. There are hundreds like you, being used, discarded, reinvented. She feels nothing except for the tales that spin off her wickedly shiny tongue. One day, hopefully soon, it will all come tumbling down and she will be swallowed by her own vicious inventions, trodden into nothing because when there is not even one truth to cling to, there is no real existence. 

I have more but my writing wavers and I am tired. As our maker knocks soon on my own door, I will save my energy and write again tomorrow. 

Very best, 
Dr Virginia Whiticker.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Haikus - Dandelions

In the early morning when my baby just wants to play by himself and laugh at the fact his hands are attached to him and can find things, I sit half asleep and write some lines for the writers' posse over at Studio 30 Plus. Ideas pour, but I am tired, so I will just leave these two poems, using one of the prompts this week: dandelions. View more by others by clicking on the icon below. Thanks for reading.


They stand poised but burnt,
Like old dandelions, war
Scarred in a new world.


A summer moon hangs
On fields of dandelions
Where no one has stepped.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Flash fiction - Afterwards

Time has changed its meaning for me recently. This time, right now, is precious because I don't know when I'll get it again. So, get those words on the page (furiously! furiously!) and on we go. Here's this week's write for the wonders over at Studio 30+ who kindly used my writing from last week - Newborn - to source their prompts: 'chamber of secrets' and/or 'stars'. I went for the double whammy this time. 


“When we are old, will we still love each other?”

“Of course, only more.”

They were sixteen when they had had that conversation, laying in the sand dunes, under the stars, high on life. Now, some sixty-odd years later, they held hands against her life’s setting sun and she asked him again.

He looked over at her. Her eyes were still roaming and sparkling and as curious as they had been at birth. His friend. His confident. Later, his lover, his love. His wife. Mother of his children, grandmother of their children. He briefly wondered how much more wonderful could a person be before answering,

“Of course, only more.”

Despite the enormous pressure of the pain from all corners of her body, she grinned, wildly and openly. Laughing hurt, but smiles could be a good measure of their time. One more smile. He always had that to go for.

“Darling, what do you think will happen. Afterwards?”

He looked out over the fields stretching past their bedroom window. He thought of his return to the world out there, alone. Though this room had been stifling at times during the past weeks, it was their last space together, their comfort, their chamber of secrets. Yes, it was also the end of her life, but he took great comfort in the fact it was he and he alone who was passing her on. No doctors, no smiling strangers.

“You will wait for me in a place where, when I go, I will know exactly where to find you.”

“You romantic, you.” Another smile.

“No? Then tell me, where are you going?”

“Nowhere. I’ll stay and haunt the house. I’ll be in the teacups and the bathroom taps and the pots in the shed.”

He laughed. “Still nagging me no doubt?”

The last smile. “Of course, only more.”

Thursday 30 October 2014


In the quiet space when my baby is asleep I have a moment to reconnect to all that was before. So, here I am again, writing a little for the grand folks over at Studio 30+ with one of their prompts, "best hidden away". Forgive me for changing its punctuation!

Please click HERE to be taken to some great writers, who are way more regular than me!


You were my best, hidden away for nine months in a chamber of secrets, dark to the stars. Like an unfurling pink petal you rose from depths I knew not I had; unflinching at this world, a conqueror, and smooth as sea worn pebbles. You, so rounded, so complete, so nestled into your role: you, my love, are the bridge between then and now. 

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Flash fiction - Sanatorium, 1972

The ladies over at Studio 30+ gave us homework along with the prompts this week. It was to write and then wait. Sit back, read, re-read, let it stew and check it again the next day. I wrote Sanatorium, 1972 yesterday and it was good practice to come back to it today. I made some vocabulary changes. Reading it out loud was great. I don't do it enough, so thanks for that ladies.

The prompts this week come from Opal Reflections and the poem Pre-Dawn Reflections. They were "taught by my example" and/or "echoes". It should be obvious which I used! Thanks for reading.

Sanatorium, 1972

Isabella Snow thought she had them fooled: the memories, the trauma, the extreme mood swings and the night terrors. Famous painter turned poet with the fading white scars up her arms; she who had checked in over a month ago, hours before her deadline, clutching a yellowing photo of her father and a bottle of gin, no shoes. The first therapist, a fan, wanted to talk of her portraits, especially ‘Broken’. She hurled a vase at him. The second asked about her childhood. She spilled over herself, tripping on lost memories that made no sense with what the world actually knew. He gave her more pills, just sugar. The third therapist opened with, “I hated your last anthology.” Isabella smiled inside and cowered in her chair. ‘Echoes’ had been a roaring success, but she knew it was full of rainbows, shredded ropes of hope for the mindless to cling to. Here was what she really needed in order to write again. Pain. “Tell me,” she whispered back and prepared to really break herself open.  

 Read more here. 

Friday 5 September 2014

Flash fiction - The Anniversary Cake

I have no idea what I've been doing these past couple of weeks which has meant I haven't been able to write, but well, this maternity leave must have left me busy! Anyway, here I am again joining up with the cool peeps over at Studio 30+ and their writing prompt of the week. My offering is called The Anniversary Cake and uses one of their prompts, iron. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think! 

The Anniversary Cake

The cake didn’t look like it had all the other times she had made it. The lemon glaze was less shiny, was her piping unsteady, unsymmetrical? Martha laid her hands either side of it and stared down. It smelt as it always had with the hint of ginger poking through her trio of citrus flavours. Thirty-eight years ago, David’s mother’s face had cracked a smile, gliding her fork through Martha’s cake. Crumbs had fallen into her lap, and she had left them there, devouring her plate, eyes skyward. Martha had beamed at the sight.
               But looking at it now, it didn’t hold the same attraction and Martha felt a tear spring up and roll down her cheek. It wasn’t good enough. She glanced at the clock. She didn’t have time to make another one. It would have to do. David was so busy, maybe he wouldn’t notice the shaky piping or the lack of lustre on her fruit topping. She left the cake to cool and hoped on her way upstairs it would at least taste the same.
               The iron was now hot enough and she laid out her dress, the pale blue linen one she saved for special occasions. Friends remarked how wonderful it was she could still fit into her clothes from times past. It wasn’t something Martha thought about much. She had always been slender and enjoyed her daily walks on the grounds with the dogs, weekly swims and Pilates classes. Her friends said she was dedicated, and they lacked the commitment to exercise. Martha didn’t remind them that they had children and busy lives, while she had little to do. She enjoyed the compliment too much to open the discussion and her life to more scrutiny.
               She took the dress through to the bedroom and hung it on the wardrobe door while she undressed, sprayed a rose scent over her body and ran almond cream over her arms and legs. She paused, looking at the mirror. Why not? She thought. She dipped her hand in the cream and rubbed it into her breasts and belly. Maybe, just maybe, David would want to make love tonight.

               It hadn’t gone well. Five phone calls interrupted dinner. He didn’t even notice the present beside his plate until she pointed it out. He hadn’t got her even a card. Then, once the cake was on the table, he started on the fact she always made that “bloody cake” and didn’t he give her “enough money to buy new clothes? Why was she wearing that old thing?” Martha tried to take him back to a place on the seaside and a cosy little Italian where she had worn that dress; to a mid-afternoon picnic when she had surprised him at the office many years ago with prawn sandwiches and her cake. He wasn’t interested. He took his brandy to the study, leaving the door slightly ajar, like a dare.
               She didn’t take him up on it. She quietly took her coat and slipped out of the front door, crossing the curved driveway armed with huge lavender pots and onto the lawn. Clouds crumbled the moon’s light. She heard an owl in the distance and wondered how long it would take to reach that owl, and fly into the night with it. Somewhere, anywhere.
               Martha headed towards the thicket at the bottom of the lawn and crossed the style. The wooden beams were slick with moss and dew. She made no sounds on the wet leaves as she took the path which eventually opened up at their little lake.
               Martha looked at the water and thought of the vows they had made on the pontoon opposite thirty-six years ago. She thought of David’s disbelieving mother who would give up the rights to the house; of his father, distracted by the illegitimate child the cook was carrying; of her parents’ puzzled faces at the beauty that some people lived in; of David’s seriousness and her own, complete joy.
               Now she understood her parents’ confusion about how the poor girl from the village would make it work with the rich, handsome gent from the house on the hill. She understood why they had cast her adrift, quietly and unceremoniously, setting her off on this path they couldn’t follow. But it had only led her here.
               She stepped towards the water’s edge. 

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Sunday 10 August 2014

Flash fiction - Emerald

Joining the party a little tardy after the cool crew at Studio 30+ chose this week's writing prompts from my haiku last week. Better late than never, though, right? The prompt I chose of the two was ladybirds. Thanks for reading. 


The handkerchief of increasing despair lies in her sweaty palm, charting her demise. Those in the shadows know it won’t be long and they shift in the cluttered boudoir, avoiding the burgundy, pink, ivory and pale blue bodices and skirts of their friend, their lover, their employee.

Emerald still manages to draw them to her, as she always has. As this place, probably, always will. Her chalk white fingers encircle the material as she brings it to her mouth, those sounds breaking the silence of waiting. It’s now more than blots that plan her final path; gone are the ladybirds of blood that signalled the beginning of the end. Huge countries map themselves onto the handkerchief, stains of where she has been. Is one of them where she is going? Is heaven or hell depicted among the blemishes her insides thrust out of her? Would she be able to tell the difference?

Canto moves forward and pushes down on her shoulders as the heaving subsides. The pillows and cushions welcome her back. Emerald remembers she is wearing her favourite dress. She has been wearing it for three days. She remembers Majorie putting her into it after the priest’s visit. It still makes her feel ready. She closes her eyes and hopes it isn’t too stained for whatever is coming next.

Canto stays next to her and takes her hand. She knows he will be the last to leave after everyone else has gone; back to their rooms, their stages, the work that awaits them. Time is money, she has always understood that. Canto will continue to hold her hand afterwards, talk to her, stroke her face, kiss her eyes – her eyes which gave her her name. He will stay with her and among her things, the lace, the little china cups she treasures.

One last breath. Treasured.

And he does stay, holding on to the moment where, finally, he has her to himself; his pure, beautiful Emerald whom everyone loved but no one could keep.

Silent Sunday 10-08-14

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Haiku - Summer

It's my last week of work before I chill out for the rest of the summer and await the birth of our first child. So, this week is a little bit more manic than most as I fit in last classes with my students with a last-minute intensive course I'm giving and the antenatal classes I have booked in. But I couldn't resist joining up with the fine folks at Studio 30+ and their prompt this week which is quite simple: summer. We can do anything we like with it. This came to me last night as I was trying to sleep (unsuccessfully). Other entries can be read by clicking on the icon above. Have a good week! 

The ladybirds climb
Long, green stalks knowing at the
Top summer will end. 

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The virtual bar

I am in my virtual bar, surrounded by writers, photographers and travellers. There are barmen inventing wonderful virtual cocktails and music that simply surfs the background to the chatter. One minute I am chatting to a couple who live and work in Croatia, travelling with their young family. The next I'm sharing a bright green drink with an eco-warrior who writes for various blogs. Then I'm contemplating the use of the hyphen with a mother who has a penchant for steamy online fiction. After that, I'm discussing tapering with a runner from the west coast of the USA. After another couple of drinks I'm surrounded by teachers from around the world and it turns out students from Korea, France, Brazil, Malaysia all have the same problems learning English. Towards the end of the evening, I'm in a corner with a quiet, unassuming man who takes incredible photos - close ups of things which distort them so they look like abstract art. He needs persuading to show me. We end up closing the bar marvelling at his creativity.

I can't remember all these people's names, although they tell me. We share snippets and stories, we compliment and appreciate each other, we laugh nervous laughter because we don't know each other. We are not friends or colleagues. We are far apart and yet, here in this bar we are brought together by that magic something the virtual world provides: a beautiful, invisible thread. Be it poetry, parenthood, food, running; from the general to the very specific, there is something that draws these people to my virtual bar. There is a reason they are on my guest list, a reason they can be one click away, no matter the miles as the crow flies. They interest me, they entertain me, they teach me.

Sometimes, their thought and kindness reaches through the screen and touches me back in my real world. Their words go beyond the shining screen and enter my heart. The beautiful, invisible thread pulls my real, beating heart. That can be a very powerful thing. These people, merely visitors to my virtual bar, become more than a like or comment. By opening themselves up, they prise me open too. They are the people, who were it not for those miles, I would like to stand next to in a real bar and buy a real cocktail and have a real conversation.

But that's not possible. And so I just thank them for being able to pop into my virtual bar when they can and making it a better place. In this blinking online world where so much idiocy and awfulness reign, they are real beacons of light.

  • This post was inspired by Tom MacInnes from Cobbie's World.
  • It also links up with the writer folks over at Studio 30 Plus and their prompt of the week.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Flash fiction - Moving Day

Finally, a day with some time to write. It's been too long, as always. Here's a short story prompted by our writer friends over at Studio 30+. The words we had to use are in bold. Check out others by clicking the icon below. Thoughts and comments always welcome. I'm now off to enjoy the sunny river...

Moving Day

She would like to go backwards because it all began to fall apart just when it had become perfect. Or something close to perfect in her fourteen-year-old mind.

Laying at the edge of the cornfields, bottles of lemonade at their side, satchels flung and just the sounds of crickets, or bees, or some insect she promised to look up later; and them, touching, side by side, breathing the same air and wondering if this was what love could be.

His sweet lips and the stories that sprung from them, even before she tasted them for real and dissolved into him, letting him cover her with newness and give birth to an ache in her whole being she had not been prepared for.

The note in her locker: Meet me after math next to the gym. The goose bumps of expectation, nerves and the warm sensation sliding all over her body at the thought of just seeing him alone.

Taking her hand under the lunch table and squeezing it, albeit briefly, before stroking her fingers one by one. Her eyes down, trying not to cry at the hurtful things which had been said before; her heart grateful for the kindness shown in secret. Don’t listen to them. You’re nothing like your mother. I am here, friend.

The science experiment the day her best friend was at a music exam and the teacher forced her to move to his bench, where his long fingers cradled the test-tubes and his eyes laughed at her behind the goggles. She hated science. He loved it. She would love it.

His first day at school and the red jacket everyone laughed at, except her because it meant no matter where he was she could find him. Across the grass, his blond hair twinkling in the September sunshine, his hands not knowing what to do as he looked beyond the other boys for something more interesting than football stats. He found her, though she pretended he hadn’t. Then.

Now. The moving trucks looming outside, casting a shadow over the house and her whole life. Her mum gone, her dad with a face as sad as the end always is. Her brothers crying, wailing, as their lives are ripped from the roots of the tree swing, the porch, the sandpit, Harvey’s kennel. Her screaming at the injustice of it all, the pain of separation, her future blinded by him not being there.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Flash fiction - Two's Company

Another writing treat of a day and another cool prompt over at Studio 30 Plus. This week it is precarious perch. It's funny how some words just have such a strong pull in a certain direction. Read below and then check out the other entries and you'll see what I mean. There's good company over at Studio 30 Plus, so click on the icon at the bottom to read more. Thanks for stopping by.

Two’s Company
While I sit here on my little wooden perch, strung between the bars at either end of my world, I watch her and wonder if it is not she who dangles, who forever tries to stay steady on her own precarious perch in her world which, if we’re honest, is hardly greater than mine.

The curtains, drawn, shading the glare of the afternoon and dousing us both in pale yellow light, reveal nothing beyond these faded flowered walls, sideboards full of fine china, soft upright chairs which never get creased. 

I try to listen beyond this silence to sounds that come from other birds in the green and open place I glimpsed a long time ago; or maybe I have only dreamt it. Now, I cannot remember. 

Holding the furniture with all her might, holding onto anything for dear life, she shuffles to the window, maybe hoping today will be the day she looks out. But no, her chair welcomes her back just seconds later and the moment has passed. Her hands are back in her lap, rolling over each other’s emptiness and the pain of having no other hand to hold. 

It is then I wish I was more than feathers and could offer a hand through the bars. 

Thursday 1 May 2014

Flash fiction - Bank Holiday

The prompt over at Studio 30+ this week is, let's say, to the point! Back from two long weekends travelling and having visitors I now have a long weekend of my own at home to write, read, walk and potter. Nothing like a good potter. Anyway, without further ado, the prompt is quick and lethal and here is my offering. Thanks for reading!

Bank Holiday

The thought kept running through his mind. Like an unceasing throb, a dripping tap, a finger pressed lightly around the trigger; each minute pushing him towards a decision already decided in his core. 
   Subdued today in a purple shadow, the office murmured its silent approval. He grabbed the bottle at his side and let the bitter, golden liquid push his leftover fears away. Fingers hovered over the keyboard, trembling. His heart started a march of its own, lifting him, telling him it was the only way, the only way out. 
   Before another itch of doubt surfaced, he drained the bottle and starting typing, his hands moving expertly around the keyboard, his eyes focused on the numbers on the screen. A few zeroes here, a shift of a decimal there. Covering his tracks gave him bravado; hiding behind falsity gave him courage. He sat taller, breathed deeper, as he finished with a tap and click. 
   The answer was quick; the result was lethal. It was a long weekend and no one noticed until first light Tuesday, when his feet were already being warmed by the sea of a distant shore. 

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Thursday 10 April 2014

Short fiction - The Man with the Typewriter

Hello again. Another day, some more time and another writing prompt. This time I've been over at Studio 30+ and it has been an age since I've written and linked there. I always get the prompt update emails and read quite a few, but this week time and inspiration have lovingly conspired and I am back with another story. The prompt this week is canned laughter. Thanks for reading and see what you think. 

The Man with the Typewriter

There was something in the way she had looked at him as she passed. Like he was a beautiful honeycomb, wondrous but untouchable. Turning, he knew she’d be gone by now, and she was: just the empty path dotted with leaves and shadows and the past. Jeff brought his feet together and raised and lowered his heels in the arriving evening chill. How long had he been sitting there, mulling over someone else’s words, another’s life? Too long.
He looked up towards the sky through the trees, growing violet as the late summer’s day eased into night. What would he do with his evening? What could he do, except contemplate what she had written, what she had offered? 
A faint shadow landed on him and didn’t move. Jeff looked forward, unstartled to see the woman from before standing there, like it was the only place in the world she should be. 
“Jeff Miller?” The most silent of whispers. 
He nodded.
“I thought it was you. I read your books. I know they are banned and all, but my father gave them to me and I –” She glanced both ways at the empty path – “hide them under the floorboards. I think they are wonderful. I wasn’t sure you actually existed, if you were alive. Still.” She added the last word and made it sound like the miracle it was.
“What is your name?” Jeff asked, and patted the bench beside him, offering her a seat, giving himself the chance of a real conversation. 
She shook her head. “I can’t. I am on my way to work. I remembered your face from a poster when I was a girl. I am so pleased to have met you and been able to thank you for your work. But I must go. I mustn’t be late.”
“Stay safe,” he offered, as she turned on her heels and made her way back into the past. 
For the past was ever present: in the letter he’d read that morning, his books, this woman who actually still read. He breathed in and out purposefully, remembering things from the day, trying to anchor himself to something other than his thoughts.
Before the sirens sounded to return home, he got up and left the park. The streets were almost empty and he preferred them this way now. For he didn’t trust people, they were different, abiding and numb. 
Back in his room, in the basement, he lit candles and settled into a chair. On his lap, his old, trusted typewriter. At his side, a stale glass of water. He would save it until later, but it was always better to use the taps before dark. He couldn’t remember why. 
I will come, he typed slowly, methodically. I don’t know how yet, but I cannot exist in this world. I should have left with you, but I thought, naively, foolishly, that what I was doing, my words, they could push back the tidal wave. Now I am resigned to this tiny room, obscurity and the generous turning of the cheek of my landlord. Today I met someone who could read and not only that, read my books. Darling, it wasn’t enough, for we couldn’t talk. All those words and all I can do now is say it was for nothing. I am now an imposter in this life, an extra piece of the puzzle, canned laughter, an autocue, a fake. It is heart-breaking. I must leave, and finally - A tear dropped in between the keys. I will see you again. My always love and bitter regret, Jeff. 
His fingers hovered. There was always more, but it would have to wait until the words could be spoken. He laid the typewriter on the floor next to his feet and leant back, linking his fingers across his belly and closing his eyes. His world hadn’t been what it should have been for a long time and he sighed. 
       Tomorrow he would call on the postman. He smiled: they didn’t believe in real post. Paper was limited and not many could read, let alone write. He may have been a dreamer, a young fool, but now he had more weapons than all of them out there. Words. He was ready to plan his escape. 

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Wednesday 9 April 2014

Flash fiction - In The End

Hoorah! I have time this week for some writing, so I'm back over at Julia's Place and her 100-word challenge for grown ups. She's feeling all theatrical with her prompt this week, so we're to use these famous words from Hamlet: Alas poor Yorick. As usual it's 100 words only and please feel free to comment or constructively criticise below and then read others by clicking on the icon at the bottom. Here's my offering.

In The End

In the space between your heartbeats I nestled, conjuring something from the little we shared. Stars shifted namelessly above and while we waited for the end, I imagined seeing you again in that infinite sky. Was it years or days or just minutes we knew each other and loved and fought and laughed and cried? Yorick, you were every man I ever loved, everyone I wanted to be and yet, alas, poor Yorick, you faded to nothing on that cliff. I left you there after your last breath to turn into dust and a quote on the never-ending, pointless wind. 
100 words

Wednesday 2 April 2014

You say goodbye, I say hello

For the last seven months I have had the pleasure of helping edit over at Trifecta Writing Challenge. But all good things come to an end and Trifecta is closing its doors this week. Before joining the team, I spent the summer, after moving to Luxembourg, taking part in its wacky and wonderful writing challenges. I loved its freshness and the real competition. They are many great writers walking its halls. As it ends I feel only glad to have been a small part of it and having had the experience of getting to read and know some very cool people. It was a sweet, sweet journey. These people; we have never met, and probably never will. And yet I will keep reading them because this world now, as it is, allows us. So no goodbyes, just more hellos. Keep spinning. Keep writing.


Parting we cannot,
We are already apart
Like the sun and moon.