Tag Archives: using writing prompts

Writerly Wednesday

Pestles and mortars, taken by Tomas Laurinavicius Image sourced: getrefe.tumblr.com

Pestles and mortars, taken by Tomas Laurinavicius
Image sourced: getrefe.tumblr.com


‘Aw, nice one,’ the lads had said, almost in one voice, when I’d slid her photograph across the table. ‘You’d never be able to pull a bird like that on your own,’ Jimmy’d muttered, after a few minutes, his jaw clenching. None of them had been able to take their eyes off her – Magdalena. Lithuanian, and looked it. The pints sat untouched on the table, the football unwatched. Magdalena lay before them, a desert island to a drowning man.

‘Yeah, well I’m the one dropping over to her house later, right?’ I’d said, grabbing up the photo again. Jimmy’d blinked, shaking his head slightly, and Gerry’d straightened up. George had cleared his throat with a sound like an excavator, but he’d said nothing. I shoved Magdalena back where she’d lived ever since the agency had sent her over – my right jeans pocket, within easy reach. I’d looked at her photo so often I knew it by heart; the particular green-gold of her widely spaced eyes, and the beautifully peculiar turn to her lip. The tumble of her hair. The exact length of her slender neck.

‘Here, mate!’ Gerry’d said, settling himself back onto his stool. ‘What’s the number of that bloody agency, again?’ Jimmy’d been the first to laugh. Gorgeous George, who’d grabbed up his pint and downed most of it in one gulp, said nothing.

‘They’re not looking for lads like you, fellas. Sorry,’ I’d said, lifting my pint. ‘Only the quality, like meself. You understand, I’m sure.’

George had rumbled, then. ‘How much you payin’ ’em?’ he’d asked, from out of his beard.

‘Paying?’ I’d said, licking the froth off my top lip. ‘What makes you ask that?’

‘Experience,’ he’d said, but that was all.

I’d been buzzing from the beer when I made my way to Magdalena’s. ‘Come around ten,’ I’d been told. ‘She’s working until then.’ I wondered as I walked through the rain-speckled evening what sort of work a woman like Magdalena did. Modelling, I thought. And the rest. I picked up my pace. I’d mapped out my route days ago; I knew where I was going. I’d memorised the address.

Nothing was going to go wrong. Not tonight.

When I got there, I searched for her buzzer. Fourth floor, the instructions had said; a button marked ‘M’. I found it, and leaned. A gentle click, and the gate moved under my hand.

I was in.

I trotted down a tiled corridor, the lights flicking on as I went. Everything gleamed. Doors either side stayed shut as I passed. I stepped into a lift at the far end, and it smelled like honeysuckle. The ride was smooth. Fast. Expensive.

All I could see when the doors opened was a giant entrance, ten foot tall if it was an inch, leading through to a dark, shaded room as big as an aircraft hangar. I could barely make out the ceiling, and the walls were soft, distant smudges.

I blinked into the gloom and finally saw a brightly-lit desk in the centre of the massive room. There was a suggestion of movement around it, but I couldn’t see clearly enough to be sure.

‘Alistair?’ came a voice. It mangled my name, but I didn’t care.

‘M-Magdalena,’ I replied.

‘Come on in,’ she said. ‘Forgive the dark. The light has faded too far for me to continue my work this evening.’

‘Sure, sure,’ I said, even though I had no idea what she was on about. I took a few steps forward, but it was weird walking into the murk. ‘What’s – well, if you don’t mind my asking – what’s your work?’

‘Oh, there’ll be time for that, later,’ she said, and a laugh warmed her words.

I came closer. The desk, I now saw, was cluttered with stuff; jars and bottles full of pigment, brushes stuck in water, pestles and mortars which looked battered and war-worn, splashed with paint. Lumps of solid colour like soft gemstones lay carelessly strewn about, and a large grater like one you’d use for cheese dripped hues from its blades. Things glistened in saucers, green and brown and blood-rusty. The air smelled funny, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

‘You’re an artist,’ I said, finally. ‘Wow. That’s interesting.’

‘After a fashion,’ she said, still bustling about in the shadows. I heard the slither of what sounded like fabric, and strained to see.

‘What do you paint?’ I reached out and touched the handle of one of the pestles with a fingertip. It felt cold, and slimy. I grabbed my hand back, wiping it quickly on my jeans.

‘Portraits, mainly,’ she called, her voice muffled. Is she undressing? I thought, and quickly squashed it back.

‘Right,’ I said. ‘So, um. Should I come back there, or..?’

‘So eager!’ her voice said, straight into my left ear. I yelled, and spun around, but there was nothing there except shadows and the vague suggestion of a giant canvas looming over my head.

‘Th-that was a good trick,’ I said, trying to laugh.

‘Patience, Alistair,’ she said. This time, I couldn’t tell where her voice was coming from.

‘So, am I going to get to see you at all?’ I said, my eyes hopping from dark surface to dark surface. ‘Only, the agency’s email said… well. It said we’d do stuff – you know?’ I shoved my hands into my pockets; they were trembling, and I didn’t want her to see. I stroked the cool surface of her photo, and tried to squint at the giant painting. It was a human figure, I thought, splayed out. A man. Muscles straining. His face in shadow. Organs shining…

I never saw the blade coming.

I dropped like a rock, clutching my midriff, and Magdalena stepped into the light. I couldn’t help but look. She sank to her knees before me, beautiful and terrible, inhumanly tall, perfectly made but for her face…

‘Jesus,’ I muttered, trying to drag myself backwards. The pain of movement ripped through my gut. I glanced down; my blood was pooling beneath my hand. Spreading like crimson. She could’ve dipped her brush in it, I thought.

‘What are you?’ I asked. My teeth clenched. ‘What’s going on?’

‘You can see, I’m sure, that eyes are all I lack,’ she said, crawling towards me. ‘As I paint my picture, I complete myself. But painting eyes which look real – well. That’s the challenge, Alistair.’ Every word she spoke, she crept a little closer. In her hand, she clutched another blade, scalpel-thin. ‘So I realised, why paint them at all?’

‘No,’ I muttered. ‘Please. Please!’ I tried to slide again, but understood – too late – that all I was doing was retreating further into her lair. The door was miles away, and she was between me and it.

She hefted the blade and smiled, too widely.

‘Count yourself lucky,’ she said, as she pounced, ‘that I only require one heart.’


Flashilicious Friday

Somehow, Friday seems like the perfect day for celebrating the art of flash fiction. It’s a celebratory, happy sort of day, and writing flash makes me feel happy, too. It all fits. It’s probably part of the Unified Theory of Everything, or something.

Or maybe it’s just a fun way to while away a Friday morning.

In any case, I set myself three flash challenges today – three short pieces, two under 200 words and one under 300 words, and each of them based around a different set of five prompt words thrown up at me by this random word generator. Easy, right?

Well, you be the judge.

Theoden King's hall from 'The Lord of the Rings'. Image: therpf.com

Theoden King’s hall from ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
Image: therpf.com

Words for Story 1: Spine, salt, pillar, fur, trap

The Bride

He laid a trap for me so fine, so gentle, that I placed my head inside the noose like a pet dog nuzzling at its master’s knee. He allowed me to destroy myself through my own pride, but even now, I admire him, as I must.
As a warrior, he is unsurpassed. As a hunter, he is finer still. As a husband, he was better than some, but that was not enough.
The door stands open. The air tingles across my face, drying my tears to frozen salt. The spine of the mountains stretches out before me, white and blinding; I close my eyes against it.
‘Your fur,’ he commands, holding out his hand. I slide out of it. The wind bites, savaging me through the thin linen shift which is all I am permitted to bring. I hand it to him, my fingers steady. I am proud of that.
‘Your blade.’ He stands like a pillar, immovable. Fixed. Holding up the world. My betrayal has cost him nothing; he is eternal. I hand him my knife and sheath, my grip shaking, just a little.
‘Farewell,’ I whisper, stepping barefoot into the snow.
He says nothing, and turns away.


Image: flickr.com

Image: flickr.com

Words for story 2: Prophet, colony, mouse, cup, gutter


It’s not supposed to be like this, Sue whispers. The prophet said –
I know what he said. My eyes fix on the mouse, lying on its side, curling and blackening like overdone toast. Our last test subject. So much for ‘ten generations of prosperity.’ Some prophecy.
If the mice are dying, that means conditions outside have changed.
Yes. I cup my hands and slot my face into their warm hollow. It does.
So what do we do? Sue turns to me like I have the answers. I feel her gaze like a red-hot brand.
We seal the ship. I turn to her. We leave. Now. Today.
Abandon the colony? Sue pales.
We have no choice.
But the people… Sue’s voice trickles away. She is sentimental, but no fool.
This was only ever an experiment. I try not to sound cold. It always had the risk of failure.
We should hurry, then. She clears her throat. Before they realise. Before – A thump brings her to a premature halt, followed by another. Louder. Her eyes glitter as she faces me.
It’s too late, I say, just as the cabin lights gutter out.


Image: avintagegreen.com

Image: avintagegreen.com

Words for story 3: Bib, sugar, address, bill, steering wheel

Wife and Mother

You feel it as soon as you set foot in the kitchen, that crunch under your sole that says Jeremy spilled the sugar again this morning, and again neglected to sweep it up. Before you even flick the light-switch, you know what will greet you. Dirty cereal bowl stacked on top of the dishes he’d promised to do last night while you were feeding Lucy. Fag butt swimming in the sink.
You breathe.
The baby monitor in your hand coughs, crackling. A wail pierces you.
‘Christ almighty,’ you whisper, crushing your fingers around it. Your eyes fall on the fridge, where the phone bill is still pinned beneath the novelty magnet you bought on honeymoon. It smiles at you like it’s apologising for not being paid, for allowing Jeremy to forget it again. Your name – half you, half him – and this strange, leafy new address stare at you.
Is this you? Is this all?
The monitor sobs. A snuffle.
You turn, knocking off the light. You wrap your dressing-gown tight. You chuck the monitor onto the hall table and grab your car keys. Out the door. Down the steps. Across the pavement.
Behind the steering wheel, you sit and shiver. It’s early. Silver sky.
You glance in the mirror and Lucy’s car seat is there, empty. A stray bib, covered in yellow gunk, lies crumpled within it.
Your knuckles whiten on the wheel. Your keyring spins, slowly, hanging from the ignition.
You slam the door so hard when you go back inside that Lucy wakes, her screams like fingernails raking down your face.
You place the keys gently on their hook, concentrating hard.
‘Coming, darling,’ you mutter to the wall. ‘Mummy’s coming.’


I hope you enjoyed these. All feedback (of the good, bad or indifferent variety) is welcome. Schöne Freitag, lieblings.

Wednesday Write-In #91

outfox  ::  couture  ::  spell  ::  grate  ::  willow

Image: spartacus.wikia.com

Image: spartacus.wikia.com


I stop at the willow tree. Heart galloping. Fast – so fast! Breathe. Look. I can hear them – smell them. Not far. Hallooooing trumpets, their dogs in a frenzy.
I have nowhere to go.
They are coming.
I blink. Breath tears through me. Thirsty so thirsty so tired… Instinct takes over. The world looks strange as I run. Behind, not far enough, the howling starts again. They have my scent, and they are coming.

I had been cleaning out the grate when it happened. I froze as I heard the Ladies coming back into the Great Room; I’d been sure they’d left for the day, but I must have been mistaken.
Or, they’d changed their minds. It wasn’t unknown.
Their voices tinkled in the hallway, and I doubled my pace, fingers trembling, praying…
‘Ah! Look, sister. Our little soot-boy is still here.’
‘It cannot be!’
‘I assure you.’
‘But, whatever for?
‘I presume he has been lazy, and has left his tasks undone until the last moment. Wouldn’t you think so, sister dear?’
‘No other explanation presents itself, certainly.’
I stumbled to my feet, turning and bowing low. I hid my filthy hands from their cool, clean gazes; I shrank my plain, worn garments from their gowns, elaborate, couture, worth more than my life.
I knew.
‘My ladies, I -‘
‘Do not speak, boy,’ spat Lady Mary. ‘Have you been given permission to speak?’
‘Milady, no -‘
‘Again! He spoke again!’ crowed Lady Elizabeth. ‘Did you hear him, sister?’
Lady Mary did not answer. She crossed the room, her steps quick, her shoes click-click beneath the rustling of her skirts. She stood three feet from me, and I could hear her breathing. I crunched my eyes shut.
‘You. I tire of you, boy. Your insolence upsets me.’
I said nothing. My eyes burned.
‘A punishment, sister!’ called Lady Elizabeth, from the door.
‘I have just the thing,’ replied Lady Mary. The hissing of silks and two careful steps, and a giggle.
And then the pain.

I wake in her arms. Lady Mary’s. Her fingers cold. Cruel. Like metal. My breaths too quick. No voice. No hands. I kick. Her fingers dig in, deeper, like a claw. Like a trap.
‘Peace, soot-boy,’ she hisses. ‘The spell is yet to settle fully. If you disturb it now, it will be worse for you.’
I do not believe her. I try to cry out again, but nothing comes.
Striding toward the door. A hand reaches to unlatch it. Sunlight, air, a bright day.
Distant yapping makes my spine contract. I struggle. I try to bite.
‘You beast!’ screams Lady Mary.
She flings me from her and I fall. I miss my footing. No – I cannot find my feet, because they are not there. Before I can move, a savage pain bursts through me and I spin, splayed, out onto the lawn.
She has kicked me.
And then I see it. I am covered in fur.
The keening of dogs makes me heartsick. I know without knowing that they are coming for me.
‘Let’s see you outfox us now, little hare,’ I hear. Lady Mary. Lady Elizabeth stands beside her in the doorway, laughing. Her eyes dance.
‘Run, soot-boy!’ she calls, waving.
Once again, as I have always done, I obey.

The dogs are upon me. I can smell them. I can taste their hunger. No matter where I run, they are there.
Trumpets. Shouting. Howling. Heartache. Agony.
I taste my own blood on my tongue.
A flash of light draws my eye. Through a haze, I see. Sunlight. Sparkling on water.
The river!
A snarl to my right makes me veer left; a howl to my left makes me redouble my pace. I cannot breathe. These limbs, not my own, are numb.
Screaming from behind me. I cannot hear the words. I do not need to hear to understand.
I stretch, further than I think I can bear. Feel like I am being torn in two.
The dogs’ breath burns like an open flame.
Then the water, so shocking, so cold, so fast, so clear, and the pain, the pain, the thumping, deafening, whirlpooling agony, the popping and bursting, the groaning of muscles and sinew, the stretching and rending of bone…
I drag myself up on the far shore. My fingers run red. I am shivering, naked. I turn, blinking through my own eyes, through a film of exhaustion, at the hunters.
The water washed the spell away, along with my scent, but the dogs play at the shoreline, dancing with the water, waiting for the word. They don’t need to smell me to tear me to shreds.
A hunter raises her bow, and cocks it.
‘Wait!’ calls another, a slender girl, her skin flushed. ‘Not yet.’
‘But they will ask for his heart,’ replies the other. The bow does not tremble.
‘We can find another hare,’ says the slender girl, turning to me. Her dark eyes fill with fire. ‘Leave him for another day.’
‘But -‘
‘Just do as I ask,’ says the slender girl. She smiles, but it is not gentle. ‘He has given us the best chase in years. Would you destroy him?’
The bow is lowered.
‘And, as we well know,’ says the slender girl, ‘men make much easier prey than hares.’
She blows me a mocking kiss and pulls her horse around. The others follow, reluctantly, and soon I hear the howling start again.
They will know the heart is not mine.
I do not have long.



As we made our way home yesterday, my husband turned to me and said: you look good.

This isn’t an unusual thing, I’m happy to say. I’m a lucky girl. I married well. My husband’s full of compliments, most of the time ones I don’t really deserve. But anyway.

‘Oh, yeah?’ I said. ‘Why’s that?’

‘You look relaxed,’ he said. ‘Happy.’

That, friends, is probably because I decided to take yesterday off. I pushed myself away from my desk. I went into Dublin city for a few hours. I took a long, long walk. I saw some friends. I – *gasp* – bought a book.

Darlings, how I have missed thee... Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Darlings, how I have missed thee…
Image: commons.wikimedia.org

It was great.

I’ve made a few significant submissions in the last few weeks. I’ve been working hard. I plan to make some more submissions next week – short stories to magazines, entries to competitions, some more research into agents who (I hope) might like my work – and I’m glad I decided to take a day to myself yesterday, because this is the thing about writing, or indeed about anything at which you want to succeed.

It takes hard work, and not just for a day or a week or a year. For always. Relentlessly.

But that’s also the beauty of it. Working hard at something you love is the best feeling in the world. Having said that, though, sometimes you do need a break, and it’s okay to take one.

Image: abeforum.com

Image: abeforum.com

However, today it was back to the grindstone. It’s Friday, and for the first week in a few weeks I am able to take part in Flash! Friday’s weekly challenge. This week, the fiendish gamesetters decided that the compulsory element – which has to be included in your story somewhere – was ‘A Detective.’ The image prompt (I can’t find a usably small version of it anywhere) was the interior of a bus carriage – which I interpreted as a train carriage, but let’s not worry too much about that! – showing a pair of feet clad in admirably shiny black shoes leaning up against a pole.

You’ll just have to scoot on over to Flash! Friday to see it for yourselves, I guess.

In any case, I managed to find a story which I could fit, just about, into the wordcount, and which met all the requirements, and with which I was reasonably happy, and here it is:


In Her Footsteps

Day 214. Da and me get up early. Since we sold the car, we’ve been takin’ the train to school, and that sucks.

‘Got your spyglass, buddy?’ he says as we leave the house. I run back to get it, and my notebook. Can’t believe I nearly forgot ‘em! Gotta be on duty, all the time, if you want to be a real detective.

I flip through my notebook once we’ve found our seats. “Day 87: No siteings. Day 176: No siteings, no trale.” I’m better at spellin’, now, but there’s still no sightings, still no trail.

Then, I hear somethin’. Clack-clack-clack, real fast. I flip my glass to my eye. My mouth tastes funny as I look low down, at people’s feet.

There! Black, shiny, creased across the toe, just like Ma’s favourite shoes. The only thing she took with her when she disappeared.

I’m up before Da can stop me, but the lady’s not Ma. She never is.


So, there you have it. Far from perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is, you get back up on the horse/into the saddle/lace up your boots and start again. You keep on heading for that goal, and you keep on finding words and putting them down, and you never stop searching for your personal best.

Happy hunting! Oh – and, have a wonderful weekend.

I'm off to catch me some words... Image: teachwhatcounts.com

I’m off to catch me some words…
Image: teachwhatcounts.com




Wednesday Write-In #83

This week’s words were:

relapse  ::  busy bee  ::  ocean  ::  pacify  ::  putrid

Image: travelblog.org

Image: travelblog.org

A Traitor’s Grave

‘He wants to hear the ocean,’ gasped Lily, stumbling out of the putrid bedchamber with her arms piled high. Streaks of unhappy colour – browns and greens and off-yellows – yawned their way across the linens she carried. Old blood. Sepsis. Ill-humours. The heralds of death.

‘And how are we expected to do that?’ I muttered, falling into step beside her.

‘There has to be a way,’ she muttered, her face sweating and her teeth gritted. ‘I just – ugh!’ She stopped, throwing the soiled bandages to the ground. ‘I can’t!’ She slammed her fists against the wall and leaned her forehead on them, her shoulders quaking through her thin gown.

‘Lily, I –‘

‘Just leave me be!’ she snapped, and I drew my hands back. ‘Please, Maryam. I’m all right.’ She took in a deep breath, before pushing herself upright once more and bending to pick up the linens.

‘How is he? I mean, really?’ I asked, sinking my hands into the slimy, stinking fabric. Lily let me help her without a word, and that said everything.  ‘Does he – I mean, how long?’ We slipped into the darkness of the long narrow hallway, our feet finding the way without light, as they had done for all the years between our girlhoods and now.

‘He’s suffered a major relapse,’ said Lily, and even though I couldn’t see her, I could imagine her looking around for peeping eyes and spying ears. ‘It’s impossible to pacify him now. He’s like a starving man who’s forgotten how to eat.’ She paused, and I thought about how she licked her lips when she was nervous, and the shine in her dark eyes. ‘He has a day. Maybe,’ she whispered.

‘If I run, right now, and wake the Librarian, I can get a recording of the ocean,’ I said, my throat contracting. ‘If that would help. If it would help you, I mean.’

‘My busy bee,’ she said, her words stumbling. ‘It wouldn’t do any good. It’s the real ocean he wants, the real thing. He’ll know a recording.’

‘But – it’s impossible,’ I said, my eyes flooding, warm and wet. I blinked, hard, realising we’d stopped walking. We stood, in darkness, our Lord’s sickness between us, and only one day left. ‘It can’t be done, Lil. The ocean? Nobody’s heard it in a generation, not for real!’

‘Sssh,’ she said, like she was comforting me. ‘I know. He knows it, too. He’s playing for time, is all. But he’s too sick.’

‘But that means… it means…’ I wanted to fling the sodden bandages far from me, but instead I sunk my fingernails into them, feeling them rip beneath my hands.

‘You know I loved you, Maryam. Always,’ she said, so quickly I barely heard it.

‘Lily –‘ I said, but a clanging bell smashed my words to shards and turned my blood to ice. Voices shouted, and the darkness lifted a little as, somewhere close by, someone lit the first of the torches. He’s gone, I thought, and my heart clattered around inside me. The Lord’s dead.

‘They’ll be coming for me now,’ I heard Lily’s voice say, straight into my ear. Her lips were warm on my cheek.

‘I won’t let them take you,’ I wanted to say, but it was as if I had swallowed a handful of thorns. I won’t let them touch you I won’t let them butcher you I won’t I won’t

‘I won’t leave you alone,’ she said, shoving the disgusting bundle of cloth at me, making me stumble.

‘Wait!’ I screamed, but it was too late.

In the darkness, her sure feet found the top step without difficulty, and she fell without a sound.

They buried her alone, in an unmarked hole, because only the beautiful can be interred as handmaidens of the Lord, and only the perfect can join him in the sky. From the top of my tower I can watch the old soil reclaim her body – her traitor’s body. Or so they say, at least. I know better.

She promised she’d never leave me, and she kept her word.

Some Friday Flash

It’s Friday.

Thank goodness. I feel like this:

Image: bighugeminds.com

Image: bighugeminds.com

Perhaps it’s a consequence of it being the first full week back into the ‘norm’; the routine of early (pitch-dark) mornings, running around like a fly with an azure behind all day, and falling into a grateful stupor at night – well, once I’m finished reading ‘just another chapter!’ of course.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. That could be it, too.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see Friday’s smiling face. I’m also glad to have completed another ‘Flash! Friday’ challenge – I’ve posted my story below, just in case you’d like to throw your eye over it. It’s not the best piece of flash fiction in the world, nor the most original, but I don’t know. There’s something about it that I like. I have a soft spot for time travel stories at the best of times, and I could think of worse places to be stuck than early twentieth-century America, so in a way I’m a little jealous of my characters.

And, when you think about it, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

So – here’s how it works. Every week, the lovely people at Flash! Friday select a prompt image, and also a prompt word, or words. This week the prompt words were ‘Time Travel’, and the image was this:

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

And here’s my wee story:

End of the Road

‘Wait. I don’t …’ The handheld panel illuminated Palmer’s frowning face. ‘Just a second.’

‘Haven’t got a second,’ I said, assessing our new surroundings. Vehicle, of sorts; windows grubby, warped. Unfiltered sunshine. Early twentieth? Maybe? How could we be so far off, again? As Palmer scanned her screen, I glanced behind. Wow. A tunnel carved through a giant tree spanned the road – it must have been our vector. Huh. Organic, again… The jalopy groaned and shuddered, knocking me out of my thoughts. I turned back around, trying to focus.

‘C’mon, Palmer,’ I muttered. ‘Quickly, before we’re seen.’

‘Yeah, yeah. Hang on.’ Palmer swiped the screen, decisively. She pressed ‘Engage.’


‘What’s wrong?’ I side-mouthed, trying to stay calm.

‘No way,’ she breathed. ‘Of course. Organic vectors. Missing targets by centuries…’


‘It’s the Network. The Timeshift itself.’ She swallowed, hard. ‘It’s collapsing.’

What?’ The car swerved.

‘How’s your twentieth-century patois?’ she grinned, sadly. ‘We’re going to be here a while.’


And, with that, I wish you a happy Friday and a peaceful, restful weekend. Read lots, write lots, and laugh as often as you can.


Falling into Step

I have big plans for January.

Image: benmarshall-wordpirate.com

Image: benmarshall-wordpirate.com

Whether or not my energy levels will allow me to bring all these plans to fruition, now – that’s a different thing. For a variety of reasons, I’m starting this New Year already feeling a little tired and under the weather, but I can’t let that hold me back. I’ve got to find the rhythm of the year, and fall into step with it.

Just like everyone else.

One of the things I’m determined to do is get back into my habit of writing fresh short stories every week; I’m fairly good with keeping up my Wednesday Write-Ins (Christmas Day and New Year’s Day excepted), but I’ve totally let my Flash! Friday stories slide in the last few months. One of my resolutions for 2014 was to get back into the habit of challenging myself every week with their fiendishly difficult picture prompts, made even more fiendish this year by the addition of a mandatory word prompt, too. Luckily, I’ve just managed to complete my first Flash! Friday challenge of the year, so things are off to a good start. I’ve just got to remember not to drop the ball again.

I haven’t so much as thought about ‘Emmeline’ since before Christmas. Other stuff – life stuff – took over my brain and squeezed out any chance I had of worrying about my story. So, right now, I’m going through my usual terror at the thought of opening up my Word file again and rummaging through my WiP, looking for the severed threads of the story in order to pick them up and start the tapestry afresh. I’m pretty sure I’ll manage to get started again, but I have to navigate this no-man’s land before I can reach that blessed point, and I hate that part.

I have books to submit to agents. I have agents to follow up with. I have a book to finish. I have competitions to enter. I have opportunities to explore.

I can do this.


If Katniss can fight off more baddies than I can even imagine, I can so fight this piffling little battle. Right? Right! Image: thenovelettesblog.wordpress.com

If Katniss can fight off more baddies than I can even imagine, I can so fight this piffling little battle. Right? Right!
Image: thenovelettesblog.wordpress.com

Oh, and just in case you were curious, I’ve shared my Flash! Friday entry below. This was the image prompt:

Image: en.wikipedia.orgImage: en.wikipedia.org

Anatomy lesson being given in 1829 by Antoine Clot (Clot Bey) in Egypt

The prompt word we were to use, along with this prompt image, was ‘Discovery,’ and all we had was 140-160 words, exclusive of title, to do it in.

And here, without further ado, is my entry:

One Red Finger

The anatomy room was hot, expectant. All had come to see the wonder of Clot Bey, to learn from the master. I had secured a front row seat, and I fought to hold it amid the jostling.

The subject – barely dead – lay mere feet away. Silently, I thanked him for his sacrifice.

Then, dreamlike, our teacher appeared. My body strained, keen, eager. His very stride was an instruction. His fingers touched the scalpel and raised it, bright as heaven’s dart.

But the blade trembled as it fell, kissing the corpse’s skin uncertainly, tentatively.

Confused, I searched our teacher’s face. Too late, I saw the unnatural flash in his eyes and the cracking, lolloping grin.

Shouting, I rose to my feet, pointing at the impostor in the body of Clot Bey. In a single blink, the human shell fell away to reveal the fiery carapace beneath.

Amid the screaming tumult, the demon smiled at me, beckoning with one red finger.

Wednesday Write-In #56

This week’s words were:

swamp  ::  toasted  ::  strumpets  ::  carnival  ::  artificial


Image: godlessmonkey.wordpress.com

Image: godlessmonkey.wordpress.com

The Show Goes On

‘The smell of something baking will attract them,’ he said. ‘Quick! Go and find something to put in the oven. They’re coming!’

‘What?’ I snapped back. ‘Have you been overdoing the ichor again? All we have is dirt. And some scraps left over from last time. None of that will smell good toasted, take it from me.’

Felby turned away, muttering under his breath. I hated when he got like this.

‘Pardon?’ I said. ‘Didn’t quite catch that.’ In reply he just threw a spell at me, a burning one which landed on my skin like falling ash. He didn’t even turn around to watch as it bit into my flesh, leaving a bright red weal like a pair of rouged lips, an artificial kiss. Despite the pain, I quite liked it.

‘Look, look, look!’ he squeaked, pointing out the window with one yellowed claw. ‘They’re nearly here!’ His tail lashed and writhed in midair. Our Felby would’ve been a bad poker player, I thought.

‘All right, all right,’ I muttered, crossing the floor to switch on the generator. The lights popped awake, and the music whined into life, the notes stretched and treacly as they warmed up.

‘Now – go! Out with you.’ Felby’s talons poked into my back as he ushered me toward the door. ‘Don’t forget the clubs!’ I was already halfway down the steps, but Felby helpfully shoved them into my hands and slammed the door behind me. I stamped to the ground, making a point of crashing through the still surface of a puddle as I thought about being inside, in the warmth of the caravan, for a change. Why was it always me who had to draw the punters in?

I stood in the light cast by our travelling show, tossing the clubs from hand to hand in a movement worn smooth by centuries of practice. That was why Felby’d taken me in the first place, of course – my sleight of hand had always been second to none. I threw in a few spins and tricks as I waited for the prey to come close enough to see me.

Then, I heard the clicking of their pointed shoes and the pointiness of their clicking tongues, and I smelled their painted flesh. I heard the rushing of their blood. My stomach roared as I tasted the swamp of their emotions, their tangled little feelings, the thoughts which seemed so important to them, but which flickered like falling snowflakes to me, melting away to nothing.

I juggled faster.

‘Oh, look!’ one of them squeaked, stumbling against her fellows. ‘A little carnival!

‘How cute,’ said another, turning her ankle as she walked. They all giggled as she struggled for balance, the noise of it like knives in my ears. I tried to smile.

‘And look at the little baby,’ moaned one, her eyes turning soft, like sludge underfoot. I fixed her with a look as I threw my clubs, over and under and over and spin… ‘Isn’t he adorable?’

‘Aren’t you a wonderful juggler, little man?’ shrieked another. I bowed as I threw my clubs, never missing a beat. The strumpets clapped, their gabbling growing unbearable. My grin started to ache.

They shambled toward me on unsteady feet, like something newborn. Clucking and shushing as they went, keeping their purses clutched tight and their eyes thrown wide, they were drawn to the lights and the music and me like gold draws greed.

I hoped Felby would leave one for me, this time, but I knew better than to expect it.