Halloween Quickfic

Just in time for Halloween, a little flash fiction inspired by this week’s @FaberAcademy #quickfic. I tried to be spooky but I don’t know if I’ve suceeded…

quickfic halloweeen pic

Trick or Treat

At last the boys and girls are coming, a parade of ghouls and goblins streaking along the streets in polyester capes and plastic fangs. Already their stomachs are swollen with the treats they’ve collected.  They giggle and shout as they walk up the road, not noticing the rising mist which trails them like a shadow, guiding them up the hill to our house.

Beside me Jem stirs, wiping sleep from his red eyes.

‘Not long now,’ he whispers, planting a fetid kiss on my cold cheek.

Fresh from slumber my body feels heavy as iron and cotton wool clouds my brain.

‘We’re too old for this,’ I sigh.

‘Just one more time and we’re done. ‘

I wish I could believe him but after two hundred years I’m immune to his lies. We’ve been best friends forever so I know him inside out: come next Halloween we’ll be here again waiting for the kids from town.  Scaring the little ones is the only way he can feel alive; as he grabs my hand I can feel his strength returning.

‘Trick or treat!’

For a moment the knocking on the door fills me with fear. My flesh itches as once more I’m in the coffin, the earth thundering over me as they seal me inside. Flinching, I feel pins and needles as spiders crawl over my body.  Then I remember why we’re here.

‘Ok, on three, ‘ Jem says.

Holding hands, we pull off our masks and open the door.

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National Flash Fiction Day 27th June 2015

National Flash Fiction Day is an annual event which celebrates the world of flash fiction. Although I haven’t been writing these micro stories for long, I wanted to be part of it, so was excited to see an opportunity to write and submit stories on the day. Finishing a half written story, I quickly submitted it. I wasn’t too hopeful as I’d been rejected before, but I was delighted that this time I was accepted. You can read my story here along with many others. A flood of flash fiction published on the day is also available here. Enjoy!

#Fic140

If you’re a regular Twitter user, you might have seen the #Fic140 hashtag in your timeline last week.  Future learn, who run a fiction writing MOOC, set the challenge to authors to see if they could create flash fiction stories using just 140 Twitter characters, including the hashtag #Fic140. The challenge ran from 12 to 16 May.

Even though I’ve been writing flash fiction for a little while now, I didn’t find this easy. How is it possible to write a beginning, middle and end with such a restriction? I thought these micro stories would be quick to write, but I still had to edit to get down to the character limit. I still struggled sometimes to find the right words. Anyway, I had a go, and from some of the responses I got I think I was reasonably successful. Some worked better than others. For me the best stories were those with a twist and a little dark humour.

As well as writing stories, I had a lot of fun reading some of the ingenious tales from fellow tweeters. It shows it can be done. Who knows, some of these tweets might turn into longer stories. I’ve decided to collect my tweets here. See what you think…

Once Janet had believed in fairy tales. Maybe today she would again. Crossing her fingers, she muttered a prayer and marked the X

Tap, tap, tap. Dan scanned the deserted beach. Nothing but an old bottle, washed up on the shore. ‘Let me out!’ it whispered.

Annie had liked Ed, her handsome neighbour. Shame he had to go. Wiping away the blood, she hoped the next tenant would be quieter

The incessant wailing drove Gemma to it. Thank God for genetic engineering she thought, as she flipped the baby’s mute button

Andy’s in the back row with Clare. The wait is almost over. His hand creeps lower. ‘Let us pray,’ the priest begins

The bed shook. Jane knew the man next to her hadn’t made the earth move. No, the neighbours had left the washing machine on again

They examined the new boy like an endangered species as he entered the class. ‘Please open your books at page 100,’ he told them

Sue had no regrets, she’d had time of her life. But the affair ran its course. The due date expired; she returned the library book

The bus rumbled along, rocking Annie to sleep. A scream jolted her awake. Bravely, she faced the horror; she’d lost her phone

She recalls chocolate kisses, playing AC/DC till their ears bled. Next to the toothless man in bed, she turns off her hearing aid

The dot receded rapidly, a dirty smudge erased. Looking through the window, Miranda wondered if they’d ever return to Earth

Her fingers danced across the instrument, rousing a new song. With the violin string round his neck, she awaited the crescendo

Storyboard magazine

Another day, another story published! I’ve had a piece of flash fiction posted on the Storyboard Magazine website. I’ve just discovered this site, but I like the fact that they post a theme for short stories and flash fiction. Sometimes when I’m stuck this really helps. In fact, I’m so happy with what I wrote, I might turn it into a longer story. Anyway, you can read my work here.

Firewords Quarterly

I’m delighted and excited to say my flash fiction piece ‘The Artist’ is going to be published in issue 4 of Firewords Quarterly. I’m particularly excited because this is will be the first time I’ve had anything published. I don’t think I’ll believe it until I see it in print. It’s a gorgeous magazine, which I highly recommend, and not just because I’m going to be in it! Keep an eye out for issue 4 which is due out in March.

Christmas flash fiction: Secret Santa

Here’s a piece of Christmas flash fiction I wrote for a competition. I didn’t win but I still kind of like it.

Secret Santa

A flurry of snowflakes descended from the indigo sky, dusting Emma’s shoulders like icing sugar. She shivered in the shop doorway; a combination of cold, nerves and excitement had given her goose bumps. Tonight the usually quiet High Street was packed with Christmas shoppers in search of last minute gifts; treasure hunters seeking gold. But there was no familiar face among them.

As Emma waited she recalled the Rush Hour Crush message in the newspaper that morning:

Office Angel on the no.1 from Heaton: Your Secret Santa is coming to town. Meet me outside Boots at 6.

Emma checked her watch: 6.30. She’d give him another 10 minutes and then she was leaving. Over the last few weeks the messages from her secret admirer had been the only excitement in her life. She was too settled with Danny, whose idea of a good time was pizza, beer and Breaking Bad on Netflix. Emma felt as if she had lost her lustre; she needed some Christmas magic to light it again.

Her best friend Yvette had warned her off. 

‘You’re mental!’ she said, ‘he could be a psycho!’

‘He seems normal,’ Emma defended him weakly.

‘Putting ads in a newspaper is not normal, it’s creepy,’ Yvette argued back.

Emma stamped her feet to beat the cold and hoped Yvette wasn’t right. They’d gone through a list of possible candidates and come up blank. Always suspicious, Yvette thought the whole thing was a joke by one of her work mates. Emma couldn’t believe anyone would do such a thing.  

‘Ho, ho, ho!’

A drunken Santa wobbled across the street. Emma turned and pretended to be fascinated by the window display.

‘Merry Christmas!’ he bellowed.

Santa crashed into her as she tried to leave. He grabbed her arm to stop himself from falling, presents crashing to the ground. Leaning down, she helped retrieve the tattered parcels. Now a crowd had gathered to gawp at the spectacle of a pissed Santa. Emma felt her cheeks flushing.

‘Have you been a good girl?’

Emma let out a misty breath and silently cursed.  Her secret admirer would be too shy to approach her now. She stood up, opening her mouth to give Santa a piece of her mind. At that moment the crowds parted and a tall silhouette emerged. A shiver of recognition ran down Emma’s spine. Slightly wonky blue eyes peeked out from under a woolly hat. ‘What the…?’

Danny knelt on one knee on the sodden ground, pulling a present out of Santa’s sack. He offered it to Emma. Her heart pounded with the pure excitement of getting something she’d always wanted for Christmas. Her hands shook as she tore into the wrapping paper. Tears fell down her frozen face as she opened the little blue box. ‘Will you..? Through her tears, Emma nodded. Danny’s smile sparkled as brightly as the ring as he placed on her finger.  

It was the best Christmas present ever.

Winning the Novelicious Pinterest Prompt

Since finishing the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ MOOC I haven’t posted at all, but I had some news that made me want to remedy that. I’ve posted previously about Novelicious’ Pinterest Prompt flash fiction competition , and I’m very happy to announce that I won and was featured in their July newsletter. It goes to show persistence does have its rewards! This has given me the motivation to continue with my writing.  Now all I need is to do is find the time…

novelicious pinterest prompt win

 

 

 

The end of ‘Start Writing Fiction’

Well, I finally finished ‘Start Writing Fiction’. I’ve been busy with that and other things, so I haven’t had much time to blog about it. Because of this, I’m skipping straight to week 8.

For the last assignment of the course we had to write a story of up to 1000 words. I decided to extend a piece I’d written earlier as I really liked the character and the story had stuck in my head. I tried to take on board everything we’d been taught over the last 8 weeks. Before I started the course, when I started a story I’d always tried to think of a plot first, but I think this course taught me how important characters are to fiction. I found it much easier to start with a character and imagine what they were up to. Now I can pass a complete stranger in the street or on the bus and invent a whole story for them. It passes the time on bus journeys! Writing prompts are also good; I’m always on the lookout for unusual news stories and pictures to get me started.

One of the things I haven’t been so good at is keeping a journal; I still have scraps of paper littered everywhere. I think I need to be more organised.

It’s been a fun course and I’d definitely recommend it as it motivated me to write more. It’s running again in October if anyone is interested.

Anyway, here is my final piece. I got some lovely positive feedback from my reviewers, so I hope you like it too.

Perched on the edge of his single bed, Gustaf absorbed the silence as if it would give him the strength to make it through the day. He rose early, relishing the peace before the old crone woke and called for him. As the quiet permeated his skin, he imagined Elsa; the light tinkle of her laughter after he had told her a really bad joke; the sweet, fruity smell of her skin after she’d had a bath; her yellow hair brushing against him like soft cotton as they snuggled up on the sofa. At a young age he had grown to dislike company; all the jibes about his size and slowness had caused him to retreat. Elsa had been the only company he needed. Even though she was gone now, the absence of noise at this hour made her whole again. For five minutes every morning he could paint a picture of her in his mind to replace the photographs their mother had destroyed.

      The moment Mother called, the image shattered into pieces, disappearing into motes of dust. Gustaf froze, staring at the threadbare carpet where her vision had been, as if to hang onto it for a millisecond longer. Coming back to the present, his shoulders sagged at the sound of his mother’s voice. The lightness of Elsa’s memory that had held him up now evaporated, as if the shriek was a pin bursting his bubble of happiness. So it was a little odd that he found the old lady subdued this morning, not sparring for a fight. He adjusted his glasses to get a better look, cocked his ear close to her chest to check if she was still breathing. She wasn’t dead yet, but she barely moved or uttered a word as he manhandled her like a ragdoll into her creaky old chair. The hatred that radiated from her bony frame was weak, as if ebbing away, a river running dry. It was about time it wore her out, it had taken long enough. This could be a good day, Gustaf thought.

      Later, Gustav hummed as he surveyed the countryside from his driver’s throne: it looked like a picture postcard, Photo Shopped to blur out the bad bits. Too perfect. Too still. At this thought, uneasiness spread over him like a chill rain. This was not right. Where were the dirty pigeons shitting on his windscreen, the impatient motorists honking horns, pedestrians dodging traffic? It was as if all had all been erased, time pushed backwards. His muscles tensed in his neck and arms as he drove. Expectation trickled down his spine like cold sweat.

      Then the girl appeared in a blur out of nowhere, illuminated by sunlight. The ethereal glow suggested to Gustaf that she was a saint. Or a ghost. Then he remembered he didn’t believe in that stuff anymore. But something about this child unsettled him: he felt memories wriggling like worms in his mind, trying to burrow their way free. He thought he imagined a cold hand caressing the back of his neck and jumped in his seat, hands slipping from the steering wheel.

      When he hit the brakes, the bus juddered to halt, jolting him forward. Ignoring the protests of his passengers, Gustaf watched as the girl stopped and crumpled at the side of the road. Dirty blond hair obscured her face. The white dress was grubby and torn, as was the veil in her hands. Her bawling cut through the clamour of angry voices behind him.

      Recovering himself, Gustaf clambered down from the bus, his knees creaking as he flexed them for the first time in hours. As he lumbered over to her, his bulky frame felt monstrous, cumbersome. With legs and arms like tree trunks, his unkempt beard and hairy knuckles, he could look fearsome to strangers. He smoothed back his hair and pulled down his creased shirt, trying to smarten up. When he reached her, he hunched to try and make himself childlike. It was an impossible task. As he drew close he could feel the vibration of the sobs which wracked her tiny body

      ‘Hey,’ he whispered. ‘You okay?’

      For a moment the girl didn’t answer and Gustaf wondered if she was deaf. A few seconds passed until she slowly raised her head. Large blue eyes stared at him. She looked so much like Elsa; ocean blues eyes, corn blond hair. Skin so pale you could see the dark blue veins pulsing underneath the surface. He shook his head to purge the memory. This was not her. He didn’t believe in ghosts.

      The girl shook her head, a movement so small he barely noticed it.

      ‘Where’s your mummy?’ he asked.

      The girl sucked her thumb as she pondered the answer. Gustaf ached to comfort her. Since Elsa had vanished he had missed so many years of hugs and kisses, jokes and games. But he held back. He didn’t want to scare her away.

      ‘Gone,’ she said.

      At that moment he felt as if giant hands were clasped around his neck, choking him. The echo of her voice, Elsa’s voice, made him choke. He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus, tried not to see Elsa, but a lost little girl.

      ‘What’s your name, sweetheart?’

      She chewed her dry lips, picked the skin from her bitten nails, pausing as if she had forgotten it. Then a whisper:

      ‘Elsa,’ she said.

Week five: Challenging expectations

This week on ‘Start Writing Fiction’,  we’re continuing to look at characters; how by giving them unexpected contradictions and conflicts, we can create characters that are living people, not just caricatures and stereotypes.

Our first task this week was to write a brief scene, around 300–500 words and portray a character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations for such a character. We were just asked to write this in our notebooks, but I’ve decided to post it here. I’m not sure if I’ve got this quite right, but I like what I’ve written so far. Hope you do too.

As soon as Ricky entered the room, he felt their animosity bubbling all around him. It wasn’t just that his clothes were more Primark than Prada. Or that the canvas of tattoos on his arms made him look like a walking work of art. Not even the piercings, stuck into him like a human pin cushion. No, it was more likely the pale face and kohl rimmed eyes that had shocked them, a stark contrast to their St Tropez tans. The whispers tickled the back of his neck as he sat down, drawing his books and pens out of his rucksack. He tugged on the collar of his black t-shirt, sweating under the bright classroom lights.

Rubbing his eyes, he tried to focus on the whiteboard at the front of the class. The words written there were blurry and indistinct, like a foreign language. It had been a long night and his ears were still ringing from the thumping bass and pounding drums. He grimaced as he bent to retrieve his phone, limbs recalling the effort of humping his drum kit in and out of the gig, setting up, playing to a bored crowd, and then packing up again. It was after four by the time the van had dropped him home. The room was spinning and now he had to concentrate on complicated algebra calculations.

He ignored his phone as it buzzed for the umpteenth time that morning. Shaun again, wondering where he was. If he could see me now, Ricky chuckled to himself. He resisted the temptation to text back, to dump his books and run. Instead he pulled his long black hair into a pony tail and slowly stood up to face them.

‘Good morning, I’m Mr Lewis and I’ll be teaching this class while Mr Stephens is away.’

He felt the room tremble as the students murmured, waves of surprise washing over him. He still felt a shudder of pride every time he said that.

He let them settle for a moment, then he began.

‘Right then, open your textbooks at page 150 please.’

 

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