New Year’s Wishes: a story for our times

It took me a bit of fumbling to get the locker door open; I never can see well without my specs. But I seemed to have got the wrong locker. No clothes, and something else in there. Something yellow. Something squeaking.

‘What the–?’

More squeaking. High-pitched. ‘I’m your fairy duckling.’

I stepped back, rubbed my eyes. ‘Okay, so I suppose I get three wishes.’

‘Correct. Three wishes for the New Year. How did you guess?’

‘Cut the wisecracks. Where are my bloody clothes?’

‘Your wish is granted. Look on the bench.’

I whirled round, holding onto my towel as a girl walked past me. ‘Nice duckling,’ she said. I scowled at her. On the bench was a pile of clothes, covered in dried blood.

The duckling had jumped down from the locker and waddled across the changing room.

‘Okay, Mr Cute,’ I said. ‘I don’t know how you’re doing this, or who’s behind it, but it’s not funny. I need decent, dry clothes.’

‘Your wish is my command,’ squeaked the creature. It waved a little wand with one of its wings.

Now there was another pile of clothes on the bench.

‘These are women’s clothes,’ I said, picking up a pink skirt.

‘Yes, and they’re mine,’ said the girl who’d walked past before. ‘Get your hands off them. Why are you talking to yourself, anyway?’

‘I, I–’ I stuttered. ‘I’m not talking to myself,’ I said, firmly now. ‘I’m talking to the duckling. Where’s it gone? You saw it.’

‘Why don’t you sit down,’ she said, patting my hand. ‘I could fetch you a glass of water.’

‘Now you get off. And I don’t want to sit down.’ I was beginning to feel hysterical. ‘I want to get out of here.’

Which was how I found myself out on the street on an icy December day with only a towel round me, explaining to a police constable that no, this was not a New Year’s Eve prank and no, I did not need to be escorted anywhere, thank you and yes, I would go quietly.

I could have done better with my wishes. Much better. We’re in lockdown now. Gyms and swimming pools are closed. Pubs too. Just as well, my wife says, after the incident with the so-say duckling last New Year’s Eve.

I’ve just looked out of the window. There’s a yellow duckling on the path. Waving a magic wand. I’m drawing the curtains before it sees me. Time to pour a drink.

Cheers! And a Happy New Year!

Cath Barton

Image by Chris Franklin from Pixabay

A few thank yous

It’s been a hell of a year for everyone. In the midst of all the difficulties there has been a lot of kindness shared, and I hope none of us will forget the importance of that as we move forward.

In the writing world I want to give a shout out to some people who have shown much kindness and generosity to me and my writing this year:

In no particular order :

Simon Webster at The Cabinet of Heed, especially for the stream of consciousness challenges during the first lockdown, when otherwise I would have written nothing.

Laura Black at Fictive Dream, who always gives a personal and thoughtful response to those submitting work.

Serene Ng and Nikki Yeo at new Singapore-based litmag Ome, who, while wanting to give a platform to Singaporean writers, also extended a welcome to contributors around the world.

Louise Walters at Louise Walters Books, for seeing my second novella into the world. I cannot thank her enough for all the time and care she has given to it, and to me.

Gary Kaill and Han Clark at Lunate, especially for trusting me to join their review team.

Paul Dunn at Cranked Anvil, for the competitions and the anthology

John Lavin at The Lonely Crowd, for including a story of mine which means a lot to me in stellar company in the very special five year anniversary issue.

Jose Varghese of Strands, for such quick turnarounds and for giving me my first competition win in a long time.

Huge thanks to them all.

And here’s to 2021 being a better year for everyone.

Looking up to the Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny
photo copyright Cath Barton

8 Ways to Support Indie Publishing

Indie publishing is a vital part of the book world. It enables unagented writers like me to get our books out in the world. But indie publishers not only operate on a shoestring, with tiny profit margins; they also swim in a sea where the big fish – the Big 5 publishers – get most of the publicity, reviews in the national press and book awards. Why? Because those big publishers have the financial clout.

So it is down to us, the readers (I’m a reader as well as a writer) to do help redress the balance. Here are 8 ways we can all do our bit to help independent publishing survive and thrive:

1 Buy direct from indie publishers. That way their income is (unless they choose to offer promotional discounts) the full cover price of the book.

2 Use social media to spread the word about a book you enjoy: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok (if you know how that works!) and any others I don’t even know about!

3 Review books you like – on your own blog if you have one, and also on Goodreads and Amazon (if it will let you). Even a couple of lines about a book is valuable.

4 Tell a friend, or two. Word of mouth is hugely powerful.

5 Ask your local bookshop to stock a book you’ve enjoyed. Having books on display, available for potential purchasers to browse, really boosts them.

6 Ask your local library to buy a book you’ve enjoyed. You might be surprised how amenable libraries are to this.

And, particularly now, in the run-up to Christmas:

7 Buy books you’ve enjoyed as Christmas presents for your family and friends. Some indie publishers offer Christmas boxes with other goodies alongside their books. Louise Walters Books for example, supplies local Banbury cakes with her books.

8 Submit your favourite books of year to the end-of-year readers’ listings such as that published by The Guardian.

Thank you!

My book on display in Waterstones, Abergavenny

Now We Are Two

I’m proud to say that I’m now a two-book author.

My second novella, In the Sweep of the Bay, was published on 23rd November by Louise Walters Books and is currently available in paperback and ebook. An audio book is in preparation.

We had a launch party on Zoom on the eve of publication and you can watch the recording of this on Louise’s YouTube channel here.

The book is selling so well that Louise had to order a reprint two days after publication!!

We are currently midway though a blog tour:

Louise are I are both very grateful to everyone who has bought the book and for all reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Keep them coming and support independent publishing.

Talking about writing

In this time promotional tours for books cannot happen. But fortunately technology gives us alternatives, and I’m taking every opportunity that comes my way to help put the word out about my new book.

For book bloggers this is #NovellaNovember, which is serendipitous rather than planned for my novella In the Sweep of the Bay. It was a pleasure to talk about novellas with writer and blogger Kathryn Eastman for Nut Press. Kath is also doing a generous giveaway of copies of both my books – leave a comment on her blog to be in with a chance.

Then there’s the world of podcasts. I talked with Wayne Kelly recently for The Joined-Up Writing Podcast. Or rather I talked, a lot, and he got a word in edgeways from time to time.

Just 6 days now till publication date…