During the last three months of 2021 I focussed on writing my circus novel, and thanks to enormous help and support in Nancy Stohlman’s Flash Novel Mastermind course, I completed a full first draft before Christmas. Its working title is Thistles in the Cirrus, which is clown-speak for Things in the Circus.
My number one priority for 2022 is to do a comprehensive edit of the circus novel and move it forward from there.
At the same time I have started submitting shorter work to journals and competitions. I will be writing new work, and I also have a fair number of flashes and short stories sitting in my ‘unpublished’ file which I will be sending out.
Once the circus novel is at the next stage and I have sent it to first readers, I will be turning to another work in progress. More about that when the time comes.
In the meantime I will be posting news and thoughts about things writerly here at least once a month, and in February I will run another competition, so look out for that.
Happy writing and reading, and do share your writing plans for the year ahead.
I’ve been writing, and I’ve completed the draft of a sequel/prequel (what do you call that – a sprequel , maybe?) to In the Sweep of the Bay. It’s currently with beta readers.
Bay has been doing well, I’m pleased to say, and was shortlisted for Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards2021 It’s still available to buy from my lovely publisher, Louise Walters Books or from your local bookshop. Several book groups have chosen to read it and Louise offers a deal on purchases for book groups.
I’m working on another novella-length story – one I started last year and put aside. It’s currently rather baggy and has some significant holes in it. Like an old jumper, but not comfortable like that! I’m hoping to pull it into shape very soon.
Meanwhile I’ve had minor successes – some flashes published, a few longlistings and shortlistings, and one win! I’ll be updating my Stories page with these very shortly.
I’ve also been reviewing for Lunate – reading critically is, I think, an important skill for writers to develop.
So, on this Midsummer’s Day I give you roses from our garden, and wish you sunnier 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.
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.
I was delighted to be invited to put forward a photo prompt for the Retreat West Micro Fiction competition in April, and even more delighted that it inspired 139 people to enter, the largest number since the monthly competition has been running!
It was fascinating to read the shortlisted entries, and I loved both the winning entries, which you can read here.
I thought people might be interested to know where I took the photograph. It is at Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia.
This famous Buddhist site is often referred to as a temple, but it’s actually a place for walking meditation on the stone friezes, which are on seven levels.
When I visited, back in 2013, we got there very early in the morning because by soon after 9am it is too hot to be up there. We were not alone – there were, as you can see in the photograph above, masses of school children too! Here’s what I wrote in my travel journal at the time:
Children kept asking if they could take my photograph and I kept saying ‘no thank you’. My friend said – ‘You should photograph the monument, this is your heritage, we are just human beings’. They didn’t get it, of course, how would they? To them, West is best. Wrongly of course.
The photograph I offered as the story prompt was taken with my back to the monument, looking out towards Mount Merapi. It looks peaceful in this scene, but is Indonesia’s most active volcano!
New year, new writing, and a new competition from me.
You are invited to write up to 300 words (not including title) inspired by the photograph below. Send your entry in the body of an e-mail (no attachments please) by midnight (UK time) next Wednesday, 15th January, to email@example.com. No bios, but include your Twitter handle/link to your Facebook page. Subject line of your e-mail should be: Friday story submission + story title.
I will post the story I like best here as next week’s Friday story, with a big shout out to you and your writing.
Tip: Discard your first idea. Discard your second idea. Go with your third idea.