#AmWriting News: A New Story at Short Story Sunday

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 17.41.36I’m very happy to have had a story of mine published today on the wonderful Short Story Sunday website.

It’s called Will Tree Roots Damage My House? and begins like this:

As Daniel sits and opens his laptop, Ruth takes a sip from her well-earned glass of white and looks at the little oak tree that has planted itself in the flowerbed at the bottom of the garden. Against the darkening sky, its leaves look almost black. From where they’re seated on the patio, the swaying of its branches makes the stars behind them seem as if they’re really twinkling.

‘It says here that some species of oak tree can grow up to two-and-a-half feet in a year…’

To read the rest, visit Short Story Sunday

I hope you like it!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 7

last line firstGood morning from the chilly-but-sunny south of England! Welcome to Week 7 of Last Line First, a weekly and week-long, low-pressure flash-fiction challenge. Pour yourself the drink of your choice, pull up your favourite chair, have a read of last week’s stories and then have a go at writing one of your own. You don’t have to post it right away. You’ve got until midnight (GMT) on Sunday the 8th of March to enter, so you can write, rewrite and polish to your heart’s content!

Your last line prompt this week is from Why? by Paul. I picked it as my favourite because it’s one of those important questions that fiction writers strive to answer with their stories.

As always, you have until midnight on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember: you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Why do people do what they do?

Have fun!

#AmWriting #AmReading News – February 2015

It’s almost the end of February and therefore time for another reading and writing round-up. This time of year seems to fly by, which is not a bad thing as I’m not a fan of Winter. I do like the cold-and-crisp blue-sky days, but you can keep the grey-and-drizzly ones!

As far as writing goes, I’ve not been doing much at all (Every winter it’s the same: my fiction-writing brain takes a vacation between January and March. I only wish it would take my body with it. It could do with some warm sunshine.). Two of my stories have, however, been published and are now available for public consumption.

I hope you like them!

On the reading front, I’ve worked my way through four books.

indexI finished FlashDogs: An Anthology. This is a super read. I do have two short stories of my own in it, but that’s not what makes it super. What makes it super is that it’s packed with great flash-fiction and short stories spanning every genre imaginable. Obviously, I enjoyed some tales more than others, but that’s to be expected from a book that contains 110 stories written by 34 different authors. At £1.99 for the ebook and £6.38 for the paperback, it’s an absolute bargain. Plus all profits go to The International Board on Books for Young People, a charity devoted to encouraging excellence in children’s books, to supporting literacy and reading projects across the world, and to developing international understanding through children’s books.

17336666After spending the whole of the autumn reading flash-fiction collections, I felt the need to start the year by devouring a novel or two. I bought Deadly Heat ages ago, but lent it to my mum who then lent it to a friend, and it only found its way back to me at Christmas. After reading it in January, I quickly ordered the latest book in the series, Raging Heat, as I knew I’d need a February fix too.

For those not in the know: Richard Castle (played by the ruggedly-handsome Nathon Fillion) is the titular character in the TV show Castle. Castle is a crime writer who rides along (initially for research purposes) with NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett (played by the mesmerizing Stana Katic). A series of spin-off books have been released. This is where it gets complicated: these books are “written” by Richard Castle and “inspired by” his adventures with Beckett. In the books, the writer is a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist called Jameson Rook (See what they did there?) and the NYPD homicide detective is called Nikki Heat (hence the ‘Heat’ in every title).

20454547The plots in the books are loosely based on the plots in the show, but readers are meant to believe that the show is not a show but real life, and once you get stuck into the books, you really do start to believes that’s the case, and it becomes increasingly difficult to remember that both Castle and Rook are fictitious.

As far as I’m aware, the public doesn’t knows who ghostwrites these novels. Whoever they are, they do a pretty good job of capturing the show’s ethos – and bending my mind. The writing can be a little bumpy in places and both of these latest books could have done with another pass in front a proofreader, but when it comes to Fillion/Castle/Rook I can forgive anything!

428864Living Out Loud by Keri Smith is a cracking little book – although it’s not really a book; it’s more of a folder with lots of pull-out-able pages. As my fiction-writing-brain has been switched off since Christmas, I decided to give my creativity a boost with some new fodder. This book is packed full of inspiration to keep you dreaming and playing. There are games, projects, activities, crafts and ideas that open the eyes and mind to all manner of creative opportunities. If, like me, you’ve been feeling a bit stagnant on the creative front, this might be just the refresher you need. (Expect another post about the creative endeavours inspired by the book!)

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 6

last line firstHello and welcome to another round of Last Line First. How did we get to Week 6 already?

Your last line prompt this week is from Killing to Save by Paul. I picked it as my favourite because it’s short and snappy and makes me want to read on.

As always, you have until midnight (GMT) on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember, you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Sometimes you feel like you’ve just saved the world.

Enjoy!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 5

last line firstGood morning/afternoon/evening! Welcome to week five of Last Line First.

It was really hard to pick a favourite last line this week as there were so many great openers to choose from. I did eventually manage to settle on one though.

Your last line prompt this week is from The Blind Date by Kirsty. I picked it as my favourite because that ‘…’ is just begging to be replaced with a story.

As always, you have until midnight (GMT) on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember, you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

I don’t believe in love at first sight, but …

Happy flashing!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 4

last line firstHello and welcome! It’s week four of Last Line First. I wonder what stories will surface this time around.

Your last line prompt this week is from Fairground Initiation by Denise Sparrowhawk. I picked it as my favourite because it’s short, sharp and to the point. It’s also written in the second person which I find challenging to read and write. (Of course, you don’t have to write your story in the second person if you don’t want to.)

As always, you have until midnight (GMT) on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember, you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

You’ll know better next time.

Well, what are you waiting for? Off you go and … write!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 3

last line firstGreetings, and welcome to Week 3 of Last Line First!

This week’s last line prompt is from The Last of the Battle Queens by Nat Newman. I picked it as my favourite because when used as a first line, it begs a question – and that’s a great way to start a story.

As always, you have until midnight (GMT) on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember, you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

They will never, ever learn that lesson until it is too late.

I’m looking forward to reading what you come up with this week.

Now, my pretties … fly … fly … fly …

All Work and No Play

IMG_9595When I was young, I loved to draw, paint, cut, stick, glitter, build, mould, splat, scrunch, fold, print, sew, write, doodle, smear, cook, read, knit, dig etc., but somewhere along the line, I grew-up, stopped playing and started working, and those activities that couldn’t be classified as ‘work’ (or as ‘of benefit to others’) were left behind in childhood.

One of the bestest things about having little people in the family is that play becomes part of everyday life again. On Monday, I sat down with my four-year-old niece and a pot of playdough, and within ten minutes we had created a swarm of butterflies. We hadn’t planned to; we’d just squeezed the dough from its tub, rolled it flat, grabbed the first cutters that came to hand and while we chatted, the butterflies simply fluttered into existence. It didn’t matter that in a few minutes they’d be squished back into their pot and it would be as if they’d never existed – we were enjoying the moment and having fun.

When my own children were little, I spent hours and hours and hours playing with them, but now they’re older and more independent, we don’t play together nearly as much, and it wasn’t until I was cutting out our butterflies that I realised how much I missed it, how much I missed messing about, how much I missed making something just because I could. Sometimes it seems that everything we do should have a point and purpose outside of itself, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that that’s a lie. (I hate the term ‘educational toy’!) Yes, play is an opportunity to learn about the world and to explore our passions and creativity, but it’s also an opportunity to be and do without the pressure of performance. Play for the sake of play is part of what makes life worth living, and I want to do more of it.

Do we really need the excuse of being children, or being with children, to make time for play?

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 2

last line firstHello, and welcome to Week 2 of Last Line First!

In the spirit of flash-fiction, I’m going to keep this brief.

Thank you to everyone who participated last week. It was great to have you aboard for our maiden voyage. I enjoyed all the stories, and I hope you did too. It always amazes me how so many different tales can arise from the same prompt. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, you can do so here.

This week’s last line prompt is from Time Enough by Voima Oy. I picked it as my favourite because it immediately conjured an image in my mind, and that image is already turning itself into a story.

So without any more waffle from me. Here is this week’s last line prompt.

His eyes are full of the things he’s seen, his mouth is full of stories.

Now … go turn it into a new first line!

As always, you have until midnight (GMT) on Sunday to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions. Remember, you can tweak the last line however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules visit this page.

Outliers and Misfits: Search and Rescue

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Image by Walt Stoneburner. Some Rights Reserved. CC BY 2.0.

Outliers and Misfits is a collection of stand-alone flash-fictions all set in the same universe, a universe where there’s no such thing as normal …

Kelsey McCLellan: Obituary

Kelsey McCLellan, who died at the age of 47 while on a mission in Scotland, was probably the most loved and respected member of the international Search and Rescue community.

Having lost both her parents at a young age, Kelsey moved to Wales to live with her grandmother. After an unsettled start at secondary school, she took up climbing, and by the age of thirteen, to the surprise of everyone who knew her, she had earned a Golden Karabiner and been invited to join the International Rock Climbing Federation. Over the next three years, Kelsey won medals for Great Britain in the IRCF Championships, and, in the year that she gained twelve GCSEs, she also successfully lobbied for climbing to be included in the next Olympic Games.

Even with all of Kelsey’s sporting achievements, it wasn’t until she was seventeen that she entered the awareness of the general public. When a family became lost in extensive hill fog on Mount Snowdon, Kelsey led a group of volunteers up the mountain in near-zero visibility, locating the family – which included two children under the age of five – in less than an hour. That year, she was honoured for outstanding courage at the Britain’s Pride Awards.

After leaving school with A-Levels in Geography, Physical Education and Human Biology, she moved to Cardiff and joined the city’s police force. Following an exemplary four years on the beat, she was promoted to the Missing Persons Unit, where her case clearance rate was “second to none”. During this time, Kelsey’s love for climbing had to take a backseat, but after twelve years, she decided to combine her two passions and joined Search and Rescue UK, where she quickly earned a reputation for having “unbelievably unerring instincts” and a “whatever it takes attitude”.

During her seventeen years at Search and Rescue UK, Kelsey’s instincts and attitude took her on missions all over the world. She found people who had wandered off the Machu Picchu trail; she found more than one group of school children whose boats had capsized while white-water rafting in Austria, and she found airliners that had gone missing over mountain ranges in Canada, America and Nepal. Most famously, she located the whereabouts of the Atlas IV reentry capsule after it was lost by NASA. This January, Kelsey was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list, but sadly did not live to receive The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.

When news of Kelsey’s tragic death was announced, tributes poured in from around the world. Among the most poignant, were the words of Jeanette Harrow, mother of one of the schoolboys saved by Kelsey on her last and fatal mission. She said, “if it wasn’t for her, my son wouldn’t be alive today. Words can’t express how grateful we are. She was a true hero.”

Kelsey did not marry and had no children. Her funeral was held outdoors at the foot of Mount Snowden. Nearly ten thousand people were in attendance.

(This story first appeared on Ether Books.)