Flash Fiction Friday

Love a photo prompt  – 100 words

Image result for ladybird in rain

The hammering and clapping of the dragonfly’s wings grows closer as I scuttle towards the barren tree, my legs weak, my spiracles flapping violently. Before I reach the tree, I see the raindrop looming pregnant above me. I am trapped. My predator lands, its oversized head just a whisper away. I ooze my life source, releasing my foul odour into the air. It pauses. My moment. The air is heavy with unspilled rain. Can I? I spread my tremulous shell; my wings peep out nervously. The dragonfly’s engorged eyes glaze with confusion. I hover for a second and then…I’m free.

Editing and publication

Journeys book cover

I am very proud to announce that a book I have co-edited is now in publication. The anthology entitled: Journeys: A Space for Words is available to buy from Amazon and from Indigo Dreams Publishing LTD. So far it has been met with very kind reviews. James Nash said that: “Journeys contains a beguiling mixture of pieces which do that thing that the very best writing does, which is to give us insight into our own experience and the experience of others.” (Nash 2016)

Editing the anthology has been a very exciting journey as it has given me the opportunity to work with published and well respected authors such as Martyn Bedford and Char March. Also, I have been uniquely placed to nurture fledgling authors in the first stages of their careers and to help some of them see their work in print for the first time.

When I was first given the chance to develop the anthology, I was more than a little excited. Writing and people’s ability to transform words into worlds and flights of wonder is something that never ceases to amaze me. It was a huge privilege to read the high standard of work generated by our call for submissions.  As I know first-hand, sharing your writing and putting it forward for scrutiny for many people is like baring their soul. We each put a piece of ourselves into the words we commit to the page and I am honoured to have read so much of it in my capacity as editor.

The decision to have a unifying theme of ‘journeys’ seemed right from the outset of the project and it was a truly enlightening experience to read the array of responses generated by that one simple idea. “This theme, as we hoped it would, has attracted an eclectic mix of works, each of which, we feel, encapsulates different nuances of the idea of a journey. Within the compilation, there are pieces dealing with universal themes such as love, loss, growing up and growing old. And there are other interpretations: the journey of a missing scalpel; a stormtrooper at a service station, and a galloping wine bottle.” (Ed Brighton and Buick 2016)

So, if you want to take a look, please do click on the links below.

Until next time, Happy Writing 🙂


Indigo Dreams Publishing

Ever wondered how to breathe life into people made of pen ink and punctuation?

The simple answer to that is that you have to get inside their heads. You have to put them in a variety of scenarios and see how they act, see how they react to the people around them. It isn’t enough to just write your characters in the confines of the scenes they inhabit. What do they do for fun? What was their relationship like with their parents? How did they feel about school? The list is endless. Just give yourself ten minutes with your character, a pen and a situation and see what happens.

At a recent character workshop run by the very talented author Susan Elliot Wright, one of the writing tasks was to write for ten minutes from the point of view of your character waiting for someone to arrive on a train. The only other stipulation was that they hadn’t seen the person arriving for a long time. At first, I stared blankly at my paper. That didn’t happen in my book and I was putting my protagonist in an entirely new situation. ‘There isn’t even a train station in Cedarthorpe,‘ I thought.

After the time was up, I was pretty happy with what I had written and found that I had learned something new about my character. She was wearing a necklace. She fiddled with it while she was waiting; it was a sign of nerves. And then my mind started to race. Why that necklace? Was it significant? Who had given it to her? Within that ten minutes, I had decided that this necklace mattered. This necklace had belonged to her sister who had died. It was a grounding mechanism that she touched when she was feeling out of control. It was silver and in the shape of a butterfly. I had found out something significant about her and it is currently being written into other parts of the novel. In sfeather-clipart-407-writing-using-a-feather-and-ink-designhort, it made her more real, more alive. Now, whenever I picture her, she is wearing that necklace.

Making a character a person is a massive undertaking but it is arguably one of the most important. Think about your favourite book, TV show, film. What is it that makes you want to find out what happens next? Usually because, on some level, you feel like you know that character and they matter to you. So, if you want your people made of pen ink and punctuation to have the same impact on your readers, spend some time with them and really get to know them.

Until next time, happy writing.

Laura Barnett and ‘Being Brave!’

I was excited for the opportunity to meet Laura Barnett at the Wakefield Literature festival back in September; I try and get along to as many local author events as I can. There is nobody better to inspire you than the ones who have ‘made it’ and inspiration was certainly the order of the day at this particular event.

Laura Barnett has recently published her debut novel The Versions of Us with overwhelming success. It is currently enjoying a renewed surge of publicity after being included in the Richard and Judy Spring 2016 Book Club. I was fascinated to hear Laura talk about her book; her inspirations for writing it and her journey from the last full stop to publication.

She was asked many questions about the book itself and her motivations for the plot and the characterisation. It was fascinating to learn that she wrote the book as one and not as three separate stories as one might have expected. For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book follows three versions of a life that might have been. One person asked her if she had a favourite version to which she responded good humouredly, “That’s like choosing a favourite child.”

I was particularly interested to hear about her writing life. She talked about the importance of carving out time for writing which can be something we all struggle to do. But, as she quite rightly pointed out, if it is important to you, you will make the time. Laura also talked about her writing routines and the planning techniques she had used when writing The Versions of Us. For anyone wanting to write, it is always intriguing to hear how published authors craft their ideas into words.

One anecdote that particularly stayed with me was when she talked about her experience of finding an agent. I imagined careful research; months of anguish and an array of rejection slips. But no. She picked a contemporary author she admired, in this case, Sarah Walters, and approached her agent. Luckily, the agent, Judith Murray, liked Laura’s work and her path to success began. From being accepted by the agent, her book has gone from strength to strength enjoying a spot as the Sunday Times number one bestseller. The book is also being optioned for a TV series; I will look out for that with eager anticipation.

Towards the end of the afternoon, I was lucky enough to speak to her personally and I told her about my own writing. I asked what her one piece of advice would be and she said, “Be Brave.” She went on to say that if you want to persue  a writing career, you have to say yes to things and put yourself ‘out there’. I really liked the advice and have tried to carry it around with me. As well as her advice, she kindly signed my book telling me to keep writing and keep dreaming.

I am sure we will see more from Laura as she builds her career as a writer and I, for one, wish her all the best.

On writing

Pick up the pen. Poise. Pause. Procrastinate.
Doubt and fear, crushing and inescapable.
A jumble of words and half formed ideas
Collide and clatter, shouting to be heard.
The pen hovers tentatively.  Quivering.
Unblemished paper white and intimidating.
A drip, a jot, a scrawl, a squiggle.  Something.
Slow and scratching, then gliding and gracious.
No longer virgin white.  Tinted.  Tainted.
Sibilance and semi-colons start to tell a story.

Elizabeth is Missing 


Elizabeth is Missing is Healey’s debut novel which won the Costa book award in 2014. As an aspiring novelist myself, I was eager to see what had led to Healey’s overwhelming success. With a sense of anticipation and enthusiasm, I delved into the touching and poignant story of Maud.

The book is written from the perspective of both Maud in the present and Maud in the past, with two stories running parallel throughout. Both timelines have an unsolved mystery at their heart. In the present, Maud is concerned that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. In the past, a younger Maud’s older sister, Sukey, has gone missing following the end of the war.

The start of the book introduces the reader to the character of Maud in the present, who is clearly suffering with dementia. She has a habit of buying things she already has and forgetting she has them, much to the annoyance of her long suffering daughter Helen. The moving portrayal of the protagonist’s struggle with senility shows a clear personal insight into the condition on the part of the author. Maud is immediately a likeable and engaging character. However, because the narration is so authentic, it can be a difficult read at times.

Maud sets out to try and find out what has happened to her friend Elizabeth but she is thwarted at every turn by her ever diminishing memory. Inevitably, she finds herself going through the same motions again and again such as visiting the police station and calling Elizabeth’s son. None of her attempts to find out the truth of Elizabeth’s whereabouts prove fruitful until the end of the book.

The secondary story is a seventy year old mystery about what happened to Maud’s sister, Sukey. After marrying a man with questionable morals and a violent temper, Sukey disappears never to be seen again. As well as the dubious husband, the lodger has a secret and there is a mad woman lurking at every corner. Compared to the fragmented narrative of the present story, the post-war mystery can be read with ease and has a swift pace.

The haunting mystery of her sister’s disappearance is no doubt why the heroine is tormented by the fact that she doesn’t know where Elizabeth is. At the end of the book, there is a conclusion of sorts but, due to her condition, Maud’s narrations become more and more muddled and difficult to decipher. It could be argued that the ending is disappointing for those who like things tied up neatly in a bow.

All in all, it is an interesting and brave debut novel which will tug on the heart strings of anyone who has ever been touched directly or indirectly by the ravages of old age. I eagerly anticipate any further novels by this author.


Writing prompt – The Letter (strictly no more than 100 words)

The white envelope fluttered effortlessly down to the carpet. I eyed it with a myriad of emotions coursing through my veins. This was it. This was what I had spent three long months waiting for. Wiping my hands on my jeans, I bent down to pick it up. I handled it with the delicacy of something precious and priceless. Taking a long, deep breath, I tried to quiet the voices in my head. With trembling fingers, I picked at the corner of the envelope. The contents started to reveal themselves to me, “We are pleased to accept your submission…”

Image result for envelope

Please post your 100 word response to the prompt: The letter. I would love to read them. 🙂

Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The story starts with the protagonist having viciously attacked his wife. His cold and distant comment that, “I expected more of a reaction the firstgetPart time I hit her” leads the reader to realise that there is something unusual and unnerving about Oliver.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of different people who have known Oliver at different times in his life. It is through their stories about him that the reader is able to piece together the troubled life of Oliver. They also begin to unravel the reason behind the attack on his dutiful and somewhat downtrodden wife.

The use of the different voices is an effective narrative technique as it serves to introduce the other characters without the bias of the 1st person narration of one character. Oliver does have a voice in some of the chapters but he comes across as cold and unlikable. I think it is only through the story of his childhood that the reader is able to gain some sympathy for the protagonist and his rejection from the only parent he ever knew.

While there is a plot about what happened in France and the reason behind the attack, the main focus of the book is the main character himself. Some character focused books can become repetitive and lack pace, but that is certainly not the case here. The author creates a suitably complex character in Oliver and it could be argued that although he seems to cause pain and suffering for everyone around him, at the end he commits one selfless act.

I would highly recommend and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy reading and writing.:)

Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

IMG_5111I loved, loved, loved this book. The clever narration allows the reader to witness the atrocities of the Room through the skewed perspective of a five year old child. The first half of the book is set in one room where the reader sees the way that Ma has tried to protect her son from the truth or their situation. Unlike Ma, Jack has never known the outside world and believes that it only exists in the TV. He has anthropomorphised the items in the room and sees them as his friends. For me, this brings into question whether the human instinct for socialisation is in fact nature rather than nurture. Jack has only ever had a relationship with his mother and yet he seeks friendship with objects and cartoon characters.

The second half of the book follows their escape and subsequent adjustment into the world. Jack, at times, misses the closeness of his mother and their isolation. Ma also has trouble dealing with life after her release and attempts suicide. I am glad that the story didn’t end with their escape because much of the long term damage of their imprisonment is explored once they are ‘free’.

I read this book as it’s on my MA reading list for the module of ‘Reading as a writer’ and so I thought about what I have learned or what I can take away from the book from a writing perspective. The book is a triumph and I could write all day about the things the author does well, so I have narrowed it down to three things I particularly like.

Firstly, I admire the author’s use of a child narrator. She captures the nuances of a child perfectly. She also has a good insight into child language acquisition as some of his language reflects his lack of socialisation. Jack’s language becomes more fluent as the novel progresses and he begins to interact with others. In my  novel, half of the story is told from the perspective of a child (although not as young as Jack). I hope to study Donoghue’s technique and will try and make my character as believable as Jack.

Secondly, her use of dialogue is good and helps to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the story that can’t be fully understood by the narrator. Being a child, Jack doesn’t understand that their situation is unnatural. Through his narration coupled with the dialogue, the reader is able to deduce what is happening.

Lastly, her use of setting is obviously an achievement as the first part of the book is set only in one room. Using a limited setting allows the reader to fully explore the characters and how they are dealing with their confinement. Moreover, the room becomes a symbol of their relationship for the past five years once they are released. It has been intense and almost suffocating. It is one Ma is keen to change but Jack clings to it faced with the uncertainly of the ‘real’ world.

All in all a brilliant book. I would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already. 🙂