My bits of writing include flash fiction and short stories. Some of these have won prizes. Often the stories appear first, and sometimes exclusively, in my newsletter, so if you want to be part of the club, sign up below! My thank you gift to subscribers is a free ebook of Dragon Gift.
In July 2021, I released a collection of ten stories and flash fiction with fairytale/legend themes, some longer than others, some more serious than others. Entitled Dragon Gift, the three stories featured in Jacqueline Belle’s StoryTime for Grownups are among the ten.
Since release, the little book has garnered some lovely reviews.
Go here to purchase or sign up below to receive your free ebook.
A few of my bits of writing have been recorded and I’ve posted these to my Look and Listen page.
For less polished tales, take a look at my Writing Prompts blog, where I post daily. It’s been a great help to me to get the creative juices flowing after a slow patch at the end of 2022. Join in via Facebook and Instagram!
A river’s call
A short story based on the theme of Journeys and very relevant to my part of the world, where the River Wye is in serious trouble.
A visceral urgency goads her through the swells, a magnetic draw luring her to the place of her conception. This voyage was fated the day she abandoned her natal river to flourish in the ocean’s vastness.
Read the rest of the story here.
This piece of flash fiction came 3rd in the 2022 Ottery St Mary writing competition. Many thanks to the organisers and the judges!
The boy is too small. The kite too big.
Blustering squalls which whip the grasses sloping to the cliff edge tumble the kite through a louring evening sky like a nest-less fledgling. Its ribboned tail tangles in a snarl of colours. The boy clings to the line, arms tight against its drag. His head bobs, keeping time with his flying toy.
I squint into the wind. Where is the father who this morning laughed with this boy on the sunny beach, guiding his small hands on the line?
Petrichor had hung in the air, as much proof of the passed shower as the glistering drops which turned the sea thrift to pink tourmaline. I had stooped to gather the rosette-hearted flowers, curious if their semblance to the jewel might keep the devils in their hells. For a time.
Roused by a child’s joyous shriek, I lifted my head to find the father, son, and the glorious kite. Peacock-shaped, brilliant wings outstretched, its tail feathers coursed across a fresh-washed sky.
Turning back to my gathering, my hand hovered over the tempting yellow poison of horned poppy. No. I touched a finger to my ‘tourmaline’ and snipped grey fronds of wormwood. Healing fronds, pressed to cuts and bruises. Should they be called for.
The boy had run along the sand, the kite filling his world. The father proffered me a quick glance and strode away.
Now, on the cliff top, a tumultuous wind eddies around the kite, tosses it higher, still higher. The kite surges, falls, gorging on the gusts to soar above the white-capped waves thundering against the rocks below. Gulls rise from their nests, screeching reproof.
The boy’s eyes are fixed on the kite. His feet slither on wet grass, legs taut, body unbalanced. The peacock wings swallow the turbulence, swelling and collapsing in imitation of the billowing waves. They yank the boy, tugging, hauling him towards the gulls – towards the plummeting drop.
Four more stumbling steps. Three. Two …
Let go! I scream against the wind. Let go!
He cannot let go, cannot escape the kite’s unrelenting drag. The boy is as ensnared as a fish on a worm-laden hook.
No time to ponder, to consider the consequences of confirmation.
I spread my arms, body lifting … and I am flying … fighting the storm … arms braced, fingers clawed to pluck and save …
The texture of pastry, the crunch of a homemade biscuit …
This short piece was longlisted in the Winter 2022 Reflex Fiction competition and appeared on their website. It was later voted into 4th place by kind supporters – thank you. Here it is to save you another click.
Sweat from the plastic seat soaks her thin dress. She wants to stand, air her backside, feel pressure through her legs, her feet.
‘Won’t be long,’ they say.
She was dressed and ready by early morning. Breakfasted too, if that was breakfast. An unblended morsel regurgitated in her throat. Swallowing it down was a triumph, of sorts.
Through the glass, the leaves on the beech had hung motionless, still sleeping. Snippets of birdsong drifted in with each opening slide of the door.
Now a blowsy wind harries the beech, tugging the dying leaves, whirling them in a boisterous game before dropping them to the pavement.
She waits, closes her eyes. She picks over the best of it.
Spring’s primping bluebells partying their brief time in the sun before a nascent leaf canopy banishes them for another year. The lush smell of strawberries, searching out plump fruit with the grandchildren: three for the basket, one for me, one for you. Laughing.
She smiles, inwardly. Conjures the feel of lifting the corners of her lips.
How did she ever take that for granted?
Harvesting autumn’s banquet to bubble into ruby jellies. On her knees – she senses the motion in numbed legs – hacking at frozen ground for parsnips for Christmas dinner. Tossing logs onto a fire from a basket carried indoors in her own working arms.
The texture of pastry, the crunch of a homemade biscuit.
A darker memory elbows its rude way through the moments of content.
A deer on a forest path, hoof caught in wire, eyes crazed with pain and panic. Exhausted by futile struggles, it barely moved as she looked on from a respectful distance, speaking into her phone.
‘Won’t be long,’ she whispered to the deer.
One moment leaping. The next, whiplashed into immobility.
The deer. And her.
Did the deer hide in memory too: of stippled light, a suckling fawn? Or simply crave release? Which came, with the ranger’s bullet.
‘Mum?’ Her son is here, frowningly apologetic.
A blinked response is the best she can do. She aches to do more.
She aches to beg a ranger’s bullet for herself.
When last we walked in the woods
A piece of micro-fiction on the theme ‘Shrink’. It didn’t win any prizes, but is a tribute to my collie Sam.
The box goes in the rain-stained rucksack along with the dented water bottle–just one bottle today–and we make our ambling way into the forest, walking stick in hand.
It’s good to have you here again, a coming home. We wade through bracken, pause by an oak where once you waited for a cheating squirrel to descend. Sun filters through new leaves. A bird sings its blessing.
I pull out the box, unseal the plastic bag, shake out the contents.
Dry-eyed, heart full. Our tramped miles have shrunk to this, a circle of ashes around the oak’s bole.
This story was shortlisted in the winter 2020 Retreat West flash competition.
A faint slap of water rises from the clogged canal through the barely bobbing mass. Ahmed balances a foot on a bottle, splays his toes over the famous red letters for better grip. The other foot rests on a rusted drum. He see-saws, grinning, happy with his skill. He skips to a mud-caked carton, moving quickly, arms spread, keeping tight hold of the bowl clutched in his hand. A final stride and he is over.
Read the full story here (a 2-3 minute read).
Something light and local. When a blank postcard falls through Edna’s letterbox she’s at first only vaguely curious.
The postcard fell through the letterbox onto the hall carpet. It was a Friday. Edna remembered that later because she was about to open the door to leave for her Pilates class when the rattle of the letterbox made her jump.
Read the full story here (a 2-3 minute read).
The story appeared first in my March newsletter (see above). Sign up and get ten more stories for free!
Image courtesy of Sungreen website
If you scream long enough into darkness
Winner of the Retreat West Echo-themed flash competition in early 2022, listen to the narration to get the absolute best from this story! Go to my Look and Listen page.
An age old celebration – but what’s really going on? My November newsletter piece of flash fiction.
The day – the night – is here.
The children hold their guys high, lovingly made ready for this moment over the last days. Their creators raided their mothers’ store rooms for rags, begged trousers and shirts from willing fathers, and competed with each other for who has painted the most expressive face or whose guy is the best dressed.
Read the rest here (ca 3 minutes)
Long listed in Flash500 annual short story competition 2020/21.
A trip to the beach and a soldier’s reckless behaviour, clarifies a few things for nurse Elsie.
The full story was featured in September 2021’s newsletter and initially exclusive to subscribers. Now it’s here for all to enjoy. A 7 min read.
Jack has cadged the loan of a jeep. Elsie is crushed in the back, thigh to thigh with Ted. The ruts in the road are hard as concrete and deep as trenches, and the growling jeep jerks like a Fifth of November jumping jack.
First seen by newsletter subscribers in July 2021
Edie can’t hear the television. She tuts, lifts the cat off her lap so she can leave the couch, and squints down from her third floor window at the front of the block of flats.
Council workmen in yellow hazard jackets and hard hats are jackhammering holes in the footpath. Chunks of concrete skip about their armoured legs. Read the rest here.
Winner of the inaugural Ottery St Mary writing competition, this is one of the ten stories in Dragon Gift
Once upon a time a leftover almond orchard lingered in our suburban street. The grown-ups walked by the orchard every day on their way to the bus or the train or the shops. Mostly they ignored it, although in spring their inward-looking eyes might stray outwards for a moment to graze the pale pink petals fading to their magenta centre.
Read the rest here.
From a creative writing workshop prompt, which was: What happened after Alice left the tea party?
Trigger warning: UK culturally specific!
‘She didn’t eat much.’ The Mad Hatter waved his arm over the sandwich mountains, the biscuit hills and the cake islands filling the table. Read the full story here.
Originally a workshop prompt based on this image, then used in Twitter’s #7DayTale where it was well received.
His fingers splay against the glass. The scene beyond is a moving picture of trees and grass.
Read the rest here.
Written for a competition but then re-written for my February newsletter, to celebrate Valentines Day – and the romance of my novel Keepers.
A sleeting February morning isn’t optimal to find love. Especially here on this grey, wind-blown high street. Condensation-filled cafe windows and heads-bent shoppers scuttling like crabs to their holes, are hardly the birds singing in blossom-filled trees and rainbow skies Jenny might wish for. Read the full story here.
Recorded by Jacqueline Belle – listen here
The full story can be read in Dragon Gift
This woodcut of the Great Flood of 1607 has always touched me, with the floating cradle. It inspired this story, written for the monthly Secret Attic competition, where it won first prize. With their permission, it was also included in the 2020 Resilience anthology produced by Dean Writers Circle, the proceeds of which went to Forest Read Easy Deal (FRED), a local charity supporting adults with literacy problems.
It was also selected among the top ten entries for Stroud Short Stories, read by me at their online event on 9 May. But for a truly magical experience, listen to Canadian poet Jacqueline Belle read it on my Look and Listen page.
Agnes has a headache. The thick air presses her temples, her heavy-lidded eyes squint despite the lack of sun. She glances up, for the hundredth time that morning. Black clouds broil above the fields, frothing like a mad dog’s spit, resisting the wet wind tossing them across a purple sky to merge with the distant mountains.
The Moon’s Silver Path
Recorded by Jacqueline Belle – go here
The full story can be read in Dragon Gift.
Runner up in Graffiti Magazine’s 2020 prose competition and published in their Issue 25 in October 2020. To listen to Canadian poet Jacqueline Belle read it as part of Story Time for Grownups, go to my Look and Listen page.
It’s apt that Lille is here, where the waves play tag with their deaths on the sand.
It was on this beach that she first saw the young fisherman. His sodden body rose and fell with waves lethargic from the storm and Lille’s soul ached at his wasted beauty.
Recorded by Jacqueline Belle
Prepared for an event in Ross in 2020 which, well, hasn’t happened yet. However, most excitingly, you can hear it read by poet Jacqueline Belle as part of the Story Time for Grownups series on my Look and Listen page. Her voice adds so much to the drama of the piece.
In the icy winter night, the dragon circles high above the sleeping village. Her great leather wings beat the air. Her shiny-scaled body twists, the ridged tail curling and lifting to sweep the stars. The full story can be read in Dragon Gift.
One of two bits of writing done for inclusion in the Resilience anthology published in 2020 by Dean Writers Circle.
‘The ship kept thic down.’ My new neighbour grinned at his own wit, using dialect to confuse me. ‘Why auld Buck never had fence out front. The ship mowed for him.’
Read the full story here.
Freddie’s Night Out
A workshop piece based on this photo by Penny Kerr as the prompt
Giants stalk the land. They come in winter, garbed with long coats, hands on shoulders, waiting for prey … Read the full story here
A bit of nonsense for Dean Writers Circle meeting where the theme was fairytales. Nursery rhymes count, right? A friend counted references to 22 in here.
Might as well be living in a shoe box. Actually, just the shoe.
All these kids.
How had it happened?
You had ’em, Sis, her step-sisters pointed out. (They were too ugly to have their own.)
Mum always said she was the black sheep of the family. Baa, baa to that….Read the full story here
Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images on Visual hunt / No known copyright restrictions
In 2020 I helped to organise a children’s History of the Forest of Dean book written by best selling children’s author Andy Seed. We spent early in that year (when such things were possible still ) visiting Hopewell Colliery to talk to Freeminer Rich Daniels about life as a freeminer over the 800 years the rights given by King Edward have been exercised. We also visited Clearwell Caves where ochre and iron ore have been mined for thousands of years. In between we wandered up an old dram road to a monument to a 1904 mining disaster, which inspired me to post this piece of flash. I wrote it a while ago for a water-themed comp I didn’t in the end enter.
How high did the water rise? Did it lap at the toes of those who had found life-saving height on handy rocky shelves? Did it embrace waists, the cold fingers of a no-longer-desired lover tugging at drenched trousers? Or did it soak through heavy flannelled shirts to turn arms and shoulders into numbed sponges? Read the full story here