Flash fiction: Jealous

He wears flashy trainers. Likes Coldplay. Smokes. Any one of those is a turn off, but all three combined? What she sees in him is beyond me. But then, Jessie’s shallow. Must be to find a jerk like Josh cool. Josh and Jessie. Makes you think of soggy fish and chips.

He wasn’t cool in History today. Dipped a hand in his rucksack and… well, seeing how he freaked, it must have been seriously gross. And he snarls at me, ‘I’ll get you for this!’

What the…? Me? Because I sniggered? Everyone did. As if I care what she does. Jerk.


In response to Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, where this week’s prompt was Labyrinth’s song Jealous. My thanks to Matt for hosting this – not only does it give me a chance to try my hand at flash fiction, but since I’m easing up on the blogging to finish Perfume Island, it allows me every so often to stay in touch.

Flash Fiction: Death of a Bachelor

‘We’re safe then?’ whispered the gangly one.

The fat one nodded. ‘If all goes to plan.’

‘If?’ His beady eyes glared in the shadows. ‘We’re counting on you. A fortune’s at stake. Not to mention our positions.’

‘Yes, yes. It should be over now. But I don’t know -‘ He glanced round. ‘If the you-know-what was strong enough.’

The other flapped a hand in exasperation. ‘Come!’

Footsteps echoing, they scurried through the dark, draughty corridors to the chamber. Timidly, the fat one opened the door. ‘Yes!’

Grinning with delight, the two cardinals danced a sedate jig round the Pope’s dead body.


In response to Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, where this week’s prompt was Panic at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor. Although this precise scene is not historically attested, many an unfortunate Pope has met with just such a fate. The most recent was John Paul I in 1978, after only 33 days. He upset more than a few with his plans to clean up the Vatican and though it’s never been proved, it’s more than likely he paid the price. Quite a risky profession all in all.

 

Flash Fiction: The Bridge Over

‘What’ll you do?’ you said. ‘You’ll be all right, won’t you? Promise me.’ I didn’t want to think about it. I said I’d cross that bridge if I came to it. We both knew it wasn’t if but when.

The Clifton Suspension. Where everyone goes. If I make it across, I’ll get over you. But when I looked down, I wanted so much to be with you, I felt dizzy. Then a gull perched near, and your voice in the wind said you’d never forgive me.

I still haven’t got over you. But I’ve been crossing bridges ever since.


 

In response to Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, which had the song Bridge Over You as the prompt. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to do it, what with Christmas and all, but once I’d seen the prompt, I knew it would be hard to resist!

Gazette n° 4

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Today being the first Tuesday of the month, the fourth and final issue of the Gazette goes out, with just one story in it, The Sally Effect, which at 13,500 words, is almost a novella. It’s science fiction (or close to it), not a genre I’ve written in before, but I was interested in exploring the idea of alternate realities, or possible worlds, and this is the result. Many thanks to my subscribers – you have enabled me to revise and extend ideas or half-finished stories and get them into presentable form. Whether the Gazette will one day make a return remains to be seen, but it’s been a great opportunity for me, and hopefully enjoyable for you. Anyone else interested in getting this or other issues, click on the subscribe link on the right. Happy reading!

The Answer

The road across the moor was spectacular, but not one where you’d want to break down or have a puncture. Something about the wildness of it, the brackish water of the marsh on either side, and the trees shrouded in mist. Nice to admire from the warm interior of the car, and Colin was glad that his Volvo, though getting on, could be relied upon to see him safely across.

“Looking for an answer, they say.” The landlord’s words came back to him. The tale of the missing travellers – amusing enough in the bar of the Brigands Inn where he’d slept, not very well, the night before. Out here, the story felt different.

“Answer to what?” Colin asked.

The landlord scraped the froth from the top of his pint. “It was a long time ago. Seventeen something.” He raised his glass. “To your good health, Sir.”

Colin switched on the radio. Any Questions. “Does the panel think that it’s time for Queen Elizabeth to abdicate?” He smiled. Ah, the comforting questions of the present! And of course, everyone had an answer.

In the distance, by the side of the road, was a car. As he drew closer, he saw the bonnet was open. He slowed. A man stepped out onto the road, waving him down. Colin turned the radio down. “Having trouble?”

“Something electrical.” The man came closer. “Any chance of a lift to the nearest garage?”

“Haven’t you phoned?”

“Out of battery. Typical.” He was young, well dressed, with a northern accent, Lancashire perhaps, he’d learned to keep in check.

“Hop in.” Solidarity. Must be a salesman too. “Not the best of places to break down. Lucky I came along.”

“Very lucky.” The man turned slowly towards Colin. “I’m sure you can tell me the answer.”


A little story in response to Izzy’s May I: The Write post about open endings. Sometimes it really helps to know the answer.

OGB Cover: The (pre)reveal!

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The above is not the cover. But when I needed a cover to post One Green Bottle on Book Country, that’s one picture I came up with. The bottles were on google and the red band on the right was the consequence of me messing about with some editing software and finding no way to undo it. And then I discovered anyway that it didn’t have the right number of pixels, and when I fiddled with those the result was even more disastrous.

So then I thought I’d take a picture myself, the basic ingredients being a knife, some blood and, you guessed it, a green bottle. All of which was easy to find, though the blood involved a trip to The Magic Joke Shop in Cambridge, where I spent some time admiring the magnificent disguises before heading over to the blood shelf.

fancy dress 1         fancy dress 2                   fancy dress 3 www.mrcrumbles.net

http://www.mrcrumbles.net

I had to ask for help. Blood, I discovered, is like aftershave: spray, bottle or gel? “Oh, bottle, definitely,” said the hemoglobin assistant, who clearly knew her stuff. When I got back, I tied some string to the bottle and dangled it from the wall outside the house, observed all the while by the neighbour across the road. He was fixing snow chains to his car, which I thought was odd. It was a cold day in January, yes, but bright and sunny all the same. But then, I suppose, I was hardly well placed to describe other people’s behaviour as odd. Eventually, each convinced the other was mad, we sauntered cautiously into the no man’s land between us. “I’m getting in some practice,” he explained. “Off skiing soon.”

“Oh, right. I thought we might be in for snow.”

“Oh, no I think we’ll be fine.” He glanced at the sky. “For the moment, anyway.”

I was holding the blood-covered knife. He was too polite to ask, so I came to his aid. “For a book cover.”

“Ah, OK.” His look of relief turned to worry. “That would be fiction, would it?”

“Oh, yes.” I glanced at the knife. “For the moment, anyway.”

The three R’s: Writing, Reading, Reviewing

My arithmetic skills having long since withered, my third R these days is reviewing, which I don’t do enough of. That’s partly because I don’t do enough reading, in fact, so I ought to reduce the first R to get more time for the other two. But if I did that, I’d be unhappy, so for the moment it’s staying as it is. Nonetheless, as I look ever deeper into self-publishing, the importance of reviewing becomes more obvious. A sizeable batch of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads helps to attract more reviews – it’s a snowball effect. Fewer than thirty, and you’re unlikely to make much of an impact – readers tend to dismiss them as the usual 5-star hype by friends and family. More than fifty reviews, though, and people start to take notice.

I’ve only been on Goodreads a short while, but one thing you see straightaway is that the books with the most reviews are the ones that need them least. The first book I rated (5 stars) was Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. I didn’t write a review, though, because it already had 15,248, and I said to myself that I’d rather write reviews which could actually make a difference. So I wrote one (4 stars) for The Attic Piranhas by Marlin Williams, which currently has six reviews on Goodreads and 13 on Amazon.

Nonetheless, despite my writing commitments, I’m trying to make time for the other two R’s. I was recently a beta reader for William Chasterson’s intriguing Metaphysical Man, and I’ve just posted a couple of reviews on Goodreads. One for Clara Wiggins’s very well-written Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, the other for Casting Shadows Everywhere by L.T. Vargus. This, then, is the modest start to my Help Other Authors campaign, which others, such as The Story Reading Ape, have taken to admirable heights. And here’s a quote from Sally Cronin at smorgasbord which gives it a concrete basis: We are always hearing about the overwhelming number of Indie authors and the number of books we are competing with in the market place. However, instead of being overwhelmed, take a look at your circle of author contacts and instead of trying to make a difference to all Indie authors, how about as a group making a difference to twenty or thirty. If we all did that we would be supporting thousands within a very short space of time.

Sound advice indeed, and I’ll be posting more about the three R’s in future. Meanwhile, Amazon is asking me to rate the first issue of The World Unknown Review, volume 1. I bought it a month ago because it has a story by Book Country writer D.J. Lutz, but I haven’t started it yet. Give me a chance, guys – gotta do some writing myself!

Gazette n° 2 out tomorrow!

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The second issue of The Gazette has two stories in it. The first, A Typographical Error (1837 words) was simply inspired by an inversion of letters in a word, which gave rise to a completely different perspective on it and led me imagine a story around the two. Though it dates from a few years back I never sent it anywhere because I felt it was bit flippant for the seriousness of the topic it deals with. When I came back to it, though, it struck me that a lot more could be made of it, and that resulted in the second text Four Sisters: Susan (9182 words). This is in fact the start of a novel about, you guessed it, four sisters whose lives span much of the last century. A project I’ll come back to later, but writing up this first part enabled me to start giving it some substance. To subscribe to these free stories, click on the link on the right.


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Meanwhile, the first instalment of the weekly series What a Life! What a Day! is now available on Channillo, with the Muse Calliope telling us what makes her tick. If you want to know what she thinks of Tracy Emin’s bed, check it out! Or else, just spread the word – all proceeds go to the Against Malaria Foundation. Many thanks!

Gazette Issue 2 and other writings

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Many thanks to those who signed up for The Gazette. Issue 2 will be sent in a couple of weeks, and of course, to anyone who wishes, the first issue is also available – the subscribe link is on the right. Just a reminder – The Gazette is a free magazine containing two or three of my stories which may vary considerably in style or topic. For me it’s a useful way of sifting through ideas I’ve had for a long time but never got round to writing. So now I’m getting them into what you could call beta shape – not the finished product perhaps, but worked on enough to be put out for the judgment, and hopefully the pleasures, of others. Subscribers aren’t officially beta readers, since there’s no obligation to provide feedback (even if feedback is welcome). Details of the contents of Issue 2 will appear shortly.


Following my interview of T.J. Paris (author of, amongst other things, the wonderful Papa Bouilloire series), he has kindly reciprocated, with my answers to his questions appearing on his blog today. Many thanks, TJ!

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Finally, after writing a first piece about Mayotte to kick off Clara’s excellent series People Who Live In Small Places (now including Gibraltar, the Seychelles, the Netherlands and a village in the west of France), I was asked by Phoebe at Lou Messugo to do another piece, her series being devoted to France and its overseas territories. I didn’t want to repeat the same post as I did for Clara, so it’s quite different in fact, with the negative side (i.e. illegal immigration and its consequences) given more prominence.

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And that’s probably enough of me for the moment so I’ll sign off here. Ta ta!