Tag Archives: creative writing

Emergency writing biscuits.

28 Jun



I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with food. No, that’s not true. I’ve always loved food. Food has always been my ‘go to’ thing when I’m feeling down or bored or anxious. Food has always been there for me, when I really needed it. And when I really needed it, I generally wanted chocolate.

That hasn’t changed much over the years, although I don’t eat anywhere near as much chocolate as I used to (Honestly. I used to eat tubs of chocolate spread mixed with packets of M and M’s. In one go, with a spoon.). The main occasions now when treats call me are when I’m writing. Not every time I sit down at the laptop, but when I’m stuck or trying to edit something tricky. I think I ate my own body weight in biscuits the time my creative writing tutor asked for a chapter by chapter breakdown of my entire book; what happened to whom, where and why.

I learnt two things from that experience. One: writing a chapter by chapter breakdown when I’m only a fifth of the way through a book is – for me anyway – about as much fun as repeatedly poking myself in the eye with a breadstick.  Two: eating that many biscuits makes my head ache and my teeth feel like I’ve been chewing glue. Not good.

So now I’m looking for other ways to soothe my writing worries, rather than resorting to emergency biscuits. I’m also on my guard for ‘helpful’ writing advice which sends me scuttling to the goody cupboard. I’ve realised that, when you’re writing, if a particular technique or strategy doesn’t feel right to you, then perhaps it isn’t.

Have an apple and think about it.


Day 32: Til death us do part.

11 Sep

Yep, more death. Sorry. Blame Bree at ‘Read me my Writes’; this post was inspired by her. Er, in a good way. I’m not suggesting she did this. 🙂

* Contains swearing *

Til Death Us Do Part.

I have the most understanding wife. I really don’t deserve her. I thought when she saw Candy lying there, naked and bloody and dead, that she’d flip, but she didn’t. In fact, I’ve never seen her calmer.
She poured me a whisky then went to get a blanket and the plastic decorating sheets from underneath my toolbox. I watched her wrap Candy up, but it didn’t seem real until she’d finished and started pulling the bundle across the carpet, leaving a long, dark trail of half congealed blood. I threw up then.

Candy and I had been having an affair for some time. It started at work, and then spread to other places; the park, the cinema, my house. Susan never caught us, not until today, and then she walked in on me babbling at Candy’s naked body, shaking her by the shoulders. We’d been in bed, Candy and I, when she threw her head backwards and it smashed into the metal lampshade. I hadn’t realised at first just how much blood was pumping out of her skull, and then she’d collapsed onto the floor.

I helped Susan move Candy to the car. Susan never drives, but she did tonight, leaving me to drink my whisky and try to calm my nerves. When she came back she wouldn’t tell me where she’d been, just said that everything would be okay. She packed my suitcase, gave me the address of a cheap hotel several miles out of town, and said she’d see me there in the morning, once she’d finished cleaning up.

I’m at the hotel now, checked in and perched on the bed, staring at the cheaply framed print which sits at an angle on the wall, surrounded by horrible floral wallpaper. It smells bad in here, and I can hear music from somewhere. But it’s going to be okay, Susan said so. I’m so proud of her. She’s always been a quiet little thing, always needed me to tell her what to do. But tonight, she was amazing.

Jesus, this room really does stink. What is that? Something under the bed?

Holy shit.

It’s Candy. It’s fucking Candy. Surrounded by rotting rubbish. With a note pinned to her chest. It says “Got you.”

And now I can hear the sirens.

Day 17: Moving out

27 Aug

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear strange sounds coming from somewhere I can’t see into, I always imagine the worst…
Moving out

For some days now the scratching had been getting closer.

Jeffrey had only really noticed it once the rest of the team had gone off on holiday, leaving him behind to pack boxes ready for the move. The entire building was desolate, a handful of staff rattling around it, occasionally catching sight of each other and waving a hello as they emptied cupboards, threw dusty paper into giant green bins, and put anything useful or decorative to one side, ready to be smuggled out to a handy car boot later.

The estates team were working their way up from the basement, stripping each room in turn to leave nothing but peeling paint and the occasional stubborn wall plug. Jeffrey was on the top floor, so he still had three days to go before he’d leave this place for the last time, taking only his desk things and his spider plant in a regulation cardboard box. From what he’d seen in the brochure, the new office looked amazing, a sparkling concoction of chrome, glass and freshly laid carpet. Very different to his current surroundings. Jeffrey was removing a handful of rogue stress balls from the bottom of a filing cabinet, but he stopped work to glance around thoughtfully. In the quiet he heard the noise again.

He glared balefully at the ceiling; in particular at a grey vent that the scratching noise seemed to be coming out of. It had been faint at first, but all week it had kept getting louder, and this morning it sounded as though a small band of overweight pigeons were dancing a Gay Gordon just above his head, their scaly feet bouncing and scraping against the ceiling tiles. Jeffrey tried putting the radio on, but that just made the scrabbling worse.

He muttered under his breath, switched the radio off again, and went to find Suzanne in HR to see if she wanted a cuppa. She wasn’t in the usual place. Jeffrey asked estates but they said they hadn’t seen her, and that she might be on holiday. He went back into her office and found a long grey feather tucked into her computer keyboard. He huffed, made a cup of tea for himself, and sat on his own to drink it.

Jeffrey had only taken the first sip when the scratching started up again, frenzied this time. He swore and slammed the cup down, spilling tea across his desk. Grabbing the mop from behind the door, he started to bang the handle of it as hard as he could against the grey vent in the ceiling.

Estates heard the commotion and went to see what was going on. Jeffrey’s office was empty and everything was quiet, but a cup of tea had fallen onto the carpet and there was a long grey feather on the desk.

That flash fiction stuff

11 Aug

I’ve decided – either stupidly or optimistically, we’ll see – to have a go at the flash fiction month, where I write a flash fiction every day. I’m actually going to attempt 35 days, just for fun. This may end in tears and the tearing out of hair, but in the meantime, here:

Stones 8 7 6 5 great circle avebury henge

The American wouldn’t get out of the coach. “It’s not compulsory,” he drawled, wiping his pink face with a crumpled handkerchief.
Our tour guide smiled brightly. “Not at all sir,” he said. “It’s just a big part of the day.”
The American’s wife tugged at her husband and hissed: “It’s historical darling.”
With a groan, he unfolded himself from his seat.
The tour guide beamed at the rest of us, who were already standing in the late afternoon sunshine. “Now follow me,” he said, and we walked into the stones.
They would have been beautiful and magnificent, but I could hardly see them for the people crowding into the space. The henge looked like so many dropped blocks of ice cream and we were the colourful ants who swarmed greedily over it. Our tour guide found the quietest spot he could and started explaining the significance of the megalith that surrounded us. The American, standing at the back, whispered loudly to his wife: “This seems like an awful lot of fuss for a bunch of rocks.”
She snorted, mock-cross.
I pressed my hand against one of the stones, awed by the thought that someone, however many hundreds of years ago, could have placed their own hand in exactly the same spot.
“The stones have been so precisely positioned that on midwinter’s day the sun sets exactly between the two larger boulders you can see here,” the guide said. He pointed and we all made appreciative noises. “This is even more of an achievement when you consider the manpower needed to move these stones into place,” he continued.
“What’s this middle one for?” a boy interrupted, standing on a low, square block. “Is it for chopping people’s heads off?”
The tour guide laughed politely. “I’m afraid not. Although it has been suggested that stone circles like this one were the site of sacrifices performed to appease gods or ensure a good harvest, there is no proof that anything like that ever happened.”
The boy made a disappointed groan. His father muttered something about chopping his head off if he couldn’t be quiet, and the boy turned and ran away, making gun noises. He barged into the American, who clutched at his chest. For a moment I thought he was playing along with the boy, pretending he’d been shot, but then his knees buckled. As he sank towards the ground, the fingers of one hand plucking uselessly at the buttons on his shirt, his head came to rest on the low square block. There was a moment of silence and shock, then his wife was by his side, squawking. The tour guide ran across, white faced, and soon enough first aiders were summoned.

As we were all herded out of the space, I glanced back. In the light of the setting sun, the stone behind the American’s head glowed crimson.

A good place to start

22 Jul

I recently found out that a piece of flash fiction I’ve written is going to be published! Not only that, but it’s going to be published on napkins and distributed to indie coffee shops in Brisbane, Toronto and my home town of Leeds. Very cool!

I found out about the Napkin Story Project from the lovely Kate (http://www.mcbookishness.com/index.html) who I met at the most recent Leeds Big Bookend festival (http://www.bigbookend.co.uk/). Kate is supporting the Napkin Story Project in the UK, and told me about the Halloween theme of the next set of napkins to be published. I submitted three stories, and one of them (Neighbourhood Witch) is going to be included!

All the flash fictions get printed in October. There will be a launch event in each city, where the authors will read their work, and then I’ll be heading to Mrs Atha’s (http://mrsathasleeds.com/) for tea, cake and napkins…