YAY! I’m in an anthology!!

This is my last post of 2018, and I wanted to share some news.

I have a flash story in an anthology presented by one of my favourite writers; Holly Lisle.

Holly not only writes awesome books, but it was through desperate browsing to see if she had anything new coming out that I discovered, several years back, that she also teaches. Since then, I’ve taken loads of her courses, and been an active forum member of her website, Holly’s Writing Classes, for ages.

The website has been undergoing an upgrade for some time, and we’ve been planning an online party for when it finally goes live. One of the party activities became this anthology. As alumni of her FREE course, How to write Flash Fiction that doesn’t Suck, members were invited to submit one story, using what they’d learned. These stories were then critiqued by Holly, and the resulting, honed, stories compiled into this volume, which is FREE in e-book form on Amazon, Kobo and er most other platforms. (The lovely print version is only available on Amazon, and isn’t free).

One of the reasons I’m so excited is because, despite other stories I’ve had published, this is the first time I’ve had something available on Amazon yay! Another is that Holly has a story in there too, so that makes me a co-writer with one of my fave authors – double yay!

If you’d like to find out why I think she’s such a great teacher, her three-week flash fiction course is permanently free, and is a good way to decide if her style works for you. You also get free access to the site forums, which have loads of marvellous people who are extremely helpful and supportive (you might find me in there too 🙂 ).

If you fancy any of her bigger courses, or (Christmas is coming after all), want to suggest gifts people might want to consider for the writers in their lives, I can recommend How to Think Sideways, (Career survival for writers – it not only takes you through how to write a novel, but also everything surrounding that – preparing, coming up with ideas, getting connected, how to start a blog, and what to do with your novel once you’ve written it).

If you’ve already written your novel, but are in revision hell, then you need How to Revise Your Novel.



Or, if you just want to sit down and write the dang novel, then her latest course, How to Write a Novel, currently has a new class opening. And my apologies, because class sign up closes later today – so you’d have to be quick, or wait till next time (although it is currently at an early bird price – next time it’ll cost more).

(I’m apologising because it’s been available for a week or so, but I’ve only just gotten around to mentioning it. If you’re interested, it really is worth getting at the lower price now, as you can take the classes in your own time. It’s just that starting now means you’ll go through it with other people – it’s a good way to hook up with people going through the same process as you.)

Just a final comment – yes, if you use my affiliate links I could get a small payment as a result, but to be honest, I’d recommend them anyway. And in case you’re wondering, all of Holly’s classes are online and in your own time, when it suits you. You also have those classes forever!

I hope you enjoy all those bitesize stories if you download the anthology, meanwhile, Merry Christmas and I’ll see you in the new year 🙂



Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

#IWSG December: What’s in your writing space?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker , Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

There’s a lot of chat on twitter right now about where your writing space is. But this month, the IWSG are asking: What 5 objects would you find in your writing space?

I used to have a beautiful antique writing desk, with little drawers and nooks. It tended to get plastered in post-it notes.

However, when my husband started working from home, I gave up the study (spare room / cupboard), so he could use it, and relocated to the kitchen table. That’s ok, I can multi-task (ha ha) more, and the kettle is closer, but other things do tend to creep into the space too.

So, right now you’d find:

  • A half-made jigsaw puzzle.
  • Two Ninjago lego bike-things.
  • An empty mug of tea (must correct that!)
  • Some shopping that hasn’t been put away.
  • The obligatory piles of paper with various to-do lists and notes-to-self.

What’s on yours?

Posted in IWSG, Writing | Tagged | 11 Comments

Indie Authors Advent Calendar 2018

This year I am participating in the Indie Authors Advent Calendar again.

What is it?

It’s an online calendar you subscribe to by clicking on this link and then selecting the sign up option. Then, each day over the advent period, a new window opens with a short story by one of 24 different authors. (And yes, one of them is me! Although I don’t know which one – that’s part of the fun!)

Each day’s email alert includes a bonus from the day’s author, and on Christmas day, you receive an e-book with all the stories bundled together.

There are some fantastic authors on here, and the theme this year is ‘snow’, all ready to make you feel nice and christmassy 🙂

Oh, and it’s free too, so why not mention this bundle of Advent fun to the reader in your life?!

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#IWSG November: Has being creative changed you?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I’m more inclined to break the rules!

I’ll encourage people (and myself), to think outside the box; just because your solution isn’t the expected one, doesn’t mean it isn’t right too.

I’m less tidy and my mind is a messier place than it used to be!

I’m more inclined to jump in and try something (although that doesn’t extent to jumping out of planes – even in an emergency I’d probably be the one cowering at the back, saying; ‘No, I’ll be fine right here!’).

I’m a firm believer that it’s not just ok to make mistakes, it’s recommended – the best way to learn about something is by having to fix it (but please don’t take this one to extremes!)

What about you – has writing changed how you approach things in life?

Posted in IWSG | Tagged | 10 Comments

Storytime BlogHop for October

It’s time for the quarterly story-hop again. I don’t have a story in it this time, but I’m looking forward to reading these free stories from writers around the world.

Click on each link below and don’t forget to let the authors know when you’ve enjoyed a story.

Snow White Tabloid Style, by Fannie Suto
Starving Artist, by Samantha Bryant
The Halloween Dance, by Barbara Lund
The Ghost In My Yard, by Elizabeth McCleary
Her Majesty, by Katharina Gerlach
Chris Bridges Posting Storytime Blog Hop. Give her shout out and say Hello!
Black Moon, by Lauren M. Catherine
Poe’s Heart, by J. Q. Rose
Hanks A Lot, by Joe Bouchard
In The Gray Lake, by Karen Lynn
The Right Honorable Brotherhood of Spirits, Poltergeists and Ghosts, by Vanessa Wells
Life of a Pumpkin, by Bill Bush
Why Should I?, by Gina Fabio
Reaper, by Juneta Key

Posted in Storytime Blog Hops | Tagged | Leave a comment

Joint Arts Project

Last week saw the culmination of a project I’ve been involved with for the past year.

One of my writing groups, Chudleigh Writers, has been taking part in a Joint Arts Project with local photographers and artists.

This is how it worked;

The photography group selected 20 photos and placed them in sealed envelopes.

These envelopes were passed to us, the writers, who then had to produce a piece of writing, (poetry, description, story or whatever the photograph inspired), that would fit on a page of A4.

The piece of writing was then passed to the artists, who without seeing the photo, would produce a painting inspired by the written piece.

The results will be on display in the gallery of the Teignmouth Arts Action Group from the 3rd to the 16th November.

But last thursday was the preview showing, where the contributors got to see all the pieces together for the first time.

It was really eye-opening just how many talented people there are tucked away around here. These weren’t have-a-go daubs and happy snaps, (and of course I already know the calibre of my writing group). They were all really good.

What I half-expected to be a low-key bumble around, where everyone looked at the art and a few might read the words, turned out to be an incredibly insightful presentation, with everyone saying a couple of words about their picture, and the writers reading theirs aloud (fortunately none of us are shy about that, these days!) It demonstrated brilliantly how the writing links the two visual art mediums together.

I may have disappointed my photographer. The photo I was given was, to my mind, a bit like a gentleman’s club with an enormous billiard table that dominated the picture. I started half a dozen different stories, but the billiard table kept intruding, squatting there like the elephant in the room. So I ended up with a humorous skit about a couple of removal men confronted with a mammoth pool table to shift. Fortunately everyone laughed in the right places when I read it out, although I’m not sure I inspired my artist – apparently humour can be tricky to paint!

But ultimately you can’t be precious about your art. There is a point where, be it with words, paint or pixels, you have to let go and let people form their own interpretations. For me, that’s what this is really all about, and that’s the beauty of it.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

#IWSG September: Which path?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is: What publishing path are you considering and why?

I’m working towards the traditional route. I may feel differently once I’ve achieved that, but at present, I want what it has to offer.

I don’t want to do everything myself. I’d rather have a support team around me of agent, editor, publishing team. That’s not me being lazy; I’m more than willing to put in as much work as necessary, but I appreciate my limitations, and if I can benefit and learn from the combined expertise of people working in the field, then I’m all for it.

The other reason is getting into bookstores. I don’t want to rely on the online world for my market, particularly as I seem to be veering toward middle grade / YA. I think a large part of the audience there comes from bookshops and libraries.

Then, of course, there’s the needy side of me that wants that recognition too.

This is no comment on the standards of self-publishing. There are some fantastic self-published authors out there, just as there are some dire traditionally published ones. (And vice-versa). It’s simply my chosen direction at present.

Posted in IWSG | Tagged | 17 Comments

Why I Doubt I’ll Ever Sell a Story to Woman’s Weekly

I’ve never managed to sell a story to Woman’s Weekly, and now I doubt I ever will.

You see, they’ve changed their contracts to demand All Rights. Yes, ALL!

Up to now, their contract has been for First British Rights, meaning that they get to publish your story first in this country, but the copyright remains with you to sell on elsewhere or self-publish as part of a collection. Another magazine amended their contract for First World Rights a while back, meaning that they retain the right to publish it elsewhere in the world too, should they choose to do so. But that wasn’t exclusive – you are still free to do as you wish with it, and you retain the copyright. At the time I followed the forum chats on this, and the general consensus was that we had to suck it up, or take our stories elsewhere. I chose to suck it up – I was relatively new to the market, and that mag doesn’t currently publish in other countries. I could live with it.

ALL rights, though… That means they keep the copyright. If they choose, they can republish your story elsewhere, and not only do they not have to pay you, neither do they need to acknowledge you as the author!

It means you have no further right to that other piece of work. Ever.

You can’t sell it on.

You can’t re-use the character, or write a spin-off story about a secondary character.

You can’t expand it into a novel or a movie.

But Woman’s Weekly is owned by TimeInc Media. If they chose to, they could. And they would never have to acknowledge you as the original creator, or pay you anything after that first payment.

And I think that sucks.

The Womag writing world is up in arms about this. If you get Writing Magazine, or Writer’s Forum, you’ll see features in there about it. And it’s not just the short story writers. The big gun novelists aren’t happy either. Joanne Harris, of Chocolat fame has been tweeting and blogging about it, among others, as they realise this is the thin end of the wedge.

So why am I (a relative nobody), bothering to speak out, when louder voices are doing the job already?

Because I might have the ear of a few other nobody’s (who’ll one day be somebody’s!). Because I understand that in the excitement of an acceptance, you wouldn’t suspect such a big corporation to slip this past you, so you’d (and I expect many have), sign in ignorance. Or if not, you may consider it worth the risk to get your work out there.

But don’t forget that The Shawshank Redemption began as a short story. Just imagine if you’d written that and couldn’t claim it!

But, more importantly, consider this; The writing world is such a supportive one. Established writers are so often willing to share advice and experience, because they started out just like the rest of us too. It seems wrong, to me, to repay that with a knife in the back.


Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

#IWSG Aug: I’ve outsourced my pitfalls ;)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I have to admit that my brain has been refusing to work properly this month, I couldn’t come up with a decent answer, nor could I come up with an alternative subject. So, I decided to outsource the question to the two main characters in my Novel, The Mereford Witches (which is in beta stage); Skye (aged 14, apprentice witch), and Granny (much older, much more experienced witch!)

Skye: ‘So, Granny. Angela has asked us to talk about what pitfalls other writers should avoid.’

Granny: ‘And, you’re asking me because…?’

Skye: ‘Well, you’ve usually got an opinion about most things. Why should this be any different?’

Granny: ‘I don’t hold with writing any more than is absolutely necessary.’

Skye: ‘But what if you were a writer?’

Granny: ‘I’m not a writer, though. I’d understand if you were asking about witchcraft. Are you sure you didn’t hear wrong?’

Skye: ‘Uh–‘

Granny: ‘Although you should be able to answer that for yourself by now.’

Skye: ‘Should I?’

Granny: ‘Get a grip, girl. Think! What have you learned in the last few weeks?’

Skye: ‘Umm… Don’t make impulsive wishes–‘

Granny: ‘Don’t make any wishes.’

Skye: ‘Never trust a pretty face.’

Granny: ‘You really should have figured that one out by now.’

Skye: ‘All right, don’t rub it in. I think I’ve worked out what to tell Angela, though.’

Granny: ‘Oh good. Then we can get on with more important things, like counting how many frog’s eyes we have left.’

Skye: ‘Don’t you want to know what I’m going to say?’

Granny: ‘I’m sure you’re going to tell me, anyway.’

Skye: ‘Don’t over write – less is more, and if you want the answer to a question; ask someone with some experience on the subject.’

Sometimes things make so much more sense if you let your characters talk for you 🙂

(By the way, I’m off camping this week, so don’t be upset if I don’t reply straight off – I’ve no idea what the wi-fi will be like).


Posted in IWSG, Writing | Tagged | 9 Comments

Story Time Blog Hop July 2018


Hi All!

It’s time for another storytime blog hop. I don’t have anything this time around as I’m too caught up in my novels, but please do visit these awesome authors and end them some reader-love 🙂

Story Suds and Scales by Eileen Mueller
The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
Under The Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach
Black and White, by Bill Bush
Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield

Posted in Storytime Blog Hops | Tagged | 1 Comment

#IWSG July: Goals (very topical with the world cup and all)

It’s the first Tuesday of the month! And I’m a bit late as I didn’t notice the date change.

Happy 4th July, American Peeps!

It’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is; What are your ultimate writing goals and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

My ultimate writing goal is to have a novel published (preferably more than one), and I’m still working towards that.

What has changed over time is the genre. Initially I thought I was going to write thrillers, but as I progressed and relaxed into writing, my voice developed, and I became less self-conscious about what I wrote and less needy about impressing people (and hopefully more inclined towards entertaining people).

As a result, I’m currently writing a Young Adult fantasy.

I tend to think of writing as a journey. Where you start off is so very different to where you end up. There are many different paths to take and you get to meet all sorts of interesting people on the way.

How’s your journey going?



Posted in IWSG | Tagged , | 8 Comments

A-Z of Fictional Characters: L is for Lou

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is a near future thriller. (If you read the Amazon reviews there is some debate over how much of a thriller it is – don’t expect high speed action).

I first read it years ago, before I had kids, and was a different person. Why would that make a difference? Because my empathy for Lou, the main character, has undergone an enormous upheaval since then.

I was more self-centred before I had kids. Being a parent forced me to become more sociable; I had to talk to people for my chiildren’s sake, arrange play dates with complete strangers and then fill the silence while the kids were off in the ball pit. It made me see that so many people have hidden talents and fears that are not apparent on the surface.

What does this have to do with Lou? Lou is autistic. When I first read this book, about 15 years ago, autism was something that happened to other people. How on earth, I wondered, did the author manage a writing career whilst bringing up an autistic son? Surely that was impossible! She must be superwoman!

Skip forward to present day. Both of my kids have Sensory Processing Disorder, and one is on the autistic spectrum. (oh – that‘s how you cope!) Life doesn’t stop because you have another set of parameters to deal with.

(With Sensory Processing Disorder, one’s senses are substantially more or less sensitive than for ‘normal’ or ‘neurotypical’ people. Certain smells can make you leave the room, sounds can be unbearably loud, concentration impossible when your chair is too prickly, the light is too bright, or the label in your shirt is really annoying. These aren’t things you’re taught to look out for as a parent, so it’s been an uphill learning process.)

But back to Lou. Lou is pretty amazing. He’s in his 30’s, so you see someone who has come out the other side of learning to ‘cope’ in a neurotypical world. He’s completely self-sufficient, with a job that his skills are perfectly suited to. You see how his autism makes him such a brilliant individual, and how his friends wouldn’t want him to be any different.

But you also see the drawbacks and frustrations. He has to work through his own specific logic processes (A->B->C->D). And while that’s what makes him able to come to the blinding conclusions that most others would miss, his brain wouldn’t be able to cope with leap-frogging from A->B->D, even if that were actually a more efficient process.

We see how Lou feels about this. How his friends accept it, his enemies won’t, and how ‘normal’ isn’t truly measurable. Or, at least, it’s only measurable according to some rather unfair parameters.

Posted in A-Z of Fictional Characters | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Enter title here… umm, yeah… title…hmm

It’s the first Wednesday of the month already, and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Do stop by their blogs and say hello (especially Ellen – she usually has cake 😉 !)

This month’s optional question is; What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

As you might guess from the blog title, titles are hardest for me, without a doubt. Character names mostly just roll out of my head and onto the page, but titles? Damn, they’re difficult.

You can spend hours sweating over the perfect title, only to have it completely ignored by the publisher. Here are some examples of my own stories;

Sleeping Beauty became Different Dreams,

Jenny’s Legacy became Family Heirlooms,

Not Just for Christmas became The Birthday Girl,

The Direct Approach became No Time Like the Present, and

The Perfect Christmas became It’s Got to be Perfect.

(Witch’s Knickers stayed as Witch’s Knickers though 🙂 )

I’m fine with that. I get it and I bow to the superior knowledge of the magazine publisher, who not only knows their target audience, but also the titles of every other story in the magazine.

Novels, though? That’s trickier. First you need something to get the attention of the agent or publisher (unless you’re self-publishing). After that, you need something that will attract (and not put off!) the reader because, let’s face it, humans are fickle creatures and although ‘girl’ is probably offputting by now, there’s as much likelihood that ‘the bagel seller’ or ‘elephant in my pocket’ might also not work because the reader had a traumatic breakfast time trip to the zoo.

Relevance to the story may not be necessary though! I hear that The Concubine’s Secret, contains neither a concubine nor a secret, and although I haven’t read it, that little snippet of info makes it instantly more memorable to me!

How about you? Titles or names, what’s your bugbear?

Posted in IWSG | Tagged , | 18 Comments

#IWSG May: What would you do?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month already, and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

This month I’m having a bit of a whinge, an is it just me? moment.

I did hesitate for a while, just in case of the outside chance of the person concerned reading this and starting some kind of flame-war. But, in retrospect, I doubt it as I’m not very important in the big scheme of things, and (if you are reading this – I meant it in the nicest possible way).

I read this really good book. I loved it. But it was marred by a LOT of typo’s. Not just one or two, but LOTS.

Not only that, there were some missing lines of dialogue too, where you realise that a line has been skipped and you only get the end of a comment. Again, this happened a few times. Fortunately it wasn’t enough that I missed the context, but still, it threw me out of the story each time.

Now, I could have ignored it. But it was such a good book that I felt it was a crime to do so.

I could have written a review on Amazon and mentioned it there, but I felt that was unfair to the author – could result in lost sales when all they needed was a heads up that it needed correcting.

So, I contacted them instead.

Unfortunately, as I also follow them on social media I caught their complaint about people who read their books and only feedback that there’s a typo on page 86.

Now I feel a bit pissy about the whole thing.

As writers, how would you feel about this? Should I keep my mouth shut in future?


Posted in IWSG | 16 Comments

Storytime Blog Hop April 2018

It’s time for another story hop, when writers around the world get together to share some of our speculative tales.

My story this time is Trick or Treacle, featuring characters that some of you may be familiar with (from An Alternative to Frog). This story was shortlisted in Writing Magazine a couple of years back, but unfortunately it didn’t meet the requirements for any of the fantasy magazines I tried submitting it to afterwards. However a story needs readers, and although I’ve incorporated it into the novel I’m working on, this version still wants to be read. I hope you enjoy it.



Granny owns the only treacle well in the Mere-Woods.
She says it’s a right pain because now she gets time-wasters coming to the shop for spells, when they’re really after treacle.
I tell her she’s missing a business opportunity. But she just grumbles and says that it’s my fault it’s there in the first place.
I didn’t exactly plan it.

It was the day Madame Genevieve visited.
“The cheek of it,” Granny had fumed, watching from the door as Madame’s broomstick disappeared over the treeline. “I used the last of the treacle on those flapjacks and she turned them down with the flick of an eyebrow.”
I’d been impressed by Madame’s eyebrow flick. In fact, Madame had been a huge relief all round, since my friend Petra had taken to checking my face regularly, convinced that warts were one of the job requirements for a witch.
But Madame Genevieve was tiny, elegant and undeniably wartless.
“Professional visit, my eye!” Granny held aloft the flapjack plate as I shook out the cloth we’d hastily whisked over the worktable. “As if I’d sell bog-mandrake to the likes of her.”
Until we figured out how to harvest it from the depths of the garden pond, we wouldn’t be selling the bog-mandrake to anyone. But I didn’t say that.
“Why not?” I asked instead. “She just wanted it for a beauty potion.”
“Really Skye, you don’t waste bog-mandrake on anything so trivial. Beauty potion indeed! And don’t think I haven’t seen you searching the grimoires for the like.”
I hadn’t realised I’d been so obvious. “It’s not such a bad idea. It could be a way to attract customers.”
“A decent witch doesn’t need to attract customers. Her reputation should speak for itself, and her’s doesn’t.” Granny waved an arm in the direction Madame had taken. “There’s something about that witch that makes my thumbs prick.” One of the bats chose that moment to streak through the still-open door, piping a complaint, and she dropped the subject.
The bats were behind Granny’s reputation for knowing every secret between here and the Hunterback Mountains. In return for the particularly tasty midges that hung out above the garden pond, they shared any news they picked up on their flights through the forest.
“Oh drat.” Granny peered down the lane as she followed the bat outside. “Someone’s coming. Sort ‘em out Skye, I’ll be back in a minute.” She disappeared around the side of the cottage, leaving the flapjacks balanced on the well coping as she passed.
I think Granny misses the bad old days; she suspects everyone. I admit, I wouldn’t fancy putting bog-mandrake anywhere near my face, considering what it did to the gardening gloves, but Madame had seemed to know what she was talking about.
I checked my appearance in Granny’s magic mirror and, reassured there wasn’t a wart or hooked nose in sight, went to greet our visitor.
It was a pedlar. Granny called them a necessary evil, but I still got as excited as any other villager at the covered wagon creaking along the track.
“Refreshments, good sir?” I asked, when he reached the cottage.
Mum had brought me up to observe the conventions of hospitality. Granny keeps telling me that witches don’t follow convention. I have trouble balancing these conflicting opinions sometimes, so was relieved when the pedlar politely took the plate of flapjacks, but left it next to some cages on the tailboard of the wagon when he thought I wasn’t looking.
He pulled back the coverings to display his wares. The cages held an assortment of creatures; some piskies, a distressed looking water vole and an enormous Hunterback frog among others. I ignored them to look through what trinkets and charms he had before Granny came back.
“Anything you’re after in particular, my lovely?” He had a twinkle in his eye, and what he lacked in looks he made up for with a warm charm that made me feel like we’d met before.
“Perhaps,” I said. “Do you have anything unusual?”
“Who would dare visit a witch’s residence without bringing something out of the ordinary? And for a beauteous maid such as yourself, what could be more appropriate than a wish?” With a flourish he presented me with a delicate papery flower pod. “It’s very fragile, make sure your wish is fully formed before you break it open.”
What to wish for? Everlasting beauty? Perfect skin? Or perhaps—
“Don’t be an idiot, girl. You’re a witch, you can make your own wish spells,” said Granny from behind me.
There was that moment gone then.
I could have told him that the raffish charm that worked so well on me wouldn’t dent Granny’s toughened exterior, but some things have to be learned firsthand. I examined the rest of his wares, listening with half an ear as he tried to flatter her.
“Well?” she asked me, cutting through his spiel.
“There’s magewort, persimmony and hogsbreath,” I reported. “And some purple madder, depending on the price.” I shrugged to indicate that anything else we might want wasn’t in sight.
She gave a slight nod and turned back to the pedlar.
Mum and Dad ran the village post-office, so I’d soaked up barter and negotiation at an early age, but watching Granny took it to a whole new level. You wouldn’t believe what she could extract from a bit of gossip.
Today it wasn’t working though. The pedlar deflected each foray with a wave of a hand or a flick of an eyebrow. You’d think he’d never travelled the Hunterbacks or the Maze fields. He must have done to gather his stock, but it was as if instead he’d sprung into being that very morning. I became more convinced I’d met him before.
I leaned against the wagon and reached for a flapjack as I settled in to watch.
The plate was empty.
The Hunterback frog looked a bit too innocent.
“Why you little—!”
“Something wrong?” Granny and the pedlar had both paused to watch me.
“Ah… no.” If Granny found out the frog had scoffed the lot, she’d have him for spare parts. I preferred my spell ingredients nicely pre-pickled and impersonal, so I kept quiet.
“So, about this bog-mandrake—” The pedlar turned back to her.
“Absolutely not. Harvesting is a very delicate process and it’s just not ready yet. I’ve already had to turn someone away…”
And then I had it. As I watched in amazement, he gave that unmistakeable flick of his eyebrow again. Somehow, the pedlar was Madame Genevieve.
I couldn’t work it out. How? Why? And, the issue closest to my heart, what did this mean about Madame’s beauty? Was she really a toothless crone beneath it all? Was I doomed to a future of warts and cavities?
Fortunately Granny is very sharp witted and I am far from subtle. Sometimes the combination is foolproof.
Madame Genevieve – the pedlar – was still banging on about the bog-mandrake.
“Let me get my almanac,” Granny said, giving me a sharp look before retreating inside the cottage.
“Yes, bog-mandrake, it’s a real pain,” I babbled. “It’s the conditions you see. For it to really flourish it does something to the water that makes it quite toxic to human skin. It’s melted every pair of gloves we’ve tried.”
That was true. I think it was something to do with the midges and the bat-poo. The combination had created some kind of eco-system in the garden pond.
“Now, now, Skye dear, don’t give away trade secrets,” said Granny. She stood in the doorway with the mirror dangling from her fingers, and before the pedlar – Madame – could turn, she cried;

“By Mephistole and Cullan’s Dritch,
By Hazel rod and Willow switch,
Never underrate this witch,
I command thee, once more, switch!”

She flung something into the air and there was a flash of light.
The pedlar hunched into a ball and began squeaking. Gradually we could make out words.
“Nasty witch… turned me into some kind of rat and stuffed me in a cage… Why can’t you tell, you stupid woman, you’re meant to be a witch— Oh! My hands! My nose! I’m back! Oh thank you!” He fell to his knees and tried to kiss the hem of Granny’s skirt.
“Yes, yes.” She shooed him away and strode over to the cage that had held the water vole. It now held a miniature Madame Genevieve who was shaking the bars in fury.
“Damn you, you meddlesome old witch!”
“Part of the job, dearie.” Granny lifted the cage and examined her. “I can’t go selling high risk products to just anyone you know, I have my reputation to consider.”
“Reputation!” Madame sneered. “Witchcraft is stagnating because of fools like you, too afraid to take risks. But my turn will come.”
“Not for a while yet,” replied Granny. “We’ll let the Coven Committee deal with you. Turning innocent bystanders into vermin puts a bad light on the rest of us.” She turned back to the pedlar. “Unless you want to keep her?”
“No! No! And under the circumstances, please consider everything to be at thirty percent discount today… I mean fifty percent,” he substituted hurriedly at Granny’s raised eyebrow.
“Very kind of you. Skye has a list.”
I repeated the herbs I’d mentioned earlier and added a few more. “We could use the frog too,” I said, wondering if frog-skin stood up to mandrake toxins. I even had an idea of what his weakness might be if he needed encouragement.
“Gladly miss, and here, as a token of my deep appreciation.” The pedlar swept up a handful of the charms and gew-gaws I’d been browsing earlier. In amongst them was the wish spell.
“Skye!” warned Granny.
But it was too late. The papery pod crumpled under my fingers and the wish-dust inside spilled out, taking my half formed idea with it.

It didn’t turn out so badly. The treacle well means we can make as much flapjack as we like, and that frog will do anything for flapjack. Which is very useful when it comes to harvesting bog-mandrake.

But that’s another story.


Don’t forget to check out all the other stories, and let the authors know if you enjoy them!

Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush
Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key

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And the answers are…

I realise that your fingernails will be ragged with the stress of wanting to know the answers to last week’s first lines, so without further ado, here they are;

  1. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. (Little Women, Louisa M Alcott).
  2. All children, except one, grow up. (Peter Pan, J M Barrie).
  3. Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston, in 1942 for wounding a man in a theatre. (The World According to Garp, John Irving).
  4. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984, George Orwell).
  5. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C S Lewis).
  6. In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle).
  7. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect. (Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka).
  8. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. (The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath).

(And no – I wouldn’t have known all of them, that’s the beauty of being in a team.)

Happy reading and happy writing! 🙂

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#IWSG March – Epiphany moment

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner. (Please stop by to say hello to them).

Last month I went to a book quiz with a couple of writer friends, and one of the rounds was on first lines…

“Oh no,” I thought. “People always bang on about first lines and I’m rubbish at them. I know the first line of Pride & Prejudice (like everyone else), but that’s it.”

But then I had an epiphany moment. Let me show you.

  1. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
  2. All children, except one, grow up.
  3. Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston, in 1942 for wounding a man in a theatre.
  4. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
  5. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  6. In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.
  7. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.
  8. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

I might not know the lines by memory, I might not even have read the book, but that first sentence gives some kind of clue about the rest of the book.

Lots of them have a main character’s name. That’s a big clue. Others might give you a place or an event that sets the time for you. Or you may not recognise the name, but turning into an enormous insect might be a bit of a clue.

Not all novels give pointers in this way, and that doesn’t make them worse because they’re likely setting the scene in some other way, by grabbing the attention or posing questions. It’s given me a new insight and something to think about when putting together the first line for my next story or novel.

I’ll post the answers next week. In the meantime, what novels do you think they’re from? (No cheating!!)




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A to Z of fictional characters: K is for Kate

It’s ages since I’ve written one of these posts, and I was quite excited when I realised the next character on my lists is Kait Galweigh from Holly Lisle’s Secret Texts trilogy.

Kait is such a cool character. She’s tough, she’s clever and she works to her own moral code. We first meet her in book one, A diplomacy of Wolves, when she is chaperoning her cousin at a party.

Should be simple, right? But it’s Kait’s first major role as a family diplomat, and her cousin is behaving as wildly as possible rather than the demure, virginal marriage prospect she’s supposed to be.

And Kait has a secret. She’s not completely human, and if anyone finds out, she’s dead. Even her own family won’t protect her.

But the plot of a rival family is about to destroy the world she knows, and the magic in her blood may be all that can save her. That, and an uneasy alliance with an enemy.

If you like strong female characters, (actually, strong male characters too – let’s not be picky, and there are some awesomely good baddies), a bit of were-action, transformative magic that has consequences (and boy – you don’t use it lightly in this world!) then it’s really worth meeting Kate and her crowd.


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#IWSG February 2018: Time to get on with things.

Hello Everyone, and Happy February!

This month I am extremely chuffed to be co-hosting the IWSG blog-hop, (which occurs on the first Wednesday of the month), alongside these awesome people; Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte! Do stop by their blogs to say hello, and don’t forget our founder, Alex Cavanaugh.

February (I’ve decided), is the month when we actually settle down and get on with things. January was full of the panic and pain of resolutions, but now we can take a breath and put some more realistic plans in place.

Me? I’ve concluded that yes, 2018 has to be all about re-writing my novel, but I also want to give some space to the little voice that keeps whispering to me about short stories.

And that leads me very neatly to this month’s question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

I’ve come to the conclusion that my preferred genre is Speculative Fiction. It’s a lovely umbrella term that covers fantasy, sci-fi, the paranormal and probably all sorts of others too. I love the scope that gives me; I can spread out and try different things rather than wedging myself into a genre box. With spec fic I can create my own rules, history and societies. Heck, I could create my own gender if I wanted (although I haven’t gone that far). I can concentrate on seemingly unimportant characters or on huge events, the only limit is my own creativity. (Although it helps if it makes sense to the reader too).

But… I also write short stories for women’s magazines, and in some ways this is a release valve. A novel is a big thing, that takes ages. A short story is an outing, a day trip into someone else’s world, a break from the ‘great work’. It’s also where I get to play with the little triggers that go off in the world around me, (the friend insecure about their new boyfriend; litter; going through a loved one’s effects), that prompt me to think, “Ooh, I could make a story about that! And that!”

I’m still trying to put together a good time management structure though. My mind, it seems, is a very untidy place.

Thank you for stopping by, and don’t forget to visit our other awesome hosts! I’m looking forward to visiting all your blogs to discover what you love about your preferred genre.

Oh, and before I go, can I give a quick plug for the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition? First prize is £500! Closing date is 28th February.

Posted in IWSG, Writing | Tagged | 102 Comments

Storytime Blog Hop – Jan 2018


It’s time for another storytime blog hop!

Founded by students of Holly Lisle in 2015 (I’m a founder member!) This is a quarterly hop to share short pieces of speculative fiction.

I don’t have a story in the hop this time, but check out all these other cool stories;

  1. Monstrous Monday by Fanni Soto
  2. Grandma’s Legacy by Elizabeth McCleary
  3. Dragonslayer by Barbara Lund
  4. Megan’s Virus by Karen Lynn
  5. Studenting by Chris Makowski
  6. I, The Magician by Raven O’Fiernan
  7. Growth Spurt by Bill Bush
  8. Mystical Manatee Park by J. Q. Rose
  9. Phased Out by Kami Bataya
  10. Snow White (17) MURDERED by K. M. Flint
  11. A Character Profile by Juneta Key

Don’t forget to let people know if you enjoyed their story!

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