Tag Archive: Short story


My daughter and dyslexia

IMAG0635

I wrote this for The Write Practice today – a short piece about my wonderful daughter and how she was affected by Dyslexia.

I sat in the village hall with all the other proud parents, on hard plastic chairs, watching two little girls singing on their own. They were a comical sight really – one small and round, one tall and lean, wearing their black Stage School t-shirts and leggings. They were singing ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, their voices loud but shaking slightly, not able to disguise the nerves they were obviously feeling.

I had salty warm tears pouring down my face. I felt kind of embarrassed because no-one else was crying as much as I was, but one of those little girls was my youngest daughter. Two years previously she would never have done anything like this. Two years previously she wouldn’t have even wanted to sit in the front row of the audience – “I don’t want anyone looking at me!” she used to say.

My daughter has Dyslexia. And yes, it’s not a life threatening condition or an illness where one has to have treatment or medication, but for her it is a huge stigma. Especially in a family where her mother and older sister eat books and love to write. She just wanted to be like everyone else.

It took quite a long battle with the school to get them to recognise she was having problems. I realised when she was in year 2 that things were not quite right, but her teacher just told us our daughter had some mild difficulties that didn’t require any extra help and she’d soon catch up. My daughter hated school that year. Her friends were all reading and writing. She thought she was ‘stupid’. Her worst experiences were when they were expected to read aloud to a group of class mates. You can imagine how humiliating it must have been for her to have to stand there in front of her peers and not be able to make sense of the words on the page.

My daughter is beautiful. Yes, I know what you are thinking – I’m biased, I would think that, but we get comments about this all the time from friends, acquaintances and people we have just met. “She could be a model!” they say. I tell her this all the time, but she can’t see it. She has other qualities too – such determination! If she decides she is going to do something, then she is going to do it, come what may. Her sister is two years older, but my youngest daughter was the first to ride a bike without stabilisers, the first to learn to swim. I’ll never forget the first time she swam under water. It was in the middle of a hot summer, and they were in the little outdoor pool at the school. I was stood watching on the side, wishing I could be in the cool water with all the children. My daughter’s  best friend wanted to show me what she had learned on holiday, and ducked under the surface of the pool, and then my daughter, not to be outdone said “I can do it too!” and flung herself down. My heart was in my mouth, I thought she was going to drown, but seconds later up she popped, a huge grin on her face, and then she did it again and again. There was no stopping her from that moment on.

It was Year 3 when we finally had a breakthrough at the school. She had a wonderful teacher that year, one of the best I have ever met. A large, solidly built rugby player of a man, loud and enthusiastic and great fun. He had a knack for bringing out the best in his pupils, and was always very encouraging. We told him of our concerns and a few weeks later he came back to us with an apology. “Yes, you are right, she does have dyslexia,” he told us, “we are going to put in some extra support for her.”

Her confidence soared that year. Suddenly she was asking for speaking parts in school plays and telling us she wanted to join the Stage School her sister attends on Sunday mornings.

Two years later there we were, watching her singing and dancing and acting in front of an audience and loving it. I’ve never been so proud.

http://dyslexiaaction.org.uk/

Toxic

Happy New Year!!! Here’s to a fresh new year of creativity and stories! Looking forward to reading and writing, and sharing stories and ideas with all the other awesome writers on the internet.

This piece was written for Words on Wednesdays in The Write Practice. Today’s word was Toxic. I really enjoyed writing it – maybe I can do something with these characters sometime?

 

As Thomas opened the huge wooden door to the stone walled chamber, she was the first thing he saw.

Vivienne – beautiful, bewitching, toxic. He had to lean against the door frame for a moment to steady himself.

She lay on her side across the chaise-longue in front of the fire, in a black and red corset and thigh length boots, with her long curtain of sleek shiny black hair tumbling down her shoulders.  She broke into a seductive smile, and Thomas was sure he could hear her purring.

“I knew you would come,” she said, her voice slithering towards him and tickling his ears. It was intoxicating.

Thomas cleared his throat. “Don’t imagine I’m falling for this, Vivienne.” He told her, in what he hoped was a strong unwavering voice, “You are pure poison. Toxic. If I touched you, I would burn in hell.”

Vivienne giggled “Oh come now! Let’s be friends!”. She rolled smoothly onto her back, lifting one long, shapely leg and hooking it over the back of the chaise. She lifted her hips a little, the sight of which almost caused him to stop breathing. It would be so easy to give in and lose himself in lust, but he had come here for a purpose, and he must not fail.

He took the dagger from his belt and marched purposefully towards her. He was breathing hard, his heart racing at the thought of what he must do. Her intoxicating scent hit his nostrils and surged into his lungs, and it took every last scrap of will power he had to hold the dagger above her chest.

“Must….stab….” he gasped.

But his senses were overpowered. He could hold back no longer. His dagger dropped to the floor, and he fell into her embrace, into the burning fire and poison of this evil, toxic witch. With one move, she flipped him over onto his back and moved on top of him, a ritualistic dance.

Annabelle tutted. She had watched the whole thing from behind the door.

“If you want something doing properly…” she muttered to herself, as she entered unseen into the room. Picking up the discarded dagger, she lifted it with both hands and plunged it into Vivienne’s back.

There was a split second of silence and stillness, as if the world had stopped for a moment.

Finally, Vivienne exploded with a roaring scream, filling the room briefly with hot red smoke and then vanishing with a noise that sounded like a hundred souls being sucked into a void.

Thomas fell to the floor, wide eyed and gasping. He looked at the chaise where he had been locked in Vivienne’s clutches moments before.

“Thanks,” he said, looking sheepishly up at his friend.

“Think nothing of it,” said Annabelle, curtly. She turned and walked out of the room.

 

Flitter-mouse

This is a story I wrote for a competition a while back. I didn’t get anywhere in the competition, but I was proud of my story anyway. My Tea with Trolls story went down so well with everyone the other day, I thought I might throw this one at you too. 

Flitter-mouse

I stood outside the dusty shop and hesitated for a moment. I really didn’t want to do this but I had no choice. It was the lesser of two evils – I didn’t want to go through another night of hiding in the bottom cupboard of the large dresser that stood in the parlor. It was too cramped. For 13 years old, I was small and slight but still, it was not as easy to hide there as it had been when I was 5. That was when the creatures of my nightmares had sprung, uninvited, into my real life. Every full moon they came to get me. In the early days, before my grandfather had his stroke, he would hide me in the dresser and then sit in his parlor chair, smoking his pipe. The smell of the tobacco hid my scent, and when the creatures came he would tell them I was not at home. They would turn grudgingly, and slither back into the night.

Nowadays I had to fend for myself.

I had found this shop quite by accident when I was 10. I was on my way to school, an awkward little girl with mismatched socks and clothes that I was going to grow into, walking alone as usual. I spotted the shop out of the corner of my eye – a crooked little building with faded peeling paintwork, broken roof tiles and filthy windows. It took me several months to pluck up the courage to go in, and several months more before I was brave enough to buy anything.

I had tried a variety of amulets and incantations lifted from dubious hand written spell books, and last time a throat burning, stomach churning potion. None of it had worked for long. The creatures guessed at my tricks. They were always just a step behind me.

So here I was again, desperate to find the answer.

I pushed at the door. The tinkling bell above the entrance announced my arrival, and I shut the door behind me and waited, biting my lip.

It was dark inside the shop, and it took a while for my eyes to focus on the dusty shelves lining the walls that held all manner of unusual objects – battered pots and tattered books, packets of incense sticks, strange contraptions that ticked and whirred, and bottles of potions that glittered darkly.

It was a moment before I noticed the old woman standing there watching me. When I met her eye, she gave me that familiar toothless grin that made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.

“Back again, little Flitter-mouse?” she crooned.

“Um, yes,” I replied, fidgeting my feet and twisting my fingers round each other in my clasped hands. I cleared my throat a little. The words were having difficulty forming themselves in my mouth, “That potion you gave me…”

“You want some more?”

“NO! No,” I shook my head vigorously. I didn’t want to go through that again.

The old woman observed me shrewdly, nodding to herself.

“Some thing else.” she all but whispered with a wicked grin and beckoned me forward as she turned to the back of the shop.I followed her through a curtained archway behind the dusty counter into an old glass-house.The unwashed panes were murky and covered in green mildew. It was humid, and smelt damp and musty. Plants of various sizes fought for space in old plant pots. I noticed that some of the plants were moving…there was an ominous hushed rustling sound, as tendrils slithered and crept, and leaves wriggled and dripped.

I stood in the middle of the room my hands clasped under my chin, making myself as small and thin as I could. The old woman was hunched over in the corner, busying herself with a small pair of clippers and a trowel, humming tunelessly as she worked. Finally she turned round and held out a cracked, faded pot containing a small green cutting in a little bed of soft brown soil. It had one leaf and a tiny bud.

I took it from her uncertainly, holding it at arm’s length.

“It won’t bite!” she cackled, “It’ll grow fruit, and you want to eat ‘em if you want to stay safe. Before the full moon rises, girl!”

She took every last coin I had in my purse for that little cutting. But it was worth it.

Over the next few days, before the full moon, my cutting grew into a majestic plant with sturdy green leaves, and on the day of the full moon, pale yellow fruit appeared, with soft velvety skin, like little peaches.

And so, with much trepidation, on the night of the full moon, as the sun set in a pinky-orange sky, I sat on the cool stone step in the door way of our cottage with a little yellow fruit on my plate.

I lifted it to my mouth and bit into the soft flesh. It was sweet and juicy and so good to eat that I did not at first realize that my body was changing. I shrank smaller and smaller, and webs appeared between my fingers as my hands stretched into wings. My ears grew bigger, and I sprouted black fur all over my body.

You might think this alarming, yet somehow the transformation felt natural, even the first time it happened. I turned into a little bat the size of my human hand. And the best part, the most amazing, exciting, exhilarating part was that I could fly.

I swooped and I flitted, I dived and I soared, around the roof of the cottage, over the garden, through the trees in the wood.

That night, when the creatures came, those monsters from my nightmares, with their shadowy faces and their rasping moans, could not find me.

And they never will.

Tea with Trolls

One of the practice pieces in The Write Practice this week was to write in the style of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’I really enjoyed writing this, and could have written pages and pages on it. 

There was an afternoon late one spring when a troll unexpectedly came to have Afternoon Tea with a wizard.

The troll hadn’t intended to take tea at all – Afternoon Tea is a delicate refined affair, much unsuited to the particularities of a troll. Supper was more his thing – a hearty meal slurped straight from a bowl and soaked up with big chunks of bread.

It was a warm and sunny afternoon. He had been merrily stomping through a hitherto quiet little village, bashing through doors and smashing windows, collecting unwilling dwarfs and hobbits with which to make a stew. In a bag over his shoulder he carried a growing collection of them. They were unusually still; some had frozen with fear and others had passed right out and were happily oblivious to their impending doom.

The Wizards house was much like the others in the village – small and slightly crooked, but brightly painted and cosy looking. So imagine the trolls surprise when the door was opened just as he was about to put his fist through it, and who should be standing there but a smiling little old man with silver hair in a long grey robe.

The Wizard carried a long staff. He waved it in a casual manner in the general direction of the troll, who succumed almost immediately to a severe bout of amnesia.

“My dear boy!” cried the wizard, “You are here at last! I have a pot of tea and a plate of hot buttered crumpets waiting for you in the drawing room! Not to mention a rather delicious spiced apple cake that I made just this morning! Won’t you come in?”

The troll, who could not recall at all who he was or why he was there, managed to mutter “Er…” before finding himself being divested of his coat and hat and being ushered into the little hallway.

“That’s the fellow!” said the wizard congenially, “Now why don’t you put down that bag of yours, it looks frightfully heavy!”
The troll looked with surprise at the bag as if noticing it for the first time. It WAS rather heavy, now the wizard came to mention it, and he was very glad to heave it off his shoulder and onto the carpeted floor of the hallway (much to the relief of its contents who set about planning their escape).

The wizard took the troll through to a curiously floral drawing room, where afternoon tea had been set on the table. A steaming teapot sat amongst plates of sweet and savory delights. The troll sat rather awkwardly on a chair that was much too small for him and attempted to take tea. It wasn’t easy at all! The china cups were much too dainty for his huge unwieldy fingers, the tea not sufficient to slake his thirst, and the sandwiches (cucumber, crusts removed) did not satisfy the hunger in his belly. Added to which the wizard kept up a stream of endless chatter that the troll could not keep up with and which prevented him from having the time to just think for a moment why he was here.

All too soon he found himself being hurried back out into the street with an empty belly and an equally empty bag.
“Goodbye then!” called the wizard, “No need to thank me for having you, the pleasure was all mine! Mind how you go!” and he banged the door shut.

The troll stood for a moment staring at the door, trying to work out in his befuddled brain how he came to have had tea with a wizard. But as it made his head hurt to think about, he decided to let the matter rest. He stumbled out of the village in a distracted way with a puzzled frown on his face, and was never seen again.

Indubitable

Our ‘Word on Wednesday

37/366: King Johann of Saxony

37/366: King Johann of Saxony (Photo credit: Magic Madzik)

‘ for The Write Practice blog was ‘Indubitable’, and here is what I wrote:

The new King sat on his horse at the gates of his castle and looked down across the town to the mountains and valleys beyond. It was finally his, all his, to rule over as he chose. All he needed, as he had informed the Court this morning, was to find a Queen to rule at his side. Someone to share his vision, support him in his campaigns, reflect his nobility, and most importantly – bear him a son.

“Your majesty!”

He looked down. At the side of his horse, the Royal Chancellor Lord Grovel stood, hands clasped, a pleading look on his face.

“Your majesty, I beg your forgiveness,” he began, bowing his head, “But….with the war having ended so recently, do you think it wise to be travelling off so soon? When your country needs stability –“

“I will give it stability, Grovel.” the King said, firmly, “What my country needs is to see their Ruler with a line of inheritance. My father is dead. I am now their King. I must marry, and have a son to sit on my throne after me.”

“That is indubitable, my Lord,” Grovel was now wringing his hands, looking up anxiously at his master, “But surely the matter could…wait?”

“Wait? WAIT?” the King roared at him, causing his horse to rear up a little. The King pulled sharply on the reigns, and his horse stilled with a ruffled whinny.

“NO, Grovel, it CAN’T wait!” said the King sharply. “I must be married at the earliest opportunity, and have a son to secure my family’s inheritance! THAT, Grovel, is indubitable!”

Lord Grovel groaned despairingly. He was almost in tears. He loved the King. He loved him TOO much. He had dreamt of this moment; to see the man he adored on the throne, in his rightful place, had been Grovels only wish and hope for a life time. But in his dreams he had envisaged that HE, Lord Grovel, would be at the King’s side – guiding him, supporting him, nurturing him. And yes, of course the King would marry in due course, indubitably, but it would be a small matter of no significance. A necessary chore, a ‘by-the-by’.

But apparently the King wanted more than that. He wanted a Queen for his life-long companion. And Grovel could see the life he had imagined slipping through his fingers and landing on the dusty floor of the courtyard, to be trodden underfoot by the King and his guard.

 

 

The Spell

We had an ingenious exercise for The Write Practice this weekend – to write in the style of one of our favorite authors. Well, my favorite author of all TIME is JK Rowling, but I always try to emulate her depth of emotion and attention to detail when it comes to her characters. So I decided instead to have a go at writing in the style of Terry Pratchett, another of my favorite story tellers. And yes, I do realize I have used the word ‘favorite’ too many times in this paragraph, but its Sunday morning…..it’s ok to be lazy.

 

Lila stood in the circle of wild mushrooms, and took the items she had acquired from the school room out of her pocket. As she did so, the piece of dried up chewing gum that Boltoph had given her fell to the ground. She decided to pretend she hadn’t noticed this. She didn’t think it was likely that the chewing gum had belonged to Miss Sharp anyway, even if it WAS stuck to the underside of the teacher’s desk.

And what she had needed were things that really belonged to Miss Sharp, if the spell was going to be a success.

It wasn’t that Lila was a particularly vindictive girl. It was more that Miss Sharp was a particularly vindictive teacher. Adults were supposed to be wise and learned; they were supposed to guide you kindly, and teach you the sorts of things you needed to know to survive being a grown-up. Miss Sharp didn’t even really teach literacy and numeracy very well.

And she most especially did not like Lila.

As she sorted through the things she had taken from her teacher’s desk, Lila’s subconscious told her that her hands still smarted from being slapped with the wooden metre ruler until they almost bled. But Lila ignored her subconscious. She needed her hands to work, and they couldn’t do that if they were just moping and feeling sorry for themselves.

She had a small blouse button, a hair pin, one of Miss Sharps over sharpened pencils, a small stub of white chalk and a shoe lace. The shoe lace had been a bit of a risk; it was new and unused, and wrapped neatly in brown paper, stored away in Miss Sharp’s desk. Lila was hoping that Miss Sharp wouldn’t be returning to school in the same state she had left that day, and wouldn’t notice the absence of spare shoe string. Plus she needed something to tie the other items together, and had it would have been a much greater risk to have tried to purloin a hair from Miss Sharps head.

Lila carefully tied the items together and put them on the ground, still ignoring the chewing gum that lay just a few inches away. She took the candle and matches from her pocket.

She knew she was supposed to tell the candle what she wanted it to do. Should she tell the match as well? And what about the match box that she would strike the match against to light it? Lila wished she had read the spell instructions a little more carefully.

Just to be on the safe side, she told EVERYTHING what it’s job was, struck the match, lit the candle and then after a few moments, poured melted wax onto the shoe lace. Then she held the flame against it and watched the little pile of objects burn. The flame didn’t last long, and the items were more singed than burnt, but it would do. Then she took the items outside the circle of mushrooms, put them in the hole she had dug in readiness and filled the hole with dirt again.

“Take THAT, Miss Sharp!” she muttered.

This City Never Sleeps

I wrote this for The Write Practice this morning. It was inspired by This City Never Sleeps, by The Eurythmics – they were my favorite band when I was a teenager, and I wrote a piece about this song before, when I was about 15. My English teacher didn’t like it…

Midtown Manhattan from Liberty Harbor in Weeha...

Midtown Manhattan from Liberty Harbor in Weehawken New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another tube train rattles past, shaking the old house with its crumbling plaster and loose fitting, mildew stained windows. I ram my pillow over my head trying to drown out the noise.

It’s 2am. Hopefully that was the last train tonight. Not that I will sleep any better, not in this apartment.

I’d only been living here a couple of weeks. It was all I could afford with my tin pot wages. Moving to the city was not as glamorous as I had imagined.

This house, divided as it was into too many dwellings, heaved with damp, fetid, crawling life.

I haven’t got used to the endless cacophony – the barely muffled talking, laughing, shouting, smacking, sucking, barking, clicking, switching, ticking I can hear behind the paper thin walls. I can hear people BREATH. I can hear them sweat. I can hear them moan and move against each other.

The pillow isn’t helping. I get up and walk to the bathroom. With the dull light from the flickering bulb I can see my reflection in the mirror above the sink. My eyes peer back at me from dark rims, my skin grey and breaking out in places. I splash my face with cold water, and watch the drips slide down my cheeks and drop from my chin.

Leaving the bathroom, I take a slurp of vodka from the bottle on my bed side table, light a cigarette and lay back on my pillow. Smoking has replaced sleeping, for me. I watch a moth flutter against the curtainless window, trying to get out into the darkness, and I listen to the people, whose names I do not know, struggling to survive in a city that never sleeps.

A Shorter tale…

Today I am having a writing dilemma.

I am entering some work for the writing competition on The Write Practice web page. It’s a short story competition, and you can enter as many pieces as you like. There is a word limit of 1250, so in essence, this is ‘flash fiction’.

Last week I had a go at my first piece of flash fiction (I used this article from The Guardian for guidance and found it very helpful). I was going to post it here in my blog, and at some point I probably still will, but for now I am thinking of entering it for the competition.

I would really love to write fantasy fiction, or at least, if I ever get ANYTHING published, I would like it to be in that genre. However the piece I wrote last week is…let’s say Modern fiction? (in that it is set in the NOW, or at least in relatively modern times, and doesn’t have unicorns or castles or wizards or flying monkeys…).

With this is mind I decide to enter TWO pieces, and had a go at writing some fantasy flash fiction. It didn’t have any unicorns or castles or wizards or flying monkeys in it, in case you were wondering. But it IS  a tale of magic and monsters and witchcraft, and I sort of fell in love with my own story. That happens sometimes.

A 1250 word count limit for fantasy flash fiction – not as easy as it sounds. Well not for me anyway; my imagination is boundless, and once I started writing it was hard to stop. I had to end it more suddenly than I would have liked, because of the word limit! But I LOVED writing it, and it would be such a shame not to do SOMETHING with it.

So, my dilemma is this – do I enter it as it is, if for no other reason than to showcase my fantasy fiction work (since the web page owner says he reads EVERY word of EVERY story)? Or do I try and cut a middle bit out to make the end better…or do I just make it longer, allow my heroine to play out her story til the end, and save it  for another competition or literary magazine?

Answers on a postcard….(or you can leave a reply if you feel so inclined).

Let’s kill the protagonist!

Two blog posts in one day?

Yeah, sorry, but maybe tomorrow I won’t write one at all, and that will make up for today’s double edition….

I just had to come back in and share something.

When I was at secondary school, I had an English teacher in the 5th year called Mrs Worsencroft. It’s funny how some teachers make a lasting impression on you and others you forget in an instant. She was one of the former.

I wrote a creative story for her once in which my protagonist died. I can’t even remember the story now, but I remember I got an A for it, and some remark like “Excellent piece of writing!”. I was so pleased with this, that I killed off every protagonist I wrote about after that for virtually the whole year. I think she got a bit sick of it after a while. The best grade I got after that for the same kind of writing was a B.

I was amused to discover that my eldest daughter (who is an EXCELLENT creative writer) does the same thing. For someone who completely freaked out in The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff this summer (a kind of interactive journey where guests are made to feel like they are actually starring in an episode of the show), she comes up with some pretty horrific tales. Her latest involves an orphaned child who discovers her adoptive mother has been brutally murdered, and has to go on the run to avoid meeting the same grisly fate.

My daughter writes this kind of fiction at school quite regularly. A state of affairs that led her teacher to take her to one side to ask if everything was “ok at home”….

Imagine my delight to read today that “Of the twenty best short stories in the 2011 Best American Short Stories, half of them involved a character dying” *. I literally laughed out loud, and gave a little “Whoop!”.  I may not BE an American writer, but I’m sure its true for writers everywhere.

I think I might seek out Mrs Worsencroft and ask for a re-grade….

* Quote from “Lets Write a Short Story” by Joe Bunting. Sorry if it feels like I am plugging this relentlessly, but credit where credit is due…

Short story reversing!!

I read a page on the internet a couple of weeks ago that urged writers to start with short stories as opposed to launching in with the first novel.  The author, Joe Bunting, makes some good points – you only have to start looking through all the thousands of blogs by would be writers to know that this is an uphill struggle. Most of us will never get books published, never mind become best selling authors. So starting small and getting something,  ANYTHING published, seems like a good idea to me. Plus if we get ourselves noticed who knows what it might lead to?

With this in mind, I began to think about plots. Various ideas came to me, but I decided to look on line at some published short stories to get an idea of what I was aiming at.

I probably started in the wrong place…I had a look at an anthology of ‘ best short stories‘ (it is a book being sold by Amazon, but you know how some of the books invited you to ‘look inside’? So I looked inside…), and read the first couple of paragraphs of the first story.

It was good. Oh my goodness it was good –  how was I going to compete with this????

Feeling somewhat deflated, I went elsewhere online to look at the fanfic I had written for friends a few years ago. It was Harry Potter fanfic, but I had put my friends in it too, so they could imagine themselves alongside some of JKRowling’s amazing characters. It was easy to write – I didn’t have to explain what anyone looked like, or what sort of person they were. No character development was needed what so ever because the audience I was writing it for (my friends, Harry Potter fans like myself) already knew the characters well. So I was able to concentrate on the narrative itself, and it flowed from my fingers like…well, like magic.

English: British versions of the Harry Potter ...

English: British versions of the Harry Potter series My own collection ^_^ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going back and re-reading them was fun. And I realised that actually I’m not a bad writer!

So I decided that rather than trying to think of new plots and stories, I’m going back to my fanfics and doing the whole thing in reverse. Before, I already had the characters and just needed a story to go with them. This time I will take my stories  and develop characters of my own.

We’ll see what happens.

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