Thursday, 23 June 2016

A stand alone story - a free read

This is one of two stand alone stories I've written, spin offs from the novel about Austin Stapley. Hope you enjoy it. If you do, please comment. Or even if you don't!

The art of manipulation

He looked across at Natalie Garman with the innocence of a child, though in Austin’s case innocence wasn’t something he’d had for a very long time. Even at five he knew how to lie well. However, the second part was right. Being a child was very much Austin’s forte.
               ‘You see how it looks on the books, Mr Stapley,’ Natalie was saying.
               ‘But of course,’ Austin added suitably demurely. ‘But then how was I to know my mother would be rushed into hospital.’
               ‘You could have phoned to let us know.’
               ‘In advance?’
               Natalie swallowed. ‘No, after it happened. Or at least as soon as possible. Not turning up for an interview…well, that…’
               ‘Yes, yes.’ Austin was getting fed up with this. He’d already been sent away once because he turned up too early for his damned Job Centre appointment. Too early, for goodness sake. They wouldn’t let him wait. In fact they were quite rude about it. There was no pleasing this bunch of half-wits. Now because he’d bailed on an interview with some logistics company (moving things from one place to another, let’s not get fancy about it), he was being threatened with withdrawal of his Jobseeker’s Allowance. Okay, his mother hadn’t really been rushed into hospital. He’d actually been having a lie with the magazine with the brown paper cover marked ‘maths’, at the page of Anthea. He’d had a heavy night at the King’s Head wallowing in self-pity and he needed comfort not another grilling about his previous track record with jobs by some toffee-nosed prospective employer.
               Austin’s mother had her uses. She cooked his meals from a limited menu (nothing foreign, though the dishes themselves often looked alien), and washed his clothes. She was easy to wind up, which could be tremendous fun as long as she didn’t have hold of an offensive weapon. And she came in useful as a reason for non-attendance at interviews. However, Austin was running out of legs she could break, arms she could fracture or fires in the kitchen. He needed to do something because it wasn’t only the Job Centre on his back. Stella Stapley was demanding money with menaces, namely housekeeping, or she would stop cooking.
               Austin hadn’t the guts to admit to his mother that he’d lost another job and was currently unemployed. There were only so many nights he could stay out (he’d been a night watchman). It was time to have a new job, to make something up. He’d have to back it up somehow, but Austin was used to winging it. Now what did he fancy doing? A fishmonger? No, his mother would expect cheap fish. A car salesman? No, he’d never managed to pass his driving test. She’d suss that one, though it might make her worry about the Austin A30 malingering in the garage. His father’s pride and joy which only saw the light of day at weekends, and then only on the driveway, despite it being bequeathed to him after his father died. He couldn’t go there right now. Besides, Natalie was trying to get his attention. She’d been in the process of calling over the security guard because Austin hadn’t moved in several minutes and she thought he was having a mini stroke. When his head shot up she cried out in shock, or was it relief?
               Austin assured her he was alright. ‘Worried about mother,’ he said.
               ‘Of course.’ The sympathy was back in her voice. Austin revelled in that for it wouldn’t be seen again in a long time, if at all.
‘I thought I was going to have to write an obituary to my poor dear mother,’ Austin went on.
‘Well, she’s making a recovery surely?’ asked Natalie in concern.

‘You can never tell with mother.’ One true sentence in a whole lot of lies. But it was at this point that Austin had a brain wave. He would be a reporter to the local rag. He’d always fancied himself as a writer, and this held a certain prestige that his mother would like to brag about, and unsociable hours he could play with. As Austin eased himself out of the chair and out of another tight situation he caught his smile in the window of the Job Centre. It wouldn’t solve his money problems, this non-job, but he’d work on that while he worked on his mother. He passed Greg, the obnoxious security guard, on his way out and he gave him the finger.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Book heaven!

Came across a neat idea today from Traverse poetry. It's a crowdfunding venture into poetry trading cards. Do go and have a look. It sounds like fun and got my attention.

I've finally got round to ordering How Not to Get Your Poetry Published from Happenstance Press. Maybe I can find out what I've been doing wrong all these years!

Right now I am in book heaven as not only did my youngest son give me a £30 Amazon gift card for my birthday last week but on Friday night I was presented with another for £45 (plus a five pound note) as a thank you for the six years I have lead our church branch of Mother's Union. I stepped down from this position in January and Friday night was our annual Summer Supper. The weather just about held for us to eat out of doors. It was a wonderful evening. Hubby won a raffle prize (Thornton's chocolates) and I was over the moon with my vouchers.

I loaded all my gift cards this morning and began buying! My wish list has been there for some time and I felt guilty about buying some of the books as I had already read them (library borrows) but I wanted them for keeps. So the first two were ones I'd read - 52 Ways to Read a Poem by Ruth Padel (partly read) and Forensics: The Anatomy  of Crime by Val McDermid. The third book was also on my list but I've not read it but always meant to - The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. I seem to come across him rather a lot. He follows me around. There is a statue to him in Thetford, Norfolk (where he lived) where my grandmother was born and grew up (my mother seemed to have a grievance with him but as she always voted Labour I don't know why!)  and I learned more about him at the local Thetford Museum. I came across him again in Lewes in Sussex and then his name came up when I was studying Humanities with the OU. I feel Tom and I would have got on well! Still, I've yet to read the book and I may change my mind.

The final book I've purchased (for now) is the first novel by Mark Haysom called Love, Love Me Do. I love Mark's short stories (which you can view for free if you 'like' his Facebook page). They are heartwarming and nostalgic. So, I thought it was about time I bought one of his novels.

That's enough to keep me busy for a while.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Rushing to hit that deadline

My characters came to call so on the morning of the day I left for my holiday I was tapping away on my laptop at some unearthly hour! Everything was coming fast and had to be written. Since returning five days ago not a word has been written. It will happen. I've stopped panicking about it.

Instead I have this morning submitted a selection of twenty poems to mslexia's pamphlet competition. I only considered it last night and the deadline is tomorrow! I had the right amount of poems on a theme, looked at them again, re-edited some and decided in which order they would appear. This morning I did final tweaks, re-ordered the sequence and submitted. The result is announced in November.

There are a few other poetry competitions coming up I may enter but right now I'm just recovering from the stress of formatting page numbers and actually submitting! I find all rather traumatic.



Saturday, 28 May 2016

Micro writing and waiting for my characters to call.

I've been doing more reading than writing lately. The new comedy novel is proving slow and at one point I had to stop because the current scene I was writing didn't feel right. I had to mull it over and play it out in my head. I went back to it the next day and re-wrote it. However, I have left it alone for the past few days. I decided I needed to do other things - catch up on reading, go out more. The 'out' has mainly been in the garden reading! The weather had been wonderful and this always pull me outside.

The only thing I have been writing is very short pieces. I started to follow #microprompt on Twitter. They put up a new word every day and invite you to write a piece with that word in it. I've written about four so far. I don't do it every day but I do enjoy the challenge of writing even more concise pieces. I try not to go for the obvious in order that my piece stands out. I was rewarded with a comment of 'gorgeous' from microprompt after one of my tweets. I was thrilled and it has encouraged me to continue as well as reacting to others who tweet using the prompt.

The Poetry Book Fair is holding a poetry competition for those of you who are poets, and the fair is on Saturday 17th September. It's a great place to pick up poetry books and hear poets read.There is always a buzz around it. I'd recommend it.

As well as reading books I'm catching up with Writing Magazine, enjoying the articles and refueling the enthusiasm to get writing again,. It will come. Eventually, my characters will be shouting at me to come back and get on with their story. In the meantime I've left my main character with his head in his hands at his office desk. About how I feel sometimes!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

While I was away

There hasn't been much writing going on in the last two weeks as I've been on holiday. I did keep an eye on things - email, twitter, Facebook on my tablet (which drives me up the wall but serves its purpose). One thing which excited me was to find that one of my poems had made Poem of the Day on Scriggler.com. I'm not quite sure how this was achieved but I think it's down to the number of views. I guess you have to get so many. I noticed I had over 900 views for this particular poem. Scriggler had put a nice picture together with the first part of the poem written over the top. and tweeted it. What did I gain from this? Well, I had some more hits, a couple of new followers and some comments on Scriggler about the poem as well as more re-tweets.

The only writing going on during my holiday was writing up my diary....just the places we'd been because I soon forget which day we did what. However, one morning over breakfast in Durham I drafted a little poem as I thought about how my characters might be missing me! I've since edited it and have posted it to Scriggler as well as my Facebook page. It was a fun one to write.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

NaPoWriMo - Day 30 - The final frontier, off prompt and going out with a bang?

Ah! The very last day of NaPoWriMo. Today's prompt is to write a translation. I know no other language enough for that and guessing just from the look or sound of word doesn't cut it for me. I've never really understood translation unless you speak that language. So, I decided to go for an off the wall tragic comedy poem! Maybe I should re-title this The Writer's Last Stand! It is a bit of fun in a macabre sort of way - my humour can be that way! Hope you have enjoyed my month of poetry. I missed a couple of days through (a) forgetfulness and (b) no time, but I've had a lot of fun with the rest.



Deadline

She noticed the smoke (or was it steam?)
wafting through the garden,
but she had a deadline to keep.

On a whim (or was it concern?)
she made a half-hearted move
towards the window to observe.

But she had a deadline to keep
and she returned to the laptop
tap, tapping the keys in urgency.

There was a smell of smoke (or was it…?);
her husband may have lit
that cigarette. Hadn’t he given up?

It was the roaring (or was it a splintering?)
that annoyed her, niggling her mind;
she had a deadline to keep.

The noise penetrated her work space.
Ignoring it she worked fast, so fast that she grew
hot. Sweat was pouring off her.

Then there was shouting (or was it a scream?);
husband downstairs yelling from the door
but she had a deadline to keep.

The sirens were the last straw, how could
she work under these conditions?
Did no one understand the urgency?

She had a deadline to keep for God’s sake!
And as the flames licked at the walls

she tapped her way to the last………

Friday, 29 April 2016

NaPoWrMo - Day 29 - I remember

The penultimate poem for April in the NaPoWriMo challenge. The prompt is to write a poem on the theme of I remember. I found great pleasure in writing this....all that nostalgia! This is perhaps one of my most revealing poems about growing up, of the ordinary days, and I think most people of my era will associate with at least some (if not) most of it. There is one line in there which I think might get you wondering....ah the freedom of childhood back then!

My Nana, Mum, my brother and me!


Back Then

I remember the year of 1965, a tent in the garden,
               Mr Tambourine Man on the radio, June, the heat.
I remember Monday mornings, washing flapping
               on the line, clean-sheet smell, cold meat for lunch
I remember those long school holidays, grey August days,
               clouded and wet before the sun and steaming fences
I remember wearing my jeans in the blazing heat and
               a bikini in the garden, red blotches on white skin
I remember the dart board on the shed door, the knife
               I used to arrow into the grass, the thud, the holes!
I remember watching insects for hours, the ants moving eggs,
               the woodlice I kept in a box, the worms I cradled.
I remember my brother’s scooter I raced round the corner
               of what we called the concrete (these days aka patio!)
I remember building an assault course for the dog, getting her
               to jump the sticks, and here I honed my footballing skills
I remember the hours spent in my room inventing new games,
               listening to rock and pop, taping the top twenty on Sundays.
I remember before we had a video the arguments over programmes,
               and then with a video arguments over what to tape
I remember how I took it all for granted, the safety, the love,
               the family unit, the laughter. I remember.

I will always remember.