Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Spreading Magic

Here is a link to my latest short story.  Spreading Magic

A teenage unicorn and his baby sister decide to visit the mortal realm for the first time. They know the use of magic in the human realm is forbidden. They know they must not be seen, and they know they must leave nothing magical behind.

But it's so hard to obey the rules when you're only a baby unicorn.

This story is part of an anthology written by people attending the Swanwick Writers' Summer School. All proceeds go to charity,
This year, Katy Clarke, a much loved 'Swanicker' passed away. She was a pivotal member of the summer school and attended for many years. She is very sadly missed. All the money from the anthology is going to the hospice that cared for her.

The anthology can be bought from Amazon.
The title is: Chasing Unicorns: in memory of Katy.

If you haven't been to Swanwick Writers' Summer School, I can really recommend it. You spend a week in August, in the company of fellow writers, surrounded by sumptuous gardens. And there's cake.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Floods, Grief and Arguments.

How time flies when you're having a miserable time.

The last post talked about my dear cat Dolly.

Well, Dolly and I lived in the shared house, trying not to annoy the lease holder, until I woke up one morning to find the house flooded. I had to wade through filthy water to get to the kitchen. I couldn't understand what was going on. Why? Wha...? Huh? said my brain.
I opened the back door to see the whole world under water. Bins floated off down the garden like ships heading into the mist. The main road was a river, surging past the front door.
A water main had burst sending a 30ft plume of water into the air. It took 8 hours to get it under control. It was even on the news.

Dolly became poorly not long after and was diagnosed with cancer. I was told she had a few months left and might enjoy the summer. Two weeks later, she had a stroke and had to be put to sleep. I held her in my arms and felt my world slip away with her, my heart breaking.

For a while, I was alone in a flood soaked house with no carpets and no washing machine and with a landlord who did nothing. I moved to another place, where I struggled to live without a furry being. At his place, things got worse! I was allergic to the pollution in the air (industrial smog) and my neighbours seemed to be practicing for the Jeremy Kyle show each night. They would start at about ten and go on into the early hours. I became ill with sleep deprivation.

I left that place and am now in a pretty bungalow, high up on a hill, with clean air. Interestingly, even though everything is still in boxes, I am writing again. My creative juices are flowing, and although I miss Dolly every day, I'm beginning to wonder which furry soul will be my next companion. Dog, cat, hamster, greater crested newt? Time will tell.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

It's a good job I love my cat

Just so that you can picture the scene, I'm lying in my bedroom in my new house. As it's a shared house, I have a litter tray in my room. Dolly cat has spent most of the morning out in the garden.
I'm just about to embark on a deep relaxation, listening to Youtube...

"You are about to enter," says the deep, male voice, "a state of deep relaxation. Inhale deeply…"
What's that smell?
"And exhale fully…"
My dinner can't smell that awful.
"Once again, inhale deeply…"
It smells like cat shit.
"And exhale fully…"
It is cat shit.
"Now, all you have to do is…"
Clean it up.
So much for my deep relaxation. I won't go into details, but let's just say she'd partially missed the tray and done a poop on the plastic mat put there to protect the carpet.

It's a good job I love my cat.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The joy of voice recognition software

Writing cheers me up in so many ways. I can go into another world when my own is unbearable. 
I can go to another world for the sheer fun of it. 

But the voice recognition software gives me the greatest amusement. It goes deaf at the most inopportune moments. 
I'm writing a raunchy scene right now, on a warm day, with the window open. I didn't want my neighbours to hear what I was writing about. I wanted to say the words 'hot sex'. Cliché I know, but it was to do with my character's thoughts.
 My computer thought it was fanny to get me to say these words over and over again, gradually getting louder and louder. 
I've left the deliberate mistake in the previous sentence to show just how capricious it can be. I meant fanny... fanny... now it won't do ordinary words! Funny! That's better. I had to type that word. Soon, my emails are going to be sleaze-fests.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Magical Holidays

I've just got back from a magical week at Swanwick Writers' Summer School in Derbyshire.

It's only half an hour for me, which means I can usually get there with the help of a friend. My nerve damage (result of a car crash 20 odd years ago) limits how long I can cope with the vibration of a car, train, plane, horse, elephant, go-cart.

This year I was especially blessed as my pain levels remained bearable and I managed to stay the whole week.

Here I am by the lake, enjoying an impromptu music session with the wonderful Della Galton.

I was posing, not actually playing, as my shoulders aren't really up to it.     

Swanwick is a truly magical place; a place out of normal time. Each time I arrive, I feel I've never been away and each time I return home, I feel bereft.

Swanwick is where, for one week in the year, I get to live in a writers' community and learn and play and muck about and maybe even write a few words. It's my holiday. Then I come back to my normal life. Ouch.
My mission this year is to move back into the city for a bit. I'll have lots of people to visit when I feel lonesome. And one day I'll achieve my dream of living in an intentional community. That's my true quest.

Until then, I need to let the joy of Swanwick, and the friends I have there, live in my heart, alongside all my friends nearby and further afield - then I won't feel so much like a Dickensian character shut up in her flea infested garret, scratching away with her quill.

PS No sign of the little buggers, I may be in the clear. Woohoo. Now to book a professional deep clean.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Aliens among us


Aliens among us

Did you know that fleas can lurk, unseen, for up to nine months?

‘I’ll spray round the whole house,’ says the pest control man as he assesses how bad my situation is. ‘Should be sorted in six weeks.’

Six weeks?

Small black dots jump with glee onto his white leg protectors. They jump off, disappointed. Then they find my bare ankles. Their squeaks of joy send messages to the others, who hatch, ready for dinner.

The older ones are too busy to feed; they’re squatting in the corners of the room, in the cracks in the kitchen floor, in my wool basket, squeezing out hundreds of eggs.

‘I’ll set a bomb off too, that’ll cover every surface,’ says the man.

A bomb?

He walks into the kitchen, brushing his legs clear of the hopeful juveniles. ‘I’ve seen worse, but it’s pretty bad.’
Trying not to sound too tremulous, I ask, ‘How does it all work? How can I be sure they’ll be gone?’

For someone who voluntarily marooned herself on an uninhabited desert island for a month, I’m surprised at how squeamish I am about my new house guests. Out in Micronesia, I coped with centipedes as long and thick as garden hoses, spiders the size of small dogs and mosquito clouds so dense they formed thunderheads.

So why are these little buggers getting me hopping?

It’s the lurking.

The adults lay eggs, hundreds of eggs. They hatch in a couple of days and little maggoty larvae then crawl away from the light into crevices. After three larval stages they pupate. This is where they begin to resemble the creatures in Ridley Scott’s Aliens. They hatch when they detect warmth, vibration or carbon dioxide!

At the pupa stage they are almost impossible to kill. To make them hatch and die, you need to be in the same room, breathing, walking, willing to risk the case opening and a flappy spider thing jumping on your face and wrapping its…no, sorry… got carried away.

The idea is that the impervious pupae hatch when they detect you nearby and then the chemical in your house kills them.

That’s the hope anyway. I’ve just had the second spraying and bombing, and have to wait for the next cycle to hatch and die before I can be pronounced clear.

Till then, I’m tempted to stay upstairs and write my memoir about sleeping among poisonous insects and trying to catch enough fish for my supper – almost pleasant memories in contrast.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Guest Blog with Alex Davis

Today - a special treat.

Drum roll please ...

Announcing the one - the only - Alex Davis. Alex has been a great help to me in my writing career. His new book The Last War is out now. 

over to you Alex...

The days are counting down on the July Blog Swap trail, and over the next few days I wanted to put some extracts from The Last War out there. Hopefully these'll give a nice flavour of the low-tech, neo-biblical kind of sci-fi I was angling for. So here's a little taster from Chapter Five, where violence comes to Genem for the first time...


Within hours, the clearing is witness to a scene unlike any in the short history of Genem. Larders have been emptied, and food lies on crude tables where both men and women eat greedily. None think about the next sunup. They eat as they have never eaten, gorging until their stomachs grow bloated. In one corner an unseen man has overstuffed himself more than any other, and vomits loudly into a stand of trees. Some of the food lies on the floor, trodden upon by bare feet, but still is devoured by hungry hands and mouths. 'Let us eat! Eat like we shall never eat again!' a high-pitched voice cries, and instantly the feeding frenzy intensifies.

But feasting is not the only act of pleasure evident around the temple. To one side a dancing circle has broken out, three women playing their simplest of drums with a fervour that sucks the crowd into a hypnotic rhythm. None of the Noukari have ever danced before, and the movements are jerky, often arrhythmic. Some find the beat to the music, other simply fling limbs and heads around with abandon, not caring what the music is but for the fact that there is music. The result is a swirling mass of bodies, some pressing against each other, others seeking isolation, their own space to explore the movement of their bodies. Each is lost in a new world, a world of sound and ecstasy.

Apius watches the dancers from the sidelines, choosing not to join them. He knows that he is the originator of this ceremony, but must not partake of it himself. No – a Re'Nuck must not debase himself like this. He has a duty to his followers. They must know this pleasure, they must find it at the heart of them to forget duty and endless work. This is significant, he knows, and he must take in every aspect of the sights before him without losing himself.

At the outer edge of the clearing there is a small clutch of men, only four or five, but what they do is so extraordinary that he cannot help but watch.

They are fighting.

The Re'Nuck moves in more closely, and the offence and defence pauses for a moment. But Apius just nods and bids them to continue. None of them question further, and the slowest to respond to the Re'Nuck's command find their faces crushed with clenched fists.

Fighting, Apius thinks to himself. What an unlikely outcome. Only in this moment, freed of all their rules and strictures, have they seen fit to fight. He would not even recognise it had he not heard and seen the creatures of the forest doing the very same thing, from the small and clumsy Echen through to the vicious duels of the Hiyel. It seems to be the way of nature, he reflects, the way of all life. Perhaps there is even something unnatural in the fact they have never fought.

To find out more about The Last War, visit