watercolour morning

Reposting this observational blog here to tie-up with this short fantasy horror competition; 1500-200 words https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/competitions/current-competitions
Thanks for the inspiration, DCtN!

don't confuse the narrator

The idea of paintings and pictures as windows and doors into other worlds is fairly common in literature.

From MR James’ The Mezzotint to Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, pictures reveal secrets that are hidden from the real world; from Princess Rosamund in George MacDonald’s The Lost Princess to Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and their cousin Eustace Scrubb in CS Lewis’ The Dawn Treader, children step – or tumble – through into other worlds and places.

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Three Men on the Edge – Review

One of the great things about being a writer is the all the other stuff you get to read. The short story market is thriving, flash is flourishing, new novels booming and writers’ groups are growing. Love it! And I get to read loads of all the lovely words out there.

Three-Men-on-the-Edge-Book.jpgSo without further ado, let me redirect to you my review of the superb Three Men On The Edge by Michael Loveday.  Written in flash style with some paragraphs a matter of only three or four lines, this is a careful study of male depression in microcosm.  It is moving, tender and touching. There are moments where the light slips in, lifting the mood, but the undercurrent remains and you really feel for these three men.  I mean, really feel for them. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this flash novel. It’s excellent. Here is the review.

If you have a book, a short story or flash fiction you’d like me to review on this website, please get in touch either here or on Twitter.

Words That Go Bump In The Night

As we creep a little closer to Hallowe’en come and enjoy an evening of spookiness courtesy of Words That Go Bump in the Night – a live lit event at the Warwick Arms Hotel, Jury Street, Warwick, on Thursday 10th of October.
Words That Go Bump In The Night.jpgBe part of our invited audience and enjoy exceptional 5 minute stories, poems and plays all with a ghostly, other-wordly theme. Run by author Jenny Heap, her Words Of events have been playing both Spring and Autumn seasons to ever growing audiences and participants. If you’ve never attended a Words Of live lit event before come along to Words That Go Bump In The Night on the 10th of October to hear some great story telling from local authors.
7.30pm and £3 on the door.

Tickle Lane, Potato Street and more…

Well dear reader, if last week’s Hen and Chicken Court wasn’t exciting enough, as soon as that little ol’ blog hit the ether I received this picture of the sign for Old Pigeon Pie Court.
Pigeon Pie.JPGAs any historian would tell you most places are named after something or someone pertinent to the area, so we can only surmise that once upon a time a pie maker or baker of some sort worked from this court. Such names are great pointers in time, don’t you think? Although some English villages may take their name from previous Saxon or Roman inhabitants many of our street, land and alley names deffo come from what went on down them. If you’re looking for a vicar for example, just head off to Church Lane. Worried about buying a house on River Street? There’s a reason it’s called River Street. These days it’s the Councils who name our streets and in the case of new developments, the developer themselves have an input. How Dull. Dull. Dull. Dull. I once lived in a house where the tiny slip of road at the front was called Pounda. Pounda, it was said, was the sound the cattle made as they pounded through the village from field to farm at milking time. Might all be claptrap of course, but it works. We have Horse Fairs, Bullrings, Market Squares, Milk Lanes and Bakers Rows littered across the land.  Lifted from this great site, Family Search, I found this fabulous bit of history
In Winchester, a 909 charter mentions three street names that are no longer in use: 
Þa cëap stræt (‘market street’)
flæscmangererestræt (‘street of the butchers’)
scyldwyrtenastræt (‘street of the shield-makers’)

Shield Makers!! How cool is that to the modern eye! The road outside my current house is sufficient for purpose but with a rather boring name, well, boring for modern users. It is named after the village it leads to, so directional and geographical – great when your main mode of transport was no more than a mule and determination. It does imply knowledge though – it implies that you know where the village you’re heading to is –

‘You wanting Farmer Odd Stockings?’
‘Just take the Grassland Road then. You’ll find ‘im in ‘is barn.’
‘Many thanks.’
‘Mind ‘ow you go. Tis a rough road. Your mule might not take kindly to it.’
‘Tis a tough mule. Walk on, Rambo.’

These days road names can seem irrelevant if you’re a sat nav user – as I am – but I do still have my road names option turned on, as there is no sat nav option for ‘Turn Left By The Dodgy Looking Bus Stop’ or ‘Over there idiot! By the pond that you can’t actually see from here.’ So a useful option I’m sure you’d agree.

Recent new road names in the UK have been commemorating soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in the First World War, those who were awarded the Victoria Cross for example, and what a very good decision for the Councils and developers to have made. What would you re-name your road if you could? ‘I Hope That Prat Who Screams Through at 5.30 Every Morning doing Ninety Miles an Hour Gets A Puncture Street’ is a bit long for a road sign, but I live in hope.

Short back and sides, sir?

Earlier this week I was enjoying a Serial Writing masterclass, run by The People’s Friend fiction editor Shirley Blair and author Alison Carter. The fun and games were held at The People’s Friend London HQ on Fleet Street (oh the vibes!) The PF has dedicated itself to publishing short stories for their readership since 1869 – quite an achievement in this digital age! So when I signed up I had absolutely no idea what to expect or what would be expected of me as a writer. Certainly The Friend is a niche market but all us eager beaver authors attending were told that the readership is expanding and boundaries are being gently nudged. Ideas were soon buzzing around the room and I came home with lots of writery thoughts to help me through the dark days of winter. It was during lunch however that I snapped this photo – not just because it made me smile but because I am a great supporter of The British Hen Welfare Trust, a charity which saves hens from an early death by re-homing them once they leave the egg-farming industry.  We have had many hens rampaging through our garden over the years all of course with the most ridiculous names, Brian, Kevin and Cinderella amongst many.
Hen&Chicken.jpgBut I digress. Hen and Chicken Court, just off Fleet Street. A fairly obvious medieval name for a court or lane, I thought, but was amazed when a google search threw up information about the very same place as being where – allegedly – Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber practiced. Well who’d have thought. Talk about material for a short story. For those new to the ghastly tale of Sweeny Todd, is was said that whilst shaving his customers he would slit their throats and hand their bodies over to his lover who, clearly counting the pennies, would take the best bits and serve them up in her pies.  Blackadder’s Mrs Miggins will never seem the same again. Documents tell us that Mr Todd was a real person, being born in 1759 in Stepney, East London, and was hanged for a murder – whether he really did murder more than one person –  his customers in this case – and have them wrapped in short crust pastry and gravy – is another matter,cluckers.JPG but it makes for a great urban myth that is still going strong today. Funny too, that it is a two minute walk from The Royal Courts of Justice.

You’d think that such a street name would come from a local hostelry, but this is debated.  There might once have been a pub nearby, there might not – but it would seem unlikely if there wasn’t. Mind you, it would have to be a very small one – a quick look down the court told me it was indeed a tiny little place, no more really than an alley. However ‘hen and chicken’ when used together were slang terms for the pots used to hold alcohol, so maybe there is a connection. But anyway… this all links back to the opening of this little blog and a discussion we had about settings and place names. How realistic do they need to be? Well, as we know, many streets, lanes, alleys, and possibly some towns are named after their environment – Whale Beach and Obelisk Beach for example (Obelisk being listed as a clothing-optional beach) in Australia.

But as always, that fiend, Research, has taken me down a different path to one intended when I set about writing this; from The People’s Friend to a nudist beach in Australia. I don’t know how these things happen, I really don’t.


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In Three Words

Here we are then, in the UK Silly Season. Although it could be argued that we’ve been suffering that particular season since June 2016. But wait. I have always maintained not to get political on this blog, although sometimes it is hard not to rant, rave, scream, stamp and generally be a big mouth about SomethingorOther. So many causes out there to support; so many injustices and hurts to rail against. Where to start, eh? But as I say, No. This is meant to be a writer-related blog although it can be hard sometimes to say anything that a) anyone wants to read, b) that hasn’t been said before or c) isn’t just plain boring. So then dear Reader, what approach shall we take today?

Well, for starters, how about a visit to The Houses of Parliament? Ever been there?


 Let’s play the Three Word Game ie – Describe yourself in 3 words – ‘Witty’ ‘Bold’ and ‘Waggish’ for example – except apply to a recent visit, meeting or coincidence.

So back to the Houses of P. Three Words.
2) Tiny!
3) Perplexing

A Meeting:
1) Chance
2) Surprise
3) Hot

and a recent coincidence
1) Unsettling
2) Profound
3) Bewildering

And now apply the same rules to that short story/flash fiction/novella you’re busy crafting through these summer months. In essence, what are you writing and What Is It About? Use the three point plan to answer yourself. Describe what you’re writing in three words. Then describe what you’ve written in three words. Does it add up to six? If not, maybe go back to the notepad.
Whilst wandering the corridors of power inWestminster yesterday I was hoping the sandwich of inspiration would land in my mouth and fill me with lots of amazing and creative ideas stuffing me to over-full with plans and thoughts for the next blockbuster. All I could come up with was a Steampunk Romance in an alternative universe.

Perhaps I need a holiday.






photo by
Danilo D’Agostino