Archives for short story

My ‘Porridge & Cream’ read: Judith Field

Today I am pleased to welcome short story writer, Judith Field to share her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read. “My book is Anybody can do Anything by Betty Macdonald. I’d read her books The Egg and I (which, like the Curate’s egg, is good in parts) and The Plague and I (which I love), so when I saw Anybody in a second hand bookshop in 1981 for only 25p, I grabbed it. I re-read this funny and uplifting boot, with its brilliant character descriptions. when I need picking up, but I leave it long enough between reading that I can’t remember the text word for word. When I do read it, I feel a thrill of recognition, like meeting an old friend. Published in 1945, it’s a memoir of life in Seattle during the Depression, in the early to mid nineteen thirties. Betty leaves an unhappy marriage and, with her two small daughters, goes back to live with her quirky, warm, and supportive family of four sisters and a brother headed by Mother, who “with one folding chair and a plumber’s candle, could make the North Pole homey.”  Betty says “It’s a wonderful thing to know that you can come home any
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#FlashFiction: ‘A Little Drop’

Tatiana could read the writing backwards. EFAC SNUB YENOH YCNACAV EEFFOC WINNING-DRAWA The window stickers hadn’t changed for weeks. The door banged and in with the cold air came ‘Mr Triple Shot Espresso and Cheese & Marmite Bagel’. He didn’t wink at her this morning. His eyes were slits, like the coin slots on a parking meter. She popped a little something into his espresso. Just to give him a lift. Next to arrive was ‘Mrs Hot Chocolate on my way home from night shift’. Her eyes were like coin slots too, narrowed by an eight hour shift plus two hours overtime on the ward. Dealing with other people’s pain was tiring. So Tatiana popped something into the hot chocolate to make sleep come effortlessly. After that there was a bit of a lull, the pause between the night shift going home and 9am starters leaving home. She arranged her bottles under the counter. Brown bottles on the right, clear in the middle, green on the left. Generally she found the brown bottles were needed most often, she kept the green bottles for emergencies. Exhaustion, lethargy, depression, hangover, grief, headache, laziness, irritability, apathy: there was a bottle to relieve them all.
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Categories: Book Love, My Flash Fiction and On Writing.

#Flashfortnight… image rights

  The #Flashfortnight competition by Ether Books is a two-part affair: the first week involved writing the seven stories, this week the emphasis is on promotion. Each story has a dedicated promotional image directly related to it, you can see them here.     From top to bottom: Beginnings… a beautiful tiara brings bad luck [above] Revenge… June’s weapons are a sandwich + binoculars [above] Celebration… the end of a friendship [above] Movies… step into a black cab and a world of movies [above] Home… Joey is more like pigeon Darth than he realizes [above] Space… Why is John’s mother singing ‘Space Oddity’? [above] Endings… the final 60 minutes, the Golden Hour [above] Copyright for all photographs: Sandra Danby [except Beginnings:  Millisenta | Dreamstime.com]
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

#Flashfortnight… Endings

It’s the final #Flash Fortnight story today and the theme is Endings. The End. Fin. Conclusion. The Golden Hour. Click here to read my story Endings for free at Ether. If you enjoy the story, please leave a review. #Flash Fortnight is a competition for very short stories – ie ‘in a flash’ fiction of up to 500 words – so last week I wrote a story a day. Each day, organiser Etherbooks announced a different theme. The first week was about writing the stories, this week we release the stories to the world.   Click here to read my other stories:- Beginnings Revenge Celebration Movies Home Space     To read Ether’s selection of short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction and essays to your mobile or tablet,  click here to download the app at iTunes or GooglePlay. Follow all the Twitter gossip about #flashfortnight and discover new writers using the hashtag or by following me @SandraDanby and @Etherbooks
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

#Flashfortnight… Space

The sixth theme for #Flash Fortnight is Space.  What did your mother do during the Space Race? John thinks he knows what his Mum did, but he’s wrong. Click here to read my story Space for free at Ether. If you enjoy the story, please leave a review. #Flash Fortnight is a competition for very short stories – ie ‘in a flash’ fiction of up to 500 words – so last week I wrote a story a day. Each day, organiser Etherbooks announced a different theme. The first week was about writing the stories, this week we release the stories to the world. Click here to read my other stories:- Beginnings Revenge Celebration Movies Home Coming tomorrow, the final story… Endings. To read Ether’s selection of short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction and essays to your mobile or tablet,  click here to download the app at iTunes or GooglePlay. Follow all the Twitter gossip about #flashfortnight and discover new writers using the hashtag or by following me @SandraDanby and @Etherbooks
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

#Flashfortnight… Home

More than halfway there now. The fifth theme for #Flash Fortnight was Home. Joey has more in common with his pigeon Darth than he realizes. Click here to read my story Home for free at Ether. If you enjoy the story, please leave a review. #Flash Fortnight is a competition for very short stories – ie ‘in a flash’ fiction of up to 500 words – so last week I wrote a story a day. Each day, organiser Etherbooks announced a different theme. The first week was about writing the stories, this week we release the stories to the world. Click here to read my other stories:- Beginnings Revenge Celebration Movies Coming tomorrow… Space. To read Ether’s selection of short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction and essays to your mobile or tablet,  click here to download the app at iTunes or GooglePlay. Follow all the Twitter gossip about #flashfortnight and discover new writers using the hashtag or by following me @SandraDanby and @Etherbooks
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

#Flashfortnight… Celebration

The third theme for #Flash Fortnight is Celebration and my story tells about the toxic combination of three girls, three dresses and a forthcoming party. Click here to read Celebration for free at Ether. If you enjoy the story, please leave a review. #Flash Fortnight is a competition for very short stories – ie ‘in a flash’ fiction of up to 500 words – so last week I wrote a story a day. Each day, organiser Etherbooks announced a different theme. The first week was about writing the stories, this week we release the stories to the world.   Click here to read my other stories:- Beginnings Revenge Coming tomorrow… Movies.   To read Ether’s selection of short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction and essays to your mobile or tablet,  click here to download the app at iTunes or GooglePlay. Follow all the Twitter gossip about #flashfortnight and disc over new writers using the hashtag or by following me @SandraDanby and @Etherbooks
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

#Flashfortnight… Revenge

My second story for #Flash Fortnight is Revenge, about June who sets out with a cheese sandwich and binoculars. Click here to read Revenge for free at Ether. If you enjoy the story, please leave a review.   #Flash Fortnight is a competition for very short stories – ie ‘in a flash’ fiction of up to 500 words – so last week I wrote a story a day. Each day, organiser Etherbooks announced a different theme. The first week was about writing the stories, this week we release the stories to the world.  The theme for the first day was ‘Beginnings’, click here to read my story Beginnings. Coming tomorrow… ‘Celebration’.   To read Ether’s selection of short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction and essays to your mobile or tablet,  click here to download the app at iTunes or GooglePlay. Follow all the Twitter gossip about #flashfortnight and discover new writers using the hashtag or by following me @SandraDanby and @Etherbooks
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

‘Whiteout’, a short story

It came without warning, the white, as quickly as a sigh. There was a moment of silence as he fell, of disbelief, a moment of loss when he thought, “Oh Jill” and reached for her hand which wasn’t there. Then all went black. * She was cold. A finger of ice wriggled along her spine, through the gap at her waistband where her thermal ski top had worked loose. She tried to straighten her clothes but the effort stole her breath so she rested for a moment, looking around, trying to assess where she’d fallen. She had never known quiet could be so dense. “Bill?” She reassured herself. He wasn’t answering because he hadn’t fallen, was bringing help. Not knowing which way was uphill or down, left or right, she cursed the loss of her spectacles. Above her was a structure, ghostly in the blankness which surrounded her like an unsatisfactory cheap duvet. Something dark loomed, it was the only thing she could see through the damp air which brushed her face like grubby cotton wool puffs smudged with mascara and eye shadow. It was tall enough to be the spire of a church; perhaps St Peter’s where they had married.
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Categories: My Short Stories.

A review of The Milk of Female Kindness

A sensitive review of The Milk of Female Kindness by author Gwen Wilson who appreciates the difficult balance handled by editor Kasia James. This anthology is a collection of honest writing about motherhood: not the pink fluffy version. And Gwen is right, when I asked her to review the anthology I didn’t know the subject of her memoir I Belong to No One! Read my review of I Belong to No One by Gwen Wilson. ‘The Milk of Female Kindness] ed. Kasia James [UK: K James] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS #anthology #motherhood Edited by @KasiaJames via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1az
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Categories: Book Love.

Field of Flowers

The Golden Globes, BAFTAS and Oscars are finished. The book prizes are yet to come in 2014. So I thought that was it for this awards season. So I got a real kick to receive a nomination for a new award ‘A Field of Flowers’ from the lovely Rachel Carrera. Thanks Rachel! She likes blogging awards because they ‘pass the love around’ and help us all to find new bloggers. So check out her blog here. Rachel is a writer, and like me she’s been thinking of and writing stories for as long as she can remember. Then last year came a turning-point, for three nights in a row she dreamed the same dream which she is turning into her novel The Prison. As Rachel [in Florida] and I [in the UK] are both writers, I thought I’d take this opportunity to pass on this award to my fellow authors in the global blogging world. Please check out their blogs:- My London writing buddie Alison Chandler has just posted a new excerpt of her novel Tidings which tells Marty’s story, the rise of his rock band from Wales and what happens when success hits. She’s now working on her next novel The
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

One year old, what a journey!

A year has passed since I published my first post here. Looking back, I didn’t know much about blogging. I saw it as a way of getting my writing out into the public sphere, getting people to read it. What I didn’t expect was the huge community of bloggers who love books, reading and writing, just as much as I do. So THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog over the last 12 months – thanks for finding me, and liking me, and adding your comments. It’s been a real learning process, some things worked, others didn’t, it took me quite a while to figure out how to work WordPress. Some things are still a mystery to me! To read my very first post, a short story called ‘Magic and Mischief’, click here ‘Magic and Mischief’ was a finalist in the London New Writing competition in 2002. In 2003 it was published in Diaspora City: the London New Writing anthology [pub. Arcadia Books] along with short stories by Maggie Gee, Iain Sinclair and Toby Litt. Buy it from Amazon here
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Categories: Book Love, My Short Stories and On Writing.

Book review: All the Rage

What a treat, twelve stories about love by the inimitable AL Kennedy. Love:  looking for it, losing it, exploring what love is. Instead of describing the stories, I want to celebrate her writing. The way she tells us so much in just one or two sentences. ‘Late in Life’ features  an older couple waiting. They are waiting in a queue at the building society, waiting for him to pay off her mortgage, in a coming-together of two lives. She provocatively eats a fig, being sexy for him “to pass the time.” Despite his hatred of public show, he watches her, “he is now-and-then watching.” He gives her “the quiet rise of what would be a smile if he allowed it. She knows this because she knows him and his habits and the way the colour in his eyes can deepen when he’s glad, can be nearly purple with feeling glad when nothing else about him shows a heat of any kind.” In ‘The Practice of Mercy’, Dorothy is lost, alone and approaching old age and contemplating her relationship. “She realised once more, kept realising, as if the information wouldn’t stick, realised again how likely it was that someone you’d given the
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Story

I read The Story, edited by novelist Victoria Hislop, on my Kindle, without really appreciating just how much reading was involved for 100 stories. It’s not like holding a hefty book. But I enjoyed every single one of them. Some of the authors were well-known, others were new to me. Some made me laugh out loud (I’m thinking of Dorothy Parker here), others stopped my breath with sadness. I discovered authors I want to explore further: one of the reasons I have always loved short stories. The short story form is fascinating. As a writer, I find the form freeing, an opportunity to try something different, to focus tightly on a theme or character that has caught my interest, to play with structure, genre, voice. As a reader I am very demanding, like anthology editor Victoria Hislop I want to be instantly grabbed by a story. “Readers are allowed to be impatient with short stories,” she writes. “My own patience limit for a novel which I am not hugely enjoying may be three or four chapters. If it has not engaged me by then, it has lost me and is returned to the library or taken to a charity shop.
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Categories: Book Love.

One from six: the 2014 Costa Short Story Award

The judges of the Costa Short Story Award are you, me, that guy sitting opposite you on the bus, and the woman in the supermarket who drops a box of Extra Large eggs and walks away pretending it wasn’t her. The judges are the public. Two weeks ago I downloaded the six shortlisted stories from the Costa Coffee website, and read them. You can read them too here. At this stage, the authors’ identities were anonymous, their names were disclosed only on January 21. So I had no idea what to expect; it’s not like picking up an edition of stories because you like the theme or have read that author or editor before. I wanted to be fair to each writer, reading each story carefully, being open-minded. The official winner of the Prize, announced on January 28th, is Amanda Readman’s ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. My winner, for what my single vote is worth, is Still Water BC by Erin Soros [above]. It took me instantly into another world, the pathos of the story, the foreshadowing of the title, set it aside for me from the others. The six finalists, chosen from 1400 entries, were:- Still Water, BC by
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/After

Her breasts float in the bath, the left is as it was yesterday. The right is fragile. Between the three black lines it is red from the squishing of the white metal frame of the scanner. The faint indigo blush of a bruise spreads outwards like a bottle of ink spilt on a carpet, as if absorbed from the blue light which x-rayed her tissue. She watches as the black marks of the radiographer’s pen dissolve in the bubbles. She will not get of the bath until the lines have gone, she decides, until the experience is washed away. They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. Just as they did yesterday. They still look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. And usual has been restored. Almost. She takes the mug of tea her husband has made her, he closes the door behind him quietly as if she is mourning. Since walking out of the door of the assessment clinic with the ‘all clear’ ringing in their ears, they have lurched from tight hugs of euphoria, tighter than they have hugged since the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/Before

Ever since the letter arrived, every day has lasted a year. Eight days since the screening. Nine sleeps to go until the re-tests, except sleep won’t come. So Shirley sits in the bath and tries not to look. Tries to look anywhere else but… there. She averages two baths a day, with relaxing aromatherapy oil. She swishes her legs from side to side, watching the bubbles hide the dimples on her knees. She flexes her legs, admiring her muscle tone. She studies her red toes, painted yesterday while her husband watched the Sunday afternoon football. She’s never before noticed the relationship between footballs and breasts. Everything she looks at now is related to breasts, even though she’s stopped looking at her own. Balls of any description, hills, clouds, apples in the fruit bowl, the cold pile of mashed potato on her dinner plate. Eight sleeps to go, seven, six… They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. They look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. Except usual has been suspended. She hooks herself into her bra every morning with efficiency, briskly, avoiding the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 5/Trainers’

The trainers were new and very white. He didn’t want to walk every day, but neither did he want to die. He couldn’t ignore the doctor. His wife came back from the shops with the trainers and a pedometer to measure every step he took. He couldn’t ignore his wife. He didn’t want to die. So on Monday morning he dressed as usual – old grey trousers, white shirt thinning around the collar now, black belt he’d worn for years with his work suit but notched tighter, ditto the grey tie. The trainers shone as bright as a Belisha Beacon; if a Belisha Beacon was white of course, not orange. They’ll do the job, he told himself as he laced them up tight. He walked back and forth across the pink shag pile bedroom carpet, up one side of the bed and around to the other. If he shut his eyes, he might think he was wearing his slippers. He didn’t see why he couldn’t do his ‘heart walk’ as Margaret called it, in his old brown suede lace-ups but Margaret had taken control, as always. As always, it was easier to do as she said and she said trainers
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 4/Hunger’

The businessman never noticed him, people generally didn’t. Whether because they really didn’t see him or it was a conscious avoidance of the uncomfortable, he wasn’t sure. He knew he wasn’t pretty but he tried to keep himself in order. He’d learned over the years how to stay invisible, to recognise kindness, developed an instinct to avoid trouble and to be gracious. He was first in the supermarket every morning, into the bathroom where he stripped off and washed. Sunday Opening had seemed a bonus, the supermarket was open seven days a week except it opened very late which messed with his routine. Thirty years he’d been on the road. His food came from bins at supermarkets and restaurants. Twice a year, spring and autumn, he updated his clothes and shoes at the same charity shop, the cancer one down the side street, where the manageress let him in early before the punters arrived. He chose what he needed and she would put her own money in the till. Often she added a book to his pile, something she thought he’d like. A poetry anthology one year, a guide book to the birds of Britain and Europe another. She never refused
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 3/Temptation’

Florence’s calorie counting was going well. She’d bought a diary and kept it in the front pocket of her handbag with a mini-pencil. According to her doctor, the trick to losing weight was to “Know what you eat, and then cut things out.” Florence found that concentrating on what she was eating was helping her diet, though finding out the calorie count was a pain in the proverbial. Today’s list so far was:- Large hot chocolate and skinny blueberry muffin on the way to work; Diet Coke [all the other women in the office were dieting and they drunk Diet Coke, without exception]; Bottle of sparking water with peach [because water had no calories and peach was fruit]; Pizza margherita for lunch in the canteen [that was two of her 5-a-Day]; Mini-pack of chocolate Bourbon biscuits bought in the canteen and saved for afternoon break; A piece of Tara’s birthday cake with lemon in the icing [Chloe on Reception said lemon juice helped her lose two stone]. In the canteen there was always a bowl of fruit, usually untouched, slightly soft, browning; it smelt like the food waste bin which hadn’t been emptied since the last time the bins were
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.