Flash fiction: Mirror image II

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Julianne regularly said good morning to magpies, would never walk under ladders, and always threw salt over her left shoulder. ‘To blind the devil,’ she said. Sometimes when we sat opposite each other at night outside the kitchen, I thought I saw something there, just behind her.

Despite all her precautions, Julianne was unlucky, or some said clumsy. She broke mirrors, tripped over paving, and electrical appliances would hiss and fuse when she came near.

Everyone said what happened must have been an accident, but they didn’t see what I did: that creature of the half-light staring back at me through the dark kitchen window.

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This is a 105-word piece of flash fiction based on the picture prompt above, this week provided by Dawn Q Landau. It’s part of the Friday Fictioneers group run by Rochelle Wisoff-Field. Rochelle dedicates a great deal of her time each week to uploading, visiting and commenting on all our pieces of writing. To join in with your own story, visit Rochelle’s website here, or to read some of the other stories based on this prompt click here.

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This week I need some help, particularly from US readers. Can you suggest any names of successful US authors of commercial women’s fiction? Not the really famous best-sellers, but those who are fairly well known, with well-received books. Thanks!

Flash fiction: Mirror Image

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Flora heard Rex whispering in the bathroom.

‘Dad?’ She knocked on the door. ‘Are you okay?’

‘It’s just your mother,’ her father called.

‘Dad?’ She rattled the handle. ‘Unlock the door, please.’ The bolt was drawn back. Rex, in his dressing gown, led her into the chilly room.

The shower curtain had been pulled across. ‘Look,’ he said, his hand on the edge of the plastic. Flora’s heart leapt. Her father drew back the curtain, revealing an empty bath, cooling water, and on the wall, the large mirror. ‘Do you see her?’ he said.

Flora saw only herself and an old man.

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This is a 102-word piece of flash fiction based on the picture prompt above, this week provided by Janet Webb. It’s part of the Friday Fictioneers group run by Rochelle Wisoff-Field. Rochelle dedicates a great deal of her time each week to uploading, visiting and commenting on all our pieces of writing. To join in with your own story, visit Rochelle’s website here, or to read some of the other stories based on this prompt click here.

Our Endless Numbered Days US cover

US cover

Claire’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, will be published in the UK by Fig Tree / Penguin (26th February 2015), in the US by Tin House (17th March 2015), and in Canada by House of Anansi, as well as publishers in The Netherlands, France, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey and Israel.

Our Endless Numbered Days is the story of Peggy Hillcoat, who is eight in 1976, and spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano.

After a dreadful argument which Peggy doesn’t fully understand until later, her survivalist father James, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival and a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Peggy isn’t seen again for another nine years.

If you like the sound of that, and you’re on Goodreads, you can add Our Endless Numbered Days to your ‘to read’ list, here, drop Claire a line from her contact page, or subscribe to her mailing list for updates about events and news.

Flash fiction: Fire

campfire

Naked, she crouches in the dark, watching the two men drinking and laughing beside the camp fire. Even in the poor light she recognises her towel, slung around one of the men’s shoulders. Her bag and its contents are spread at his feet.

Behind the marram grass, she growls.

‘Did you hear that?’ says the towel-man, standing.

She jumps forward, grabs at a burning stick, jabs it at towel-man, who howls as fire meets flesh. Brandishing the flaming torch, she scoops her belongings together, and is gone.  

It isn’t until morning that she feels the pain on her own skin.

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This is a 100-word piece of flash fiction based on the picture prompt above. It’s part of the Friday Fictioners group run by Rochelle Wisoff-Field (who also supplied the photo this week). Rochelle dedicates a great deal of her time each week to uploading, visiting and commenting. To join in with your own story, visit Rochelle’s website here, or to read some of the other stories based on this prompt click here

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And a quick reminder that I had one of my short stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last week after winning a competition. It’s available to listen on iplayer, although I don’t know if it works in all locations around the world, and it’s only available for one more day. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s available to read online here. If you do get to listen or read, do let me know what you think!

Baker, Emily and Me

photo (7)

 

Last Friday, whilst I was at The End of the Road Festival in Dorset, my short story (Baker, Emily and Me) which won the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition was broadcast. My lovely husband bought me a tiny portable radio just for the occasion, and at a quarter past three we went back to our tent to listen. That was of course a half hour early, so I heard quite a lot of what to do with your climbing hydrangeas on Gardeners’ Question Time before my story came on. 

So, here’s a picture of me listening, with the handy camping toilet roll beside me. 

If you fancy listening to a 15 minute story it’s available here until Friday. Make sure to let me know what you think. 

Or you can both listen and watch the best band at the festival – St. Paul and The Broken Bones, here.

Just don’t ask me about hydrangeas; I was too excited.

Short story: Food

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For almost a week in April or perhaps May – I had long lost track of the months by then – we ran out of food. The snow had melted but the cruel earth still refused to yield and no animals struggled in our traps.

I dreamed of Ute’s apple strudel as plump as a breast under a peasant’s blouse, and when I woke the phantom scent of cinnamon and pastry continued to tease me.

A mile from the cabin, we found a bed of heather which an insect had colonised, laying its grubs in gobs of spittle. My father and I ate them all.

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This is a 100-word piece of flash fiction based on the picture above. It’s actually a summer re-run…our group mistress, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is on holiday, and so has suggested that all us Friday Fictioners can also have a week’s holiday and dig out our story from August 2012.

This scene, changed and expanded, actually made it into my novel. I love the idea that all these flash fiction pieces, mine and other people’s might have a life beyond our weekly writings.

To read more of what has been written in response to this picture click here. Or to join in and write your own, visit Rochelle’s website, here.

Flash fiction: Parked

parked

It was a Tuesday when Nanette decided to tackle the garden; two days after she had buried her father. She found a box of tools under the sink, the cardboard falling apart and everything inside rusted. How many years had it sat there she wondered. She drove into town and hired a petrol strimmer, gloves and hat with a visor.

She cut a swathe through from the house to the bank, where it dropped away to the sea. And there, incongruously at the end of the garden, she uncovered her mother’s car. How many years had it sat there she wondered?

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For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture, this time from Roger Bultot, is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.

And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.

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For any US readers who are interested, I’ve recently been able to reveal the North American jacket for my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, which will be released on 17th March 2015. You can see it here

Our Endless Numbered Days – US Cover

Our Endless Numbered Days US cover

I’m so excited to finally be able to share the US cover for my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days. It was designed by Jakob Vala, an in-house designer at my US publishers, Tin House, and the illustration was done by Julianna Swaney, an illustrator working in Portland, Oregon, where Tin House is also based. 

Unless you’ve read the book, the serendipity of this illustration won’t mean a lot, but for me it is very weird; good-weird, not bad-weird. Because, you see, the illustration wasn’t commissioned for the cover – my editor Masie Cochran and the designers at Tin House came across it, ready-made, and looking for a home. And what makes it so good-weird is that Our Endless Numbered Days is about Peggy Hillcoat who is the age of the girl on the cover; for the most part she lives outdoors amongst the tree and the grass; she wears clothes similar to these, and there is even a scene where she collects kindling. There is one more even weirder thing than all of these, but I’m not allowed to give the game away, you’ll just have to read the book, and see for yourself what I’m on about. 

The title is made up of tiny flies and Jakob has echoed this with the chapter numbers inside the book. The production will be very classy, with deckled edges and French flaps. No, I didn’t have any idea what those things meant either at first,photo (6) apart from suggesting something rather rude, so here’s a picture of another Tin House book to give an idea. French flaps are when the covers fold inwards, and deckled edges are when the long edge of the inside pages are slightly rough to give more of a handmade feel, rather than machine cut. 

Proofs of the book are just being printed and will then be sent to other authors and reviewers for reading and comments, so everything is starting to happen. It comes out in the US on 17th March 2015. If you’re on Goodreads and interested in reading it, you can add it to your ‘to read’ list here

So, what do you think?

Up-Coming Events

Lizzy Watts

 

A brief update of the writerly things I have coming up. It would be lovely to meet any of you who can come to any of the ‘live’ events.

29th August 2014: short story on BBC Radio 4

My short story – Baker, Emily and Me – was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It is no longer available on BBC iPlayer, but you can read the story on the BBC website, here. The picture above is Lizzy Watts who read my story beautifully.

 

11th October 2014: Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK

Come and join me and two other debut novelists (Emma Hooper – Etta and Otto and Russell and James, and Julia Rochester – The House At the Edge of the World) at the Penguin Proof Party. Not only do you get to ask us any question you like but you also get afternoon tea and cake, as well as a goody-bag including proofs of all three books. Tickets are £15 each. Click here to find out more information and buy tickets.

 

10th March 2015: Hampshire Writers Society, Winchester, UK

I’ll be giving a very short introduction and reading from Our Endless Numbered Days at the Hampshire Writers Society, before the main event of the evening – a talk by Lorella Belli, literary agent. The venue is The Stripe Theatre, University of Winchester, Hampshire and the evening starts at 7.30pm. It’s £5 on the door or you can join the Hampshire Writers Society for £25/ £30 and go to more of their events. More information here.

 

Short story: Whitewash

ff-photo-prompt-8-august-2014-by-bjorn-rudberg

 

He adjusted his binoculars to bring the house into focus as he had done a thousand mornings. He watched the girl on the roof in ragged shorts hanging out washing. He liked it best when she bent over the basket.

Later she was at the kitchen window, working hard – preparing vegetables, cooking, washing up. She never ate with the family; always alone on the fenced-in balcony and quickly, looking over her shoulder. Scared.

The next morning the man of the house was painting the balcony wall.

He focused his binoculars and could just make out the letters H E L before they too, were gone.

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For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture, this time from Bjorn Rudberg, is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.

And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.

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I’m very excited to let you know that one of my short stories – Baker, Emily and Me – has won the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition, which means it will be read out on Radio 4 on 29th August at 3:45 BST. So do listen out for it and let me know what you think. For those readers not in the UK, it will be up on the BBC website for a week afterwards.