Flash Fiction: Pillow

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I found it in the bath. I hadn’t put it there, I was sure. I hadn’t been in the bathroom since the morning, and I was alone in the house. Anyway, who puts a pillow in the bath? I bent to pick it up, and saw a grey hair curled across the cotton. Not mine, I was sure. It repelled me, like extracting a long hair from a mouthful of food. And yet it was my pillow – missing from my bed. I left it there. Every night I washed at the sink and laid my head on a rolled-up cardigan.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the photo above. I know it seems a long way from the picture to my story, but to keep it to 100 words I had to chop out all the bits about sunlight and windows. The picture this week is supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, our Friday Fictioneers host. Click here to join in, or here to read other people’s.

Other Friday Fictioneers might like to know that I had the pleasure of meeting a long-standing fellow FF, Neil MacDonald a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first time I’ve met another FF in real life since we’re all scattered across the globe. I can attest that he’s as lovely in person as he is on the screen.

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Do you look at an author’s photograph before you read the book? You’re not alone.

Flash Fiction: Running

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Lights. Over my shoulder their lights are coming, running through the trees, lamps and flaming torches. Coming for me through the trees, shouts, and hoots and laughter. It’s a game, for them. Dogs, teeth bared for blood. Running. Under the chicken house, into the nettles. Quiet!

In the morning she lures me out with food, and I let her paste the baking soda on my stings. I try to tell her about them, but my words don’t come right. She sighs at my tangled hair, my mother. Wants to keep me, but I slip away.

Tomorrow night they’ll come again.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction Friday Fictioneers story inspired by the picture above, this week supplied by Dale Rogerson. Friday Fictioneers is hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to find out how it works or here to read some more stories by other writers.

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“A deeply moving read, that keeps you turning pages.” Oprah.com on my second novel, Swimming Lessons. Find out more.

Flash Fiction: Blackcurrant Jelly, 26th August 1966

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Snails had almost eaten the paper, but the writing on the label was my mother’s. I’d decided to tackle the sunroom last, after I’d gone through the rest of the house making piles: keep, charity, ditch. A lifetime of parental belongings. The warm smell reminded me of silent meals, my mother picking at her food, me itching to get down and play, unaware of things unsaid.

I would have thrown the jar away, except the date on the label was my birthday. Inside was a curl of baby hair, the same shade as my own.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the photo above provided by Sarah Potter. And it’s part of the Friday Fictioneers group of writers, run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to join in and write your own, or here to read some more.

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Find out more about my latest novel, Swimming Lessons, published by Fig Tree / Penguin (UK), Tin House (US), House of Anansi (Canada), and Piper (Germany).

 

Flash Fiction: Jane Deer

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The flies come and go. The rain against the studio windows, the snow, and then months of sun. The mice eat the badger bristles, nibble the end of the palette-knife still in her hand. No one knocks. The dust settles, the paint on the canvasses cracks, the paint in the tubes solidifies.
Her bills are paid by standing order, her bank balance enough. The newsstand man wonders if she’s moved away, and then forgets her. The world turns. Another season, another year. Another. A pipe leaks in the apartment above. Her door is broken down.
Her paintings sell for $100,000.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story. Part of Friday Fictioneers, looked after by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The picture this week is supplied by J. Hardy Carroll. Click here to join in, or here to read stories by other writers inspired by the same picture.

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Want to know what this competition judge looks for in a short story? I’ve written a post about it here.

Flash fiction: The Reunion

Roger Bultot

It was Sylvie’s idea. She sorted the date, the diner, booked the motel; she sent the emails. They’d met twice before – at the hen do and the wedding, but that was years ago. When they’d almost arrived – all three women driving from different directions – Sylvie texted that she couldn’t make it, some family emergency.

At first there was awkward conversation about their journeys, the weather and the cherry pie. They ordered cocktails, wine, they laughed and swapped stories, mostly about their mutual friend; went to bed late. They arranged to meet again. None of them invited Sylvie.

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It’s been a very long time since I last wrote and published a Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece. I’ve been writing my third novel (hopefully more news on that in the coming weeks). Novels allow a lot of wriggle room, so it’s lovely to be back and being forced to write so tightly. If anyone wants to join in with their own 100-word story inspired by the picture above, click here. Or if you’d like to read some others visit this page. Picture supplied by Roger Bultot.

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Tonight I’ll be in Ealing (West London) at The Pitshanger Bookshop talking about my second novel, Swimming Lessons. And on Saturday I’ll be at the Wimborne (Dorset) literary festival. Do come if you live nearby. More information here.

Flash Fiction: Man on Train

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The man sits beside me, his suited belly pressed against the table, his laptop open, a mouse plugged in. The train sways and we all sway with it. The man pulls a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, sneezes into it and blows his nose vigorously. Five minutes later: handkerchief, sneeze, blow. And again. The fourth time the sneeze comes unexpectedly with only his hand to contain it. From the corner of my eye I see him run the length of his tie between his fingers. His hand hovers over his computer mouse, considering, then he holds it and clicks.

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I’ve missed several weeks of Friday Fictioneers – just been too busy. It’s meant to be a short short story inspired by the photo, but this week I have written a scene of 100 words, which is much easier to do than a story, so I’m cheating really (or just easing myself back in gently). Join in here and write your own 100-word flash fiction, or read some other writers’. This week the picture is provided by C.E.Ayr, and the whole is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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Swimming Lessons

My second novel, Swimming Lessons, will be published in January 2017 in the UK, and Canada, and February 2017 in the USA. Click on the country links to pre-order.

 

Flash Fiction: Paper dream

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In a box labelled Images d’Épinal, Eva found a flat paper model called Statue De La Libertè. It took her three evenings to meticulously cut around each shape, fold every tab, and stick them together. There were little family groups to attach to the edge: a plump man with a young son gazing upwards, a woman with two children, a mother holding a baby.

When it was finished, Eva imagined herself part of that tiny perfect world; and chose to ignore the too-bright colours, the fixed smiles on the faces, and deliberately forgot that it was all made of card.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the picture. It’s part of the Friday Fictioneers group, where our hostess, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields gives us a picture to write to, this week supplied by Lucy Fridkin. Click here to join in, or here to read other people’s.

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Images d’Épinal were originally stylised and brightly coloured designs developed by a
Frenchman in the town of Épinal. The phrase is now used for something that is so perfect and happy that it is unreal, a chocolate-box image as we might say in England. I’d be interested to know what idioms fellow Friday Fictioneers use for this phrase around the world. s-l500

Flash Fiction: Broken

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When things got really bad Cara unlocked the door to the old brew house. In one corner a huge vat squatted, as if awaiting its moment of escape. A rusting metal walkway ran around the inside walls, and under it was a scattering of broken things: chairs, tools, tyres, and other rubbish. A stinking and stained mattress was dumped in the middle. Cara undressed, and lay on it, face and palms upwards, waiting. Sometimes she had to wait for an hour or even two, but they always came if she was silent and still enough. The rats always came back.

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Sorry my story is so dark this week, when the picture is so lovely. I should be happy, I have good news – my first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days has been longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. It is a very long longlist, but lovely to be on it.

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This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers short story inspired by the picture above, provided to us by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (every week) and (this week) C.E. Ayre.

Flash Fiction: Water-stain

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Fully dressed, Peter lay next to Malorie and looked up.

‘I’m leaving you,’ she said.

He might have laughed, except it wasn’t funny. Above him, on the ceiling, he saw a water-stain shaped like an arrow firing into a heart.

‘I’m hiring a nanny to look after the children,’ Malorie said. ‘No divorce; we have to keep up appearances.’

Actually, thought Peter, it was a sword.

A nurse came into the room. ‘Time to be turned, Mrs Gibbs.’

Peter stood, and as the nurse rotated Malorie’s body from her back onto her side, he looked up again and saw the heart, cleaved in two.

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I said on Twitter that today I was too sick to write, too sick to do anything. But I am a writer. So, a sad story for a sad day. Picture by Sandra Crook. Join in or read others.

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If anyone is thinking of buying a copy of Our Endless Numbered Days for a Christmas present (or for themselves), let me know and I’ll post you a personalised card to go with it. Offer is worldwide.

Flash Fiction: Before They Caged it Over

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Before they caged it over, before they wired it in, I was dared by a boy in my class to throw a brick from a footbridge, on the way to school. In assembly the Headmaster’s voice was grave: a driver had been seriously injured, may not in fact live. A boy wearing our school uniform was seen. The perpetrator must step forward.

I was ready, I swear, to own up; was raising my hand when the school secretary tapped me on the shoulder and led me out to the lobby, where my red-eyed and white-faced mother waited.

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Hear me read: 

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Sorry everyone that I’ve gone back to bleak. Congratulations to Rochelle for four years of hosting Friday Fictioneers. A champion facilitator! To join in with your own 100-word story inspired by the picture (this week supplied by Peter Abbey) click here, or click here to read others.

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Yesterday I heard that one of my flash fiction pieces which used a Friday Fictioneers story as its base has been long listed in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. This a rolling flash fiction competition open worldwide for stories of up to 300 words. It opens for again for entries on 1st November – perhaps some other Fictioneers would be interested in entering. More information here.