Flash Fiction: Man on Train


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


Hear me read: 


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.


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.

Flash Fiction: Trashish


For twenty years we keeps our Old-Land items in a compartray. Bits of trashish, we always thinks.  Jims takes them to look and say when he was youngone, and even the robo-teach laugh. Sighs. We surely have lose some or else were suck away through the HousHoove.

My GranUncle says the odds and bits came off a beach.

‘What’s beach?’ I says.

‘A place beside the sea.’ he says.

‘Sea?’ I says.

‘Lots of water,’ he says. ‘No MeasureDripTM back then.’

‘Sighs,’ I says.

Jims takes the trashish to Antiquated Fly-way Show. Turns up they’re worth 230k Eurodolls. Wowsbows!


A few weeks ago Neil MacDonald challenged me to write a funny, or at least happy Friday Fictioneers. Sorry, Neil, but this is the closest I could get! This week the picture selected by Rochelle is one of mine (thank you!). Click here to write your own 100-word story inspired by the picture, or click here to read other people’s.


I recently interviewed my literary agent about her job. Click here to find out what makes her heart sink when she reads a manuscript submission.

Flash Fiction: The Lake


I never liked to think what lay under the water: probably more than pond weed and duck poop. I swam in the lake because I didn’t want Peter to think I was afraid, or worse, boring. He liked to jump in, but I never even put my head under.

I heard they sent the divers in, or dredged it, or something. But that was much later, of course, after my swimming days were over. And after Peter’s days were over too.

I never learned if they found anything. I didn’t read the papers; I knew what had happened. I’d been there.


Listen to me read my story: 


A Friday Fictioneers story. Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Picture supplied by C.E.Ayr


How many manuscript submissions does a reader in a literary agency receive in a month? What kind of cover letters do they like best? Read an interview I had with Susannah Godman, Reader at Lutyens & Rubinstein literary agency in London.

Flash fiction: Mrs Jellico


The teeth grinding and sobbing wake me. It’s disconsolate, broken-hearted, a funeral kind of weeping. I hear it through the wall, and I pull the cord with the red triangle. The nurses’ station buzzer sounds and shoes squeak on linoleum. The crying stops.
‘Where’s the fire, Mrs Jellico,’ the girl asks, although she knows I have no words left.
When she’s plumped my pillow and gone, the noise starts again. Keening, moaning, grinding. I rap on the wall.
The nurse is back, syringe in one hand, eyes kind. ‘Shh,’ she says. ‘Shh, Mrs Jellico. Not long now.’

The crying fades.


Hear me read: 


I’m not sure exactly how I got from the photo to this story; perhaps milling = grinding = teeth. Anyway, I got there. This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words inspired by a weekly photo posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo is provided by Shaktiki Sharma. Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read other people’s.


Last week I was asked by Penguin books to provide some tips about writing flash fiction, and they’ve just gone live on the Penguin website. Do take a look. I will be posting this piece on my own website in the future, so if you have any you’d like to add, please comment below here, and I’ll add them to the post, credit you and link to your website.