Christmas Story…

Each year, members of Wirral Writers pen a short Christmas themed story each. The only rules are – it has to be between 500 and 600 words, and Christmas orientated.

Each year I post my mini offering here. This years is loosely (very loosely) based on the journey of three Biblical characters.

***WARNING*** There will be profanities ahead*** 

Wirral Writers Christmas Story 2017

We Three Kings

The three Kings rode from the east. It was unseasonably warm and time was running out.

Useless bastard!”

Frank, language.”

Fuck language, fucking gearstick’s…ngh…get in ya bastard!”

Frank!”

Dad. You’re so sweary.”

Alisha, the day you get your own car and do your own…argh…bastard…Christmas shopping…grr…don’t talk to me about effing swearing. Gotcha!”

The Signal yellow Austin Allegro belched and farted and grizzled through early evening traffic.

Take the A124, Frank, that’ll take us straight to Canary Wharf, right, right! Frank.”

I always drive this way.”

Every year’s the same.” sighed Alisha popping her right earbud back in.

Dad growled.

Mare, did you bring the list?”

I thought you had it? I told you it was on the hall table.”

I said I was putting water in the friggin car. That was your job, Mare. One list. One-”

I’ve got it.” Alisha waved a white piece of paper at the rearview mirror.

At Blackwall roundabout, the traffic slowed, slowed and the not so trusty steed ground to a halt.

Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckkity fuck!!” screamed Frank.

Alisha sank lower in the rear seat, aware of other drivers and passengers watching the beetroot faced man having a meltdown in the shittiest car in England.

Once again,” said Mary, “Mind the language.”

Why? Why should I mind my language?”

Mary indicated the backseat passenger with a head motion.

Alisha rolled her eyes.

She’s seventeen years old, Mare.”

It’s true mum. I am. And I do know swear words. In fact we did about them in English, for example did you know the word fuck-”

Alisha!”

It’s a real word mum. Did you know, it appeared as early as the 15th century in some poem about the monks of Ely fucking local wives-”

Alisha King. I don’t care about the fucking monks of Ely. I just want to buy Christmas presents!” Mary cried.

And you just used it correctly as a verb, or is that an adjective?”

Alisha!”

What?!”

Eventually on the move again, after a fashion, the Kings kangarooed along Upper Bank Street. Six eyes straining.

I love the old traditions.” Alisha said, “Such as trying to find a parking space.”

We should have taken the train.” Mary moaned.

What, and carry all it all back with a million other sweaty bodies? No thanks.” Frank made a yipping sound. “There!” He ground the gears, and his teeth. “Shit! There’s a bike in it.”

They drove round and around the parking lot until they saw a shopper emerge from the mall. Then they followed her,until she led them to a parking space.

Yay!” cheered Mary as they pulled up. “Okay, what’s everyone need?”

Samsung Galaxy S7; Pink Gold, please.” Alisha thumbed the dial, selecting a new tune and slunk off ahead of her parents.

How about you Frank? I need to find something for Janice and the nephews. Oh, don’t let me forget your dad’s razor.”

He doesn’t need a new razor, Mare.”

That’s not the point love. It’s Christmas.”

What, so we buy shit we don’t need or won’t use or that breaks in five minutes?”

Mary started to make her way to the shopping centre, “Come on love, get in the spirit will you.”

Frank looked at the press of bodies, the trolleys filled to overflowing, crying kids, mums with frayed tempers, the signs plastered across the windows, Christmas Eve Sales, took a preparatory breath and through gritted teeth said, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.”

The End!

christmas shopping
The horror of Christmas shopping

 

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Short Story – Wedding Day

Each year Wirral Writers holds an in-house competition. A theme is selected from ‘the hat’, we have up to 500 words and about two months before presenting to the group. Voting is anonymous. This year the theme was key/keys or quay if you wished. I generally write sci-fi or horror based pieces, this time I decided to write something positive and bearing in mind the wars going on currently –  a resolution…it was also influenced by Irish folk melody ‘She Moved Through The Fair’.

I didn’t win. I came joint third. This is my piece. (488 words)

Wedding Day or The Key

Our country is wracked by civil war. Suspicion and hatred spread like infection. We are tired; our people are tired, our land is tired. Love blooms rarely, so when it does, we hold fast. She said to me,

‘It will not be long now till our wedding day.’

The Generals had tasked us with finding a covert way to destroy the enemy en masse; to spread like wind across the land. Instead we discovered the genetic base marker for aggression; more accurately, I made the discovery; the bitter irony. My reputation grew tenfold, yet despite the wonder we have before us, despite the mounting joy everyone feels, I alone am sorrowful. I was given infinite resources; becoming head of my own research facility; surrounded by seasoned specialists. I hadn’t intended to be a scientist, I almost, almost went to war, but when she came close beside me; placing her white hand softly on my cheek, I saw the tears and could not go.

“It will not be long now.”

We found The Key to end the war – perhaps all wars, all conflict; for ever. Less than 90 years ago, in 2007, we knew of this process and for the last two decades our scientists have been using the qPCR-based tests to amplify the results. Manipulation created a violence suppressor and developed empathetic building blocks. The full genotype was found to survive in the rare few who experienced extreme empathy; the carriers.

DNA fragments, that linger in the mouth even after the briefest contact, were artificially increased, the life-span was extended, its function mutated; to create an Anti-weapon. Like invisible secret agents our mutation would attach itself swiftly to the recipients neurons, unlock and create new base pairs.

All the love in the world – that’s how one technician described it. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It will not be long.”

Many had been whittled down to a few, the few to a half dozen and the half dozen to a couple. Intense experimentation conditions had caused most potential keys to become…damaged. The pain was unbearable; I know this, I watched. At the last hour, one of the keys broke, and now only mine is left. There are many ways to end a war, we chose love. Once the good virus was administered to a few, it would spread exponentially. Saliva carrying our mutated DNA would rush through the recipient’s bodies controlling rage. A sneeze would carry compassion, spittle in shouted commands would bear humanity.

We gather on the edge. Her hand brushes mine as she steps away from me.

“It will not take long.”

I watch her, on monitors, move here and move there through the camp. She lays a kiss on the lips of an astonished officer, she softly kisses another. I see a distant soldier raise his weapon and take aim.

He fires.

But they are too late; the Key has already opened the lock.

End

shemovedthroughthefair
She Moved Through The War

Short Story

Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.

I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.

I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;

 

The Milford Papers

The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.

*

“Christ Almighty!”
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“Pardon?”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!

*

Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”

*
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.

*

The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”

END

*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

*Featured Image – Film still from La Jetee, 1962

It’s Monday, what are you writing?

Good morning all !

First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?

It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!

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What are you working on at the moment?

Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?

Is there a flaw in your timeline?

How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?

All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!

Now go write!

 

 

*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links  now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.

 

 

Coming soon…

Very soon! So excited; like a small child at Christmastime that gets given the fantastic present her older sibling should have received.

It’s Tick Tock time.

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Wirral Writers group have published an anthology of poetry and prose on the theme of time. It is an eclectic mix of genres with something for everyone.

Blackbird – poem

Very soon there will be a new anthology heading your way (if you fancy this kind of thing). Tick Tock is an assemblage of stories and poetry by Wirral Writers, with  a variety of genres from sci-fi to fantasy, fiction to poetry. Not usually given to writing poetry (as those of you who follow regularly know), I was working on my allotment plot one day and was visited by my resident blackbird, I crouched down on the path and watched him for a while; before the stirrings of some lines and I had to go home and write. It took me as long to write this as it does to write a 1,000-3,000 word story.

Poetry is, I believe, the Tai Chi of the writing world – it looks short and simple, but it really isn’t; it has subtlety and nuances that stories do not need because there is more time to get your point across. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, (what is iambic pentameter even?! )

So, anyhoo, I decided to post my small offering here, as a taster, an hors d’oeuvre if you will, of the forthcoming book. I hope you like it:

Blackbird

 

In the tree when I arrive,

A lively, musical trill from winding greenery and bee busy trees,

Watching as I clear and rake, weed and prune.

Tipsy flower tops brush dust along my arms as I pass back and forth.

And in he quick hops, head tilts, raven-ous. With his golden spear he stabs and gathers

Wormlings from the wetted leaves.

 

On the wood-chip path I squat like a child.

I cannot see that dark omen they say you are, robed in black

Secrets carrying messages on wings fleeting, flashing, slicing air.

And between the foraging and bolting greens I catch his ebon eye and see myself there reflected,

I see my raked youth.

I am earthed-up.

 

Green I was and grey I am,

I have hopped and tilted at life

Gathering less than he.

 

This ant-thronged earth has irritated my senses, and while I itched,

Time has leapt beyond my grasp.

We are; he, and me

Short-lived.

 

 

Response to, ‘Tools for Writers’

I just read the recent blog posting of Craig Hallam: Tools for writers: Do we need them?And had been thinking about this point for some time.

As many know, I am relatively new to this writing malarkey, and find myself being drawn to blogs/websites/social network posts etc. about this issue. How to write flash fiction, how to write a 100k word novel, how to …fill in the gap. I do find things like, how to set out your story for sending as a submission quite useful, but in the end, we have to learn on the job; as it were. I can tell a story (I hope), and my grammar ain’t too bad! But when people talk about specifics, I get a bit lost…verb moderators, prose and verse, head-hopping, blank verse, by-lines, a dead metaphor! What?! I couldn’t tell you what those things meant, I have to keep asking my fellow authors at Wirral Writers, I have to access the internet and search; which inevitably leads me to finding out about the lifespan of the British blackbird and I have wasted my writing time.

Anyhoo, I thought I would post what this procrastinator writer needs; tools of my trade:-

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#1 Basket of papers, file, ideas, notelets, pens, cuttings etc.

 

 

 

 

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#2 favourite notebooks – encourages one to keep stories in their own individual, gorgeous place (I love new stationery)

 

 

 

 

 

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#3 laptop. Where the ‘work’ is done.

 

 

 

 

 

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#4 CDs – we all need music to listen to whilst we work! (Current favourites includes the theme from The Living and The Dead, BBC, played over and over!)

 

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#5 Food. The fridge is paid a visit on a regular basis, just to see if anything new has turned up in there!

 

 

 

 

 

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#6 Fruit. Got to keep that brain active.

 

 

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#7 Liquid refreshment. Gin preferably.

 

 

 

 

 

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#8 The washing machine – don’t you just need to do some laundry when you should be starting that chapter?!

 

 

 

 

 

And so, if you don’t mind, I am off to photograph bees – you never know, I just might need photographs of bees sometime…..

 

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