Writer's Blog

Short story: Our Bench by the Sea

Our Bench by the Sea
The strains of the carousel punctured my thoughts and brought me back to the moment. Sitting here on the bench, lovingly donated to this public walkway overlooking the beautiful bay by the family of Joan Walker, who was sadly missed every day, apparently, the gentle warmth of the sun was making me sleepy.

Many years before, we had asked made our children promise, when the two of us had died, they would do the same for us. They would install a bench and lovingly add a plaque with our names on it, locating it somewhere near this bay, giving them, and anybody else, a place to rest while walking in the sun…or the rain…whatever took their fancy. A place for the children to remember us and for us to feel together for eternity.

My husband and I had agreed that if it were possible we would seek each other and meet here in the afterlife. It had long been our favourite place to walk, hand in hand, chatting about anything and everything, or watching and quietly criticising passers-by for not controlling their dogs, their children, the fumes from their cigarettes, anything that took our attention. We just loved watching people and making up stories about their lives and could often be seen giggling at some shared joke or cheeky comment. Obviously, nobody knew that we were talking about them, but it was ‘our thing’.

It is one of the things I really, truly missed about being with him. Our people watching walks together in the sunshine. Of course, I missed everything about being with him. We had enjoyed a wonderful life together. We knew what made each other tick, knew each other’s failings and had put them aside creating a perfect life for ourselves.
Behind me, the fenced-off green beside the old car park had recently undergone a transformation into what a huge sign promised ‘An Old-Fashioned Experience – The Thrills of a Child from Years Gone By.” A funfair at the beach for the duration of the summer. Squeals of delight could be heard from the children as they spun around in brightly coloured teacups which had goofy faces painted on the sides, looped the loop on the mini rollercoaster and circled the carousel, riding on exquisitely painted, galloping horses, their little arms folded tightly around equally beautiful twisted poles which shot unnaturally through the horses’ manes. It was many years since our own children had grown out of these family funfairs, preferring instead the fear and adrenalin of rides appropriately named ‘Queen of Speed’, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Spin Ball Whizzer’. Rides, which were more likely to inflict a feeling of pure terror than mere butterflies in the tummy. They were welcome to those rides. When our children were at the age that they still needed accompanying to theme parks, it was scary enough just to be holding their coats and taking the photos. In fact, I argued that it was far scarier for the bystander than being on the actual ride itself. I had never been a fan of funfairs – the carousel was enough for my fragile stomach, thank you very much but, these days, the young children could keep it all.

Those days were long gone now. I was on my own and it was a comfort to come and sit here in the sunshine and remember those good times. My husband and I had enjoyed so much time here, but I had lost touch a little, over the years that had passed, and I was alarmed to see teenaged boys and girls hovering, yes, hovering, along the promenade below. What was I missing? They appeared to be unattached, nothing grounding them at all. My eyes were not what they used to be, I told myself I was just unable to see what was keeping them those few inches from them ground. Dogs no longer appeared to have leads to control them. Instead, when they strayed more than a few feet from their owners, they were pulled back by a seemingly invisible force. The dogs didn’t seem bothered by whatever was controlling them, they just knew that it meant they needed to stay close to their owners. Everyone seemed to be drifting or hovering around peacefully. The café along the promenade, hugely popular in our time, still drew lots of custom. It looked different from this angle but had probably changed a lot over the passing years.

Some movement along the pathway caught my attention. A truck was being driven scarily close to the edge, its reversing beep alerting all around to its presence. A couple of middle-aged people were walking directly towards the truck. Faces I recognised were starting to come into focus. Watching them closely, I realised they were fading out of focus because of my tears, my children. My so grown-up children! They were standing at a spot where it looked as though a new bench was about to be placed. My daughter was holding a plaque. They clearly had not spotted me or thought I would be late as usual so didn’t look around for me. I had planned to be here early just to spend some time alone with my thoughts. I slowly walked along to where the truck driver was depositing the new bench and I stood quietly beside them. They both knew that I had wanted to wait until my husband and I were both together in the afterlife and I am sure they sensed my disapproval, but they also wanted to pay their respects, so I had decided to stay out of it and ensured that I kept quiet.

“Oh, Mum’s here!” my daughter smiled tightly but turned her attention back to the bench and plaque and my son gave a nod in my general direction, clearly upset by the whole process. I smiled and held back to allow them to get the bench in place. It was no mean feat. The bench was going to be located on a slope so needed a permanent wedge in place. That done, they both stood back to admire their handiwork and looked extremely pleased with themselves. I gave my own nod of approval as I checked it out from a few feet behind them. My son, I could not remember him ever handling a screwdriver, let alone a drill, secured the plaque in place confidently and I swelled with pride. He was frowning and trying to work out if he had secured it completely level on the bench. My daughter tried to reassure him that it was fine and to remember that the bench was still on the slope and itself was not entirely straight.

It was then that I saw him for the first time since we had been parted from each other, and goodness knew I had tried! Walking, almost drifting, slowly towards me. Was he hovering too? Typical of him, the old show off! I smiled. I was not entirely sure how this worked. Would he be able to see me? I was not sure that my children could see him. They did not even acknowledge him, so I assumed not. Stupid, cancer! Stupid, bloody cancer! It was too soon for us to part, far too soon! As he got closer to where I was standing, I could see that his eyes were full of a desperate sadness. He ignored the children, probably didn’t see them, and knelt by the bench. Then the sobs began, wracking his whole body. I wanted to be able to comfort him, to tell him we would be together again soon, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t touch him.
“Mum is here,” my daughter whispered to him and he took a small step backwards, looking around him but his eyes never resting on mine. It was at that moment that I was able to read the inscription on the plaque.
“Judith. Loving mum and wife”. That was all it said. Simple. As if reading my mind, my daughter grabbed my husband by the arm and said, “I know we said we would do this for you both, but there is plenty of room to add you to the plaque one day, hopefully not too soon”. Mum understands and wants you to have somewhere to come and sit with her, whenever you want to.

He stood up and my son and daughter put their arms around him and hugged him tight. They were all crying now but they were all together, which was a great comfort to me.
They chatted, and he asked if they would mind leaving him here on his own, so my children headed off towards the other car park, hugging him tightly and arranging to see him soon. He sat down on the bench, our bench, and I sat myself down beside him. I placed my hand in his. He looked down at his fingers. I held onto his little finger in the way I’d always done, and he moved it. I knew he was able feel me there with him. I stroked the back of his head and let my hand linger on the nape of his neck. He tilted his head back in acknowledgement. It had worked, and we were back in contact with each other again!
“I miss you so much, Judith,” he murmured, his eyes slightly closed, “but I knew you would come.”

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Daily Life, Places to write, Writer's Blog

Writing and blog progress almost a year on…

As is traditional at the beginning of a New Year, I have been pondering the progress I have made with my writing and, more so, planning over the past year.

In February 2018, I made the decision to take a refresher course in writing before fully embarking on the planning of whichever direction it took me. I signed up with The Writer’s Bureau and enrolled in their Comprehensive Creative Writing course. I chose to tackle the fiction writing part of the course first, thinking it would be my strongest and, therefore, the easiest, to start with.

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A published author, Sheila Bugler, was assigned to me as my tutor and I have been infinitely grateful for her kind words and constructive comments throughout. At this stage in the course I am feeling quite pleased with myself, verging on a smugness, as my feedback has been filled with comments such as ‘excellent’ and ‘superb’ and the criticism has been over minor points which I have not found difficult to put right. Much of my grounding in grammar has stayed with me in the many years since I left school, leaving me with the energy to concentrate on content. I sailed through the fiction half of the course, even managing to have some stories and an article published.

The non-fiction side of the course started well with assignments dictating the content but when faced with which publications to write articles for I flailed around wildly. ‘Write about what you know’ was the new mantra. I felt that people wouldn’t want to read about my interests, thought they would find them boring and lacking in pzazz. I am pleased to say I was wrong, and articles ranging from my cravings during pregnancy to my addiction to dancing did spark some interest. I even received feedback from my blog posts about my husband’s kite flying.

Blog posts. Now there was a thing I hadn’t given any thought to. I didn’t even have a blog until midway through 2018. My course advised setting up a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, anything through which I could publicize my future work, even if I didn’t plan on self-publishing. I duly trotted off to my faithful friend, the World Wide Web, researched some blogs and started planning my own. I wanted a neutral colour scheme for my site, so I opted for an almost neutral pH of green/blue. I needed a header which was different but stood out as me. Having cleared my spare bedroom of as much clutter as I could, I had purchased a screen to hide the remainder of my junk. The screen was so beautiful I decided it could be my feature image. And so it is!

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In the past few months I have been slowly building my followers and have over 120 blog subscribers, over 1100 twitter followers and my Storytellingdancer facebook page receives lots of likes (when I remember to share my posts). Sharing posts can become a habit and I try to tailor them to the right social media, while trying to build a suitable audience. I follow lots of wannabe authors like myself and it is great to read and share attempts, successes and failures. I started with Pinterest but without having too much to ‘sell’ I have dropped away from the medium, dipping in only now and again when I can be bothered.

In summary, my writing is starting to go from strength to strength, with published articles and short stories accumulating on my desk. My novel, or should I say novels as I have four which I have started, is still very much a work in progress but one day I will settle to it. Maybe when my course is finished and I have more time for it.

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I continue to add some of my unpublished poems and short stories to this blog and the relevant pages and the plan is to actually HAVE a plan for my blog in 2019. Watch this space – might still be empty in a few weeks time and then my gears will kick in with a vengeance. All suggestions and tips greatly received from fellow bloggers. I need to plan my blog time, moving between poems, stories, general daily life, dancing, kite flying (my husband not me) and I don;t want to post more than five or six posts a month for fear of driving my audience away rather than encouraging new readers.

For now, as I am on my lunch hour at work, I will be content with one poem per month, one Ceroc dancing post per month and then a topical post too. Even that looks messy – I definitely need to plan this more methodically!

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Writer's Blog

My story in print!

Having already had a few short stories, poems and letters printed in magazines and monthly publications, it was a joy to receive notification of my inclusion in an anthology of fantasy tales.

I had submitted the story as one of my coursework modules where I had been advised to write something completely different and out of my usual comfort zone style. I opted to write a story about aliens. Having watched many science fiction films and being a recently-converted Doctor Who fan, how difficult could it be?

I struggled to think of ideas, even though with an alien story you are given free reign to use as much imagination as necessary. After all, unless we are really honored, nobody is going to be able to prove otherwise.

My tutor was pleased with the story, a 4000-word tale about other-worldly beings, and suggested I submit it for publication. As always, with coursework, I duly submitted the story and moved onto the next module.

A few weeks passed, and I received an email to let me know the publisher planned to include my piece in their next anthology. Payment details were exchanged and a few short weeks later, my copy of the publication was sent to me.

The book is a small anthology and not too costly, but I am pleased with it as a first actual book inclusion. I am not belittling my magazine and online successes but this was the next small step for me. Maybe it would be a good stocking filler with Christmas around the corner.

If you want to purchase a copy the details are below. I do not know the other contributors personally but the stories are all entertaining and diverse enough to hold the attention.

If you are not able, or do not wish to purchase the book, but are able to share my post on social media platforms, I would be equally grateful for the help. Thank you for reading my post and if you are able to share or buy the book then I thank you for that too. Every little bit of support is so very much appreciated.

Fantasy Short Stories

Charles Church Hell, Persimmon nightmare, Writer's Blog

Shouting my small achievement from the rooftops

Success comes in many guises. My daughter and son-in-law might report a successful day yesterday where they and we, we being my husband and I, visited Lakeside Shopping Centre and, of course IKEA, in Thurrock.

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This was, by far, not our collective first visit to the centre but, for them, it was the start of a success of sorts. Two months ago, they were handed the keys to the first home they have owned. Months of saving resulted in a beautiful, brand new, four-bedroomed detached house in a village on the outskirts of Norwich. Unfortunately,  their joy has been marred by an indescribable number of issues, such as damaged windows, the wrong kitchen, forgotten flooring, the list was, in reality, four A4 pages long and minus minor snags! But here is not the place to be moaning about Charles Church and Persimmon, although incompetence and rudeness, accompanied by genuine data protection breaches (with GDPR at the forefront of the nation’s minds right now, indeed) were phenomenally unbelievable.

With eighty percent of their issues rectified after a battling two and a half months, the time had become ripe for adding new items to said beautiful residence.

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Armed with my daughter and son-in-law’s meticulously measured diagrams, we set off on our mission to buy them some housewarming gifts and theirs to buy furnishings of their own. The day was a success in that one larger item of furniture was purchased, some shelving and numerous smaller items made their way to our vehicles and a number of ideas for handyman son-in-law to put to the test when time allows. Success, as I mentioned,  comes in numerous guises.

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My own success yesterday was to receive an email notification of one of my ‘way out of my comfort zone’ short stories – approximately 4000 sci-fi words, which was now published in a Fantasy anthology, following submission to same. The work was one of my assignments for my ‘Comprehensive Creative Writing’ course with The Writer’s Bureau which my tutor, herself a published crime novelist, had suggested was ready for submission.

The resultant success is my inclusion in the short story anthology shown in the link below.

Fantasy Short Stories

I have to shout this achievement from the rooftops as I am told that’s what you do with success no matter how small.

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Thank you for taking the time to read about my success thus far, I hope you are joining me at the start of something far greater – I guarantee the writing is happening during every spare moment. As promised, I will continue to share unpublished stories on my blog from time to time.

I am grateful to all followers, please spread the word if you enjoy my ramblings. The more far reaching my content,  the greater the chance of more success. It’s largely down to you lovely people. Thank you!

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Places to write, Writer's Blog

In need of honest reviews

To all my blogging friends and followers. I wrote this story as an assignment for a course I am taking, but I wondered if anyone would offer me a short (just a couple of lines) review in the comments section?

The story is just under 3000 words, approximately ten pages of double spaced text and it is far from perfect, edited once, but in my opinion something is missing…

Will happily review short stories for others in return (please mention in comments).

Thank you to all possible reviewers.

I’m Going Ghost Hunting!

Places to write, Writer's Blog

Published way out of my comfort zone…in fact out of this world!

I received an email this afternoon advising me that another of my short stories has been accepted for publication. I know that’s not a huge achievement in the grand scheme of things but it was a story I wrote for a module as part of my coursework and I had to step way out of my comfort zone.

I like to write stories with a twist in the tale and stories encompassing subjects I have a little knowledge to draw upon. This particular module was to produce around 3000 to 4000 words on a subject I have never previously written about. I chose to write an alien story. I didn’t opt for scary, more along the lines of strange but oddly friendly.

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I am not sure about any of you but I have never had the pleasure of meeting with a real live alien. I haven’t met any expired ones either but that’s really not important. I found it difficult as the whole story had to be fabricated from nothing, where usually I have at least a small amount of knowledge or insight to draw upon.

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I bashed away at the keyboard over the course of a few days (remember, I do have a full time job and spend much of my spare time dancing so there is much to work around). I edited and re-edited and when I was happy with my finished piece, duly sent it to my course tutor. I didn’t hold out too much hope of a good mark, after all my tutor probably knows lots of aliens! Surprisingly, the assignment was returned to me with a glowing mark and some positive comments, the last of which was to advise me to send it for submission. I didn’t expect that from an other-worldly story.

I submitted it and forgot all about it, expressing my pleasure when it was shortlisted into the second round of reading. I have never thought much about sci-fi as a way forward but, as you can guess from my blog heading, I received an email today advising me it is being included in a Fantasy Story collection in September.

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Maybe the moral here is to stretch my imagination and spend more time out of my comfort zone. I may not get rich on small publications but it is a step closer to my ultimate goal.