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Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

As many readers will know I belong to a local group of writers, ‘Thirsk Write Now’, and at every meeting we come up with a theme on which to write a short story to be read out when we next meet. This week the only stipulation being the tale must contain the following words:- Worm. Shortlisted. Tender. Oriflamme. Missing. Flip-flop. Orange. Car park. Quicksand. Usually stories run to between 500/1000 words. On this occasion I went for brevity!

James suspected his new novel, ‘Tender smells the Oriflamme’, written after he went missing in a car park might flip-flop.

Instead the poignant tale of a worm in quicksand was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange award.

 

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

 

 

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Many writers bemoan inspiration, or a lack of inspiration for writing the next piece, short story or novel. For me, inspiration comes the minute I sit down and start to write. It simply feeds off the words that went before. However, sometimes my problem is actually sitting down to write in the first place!

Followers of my blog will know I attend a local Writing Group and we task ourselves to write a short piece for our next meeting. This time we each wrote a random word down and then said, ‘Ok-write a story using the following:- lampshade, wizard, panda, coal bunker, twelve, armchair, camel, jellyfish, battenberg, bettingslip and wellington boot’. This is what I sat down and wrote……(you can have a go too if you like)

“Doreen, don’t answer that, it’s someone going door to door!”

The shouted warning from upstairs came too late. Doreen had already unlocked and opened the front door.

“Good evening madame. Are you the proprietor? I should point out straight away I’m not here to sell you anything, merely to annoy you and take up a lot of your time.”

She found herself staring at a man of average height dressed in baggy trousers tucked into wellington boots and wearing a high viz sleeveless vest. He sported a goatee beard and a felt conical shaped hat which flopped over at the top. A laminated card dangling on a piece of red twine around his neck proclaimed ‘Wearer’s official status guaranteed’. Doreen thought his appearance rather mystical but she said nothing.

“My name is Wizard Prang and I’m here tonight to ask for a sizeable donation in exchange for a twelve per cent stake in my company, ‘ThirskWriteNow’. Thank you for your forbearance and for inviting me into your home tonight.”

And before Doreen could protest he had pushed his way past and into the living room plonking himself down into an armchair by the fireplace. Rubbing his hands in the warm glow of the fire he muttered to no one in particular, “A fresh bucket of coal and a mug of hot chocolate wouldn’t go amiss.”

“What did they want this time?”shouted her husband Roger from upstairs. “Hope you gave them short shrift. I hope it wasn’t that animal rights group with their sponsor a camel for the Tuaregs again?”

“Roger! I think you had better come down. We have a Wizard in the front room.”

“Bloody hell, Doreen. What did you invite him in for? You know its Tuesday and I’m supposed to be going out.”

“He just came in. Says he wants to offer us a share in ThirskWriteNow. ”

“I’m putting my trousers on. Doreen you’d better put the kettle on and pander him with some of your homemade cake. It’s not every day you get a Wizard popping in and we don’t want him waving his wand around.”

“So Mr Prang, how long have you been a wizard and what is it you wizard exactly?”

“Oh please Roger, call me Denton. By the way that’s an awfully nice looking brocade lampshade in the corner. Exquisite macramé work and fringed with drop down tassels too. Do you mind if I try it on?”

“Tea, Denton, and would you care for a square of battenberg.”

The wizard did and much to Roger’s consternation chose pink, eating both squares and removing the marzipan from the remaining yellow ones.

“Simply delicious, thank you. Now without further ado I suppose I had better persuade you to invest in my company and relieve you of your money. You won’t be disappointed. Roger and Doreen listened intently as Wizard Prang embarked on his spiel setting out his aspirations for ThirskWriteNow. He concluded with a little demonstration, and with a flourish produced several betting slips from an inside pocket which he promptly turned into a chapter of Thrills International and a dastardly fiendish murder plot.

“Hey presto, our unique selling point and the end of my presentation. Are there any questions?”

There certainly were. Roger wanted to know how he’d arrived at such a ridiculous valuation for a writing company and was eager to drill down to the underlying hardcore financials. Doreen on the other hand was sceptical and rather bemused to hear a group of writers variously described in such terms as ‘free swimming’, ‘gelatinous’, ‘umbrella shaped’ and having lots of ‘trailing tentacles’. It sounded more like a jellyfish to her, but there again she wasn’t a writer.

She coughed politely. “Wizard Prang, I’m going to say I’m out. Now unless you have anything else in your pockets that might burn this wicked witch of the west is going to trip the light fantastic down the yellow brick road to the coal bunker. Goodnight!”

And with that Doreen promptly disappeared.

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He stared at me, pupils dilated to the size of ink spots either side of a hideous, bloated bulbous nose. Daring me to hold his gaze. His lips parted in a wide grin revealed a mouth of undulating broken teeth. Wild, unruly and unkempt long hair flared out behind him. He was a throwback to the Neanderthals, right down to the rock clenched in one hand, the stick held menacingly high in the other.

It wasn’t the first time we had met and he had barred my path. But today was different. Before I had ignored him. Now I couldn’t. He just kept staring, and I just kept staring right back. No words passed between us, nothing was said. That was the problem, the cause of the trouble. No words.

He wasn’t going to speak. It was not his way. He just stared, standing there barefoot, eyes unblinking.

Usually we looked at each other for a while, then I would smile and move on. Not today. Today I wasn’t smiling, and he never did. Deadlock. I tried a few words. Nothing. I glanced away trying to think, a way of phrasing what I had in mind to say, but the right words wouldn’t come. That was the problem, my mind was empty. I looked up again and of course he was still there, the rock held firm, the stick pointing in my direction.

I bunched my hands into fists, nails digging into the palms and tried again. A few words sprung to the fore, no gushing torrent as there should have been. A slow sentence dribbled out. Not that it made any difference. I knew it wouldn’t. He was still staring. He knew I was drawn to his ugly physog. He was right. I was staring. This time I knew he was winning.

I knew it couldn’t continue. It made no difference to him, he had all the time in the world and would still be there tomorrow. But I needed to be somewhere else. There were plenty of places I should be in, I wanted to be in, not here staring at him. Relax, I tried to tell myself, just ignore him and look away, take a step back. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, rubbed the tension out of fingers and hands and slowly exhaled. I opened my eyes and instinctively knew the spell had been broken, that for now he was gone, out of sight and out of my way. And of course that’s when the right words sprung to mind.

Fuck it, don’t you just hate it when you can’t think what to write!

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An uninvited lunch guest – a short story.

It is not often I eat out on my own.

“Table for one, please,” and I a waiter steers me to a table by a window overlooking the busy town square. I am so engrossed studying the menu I don’t notice the gentleman with the ebony, silver-topped cane easing into the seat opposite, slowly removing his leather gloves one finger at a time and slipping them inside the grey homburg with a black band.

“I hope you don’t mind the intrusion. Waiting for a colleague is such a devilish thing .You don’t mind, do you? No, of course you don’t.”

He doesn’t wait for a reply. “Trains,” he continues, “so unreliable and unpunctual today, most unsatisfactory. I believe they really do serve the most singularly exquisite pizzas here, baked in a wood fired stone oven for exactly 75 seconds. Not 70 or even 80. No, precisely 75 seconds.  Mark my words.”

He raises his right arm waving a long finger in a circular motion through the air. “Waiter, if you would be so kind. My colleague and I wish to order, there’s a good chap.” His hand, hovering in mid-air only a second ago drops like a hawk snatching the menu from my grasp and throwing it to the floor. He holds my startled gaze with a steely stare and speaking in a slow almost sinister voice says, “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

He addresses the waiter. “A Neapolitan pizza, ‘pizza napoletana’ made with San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius and mozzarella di bufala Campana made from the milk of water buffalo raised on the marshlands of Campania, not Lazio, Campania. Capire?. And garlic bread, a generous plateful, drizzled thinly with Fattoria Montecchio. Si prega di rapidamente.” And with a languid wave of the hand he summarily dismisses the waiter.

He steeples his fingers , staring intently at his nails before fixing his steel grey eyes once more on mine. “Allow me. You are a Yorkshireman, living nearby, married to a lady of Scottish descent. There are certain inflections you have acquired, not sufficiently pronounced for you to reside in Scotland. Retired; it is mid week; your attire is not that of the office, there is a tan to your skin suggesting a recent sabbatical.  Yesterday, possibly the day before, was spent gardening. There are small cuts to your hands and left wrist. A faint indentation to your middle finger suggests years spent working in an office, holding a pen. Your hands are smooth. Yet you still use a pen. Hah, a writer. And you await the arrival of a train, there’s a thumbed timetable in your coat pocket. You have no bags, no purchases, and you keep glancing at your watch. Three times already to my knowledge. Your car is nearby, Japanese, red, recently washed and polished.”

He holds a finger up to his lips. “Shush. Elementary.”

Then with a bound he is out of his seat tapping on the window with the tip of his cane. “Aha, the game’s afoot!”

And in a trice he snatches up his over-coat flinging it over his shoulders, retrieves his hat and gloves and runs for the doorway narrowly missing a startled waiter.

“Sir?”

The pizza was simply delicious. And the bill? Well er, I know where to send it!

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The latest challenge at my local Writing Group this week was to write a short piece inspired by the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another brick in the wall’. I’m afraid my inspiration came from a visit to the Baltic, the Art Gallery on the quayside at Gateshead, and an exhibit by Mark Wallinger. Here it is:

Bricks

“Morning Gilbert, another fine and sunny day beckons. I can feel the warmth seeping through me already.”

“Morning Elisha. It’s yet to reach me, I’m a few layers down from you and it’s still shady here.”

“Sorry, old chap. Still could be worse. You could be an engineering brick further down or even worse one of those white-washed basement Johnnies. Dank and dreary if ever was. At least we get to see a bit of life. Procession for the Royal Jubilee was rather well done don’t you think.”

“I was draped with a flag, old thing, but I remember the one before. The soldiers, the bands, the cheering crowds and the good queen herself.”

“Oooh, hark at you two. What about the Olympics celebration cavalcade. That really squeezed my mortar.”

“Ah, morning, Thaddeus.”

“Morning Gilbert, Elisha. Have you heard the good news? Maurice had his graffiti cleaned. Took them long enough, Banksy it most certainly wasn’t.”

“No, things are not like they used to be. Gone are the days of ‘Votes for women’ and ‘Kilroy was ‘ere’.”

“Chads, I liked the Chads. The big doleful eyes and that bulbous nose followed by ‘Wot, no sausages’. Sorry, where are my manners.  Morning Thaddeus, Gilbert, Elisha and Maurice if he’s listening.”

“Morning Winston.”

“’Ban the bomb’, ‘CND’, ‘Yanks Go Home’. That one got a bit sticky.”

“Yes, a few heads cracked that day. I don’t like it when they start throwing bricks. Could be someone you know. An awful way to go. Broken up and smashed, skittering along the road to end up in the gutter. Reduced to dust and swept away. Not everyone gets re-constituted you know.”

“Winston, are you getting re-pointed?”

“Next week, Maurice. It’ll be good to get some fresh joints. Hey, Elisha! Did you know you’re going to be shrouded in plastic for a while? That’ll spoil your view; stop some of your nocturnal habits, the velux windows opposite!”

“I bed your pardon. I’ll have you know there’s nothing untoward about my evening activities whatsoever, thank you very much.”

“Oh, pull the other one. We all know what you get up to from your lofty vantage point.”

“You should have more respect. Height has its disadvantages too you know. The 1940s, the Blitz. I still shudder when I hark back to those dark days. Fire and flames shooting into the night skies, the baking heat, then drenched in water, buckling timbers, collapsing roofs. Walls disappearing before your eyes. Dreadful times, simply dreadful.  Isn’t that so, Gilbert.”

“23rd December 1941. I remember it as if yesterday. One minute a terrace, next an exposed gable end. But we pulled through, survived. Didn’t lose a single brick. We all clung together, held firm. Every last one of us.  Dust and smoke swirling everywhere. Do you remember?  We had a full roll call that night, basement east corner to apex top, each brick shouting out in turn, name, number, level. Never been a night like it. Individually we may be just a block of clay, a brick in a wall but together, collectively, en masse and in unison, we’re a structure, an edifice, a monument….”

“Oh well said, Gilbert, well said. We’ll make an old brick of you yet.”

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What would you do?

An elegantly dressed lady from the 1920s knocks at your door, invites herself in for tea, calls you “Sweet-cheeks… darling…my Romeo” and says, “Edward, I’m the lady in your dreams.”

Only Eddie doesn’t live in the 1920s, he’s a widower living alone in a quiet English village and the dream is about to become a nightmare. Who is the lady from the past and what does she want from Eddie?

Find out by reading ‘The Lady in Red Boots’, the first short story in an anthology of 6 curious and mysterious tales.

Available on Amazon.

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I have already mentioned I recently joined a local writing group and we task ourselves to produce a written ‘piece’. The brief this week was to “take a significant day in your life”, so I chose the day I met Sharanne Neidermeyer Armstrong. Some readers may already be acquainted with my dear friend, but for those of you who are not…

2nd August (a few years ago)

It was the 2nd August that Adolph Hitler became leader in Germany, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Peter O’Toole and Dutch Shultz drew their first breaths, Will Bill Hickok (shot by a drunken stranger) and Thomas Gainsborough gasped their last, and the day Sharanne Neidermeyer Armstrong entered my life.

I was standing on the platform waiting for the metro into Newcastle. A typical summer’s day with a monsoon wind blowing up the River Tyne forcing folk to huddle into their raincoats to shelter from the horizontal onslaught of the driving rain. All folk that is except one. And that one person, dressed in a pair of pink flip flops, tight jeans and an even tighter white Tshirt and clutching a plastic Netto carrier bag, was standing next to me like the proverbial drowned rat.

“Lovely day, I spent a fortune getting me hair done. Ruined. Would yers mind, pet?”

And before I could she had thrust the carrier bag into my chest and started wringing out her bedraggled tresses dripping more water into the pools congregating around her feet.

“Least I’ve kept me jacket and Prada shoes dry though me bra and pants are a bit wet an’ clingy. Don’t scrunch me bag, pet, me speech is in there ‘n all. I’m attending the Symposium on climate change at the Sage. It’s a bugga, this global warming. Missed the forecast for today mind. Ee, what’m I like. Where’s me manners. Thanks for holding me bag by the way. I’m Shazza or Shaz to me mates.”

Before I could reply the train arrived and I was propelled aboard and into an empty seat by the window.

“Will yers pass me handbag, it’s in there somewhere. Let’s see if I can at least salvage a bit of decorum before I stand up in front of all those bearded tweedies. I met that Deborah Meaden there yesterday. Yer knaas, the huffy one off Dragons Den. You’d think with all that money she’d make a better show of hersen. Hah, she’d have the last laugh today if she could see me now. Do yer like Shakespeare by any chance? I’ve got a spare ticket for the Theatre Royal tonight, Midsummer Nights Dream.”

It was the kind of day you don’t forget in a hurry. I was hooked. Shazza had suddenly crashed into my life like an invading army, a veritable blitzkrieg, a one woman Geordie ‘Wild West’ fully equipped for shoot outs like some prohibition gangster. She filled your stage with her screen presence and yet still found time to paint life with the gentle brush strokes of an old master.

And as I was to discover over the following years there was more to this statuesque girl educated on the terraced streets of Gateshead with a degree from Spearmint Rhino than met the eye. Hidden depths ‘Wor Shaz’, equally at home discussing who should wear the no 9 shirt for her beloved Magpies as she was analysing UK tourism trends with Deborah Meaden or quantitative easing with Mervyn King . As for her address book, you wouldn’t believe who she knows, or who has her number. But that’s for another day!

If you would like to read more of life with Shazza simply click the drop down menu on the right hand side under Categories and select ‘Shazza’.

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I have joined a local creative writing group. Once a fortnight we meet in an upstairs room of the Old Courthouse and for a couple of hours chew the fat on things literary and written (and on a few other subjects too!).

It’s a new group, we are slowly finding our way and hoping to persuade people ‘in the business’ to come and talk to us over the months ahead to pass on a little of their collected wisdom. Most of all it’s good fun, and that includes the homework. Yes, homework! Each week we set ourselves a short written assignment then read it out next time. It’s fun, honest.

Here’s one from the other week – everyone chose and wrote down a word and that word had to be included in the piece of writing. Simple? Judge for yourself. These were the words : “Vase: hammer: Ice cream: scarecrow: pencil: dragon: wristwatch: eagle: rocking chair: wheel barrow: pen: radiator,” and here’s what I made of themEnjoy the read!

Leaving

He would have to go. He knew it couldn’t go on like this. Enough was enough. Mike looked up from eating his bowl of corn flakes to the far side of the room where Tom was sitting in his rocking chair. He was rocking faster than usual today and the back of the chair was banging against the radiator. Annoyingly so. Mike looked away, his appetite suddenly gone. He didn’t even wish to consider what the old man was about to do with the pencil he was inspecting. Tom glared at him and swapped the pencil for a pen. Mike pushed his bowl away, slurped a few mouthfuls of hot tea and left the table.

Grabbing his jacket and car keys Mike shouted a quick ‘cheerio’ and ran out the front door. What the hell!  There was a scarecrow laughing at him in a wheelbarrow parked in front of his car. He sighed and glanced at his wrist watch. That settled it. The other night had been bad enough. Woken by the sight of Tom standing there in his underpants, hammer in one hand, a painting of a dragon and an eagle in the other. The situation was well and truly out of control now. This was the final straw.  He would say something tonight when he had more time.

Behind him the net curtains twitched.

“He’s gone, love. Didn’t even finish his breakfast today. And I don’t think he was too chuffed at having to move that barrow.” Rose patted the curtains back into place and moved the vase of freesias into the middle of the window. Their sweet scent filled the air reminding her of the first time she and Tom had met.  He had bought her flowers that day, freesias, and then bought her an ice cream. All those years ago. Her thoughts returned to the present. Soon there would be just the two of them. Perhaps she ought to say something, speak to Mike. Tom wouldn’t.

Mike skipped breakfast the next morning. Rose squeezed Tom’s hand and kissed him on the cheek. The suitcase was already in the car. Tom raised a hand in a final salute as the car pulled out the drive.

“Bloody good riddance, eh Rose. And no more lodgers. I’m not going through that again.”

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