Friday Fictioneers – Included

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!



I watched the boy in a wheelchair as he gazed at the gaudy carousel, with its bobbing, gilt-maned steeds. It had a mechanical organ, which was infusing an old Beatles song with melancholy.

With a rumble, one of the new trams passed between us, steel wheels squealing against steel track, eclipsing both sound and sight.

When it had gone, I saw the carousel operator and the boy’s father lifting the wheelchair onto the carousel and securing it near the edge of the platform.

The carousel revolved, the organ played a Sousa march, and the boy looked out – and beamed.

Inlinkz – click here to join in the fun!

Book Review – Her Fearful Symmetry

Book Review – Her Fearful Symmetry

Title – Her Fearful Symmetry

Genre – Literary fiction/ghost story

Author – Audrey Niffenegger

Published – 2010

Enjoyment rating – 9/10

*        *        *

The book’s title is not quite a quotation from William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”. It actually helps to know this and to have read the poem critically before reading the novel, because it adds an extra layer. The poem is one of Blake’s Songs of Experience, and it poses the question “Did God create evil?”

To the novel itself. Firstly, I don’t particularly like ghost stories. Secondly, the story is based on phenomena that science says cannot exist. Note, not phenomena that haven’t been detected, but phenomena where thermodynamics says this simply cannot happen. As someone who used to work as a professional scientist, that bugs me.


Audrey Niffenegger is a terrific writer, an absolute master of her craft. There are many aspects of her writing that are admirable, but the two I would pick out in this novel are these:

  • She plants discreet little hooks in the text, not just every chapter, not just every scene, but every page, and we’re led on and on into the world she has created for us;
  • She associates emotions with every description she makes, and the descriptions are emotionally absolutely precise. For example, to pick one entirely at random, ‘He put on a tie to talk on the phone with his wife. For some reason this made Julia a little depressed.’

The characters are unusual: older twin sisters, Elspeth and Edie, who parted many years earlier, and between whom there is antagonism; an academic, Robert, who is obsessed by Highgate Cemetery, and who is the lover of Elspeth; a crossword compiler, Martin, who suffers from OCD; the compiler’s Dutch wife, Marijke; and Valentina and Julia, the twin daughters of one of the estranged twins. These latter are mirror twins and live almost as a single person.

There is a mystery about the split between the older twin sisters. The novel starts with the death of one of them. She leaves a will that sets in motion a series of events that gradually unfolds and forms the framework on which the novel is built.

Martin’s wife eventually cannot cope with his OCD. She leaves him and returns to Holland; his attempts to reunite with her form an important sub-plot.

When his lover dies, Robert is distraught with grief. The consequences of his bereavement are the emotional driver that propels the book.

When I finished the novel, I found I was pondering the questions of Blake’s Tyger poem once again. Evil certainly exists; what part does the creator play in it?

Friday Fictioneers – Paris

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Paris in a tin can 200422



We were unpacking in our new apartment when I found the photograph.

“Do you remember giving me this?”

“How could I forget?” Jeremy stroked the nape of my neck, and I shivered.

The panoramic shot of Paris by night was stunning, but sadly the worse for wear. It was peeling from its mounting, and it carried a smell of mud from when we’d been flooded in Somerset.

We’d fought over it during our trial separation.

“I’m glad we’re back together,” I say as I move to the window. Jeremy takes my hand, and together we gaze over Paris by night.

Inlinkz – click to join in the fun!

pearl of asia

This beautiful poem was written by a talented Australian poet. I think we’ll hear much more of her work in years to come!

Melody Chen

the city wakes without pressing snooze
before heat closes in like a fist

a man brushing dust from his
shoes, that settles
no matter how little he walks
the boy, hands the size of a toy car remote
gripping the handlebars of a motorbike for one
two siblings stacked behind him

and i learn
an elderly beggar
eyes punched full of a shame that trickles
down her face, binds shut her lips
wordlessly pleading for survival
is humanity stripped down to its most raw

but still, how the sun remembers
to fondle angkor wat on its way to the sky
paints a strip of fire the width of one grace
along the horizon each morning

if the lotuses can make the choice
over and over
to build a home in this land
if i can cross the road with my eyes closed
reach the other side safely
and the child…

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Infidelity – 300 word version


It was dark in the wings. I should have been in the Green Room but I wanted to watch the performance.

A strong arm slipped around my waist. It felt so right that I couldn’t help myself. I turned towards Frank, tilting my face up to his. He kissed me. I yielded, as I would have done for Jim, and then thought, ‘No, I don’t need to pretend…’ and kissed back enthusiastically.

How long is eternity? Two seconds? Three seconds? That is how long the kiss lasted, but it brought its own sort of eternity.

And then it was over.

Frank stepped back.

“Liz, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I’m so sorry. You’re a married woman.” Even in my swirling Arcadian haze of arousal I noticed that he didn’t say that he was a married man.

“Don’t be sorry, Frank. Don’t be sorry”. My right hand stroked his chest feverishly. The quartet on stage was reaching its climax.

“Oh, Liz, you are just so…Liz, I love you’.

Why did Jim never speak to me like that? Why did he never kiss me like that?

I felt guilty that night as I went to bed. Jim didn’t seem to notice anything. He kissed me goodnight, rolled over, and was snoring gently within a minute. Normally I liked Jim’s snores. They weren’t loud, they just rumbled gently and reminded me that my man lay beside me; a comfortable knowledge of security. That night, though, they grated.

‘Liz, I love you’. The joy of that knowledge! And its guilt. Lying there beside my sleeping husband thinking of another man’s love.

And then, knowingly and deliberately, I imagined Frank’s embrace, the look of bewildered joy on his face, his tender words. I allowed the joy to seep through me. I went to sleep.


Short Story – At first sight – part III

As I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo, I don’t have time to write original material for my blog during November. Instead, I’m reblogging a serial story – At First Sight – with an episode every day. I hope you enjoy it!

Autumn Leaves

Short Story – At first sight – Part III

The forearm across Jon’s throat pressed harder. His breath whistled and rasped, as he struggled violently but unsuccessfully to break Guy’s grip.

“You are going to give me Vikki’s address. Nod your head to show you agree.”

Jon threw himself from side to side. Guy swayed, but his grip didn’t loosen. Then he pivoted on his heel and barged forward as hard as he could, crashing Jon’s face into the brick wall beside the steps up to his front door. Blood from Jon’s broken nose trickled into his throat, making breathing even more difficult. He focussed intensely on ignoring the pain and thinking clearly.

His father’s voice spoke in his memory.

“When someone grabs you from behind, use your heel to kick their shin, scrape it right down and stamp on the arch of their foot.”

As Jon kicked backwards, he…

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At first sight – part 2

Autumn Leaves

While I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo I have no time to write fresh material for my blog, so I’m reposting a serial from 2017. In the first instalment Jon, a student in London, met Vikki and they fell in love. Unfortunately, Vikki has had to fly back to Australia leaving Jon in London. Will their love survive separation? Read on and find out!

At first sight letter 170603

Despite the long flight from England to Australia, Vikki was up early on the morning after her return. She drank her coffee sitting in the kitchen so she could see the post arrive.

“You’re up early, Pet. Difficulty sleeping?”

Vikki gave her mum a hug.

“Body clock’s all wrong. I expect I’ll go back to bed after the post.”

Margaret Marsden gave her daughter a quizzical look.

“Post takes days from the UK,” she observed. “Would you like a croissant? I’ve been down to the bakery.”


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At first sight

While I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo I don’t have time to write original material for my blog. So here is a re-posting of the first episode of a serial I wrote in 2017. There’ll be a new episode every day this week. I hope you enjoy the story!

Autumn Leaves

My last couple of posts have been rather serious. Time for a change! Isn’t it strange how life-changing experiences can happen when we least expect them? Jonathan, a PhD student at Imperial College, was hardly a party animal, Academic supervisors aren’t noted for hosting orgies. And yet, by the end of the evening, Jonathan’s world has been turned upside-down.

Party buffet for story 170526

It was a good party. There was appetising food and a choice of wine, cask beer, or any number of soft drinks. The music was cheerful and not too loud; guests could converse without needing to shout at each other. As he queued at the table for a portion of fresh salmon salad, Jonathan idly wondered how his host had persuaded a live band to play at less than full volume. He would stay for an hour, long enough not to appear impolite, and then go back to his flat. His…

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As I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, and don’t have time for my usual flash fiction posts, I thought I would re-post a story that I wrote in early 2017. I hope you enjoy it!

Autumn Leaves

survivor-blog-170211When Diane set off in bright sunshine to camp in the mountains and experience the wildness of nature, she gave no thought to the wickedness of man. A happy, successful student, she meant to enjoy to the full her last week of freedom before starting a career. But the power of nature almost overwhelmed her; and the malice of man was worse…

Mrs Reeves looked doubtfully at the computer screen where, courtesy of Skype, she could see her daughter, Diane.
“I’m still not happy with this idea of you hiking off into the woods on your own for a week. It’s bad enough you’re in America all those miles away without thinking of you unprotected and defenceless.”
Diane sighed. “Mum, it’s one of the reasons I came over here, remember? There’s no real wilderness left in England, and I want to go somewhere where it’s just me and nature. It’s…

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Quote #2, “Together We Can Help”

Ivor has written a moving poem calling on writers to use their talents to encourage people to take care of children at risk. This seems a very important cause, and I invite everyone who reads this reblog of Ivor’s poem to reblog it in their turn.


“Fellow Writers, We Have The Power, We Have A Voice, We Have A Pen, Collectively, We’re Able To Help, Help The Children Of The World, Stop Them Crying For Help.”

Together We Can Help

Let us all help

It’s Time

Time to have a say

Voice your feelings

Tell your stories

Use your pen

Speak from your soul

Talk about their little feet

Feel their mammas heartbeat

Give your all

Walk tall

We need to help

Children is my prompt

Lets do the stomp

It’s your call

One and all

Don’t let the children crawl

Save them before they fall

Ivor Steven (c)  2018

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