Saturday, 24 December 2016

Day 24: Winking at Angels by Elizabeth Cox


1.      What gave you the idea for Baubles story? 

I thought about when I was widowed at a relatively young age. How everyone, especially family, is supportive, but you feel isolated and different. You don’t want to be ‘granny’, even though you are one. You need something to spark your life again, to give you back your independence, to give you courage to start again. Why not a wink from an angel, when you’re feeling vulnerable, to make you feel part of life again, to make you feel like a woman again?

2.      How would you describe your normal style of writing? 

I don’t know that I have a ‘normal’ style. I’ve written quirky stories and serious stories. My poetry is quite personal, and I use natural images taken from the world around me. I wish I could write political poetry about world issues, but it’s not in me, even though I have strong opinions on most things. I think my poetry is gentle and lyrical and heartfelt. Now, I’m writing a novel set in c991 featuring Anglo-Saxon society during the Viking raids and drawing on my knowledge of Old English literature. I also have another novel on the go which is set in the area around Carcassonne and the Pyrenees. Is a psychological murder type story, with some romance. As you can see I have a ‘butterfly’ mind and many interests.

3.      Have you published other material?  

Winking at Angels is my first short story to be published in an anthology, but have published a short story The Giraffe I Knew Before You on CafeLit website and a poem, Evening in Early May published in the Save the Rhino Anthology. I have published an academic book, Gender, Time and Memory in Medieval Culture, for which I was co-editor and contributed an article on memory and the women in Beowulf.  

4.      Do you have a writing routine? 

No I don’t have a routine, as I work all week in an ‘ordinary job’. I write, when I have the time and opportunity. My best time to work is late afternoon, no ‘lark’ here. But, I never stop thinking about ideas and making notes. I managed to write a short story and a chapter of my novel while in France recently on holiday.

5.      Do you have a favourite place for writing? 

I have my own desk in the corner of the dining room near the window, with all my favourite little things, close to my overflowing bookcase.

6.      Tell something quirky about you. 

I don’t think I’m a very quirky person, but I have a fascination with hawks and falcons. Could be because I’m a medievalist, and no self-respecting lady in medieval times would be without her gerfalcon on her wrist. I also have spent very enjoyable times shaking my coins and beads as a belly dancer, a wonderful excuse to wear ‘over the top’ dangly earrings, and I’m told I do a good ‘shimmy’. 

Extract from Winking at Angels 

Grace fought her way through the Christmas crowds slipping and sliding along the wet pavements. She shivered and pulled her cashmere scarf around her neck against the sting of the sleet and wondered what had possessed her to leave the warmth of her cosy log fire on such a miserable day. It wasn’t as if she had any shopping left to do. She’d bought a power drill for Martin, a cookery book for Alice, Heaven knew she needed it and all kinds of the latest fads for the grandchildren, not that they would appreciate them. And what would she get in return? She knew that wasn’t the point, but she shuddered to think what impression they had of her when they bought her granny slippers and Old English Lavender bath salts. As she struggled along through the rising wind, the smell of frying doughnuts from a nearby stall made her feel quite nauseous. All around her voices laughed and argued, as shoppers scurried around searching for that perfect gift.

Grace was a handsome woman, in her early fifties, not exactly slender, more what you would call comfortable. She had black, softly waving hair, which always refused to be tamed by the hairdresser, and the softest, blue eyes which crinkled at the corners when she laughed. Paul had always said they were her best feature. She still missed him, even after all this time. Today, she was dressed in a wraparound black woollen coat which covered her from head to toe. Regretting the fact that she had left one glove at home, she thrust her left hand in her coat pocket, as she strode along.

She’d just had to get out this afternoon, even though the weather was disgusting. She was feeling lonely and knew that she would soon be wallowing in dreadful self-pity, if she stayed indoors. Since Paul had died, she had felt so alone, never fully part of the human race, always the spare person living on the edge of other people’s worlds. To the casual observer she had recovered well. She had a good job as an office manager, a lovely home, a close and loving family and many friends. But no one understood this feeling of being rudderless, of being outside and not belonging.

It was Christmas day tomorrow, and she was expected at Martin and Alice’s for the holidays. She dutifully went there every year, and they wouldn’t hear of anything else. However, it had got to the stage, where she would rather spend it on her own, but they certainly would not let her do that no matter how much she protested. Where was her courage! She loved them dearly and her son, Martin was good and considerate but rather dull and set in his ways. He was only thirty-two but already older than the world, and Alice, well Alice was a kind girl and a good mother to the children, Jake and Sally, but she still believed in ironing Martin’s socks. They made it very clear that they disapproved when Grace went to Italy on her own. She chuckled, when she remembered Martin’s concern, “Mum you won’t be safe. Someone might steal your purse. You might be attacked.” “Or worse”, Alice had piped up. As if she had suddenly become unable to look after herself, just because her husband had died. They would think she was being ‘stupid’ for wanting to spend the day alone; just becoming one more thing for them to worry about. She would be happy to visit with the presents, have a drink with them and then leave them to their own lives. But they couldn’t understand that. She loved them so much, and she didn’t want to upset them by being too dogmatic. She was still relatively young and needed to have her independence. She’d be old and more dependent soon enough.

All this was rushing through her mind, when her eye was caught by some sparkling gold angels in the gift shop, strung like baubles across the steamed up window as if in flight. She stopped to look. The shop was like Aladdin’s cave with so many glittery things on display, but the angels were heart-stopping. They were painted gold with halos of soft spun hair and robes made of honey-coloured iridescent cloth. Their wings were made of the softest-looking white feathers which called out to be stroked. But it was their faces which were so arresting. They were so calm and full of grace, with their green painted eyes which seemed to look directly at you. From the shop doorway the sound of a choir singing, It came upon a Midnight Clear, washed over her, and she could feel her eyes welling up with tears which began to trickle down her cold cheeks. “They’re only dolls for heaven’s sake, pull yourself together,” she muttered, angry at herself, wiping away the tears with her one gloved hand.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Day 23: We're Off to See the Wizard by L. G. Flannigan


Mum’s by the glass door when I arrive. I smile at her as a member of staff punches a code into a key pad and lets me in.

Frowning she leans her head to one side and stares. The tension fades from her face and she beams. “Brenda.”

I wrap my arms round her. It’s good to feel her warmth. It’s been too long. I release my hold and take her hand. Her once manicured painted finger nails are chewed and free from polish. Besides regular trips to the hairdressers having her nails done used to be her only beauty treat. I’ve brought her favourite colour with me, blush pink, and a fragrant hand cream. They’re in my handbag along with some coloured cellophane. She likes the crinkly feeling on her fingertips and the crunching sound it makes when squeezing it.

She swings our linked hands and says to a female resident, “This is my sister Brenda.”

I’m not her sister but that she thinks I’m family is enough. “Where shall we sit?”

Puzzled she looks around the entrance hall as if seeing it for the first time. It’s large but surprisingly cosy with a couple of sofas and chairs snuck against a mulberry coloured wall. There’s a table in the corner housing a tree with slowly colour changing buds. It catches her eye and she walks towards it.

“Shall we sit here?” I say pointing at the sofa by the fake tree.

A puzzled look spreads across her face. I smile. Her eyes fill with warmth and maybe recognition. Her gradual smile has me grinning. “Yes Mum it’s me.”

She grips my hand a little tighter, “You came.”

“I did.”

“I’ve missed you sis,” she says.

Mum hasn’t remembered me for a few years. I’ve accepted it but there’s a spark of hope that ignites every time she’s pleased to see me. Perhaps this is the moment where she, we connect again. But it never is. She used to phone me more than once a week, sometimes daily. It irritated me. I was busy. But what I wouldn’t do to have those calls again. The phone call early on my birthday to sing Happy Birthday to me before I leave for work. “I’ve missed you too.”

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Day 22: The Subtle Serpent by Gregory Heath


1.     What gave you the idea for  Baubles story?

This story was first written many years ago, before my literary career (such as it is) had even begun. I was in ‘writing exercise’ mode at the time, trying to trick myself into creating something, using quotes as ‘taking off’ points. I never quite got the story to work, despite several revisions, but I always maintained a soft spot for it and hoped to see it in print someday. The Baubles anthology provided the perfect excuse for taking another look at it, and a relatively radical rewrite led to the piece as it now is.

2.     How would you describe your normal style of writing?

Although ‘The Subtle Serpent’ is not the kind of story I usually write, it contains a degree of understatement, a laconic quality, which best sums up my style, I think. The greatest compliment I have ever been paid as a writer is that I ‘write with a deceptive simplicity’.

3.     Have you published other material?

I have had two novels published, the first of which, ‘The Entire Animal’ (Waywiser Press, 2006), remains my proudest literary achievement, albeit it never set the world alight. My poetry and short stories have also appeared very widely in literary journals and anthologies.

4.     Do you have a writing routine?

I have had a very strict routine over a long period of time, writing for a couple of hours four nights a week and then all day on Saturday. I have to say, though, that I am currently on hiatus and haven’t written a thing for months.

5.     Do you have a favourite place for writing?

In the early days I used to write in a converted garden shed, which had a certain amount of romance to it. Nowadays I have a study in the house.

6.     Tell something quirky about you.

I gave up lecturing in English Literature and Psychology a couple of years ago to become a rat man (a ‘pest control technician’ if you want to be fancy about it) and it’s the best decision I ever made.

An extract from The Subtle Serpent 


Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1

And she said, “Oh, we can eat what we like, really.”

Then she paused. Then she said, “Well, there is one tree, right in the middle of the garden, that we’re not supposed to touch. But it’s not like we’re going short.”

“Mmm,” said the serpent. “Interesting.” And he slid away.

Thus the woman was left alone to consider the untouchable tree, with its curled golden leaves and its forbidden crimson fruit. She made her way to the middle of the garden and gazed and gazed at it until presently it began to niggle her, and with this the trait of niggliness was instilled within all womankind. Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a man calling, wanting to know where his supper was. She had quite forgotten the time.

Later, after the couple had eaten, the woman was just about to speak when the man beat her to it. “I have to say,” he said, “that I’m beginning to find your cooking a little uninspired. Fruit and herb stew – that’s all I get, day in, day out. What kind of a diet is that for a working man?”

She shrugged.

“The thing is,” he went on, “you just don’t seem to appreciate how much is involved in the dressing and keeping of this garden. And I’ve got a whole new batch of animals to name again tomorrow. It wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it, for something a little different to eat once in a while?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” said the woman.

“Yes,” said the man, “you do that.” He stopped momentarily to make an annoying little sound by sucking the air in between his teeth. “You know, it is rather irritating that I have to point these things out.”

“Yes,” said the woman.

“But I don’t want any bad feeling between us.”

“No,” said the woman. She sighed.

“So perhaps,” said the man, staring at his feet, “you could make it up to me.”

“Oh for God’s sake,” said the woman, “not that again.”


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