Friday Fictioneers : Mr Quail’s misplaced beak



Mr Quail would strut down the local alleyways, along the garden paths, peacock feathers nodding from his pork pie hat, an early warning to those who valued their privacy.

His lapel badge read ‘Neighbourhood Watch’, the letters written in blue marker pen on a circle of grubby card, a safety pin taped to the back.

‘Always sticking his beak in,’ Gramma would say, sucking her bubble gum pink chops.

One day, the pork pie hat vanished along with its oil slick feathers and its owner.

‘Reckon he stuck that beak in the wrong place,’ said Gramma, smile shining pinkly.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers, the grandest prompt around. See here to join in and to read other stories.

More apologies necessary as I’m late again. Work is crazy with no respite on the horizon, so apologies if I don’t get around to reading your story.

  • NB For those unacquainted with UK English –

Badge – this is a pin in US English.

Beak – a slang word for nose, so the phrase to ‘stick your beak in’ just means to be nosy.


Friday Fictioneers : If I could cast a magic spell

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot


If I could cast a magic spell I would not wish for doubloons nor gems large as apples, heavy as the ice that seals our well these bitter mornings past.

Ermine and mink, rivers of silk and satin hold no glamour in my heart. I seek no fortune or renown or any home outside our shuttered cottage, its mossy thatch, the scent of tallow and our lowing beasts.

The only spell I crave is to be made as stone, a sculpted woman with no flesh heart beating in its bony cage.

Perhaps then I should miss you less.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale. See here to share and read the other stories.

I struggled a bit with this one. Then I saw the back of that impressive sculpture in the foreground and thought of being turned to stone.

Apologies in advance. Due to work commitments I’m very late to the party and doubt I’ll Be able to read many other posts before FF comes round again. Sorry if I miss reading your story and many thanks if you take the time to read mine.




What Pegman Saw : Take me with you


‘What do you remember, Casey?’ asked Donaldson.

A bluebottle tapped at the blanked-out window, tangling in the curtain. Decorating the facility like a home had been Donaldson’s idea – better for the children, she thought – but the recycled air still smelt like plastic and singed hair.

Casey smoothed her doll’s skirt, straightened the plaits of golden wool. ‘A stone path,’ she said, ‘the colour of dirty sand. It’s bendy.’ She made a shape in the air with her hand. ‘The trees are black with branches like fingers.’

Zeb’s description had been identical. And Sunny Lo’s.

‘And it smells funny,’ said the little girl frowning. ‘Of the Big River after the flood. And of the day my bunny died.’

Donaldson crouched down, took the doll from Casey’s unwilling hands. ‘Can you go back?’ she said, eyes flicking to the surveillance camera.

The girl nodded.

‘Next time, take me with you.’


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we visit Texas, I’ve used a photo sphere of Wildcat Bluff Nature Centre. See here to join in and to read the other tales.





Could you write a bestseller?


It’s every novelist’s dream.


You’re in a bookshop. Perhaps you’re looking for a slab of holiday reading, something to keep you entertained while the kids are dive bombing the toddlers in the training pool and your partner is filling his boots at the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

It has to be something chunky enough to last you the holiday, not so heavy it takes you over the hand luggage limit and you have to leave behind your favourite sequined flip-flops.

The shop has the kind of hush libraries had before they became multi-media centres – you know, when they actually lent books. The air is heavy with the scent of blueberry muffins and artisan hot chocolate (because nowhere that sells books survives these digital days without a cafe tucked behind the cookery section).

Your eye is caught by the table displays, grids of glossy paperbacks shimmering like jewels washed up on golden sands. Your eye drifts over the prism of colours. You know which section is crime fiction without reading the blurb (lots of black, white and orange, sinister silhouettes/dank alleyways, lopsided close-ups of broken dolls/disembodied body parts) and which is the ‘chick-lit’ (pastel green/pink/blue, stylised drawings of cup cakes/stiletto heels and handbags).

Then you spot something familiar. Your heart leaps to your mouth, your pulse rolls a conga beat in your ears. Reaching out, your hand closes around a book, one that you know better than the pattern of moles on your partner’s back. One that was more painful to give birth to than your own melon headed twins.

Your book.

Not a book you own, a book your wrote. It’s there, on the bestsellers table beside men called Clive and Lee and James and women called Nora and Danielle and J.K.

Your baby rubbing shoulders with giants …


Okay, so I’m guessing if you follow my blog and have the time to read this post this has not happened to you. If you were Clive (Cussler), Lee (Child) or James (Patterson) you wouldn’t waste your time reading my ramblings, you’d be off adding to your millions by writing another book or getting someone else to write it (I’m looking at you, James!).

And if you were Nora (Roberts), Danielle (Steel) or J.K (if you don’t know I’m NOT going to tell you) I’d hope you would have got in touch and given me a helping hand by now, sister.

So assuming you’re not James et al but might like to be on that bestseller table in the future, here’s your chance.

The British newspaper The Daily Mail have joined with Penguin Random House to launch a debut novel competition.

The full terms and conditions (of which there are many) are  here, but the main thing many of you will need to know is that they accept any adult genre except sagas, sci-fi or fantasy. And as many of you I know write fantasy/YA and my nearest completed novel is Urban Fantasy, that rules us out. Bummer.

For those of you who do write in a qualifying genre, the closing date is Friday 13th July.

I’m guessing the prize of a £20,000 advance, publication and the services of a top literary agents will attract stiff competition, so polish that manuscript until it glistens my intrepid friends.

Good luck and fair sailing and if you’re successful and your name is shining from that bestseller table in a few year’s time, just remember who put you onto the competition in the first place. I’ll be here waiting.


Could you write a bestseller? Or is your genre much maligned and over looked by huge swathes of the book buying public? Do you even WANT to be the next J.K or is that anathema to you?

Be interesting to hear your thoughts.



What Pegman Saw : When the wind speaks

‘Mountains and mist, that’s all Father left. Mountains and mist.’ Mathys slashed out with his sword, a rope of prayer flags fluttering to the ground like wounded birds. His bitter tone crossed the valley, sending a quarrel of flycatchers into the grey.

Gaétan watched the little birds dart away, waited for the hush to resettle. Mathys had always been a restless soul, quick to anger, first to a fight where Gaétan had been happy to watch the trees grow, hear what the wind had to say.

True, their Father had bequeathed them nothing but crags and snow and fog thick as fallen cloud. But Gaétan had listened as the voices grew until every stalking wildcat, every vole shivering in its fusty burrow, every pin-eyed windhover – even the rocks themselves – spoke with one tongue.

She comes.

Over Blackheart Mountain a thunderhead gathered.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street view as it jumping off point. This week we visit Kangra Valley, India. See here to join in, share, read and comment.





Friday Fictioneers : A demon in Pa’s seat


PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer


A demon sits in Pa’s seat by the fire.

Head to toe brown, bulbous feet slick and shining, bear-like paws flaking crust. The demon smells dark, of fields after muck spreading and woods just before the first snow falls. The demon stares dumbly into the flames, wide bleached marble eyes, pinprick pupils black as his soul.

I shift, my bare feet cold on the flags. The beast looks up and I’m about to run –

‘Esther?’ The demon stole Pa’s voice.

This is the  night the river bank breaks, turning our farm to mud.

The night Pa’s mind is lost.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Join in and share and don’t forget to read and comment. See here.


Bristol Still Life


A car alarm sounds, an endless soar and dip of electric whoops.

The neighbour’s kids are in the back garden kicking a football around, trundling up the powdery tarmac path on their scooters. They shout and cry and argue in English, their mother chastises in Arabic.

Streets away a road sweeper van hums and whistles, brushes whirring against the pavement, a windy suck of air as it sweeps away polluted dust and grit and unsuspecting invertebrates.

A plane reverberates like thunder; the waspish rev of a moped. Twin sirens – lazy cousins to the car alarm – weave together, fade and grow and fade to nothing.


The sparrows chitter their fussy song and a blackbird answers proud from the chimney top. Leaves stir on the cherry tree, the long grass is a sea of hushes. Rain pitters the roof and a bobble of a bumble bee hums over the raspberry canes.