Taking a Deep Breath (Cecilia Peartree)

 As I write this, it's the last day of June, and despite having signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in July I feel I can relax for the first time in a while. This wasn't really what I expected when I retired from my day job! There are various reasons why June has been exceptionally busy. The first reason was a self-imposed one, and as usual, it is that I had given myself more writing deadlines than I should have done. I'd been working for some time on creating a coherent longer story out of five connected short stories I wrote during June 2021 as part of a short story challenge. During May I seemed to be nearing the end of this process and had published a mystery novel I'd also been working on, so I signed up both for July's Camp NaNoWriMo and for a new short story challenge this June. This entailed writing a short story every day based on a prompt that arrived by email at around lunchtime every day. It was a bit more flexible than last year's challenge, and occasional

Responding to a Challenge by Sarah Nicholson

Way back in April when reading the Authors Electric blog I came across a post written by Joy Kluver about an introduction to crime writing workshop she attended held at the inaugural Farnham Literary Festival. They were given the starting line ‘So, what have we got here, Barton?’ as a writing prompt and Joy was impressed by the different directions the stories took. At a loose end I made a note of the prompt and set about scribbling a piece of flash fiction. I’ve edited it, re-edited it and sent it into a few places for publication but so far it’s not found a home so I decided to share it with you. Thanks Joy for the initial inspiration, hope you like the twist at the end. “So, what have we got here, Barton?” Did he really say decapitated heads? Plural? “And headless corpses.” He consulted his notebook, “with assorted limbs scattered throughout.” My breakfast rose ominously in my throat. A

How I Met Phyllis

Phyllis Page hero, writer Nellie Bly, 1888 Frank saw her as a pest at first. They met about halfway into Oddly Dead , my second Phantom Eye mystery novel. One-eyed PI Frank Ritz was questioning the caretakers of a hideaway aerie tucked into a chaparral-covered canyon high above Beverly Hills searching for its missing owner, 1960s all-American screen sweetheart Sally Pope. Someone else had the same idea.  “This is Phyllis Page. She’s from the L.A. Times ... ,” said one of the caretakers.  “Sorry for barging in. Your front door was open.” The young woman excused herself too shyly for a reporter. She was round-faced, with short-cropped, auburn bangs and freckles, wearing blue-jeans and a white shirt with a yellow kerchief, high-top tennis shoes, and carried a note pad under one arm –  too collegiate for the City Room, I thought – a regular Nancy Drew who would turn glamorous when she took off her steel-rimmed glasses.  I'm terrible at planning, organizing and outlining. I just try t

Becoming a Teacher -- Peter Leyland

  Becoming a Teacher *    My first teaching job was at a school in Guildford named Clark’s College. It had at one time been a Pitman’s shorthand and typing establishment which now charged fees to those who wanted their children to be educated privately. I don’t think it exists anymore. Mind you I’m not surprised considering that in the 70s they took on people like me – untrained, untried, untested.   I was fresh out of university with that great badge of my time: an Honours Degree in English. Wow! – 600 lines of Chaucer, most of Beowulf, something odd known as the Ancrene Wisse , and a smattering of truly modern work like Dickens and Keats. And yet I was appointed to teach children.   How? I asked myself at the beginning of the first week. I was ok on English, although believe it or not I spelled Grammar incorrectly on the front of my planning book, a fact that did not escape the eagle eye of Mrs Sherwood-King who pointed this out to me with delight. She was an old hand. As for Histor

A Popish Plot in Twickenham Contains a Popish Grotto, Finds Griselda Heppel

Radnor House School, Twickenham It’s extraordinary what you can find in a school. I don’t mean the usual collection of classrooms, gym, assembly hall, dining room, with a scattering of lost trainers, sweatshirts, bald tennis balls and trodden on pieces of paper.  It’s quirks of architecture that appeal to me. When a school is made up of a jumble of old buildings, all from different historical periods, the scope for hidden doors, secret rooms and passage ways is extremely appealing (as you might tell from the way these elements crop up in my books, taking my poor heroes on terrifying journeys). Until a week ago, I thought I knew the limits you could go to with a school’s environment without losing all sense of realism and thereby your readers’ suspension of disbelief; but then a week ago I’d never heard of Radnor House School. Alexander Pope's villa. Engraving by Nathanial Parr from 1735 painting by Michael Rysbrack Radnor House is an attractive 19th century red brick building in T

The Ex-Prime Minister - Chapter Four -- Andrew Crofts

  Our fourth monthly episode in the saga of an ex-prime minister. Chapter Four     The first Teddy knew of Phillipa’s Cabinet reshuffle was when a delegation of grey-faced grandees turned up in Puppy’s library to have a “serious discussion” about what they described as “the escalating situation”. It was the same bunch of grandees who, a few weeks earlier, had gravely informed Teddy that the party had “lost confidence” in him, and that he was going to have to step aside. He was surprised to see them back so soon and had a feeling they were looking a bit shifty, perhaps even a little shame-faced. “This reshuffle,” one of them started the ball rolling. “What reshuffle?” Teddy asked. “Teddy’s been very busy working on his diaries,” Puppy explained to the room, “I haven’t wanted to bother him with political tittle tattle.” “Tittle-tattle?” Someone let off a controlled explosion of frustration from the back of the group. “It’s the biggest balls up since …” He failed to think of a b

Writing? -- Susan Price

      Not many people get beyond this gate. But go on, you can come in.   Have a seat by the pond. There is water down there, somewhere, below the poppies. The birds and insects find it.    This fox-glove (below) self-seeded and started off quite modestly. Then it grew and grew and kept on growing, into a mighty tower of flower. It must like its position, on the shady side of the potted plum tree, because it's now two and half metres tall (eight feet).      It has been a great amusement to stand and watch the bumblebees work their way up this tower. They arrive in twos and threes and go from one flower to another. They vanish inside, but if you stoop and peer into the flower yourself, you see them working their way right to the back, with little scrambling legs. After a second or two, they reverse out and jump up, or sideways, to the next flower and repeat. Then away on their wings. Trouble is, they often head into our home-made greenhouse, AKA The Polythene Palace, which is