Flash Fiction: Friends Request

My writers group have started posting a monthly prompt competition for a piece of no more than 500 words.  I submitted this for the March competition and was unsuccessful so thought I would share it here instead.  It’s the first time I entered – it was given as an exercise at the flash fiction workshop  I went to at the end of February (as the tutor was the one who set that prompt and did this month’s judging) and I wrote it there and then typed it up and tweaked it to submit to the competion.  The prompt was “The Last Request”

Friends Request

Claire smiled when she saw the notification.  She had a friends request from Rebecca.  Years ago they had been best friends before Rebecca moved away and every year or so in a fit of nostalgia she searched Facebook for her.

 

There were lots of people called Rebecca Smith listed.  Dark haired ones like the girl she had known.  Ones with obviously bleached blonde hair.  And ones from all over the world.  Claire always spent far too long browsing the profiles.  Wondering if the girl pulling the silly face was her joker friend, gazing at the one with the shocking pink hair and remembering how Rebecca had always threatened to do that.

 

Her husband still socialised regularly with his school friends and Claire often went with him.  She enjoyed spending time with the other couples.  They were nice people and sometimes they even made her laugh.  But they were very much Steve’s friends not hers.  She wouldn’t get to keep them if she got divorced.

 

Claire had never been quite sure she had found her.  Over the years she had found a few definite maybes and even plucked up the courage to send a few friends requests.  But those had always got a confused message back asking who she was. Or worst still, been completely ignored.  And she was left still lonely and looking for the one who got away.

 

They had promised to be friends forever.  The night before Rebecca had moved away they had sworn in a fit of teenage optimism that the distance wouldn’t matter.  In reality they had lost touch within months and 15 years later Claire regretted that.

Each friends request that was declined she told herself was the last.  But until today it never had been.

As she clicked accepted and scrolled over to open the message that accompanied the request Claire had a big smile on her face knowing that this time it really would be the last request.

 

A Few Writing Thoughts

Since the end of September I’ve been going to a weekly writers group most weeks. It’s been good for me to have the space each week which is given over to writing and makes me focus on actually writing rather than thinking about it and talking about it.  It’s also very inspiring to hear others talk about what they’re writing.

Sometimes I struggle to find things to fill the time with and others I struggle to concentrate for the whole time (it’s 2 hours split into two 45 minute writing sessions and coffee breaks).  Sometimes I end up googling things I want to know about for my writing and others I open the Kindle app on my iPad and start reading a review book. I just need to write those damn reviews now.

But over the last few weeks I’ve been picking at writing a fanfic. It’s not going as well as I’d like and I’ve convinced myself I’m bad at writing fiction.  That’s not an unusual stage of writing for me and actually when I went back and reread some of what I’d written I did think it was good.  Admittedly I’m writing slower than I could be and not in a cohesive way but in a slow and somewhat painful few minutes at a time if nothing else way I was writing.  I miss the days when I used to sit and type for an hour nonstop without thinking just to get the piece down.

Locally there have been a few writing workshops.  An evening one on plotting which is was very useful and I could definitely do with looking at the pacing of my work based on the tips she gave us.  And two one day ones on flash fiction in February and character in March.  I got a lot out of both of those but enjoyed the one on flash fiction much more than character (possibly because it was a different group and possibly because I was stressed and tired for the character one).  Using the prompts in the session and free writing techniques made me remember that I enjoy writing short pieces like that.  Flash fiction it turns out may be much more my thing than writing a novel. But I still want to write a damn novel.

Going back to the fanfic, there is a deadline for it as I signed up to write it for a fandom big bang. And part of me wishes I hadn’t. I haven’t written in that fandom before or seen the whole series. And I’m not sure when I last wrote fanfic for any fandom.  I did it for my first nano in 2004 and can’t remember doing so since I stopped playing with that piece in 2005 although it would suprise me if that was the last time.  Hang on, as I write this it occurs to me I wrote a very small piece of Chalet School fanfic and posted it on The-CBB when I was first on there which was 2007 ish I think.  One of the problems I’m finding at the moment is I’ve only written for three fandoms before – two of which are set in the UK and the third was a character driven Star Trek piece that had basically nothing of the setting and very little plot in it.  This fandom is an American show and I don’t want to use too many Britishisms as I know I find them glaring when I spot them in fic (Americans calling each other mate is a frequent one I see in others pieces). I’m sure some will slip through but it’s making me think more about my word choices.

I ended up deciding to use the flash fiction principle and dividing my rough storyline into prompts then writing each one as a separate piece. It’s a work in progress but it seems to be going well because the biggest problem was how to transition between the different scenes. I’m still going to have to figure it out later but at least I’ll have the plot down. And as a fair amount of the story takes place in a hospital there’s not a lot of physically moving around to be had.

I still think this is going to end up a very bad piece of fanfic and I’ll get negative feedback. But I’m really glad to be writing regularly again and especially to be writing fiction again (particularly fanfic).  I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month and have set myself a goal of 60 hours spent on writing over the month – it feels like it might be out of reach but I think it should be doable now I’m going.  I’ve done a fair amount of writing today inbetween other things as my powerchair batteries were changed this morning so it’s been charging. As always it’s not as much as I’d like but it’s a start. And I do seem to write more in the evening than other times.  We shall see.

Flash Fiction: The Truth About Penguins

I recently took part in a one day workshop on flash fiction. One of the exercises we did was to write a piece inspired by a picture. The photo I got was of a penguin diving underwater. I’ve typed it up to share in this blog and would welcome feedback. I’ve not edited it beyond breaking it into paragraphs and changing the odd repetitive word.

The Truth About Penguins

 

The penguin took the fish from the trainer. She was giving the talk about “penguin behaviour” yet again. And as always she was getting it wrong. Personally he couldn’t understand how humans could be so stupid. Wasn’t it obvious? Still he played the part of the good little penguin and took his fish then dived into the water and swam away.

 

It was his turn to do the work of real penguins so he swam fo the far side of the pool. He vaguely heard the trainer tell the crowd how all the penguins liked to hide in that corner. It was typical behaviour she claimed.

 

The penguin thought they should let the humans see what they really did when hidden but he was just a child and the elders had forbidden him from sharing. It was “too dangerous” they said. But one day he would be king and his word would be law. Then the humans would allowed to see what was happening and would know just how superior penguins are.

“Special Needs”

Language around disability is a really tricky thing. Some terms are acceptable to some people and completely unacceptable to others. Some are fine for disabled people to use amongst themselves or to refer to themselves but problematic when used by strangers.  And there are times when disabled people argue amongst themselves about the terms.  People first language and identity first language are two of the biggest culprit’s there.

One term that I’ve been saying I don’t like and arguing against for the last few years is “special needs”  I can explain why I don’t like it but it’s something I find others always agree with although some people do come to see my point after I explain even if they don’t agree with me.  Basically as a disability specific term it makes no sense.

For the last few days I’ve been reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon.  I finished it this evening and it’s safe to say it’s one I’ll be thinking about for a fair while.  The main character is Christopher, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I’m not qualified to comment on his portrayal – I liked him as a character but I’ve heard and read various things from people who are on the autistic spectrum that it’s quite problematic. Which unfortunately isn’t that unusual when a disabled character is in a book.

But that’s not what I wanted to blog about.

There’s a moment in the book when Christopher is talking (as narrator) about the term “special needs” and it basically sums up what I’ve been saying about why I don’t like the term. It was a big “yes!” moment of validation for me. So instead of explaining my dislike I wanted to share the quote. It’s one of those that if I was sharing a link to it on twitter I’d probably just caption it “this.”

“All the other children at my school are stupid. Except I’m not meant to call them stupid, even though this is what they are.  I’m meant to say that they have learning difficulties or that they have special needs. But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties because learning to speak French or understanding Relativity is difficult, and also everyone has special needs, like Father who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him getting fat, or Mrs Peters who wears a beige-coloured hearing aid, or Siobhan who wears glasses so thick they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs.”

– From The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (chapter 71, page 56)

You Know You’re a Knitter When…

…you spend a long time being ranty about the difference between knitting and crochet.

I was sent a review copy of The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah.  It’s being released today (12th March) and it was a good read with an interesting style that felt different and refreshing.  I don’t want to say I enjoyed it because it was a tricky subject matter and whilst not upsetting it wasn’t particularly comfortable.  It did make me think and was skillfully done which avoided it being an upsetting book.  Plus it managed to surprise me unexpectedly at the end.  I have seen other reviews saying it made people cry but frankly I’m not a big crier at books.

When I was sent the book I was told that a key part of the plot involves a blanket that’s been made for the main character.  And as a part of the publicity for this I was sent a learn to knit kit (I knew how to knit already though) to make a square and send it back.  The idea being that people would read the book, review it and knit a square then send them back to the publishers.  The squares would be made into a blanket and the blanket would go on the book tour.  Or something. I made a square and sent it off but I’m not sure what’s happening with that.

So anyway I was on the train yesterday on the way to go collect my new glasses.  And I’m reading the A to Z of You and Me.  I’m liking it but I’m very aware that having just reading the amazing Letters to the Lost as good as The A to Z of You and Me is (and it is) it’s a pale comparison.  If I’d read it first I may well have been a bit more wow about it.

Then I got to a bit where someone is crocheting and I’m thinking “hmm crochet?” and a bit confused because knitting had been mentioned to me. But I figured well, maybe she does both (I do after all).

Then a bit later the blanket is introduced.  And it sounds like an absolutely amazing blanket.  The sort of thing that (if it were real) I’d not have the patience to make, let alone the skill.  Although to be completely honest my lack of patience is a big part of why I lack skills.

But this amazing blanket is actually crocheted. And I swear at that point I had to stop reading for a few minutes and be ranty in my head about knitting versus crochet.  I thought it several other times too.  I found The A to Z of You and Me to be quite a fast read because of it’s style which broke it down into small (letter based) chunks.  It probably would have been a quicker read if I’d not for my knitting versus crochet rantiness.

That’s not to say that it ruined the book because it didn’t.  Or that it’s not worth reading because it is.

My point basically is it’s a good book but in a unrelated tangent that; seems unexpectedly to be very important to the crafter to me, crochet and knitting are different things.  And after seeing yarn bombing moments in the book I’m sort of tempted to do some of that but I don’t think I have the nerve.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

I received a review copy of Perfect by Rachel Joyce via NetGalley. I’m not compensated for this review beyond my free copy and this review is in no way influenced by the fact I was asked to write it.

Here is the synopsis:

In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knows this because James Lowe has told him and James is the cleverest boy at school. But how can time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock is as certain as their golden futures.

Then Byron’s mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set righ

OK so first I must admit that I thought the two second thing was a fictional joke and at the end of the book would turn out not to be true. It turns out however it’s real and since 1972 when they were first added 25 leap seconds have been added to our clocks. You can read more about that here. But my mind? Officially blown.

This is the first review I’ve written in a long time where I’m not quite sure what to say.  All the way through reading this book I was really liking it and thinking how good and powerful it was. This is Rachel Joyce’s second book.  Her first is The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry.  I’ve not read that and as I was reading Perfect I kept thinking “I need to read her other book really soon.” and wondering if I was right in thinking my Mum has read it (answer: I don’t know, I kept forgetting to ask her).

Mental health issues play a huge role in the plot and whilst the ones covered aren’t similar to my own struggles with depression and anxiety I did think they were realistic and I could relate to some of what the characters were going through.  For at least one of the characters in the book their mental health was very disabling and their experiences of being “different” don’t match mine in that my own disabilities are physical but bits rang a bell.  I must say that the need for disabled characters in books who are realistic, not the stereotypical object of pity, inspiration or the hero or villian is something I truly believe I need and something I’ve blogged about a few times before (probably more than a few times come to think of it).  There do seem to be a lot more books out there nowadays that not only attempt this but manage to do it and do it very well.  And I’m really, really pleased about that.  But it seems to me that the focus is solely on either autism or mental health problems.  Both are important conditions  and both should be included in fiction and films and the media because it does help to show that disability is just a normal thing that happens and doesn’t need to be hidden away or feared or pitied or whatever.  But I do wonder where they physically disabled characters are?  Where are the people like me?

When I got to the end of the book there was a big twist as there often is in a book.  I didn’t guess it and in fact I’m relatively confident in saying it’s so obscure I doubt anyone could.  I felt a bit put out by that twist though because it didn’t seem to do anything… and I’m not sure I understood what the point of it was.  So it’s a bit disappointing and has left me wondering if the message I want to give in this review is “this is a good book that I liked” or “the ending was so confusing I don’t think it’s worth reading.”  And I’m not sure if I do still want to read Harold Fry either because the internet rumour has it there’s a similar WTF twist in that.

Thirteen Authors I’d Like to Read More by in 2014

I love to read. I love new books and new authors but I also love to return to old favourites either new books by authors I’ve enjoyed before or rereading books I’ve read before.

I also love reading blogs and am partial to taking part in the occasional blog meme. So we have the first in what I hope to make a regular series. I’m calling it A Bookish Thursday Thirteen. This is thirteen authors I’d like to read more of this year. It’s in no order other than how they came to mind.

Holly Smale – Geek Girl and Model Misfit were two of the best books I read in 2013.
Haruki Murakami – his books are brilliant. Usually weird and in places hard going, they mess with your mind and make me think but are enjoyable.
Charles Dickens – because I feel like the classics are an area of my reading I neglected in 2013 and I’ve not really read any Dickens
Peter David – he basically writes the best Star Trek books
Elinor M Brent-Dyer – she wrote my childhood favourite series, The Chalet School. I still haven’t read some of her obscure works and I’d like to reread some of the chalet school too
Diane Chamberlain – I didn’t read a single thing by her in 2013 which is strange because she’s one of my favourite authors. I’ll have to rectify that because I just bought several of her books in the 12 days of Kindle sale.
John Green – I’m torn here. I read five of his six books in 2013. And I loved them. I’ve got the only one I haven’t read and I really, really want to read it. But at the same time I don’t because I don’t want to have read all of his books.
Roald Dahl – I’ve read pretty much all of his children’s books (I’ve not read Henry Sugar I think and I suspect I’ve missed others) but having discovered he wrote for adults too I’d like to try one and see how it differs.
Marina Lewycka – this is probably a sign of how behind the times I am but on Christmas Day I borrowed A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I blew through it before I returned to my parents house for Boxing Day lunch less than 14 hours later. Plus mum has some of her others so I can borrow them which is a win.
Sarah Addison Allen – I’ve read and loved all of her books. I’m not sure if she’s got any more coming but she’s the one I’ve been keeping the closest track of (shed be tied with John Green but frankly if he had another book out half of twitter would scream with joy so I’ve no need to obsess there)
Lisa Genova – because both of the books of hers I’ve read has been unputdownable
John Steinbeck – several years ago an acquaintance lent me Tortilla Flat. I liked and read some of the others of his which were on the 1001 books to read before you die list. I liked several of those more and ended up on a John Steinbeck kick. I’ve not read any by him for a few years, I think I’d like to see what I’ve missed (I hear East of Eden is brilliant)
Ali Harris – because a girl needs her chick lit. And she writes some of the best I’ve read.

>A quick note… #100daysofwriting #fiction #amwriting #ukwriters

>I just lost all the stuff I rote to go before todays piece. Not sure what happened but luckily I have today’s piece still. Pretend like there’s a blurb here about the fact I was reading something in email format and that this was meant to be quick but really took off and was very enjoyable to write.

Also: I’ve just noticed that my blog is now appearing on a .co.uk blogger domain. Weird. Not sure what that’s about and not sure I like it.

Anyway.

A quick note…

[# start a new message below this line #]

Dear you,

Hey, how’s you? I’m just taking a break from the grind of daily life here on Jupiter and thought I’d send you a quick email to see what things are like back there on Neptune.

Jupiter isn’t what I expected it to be. The landscape is much less red than I’d anticipated, I had to stop the kids taking their crayons and colouring everything red. I was all disapproving of course, you have to be don’t you? But secretly I agreed with them. It’s disappointing when things aren’t like the brochure. So far I’ve resisted the urge to steal the kids crayons though. I make no promises if things continue like this though. It’s strange Earth is called the blue and green marble isn’t it but the landscape isn’t like that and that didn’t bother me when we went to visit but it bothers me that things aren’t red here on Jupiter. Then again red has always been my favourite colour.

Did I tell that we decided to take a detour and visit Earth on the way here? None of us had been before and him indoors was very keen that we go and do the pilgrimage think, see where the species originated that sort of thing.

It was all a little bit ridiculous looking for our ancestors when even as far back as his great grandparents none of his family was even born on Earth. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t as amazing as people make it out to be. I didn’t experience any amazing connection to the place or great sense of being back where I belong. Him indoors tried to pretend he did but later admitted in a pit of despair that he hadn’t. He’s been a bit down ever since. Still the kids had a great time.

Well, I’ve nearly finished drinking my Tycho Tea (the real thing is so much better than that imported crap we used to drink on Neptune, they just don’t compare. I think even you would like it) and I need to get back out to the gas plant. Considering this whole planet is a gas giant you wouldn’t expect so many people to have to work at getting gas we can use to power the place but we do. Practically everyone on the colony over the age of 9 is expected to put several hours in each week on top of whatever other job or responsibilities they have. I was really angry when I found that out – yet another thing they don’t tell you in the brochure. But actually it’s not hard work and I quite enjoy it.

Right, my neighbour, Athena is at the door waiting to walk over to the gas plant together so I really had better go.

Much love to you and yours
From
Me xxxxx
(and mine) xxxx

P.s. this really was meant to be an extra short note to basically say hi. Looks like yet again I’ve failed at that. Strange that at school my robot teachers were always complaining that I never wrote in enough depth but in the emails I couldn’t be concise to save my life. Thank God we get free cross solar system emails for volunteering to come here. I dread to think what this would cost to send. Oops, there I go again wittering on. Athena is getting impatient waiting for me. Hope I haven’t bored you too much. I really am going to press send …. Now

[# your message has been successfully sent to you@natteringonneptune.sol #]

[# start a new message #]

Dear Me,

Thank you for your quick(!) note. It was lovely to hear from you. Here is my actual quick note in return.

We are all well. I’d say we are missing you but really we are enjoying the quiet! Ok joking aside its weird without you here and we can’t wait to visit! (they don’t make visitors work in the gas plants do they?! Might have to have a rethink if they do.)

Neptune is boring as always but we did have snow the other day.

Love,
You xx

P.s. for future reference this is what a short or quick note should look like!

[# your message has been sent to me@jauntingonjupiter.sol #]

>Rattle #100daysofwriting #amwriting

>Written on a just under 15 minute train trip home after an afternoon of food and chat with the girls in Oxford. First time I’d seen two of the three since December. Fun times.

Rattle

I’ve got a right rattle going on he said

What sort of a rattle she asked

A chesty one

Oh you can buy chesty rattles then can you? I didn’t know that. I’ll have to look out for one.

You’re going to look out for one?

Yeah, of course I am, I’d love to have one.

Um… What?!

I would. Seriously. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

Fun?!?! He fumed. Fun?! It’s not fun. It’s horrible. I hate it. I wish I could get rid of it.

Oh so maybe you could sell it to me?

Would that I could. I could definitely use the money.

I’m working on this new piece you see and I think a rattle might be just what it needs to finish it off. She mused thanks for that I’d been completely stuck for, like, actual days on what was wrong with. A nice deep chesty rattle could be just the thing.

She looked over at her companion expectantly but he simply held up a hand signalling her to wait. He couldn’t speak just then as he was in the middle of a really bad coughing fit.
As she listened to him cough and struggle for breath, realisation dawned

Oh shit. She exclaimed. I’m an idiot aren’t I? You weren’t talking about a rattle as in an instrument but a rattle as in a bad cough. Oh. I’m so embarrassed.

Don’t worry about it he said smiling at her.

Suddenly she started laughing at herself. Her companion joined in and they laughed and laughed. Until the laughter made him cough again.

♥ Emma

>A Chest of Drawers

>I seem to have gotten my fiction writing mojo back, yay! I’m very pleased :-). I’m less pleased about the fact I seem to have lost my reading mojo but, well, you can’t have it all.

Something else I’m pleased with is this piece. I started off wanting to work more on description, particularly of a setting. I’d also been thinking about an analogy I used a while ago to describe what the spasticity in my quads is like at the very worst times. This seemed to take on a life of its own as I wrote but for better or worse is the end result. It needs a better title!

Day 44 of 100 days of writing

A Chest of Drawers

Over in a dark corner of a nondescript hall there stood a set of drawers. The drawers were dusty and had a neglected air about them. That was unsurprising for as busy as that house was with people continually going in and out, here there and everywhere, it was weeks since anyone had ventured into that corner.

The drawers weren’t particularly special – cane drawers that appeared woven. Darker than the word cane would lead you to believe with a black metal frame. The unit is tall, reaching almost to the ceiling, with the option to add an extension on to give more storage. Nobody knows who bought the set, as far as anyone can remember its always been there. But whoever they were they must have been optimistic on the day they bought it as the extension found its way into their trolley. Half hidden in pieces underneath the unit it lies, never to be used.

The drawers themselves are very deep. It’s difficult to see everything they contain without taking them out completely. And once you done that, finding what you wanted and several other lost things if you’re lucky, it’s even more difficult to put the drawer back in place. It’s not unusual for there to be a gap in the unit for months, waiting for someone with the patience to make the multiple attempts needed to get it back in place.

Nothing special was kept in these drawers. They held the things people had forgotten about. Broken things they claimed they’d fix “soon” but never would. The “it might come in useful someday” items and those in the “it was too good an offer to pass up, I’m sure I’ll find a use” category. Unloved, unwanted and unnecessary things.

Most of the drawers were unique in contents. Continue a mix of things you’d be unlikely to find in any other house across the land.

Except one.

The one that had pride of place. Place most often being the floor.

This was the drawer that appears in some way, shape or form in every house. It’s the mess of wires. Old phone chargers, one for a camera and an unidentifiable USB cable. A laptop charger or two and – wait a minute – is that the electric hook up from that caravan we got rid of ten years ago? Controllers from a games console believed long gone and some headphones (broken of course) complete the mess.

It’s impossible to count just how many leads are in that drawer. A veritable haven for old cables keeping them safe from the dreaded landfill. And a walk through the history of electrical goods for anyone taking the time to look through it properly. Which no one ever did, instead just tearing through it quickly looking for whatever needed before giving up in frustration.

The wires and cables have become a living, growing being you see. All wrapped round each other and tangled together. The older ones watching over the new and those that still worked guarding the fragile and broken ones.

If someone hunting through the drawer grabbed something and pulled hoping to find a way of unravelling the tangle they’d find it impossible. Pulling just caused them to tighten up even more and made more of a mess. Finding an actual end was a bit of a mission within itself. And even if a searcher did find an end it rarely did any good.

everyone who searched would end up frustrated and empty handed. This was a drawer who meant business. The cables, leads and wires were a family. And they were happy where they were. In a dusty chest of drawers in a neglected corner of an otherwise busy house.

They remained in that drawer for over forty years periodically welcoming new members. No one could ever separate them,

♥ Emma