Waiting with the Flowers

copy-space-2518265_1920 (2).jpgThe floral pattern on her cotton dress almost matched the scene around her; Beautiful bouquets filled with gerbera of every shade of the rainbow laced the florist’s counter. Outside the shop’s window, there was snow on the ground.

“Can I help you?” The young man in front of Edie appeared from nowhere. His frown etched itself on the part of her brain that didn’t forget quite so quickly.

“You don’t have to be so rude.”

“You’ve been standing here for fifteen minutes now. I’ve asked you once already if I can help. I’d also like to point out – madam – that this is the third time this week you’ve come here. Not once have you bought anything. Now either tell me what it is you’re after or please, move along.”

He was talking too quickly at her. She stopped listening after ‘madam’, too distracted by the sights and smells. She couldn’t see them, but she knew there were lilies nearby. Their aroma stuck to the tiny hairs in her nostrils.

Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam. She was trying to be on her best behaviour but resisting the temptation to handle the fauna which engulfed her was almost unbearable.

“How many orders do you make up a day?”

“I keep busy.”

“In my day,” Edie stopped briefly to think. When had it been her day exactly? “We used to make up fifty, each of us girls. Wouldn’t catch a boy doing it then. Not a man’s work, they said.”

“Now listen, I really am going to have to ask you to leave. Is there someone I can phone for you, Mrs…?”

“Just Edith, but everyone calls me Edie.”

“Okay, Edie. Did you come with a coat?”

“A coat? Don’t be silly. You youngsters aren’t hard enough when it comes to the cold. In my day we would stroll about wearing t-shirts in January!”

She tried to do a little spin and a curtsy in the middle of the shop, which almost resulted in a statue of Cupid being knocked to the floor. “Plastic anyway,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Now, Edith—”

“Edie.”

The young man sighed. “Edie. Is there someone waiting for you at home that I can phone to come and collect you?”

A smile belonging to a teenager greeted her face like a toddler to its mother after preschool. “No. He would have left already. He should be here in a few minutes.”

“Ah yes. The elusive Graham?”

“You know him?”

“You mentioned him when you came here on Monday.”

“I don’t think so. Today is Monday. December eleventh.”

“No it’s not, it’s Friday. The fifteenth.”

“Now don’t argue with me, young man. I haven’t lost my pebbles just yet.”

“Marbles,” he muttered under his breath.

“Today is the eleventh and Graham promised me he would meet me here. He even wrote and told me, see?” Edith fished out an old worn letter from her pocket, made soft and flimsy from years of being handled. “Here!”

He gently grabbed the letter. As he read, his eyes became glassy and then, carefully, he placed it back into her hand. “I see.”

“You read it, yes?”

“I did.”

“You read the part about the beautiful florist? That’s me he’s writing about.”

“I can see that, Edie.”

“See this bit:

“‘I shall meet you after you finish work on the 11th because I cannot bear to be apart for a moment longer. As soon as I saw you through the window of the florists’ shop, I knew you had to be mine.’

“He’s talking about me there.”

The young man sighed once again. Not out of frustration this time but pity. “And the year is 1950, right?”

“Well, when else would it be? Says so in his letter.”

“It does indeed Edie,” he smiled at the woman in front of him while trying to envision the woman she used to be. “Listen, why don’t you come and sit behind the counter with me while we wait for Graham? I’ll make us a brew each.”

“Well that’s very kind of you, I’m sure he won’t be long.”

As he waited for the kettle to boil, he fished his mobile phone out of his pocket.

Which service do you require? asked the operator.

“Police. I have a concern for welfare.”

Connecting now.

He watched as Edie untucked her hands from her belt and stroked the petals of freshly cut roses.


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New year. New me?

About halfway through 2017, I decided to take a step back from the blog with the aim of focusing on The Novel. I am pleased to say that although I’m a couple of months behind my initial deadline, I am on track to completing my first draft.

So what does that mean? The blog can start up again – yay!

I have decided to step back from a couple of the things I was doing on here though – Author Advice, the Prompt Pot, and Seven Sentence Reviews – as honestly there just aren’t enough hours in my day.

Since becoming a mummy to three noisy boys, I now have to be super focused. The Novel just won’t see the light of day unless I am a bit selfish with my time.

Thanks to all who continue to follow, comment, and take the time to read my posts. I am looking forward to sharing more of my creative writing with you all this year, the original reason for this blog in the first place.

Here’s to a fab 2018 ya’ll!

Newshound to Novelist

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365 Days of Inspiration: Our Readers’ Favorite Stories on Writing and Building Community

So proud to have been part of this in 2017.

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The Drive

It always ends the same.

On the rare occasions when I need to take a long drive, silence will eventually envelop the inside of the car when, after a few hours, I lose my voice to the radio of my youth. It is then, in treacle fog, I am left alone with my thoughts.

I question it all: My life, my marriage, my role as mother, my stance as writer. My status within the different aspects of my world come under scrutiny inside the courtroom of my mind.

I turn the music dial louder to drown out the internal monologue and instead focus on counting down the miles until I reach my destination.


 

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So… I made it into a book (eek!)

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Sensorially Challenged Volume 1 – cover artwork by David Fielden

 

Last year, a writing friend suggested submitting something for this. The plan was that once 100 stories had been received, it would be published. Well, folks, that’s exactly what happened.

The challenge was conceived by award-winning editor, writer and poet, Allen Ashley. He works as a creative writing tutor with various groups across north London. You can find out more about that here (just scroll down the page a bit).

Here’s some more information about the book:

“I’m pleased to present Sensorially Challenged Volume 1, a book crammed with sensorially overloaded tales that ooze with purple prose.

“The book contains 100 sensory stories, written by 100 authors who submitted their aromatic, delicious, velvety, pretty, and noisy tales to Allen’s Sensory Overload Writing Challenge.”

You can buy the book here and proceeds from book sales are donated to the National Literacy Trust, a fabulous charity that gives disadvantaged children the literacy skills they need to succeed.

Sounds super right? All of the authors featured would love your support with this one and all you have to do is buy a copy of the book and, if you’re feeling even more super, maybe share the love on Amazon/Goodreads with a review.

Thanks, you lovelies,

Newshound to Novelist.

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Youth

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As teenagers, we used to smoke together under the old oak tree on the village green. You would light my cigarette for me and take one, long drag before handing it over. It glowed like a candle. I miss that.


 

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Flag

I think a part of me wanted to face my past
but I didn’t yet know that I wasn’t ready.

For too long my life had been left at half-mast
in a permanent state of limbo.

It was time to raise the flag and face the consequences.


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The Fear

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I placed a shawl around my shoulders. It was just the right thickness to help ward off the chill within the room. This small comfort was enough to keep my fingers typing away for another twenty minutes. Then I came to the end of that chapter.

I allowed myself quarter of an hour, that was all, to make a cup of tea, check my phone, Facebook, and Twitter. If I’d had more time I would have grabbed a handful of chocolate chip cookies, but it was back to the grind again. More minutes later and I’d finished another scene. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

By this point I started to feel the chill in my tiny office. There was a draft coming through both the window and the bottom of the door. It was time to make a hot water bottle and I allowed myself another second fifteen-minute break.

Ready once again, I sat down to edit another section. I reached for my brew and worse than being cold, it was empty. Gone. I asked myself: “Do I make another or just plough on?” That was when I heard her again, telling me I should stop; telling me to grab a thick blanket, put the TV on, and watch Homes Under the Hammer with a warm drink and biscuits.

Damn she’s good.

Writing a novel is the fun part. Giving myself creative licence to run free over the keyboard of my dreams is bliss. No need to set up timers. I could sit in front of the computer all day and reel out pages and pages of nonsense with the occasional gems. It’s the editing that gets me. Every. Single. Time.

I don’t want to murder my darlings. I don’t want to watch my impressive word count figure diminish. I don’t want to reread what I’ve written, knowing full well a lot of it will suck. At least that’s what she’ll tell me, Inner Editor. Where did my partner in crime, Creativity, run off to?

There’s another voice though. I think it’s Guilt. I feel guilty for not working on this project I’ve already spent so many hours on. People are expecting me to finish. Heck, I’m expecting me to finish. I feel like I cannot write another word of any other story until this one is done. Please tell me I’m not the only one?

What if though, that other voice I can hear isn’t really guilt? Maybe it’s future me, reminding me that it will all be worth it in the end. Maybe what I’ve written isn’t really as I bad as I think it is. Either way, I need to get this done.

I will give myself to the top of hour. It’s just enough time to have a cup of tea, devour the remains of a half-eaten sandwich, and post this on my blog. I can’t be the only writer who fears reaching the end of her project, right?


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The thing that comes back to haunt me

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*Content warning: This article is about childhood sexual abuse following online grooming. I’m sharing this as I’m currently struggling with a few things and hope I can find some solace in the community I unwillingly found myself in many years ago.


I feel stuck tonight. Trapped in my own negative thoughts. What should have been just a stupid argument has spiralled and sent me tumbling through the rabbit hole into a place I haven’t been for a long while.

“Do you mind if I stay out? It’s just we are having a giggle over at ****’s tonight.”

We had already made plans together.

“Raincheck?”

He’s an arsehole. I told him so too.

That should have been the end of it. An early night for me, a couple of hours being pissed off with him, and then making up after he rolled in at stupid-o-clock in the morning. Thirty-six hours later and I’m still angry. Emotional. Raw. But it’s not directed at him anymore. My heart and my head is desperate to be okay again. It’s the things in my past, the things which happened before I even met my husband, which I cannot forget right now.

Our plans for that evening hadn’t been anything exciting. Just snuggling on the TV to watch our favourite programme before having an early night to make love, a rare occurrence these days what with him working shifts and us having three boys under five years old.

I feel my mind starting to do that crazy thing it does sometimes. It overreacts in ways which aren’t normal. Yes I was angry he wanted to spend time with his mate that night instead of me but it’s actually so much more than that. It’s the rejection of sex I am not coping with.

After desperately fighting much-needed sleep last night I realised I was no longer pissed off with my husband. He had been an idiot. He admitted it. Said sorry. And has been genuinely more than lovely ever since. It’s me that’s the problem now.

I have gone to this dark place of solitude that us survivors sometimes go to. Here my medal is stripped from me and instead I become the victim again; feeling like I survived nothing.

As the hands of the clock ticked over into a new day I realised I wasn’t angry at my husband anymore. I was angry with myself for letting that closed box in my head tip over and spill its contents out once again. Groomed by an internet predator, I learnt too young about the power of sex. I was made to believe sex equates to love. So when my husband wanted to abandon our plans, he rejected me in ways he can’t understand unless I explain it to him. But who would want to risk seeing the pity in his eyes? Not me.

Seven years I went without a flashback. Seven fantastic years. Now my thoughts are being held hostage back in that cottage. His cottage.

I don’t like where my mind has gone. This time I am a mother. I have a house to look after. Work to do. I can’t crumble now. Not when life was just getting secure again. Or maybe that’s exactly what I need to do. Maybe I should have done it a long time ago. Allowed the wall around me to fall and give myself time to build it up again around the people I love too.

I don’t want to sit on my own in my pajamas again, curled up with my arms around myself and staring at the wall, for another night. So today I will go for a walk with my boys, put some washing on, and do some writing. I will force myself to live my life the way I want to, not the way the intrusive thoughts would see me live it. Most of all though, I will try and be kind to myself and hope for some positivity to flood my notifications.

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‘Write with passion and genuine desire’ – Writer Christie Barlow shares her tips with Author Advice

Christie Barlow

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In her own words:

“I’m a 5ft 5in brunette born in the county of Cheshire and now, at the ripe old age of 44, I lead nothing but a glamorous lifestyle: ironing, mucking out chickens and chasing after my mad cocker spaniel. I’m a mum to four, wife to one and my writing career came as somewhat of a surprise! Upon hitting my mid-life crisis (but dodging the tattoo and the sports car) after wholly dedicating my life to the care of my children, they asked me what I wanted to do in life while we were discussing their career options.

‘I’ve always wanted to write a book,’ I found myself answering, and so the notion was born.

“I self-published my first book, A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother which became the talk of the town and hit the charts. Within three months I’d landed myself an agent, a book deal with Bookouture and recently signed to HarperCollins imprint HarperImpulse.

“I’ve written six books to date, A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother, Kitty’s Countryside Dream, Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, Evie’s Year of Taking Chances and The Cosy Canal Boat Dream which is out on August 22. I’m currently working on book number seven to be published by HarperImpulse, but at the moment the story line is a secret!”

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My Three Top Tips for Writers

1. Write and write often
No amount of writing tips will help you discover the kind of writer you truly are, but to be a writer you have to write… Often and every day! You need to write with passion and genuine desire. Stand out from the crowd. Start with a prologue that makes the reader think, that gets them hooked and gives them an idea of what the story is about. They want oomph, not the yawn factor, readers need to grab hold of something. And finally don’t over describe things. I’ve read numerous books and the descriptions are over-egged. Part of the reader’s enjoyment is building up their own picture from the clues that the author provides.

2. Make your characters convincing
It may sound daft but my characters speak to me, I have numerous conversations going on in my head until the final edits are done. You need to make your characters convincing, make other people believe they want to be them, know of them, relate to them or have them as a friend. After each book I’ve finish writing I truly feel bereft. I have days when I’m subdued and need them back in my life. For the time I’m writing their story, they are a huge part of my life.

3. Develop a thick skin!
One thing I’ve learnt about being is a writer is only accept criticism if you respect the source. The second you do something different and stand out from the crowd prepare yourself for a massive outcry. You can’t please all of the people all of the time and don’t even try. Write what makes you happy and don’t get involved in on-line rows. Walk away, and don’t feed their negativity. Usually negative reviews comes from someone you know, maybe jealously, some people just cannot be pleased, who knows! But, I’ve learnt to turn any negativity into a positive, every review good or bad helps the amazon algorisms it shows your book is been bought and read … win win! Look at your sales figures and if your books are selling, then there you go … all publicity is good publicity!


 

You can find out more about Christie via her Amazon page, website, or Facebook and Twitter.

Her latest book – The Cosy Canal Boat Dream – is out on August 22.

 

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