Writing Sprint ‘ Absolute Reality’

I pull the car into empty space at the side of the road. There’s no crunch of tyres, no engine idling, none of the stereotypes of this action that books and films would use to tell me I had stopped driving. All is quiet and empty. Quiet and empty in the world outside as much as it is silent inside my head.

So now, I sit and I wait. Waiting for nothing. Waiting for everything. Wait for myself to catch up, restart maybe. But I’m still blank right now. I’m not here, not really. And I’m not really sure where here is either.

I stare ahead without looking. I don’t see detail or focus on anything in particular. There is simply a general impression of the world around me, greys and blacks, dark and not-quite-so dark. And space. The space gives me some form of peacefulness: there is no artillery barrage of words, no pressure to speak or do or be something other than the nothing that I want to be right now.

Where did things go wrong?

It wasn’t one single point of failure, just a gradual drift away from everything that you had ever wanted and thought might happen. It was the loss of possibility and perhaps, the loss of easy and relaxed… Knowing that life could take me anywhere and there were no limits with you was part of what made us, and then that all went in a single moment, and I could see nothing but limits and compromise and lost choices. That was what killed me, I think. Closing doors on things that could have been, that is the hardest part.

It is time to let go of this. There is no blame and I have not run here to get away – I think I am here to come back. I have been absent for a long time and losing yourself is the worst kind of loss. You grieve but don’t really, because you’re gone but still there, and you cannot really grieve for yourself, can you? No you can’t. But, you can erase yourself, let yourself disappear inside another you, one not quite so complete or whole, but the you that is present enough to convince everyone with eyes that you exist.

I’m coming back, I can feel it: a reboot is happening, full system reset and switching back on. I can breathe now, and something new begins to fill me up, flushing out the voids inside: refresh, refresh, refresh.

The empty spaces outside me begin to fill now and I can see the details, re-energised eyes opening up again and seeing things anew as they focus once more. The trees to the side, dark but highlighted white where snow has blown onto them across the open ribbon of my road; a sky overhead, not dark but not light, grey streaked with ripples of clouds undulating above me for as far as I can see but not see, beyond the end of the road. And moonlight, here: cool and calming washing over my brave new world.

The button clicks as I switch the engine on. It hums to life, a soft rumble vibrating through the pedals and into my feet. It is time to leave, wherever it is that I am. The road looks soft and grey and open, it is wide with possibility and perhaps. The sky ripples overhead, easy and relaxed. Pulling back onto the road, the tyres crunch across the unfinished surface before they find smooth tarmac again.

(Author Note: not sure if this is going to fit somewhere into the episodic book I’ve posted other ‘sprints’ on or not, but it feels like it might fit with an earlier part of the story).

If you want to join this Writing Sprint, just take the prompts from the image at the top, write your piece and share your link back to your blog with us here or with https://kinswahreflective.com so we can come and check it out!

Sunday Write Up – Join in…

Sunday Write Up Header


Welcome to another ‘writing sprint’ – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!) Don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

Pole      Bodies      Pyramid      Inch       Slink


So, this piece links to the other sprints and is another snippet from a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – quite enjoying adding to these little episode-style chapters.



Date: 5th September 2003

Age: Not far off twenty-three and probably too young to be letting one of your best friends get married…

Life Lesson: Being the life and soul of the hen party may leave you without your soul.


Ho. Lee. Shiiiii. T.

As I watched the troupe of monsters approach along the train platform I realised I was doomed. Actually doomed. And in fairness, the cute Disney princess trapped in the centre of the carnival parade – who all looked like they had come fresh from an Ann Summers stock clearance – was also doomed. I really did not fancy her chances of surviving this weekend.

“Hello ladies,” I waved slowly, savouring my last few seconds of peace and sanity before the hen party officially descended. The head of the beast swiveled towards me at my words, wide-eyed and already looking bolstered by alcohol.

“Whoop, whoop – Katie Baby’s here!!”

Ally launched herself across the platform for a massive hug, complete with minor pelvis rub, which I was going to put down as accidental / automatic for her on any full body contact with another breathing human.

“Hi,” I gasped from within her grasp, looking to Becca for some help. Becca helpfully shrugged and took a lady-like sip from a plastic cup of wine instead, staring off into the distance.

Relieving myself of my newly acquired shoulder buddy, I turned my attention to the slightly more demur bride-to-be.

“Hello lovely,” I gave Carolyn a non-pelvis rubbing hug and whispered, “Are you ready for this?”

“Not at all,” she whispered back, clutching me tightly. “I’ve already had five shots on the first train and it’s not even lunchtime.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I patted her back, “I’ve come straight from London and been carb loading on the train journey up. I’ll distract Ally enough drink wise for you to get a break.”

“Thanks,” Carolyn let me go.

“How long are we on the train to Edinburgh?” I asked no one in particular.

“About three hours from Leeds,” Becca replied.

“Enough time to get you DRUUUUUUUNK!” Ally announced, pressing a can of pre-mixed cocktail into my hands.

“Sounds like it,” I agreed, popping the ring pull on the can and taking a sip of the rather nice Pimms and Lemonade inside. Probably wouldn’t be getting my five-a-day without the usual fruit and cucumber to go with it, but that was always a pretty tenuous claim even when you filled the jugs yourself.

I turned my attention to Becca, as Carolyn was swallowed into a small group of three girls I didn’t know. Or maybe one was vaguely familiar. Hen parties were always an interesting mix with old friends, in-laws and people you probably wouldn’t normally risk going out with for three days straight for a whole host of reasons… “How’s this morning been?” I asked Becca.

“Good,” she sipped from her wine cup again and grinned. “I managed to keep Ally at a reasonable level on the train over.”

“Really?” That seemed unlikely as I watched Ally trying to put a mini-veil and golf cap combo hat onto Carolyn who was resisting reasonably well, but probably wasn’t going to win the war on this one.

“Well, she did clear our train carriage of other passengers within the first ten minutes, but we didn’t get thrown off, so I’m taking that as a victory.”

“Fair enough,” I agreed. “That sounds like progress from our last train-related night out.”

“Crap, you’re right there,” Becca shook her head, remembering the moment Ally had managed to take down the train conductor whilst performing an ill-conceived pole dance on the Transpennine Express between Sheffield and Leeds.

I chuckled. “I thought she did well up until the point she collapsed onto that poor guy – I don’t reckon its easy to tilt yourself upside down on those handrails when you’re anything over the age of seven. You have to hand it to her for her confidence…”

“Absolutely,” Becca was nodding for a second, before she pulled a face.

I turned to look over my shoulder in the direction she was staring, and immediately clocked the slightly wardrobe-challenged ladies that had just teetered their way onto the platform opposite.

“Don’t say it,” I whispered, turning back to Becca.

“Don’t say what?” Her eyes were wide, all innocence, but I knew her eviscerating tongue was working up some form of comment.

“We’re all sisters remember? We’re supposed to lift one another up, not pull each other down.”

“Yes well, where are the good friends to girls like that who should be reminding them that a bit of sunshine is not an excuse for baring your beer belly on public transport? If they were my friends, I would tell them.”

It was hard not to roll my eyes. “Yes, it is a wonder that you don’t have more friends with helpful and kind words like that.”

Becca snorted and downed the rest of her wine. “I was being kind. I didn’t say that if your hotpants cost £25 but your arse is eating £20 of them, that means they are too small…”

“True,” I acknowledged, “but still…”

“I also didn’t say that a neon crop-top should not be worn unless you have a flat stomach, and that dyeing your roll of belly fat Ronseal brown does not suddenly make it attractive or any smaller.”

“Well, in that case, not saying more makes you positively Mother Teresa,” I patted her shoulder and turned her towards the train that was trundling towards us down the platform. “You don’t need to worry about that now, here comes our ride… Edinburgh Weekender here we come!”


*   *   *


“And now, you just pour the champagne from the top glass and it will fill everything perfectly all the way to the bottom…”

Sigh. There was something quite sexy about watching a bar man at work when they were mixing cocktails and making pretty alcoholic sculptures with a pyramid of champagne glasses. Especially, when they had a soft Scottish accent, were six foot three and handsome as hell.

“I’d bet Callum would fill everything up perfectly all the way to the bottom,” Ally whisper cackled in my ear.

I might have cringed, just a little, but she probably wasn’t wrong. “He’s too young,” I whispered back to her.

“For me, maybe,” she thought for a moment. “Nah, not too young really…”

“You’re a dirtbag,” I whispered back. “Can you imagine how much these poor guys must get hit on by randy hen parties when they are running these cocktail making classes?”

“Really? That’s what you’re thinking about right now, his work-life balance?!”

“No, but – ”

Yes, just a bit.

“Anyway, he’s not too young for you is he? Probably only about two years – he said he’s in his last year at uni didn’t he?”

“Yes,” I acknowledged, without adding that I knew a degree in Scotland was four years and not three, like most of them in England, and had worked out that our gorgeous bar tending teacher for the afternoon could well be my age or just a bit younger Definitely not Mrs Robinson territory anyway, although the same couldn’t be said for Ally…

“Here you go ladies, a little welcome drink to get you started.”

Callum was carefully dismantling the champagne pyramid and passing the glasses out along the bar to the waiting pack of wolves – sorry, women.

“Nice,” I clinked my glass against Carolyn’s. “What a good place to start the first night of your hen weekend. Cheers!” All of our group – ten girls altogether – bumped our glasses against one another and toasted the bride-to-be.

“Here’s to a great weekend!” Becca agreed.

“And taking it easy on the first night,” Carolyn added firmly, taking a small sip of her drink.

“Yeah, when have we ever done that?” Ally asked, downing her drink in one long slug, swallowing the decorative raspberry as well without flinching.

“There’s a first time for everything,” I smiled, guessing that this was not going to be that time.

“OK, shall we get started?” Callum drew our attention back to him and we fanned out along the bar onto the waiting seats.

“Yes please,” we chorused, almost as one.

“Perfect. So, a little bit of foreplay to get you warmed up…”

Oh shit.

I dared a glance at Ally at his words and saw the spark ignite in her eyes with this mild innuendo. She was going to spread him on the bar and savage him I feared. Oh well, it was his job after all and he was a pretty big guy, he could probably look after himself.

“I need a couple of volunteers for our first round of cocktail races.”

Ally had grabbed my hand and was already dragging me from my seat towards the opening at the end of the bar. “Me and Kate will pop your cocktail cherry tonight Callum.”

Wow. I kind of wanted to drop through the floor or slink out the stairs at the back of the room right now, not go and stand behind a narrow bar with a hot man and an insatiable gal pal. I’m not sure it was possible to be in such close proximity to both of them and not become an accessory to the sex crime I’m pretty sure Ally was thinking about committing.

“Sounds great,” he answered, showing no fear and making room for us both, one on either side of him. We squeezed our bodies into the narrow gap between the bar and the shelves behind, Ally rubbing a lot more of herself against the poor bloke as she passed than I’m sure was necessary. Or decent. I was just glad we hadn’t hired Butlers in the Buff – it didn’t bear thinking about – at least clothes would slow her down for a good ten seconds or so.

After asking us our names and introducing us to the cocktails we were going to have a go at preparing for everyone – game show host style – Ally and I spread out and prepared our bottles and glasses for the race. I had some ridiculous creamy, chocolate affair to make; whilst Ally had got some mega fruity thing that looked like a rainbow in a glass. Four of the same cocktails each, as quick as we could; the loser would have to a down a shot as punishment. I looked at the chilli vodka shot that had been set on the side as incentive to win and my stomach turned over. I did not want to start tonight on champagne and chilli shots.

“To match with the cocktails you are making, I have a little something for each of you before we start…just to check that you are up to handling the cream.”

“Oh-kay,” I muttered, mainly hoping that it would be OK.

Callum produced what looked almost like a truncheon from behind him on the bar and then a second matching one. The rods were about an inch in diameter and looked to be about a foot long – and my hopes that this would be OK vanished in the same instant that Ally’s eyes lit up. I didn’t feel much better about it when Callum took the squirty cream bottle from the little collection I had readied for making my cocktails and drew a line of cream from one end virtually to the other on each of the rods.

Unsurprisingly when he was done, he held out one towards me and one towards Ally. “This is just a little test before we start making the cocktails to make sure you’re comfortable swallowing creamy things. We want to ensure everyone leaves satisfied with their cocktail experience.”

“You don’t need to worry about me feeling comfortable swallowing things,” Ally said, grabbing his hand and pulling it towards her mouth, “I gulp darling.” With a flourish, she steered the truncheon into her mouth and cleared the cream about halfway down.

Callum grinned at her as he dropped the half-eaten truncheon into a sink below the bar. Turning his dark eyes on me, he gave my rod a little wave. “Your turn,” he told me, holding it out straight for me to take my dose of dairy. It probably wasn’t the best time for me to get competitive, but I could see Ally over his shoulder gloating at me, and you know, that little streak inside me that hated to be outdone came rippling to the surface.

Taking his hand, I tilted it upward and ducked beneath the end of the rod. “If you let the lady handle the angle, you’ll find they can do a lot more with it.” I told him. The girls cackled with laughter and whoops as I took the rod between my lips and cleared the cream well beyond halfway and used my tongue to clean the last couple of inches of cream off.

“Very nice,” Ally applauded me, as I returned the object of torture entirely to Callum and he dropped it into the sink with hers, with nothing much to clean off. “Excellent technique! A worthy win.”

I snorted a small laugh, and grabbed my glass of champagne to wash away the creaminess. I’m not necessarily sure that it was a competition I should have wanted to win, but what the hell – it was a hen weekend – that was pretty mild by most standards. Anyway, a win was a win.

Callum coughed and drew our attention back to him, getting ready to start the actual cocktail races we were behind the bar for. He passed me the bottle of cream with a smile and I added it to my collection of bottles ready to shake up a cocktail storm. I definitely didn’t want to have a chilli shot on top of that cream.

When he turned to Ally to finish getting her set up, Becca leaned over and grabbed my hand. “Holy crap, Kate,” she hissed. “You should have seen his face when you did that! I think he almost creamed himself.” She let go of me as he turned back around.

I grinned back at her. “What can I say?” I asked. “If you’re going to do something, might as well do it one hundred per cent.”

Becca laughed and took a big drink from her glass. “Well, you certainly did that. Now, make sure you win this race because that chilli shot looks disgusting and I’m not sharing a bedroom with you if you’re puking later on.”

“Yes boss,” I saluted her, putting on my game face. Six months as a student working the bar in Frankie and Benny’s – I was confident I could shake up a cocktail fast enough to win.

Sunday Write Up – Join in…

Sunday Write Up Header


Welcome to another ‘writing sprint’ – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!) Don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

Trying      Fast    Trapped      Smidge     Lamp


I also saw another Tweeted writing prompt this week and so I’ve used this to influence the piece this week:

“I’ve been trying to do it right, I’ve been living a lonely life…”


So, this piece links to last week’s sprint and is another snippet from a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – quite enjoying adding to these little episode-style chapters.


Thursday 5th July 2007

Age: What does it matter when you’re looking at moving back in with your parents?

Life Lesson: When looking for a housemate think Friends, not Single White Female


   It was warm in the lunchtime sun, and the outdoor tables at The Alchemy Lounge were packed full of office workers trying to grab an hour’s worth of vitamin D, before they headed back to their max-packed, air conditioned offices. Suit jackets were discarded and there were plenty of legs and tanned arms on show. 

   “Kate. Over here!”

   I looked around, searching for a familiar face and owner of the shouting voice. Then, at the far side of the outdoor booths I spotted Becca, her dark blonde head visible above the shorter people around her. Moving in that direction, I saw her gesturing with animated hands, to let me know there was a glass of wine waiting for me. 

   At least one thing was going right today then.

   “Hey! How’re you doing?” Bec greeted me as I arrived. I plopped down into the only other vacant chair, amid the throng of bodies. She was already sat down after waving me over, and she didn’t stand up to give me a hug or kiss, like some of my friends would have. Becca wasn’t really a hugger, and a lot of the time, neither was I, so that worked out well for us. Becca was all about practical help and sarcasm – and I definitely needed a lot of the first right now. 

   “Urgh,” I said, flopping back in the chair to take a long drink of the cool, pink wine. 

   “Wow. That good, eh?” 

   “Oh yes,” I agreed. “It’s that good.”

   Becca sipped at her own glass. “What’s going on?”

   “Well, it’s official. I either need to move – and the housing market has just decided to fall off a cliff – or I need to find a housemate.”

   We’d talked about this already, when I was having a post-break-up freak out and decided I was going to abandon the house and go back to live with my parents. Becca had been wise enough to talk me out of that plan, and talk me out fast. 

   “The money?” She guessed. 

   “Yeah,” I sighed. 

   “Bankers screwed you on your job and now they’ve cocked up the housing market too?”

   “Exactly right – I took quite a pay cut when I finished at Ingham & Moore… wasn’t even on half what I was getting at the bank. It wasn’t a problem when there were two of us paying in to the house, and I thought I could manage everything once Matt had gone, but it’s more than you think once the utilities and stuff come in. And now I’m kind of trapped – nothing is selling unless you do it at a loss, or I find someone to move in.“

   “Don’t you get some reductions on costs?”

   I shrugged. “It’s a smidge,” I said, demonstrating just how small an amount it was between my finger and thumb. “They give you twenty-five per cent reduction on Council Tax. But, everything else costs the same for one as it does for two – you just have no one else paying in.”

   “Yeah, that sucks.” 

   I nodded. “Staying in the house seemed like a good idea at the time…”

   “It was a good idea. You were just too nice to him: paying him out half and letting him take most of the furniture. You didn’t need to feel guilty and let him have so much, he screwed you over, remember?”

   I wasn’t having this conversation again. I remembered being a pushover well enough on my own. “You know I just wanted him out and everything finished. Being super reasonable seemed the best way to do it.” 

   “Yeah, well – I still think you could have torched his shit on the front lawn instead of giving him the big TV – I reckon most people would have considered that reasonable.” 

   “Not sure the police would have. Or the neighbours… Anyway, too late for getting my revenge on pyro style – there’s nothing left of his in the house.”

   Becca rolled her eyes at me. “That’s because there’s bugger all left in the house, full stop. Except for that awful lamp you love. Do you even have a sofa yet?”

   I ignored the lamp jibe, I loved my lava lamp and didn’t care if anyone else didn’t. ”I have the Buddah Bag.”

   Becca shook her head. “Yeah, that doesn’t count. If you have to roll out of a seat, rather than stand up normally, it doesn’t count as a sofa. Also, just to clarify, if you’re still sleeping on the Buddah Bag on a regular basis, that doesn’t make it a bed either.”

   “I know. But it is more comfortable than the air mattress thing and it was the best I could get. My sister gave it me and you wouldn’t believe how heavy that thing is. It filled the entire car once we squashed it inside.” 

   My Fiesta had looked like a giant poop had been crammed inside the back seats – that was the downside of the Buddah Bag being a dark brown colour. The upside was that it didn’t show up Millie’s black dog hairs too much, so you know, there was a bright side. 

   “I know how heavy it is,” Becca pointed an accusatory finger towards my face. “I helped you move it from the dining room to the lounge if you remember? I nearly died.” 

   “You’re being a bit dramatic,” I told her. “It was a mild aneurism if anything, you were a long way from death.” 

   “Whatever,” she retorted, “I still can’t believe you and your sister actually managed to carry it to the car on your own – it’s like manoeuvring a whale that’s been roofied.”

   I smiled. “Her husband laughed at us and said we’d never be able to do it. Scorn and stubbornness can make a girl pretty strong.”  

   Bec nodded in complete agreement. “That would do it for me too. Rage + Mockery = Motivation, in girl world.”

   “That sounds almost like a real psychological theory when you put it like that.” 

   “I’m pretty sure it is!”

   It was warm in the sun and I shrugged out of the light linen jacket I’d thrown on that morning, knowing that the office would be freezing with AC running full blast. “Summer when you’re working is so weird,” I observed. “You add layers to go inside, strip them off to come out.” I took another sip of cool wine and leaned back into the hard, water-proof chair.

   “Only if you work in posh offices with air con, like you do. I was on a shit works in a south-facing, pre-fab cabin all day yesterday. It was not my best day ever, I’ll be honest.”

   “Ooh, sounds lovely,” my nose screwed up, just imagining the smell. 

   “Well, that’s the exotic life I lead as a Health and Safety Auditor, isn’t it?”

   “You do get to the best places,” I agreed. 

   Flicking her sunglasses down from the top of her head, Becca settled back too, holding her wine glass by the stem. “So, anyway, the house thing… You’re seriously thinking about getting a lodger?”

   “I have to.”

   “I don’t think I could stand having a housemate now. Uni was bad enough – to do it again…” She shuddered as if it was a fate worse than death. 

   “I know, I know.” My mind immediately flashed back to a memory of my squeaky-voiced flatmate complaining about my inability to keep the place tidy, whilst we stood in the living room that looked a brothel’s laundry with her animal print and multi-coloured pants hanging everywhere. “But, we’re grown ups now: we have jobs and are sensible and everything. It will be better.”

   “Really? You believe that…?”

   I nodded, hoping I looked sure. 

   “OK – tell me the worse girl you lived with and why. Maybe that will help jog your memory.”

   Easy. “Carrie Monk – her of the ultra-sonic voice fame – who used to wait until someone got into the shower, to get whatever random guy she’d brought back with her the night before, to hump her against the adjoining wall.”

   “Nice!” Becca laughed. 

   “Nice? I suffered several shampoo bottle related injuries due to her rampant antics knocking things off the shower shelves.”

   “And your revenge?”

   “Moi? Revenge?” I was all wide-eyed innocence, before laughing. “It was very tame really. Carrie always had nice posh shampoo – her student loan was for fun and shoes, not food and rent like most of us – so I became well acquainted Charles Worthington and Frederic Fekkai, whilst she acquainted herself with half of Leeds.”

   “Sounds like a truly lovely young lady,” Becca agreed. “I think I remember her from when I came to yours – the blonde one that dressed as a cow girl when we went to that crap fancy dress night on the party bus thing?” 

   I cast my mind back, it took a little while. Uni felt like a million years ago… “Was it the one where I was a pirate?” 

   “That’s the one – you kept slapping poor little student boys on the arse with your plastic sword, if that helps jog the memory?”

   I chuckled. It did. “You came as Betty Rubble and had a club, I recall?”

   “I did – and I took over from you with anyone who looked robust enough to graduate from sword play to a proper spanking.” 

   “Yeah, you made that big rugby guy cry I think?”

   “I did, but in fairness I did let him spank me back, if he wasn’t going to fully commit he shouldn’t have stepped into the ring.” 

   “Yeah, what’s the point in having those big arms if they’re not going to use them, eh?”

   Becca grinned at me and clinked her glass against mine. “Exactly!”

   I leaned back again and closed my eyes, tilting my face up to the sun. 

   “Well, I’ll help you write an ad if you want?”

   I frowned. “Really? I could come up with Intolerant and emotionally battered lady seeks female housemate to help pay the bills by myself, I think.” 

   Becca shook her head. “Yeah, that’s why you need help. You can’t be honest on these things. You’re going to have to project just the fun-loving, great to be around Kate into this – not the depressing cow you’ve grown into.” 

   “Wow, tough love AND a glass of wine. You should think about charging people for your company, I think you’d make more money than the health and safety gig.” 

   “I would give it some serious thought if you didn’t have to have safe words and crap like that – where’s the fun if you can’t push things too far?” 

   The faraway glint in Becca’s eye actually scared me; I had no doubt she was serious. 

   “Jeez, Mistress Whiplash calm down. Remind me how long you’ve been dating your latest victim?”

   She smiled at me, softening a bit for once. “Two months now, and you know what, it’s actually going really well. He doesn’t irritate me much at all.” 

   “Well, I’m sure he’d be pleased to know that, you old romantic you!” 

   “He knows, you don’t need to worry about that.” 

   Oh my. Yeah, I definitely didn’t need to worry OR know any more about that…

   “So,” I sipped from my glass again. “The housemate thing. What do you think?”

   Becca pulled out her phone and flicked through onto a website. “There’s this one called SpareRoom.co.uk – one of the guys from work found his place on here, it’s supposed to be quite good. I think the guy that launched the site was from Manchester…” She flipped the phone around and pointed it in my direction. 

   A clean, simple and neat website greeted me.

   “You can look for specific people to share, or you can post your place and people will come to you,” Becca explained this as she managed to type my postcode in – upside down – into the bar in the middle of the screen. It brought up a surprising number of profiles of people apparently looking for rooms in my area. 

   “And I just create a profile and include pictures of the house?”

   “Looks like it. Probably worth creating a better profile than the one we did for you on those dating sites.”

   “Ha ha. I actually quite liked that in the end – I could tell you’d really taken control of the narrative for my ideal date being in a public place, well lit and with a high number of CCTV cameras…” 

   “Cheers dude,” Becca grinned at me. “I had your back, I think sarcasm and comedy in your profile will keep away most of the dull ones and anyone too dumb to see through it, as well as any psychos.” 

   “Well, judging by the dates I went on, I’d say you had maybe a ten per cent success rate from that point of view, but you definitely must have thinned the herd a bit.” I chewed my lip a little, pondering. “You know, I really don’t think internet dating is for me anyway. It’s too much pressure: do you like them, do they like you, do you like them enough to be on an actual date with them, why were they funnier on email, are they wondering how many filters I used on my profile pictures…?” 

   “It sounds pressurised when you put it like that,” she agreed. “But, knowing you, I can see why you wouldn’t like it. You are an all or nothing person when it comes to things like this – you will put in so much effort, passion and loyalty when you really want to do something; but if you don’t feel like it, no amount of pushing, pain or coaxing will get you there.” 

   I smiled at her, knowing that my long-standing friend really did get me. As much as I got her for these parts of us that were very similar. She was my only friend that really understood how I felt about this stuff. “That’s all true. Very true,” I told her. 

   Suddenly serious, Becca leaned forward and took my hand in hers. “You will feel like falling in love again, you know? It probably won’t happen when or where you expect it to, but it will happen – and from what I know of you, you’ll be ready to put that effort and passion into making it amazing when it does.” 

   I squeezed her fingers and let go, properly touched by her words but unable to actually say so. “How many wines have you had lady? It’s lunchtime for goodness sake.” 

   Becca smiled at me, knowing exactly what I had just done. “I’ve just had the one. And I’m done with the deep now, you’ve had your bi-annual compliment from me, so back to sorting out the shit-show that is your finances.” She flicked her thick hair over her shoulder, we were obviously now moving into serious mode. 

   “OK,” I flicked my own dark hair (that needed a decent cut, if we were completely honest) over my shoulder, and leaned forward putting my glass down so that I was fully concentrating. “So, where do we start?” 

   “We need to work out how much you need to charge someone to cover what you need to stay in the house; then make a list of all the good features about living at your place, and then about you.” 

   I nodded, that sounded simple enough. “What about Millie?” 

   “I think people will see it as a plus point – at least someone in the house will be friendly.” 

   “Thanks mate,” I snorted quietly. “Anyway, I can be friendly,” I muttered to myself. 

   “Do you know what kind of person you’d like to share with?”
   After a traumatic flashback again to Carrie and her leopard-print underwear, coupled with the memory of her high-pitched fake passion squeals, I took a deep breath and focused. “Professional job, so that we’re probably in and out around the same times? Maybe someone quieter, who likes similar stuff to me?”

   “Work obsessed hermit?” Becca checked off on her finger. “Bothered about male or female?”

   I sat back. I had automatically figured I’d be looking for a female housemate. But then when I thought about it, hadn’t I generally had more male friends than female? And weren’t things a bit simpler then…?

   “I suppose I don’t mind actually. I’d rather have someone that fits into being quite relaxed and easy, than being a boy or a girl.” 

   “OK, well, I think that will help open up the field a little – there seem to be more guys looking in your area than girls.” 

   “It’s fine. There’s two bathrooms – I can live with someone taking over that one and I’ll stick to the en suite. But no one good looking,” I told her. 

   “Why – do you think it’s not a good idea to be tempted at home?” 

   “It’s not me I’m worried about – Ally would be on him before I even got a rent deposit in my bank account – I honestly can’t face sharing a wall with that.” 

   “Good point,” Becca noted that down. “You sound like the opposite of Joey in Friends asking for a female roommate, non-smoker, non-ugly.” 

   “All applications considered – gender not important – must be non-smoker and non-handsome-slash-pretty… sounds good to me.” I drained the last of my wine and looked around us, hating to make a move from the lovely outside and go back to the office, but it had to be done. “Do you think you have everything?” I asked Becca, looking at the list she had jotted down into a small notebook she’d produced from goodness knows where. She was totally organised. 

   “I think so,” she checked the list. “Do you fancy grabbing dinner later and we can get it finalised and set up a profile on the site?” 

   “Dinner sounds great,” I agreed. “Somewhere reasonable though, I’m so broke,” I reminded her. 

   “No problem,” she finished the wine and gathered her stuff together, both of us standing up. “We can do somewhere quick and then we’ll find you a housemate and hopefully get you back on track.” 

   “That’s the plan – and you know I could end up with someone great, you know, like in Friends.”

   “Sure, sure, like Friends. Just not that crazy guy Eddie that lived with Chandler.” 

   Oh dear God. That’s what I was going to end up with wasn’t it? Either that, or I was Eddie… 

Sunday Write Up – Join in…

Sunday Write Up Header

Welcome to another ‘writing sprint’ – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!) Don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

sequestered       pool      lemon     ablaze      trot

This piece links to last week’s sprint and is another snippet from a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – not sure if it will go anywhere, but a bit of a different style for me…


Friday 25th May 2007 

Age: Two months away from lifelong spinsterhood (according to pretty much everyone I know)

Life Lesson: A few months on and boozy friends actually come into their own

“I don’t want to get back out there,” I groaned, leaning forward to top up my glass of wine, from the bottle on the coffee table. “I’ve been crapped on massively by Cupid and right now, I’d rather have vino and girls, than be searching for a guy.”

Becca grinned. “There are websites for that you know, if that’s how you’re feeling.”

“Thanks – sarcasm noted – but I’m not contemplating girls as a lifestyle choice. I meant you lot.”I waved my hand in their general direction.

Three sets of eyebrows raised at me.

“Ha, ha – don’t flatter yourselves, none of you are my type. You know what I meant: I just want to be on my own right now.”

“That’s all well and good,” Carolyn nodded, “but according to The Rules Revisited website, you only have a few more years of your twenties, when the love market is easy pickings. If you hit thirty and are still single, then you’ve got to really raise your game.”

“Thanks for the advice.” My eyes rolled towards the ceiling. “It’s very inspiring when it comes from my friend who’s been with her husband forever, met him in high school and is like, the sweetest person in the world.”

“Yeah,” Becca chimed in. “Kate can be a bit of a bitch and is sarcastic and bossy. This is not going to be an easy sell, even in her twenties.”

“Hey! I’m sat right here, you know?”

“Ha, ha. Add overly sensitive to the list as well.” Ally added with a smirk. 

“Don’t you start on me, too! Call yourselves friends?”

“We are your friends, it would just be nice to see an indication of you doing something more than being sequestered here, festering at home with the dog or going out to work.” Carolyn looked to the other two for support.

I bristled. “I see you guys all the time, that’s not festering.”

“Yep,” Becca agreed. “But, unless you are actually planning on dating one of us, then…” 

I smiled. “Look Bec, no means no, OK – none of you are setting my loins ablaze, I’ll be honest.”  

She flicked a peanut at me, narrowly missing my glass but managing to hit the bowl of lemon and mint olives when it rebounded off my left boob.

“Who is your type, then? You’ll never meet anyone between work and home if you don’t get out there. You do want to move on, don’t you?”

I shrugged off Carolyn’s question, not wanting my Friday wine o’clock night to get so heavy so early. “I have moved on. That’s not what I need to do.”

“You’ve only moved on, when you’ve moved under someone else…You’ve not done that, have you?”

“No Ally, you dirtbag, I haven’t done that,” I told her. It’s not the only way to move on, you know.” 

Carolyn nodded at me in agreement. It helped to have a nice girl in the mix. 

Ally shrugged and finished her wine in a very un-ladylike slug. “Whatever. It’s the best way I know of.”

“That’s because you have the emotional depth of a puddle,” Becca pointed out.

“I have depth,” Ally said, frowning as she unscrewed the lid on a fresh bottle of rose. “My perspective is just a bit different to yours, that’s all.” 

“Yeah sure – it’s just a different perspective.” I shook my head.

“Whatever,” Ally said again, as if that one word explained everything perfectly. “We’re not talking about me, are we? We’re talking about you not getting on with your life.” She waved her hand, like she was shooing away a fly. “So, Matt turned out to be a cheating dick head – that doesn’t mean it has to stop you living your life.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed. “But, between the dick head and the slutbag – that’s what I’m calling her by the way – they’ve taken away the life I thought I was going to have. I should have been wedding planning and cake ordering around now, not getting drunk with you bunch.”

“Well, when you put it like that, it looks like everything worked out for the best!” Becca grinned. 

“Too right. And I don’t even think it’s about Matt – I mean dick head – anymore… It’s just me: I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing and can’t be bothered with the trauma of blokes and dating.”

“Aw, I almost believed you then. But, no one can be that logical. Tell us something that proves you’re over Matt.” Ally said.

I chewed my lip, thinking for a minute. All of his things were gone from the house – along with some things that had been ours but that I couldn’t stand having around, like the bed. He’d also got the big TV and the sofa, which in hindsight, was probably not the best deal for me.  

Not the best evidence, was it?

I’d also deleted all his numbers and contact information from my phone and laptop. Surely that would count?

Wait! “I changed my Facebook status – so everyone knows we’re not together any more!”

Becca shook her head. “Technically, you cheated – you deleted the status altogether – so you’re just nothing now, hovering in a relationship limbo where you’re not admitting to being with someone or single…just blank.”

“Damn you Becs! Why do you have a perfect memory when it comes to stuff like this?”

She shrugged. “It’s a gift. Now, give us something else – the Facebook thing doesn’t count.”

I drank some wine and thought hard. Then drank a bit more. And then just a little bit more. Finally it came to me. I looked around the small group with a triumphant gaze. 

“I deleted Matt’s mini-me off the Wii.” Blank faces, shot through with a dash of sympathy, stared back at me. Except maybe Becca: she was gazing at me with a pitying ‘you’re not a full shilling’ look. I pressed on. “You know what I mean: it’s the little guy that you build to go in the games for you. The Matt one kept popping up when I went on it to do that fitness workout thingy, and I hated seeing him looking all smug, walking around the white room. So, I deleted him.”

“Oh,oh! I know what you mean!” Carolyn exclaimed.

“See? It’s a real thing.” I said, pointing at Carolyn. 

Becca still looked unconvinced.

“It might be real, but does it prove you’re moving on?” Ally was also sceptical. 

“Well, I did make him fat first, then put him in a blue jumper and gave him stupid lips. Then I deleted him.”

Bec looked at the other two. “Does that count?”

“Well, it’s not as obvious as my way.” Ally pointed out.

Carolyn shook her head. “We’re not going to make Kate sleep with someone, just to prove she’s moved on!”

Ally huffed. “I’m just pointing out that it’s an easier way to tell, that’s all.” 

“I’m still here,” I reminded them.

“Hush, we know. You’re always here – that’s the problem we’re trying to sort out.” Becca grinned at her own joke, before adding. “Anyway, I have a question.”

“Ok. What?”

“What’s the thing with the blue jumper?”

I laughed. “He was a United fan, so would never wear blue. For anything. Ever.”

Ahhhh, right. I get it.” Becca nodded in understanding. “And you made him fat too?”

“Yes. Oh, and shorter!” I suddenly remembered. “He always made his mini-me much taller than he was really.” 

“Right, I’ve decided.” Becca announced. “Although unorthodox, I believe that using the mini-me as an effigy -”

“A what-a-gy?” Ally looked blank again.

“I’ll explain later.” I patted Ally’s hand. “It’s a good job you’re pretty.”

“Anyway, as I was saying,” Becca tried once more. “Using the effigy and doing mean things to it, sounds vaguely voodoo doll-ish.”

“It does?” It wasn’t the way I’d been expecting the conversation to go.

“Yes, it does,” Becca confirmed. “And on that basis, I vote that it counts: you made Matt – sorry, dickhead – short, fat and wear something he would hate – then deleted him from existence.”

Carolyn turned it over for a few seconds before nodding her agreement. “It counts.”

Ally looked from one to another, then back again. “I still don’t get it.”

“It’s a bit like a metaphor,” Carolyn suggested.

“A what?”

“Did you even go to school?” Becca’s eyes rolled skywards. 

I gave it a try. “I did mean things to something that looked like Matt, so it means I’m moving on.”

Ally shook her head.

I gave up. “Like I said, it’s a good job you’re pretty.”

“Fine. If they think it counts, I’ll agree with that. I just think that if you wanted to be mean to him, you should have kept the big TV and the sofa, then I wouldn’t be breaking my arse bone on this bloody bean bag!” 

“It’s a Buddha bag,” I automatically corrected.

“AND you should have shagged someone too.”

“One step at a time,” I told her with a wink. 

*   *   *

“Do we have to do this now?” 

I sounded whiney, but I didn’t care – my head was far too wine-fuzzy to be looking at rubbish on a laptop at this time on a Friday night. After dodging the bullets early in the evening about whether I was becoming a Bridget Jones-style spinster (which I probably was), I thought I’d escaped further relationship interrogation. 

Carolyn flipped open the computer and typed in a password to unlock it. “OK – ready – where should we start?”

Obviously I had not.

“What about MateMatch.com?” Becca suggested. 

Ally shook her head. “No, no – the uniform one!” 

“What about none of them?” I added, hoping they would take the hint. 

“Come on Kate, it’s just a bit of fun – you don’t have to do anything more than look.” Carolyn re-assured me. She was still clicking away on the computer, busy at work whether I wanted to be her new project or not. 


The three of them were now gathered around the laptop, their faces illuminated by the screen as they all eagerly began tapping on the keyboard and trying to navigate to their preferred dating website. Pushing each other’s hands away and heckling for their site of choice, they looked like a gaggle of witches brewing up an evil internet-dating potion. 

I shook my head and closed my eyes. “This is going to be depressing,” I told no one in particular. 

Ignoring the babble of the girls as they worked, I debated falling asleep: the dog was snuggled up on my stomach and I’d had a busy week at work. I didn’t even want to think about the number of unopened emails I’d closed my screen on tonight when I left the office – that would have to wait for Monday. Thinking of email mountains reminded me of something. “Oh, if you’re going to do anything awful to me whilst I try and enjoy my Friday night with friends, set up a fake email address first please – I don’t want loads of spam in my gmail account.”

“Do you want a fake name as well?” Ally asked. 

“I think I’d like some new fake friends at this point. Can you get me some of those on the internet?”

“I’ll check Ebay for you, once we’ve looked at this stuff.” Becca replied. 

“Thanks. Maybe I’ll keep you around, just for a regular dose of sarcasm and wit.”

“Cheers mate!” Becca seemed genuinely pleased by this, like being sarcastic was a desirable personality feature and it elevated her position in the group. 

“OK, here we go, here we go!” 

Ally sounded excited, so I guessed that UnifromDates.com had won out. 

“Put Leeds in there for a location.” Becca told Carolyn – she had obviously won control of the keyboard, if nothing else. 

“Maybe we should put north?” Ally suggested. 

“Wow, I’m already feeling better about this – that you feel I need a region full of men to give me a chance, when a lone city would not do”

“It just gives you more to look through.” Ally replied, sounding like she knew what she was talking about. In fact, dating via the internet was probably one of the tamest things Ally would have used her wifi for… It didn’t bear thinking about. 

I didn’t bother answering back. I was considering starting a long term relationship with the dark inside my eyelids…or maybe just an extended one night stand… A finger poke to my thigh rudely interrupted my daydreaming.  

“Are you going to help or not?” 

Carolyn sounded cross. I could take a little look, I supposed. “Give me a second,” I muttered. 

“Don’t rush yourself,” Becca replied. “You’re not really missing much.”

“What do you mean?” Ally sounded mildly scandalised by Becca’s less than enthusiastic tone. “Look there – he’s alright…ish.” 

“Well – an alright-ish from you Ally, surely that’s like a Prince Charming seal of approval!” 

Becca and Ally were already bristling with each other and I realised that I would have to intervene. I sat up and swung my legs onto the floor, moving an unimpressed Millie from my lap, at least she could trot away and escape this. “Ladies, ladies – there will be enough perfectly strange men for all of you to choose from.” The last few mouthfuls of wine were sat in the nearest bottle, so I emptied it into my glass and took a sip. 

“Great!” Carolyn clapped her hands and turned the laptop so that I could see the screen.

My eyes ran across the page, taking in the logo emblazoned across the top with a happy looking cartoon soldier and policeman linking arms with a faceless cartoon lady. Beneath the usual options for logging into your own account, chat rooms and forum pages were rows of profiles, most with pictures, although some still had the faceless, generic ‘male’ image issued by the site where no photograph had been uploaded. 

“Where are the uniforms?” I asked, actually finding that I was mildly disappointed. Surely, on a site like this, your best profile picture would be of you in your uniform?

Becca leaned forward, squinting at the slightly grainy pictures. “Is that a paramedic?” She pointed to an image in the middle of the page. 

We all leaned forwards (I was the fourth witch and had joined the others around the cauldron – I was obviously easily swayed by the smallest amount of peer pressure). 

“Erm. I think it’s just a dark green jumper.” Carolyn spoke slowly, obviously giving this a great deal of consideration. 

“What about that one?” Ally flicked a finger towards a blonde guy on the top row. 

“He looks like he’s topless in the picture.” I shook my head. “What kind of uniform is that?”

“Maybe a swimmer?” She suggested. 

“Not usually a profession,” Becca immediately chipped in. 

“Oh! I know!” Ally grinned – triumphant. “He could be a pool life guard.”

I looked closely. “Well, underneath it says ‘Mark – Gardener – Manchester’ – so maybe not a lifeguard.” 

“Part time?” She tried again. 

I shook my head. “Probably not.”

“You know, most of these guys aren’t even in professions where you’d wear a uniform.” Carolyn was scanning all the pictures, reading the brief descriptions beneath each. “What’s the point in that?”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Maybe we should do something else if the sites are no good.”

“Nice try,” Becca elbowed me and pulled the screen around to face her. “We should just try a different one. I vote for MateMatch.com and then we can choose the perfect person for Kate.”

I flopped backwards and gave up, it didn’t bear thinking about what the three of them would agree on as a ‘perfect guy’… He’d be some kind of S&M, Disney Prince with the banter skills of Ryan Reynolds – I was going to be single forever. I drained the last of the wine from my glass and closed my eyes. Single. That didn’t sound too bad at all actually.


Sunday Write Up – Join in…

Sunday Write Up Header

Back to help me keep creative during the COVID-19 lockdown, decided to do some little ‘writing sprints’ to pass the time – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!)

Posting here on my blog, as well as on Aside from Writing – don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

rosy       wild      other     hindsight      beat

This piece works as a snippet to a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – not sure if it will go anywhere, but a bit of a different style for me…


Saturday 24th March 2007

Age: Still Twenty-Seven and Nine Months

Life Lesson: Booze and friendship are great, but they do not mend a broken heart

The taxi pulled away as I stumbled, high heels in hand, towards the wobbling outline of the front door. The girls were hanging out the windows shouting goodnight and don’t puke on the gnome, but I didn’t turn around, just waved my arm vaguely in the air. I did not want to be distracted from the epic challenge of finding the door keys inside my small clutch bag.

I dropped the bag on the floor and was left holding a lip gloss. “Shit.” I glared at Rosy Glow and tried again.

Bending down, I picked up the bag and put the lip gloss back inside. Fumbling through the silky material again, I came up with something round and metal. Victory!

“Shit.” It was a rogue coin, just dumped into the bag loose after I’d bought that round of apple sour shots, because they were a wild green colour.

Then I dropped the bag again. Sigh. “Shit,” I mumbled, one last time as I bent down and resigned myself to searching at ground level for safety. This was a picture of class if any of the neighbours poked their head out of the window at this time in the morning. A few moments later I came up with the keys.

Tonight it helped that the door was white, and stood out from the rest of the house: it made finding the key hole easier. On my second attempt, I managed to get the key in the lock and opened the door.

Even through the fog of booze, I felt the quiet, emptiness of the house wash over me as I stood on the doorstep. I didn’t need to be quiet as I came in, there was no one to wake up. I didn’t need to pretend to walk straight, to prove I wasn’t drunk. No one would tell me off for leaving my shoes in the middle of hallway, when they tripped over them – there was no one to trip over them, except me.

Stepping inside, I dumped my shoes and bag, and locked the door behind me. A slight wobble from a few too many drinks: I leaned back against the closed door, shutting my eyes and realised in hindsight that mixing cocktails based on them being pretty rainbow colours had not been the best idea I’d ever had. Everything was quiet and I was alone.

Not quite alone. I heard a squeaky, snuffling noise coming from the kitchen and headed in that direction.

Opening the door, Millie greeted me, teddy in her mouth and tail wagging. “Hey Mills,” I bent down and fussed her, rubbing her soft black ears until she made her funny, happy-grunty noise. Snarf, she replied before trundling off back to bed with teddy.

“Yeah, it’s nice to see you too.” I headed towards the sink, pushed stuff around in the cupboard until I found a glass, then filled it with water. I drank the first one in big, full gulps, suddenly realising  how thirsty I was. The rainbow of vodka shots I’d drunk tonight had obviously not been thirst quenching, they’d just filled a gap for a few hours.

I filled the glass a second time and then meandered tipsily towards Millie’s bed, at the other end of the kitchen. She sat up as I approached and so I slid down the wall, landing in the warm and newly vacated space beside her. Worrying about dog hairs on my dress was the least of my problems right now – I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it.

Millie nudged my arm and dropped teddy into my lap.

“It’s not fetch time,” I told her, placing the teddy back into her mouth.

Snarf she said again, before she sighed and plopped her head down on my legs instead.

I sighed myself and began stroking Millie’s ears absent-mindedly, drifting off into a little drunken haze.

It had been good to be out of the house, away from the quiet and emptiness. The only problem now was that it felt twice as empty and quiet, as it had before. The house felt hollow, just as I did, and there was no one – and no amount of booze – that could help me with that.

I sighed again and then the tears began to fall, making cold, wet tracks on my face. It didn’t matter now, no one was here to see me and I didn’t have to be brave for anyone, so that they felt better. I cried silently, a slow and steady stream of tears trailing down my cheeks and dripping onto my dress. I didn’t wipe them away or try to stop.

Who cares?

“It’s just you and me now puppy,” I told Millie.


Tony’s Rambles: Double Edges

There was a man who lived alone on my street – let’s call him Paul. Paul died recently…he was a nice guy, quiet, looked after his mother when she was terminally ill and looked after another old lady who lived across the road (We live on a street where most of our neighbours are retired and elderly. It’s one of the reasons I love it – no parties until 3am where we live).

Anyway, another neighbour told me that Paul was slowly drinking himself to death; and, as I said, he recently succeeded.

Being a writer is mostly a great time. You get to make up worlds and people who don’t exist and play with them, run them through the mill and see what they’re made of. But it’s a double-edged sword, like with our quiet neighbour Paul.

I can see him, sitting alone in his kitchen every night, staring at a bottle and the silent, silent walls and rooms around him. I can see him reaching for that bottle to try to drown out that silence, then having to do it more often. The absolute loneliness of his life, the spaces he couldn’t fill.

I could be wrong about Paul, of course; he could – and most likely did – have his own reasons for drinking until it killed him. But still the writer in me sees him sitting there, alone, every night and sees the empty tragedy of his life.

Here’s another example: My wife and I had a good friend who died in a light aircraft crash quite a few years ago. (Those things crash all the time, have you noticed?). As a writer, it’s all too easy to imagine her gripping the hand of the person beside her as the pilot loses control and the plane starts to shudder. And to see the rushing trees coming towards her through her eyes, see those last thoughts flash through her head.

And as easy as it to imagine how beautiful a starlight beach is at midnight, the sand rubbing your toes, the infinity of stars above you, that smell of open water and the mist from the surf prickling your skin, so it’s as easy to imagine how it feels to be trapped in a plane that’s being flown towards an already burning building, the Manhattan skyline unrolling beneath you at three hundred miles per hour.

I don’t get to pick and choose what Muse throws at me, and when she does, I feel the responsibility to share that empathy to lonely people like Paul…to tell the stories the way my imagination and experience of life sees them, both the happy stories and the sad: The beautiful beach and the burning building. Both edges of the sword, and both of them cut as deeply when I write.

I’m not complaining about that responsibility at all; in fact I enjoy it. I’ll always try and do the best job I can with the stories I write, because that’s the way I was raised – if a job’s worth doing, then do it well – and I take my writing very seriously, even when it’s just fun and games.

It wouldn’t be right otherwise.

Tony’s Writing Tips: Remember every scar


“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” – Stephen King.


I was e-mailing an Antipodean writing friend the other day. I’d sent her the first page of my WIP and explaining a little where it came from, when that quote from Stephen King popped into my head.

A little backstory: The first page of my WIP has a character shoot someone. It’s a kicker of an opening, but what I was telling my friend was where it came from. I’ve never shot anyone in my life (You’ll be delighted to know), never even held a gun, loaded or otherwise. Air pistol and air rifle – shot at a few empty cans – but never a gun.

The shooting isn’t the important part, and not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the person who did the shooting, which will – trust me on this – get me back to the quote at the top.

I have a not-seen-in-years cousin in the police. More years ago than I can date, he told me (or my dad while I was listening) that he’d had someone point a gun at him. At the time, he was as professional and calm as his training taught him. But he said after the incident, he was still shaking hours later.

So my character shoots someone, calmly and professionally, as they were taught. Then they realise what they’ve just done and the effects hit them.

Which brings me to my point (told ya!) and the quote above: Writers never forget anything.

We can, indeed, point to every scar and tell you its story. In detail.

Everything we’ve ever seen will probably end up in one of our stories somewhere; from the shop assistant who compulsively stretches her sweater cuff over her wrist (Eight Mile Island) from someone who loves rainstorms (Over the Mountain). Everything gets stored and sifted in a writers head and pulled out when we need it.

I’m very lucky in the regard that I have a pretty good memory. I do remember the most obscure occurrences years later – even if I can’t accurately date them. It’s not so useful for real life – I can’t remember how to fold bath towels for instance, which drives my wife mad every week.

But if you don’t recall things as well, then write it down. Or sketch it. Or scribble yourself a note when you come across something. Do whatever works so you remember it.

You never know when it’s going to be useful.


Tony’s Tech: A Front end for KindleGen

For those of you going, huh? at that title, you can skip this post. The Kindle authors out there can dig in and enjoy…

Last year, I had to demonstrate to a small group of people the way to create a .mobi file. I’d been using Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) for a while, but it seems like Amazon are tightening up on creating files without using KindleGen (Certainly the last time I used Calibre, the Amazon uploader kicked it back out).

The only choice was using the lousy Amazon command line KindleGen program (Seriously, what is this, 1998?). But trying to explain command lines and file paths in DOS to a group of people who had barely used a computer was really out of the question.

So I Googled and searched around for a while…and I wrote my own front end for KindleGen in .hta and VisualBasic.



It’s pretty self-explanatory. Tell it where the KindleGen application is, tell it where the document is you want converting to .mobi. It takes that input, makes a compound statement and spits out the .mobi at the end in the same location as the document in the second box.

No fuss, no bother.

I really have to wonder if someone with as little coding experience as me can make something simpler than fighting your way through DOS pathways – in less than a week – why couldn’t Amazon?

Feel free to modify it as you like, but let me know if you make it all singing and dancing – I’d love to see it (Especially if someone figures out a way of adding a cover).

Download it here.

Writing Tips: Tony Talbot: The Brand

When I started self-publishing back in 2008, I came across an interesting concept: The writer as a brand item and marketed as such.

It seemed a little odd to me at the time, but I see the logic of it now: Your readers see very few images of you, or even better, just one. Think of McDonalds and you think of Golden Arches and wheat field yellow and red, for instance.

Quite a few years ago, Stephen King decided he wanted to sell books under a different name, for a variety of reasons. So he quietly sold books under the name Richard Bachman with minimal publicity. One book sold about ten thousand copies or so…but when he re-published the book as Stephen King, it sold an order of magnitude more. That’s the power of a writer as a brand, as a consumer item.

So all writers do it, even the big six. They all have a Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag, a YouTube channel and countless other ways of getting their name out there. We’re all waving our arms and shouting as loud as we can, after all. And it helps that everywhere you go, it’s always the same thing you’re looking for.

I’ve seen this again and again from writers…they’re asked to be A Brand. To promote their books themselves as part of that brand, go on lecture tours, do readings from bits of their books, and so on. To give people a face to attach to the name.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, a few weeks ago I changed my author picture from this 2012 pic (A very hot day in Washington State):



…to this 2015 one (Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire)…




Doesn’t seem like much of a deal, does it?

But think about it again…this author picture is the virtual image I send out to the world and the one that sits on my little business cards I give out to people. What do I want it to say about me? What brand image do I want to have?

It’s a serious business when this picture is how most of my readers see me most of the time. After all, ninety-nine percent of what I am as a writer is virtual; I’m mostly just binary.

So I asked for comments on Facebook before I went with it, and someone suggested I lighten the pic, so I did that. I cropped it a little as well and I cut off my feet (Hurt like hell). The same person also commented the stones and the countryside make me look like a writer of fantasy…see what I mean about branding? I decided I could live with that though.

There are also technical considerations. How does this picture look when it’s shrunk to a thumbnail or on one of my little business cards, for instance? How does it look on a mobile device?

And there are also the number of places this picture has to be updated: Goodreads, Booklikes, Twitter, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Facebook, Amazon US, Amazon UK. My Gravatar avatar. Two places on my website. Physically, I’m going to have to change my business cards as well.

It might look like a small matter – changing one picture to another – but even for a small writer like me, that’s a dozen or so places. If I get it wrong or change my mind, I’ll have to do all those pictures again. There are places I can’t change – reviewers who have my old picture on their site, for instance – but you do what you can with what you’ve got.

Why does it matter? Being Tony Talbot, The Brand means everywhere you find me, I look the same.

Just like McDonalds: You’ll always know what to look for.


(Reblogged from Musings – The Blog of Tony Talbot)

Take Part! Our New Monthly Write-In Feature…

Sunday Write Up HeaderAre you up for a bit of a challenge? A little fun and sharing some creativity? Great! Then come and join us in our new monthly ‘write-in’ feature that will launch this coming Sunday and happen on the last Sunday of the month after that.

The idea is simple. Each Sunday morning, we’ll post some word prompts and maybe a couple of pictures to get you started. All you have to do is write a piece – a couple of paragraphs, a poem, short story (less than 2,500 words), whatever takes your fancy really – using all of the words given. Pop your piece on your own blog (head it up with the banner above and link back to the post on here) and then come back here and share a link to your post in the comments of the ‘Sunday Write-Up’ post for that month. Then people can visit other blogs to check out the writing and let you know what they think 🙂 Think of it as a ‘virtual writing group’ that get’s together once a month. Challenge yourself to do something a little different – step outside your normal style or genre – and join us this weekend for our first feature.

Mel x