New drabble up on Horror Tree/ Cafe Lit bunch of flash and WinH month…

Having a few challenging health issues at the moment- so have not been writing much but here is a new drabble of mine up on Horror Tree today-

Here is the opening lines:-

Party Time

Mike tried to get a date for the Annual Ball. He begged his ex – she laughed in his face. “Not happening, freak.”

His next door neighbours wouldn’t open the door to him.

At the town’s watering hole, he bumped into Johnno, who growled, “Your behaviour is letting the pack down, mate.”….

and at CafeLit indie publisher here is the link to a flurry of flash pieces by me …

Nice to see them altogether on line- what is the collective noun for a bunch of flash

a floozy

a fleet or flotilla

a folderol ?

anyway here are 5 and one by a friend/student of mine Linda Hutchinson too.


Next month is Women in Horror month- and I will have 3 pieces in the next issue of Siren’s Call ezine- which will be dedicated to female only written pieces ….

watch this blood stained space …


Advance review of the latest bestseller from Kinsella…

Due out 7 February 2019

5 stars out of 5

Fizzy, fun, romantic, entertaining, cheers you up after a long dark cold winter’s day.

I have read all of Sophie Kinsella’s books and in her previous incarnation as Madeleine Wickham- so I am always delighted when a new one of hers hits the shops or in this case via net galley and thanks to the publishers for the ARC. In her latest souffle light prosecco fizzy novel Sophie Kinsella gives us the alliteratively named Fixie Farr whose family own and run Farrs a hardware/cookware shop and whose motto is ‘Family first’ even though Fixie doesn’t really relate to her older flashy brother Jake and her drifty vague gorgeous sister but she wants to be the best she can be for her mum who needs a holiday. Meanwhile Fixie is still fixated (sorry couldn’t resist) on Ryan, her object de passion since since she was 10 years old. Ryan is all sun tan, L.A. stories of film producing, white teeth and charm. We know he’s bad news, but it takes Fixie the whole novel to find out he’s as deep as a saucer. Meanwhile where does the IOU idea come in? Well enter one entrepreneur green investment manager, one Sebastian, stage left, who starts the IOU chain going by scribbling on a coffee sleeve after Fixie saves his laptop from drowning. There are many misunderstandings along the way before true love wins and Fixie has to grow up, take charge at Farrs and of her feelings and see her family for what and who they are, flaws and all and yet still love them. Kinsella is just so very good at this light frothy funny tightrope walking – she makes it look effortless, which it certainly isn’t. We all know Ryans and Jakes, (flashy lads with the gift of the gab) and it’s such fun seeing them get their comeuppance and we all know that hard work and honesty should win the day -and it’s fab when it does. Even if it only happens in fiction it gives us a warm glow. Read this in 2 days- like wrapping myself in a cosy duvet of words and wit.

Free to enter short story competition – theme ‘A New Home’

story writing contest up to 2000 words

Short Story Writing Competition


Enter our FREE short story competition for a chance to win a cash prize and see your winning entry published online!


The winner will receive £200 and publication on the Solution Loans website, with £50 and publication for three runners-up.

How To Enter:

As the dark nights draw in and the weather turns cold we often retreat back into our homes. People start doing those DIY projects they put off over the summer, or perhaps they begin to think about changing or moving house.

We’re therefore looking for short stories with the title or theme of “A New Home.” You may choose to interpret the theme however you wish, but remember the advice from our judges in the last competition. Ultimately our judges said they shortlisted those stories which they felt combined a strong and engaging idea with overall great writing and story-telling.

Send us your story, between 1500 to 2000 words, in a single pdf, doc, docx, or txt file to with the subject heading:

Solution Loans short story competition

Competition Closing Date:

Your entry must be submitted before midnight on:

Thursday 28th February 2019

Entries will not be accepted after this date.


The Unholy Trinity – 3 linked drabbles up in the Friday slot on the Horror Tree…

All hail the power of the Three.

The Walls Talk/ Soul Stealer / A Murder of Crows

each one has its own animal/bird/insect behaving in aberrant ways you wouldn’t want to encounter.

The Walls Talk

Something is living inside the walls of an upper class Victorian house.

Soul Stealer

A brother and sister find an unknown animal’s carcass on the beach- photographing it turns out to be big mistake.

A Murder of Crows

Why  do we call a flock of crows a murder? Here is the reason.


Prize Giving afternoon at the Craft House for the Creative writing competition

Here is Mike Farren (far right), and the winners of our flash fiction and poetry categories- from l to r:- Colin Neville runner up for flash; middle Chris Grogan who took 1st place in both flash and poetry; then Martin Webster runner up for poetry, as photographed by April the owner and manager of the Craft House.

crafthouse competition winners group pic

It was a lovely afternoon, with the prizes being given out, the winners reading their work, then Mike read poems from his collection:-

Pierrot and his Mother Paperback – 26 Jun 2017

which is available to buy at Salts Mill bookshop or from the poet -here is his website

Mike also talked about how he turned to poetry, his experiences and successes. I read a new piece of flash fiction and after the break we had a mini q&a.

Drum roll- here are the winning pieces exclusive to my blog, as kindly given permission to post by the authors, who retain copyright.

1st place for flash fiction

A powerful, thought provoking fable of our times:-

Fading Fast

by Chris Grogan

The first thing Kate gave up was carbs. She swapped spaghetti for courgetti and tried unsuccessfully to make pizza without dough. When her daughter made muffins at school Kate showed her The Truth About Sugar on YouTube then chucked them in the bin.

Meat came next. Sunday dinners became a thing of the past and the mere suggestion of a burger provoked a shudder of disgust from Kate. Her husband started taking the children for walks after tea and Big Frank at the chip shop was happy to oblige, double wrapping cod suppers for them to eat in the park.

Dumping lattes for ‘Americano, no milk’ signalled the end of dairy and the fridge was purged of eggs. The kids rebelled and refused to eat the crispy kale that was no substitute for Walkers cheese and onion and made them both targets of ridicule at school.

Alcohol was the last to go. Kate struggled to accept that anything as reviving as her evening pinot grigio could be seriously bad for her.

You’ll fade away,’ said her mother, secretly wondering if a change of diet might do the same for her cheekbones as it had for Kate’s. Her reluctance to attempt to pronounce ‘quinoa’ in Aldi and her love of millionaire’s shortbread soon put paid to that.

By Easter (no chocolate, the children got grapes) Kate was colour coding her food. A traffic light diet of plant based, guilt free, clean-eating meals.

Green for breakfast, a smoothie of cucumber, spinach and kale. It tasted disgusting, a sure sign thought Kate it was doing her good. Amber at lunch time; pumpkin soup and carrot sticks and mango lassi made with almond milk and turmeric. And red in the evening for suppers consisting of cranberries, tomatoes and plums. Her husband took the children and moved in with his mother.

As her flesh melted away Kate experienced a lightness of body and mind she had never previously known. She rejoiced as the outline of her skeleton became clearly visible through her increasingly translucent skin, no longer muffled by pillows of muscle and fat.

She stopped going to work; shopping and juicing took up most of her time. She barely noticed her children were gone.

Before long her bones took on a crystalline quality. Still solid, but see though and shimmering. Passing the hall mirror one morning she was amazed to see the reflection of the coat rack that hung on the wall behind her quite clearly through the reflection of her own face.

Delighted, Kate reconfigured her menu to include only clear foods; ice cubes and cabbage water, ginger tea and lemon jelly set with agar-agar. She considered adding vodka but decided against it.

When her mother called round she was sure Kate was out. She was about to leave when she felt a draught, a stirring of the air in the apparently empty room.

Hi mum’, she heard Kate’s voice. ‘You’ll stay for a glass of water?’


1st place in poetry

Mothering On by Chris Grogan

She searches the rain sodden hillside

for sheep that have lambed on the fell

Alerted by crows to a cold-stiffened corpse

Eye sockets pecked clean

She lifts the dead lamb

Slits its skin from the throat to the arse

and peels off the pelt like Chanel

Malodorous jacket fits snug on an orphaned pet lamb

C’mon son. Time to meet your new mam

In the barn the bereaved yow resists

Not yet fooled her dead young has returned

He heat-seeks his way to her tits

Head-butting and mewling he persists

till milk flows

Binding tighter than blood

Job done

It’s called mothering on

She will not acknowledge my child

Can’t accept we are mother and son

Won’t admit to his place in my life

In my heart

Never uses his name, calls him boy

Says I’ll never know love

till I nurse my own kin

Till I birth my own young

That he’s not mothered on


Runner up in flash fiction

A witty, telling piece which plays with our society’s views and expectations before turning it on its head.

Case Study by Colin Neville

Sara took out her notebook. The couple and the young boy in the train seats opposite would be good for her case study.

‘Observe people.’ Barbara, the Counselling course tutor, had urged. ‘Look at how they relate to each other physically. Their body language can tell you important things about them.’

Sara wrote rapidly, casting glances at the trio.

‘Woman: 30-35. Man, similar age. Child: Boy, about 5 or 6.

The woman – boy’s mother? The child is all over the woman; won’t leave her alone.

The boy is ignoring the man. The father?

Man is completely indifferent to the woman and child – staring into space. Shaved head. Looks a bit aggressive.

Child and woman, leaning in toward each other, whispering. Boy seems besotted with the woman – must be his mother.

Man: fiddling with his Smartphone now- still no interaction with the other two.’


Sara continued to observe and make her notes. The District Line train passed through six stations on its journey into the east London suburbs.

‘Man seems in a world of his own.

Woman and boy – are they excluding the man. Or is he excluding them?’

Sara strained to hear the conversation between mother and child, but two teenage girls in the seats next to her were talking loudly into their respective mobile phones.

‘O my God! O my God! He didn’t say that, did he?’

‘It ain’t like that! You got that wrong, Wayne.’

Sara’s notes were flowing.

‘Man has cut the woman and child out of his life.

Clear break-down of communication.’


This is what happened with Jack and me. Sara almost said it out aloud. She looked carefully at the man opposite. He even looks a bit like, Jack. She scribbled on.

‘Man like a zombie.

Absolutely no connection between him and them.

Child over-compensating with the woman.’

The teenage girls left the train. Sara strained to hear the conversation between the child and the woman. The boy was fiddling with the woman’s necklace that hung low over her cleavage. He suddenly fondled her breasts. She gently pushed his hand away, laughing.

‘You’re too old for that now!’

‘Why? Daddy does it, and he’s older than me!’

The man and the woman looked at each other and burst into laughter, the man showing fine white teeth. His face was transformed.

The boy turned to the man and hugged him. ‘You do, Daddy!’

The trio left the train. Sara put a line through her notes.


Runner up poetry piece:-

The Little Blue Boy by Martin Webster

I see him lying there, here, but not here, still, new, blue, behind the flimsy barriers of the incubator, but glass-sharp memories cemented on a wall-top stop me looking over.

In my hope against hope he is boy me again, running home with a model aeroplane, spinning propellors swooping over ash heaps, loop-the-looping away from local bully Christopher Brown’s daily persecution. Camouflaged, the plane can hide, but my balaclava, knit blue-for-a-boy, kingfisher-flashes in his peripheral, predator’s vision.

And the chase is on.

Those holes in my plastic sandals designed to collect grit do their worst, pin-sharp predictors of an inevitable prat-fall onto the sweeter targets that are my hands and knees.

Up, with wings broken, cries unspoken, breathing loud across the Ghost-house garden, through limping iron railings to the street.

Mrs Greenwood, local bobby’s Mother, saves me with born authority. ‘I fell’ I tell her, as her Father had at Tobruk.

She knows my fear, knows my pain, knows my loss. She knows as only mothers do, as did my own.

I have no Mrs Greenwood here, in silent echoes looking-down at this tiny, blue boy. No grit burrowed traces on his palms and perfect fingers wrapped around nothing. Ever

No missing plane, just pain.

His counted blessings came up short of mine.

My only son.

Who will never run.

To a Mrs Greenwood.

To me.


Are Retreats a Feminist Issue?

Alison Taft’s latest blog post on the value of writing retreats and building up a daily writing habit- Alison is mentoring me this year (hurrah!) while I tackle my biggest ever writing project – a crime novel. I am excited but nervous. Am I up to this? Currently am tackling my novel’s time line. I might need a bigger whiteboard in my study for this.

Ali Harper Writes

I spent the week before Christmas on a writing retreat in Whitby. I’m incredibly lucky to be friends with Anna Chilvers, writer and creative writing tutor extraordinaire. We tutor writing retreats together (held at Wentworth Castle in the summer) but we also retreat ourselves – to Whitby, where it’s  just me and Anna in a two up, two down house that clings to the hillside. It has no wifi, no mobile phone signal, no TV and hardly any heating. It’s the perfect place to write. There’s nothing else to do.whitby-15168_640

I once went to a talk called Things I Hate About Writing by Michael Stewart, author of the great book King Crow. Retreats were one of his top three pet hates. He said writing should take place in life, not away from it. I agree – writing has to be part of my routine or I’d never finish…

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