The Itch

It must have been there for a long time but it had never asked to be scratched. 

Now it is driving me insane. And I have given in to the urge to rub at it gently, gradually digging in my nails a little, and finally ripping at it with no reserve or restraint.

Which itch?

The itch to write fiction. I am not a fiction writer, let alone a flash fiction writer. Am I even a writer? That’s a question I dislike either asking or answering.

But recently I have succumbed to the call of the contest. Flash fiction contests covering a multitude of topics which have put my brain into overdrive and my fingers into action.

‘Flash’ because they require short pieces. One hundred words only. Or 299. Today’s was in two 99-word paragraphs. All of them with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

They make me think and hum and chew my nails. They make me stare out of the window at the long grass in the garden. They make me inventive, adventurous and clear. They make me wish I were at home typing, not at work dealing with someone else’s needs.

Because I need to do these. I don’t necessarily want to. But it seems that I have to. For if I don’t, the desire just doesn’t go away.

Like an itch that needs scratching.


Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Allergy, Athsma and Immunology

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Spider-Woman

Why on earth did I end up doing this job? I have no recollection whatsoever of applying for it, being interviewed, negotiations taking place, a contract being signed, or a big monthly salary being transferred to my bank account every month.

I have been provided with no special equipment, no protective jumpsuit or gloves, no stepladders or scaffolding for easy access, no finely meshed net for a quick catch.

Yet I’m the only person around here doing it. And it’s not a job a lot of people dream of as a kid. Except grotty, snotty, little bug-bullying boys perhaps. I’m none of those.

But I am Spider-Woman.

Remover extraordinaire of the many, many, way too many, eight-legged insects that manage to make their way into our home. I don’t even want to start thinking about how or where they enter. They just seem to appear. Usually before bedtime. Usually in the girls’ bedrooms, just above their heads.

A little scream announces its arrival. Then the long drawn-out groan:

“Muuuuuuuuuuuuum. Can you come up, please?” At least they say ‘please’.

But why don’t they shout for Daaaaaaaaaaaad?

Probably because he is out at the swimming-pool, or running track, or pedalling away on his featherlight bike. I don’t suppose he can be both an Iron Man and a Spiderman.

So I traipse up the stairs and spy the little bugger on the ceiling. Little is not really accurate. Big bugger. The size of a two-euro coin, if you’re European. I won’t be soon so I’m making the most of this spider-sizing reference before I’m stripped of my pretty blue and gold-starred flag along with all the other Brits.

The two-euro coin is sometimes just its body. The legs turn it into the size of a Mr Kipling’s individual Bakewell Tart. I wonder who eats them these days?

Due to the lack of stepladder, scaffolding or net, I stand with wobbly legs on the bed, holding a hastily snatched magazine in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other. No, not to kill it! Who am I to decide on this poor creature’s fate? With age I’ve gone all peace-and-love-thy-insect-neighbourish.  Except for wasps. I’d kill a wasp in the bat of an iPad.

The spider, on seeing the scary sheet of paper, panics and runs off in the other direction where I surprise it with the magazine. It sprints onto it and it’s mine. The problem then is keeping it on the front page without it either touching my hand (I couldn’t deal with that) or falling off entirely.

Whichever daughter is concerned has already opened her window and I shake the whole thing outside to make Mr Kipling drop off into the dark void below.  And no, I don’t care at this point what happens to it. It can plummet to its death or be saved by a passing bush. I couldn’t really give a monkey’s. My mission has been accomplished here. Gone is the love-thy-insect bit.

But there’s still a big question hovering over our heads. How come I can do this without having a heart attack and dying on the spot, but my girls cannot?

Deep inner strength and composure? Lack of fear in all areas of life? A former life as a spider’s mum? All of the above? Yeah, right.

It could just be that I am the only one in our household who can see a big fat spider lurking amongst the piles of books on my bedside table, or scaling the slopes of our bedroom ceiling, yet manage to turn off the light and fall fast asleep anyway. My dreams may be rather dark and arachno-filled, but amazingly I’m out for the count, in spite of the creepy, crawly, scratching noises going on beside my weird and fearless head.


Pffff. This is a baby one. Fifty cents , no more.

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Broken #Flash4Storms

One of my absolute favourite bloggers, the wonderfully witty and tremendously talented Sarah Brentyn, has very generously decided to raise awareness, and at the same time some money, for the victims of the deadly hurricanes which blew their way through the Caribbean recently.

Her idea is to offer $1 (up to $50) for every piece of flash fiction, of no more than fifty words, on the theme of HELP, that we post and then share on her site.

You can read her post here, and contribute your own piece if you like.

I don’t usually do this. In fact I have never written anything in less than a hundred words, except perhaps rare Christmas cards sent to far-flung relatives.

But there’s a first for everything.

So here is my contribution, based on a moment I really spent with a young, pony-mad girl many years ago.

Her face in my lap was the colour of ash. Pain-darkened eyes pleaded with mine.

“Will they be able to fix it quickly?”

“Of course they will”, I lied. “They’re on their way.”

My eyes smiled down at hers, carefully avoiding looking at the tiny arm, broken in two.

Strangely, I enjoyed writing this more than I had imagined. Thanks Sarah for the opportunity to try something a little different. And for your generosity.

IMG_0699

Photo courtesy of the NASA, from Sarah’s site.

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Today’s the day…

That I will truthfully be able to answer “Yes” to anyone who asks me if any of my stories have been published yet.
I will be able to nod meekly and smile knowingly about how wonderful it feels to see my words in print. I will look down timidly, like Lady Di used to do, and say “Oh, it’s nothing really…”

Then when they leave the room (I’m not quite sure yet where this is all taking place, maybe at some kind of writers’ fair thing in a big castle in Scotland) I’ll start jumping up and down, doing wonky cartwheels, laughing hysterically, then screaming at the top of my voice:

I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR, I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR…. over and over until some other writerly person enters that fancy high-ceilinged room and I will lower my eyes demurely once more.

This is all highly hypothetical of course. Except the part about having a story published today. I already bragged about it a while back. And I’m doing it again today although I swore to you then that I absolutely hate bragging. 

But just in case you arrived late at this bloggers’ party or skipped over that last post with a look of disdain on your face, here I go again. Yes, you can yawn all like, I know I am repeating myself. 

My story is within an anthology and this is what it looks like:


And this is the blurb:

Come along for a chilling ride on a ghost ship, experience eerie daydreams and psychotic killers, explore haunted houses, and send the deceased to their final destination.

And that’s just a quarter of ‪the thrills‬.

Edited and compiled by Amazon bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of scary tales brings together the minds and pens of twenty authors, including bestseller Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant), bestselling author ‪Jenifer‬ Ruff (Everett), Lucy Brazier (PorterGirl), J. A. Allen, Juliet Nubel (THAT’S ME, FOLKS!), TA Henry, Ann Marie Andrus, Heather Hackett, Barbara Anne Helberg, Scott Skipper, Joanne Larner, Christine Valentor, Adele Marie Park, Curtis Bausse, Annette Robinson, Frank Parker, Eric Daniel Clarke, and Maribel C. Pagan.

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before walking alone on the beach at night, reading a diary, or innocently watching a train from your car.

And a reviewer already had this to say about it.
“I don’t recall any compilation I’ve read in the distant past bringing forth the range of emotions that these did, and believe me I’m too old for hormones to have played a part in that!”

By the way, HERE is where you can find it.

I can even sign your copy if you order the paperback version. No obligation there. Yes, of course I’ll do yours, Mum.

No pressure. I’m not a pushy pain-in-the-bum saleswoman. Really. But if you want to tell your friends about it too then please feel free to do so.

I recently watched an interview where best-selling British author Louise Jensen talked about how she used to think that ‘real writers’ lived on clouds. I know exactly what she meant by that. But today I am definitely sitting on a huge, fat, fluffy one, formed into the shape of a number nine. I’m sure I’ll fall off it in a couple of days, but for the moment I am very happy up here. 

The first time is always the best.

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Why did I miss that train?

I was definitely standing on the platform waiting for it with the rest of the inhabitants of the Earth. I remember it pulling up extremely quickly, the doors opening only a fraction before the ones at the front started yanking hard on them in their haste to board. Crowds frazzle me so I stood back, letting the younger and bolder travellers alight. And just as I approached there was a loud buzzing noise and the doors slammed shut, leaving me and a few other stragglers watch it disappear into the brightly lit, hi-tech future.

That’s a bloody lie. I wasn’t even at the station that day, having deliberately made the decision that I was not getting on that train then, now, or anytime soon.

But I often wonder why. What stopped me and what is still stopping me today from taking even the slightest interest in all things techie?

It is not an age thing because my big blister handles everything Apple-ish with flair. My mum even has a smartphone for heaven’s sake. And if I’m fifty you can imagine how old she is.

Fear of the unknown? When I read fellow bloggers discussing tools they use, such as Buffer and Hoot Suite, I realise that in my world those are things to shine my finger nails, and a character from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What these tools could do for me or anyone else just makes my eyes glaze over and my brain click off.

Fear of being eaten alive? For a few months I had my aforementioned sister’s codes to check out things on her Facebook account. I would waste endless moments fluttering from one old friend to the next, to their cousin, then their sister-in-law’s colleague’s daughter’s wedding photos, before I realised that the morning had gone and my life was no better for having spent that time spying. For that was ultimately what I felt I was doing.

What about Twitter? Well, if Trump tweets then I certainly don’t want to. Only birds should be doing this. Cute little yellow birds in cages. Not ugly big orange men who should undoubtedly be put behind bars too.

Or maybe I just want to be different? Purple spiky hair, big green suede shoes, a scribbled-upon army jacket and an old man’s cap in the eighties are surely the equivalent of having an ancient Nokia mobile phone, no Facebook, nor Twitter, nor internet skills today. Why do I still feel that need to stand apart?

Honestly I can’t say. All I know is that I feel no lesser, no older, no weirder, no dumber than my up-to-date friends and family.

Hark! I can hear another of those trains rattling in the distance. Maybe one day I’ll make my way down to the station and see what I’ve been missing.

In the meantime I’ll just stay here, in my favourite chair, hitting the keys on this admittedly modern little machine.

That, and a big mug of tea, is more than enough to keep me happy today.

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Oopsie…


Notice anything different?

Yep, I’ve changed some stuff around here. But being me, with all of my technological skills coming to the fore, of course I didn’t actually do this on purpose. I just willy-nilly jumped into something brand new with both feet and now I can’t clamber back out.

I’m going to blame my husband. Always the easiest option. Or rather I’ll blame the football match he was watching with his buddies last night, the one where poor Glasgow Celtic got hammered by the richissimo Parisians from St Germain. But I won’t go into the details. It’s too sad for words.

So I escaped to the faded red sofa in my room where the sun warms my shoulders in the afternoon but where nothing was shining at all yesterday evening except the glare from my little iPad.

I think I’ll have a look at some other themes for my blog, I idly murmured, intent on simply staying away from the roars and cheers and beers happening downstairs.

Oh, this one looks nice. Let me try it out. Where am I supposed to click?

Wham. Done. Activated. Drat. I think I prefer my old one.

But, lo and behold (isn’t that just the most wonderful expression in the entire English language) my old theme is now “retired”.

I wonder who decided on its retirement. Its employer? I thought that was me. Had it worked for the number of years it was supposed to? Will it receive a pension from the government? An OAP card for the buses? Will it move to an old theme’s home in the near future and be cared for by other younger themes?

Who knows? All I know is that I will never see it again. Never see the pretty picture of that pale pink typewriter in all its shapely glory. It is now stretched beyond all recognition, lying fuzzily along the top, a skinny tortured version of its beautiful former self.

Gone are the big, fat chunky letters shouting out their name to anyone curious enough to drop by. In their place stand ordinary, well-behaved little soldiers all in a bold black row.

Hohum. That’s what I get for trying to be adventurous.

Writer, I’m working on it. Adventurer, hopeless. Madwoman, most definitely. Today in any case.

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Oyez! Oyez!

Gather round, brave readers. For have I got news for you!

Those of you who know me well will remember that I hate to brag. Those of you who don’t know me well are just about to find out. I hate to brag. I really, really hate to brag.

I have done it once before here after taking fifth place in a recent writing contest. But I took that post off very quickly because it’s just so hard for me to pat myself on the back (both figuratively and literally).

But this is a different type of brag. Because this one is not all about me. This is about myself and nineteen other authors who have been chosen to be part of a Scary Anthology which will be available from October 1st this year.
Here is what it looks like:


And here is the blurb:
Come along for a chilling ride on a ghost ship, experience eerie daydreams and psychotic killers, explore haunted houses, and send the deceased to their final destination.

And that’s just a quarter of ‪the thrills‬.

Edited and compiled by Amazon bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of scary tales brings together the minds and pens of twenty authors, including bestseller Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant), bestselling author ‪Jenifer‬ Ruff (Everett), Lucy Brazier (PorterGirl), J. A. Allen, Juliet Nubel (THAT’S ME, FOLKS!), TA Henry, Ann Marie Andrus, Heather Hackett, Barbara Anne Helberg, Scott Skipper, Joanne Larner, Christine Valentor, Adele Marie Park, Curtis Bausse, Annette Robinson, Frank Parker, Eric Daniel Clarke, and Maribel C. Pagan.

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before walking alone on the beach at night, reading a diary, or innocently watching a train from your car.

How about that then!

My story is definitely creepy. I have read some of the others and they are definitely scary. The rest will be a wonderful big surprise.

SO. Guess what I’m going to tell you all. Yeah. You can be creeped out and scared to bits and surprised as hell too because it is available for pre-order now (click here to order).

And if you would like to go ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ and ‘that’s fabulous, Juliet’ and then share this post on your Facebook page or Twitter thingmybob then please feel free to do so.
Because those of you who know me well will also know that I’m an old-fashioned gal who was born with an allergy to all things modern (except to my beloved iPad). And so far the loud, insistent call of the Facebook page and Twitter account hasn’t reached my ageing, wrinkly ears.

That may change one day, but please don’t place any bets on that yet…

And just in case you didn’t get the message….

Here’s that pre-order link again.

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Stories to Share

What a nice surprise to find this morning! Author Sheila M Good liked my story so much that she has decided to share it on her site.
For those of you who haven’t read it already I hope you enjoy it. For those who read it first time around I hope you enjoy it again…
Thanks Sheila.

COW PASTURE CHRONICLES

It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my favorite stories. So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy these wonderful and engaging stories.

Up first 2 stories  from Every Day Fiction:

From WOW’s Writing Contests:

And, from Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins :

I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I did and as always, let the authors know.

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Join the conversation. Talk to me or tell me your story. I’m all ears.

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Safranix

What exactly is this?

A newly discovered planet? Cookery channel? Perfume with a yellow tinge? Justin Bieber’s latest album with an Indian sitar playing in the background? Asterix’s new dog?

None of them (as far as I know anyway).

It is four people, very dear to my heart, mixed into one name. My niece, her partner and their two beautiful children. I love how they have formed this single unit, taking syllables from each of their first names and creating a different, new and exciting one. They started as simply Safran, then when their daughter arrived they became Safrani and as a foursome they are now known as Safranix.

Shouldn’t we all do this? Mix first names to become one? Couples, families, friends. I’m going to start a petition to install this rule as soon as this post is finished.

But as I write, Safranix are leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when they’ll be back again. Well I do, but I needed to sing those lines from the seventies to try to wipe away the tears I shed for them.

They are off on an adventure to taste life on an island in the middle of the deep blue sea. And that little island unfortunately is far, far away.


The tears however are both for them and for myself. Because what they are doing today is what we did as a family over fifteen years ago.

And as I watched my niece approach the departure date and realise that the project was no longer a simple egg waiting to hatch many months later, but was now a big fat hen, clucking and pecking at her ear “it’s almost time”, I remembered the same moments of disbelief, stress, emotion, overwhelming excitement, mixed with undermining grief.

Three years away from home, from loved ones, from everything we knew. How would we ever manage?

And as we said goodbye yesterday, the same knot which had been in my tummy all those years ago started moving up into my mouth, slowly uncoiling and wrapping itself around my throat, choking me with sadness, and bringing painful hot tears to my eyes.

My niece knows how hard that time was and I sincerely hope it is easier for her today than it was for me then. I’m sure it will be. She is more mature than I was, readier to start a new life and try to make it work. And I think that, unlike myself, she will be looking at the road ahead of them and not checking the rearview mirror every five minutes. She knows we can make decisions about happiness and not fight hard against change, expecting joy to appear without our help. She is a clever, strong, determined young lady and I have absolute faith in her capacity to make things bright.

So all I’d like to say is bon voyage, Safranix. Good luck. Enjoy the sun and the sea and the sand and be as happy as you possibly can.

We, like your whole family, will miss you very, very much.

Signed

Julanemise

 
Photo courtesy of creativeherald

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Back to Black

splatSplat!

That’s the sound I made as I fell back down to Earth the other day. Back to real life. Back home. Back to work. Back to black.

Last year I had the summer-end blues. This year the blues are black. Black and blue like the big fat bruise on my thigh where I bumped it against the hideous table in our rented holiday home. An old-fashioned massive wooden table, standing in the dining-room of an even older-fashioned French villa built in 1895, and which obviously hadn’t seen a lick of paint or a new roll of wallpaper since then.  Ancient and ugly as hell but perfectly heavenly for us.

It was the place to sleep, to dream, to talk and laugh as we sat on the beige velvet sofa watching the rain pour down outside.

The perfect place to entertain family, friends, kids both big and small. For all of us to eat and drink and sing on the covered terrace. And dance. A bit.

It was a place that creaked and groaned. The shutters clacked against the stone walls. The fridge roared. Our dirty clothes whirred crazily in a jet-engined machine. And dishes clinked in unison inside a cleaning contraption built in the middle ages.

And it was a place to contemplate – life, love, the universe, where to eat dinner, how to tame my fluffy, bleached, holiday hair.

Above all it was the place to forget. About work. About problems . About work problems. Forget how to drive a car or what the inside of a supermarket looks like. Forget about make-up. And jewellery. And the delicious feel of softly tumbled towels or perfectly dry laundry. Forget what an alarm clock sounds like. Or what the shape of an iron or a kettle or a toaster looks like.

But more than that it was the place and the time to neglect this silly compulsive habit. Writing, blogging, posting, commenting.  All were pushed to the back of my mind for three whole weeks. That’s the equivalent of three decades in blog years.

Twenty-one days of peace and quiet and paperbacks and magazines and funny TV shows and all that nineties nonsense. Five hundred and four hours of doing other stuff except blogging. Over thirty thousand minutes spent without scribbling on my pet iPad.

That’s a lot of minutes.

No damned wonder I’m feeling down. I missed you, dearest keyboard. I missed the fine mist of words you spray regularly onto this page. I missed the feel of your little white letters sliding beneath my fingertips. Just touching you now, I can feel the darkness lifting already.

I’m not back to black. I’m just back.

 

Artwork courtesy of Cas van de Goor.

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