Category Archives: Prose

what I’m writing – week fifteen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week fifteen of ‘What I’m Writing’- the last of the year! Chrissie and I are taking a couple of weeks off over the festive period but #WhatImWriting will be back on 6th January 2015 ready to hear all about your new year’s resolutions!

Since it’s the last of the year I just want to say – on behalf of Chrissie and myself – a huge thank you to each and every one of you who has linked up and/or commented on the posts in our little linky. When we launched it in September this year we had no idea how it would go and we really have been totally thrilled to see people sharing such a range of fabulous posts every week. You’ve been inspiring and supportive and honest and funny and lovely and it’s been wonderful to get to know you all. Truly. Thank you.

So, enough of the mushy stuff (though I’m a huge softy at heart so don’t be surprised if I write more of that sort of thing in my post to link up this week) – to business! (ie the bit where I cut and paste… ).

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about.

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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you guys #WhatImWriting

photo (8)I’ll let you into a secret – I’m a real softy. Actually this probably isn’t much of a secret as anyone who has ever watched a TV wedding with me will attest to. I get misty-eyed over things, I’m nostalgic and when people are lovely it brings a lump to my throat. The effect is enhanced if I’ve had even the smallest sip of something alcoholic (I’m a total lightweight), or if there are candles lit or if it’s Christmas.. then if people are lovely I get the urge to say “You guys!” and then burble incoherently about how wonderful they are.

Anyway, ‘what does this his have to do with writing?’ you may be thinking. Well this – it’s Christmas, there are candles lit, I’ve had a glass of mulled wine (you get the picture) and I’ve been thinking about how much I love our little linky. Over the last three months ‘What I’m Writing’ has had so many lovely writers and bloggers link up to share such a range of wonderful, inspiring and honest posts and it’s just been great. Yes, I’m feeling all “you guys!” about you all and I thought, since it was Christmas, the season of sentimentality and all things snuggly and good, I would tell you. I find you all inspirational. Reading how you are getting on with your writing, and all the wonderful comments I’ve had on my posts has really spurred me on. Thank you so much. And thanks especially to Chrissie for being a fabulous co host and always being on the other end of FB messenger any time I need to throw creative ideas or writing-related angst about!

So, what have I been writing this week? Not much to be honest (the festive season is already getting under way and eating my time accordingly) but I have been thinking and planning for the new year. I’m not certain what decisions I’m going to make but I have some ideas bubbling and think I might set myself one or two new challenges – exciting!

I will also certainly be continuing to write my picture books and searching for an agent (and while we’re on the subject of agents I reviewed the Agent Hunter website the other day – worth a read if you’re looking for an agent or a publisher). I should really get back to my novel too – I can’t just leave it hanging at 55,000 words with my central character in peril, can I?!

But before all that: Christmas and some time off blogging I think. Come the end of the week I’m going to be covered in boys and I want to enjoy a lovely family Christmas with them. Boys one and two are already really excited and singing carols almost constantly (my second son never stops singing at the best of times), so much so that the baby at only 21 months is spontaneously bursting into bouts of ‘Jingle Bells’ at the slightest provocation. It’s noisy, it’s hectic, it’s lovely and I want to be fully part of it and not have half an eye on my blog or twitter or whatever.

I’ll probably still write though… won’t I? Between the massive feasting and the socialising and the christmas-film watching and present-unwrapping there’s bound to be the odd moment of peace where I can pick up a pen. Perhaps. We’ll see. I’ll report back from the other side!

Happy Christmas lovely people. May your days be merry and bright.

friendship

dappled forest cropWhen I saw that ‘The Prompt’ over at Mum turned Mom this week was ‘Friendship’ I remembered a short story I wrote on the subject a while back. Actually I must have written it a couple of years ago which is quite a long time in terms of how my writing has developed, and it’s also a bit unusual for me as it’s written in the first person. But I thought, rather than leave it to gather dust on my hard-drive, I’d share it.

To Last a Lifetime

I was a bit of a loner as a child. Not an unhappy loner, not lonely; it was just that I mostly liked to be on my own. I was – am – an only child, born late to parents who’d struggled for years to have me, and maybe this was one of the reasons for my self-reliance. With no brothers or sisters to play games with me, fight with me, drag me off on their adventures or follow me on mine, I learned to do things for myself and by myself. My parents supported this: desperately wanted and hugely loved though I was, they still allowed me my freedom. Perhaps they were aware of how easy it would have been to go the other way: to mollycoddle their shrimpy little daughter with the sticky-outy ears. Perhaps this pushed them to allow me to develop at my own pace and in my own way. Whatever the reason, from an early age I was something of an independent explorer.

We lived in a little house in the middle of the countryside, and this suited me. The expanse of fields, woodland and open sky surrounding our home were perfect for a young girl with an urge for adventure and as soon as I was old enough, my parents let me go exploring in the fields and woods beyond the house. I could happily while away hours climbing trees, damming streams and building dens in the undergrowth.

Despite being happy on my own, I think on the day I met Max I was ready to make a friend. It was one summer at the start of the school holidays and I was in the process of constructing a rather intricate dam on a little stream going through the woods next to our house. There had been a heavy rainfall the previous night and – not convinced that mere rocks and pebbles would be able to hold back the faster-flowing water – I was attempting a woven barrier of twigs which I intended to stuff with moss and plant in the stream bed.

The plan was not going well: the twigs kept snapping, I couldn’t seem to gather enough and a full two hours went by with very little progress made. Tired, I was sitting back on my haunches wondering whether to abandon the whole plan when, with a ‘plop’, a little stick landed next to me. I looked to my right and there was Max. For a moment we just stared at each other. He was about my height with a slightly impish look in his brown eyes, and his scruffy hair looked very similar to how I imagine mine must have done. My perfect adventuring companion. I looked down at the stick and realised it was really a very good size for my weaving project. “Thanks,” I said, picking it up and readdressing my task, then casting back over my shoulder, “You can help me do this if you like.”

And that was that. We worked side by side, Max bringing me sticks and me painstakingly constructing the dam. When it was complete it was pretty impressive – to our young minds at least – with an ever-deepening pool poised temptingly behind a surprisingly robust wood-and-moss barrier. A cursory inspection of our work complete, we both leapt into the water and played around happily, shattering the peace with our excited splashing.

When the time came to go in for tea I tried to persuade Max to come with me. “Come on! My mum’s a great cook and I’m sure she won’t mind me bringing you along.” But he wouldn’t, instead turning and walking off further into the wood. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” I called at his retreating back. He didn’t respond, but I had a hunch I’d see him again.

The next few days it rained so heavily that even I – who normally couldn’t bear to stay indoors – wasn’t tempted to go out. Instead, I wrapped myself in a blanket on the window sill and gazed out at the rain-lashed scene. I told my parents about Max and asked if they knew where he lived. My mum knew that the farm over the ridge had been for sale and speculated that it now had new owners… perhaps we could go over together and meet the whole family sometime? I nodded, although I wasn’t particularly interested in that; I just wanted to see my friend again.

When the sun finally came out the following day, I rushed off outside and headed in the direction of the river. I was hoping I’d meet Max on the way, or at least spot him in the distance, but the wood was silent. Wandering the well worn tracks, I tried calling his name. There was no response. I was just pondering heading up to the farm to see if he was there when a rustling, cracking sound behind me alerted me to a presence. I turned to greet him with a huge smile.

We played together all that day and all the next and, as the summer days rolled on, we became inseparable. He started having tea at our house most days (he showed a healthy appreciation for my mum’s cooking, so he was always a welcome guest) and even slept over some nights.

In Max I had found my ideal ally. He understood me like no one else could and, through his friendship, I learnt about companionship, trust and loyalty. With him, nothing was complicated: he seemed to have a gut feeling about what was important, and he stuck to that. I respected and trusted him. With Max, I felt safe.

Summer gradually stuttered to a close and autumn brought a return to school, whereupon Max and I were separated. I missed him, but school gave me plenty of distractions. I found I felt more confident than I had done before the holidays and I started to form more friendships. I suppose my summer with Max had encouraged me to seek out companionship in other places and I began to want something more than my previous solitary pursuits. Anyway, there was still plenty of time during weekends and holidays for me to seek out my friend from across the fields.

This pattern continued as the months – and then gradually years – went by. School, friendships I formed there, and life outside of my home in general became increasingly important, but I always had time for Max too. Whenever I introduced him to friends they always got on – Max had a way with people – but no one ever took my place in his affections, just as no one ever took his place in mine.

Years rolled on. Our friendship lasted through the gangly, tormented adolescent phase and into adulthood. Things changed as we got older, of course. As time progressed there was less damming of rivers and racing through fields, and more time sitting around eating, drinking and contemplating life. Yes, I had become more sociable as I grew older, but I never lost my love of peace and quiet, of nature and of losing myself in thought. Max understood all that instinctively, and with the passing of the years came a contentment on both our parts to just spend time together. There was no need to actively do anything like we used to, we could just be.

Then one autumn, returning home from college, I met Max outside our house, just as we met at the end of every term. But this time something was different: he looked tired and ill, and his brown eyes seemed sad. Of course, I ushered him inside immediately, and once he was sitting down I gave him something to drink. We all wondered if he was alright and if we should call someone, but as he settled down to one of my mum’s famous shepherd’s pies he seemed much brighter. We all began to joke together as we used to; it was a happy homecoming.

After my parents had gone to bed that night, Max and I settled in front of the fire together. As the crackling flames sent dancing shadows across the wall, I looked at him and felt utter contentment. I thought about my happy childhood here in this house, of the summer I’d met Max and the years I’d spent with him by my side. I thought of what I’d learned from him and how my life had changed.

But as I looked I felt a sadness creep in too; I’d known when I’d seen him today that he’d have to leave me soon. His youthful exuberance had well and truly gone. As I’d grown up, he’d grown old. Yet I was determined to make whatever time he had left as good as it could be. I’d stay by his side until the end. I bent down from my chair to stroke his fur and scratch him behind his ears, “I love you Maxy-boy.” Stretched out on the hearth rug, Max opened his eyes to look at me and gave a huge sigh of contentment.

 

mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

agent hunting

cropped-books.jpgA few weeks ago I announced in a blog post that I intended to start looking for literary agents to submit my picture book manuscript to. As if by magic, I then received an email from Harry at Agent Hunter offering me a free subscription to their website in exchange for an honest review. It seemed like a highly sensible idea, so I said yes and signed up.

Was it a good idea? In a nutshell – yes. Here are my thoughts:

Agent Hunter claims to be “A simple way to find your literary agent or publisher.” and is basically a big, searchable, database of UK agents and publishers.

I used the ‘agent search’ section of the site so this review focuses mainly on that.

When you begin the agent search there are lots of different options for narrowing down your selection, for example by agent likes and dislikes, number of years experience, how many clients they represent and their accessibility (are they on twitter? Do they attend literary festivals etc). All very useful in terms of finding an agent who suits your style of writing and appeals to you.

I found the ‘genre’ option particularly useful – it narrowed down the type of books agents were looking for into three main groups (fiction, non-fiction and children) and then 24 sub-categories within those, so I was able to be really specific and pick only agents who represented picture books. I also liked the ‘client list status’ option which allows you to select either ‘keen to build client list’, ‘open to new clients’ or ‘client list largely complete’ and thus avoid approaching agents who simply aren’t on the look-out for new clients.

Once you’ve created your filtered list (and there are more options that I have space to mention here) you can save it to avoid faffing around again next time you log on. When you go through your agent list there is lots of useful information for each one including:

  • An ‘agency page’ which has biographical information about the agency they work for and lists all the agents who work there alongside submission advice and links to their websites and social media accounts. Of particular use here is the ‘standard response time’ which can vary a fair bit between agencies.
  • An ‘agent page’ which has biographical info about that particular agent and (of particular interest/use) personal information about some agents, such as their literary likes and dislikes and their passions.
  • A question and answer section (on the agent page) which – although not all agents have answered it –  could be very illuminating.
  • An ‘interesting links’ section. I loved this, as following these links could take you to all sorts of different information – agency news, interviews with the agent, articles about their clients success – really anything that gave you a flavour of what this particular agent was about.

All this information gives you a pretty good idea about whether you’d like to submit to an agent and, if you would, you can add them to your shortlist.

A quick look at the ‘publisher search’ part of the site reveals that there are also plenty of useful ways to refine your search in this section too, including ‘type of publisher’ and an ‘accepts un-agented submissions’ option which I can imagine being very useful if you’re thinking of approaching publishers directly.

Sounds good – you might be thinking – only couldn’t I just type ‘literary agents’ into google and come up with the same list? Well sort of, but when you do that (and I’ve tried) you end up with loads of agencies. You then have to search them for different agents and try and work out if the agency, or anyone within it, is looking for your sort of book. It would take much longer.

Also, having had a good trawl through lots of agents sites there was certainly information on Agent Hunter that I couldn’t actually find on the agents websites. Agent Hunter has collected information that can help you to be better informed.

Is it a perfect site? Not entirely (is anything?). I would really have liked to have had ‘location’ as part of the search function. Not everyone lives in London (the site itself acknowledges this) and it would have been nice to search for ‘agents in Northern England’ (even though these are few and far between, it seems!). If this information was even on the initial list of agents details, that would be useful but instead I had to click through to the agency information on each page to find where they were located.

I also found in one instance that an agent with a ‘closed client list’ was on my list of agents ‘keen to build client list’, and I suspect there are always going to be little details like that that sneak through the net. Things change, and I suppose the site can’t be totally up-to-date with everyone all the time!

These are very small gripes though in what is ultimately an incredibly useful website. When approaching agents you really want to be sure that they are a good match for you and I definitely felt better equipped and more confident having used this site. I have a shortlist of agents I’d like to approach and I’m not scared to use it!

I should probably mention the cost, which is £5 for a month’s subscription, £8 for six months or £12 for a year. I got a subscription for free but I can honestly say that, for the amount of time it has saved me and the extra information it contained, I would have been willing to pay. My thanks to Harry for giving me the subscription.

Finally, here’s some useful advice (taken from the Agent Hunter site) for any of us currently looking for an agent.

“Be persistent: agents make decisions about whom to represent for very different, personal and specific reasons. Your manuscript just needs to land on the right agent’s desk at the right time. It’s alchemy, really, magic but unpredictable. Make absolutely sure that the first few pages of the manuscript or sample chapters are impeccable and brilliant. We read thousands of submissions and we make important judgements (and, yes, decisions) on the first few pages, so they need to be very, very good.”

Tim Bates, Pollinger
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TOAST

toastI’m sitting at the kitchen table with the toddler. He’s twenty-one months old and is learning to talk. He can say quite a few words and is even starting to put together sentences… but who needs sentences?

Toddler: “Toast!”

Me: (spreading butter) “Yes, I’m going to have toast… mmm.”

Toddler: “TOAST!”

Me: “Yes it’s Mummy’s toast, you’ve got sandwiches though – much better.”

Toddler: (waving arms wildly) “TOAST!!”

Me: “You’d like some would you? Some plain toast that’s nowhere near as interesting as that sandwich I just painstakingly made for you? You’re really sure?”

Toddler: (reaching frantically) “TOOOOOOAAAAAST!”

Me: (Sighs) “Ok, ok, I’ll cut you a bit of mine, here you g..”

Toddler: (Snatches) “TOAST! TOAST!!”

Me: “Say ‘thank you’… so, are you going to eat that then?”

Toddler: (waving toast above head victoriously) “TOAST! TOASTY, TOASTY, TOAST!!”

Me: “Yes poppet, it’s toast, are you going t…oh” (watches as toast sails in a graceful arc across the room)

Toddler: “TOOOOOAAAAST!”

Turns out he wanted yogurt.

To paint with.

yogurt art

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Prose for Thought

what I’m writing – week thirteen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week thirteen of ‘What I’m Writing’. It’s December! Is everyone feeling festive?I was going to attempt to put a little sprig of holy or santa hat on our badge but then I realised that could easily take me hours and therefore wasn’t worth it… but you’re all creative types so please go ahead and imagine something suitable. Done it? Excellent, thanks, good work!

Before we go any further I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who linked up (over at Muddled Manuscript) last week. I loved reading your posts as always. Thanks also to Chrissie for being an excellent host. I can never compete with the excellent linky posts she writes – mine are just cut and paste jobs… on which note, I’ll now commence the pasting:

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about.

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

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a letter

sea

It was an icy January afternoon. The wind whipped Jane’s cheeks as she stood gazing out over the ocean, the letter clutched in her hand. The location was breathtaking. The winter sky brooded darkly over a landscape dotted with the frosty silhouettes of trees. It felt fitting: beautiful but desolate.

She glanced down at the letter. As the late afternoon light hit its surface it glowed with an almost ethereal light. It was just a single letter; her son’s initial, carved out of stone. A simple thing, yet so much emotion had gone into its creation.

It was the same every year – she poured all her lost love and dreams for him into a unique piece. It was always his initial but rendered each time in different materials. They were beautiful and her husband always marvelled at them on completion. Once, a few years ago, he had questioned her ritual of throwing them into the sea.

“They’re always so perfect.” He’d said, running his fingers over the mosaic letter she had toiled over that year, “And so different… maybe we could keep them? We could display them somewhere to remind us of him.”

“I don’t need reminding.” She’d snapped, rather unfairly, “I could never forget. And I don’t want them sitting on a shelf somewhere. They’re not for us, they’re for him.”

This was true. She knew it didn’t make logical sense – he was gone forever, after all – but casting them out into the ocean on this day every year always felt like reaching out to him. Sending him a message. She chose a different location every year too, and over the past fifteen years stretches of coast from the Northern Isles of Scotland to the beaches of Cornwall had all received her little memorials.

She took a step closer to the cliff edge and looked down over the foaming waves below. Unbidden, an image of his face appeared in her mind. She smiled sadly, drew her arm back and sent the letter soaring into the sky.

“Happy Birthday Patrick” she whispered as the sea accepted her offering, “We’ll always love you.”

 
Written in response to #ThePrompt over at Mum turned Mom. This week it was ‘a letter’. I didn’t mean it to be so sad, it just kind of happened. That’s the thing with writing – I never know where it’s going to take me. It is supposed to be as much about love as it is about loss though.

mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

what I’m writing – week eleven

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week eleven of ‘What I’m Writing’! Once again, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who linked up (over at Muddled Manuscript) last week. I loved reading your posts. Thanks also to Chrissie for hosting despite being the midst of a depressive episode – I’m impressed as always. I can never compete with the excellent linky posts she writes – mine are just cut and paste jobs… on which note, I’ll now commence the pasting:

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s round-up post gives you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about (and October’s round-up is on its way).

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

Writing Bubble

 

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ghost story – part two

Last week I posted part one of my Christmas Ghost Story. Today, it’s time for the concluding part. If you haven’t read part one please click here. And if you have… read on:

spooky snowy houses

The Tradition – Part Two

The young couple merrily slid and slipped their way down the snowy street arm-in-arm. All around them Christmas lights twinkled in the darkness from the windows of houses, from porches, shrubs and trees. The town looked every bit as picture-perfect as they had been promised.

They had arrived on the last train and had intended to go straight to their guest house and collapse into bed but the welcoming glow from the pub near the station had tempted them inside. Now, several drinks later, it was close to midnight as they navigated their way towards what the website had promised them would be a ‘festive home-from-home’.

“The brochure wasn’t kidding – it’s like something from a Christmas story.” Sophie smiled at the scene around them. As if on cue, flakes of snow began slowly drifting down.

“Wheeeeeeee” she shouted, spinning round with her arms outstretched,“snooooowwwww! I looooove snooooow!”

“Shhhhhhh,” Mark made a grab for her arm just in time to stop her toppling into a drift in a driveway, “We’re not in London anymore, people round here are trying to sleep!”

“Whoops!” Sophie giggled, then pointing towards the old stone house they had come to a stop next to, whispered “Those people aren’t! Look.” She paused to take it in. “Ahhhhh, it looks lovely: the man with his kids on his knee in front of the fire. So sweet.”

“Yup, another perfect Christmas scene to add to the collection. But come on,” Mark took her arm again, “we’ve got to get to our guesthouse, they said they lock the door at midnight and it’s nearly that now. I can see it just across the street, if your drunken legs can make it that far?”

“Oy” Sophie cuffed his arm, “I’m not as think as you drunk I am!” she giggled.

“Yeah, yeah, very funny.” Mark grinned and, glancing once more at the cosy scene through the window, they turned and crossed the road.

Twenty minutes later the two of them were safely ensconced in a bedroom whose rustic charms exactly fitted the bill for a romantic getaway. Sighing happily, Sophie went to the window to take one last look at the sparkling scene outside.

“Oh my God! Mark!” she shrieked. He rushed to her side but only had time to glance at the horrifying scene outside before she batted him away, “No, quick! Phone! Fire!” She fumbled for coherence as fear washed over her.

The entire house opposite was ablaze. The old stone walls had been replaced by an orange inferno that tore through the building even as she watched. Flames licked up its walls and curled out of the dormer windows. She could hear a deafening roar and feel the blistering heat from where she was standing. The air was thick with smoke. Where were the family? Had the man and his children escaped? Her eyes searched the street frantically for their figures.

“I’m going downstairs!” Mark grabbed her arm as she stood transfixed by the scene “Sophie!” he tried to get her attention, “I can’t get the phone to work here, come on!”

She tore her eyes from the window and together they dashed out of their room and thundered down the stairs to reception. Mark rushed to the unmanned desk shouting for the night porter while Sophie ran to the front door.

There she stopped with amazement. “But… I… it can’t be!”

Mark looked over as she spoke and his gaze followed hers out through the glass front door. His heart gave a great leap.“How..?” He rushed over and stood beside her. “I don’t understand… ”

After staring dumbfounded for a few seconds he reached up and unbolted the door and they both stepped outside onto the frozen porch. The street was silent. The night air was clear and freezing cold. The space on the opposite side of the street, only moments before wreathed in flames, was completely dark.

The two of them slowly crossed the street and by the light of the streetlamp they took in the scene. Swings hung silently from their frame, inches deep in snow. A slide, a climbing frame and a little roundabout were all barely visible beneath a crisp, white covering. They were looking at a deserted playground.

Mark and Sophie looked wildly up and down the street.

“But it was here, the house was here, and it was on fire!” Sophie’s voice rang clear in the freezing air.

“Aye, that it was.” The unfamiliar voice startled them and they turned to see where it came from. The guesthouse’s night porter was standing in the doorway.

“Hey, did you see the fire?” Mark called to him across the street.

“Aye. I was there alright.” The old man nodded sagely.

“W… what happened?” Sophie faltered as the two of them walked carefully back across the icy street towards him. “We walked past here about half-an-hour ago and we saw a family in there, and then just now we saw the house on fire but…” she tailed off, indicating the empty playground. A wave of nausea and confusion suddenly overtook her and she clutched at Mark’s arm. Feeling similarly at a loss, Mark looked to the old man who shook his head sadly.

“That fire burned itself out many years ago. Come back inside and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Sophie and Mark followed him rather shakily back into the building. He locked the door behind them and led them through to a sitting room where he indicated a couple of arm chairs, “Here, you should sit down.” The couple sat, unsure what else to do, and looked at him expectantly.

“Yes, I saw the fire,” the old man began, “it was sixty years ago and I was just a boy…”

Sophie and Mark sat in silence as he recounted the story of a terrible fire that had destroyed the house that once stood opposite, one Christmas night many years ago. A family had been inside at the time – a husband and wife and their young son and daughter. Questioned in the aftermath, the father had told how he had got back late at night on Christmas Eve and had re-stoked the fire in the kitchen and settled himself before it to warm up and relax. His children, realising he was home had crept down to see him. They had spent a lovely hour together toasting bread and talking, just the three of them.

Then, at midnight, his wife had awoken and come down to usher the children into bed. In her tiredness she had brushed too close to the fire as she reached to pick up her son. The hem of her long nightie had swept through the embers on the hearth and set alight. As the three of them tried desperately to put out the flames, the children’s clothes had also caught on fire. The blaze spread rapidly – the huge christmas tree and all the decorations quickly feeding it to a frenzy.

The father managed to get the children out of the house – sustaining terrible burns himself – but was unable to revive them. By the time the fire engines arrived the whole house had gone up in flames. It was too late to save his family. There was nothing anyone could do. The father never really recovered from the tragedy and died himself only a few years later. The blackened shell of the house had stood empty for years before the plot was finally sold at auction and the ruin ripped down. The playground had been there ever since although it was seldom used. People said there was an odd feeling about the place.

The old man paused. Sophie and Mark were both listening intently, their faces pale.

“So,” Sophie began “when we passed by earlier and saw the father and his children through the window…”

“That was them yes,” the old man nodded sadly, “and then you saw the fire that killed them. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Over the years, many people have said the same. They see the three of them – father and children – sitting by the fire together awaiting their destiny. It’s said they appear every Christmas Eve just to enact that little scene. That final hour. It’s a tradition.”

Linking up with The Prompt which this week was ‘Smoke’ (I couldn’t believe how apt it was for the end of my story!) and Friday Fiction.

mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

what I’m writing – week nine

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week nine of ‘What I’m Writing’! Once again, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who linked up (over at Muddled Manuscript) last week. I loved reading your posts. Thanks also to Chrissie for being a fabulous host. I can’t compete with the excellent linky posts she writes – mine are just cut and paste jobs… on which note, I’ll now commence the pasting:

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s round-up post gives you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about (and October’s round-up is on its way).

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

Writing Bubble

 
 

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