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bi-monthly magazine for writers, readers and all literary types

What the Dickens? magazine

Issue

1

the snow edition


Literary UK

A literary adventure coming soon...


editorial

Hello!

Contents Letters Jokes..............................................4 Behind the scenes of a writing website.....5

Welcome to the first ever issue of What the Dickens? Magazine. A year or so ago, I dreamt of a magazine full of diverse creativity. I imagined it to be something fun with a hint of seriousness that would inspire, illuminate and be interactive. I asked for stories and poems on the theme of ‘Snow’, non-fiction articles, photography, fun and games, jokes, artwork and anything else of a literary nature and into my inbox arrived an overwhelming amount of amazing contributions. Many of them are collected here in this magazine along with author interviews, book reviews, gift ideas and most importantly, giveaways! There are lots of links within the magazine allowing us all to connect with each other and hopefully build a larger creative community. I hope you enjoy pulling up the pages around you as winter settles on the ground and be as delighted and inspired as I have been in bringing the magazine into reality. The next issue will be out in February 2012 and I’m very much looking forward to more literary adventures and creativeness from everyone. Wishing you all a warm and cozy Christmas.

Victoria Editor

Twitter @writersgifts facebook.com/writersgifts veebeewriter.wordpress.com A massive thank you must go to Sandy who has devoted her time to literary fun and loveliness! This is #goodnews! And also to Ben, who has designed and put the entire magazine together. If it wasn’t for him, it simply wouldn’t be here, so I am hugely grateful forever!

Author interview – Ben Hatch................6 Art...........................................................8 A bit of shopping with... Bookish.............9 How to get inspired to write..................10 Snow writing..........................................12 Memories of Snow..................................42 A bit of shopping with... Amanda White........................................45 Author interview – Gabrielle Kimm.....46 My Sweet Shop is a Library...................48 Flash Fiction...........................................50 Author interview – Emmy Swain.........56 The Old Curiosity Shop........................58 Book Reviews.........................................64 Digital World..........................................65 A bit of shopping with... What the Dickens?.................................66 Competitions.......................................67

the snow edition ~ 3


letters

Letters Jokes We would love to hear what you think of the magazine! If you have any comments please send them to letters@wtd-magazine.com. As this is the first issue, here are some jokes instead, courtesy of SJI Holliday...

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She answered, ‘If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose.’

Charles Dickens: Please, sir, I’d like a martini.

Q. How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Bartender: Sure thing. Olive or twist?

A. Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

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behind the scenes of a writing website

Behind the scenes of a writing website

Part One Richard Hearn

I

thought I‘d share with readers of What The So I needed a way of getting the new paragraph to Dickens? a few behind-the-scenes insights into automatically load each day, otherwise I’d have to creating a writing website, and the choices and be hunched over a laptop at midnight each night, cutting and pasting. I’m not a programmer, by the challenges this involves. way. Luckily, I found some code that could load a I’ve been running a website called Paragraph different image depending on the day of the week. Planet for about 3 years. It’s a flash fiction site Perfect. This is why each published paragraph featuring one 75-word piece of writing each day. is actually saved as GIF file named after a day The entries are sometimes funny, sad, thrilling, of the week, and if I accidentally spell a file as poignant or simply a slice of life. I’ve added ‘Tuesdaay’ for instance, or maybe ‘Satuday’ then interviews with authors, a writing group map all hell breaks loose. (In fact, I receive a normally and other stuff. (Check out the website for ‘other quite polite email from someone saying their entry hasn’t appeared). stuff ’). So is there any advice, I can pass on? I’ll try. Maybe I’ll just discuss the beginning of setting up Paragraph Planet, and see if any wise thoughts arrive along the way. The Beginning ’ve always liked creative writing exercises, which I find useful to kickstart my own writing. There’s something about an arbitrary rule which can change – and improve – your writing. A number of sites had a maximum word count, but I decided to have an exact rule of 75 words; this was aimed to be the grit in the shell that produces the pearl (I should have been a writer).

I

Last, I needed a title. Embarrassing to admit for a writing website, but my initial title was based on a pronunciation misunderstanding. I thought that ‘minutiae’ was pronounced ‘My New Tie’. This was my first title. It was then briefly going to be Objects and Moments, next Paragraph Junkie, before Paragraph Planet was born. Oh yes, I was supposed to give advice for those setting up a website. I think from these initial challenges, it boils down to: •

• I also wanted the new submissions to be easy to find for the visitor. There are loads of fantastic • writing websites with a lot of great material, but it can be daunting at first, and difficult to know where to start. Maybe I’m just impatient. As one • of my gimmicks is that only one new paragraph was published each day, it was an easy decision to put it on the home page.

Trust your instincts. Think about what you would want in a site. Think about what should go on a home page. If it can change regularly, all the better. Make it easy on yourself. If you are updating regularly, think about how best to organise this. If your website is based on writing, don’t make my mistake and base your title on a badly-pronounced pun! Luckily I did realise in time.

Next Issue: Spreading the word about a writing website the snow edition ~ 5


author interview

Author interview

Ben Hatch

Ben Hatch is a writer based in Hove, East Sussex. He is the author of bestselling travel book Are We Nearly There Yet? Have you got previous? What is your writing background? I wrote two novels prior to Are We Nearly There Yet?, The Lawnmower Celebrity and The International Gooseberry. Before this I was a local newspaper journalist writing about tall sunflowers and scout jamborees. How did you find yourself writing Travel/NonFiction? My wife, Dinah, is a travel journalist and was commissioned to write a guidebook about family friendly attractions in Britain. Meanwhile the novel I was working on was going nowhere as I was watching far too much day-time TV in my pyjamas, including the whole of Krufts one year. I think I must have talked about the gundog group final just that little bit too much and Dinah had had enough and decided I needed to write the guidebook instead. I wrote the guidebook and Are We Nearly There Yet? is about the experience of researching the guidebook. Incidentally, if memory serves me right, it was a spinoni bitch with a lovely rise from tail to loin that won that gundog group final. Beautiful dog. How long did it take you to write ‘Are We Nearly There Yet’? Six months. The road to publication? Rough or smooth? Surprisingly smooth.

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What inspires you? Writers I admire like Geoff Dyer, travelling to new places and crumpets heavily stacked with French cheese. Which books have influenced you the most and why? Catcher in the Rye because it showed me aged 16 that it was possible to write books that didn’t just revolve around guns or bustles. Where and when do you write? At the moment in my study early in the morning before the kids get up and rush in to give me their revised Christmas lists: ‘So I want the Moshi Monster Annual, a zu zu pet house and a potion in a pot that will make me fly.’ What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? Right now, after I have typed this, I’m going to have my second crumpet of the day. It will be topped with Pie D’angloys. Later, I want to write a book about the 10,000 journey we went on round France in the summer. What words of wisdom can you leave us with? Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. AND more crucially Warbutons make the best crumpets although their thickness and uniformity of shape counts against them when they’re frozen. They stick together more keenly than value crumpets meaning a hammer and a kitchen knife are necessary to separate them.


author interview

#askauthor E

ach issue we will be throwing open our author interviews to the denizens of Twitter. Follow @writersgifts and keep an eye out for the ‘#askauthor’ hashtag! Here’s what our followers had for Ben in this first issue... @WriterDove What was your favourite attraction/ place and what are your reasons? what was the worst? I most enjoyed the Sidmouth Donkey sanctuary because of a sign there warning visitors of Nelly, a donkey that was capable of smelling polo mints through visitors’ coat pockets. Worst place - Ostrich World. Ostrich WORLD! There were 2 ostriches there. They’d more goats than ostriches. It’s like calling my study banana skin world because amongst other things I do have 2 banana skins in here. You really opened up your life in ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’, did you find it therapeutic, or hard to share? I found it quite therapeutic, especially writing about my dad. If either of your children wanted to go into acting or writing, what advice would you give them? Go for it, but make sure you have a tolerant partner.

@europabridge1 Ben, your evaluation w/the Vauxhall Astra might be useful. I rented Mercedes Hatchback; horrible suspension on Scottish roads. – Astras are small, reliable with ample boot space for families. Their suspension is above ordinary. @tagwrites how did Ben Hatch review his book with his family before publication? Did they have powers of veto? The guidebook, no. Lots of anecdotes and barbed witticisms were cut. For Are We Nearly There Yet? it was more collaborative. @CatherineDreyer does he worry about plundering his life for copy? What are his rules about family and friends? Is anything off limits? As anyone who has read the toothbrush incident will realise, there’s very little off limits. Is his car a hatch back? Not any more. What cream does he recommend for piles now he has successfully treated them? Yes, Catherine I heard on Twitter about your piles. Anusol should do the trick for you.

What is next on the horizon for the Hatch family? Career plans, books, Frommers France? A book about our travels round France, I think.

Are We Nearly There Yet? A Family’s 8,000-Mile Car Journey Around Britain (Summersdale, 2011) Available in print from all good bookshops or currently on special offer on Amazon Kindle for 99p. Summersdale Publishers Ltd. have kindly donated four copies of the book for us to give away. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning, head over to the Competitions page for details.

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art

Alone for the first time, I take slow steps but never know if I am heading forwards

or

back.

I long to be safe for the sky grows

dark and

each time I consider my fate,

I lose track. Artwork and text by Imran Siddiq. Loves writing and creating art. Currently working on YA novels and dedicated rounds of BETA, Edits, Critiques – imranwrites.com/dark-path

8 ~ what the dickens?


a bit of shopping with...

A bit of shopping with... bookishengland.co.uk

bookish Star Christmas Card (£3.00) Lovingly handmade from an old German book. Blank inside for your own Christmas message.

A Christmas Carol snowflakes and stars confetti (£5.00 packet) Perfect for scattering in wrapping paper to brighten up Crimbo presents, or decorate the Christmas lunch table to bring some literary loveliness to the feast.

bookish Tree Christmas Card (£3.00) Lovingly handmade from an old German book. Blank inside for your own Christmas message.

Scrabble Christmas tree decorations (£14.00 for set of 4). Handmade from vintage Scrabble pieces. Set includes 4 decorations, from: STAR, SNOW, YULE, XMAS, WISH, TREE, NOEL. Vintage Ladybird notebooks (from £10.00 each). Upcycled from old, broken books and premium quality recycled paper, the bookish fairy has created these one-of-a-kind nostalgic notebooks. The perfect stocking fillers.

the snow edition ~ 9


how to get inspired to write

How to get inspired to write Stewart Ferris

Random thoughts his is when inspiration hits you from nowhere. You’re queuing in the supermarket hatever the external factors that enable inspiration to happen, something obviously and an idea for a bestseller lands in your head. occurs within us when inspiration strikes. It can Or you read a news article and it triggers an be delivered to our consciousness in several ways: idea for a story. No one knows where these ideas come from, and you never know when they will arrive – which is why a writer should always Dreams t’s not always possible to remember details from carry a notebook and pen – but you can engineer dreams, but I’ve been able to benefit from them a things in such a way as to make random flashes few times. As a kid I bought a drinks bottle holder of inspiration more likely to happen. I’ll explain for my bike, but couldn’t figure out how to attach shortly. the brackets. After struggling with the concept all day, I fell asleep and worked it out in my Deliberate exercises nstead of staring at a blank Word document, set dream. The next morning I fitted it perfectly. Paul yourself a task. Look at a stranger and imagine McCartney woke up with the tune to Yesterday in his head, played it on a piano and wrote it down, their life story. Could their lives once have crossed and then sang about scrambled eggs for a few with the back story of one of your characters? weeks until he worked out the lyrics. Recently Can you make connections between fiction and I dreamt an entire episode of ‘24’. Thing is, I’ve reality? never watched that show, so I realised everything in my dream was original. I wrote it down, and A fun game to play with your characters is to put them in scenes that might have nothing to I’m using it as the basis for a new novel. do with your story. It’s purely a way of getting to Dreams can sometimes relate to your experiences know them better. One test is to imagine them when awake. They can extend and exaggerate dumped by the side of the road in the middle your reality. I once had a job as a pizza waiter. of nowhere. How will they get home? Let them After my first fourteen hour double shift I went make their own choices based on the personality home, fell asleep, and dreamed all night that I traits you have given them. Don’t think about the was still waiting tables. I woke up exhausted! decisions they will take: let them take their own When you spend your day writing, you’re more decisions. Depending on what you have instilled likely to dream about it. This is only helpful in them, they might find a way home using charm, if you’re fortunate enough to have a useful and cunning, brute force, flirtatiousness, or bumbling relevant literary dream, and to remember it the good luck. It’s the perfect way to get to know the next morning. You might only experience and ‘people’ you’re working with.

Where does inspiration come from?

W

T

I

I

remember useful dreams a few times in your life, but if you can dream a story with the potential to succeed like Harry Potter then it only needs to happen once.

10 ~ what the dickens?


how to get inspired to write

How can I make inspiration happen?

I

said that it’s possible to engineer the conditions needed to get inspired, and I meant it. There’s a lot you can do to get inspiration flooding your way. Inspiration is like luck. You can make luck happen by getting out there, going places, meeting people, interacting. And you can make inspiration happen, but in different ways. It’s all about getting in the zone. The zone is that intangible state of mind that allows golfers to hit a hole in one, that allows concert pianists to tinkle the ivories with such panache, and that allows writers to turn empty screen space into literary entertainment. That zone is almost completely closed off to most people, most of the time. It’s like another dimension that we tap into when we need to access the data on the cosmic computer. At the start of a writing project I always find it almost impossible to get into the zone, and, months later at the end of it, I find it hard to get back out of the zone and into reality again.

your part. It’s exhausting and there’s hardly any progress to show for it. Then momentum kicks in. The car feels lighter. The wheels start to roll and it takes on a life of its own. Writing a book is a very uneven process like that. It’s horribly hard to start with, but as you establish the story, the characters and the style, it becomes easier. You then start to live with it in your mind. And it’s at that point that inspiration hits you daily. If you then shelve the book for a few weeks and fill your mind with other matters, it’s not straightforward to get back into it. After a break I always find it necessary to read it through from the start, giving a light edit as I go, in order to upload it to the front of my brain again. Once the book is occupying the prime real estate in my head, that’s when the inspiration comes. If it gets shoved to a basement at the back of my mind, the inspiration stops.

Once your writing project is underway and has momentum behind it, stop thinking, start feeling. Inspiration always comes from the side, never I see writing a lengthy project like a book as head-on. You can’t see it coming. It floats on an something similar to pushing a broken down invisible breeze. Thinking is not sufficient to car. At first you have to battle with inertia. The generate ideas. Thinking is merely the process by thing doesn’t want to move at all. Then it inches which the mind opens its doors and windows in forward as a result of enormous effort from the hope that inspiration will float in. How to Get Inspired to Write The eBook will be available exclusively on Amazon Kindle in December 2011. It will be priced at a very reasonable £4.99.

Stewart co-founded award-winning publishing company Summersdale in 1990. In his publishing career he has published over a thousand books, as well as finding the time and the inspiration to write more than forty of his own, including How to be a Writer and How to Get Published. He has also worked as a scriptwriter for Pokémon, a songwriter for Ricky Gervais and has written and presented a documentary about the ideas behind The Da Vinci Code, entitled The Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. He is currently writing a novel, The Sphinx Scrolls.

the snow edition ~ 11


snow writing

Snow writing... Footprints by Erinna Mettler

T

he blizzard resulted in a lock-in. The Druid’s Head was at the edge of the village, a good half a mile away from the first houses. At eleven Ryan, its landlord, looked out of the window at the thickly falling snow and declared we’d all freeze to death if we tried to walk home. Settled by the fire with freshly poured pints, someone said we should pass the time telling ghost stories. And so, as the blizzard rattled at the windows, five grown men set about trying to scare each other silly. Most of the tales were bad movies re-located to the surrounding Devon countryside, deaths foreseen, cannibal farmers, The Honiton Witch Project and Ryan’s nonsense about the poltergeist that drinks all his profits. No-one was in the slightest bit frightened, but it was fun and even as the snow stopped, we lingered. Alex, our local teacher, went last, seemingly reluctant to join in when normally you couldn’t shut him up. ‘There is one story I could tell,’ he said, ‘it happened right here in this pub, well outside anyhow.’ He looked over at Ryan who was tidying the bar. ‘Years before you took it over.’ ‘Go on then Alex,’ said Ryan sceptically, ‘do your worst.’ Alex put down his pint and began his tale with an earnest expression. ‘I was eighteen. I worked here then for the owners, Marianne and Valentin Fomitch. They were a bit weird. He was Russian, if you can believe it, and she was a hippy. He always wore purple - cords and a poncho usually - and he had piercing green eyes, long grey hair and a pentagram tattooed on his neck. His wife Marianne floated around him in diaphanous dresses and hardly spoke. Valentin was so brusque he quickly pissed off a lot of people in the village. He refused to pay bills for honest work, barred regular customers and was generally as rude as he could be, so hardly anyone came in

12 ~ what the dickens?

here in those days. They probably didn’t need me here at all but Valentin was always taking off for days at a time and said he wanted a man around.’ ‘But you’d do, eh?’ interrupted Ryan. We shushed him crossly, eager for Alex to go on, for as you can see he had a way of telling tales. ‘There was a lot of gossip about where Valentin went and what he did when he got there. My brother Denny, who was prone to a little night wandering himself, said he’d seen Valentin in the woods carrying out some sort of naked ritual with a dead deer and a hunting knife. It creeped him out so much he didn’t go poaching again for months – not until he was sure he wouldn’t run into our Russian friend again. This one night, Valentin came back almost as soon as he’d set off because a blizzard had suddenly blown up, much like this one. At 10 o’clock, when the snow had stopped and there still weren’t any customers he said I could go. As I went to the door it crashed open and a man rushed inside. He ran up to the bar and looked over his shoulder as if he expected someone to follow him, but all that came in was the wind and a cloud of powdery snow. He was young man, trendy and not at all dressed for a blizzard, wearing only a thin suit jacket, jeans and sneakers. He was soaked through, snow clinging to his clothes, and he was jittery; when I shut the door he nearly jumped out of his skin. His upperclass voice shook as he spoke to Valentin. ‘Do you have a phone? Damn car’s broken down - a couple of miles back. Completely dead.’ Valentin nodded tersely at the pay phone by the window but when the man saw what he meant, he hesitated. ‘Don’t suppose I could have a drink first?’ he said glancing nervously at the door. ‘Had a bit of a shock, need something to steady the nerves.’ Valentin made no attempt to serve him so I went back behind the bar and poured him a brandy. He downed it in one, his hand quivering as he put down the glass. ‘What happened,’ I asked, ‘did you hit something?’


snow writing I figured he must have run over an animal in the snow. He shook his head. ‘Damnedest thing. I’m lost. Must’ve taken a wrong turn and then I couldn’t find my way back to the main road, drove through the snow for an hour at least. The car gave out in the middle of a wood.’ Marianne moved over to Valentin and hung onto his arm, pale and wide-eyed like a frightened child. Our guest went on, words rattling from him like hailstones. ‘Everything died instantly. Engine. Lights. Radio. The snow had stopped so I decided to walk up the road, thought I must be near a village, or a house at least, and that I’d freeze if I stayed in the car. City boy you see, no food or blanket in the boot. The clouds had cleared and moon was bright so I knew I’d be able to see the way. I stepped out onto snow a foot deep and started walking. A few yards along the lane, I realised there was another set of prints beside me. I don’t mean that someone had walked up the lane before I had - I mean another set of footprints was being made as I walked. I could see the snow depress as my feet sank into it just as if someone was walking next to me - but there was no one there.’ He shook his head again and frowned. ‘I stopped and they stopped. There was nothing there. It’s hard to explain. There was nothing special about them. They looked like human footprints; a man’s shoes but with a long pointed toe. I looked behind me and saw that they started by the car as if someone else had got out of it when I did. I stood for a while trying to make sense of it and then I heard the breathing - quick, and in time with my own but very definitely not mine. Well, I didn’t hang about, practically ran all the way here, fell over a few times - that’s why I’m covered in snow. My ‘companion’ matched my pace right up to your door.’ At this point Ryan knocked over a half empty glass, splattering its contents onto the stone floor. We all turned to him and tutted, but he just laughed and came to our side of the bar with a mop and started to dab away at the mess. ‘If I may?’ said Alex. ‘Don’t mind me,’ said Ryan squelching the tiles with the mop. Alex sighed and carried on.

‘I poured the stranger another drink and this time he sipped it. Valentin and Marianne didn’t move. The man laughed softly. ‘Must have snow fever,’ he said. Warmed and fortified by the brandy, he called the AA from the payphone, taking care not to look out of the window while he talked. They took a couple of hours to reach us. I sat with him while he waited. He was a nice chap. His name was Sebastian and he was a record producer down to work at some pop star’s country house. I was in a band back then so we talked about music. By the end of the wait we’d decided his mind must’ve been playing tricks on him, that logically there couldn’t have been another set of footprints, that the woods and the snow must have worked their magic on his imagination. I even went outside to look, just to make sure; there was only one set of prints. Sebastian seemed to relax after that, put the whole incident down to tiredness and the effects of the blizzard. I told him I was going to study in London the following year and he gave me his number; said he’d show me around his studio when I got there. Valentin and Marianne didn’t speak to him once. Barely even looked at him. But they didn’t go to bed either - just sat in a booth away from the fire whispering to each other. The AA phoned back and said they were waiting by Sebastian’s car. I left with him and Valentin bolted the door behind us. As the door closed I thought I’d heard Marianne say, ‘Valentin, for pity’s sake.’ I shook Sebastian’s hand in farewell, as I was going right into the village and he was going in the other direction – towards the woods. I wondered if I should go with him, but it would have been silly to walk him to his car and then to have to walk all the way back again. I looked over my shoulder at him when he was on his way, and for a second I could’ve sworn I saw another set of footprints beside his own and heard the double creak of decompressing snow.’ Ryan rubbed a glass quickly with his tea-towel so it squeaked and everyone looked in his direction and laughed nervously. ‘What happened to Valentin and Marianne?’ ‘Never saw them again – did a moon-light flit. The pub was locked up for months until the new owners arrived. They say there was all sorts of

the snow edition ~ 13


snow writing weird stuff left in here, black candles and voodoo dolls, symbols drawn on the floor. Funny,’ he said looking at Ryan, ‘but people don’t seem to stay here long – maybe there’s something in your poltergeist story after all.’ We looked at each other as the clock ticked loudly and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. ‘What about the guy, Sebastian? Was he okay? ‘As far as I know he met the AA and went back to London. They didn’t fix the car though; my brother saw it the next day and it stayed by the roadside for a week before someone took it away. It was odd but there was nothing in the papers about it so after a while I just forgot about it.’ ‘You called him though, when you got to London?’ ‘No, I didn’t. I never dared to.’ ‘Even though he was a record producer and you were in a band?’ ‘I thought about it a lot but I was scared, in case I called and found out he was missing, last seen in Devon! But I have always wondered…’ he swigged

at his beer, ‘if there was another set of footprints in the snow, what kind of being was it that could have made them?’ Everyone was silent for a while, the only noise the spitting of the fire and the wind shaking the windows. Clyde, the policeman, spoke first. He quickly finished his drink and said, ‘that’s me done.’ ‘Yeah, me too.’ ‘And me.’ ‘And me.’ And in a flurry of coats and downed drinks we all said goodnight to Ryan - who bolted the door behind us - and were soon standing outside on the thick glistening snow as the wind wailed up the lane. We turned right to walk into the village and I pulled my coat around me, surreptitiously looking back over my shoulder so the boys wouldn’t see me do it and take the piss. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. I pulled at Clyde’s sleeve and we all stood and watched them moving through the snow - footprints with no owner.

Erinna Mettler lives in Brighton, her first novel Starlings is available now through Revenge Ink. She is a co-founder of the Rattle Tales literary group and has read stories at their events and many others. She is currently working on her second novel but got distracted writing a ghost story about snow! erinnamettler.com rattletales.org Twitter @ErinnaMettler

Photos by Jen Hammell

14 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

Snowflake’s Chance Alone you are unique, beautiful, invisible to the naked eye. A microscope reveals arms forming a six-pointed star, graceful, asymmetric but vulnerable; a filigree so fragile, a lattice of crystals. Yet, coalesce with other like-minded flakes; join a gang, and you’re a different beast. As a fine, powdery sheet you find hidden corners to settle. You drift; drape yourself like birthday cake icing. Thicker. Colder. Then, you become dangerous to know. Impassable, slippery, icy like sheet glass, treacherous, ruthless, deadly. Jane G Tough

Jane Galloway Tough writes short fiction and poetry. Past work published: The Oldie, The Leopard, The New Shetlander. Current: two short stories published by Ether Books, mobile publishers. Competition: Flash fiction – What the Dickens? NaNoWriMo November, 2011, Forensics course 2012. Awards: BSc (Honours) (Open); Dip LCW (Open) – The Open University.

the snow edition ~ 15


snow writing

One Day

by Thembisa Cochrane

L

ondon. Magic Melody was the alarm tune on my phone and every day it called me from the blank land of dreams back into daily routine. Every day at 07:00 sharp I would slam down my hand on the touchscreen and hope that in five minutes I would hear Magic Melody again. Sometimes I was late for work. It was winter, so every morning I would hang up my coat and scarf next to the office door, unwrap my hands from the woolen gloves, and muse on the worn down heels of my boots. Some days a colleague would bring a cardboard rack of coffee cups up the stairs to make everyone feel special. Some days I would wear lipstick and heels and take a cab to a meeting with a client; some days I would wear jeans and a wooly jumper and sit at my desk scrolling through spreadsheets and looking up when someone shared an amusing video on the internet. It was always dark when I closed down my email for the day and walked out into the cold. Some days I would pass a supermarket and gather provisions – English muffins, rice, canned tomatoes, soup, toilet paper, soap. Provisions to keep my body fed and clean in between mornings. Some evenings I would head straight from work to a pub or corporate venue to exchange words with friends or strangers over beer or cocktails. Some evenings my housemates would have a bottle of wine and a romantic comedy recorded to transport us to sunnier coasts and dramatic lives. Some evenings I cooked alone, a single plate before kicking up my feet on the couch and looking out into the world through my laptop. One day, as I trudged from the bus stop towards my home, it began to snow. I had never experienced snow in London. No one had foretold snow. It was a cold evening, grey, the buildings already melted into shadows, the street familiar and far longer against the biting wind. The music in my earplugs spoke of another place, a rock and roll generation, emotionally raw, hallucinating. The air bit into every piece of exposed flesh, the ground seemed inhospitable as the heels of my worn down boots ground into the paving stones, one step in front of the other, home home home.

16 ~ what the dickens?

And then it snowed. Flakes of wet landed on my nose - but ever so gently. Not the determined slap of a raindrop, but the almost unnoticed caress of a snowflake. I looked up. The grey skies were alive, almost singing, with white dashes tumbling down, floating, swirling, overwhelming in their complexity, stretching endlessly backwards to the flat sky far behind them. It was beautiful. The snowflakes busied themselves rushing into the gutters and sticking to trees. They spun down faster and faster, small whirlwinds illuminated in the light of lanterns. I laughed, I wanted to clap and dance and sing. I wandered home quickly, cheeks red, eyes sparkling. I wanted to share my discovery. It was snowing! My housemates opened the door for me, their radiant smiles mirroring mine. It just started, so suddenly, so unexpected! We all bundled up in scarves and gloves and stood in the middle of the road as the world quickly transformed before us. We patted together an impromptu snowman on the edge of a stone wall. We danced, we clapped, we sang. Our neighbours, the invisible ones, opened their windows and laughed at us, and waved, and smiled. Snow. It transformed London overnight. The next morning the world was covered in a soft heavy blanket. The anonymous city people became children once again. Morning news informed us of transport troubles and scores of professionals working from home. What a financial loss this one day would be for the country, and what a personal gain for all those who took their children to walk in the white world instead. Phone calls to friends to share the excitement, then messages to colleagues to express sincere apology that we were not going to make it into the office today. All around us, the meaningless mass of employer’s companies closed an eye to those who could have made the journey, but chose not to. I walked to the nearest operational tube, slowly. The familiar road which flew past me every day through the bus window was now dissected by my feet as I examined every step of its length. The city was full of snow-men, snow-women, and snowmonsters. The glistening parks and gardens were dotted with exploring families; the corner stores were running low on cookies and hot chocolate. Exuberance, creativity, freedom, delight – London was a world transformed.


snow writing A world wiped clean. The houses of parliament were trimmed in white; snow flattened the lawns of St James Park and softened the lines of the trees that dipped towards the grey lake, where swans merged seamlessly into the shore. A red telephone box with a furry cap of snow was a new sight, a refreshed view of an everyday landscape - all the eyes of Londoners had been transformed into those of artists, seeing an ordinary world in an extraordinary new colour. Heavy cloaks draped over old statues – like the inverse of a shadow, snow smoothed the lines, hid the bulk, opened gaps for the imagination. Overlooking Westminster Bridge was the Victorian statue of Boudicca, the rebel queen who once fought Roman invaders and became a mark of British history. Vicious blades jutted from the wheels of her chariot, her rearing horses had a new coat of white, and snowy feathers laced through their manes. On either side of the warrior a bare breasted woman crouched low – both cold, surely, with the snow gathering in the folds of their skirts. Boudicca herself stood tall, arms outstretched with her robes billowing out behind her, frozen in an ancient wind. Her vehement,

passionate, angry embrace seemed to lead armies of snow – she embodied a wild force beyond the small human figures that walked beneath her and looked up in renewed awe. On that one day, snow-laden Boudicca was a monument to the eternal, inescapable, invisible presence of nature and history. That day of snow, like all of nature and history, had its darker side. Stressed workers held hostage; homeless buried under cruel cold; families isolated from each other by grounded planes; accidents on the deadly roads; frozen drivers in traffic jams; pedestrian injuries on the icy streets. As I looked up at Boudicca and breathed in the cold beauty of the day, I knew that somewhere beyond my vision lurked Hans Christian Andersen’s little match girl - a child clinging to the heat of every match in order to survive and seeing only visions of a warmer world until her grandmother took her home to heaven. I did not see her on that day. Instead, I saw a divine power which swept from the heavens into the daily lives of anonymous city people locked into routine and reminded them that we are all children on this earth. I saw snow.

Thembisa Cochrane is an independent writer and film producer with her heart in Cape Town, feet in London and head in the clouds. Find out more about her on thembisa.net and if you are interested in more creative fiction from a collection of authors, have a look at playfulhuman. wordpress.com.

Photo by Cynthia Cioccari Taken when I was settling in to my new (now old) flat. Hanging out of the window, trying to capture the gorgeous snowflakes! Ahoy! :) I’m Cyn - lover of photography, art, sad songs, polka dots and cake. I’m attempting to be creative outside of my 9-5, please take a look at my Flickr page, website (shared with my fiancé Steve) and general ramblings on Twitter.

the snow edition ~ 17


snow writing

Snowflakes A first snow’s dust brings memories back Of paths begun on far reached tracks Beyond the woods, hills and plains Through skies ablaze or hills aflame With many times we’ve spent together A trek alone was hard to weather As snowflakes drift to hilly banks They gather harder when giving thanks

Photo by Jen Hammell

For all the universe, space and time Most daily matters become a grind Yet looking up to see them fall Snowflakes land on one and all It may be just the time of year Or Christmas past that we hold dear But feeling snowflakes touch our heart We know on earth we each take part In one grand scheme of hope and dream Perchance to find life’s own great theme Wintering past time’s erosive quest Eternal designs of love shine best. Emmett O. Saunders III

Emmett O. Saunders III is a published author of five books: The Bell Wishers, The Shamrock Runner, Reindeer on the Rooftop, Craters of the Sun and Life Winds, screenplays and a musical. His work is available on Amazon, Kindle, B&N Nook and literarymovies.com. Video promos can be seen at: youtube.com/emmett71755.

18 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

Storms and Flurries By Jodie Free

O

ne morning in late December, I woke up in Charlotte, North Carolina. I felt the usual jolt of homesickness for England, but this was followed by a sudden sense of relief, as I realised I was no longer in Florida. Today I did not have to continue with my hotel receptionist job, nor endure the sneering remarks from the girls I worked with. I didn’t have to eat lunch alone or wander amongst happy crowds of people enjoying the sunshine. I didn’t have to berate myself for not being happy during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the first time in months I didn’t feel like bursting into tears at the prospect of getting up. I struggled upright against a large amount of cushions and peered around at the unfamiliar room. I had arrived at my friend Zach’s house at 3 a.m. last night, and consequently had not taken much in before falling asleep in the big fourposter bed. The room was huge, with a dresser and mirror to one side, a tall, organised bookshelf to the other. Directly opposite the bed was a large, ornate fireplace with a rug and two armchairs in front of it. There was a miniature Christmas tree at the grate with a couple of light blue baubles hanging from its branches, a basketball player figurine on top. I freed myself from several layers of blankets, folding them back to the end of the bed, and placed my feet gingerly on the wooden floor. I shivered as the air hit my skin. It was hardly the coldest December of my life, but three months in Florida had apparently ruined my tolerance. I thought of Manchester, where I was supposed to be right now, and shuddered. I opened my bag and began to dress as quickly as I could. The house was so quiet that I jumped at the sound of my phone vibrating against the dresser where I had discarded it last night. It was most likely an email from my boyfriend, the only person who contacted me daily. He was probably in Manchester by now, angry at the snowstorms which prevented me from being there too. I felt something clench in my chest as I thought about how close I had come to seeing him again. It was all so typical of my time in America, where nothing seemed to go right. Part of me was beginning to feel like it would never get easier, and that I was better off giving up and going home to London.

The snowstorms and cancelled flights made me even surer that fate was laughing at me. The irony of course was how much I loved snow. I wondered if it ever snowed in Charlotte. I headed towards the dresser, thinking of leaving the room to look for Zach, but was distracted by a frame hung above the fireplace. It was a wedding portrait, dated May 1922. The bride was seated, swaths of material spilling onto the floor below her, the groom standing tall next to her. She wore a beaded headdress on her bobbed hair; his hair was parted and combed to one side. The bouquet she held was so big that it obscured both of their stomachs, but her posture was relaxed. Though they both held solemn expressions, there was something strikingly intimate about the portrait. From the way their feet almost touched to the way they inclined their heads towards each other, it was as if they longed to be closer. There was a warmth in their eyes that I couldn’t stop looking at, wondering how it must feel to be so sure. I hadn’t felt sure about anything for a long time. I heard footsteps in the corridor, followed by barking, and the sound of paws scrabbling at the door. ‘Zach?’ I called. There was no reply. I hesitated, then, hearing more impatient barking, hastened over to open the door. I looked down to see a fluffy, pure white husky, its mouth hanging open. He trotted inside nonchalantly like I had invited him in, sniffing my legs and peeking under the bed. He looked at me with approval, gave one happy bark, then lunged at my bag, retrieving a bright pink sock between his jaws. Before I had time to react he ran out the door and down the landing. ‘Come back!’ I yelled, darting out after him. I caught sight of him over the bannister hobbling down the stairs, his tail swishing like a giant feather duster. ‘Hey!’ I ran across the landing and down the staircase, streaking after the dog into the kitchen, where he was already offering my sock to his owner. ‘So you’ve met Waldo,’ said Zach, laughing as he handed back my sock. I stuffed it into my pocket and sat down on a stool at the island, facing him. I looked at him for a moment, sizing him up against the portrait in the spare bedroom. I thought I could see the strong frame of the groom, the dark eyes of the bride. ‘What’s up?’ he asked me. I realised I hadn’t spoken yet.

the snow edition ~ 19


snow writing ‘Nothing,’ I said quickly, shaking my head. ‘Still tired, I guess.’ ‘Well you had a long journey,’ he said, as he whisked pancake mixture in a bowl. A pan was already sizzling with oil on the hobs in the middle of the island. There was an unfamiliar Christmas song playing from his laptop. ‘That was what, a fifteen hour journey it took you to get here?’ I nodded. It was the most I had sat still in a long time, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the thoughts it had produced. This was the first time I had left Florida since flying there in September to start my year-long hospitality placement, and though part of me wanted to get as far away as possible, the other part didn’t want to leave at all, didn’t want to give up on making it the experience I had dreamed of. ‘So my parents will be back here with my grandma tonight,’ said Zach. He ladled some of the mixture into the pan. ‘And my brother and sister are flying in tomorrow. On Christmas Eve we usually –’ ‘Are you sure it’s okay that I’m here?’ I interrupted. ‘I mean I know it was really last minute –’ ‘Anna relax, it’s fine. They’re excited about you being here. And I wasn’t exactly going to let you spend Christmas by yourself.’ ‘After the last couple of months it would probably send me over the edge,’ I admitted. ‘I can’t believe this actually happened, but it does completely fit with the way most things have gone for me out here.’ I suddenly felt so lucky that Zach had been close – close by American standards, that is. We had first met a couple of years ago when he’d studied for a semester at my university in London. We had been good friends there, working on essays together and spending hours in the bar afterwards. I’d always enjoyed Zach’s warmth, his easy manner, and was sad to say goodbye to him. He invited me to visit him in North Carolina any time I wanted, but I never dreamed I actually would. By coincidence he visited Florida for a basketball game in November, so he made the time to see me too. I ended up spilling everything. I told him how miserable I was. I had wanted so badly to love it, but now I couldn’t wait for it to end, and I wasn’t sure if it was just a terrible mistake to have tried at all. Zach listened patiently to everything I had to say, assured me none of it was my fault, and urged me to keep trying. He also told me to call any time I needed a friend. I had taken him up on that yesterday morning.

20 ~ what the dickens?

There was a pause in which Zach shifted one of the pancakes, examining it closely. ‘So have you heard from Harry?’ he asked, not looking up. ‘I’m not sure, Waldo distracted me.’ My phone was upstairs, but I didn’t feel like getting it just now. ‘Last time we talked we figured we’d see if I could reschedule the flight and go over in January instead. But I’d probably change my flight to go to London in that case – he’ll be back there working by that point anyway.’ I thought of Harry sitting in his office in his suit, though I had only visited him there once. We met at a friend’s birthday party in June, and the first thing I told him about myself was that I was going away in three months. But he didn’t mind, and kept asking me out all the same. It had been a long time since anyone had paid me that kind of attention, and because my mind was so focused on Florida I could enjoy it without really wondering where it was going. Looking back, I guess Harry always saw it as serious from the start. I didn’t start to feel that way until I was already here, and we spent hours talking. He supported me through so much. When he asked me to fly back to Manchester and meet his family for Christmas, I couldn’t say no. I had always thought I would spend Christmas in New York, a place I was dying to visit, but since I didn’t make many friends and spent enough time alone as it was, I agreed to Manchester. ‘I thought the point was for you to meet his family?’ asked Zach. I frowned. ‘The point was for us to see each other.’ Suddenly it struck me that I was here doing with Zach what I had meant to do with Harry. In my panic at having nothing to do over Christmas, calling Zach hadn’t seemed like anything particularly meaningful. He was just my friend and I was going to his home. But I would be with his family, too, and it would be Christmas. In some way we would be sharing something much bigger than Harry and I ever had. Not that Harry and I had really shared that much, now that I thought about it. I cast around for a change of subject. ‘Do you think it will snow here?’ ‘They’re saying it might. I’ve never had a white Christmas. I bet it’s not even that exciting to you.’ ‘Actually, I grew up on the south coast of England, so I only really got to see snow when I


snow writing went to university. College,’ I added, smiling. He smiled back. ‘I don’t need you to translate, Anna, I think I understand you pretty well.’ ‘You do,’ I agreed. We looked at each other for a moment. ‘I guess I better go and check if Harry’s got in touch yet.’ ‘First you must eat,’ he said, putting a plate in front of me. Its rim was decorated with candy canes, and as I pushed the pancakes to one side I saw that in the centre was same blue symbol I had seen on the baubles and basketball player figurine. It was an N over a C. Zach passed me the syrup. ‘The only time I have pancakes usually is on Shrove Tuesday,’ I said. ‘You told me before,’ he replied. ‘And you also said that in England you make them from scratch rather than out of a box. Because in America we’re all just unhealthy and lazy.’ ‘I didn’t say that,’ I said. ‘I mean, I didn’t say the last bit.’ ‘You meant it.’ ‘You think I’m a really negative person, don’t you?’ ‘No. I think you’ve been negative a lot since you’ve been here, but it’s perfectly understandable. I got like that too sometimes, in London. I just hope you won’t go home and decide not to come back.’ ‘Sometimes I think Harry’s hoping I’ll do that. Like I’ll just give up on this stupid expedition and go home and marry him instead.’ It took me a second to realise exactly what had come out of my mouth. I thought I saw Zach flinch. ‘Do you think he’s planning to ask you?’ ‘No, of course not. We haven’t even been together a year yet. That would be insane.’ Zach said nothing. ‘He knows I wouldn’t say yes. I mean –’ I shook my head again, wondering again what was going on with my mouth. ‘Not that I wouldn’t consider it, maybe, one day, if we had been together a really long time and it felt right, but – it doesn’t seem like it’s completely – there’s so much else I wanted to do before – because sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been so confused – ’ I stopped talking. ‘Anna,’ Zach said softly.

‘I know,’ I said. I allowed it to dawn on me slowly. I had been so blind, allowing myself to get tied into a relationship without considering what my real reasons were. Harry was perfectly nice, but I couldn’t say for certain that I loved him past anything to do with him supporting me. I had let him convince me that Florida would no longer matter to me once I went home to him, but I knew deep down this wasn’t true. Even if it never worked out perfectly, I wanted to learn from it, I wanted to have more adventures afterwards. It was the most challenging thing I had ever done, and I did not want to quit. ‘Anna,’ Zach said again. ‘Look outside.’ It was snowing. I jumped up and ran to the front door. I went outside to the porch, staring at the flakes tumbling slowly to the ground. A second later, Waldo appeared beside me, barking, then ran down the driveway, opening his mouth to the sky and howling, truly wolf-like. The violent snowstorms in England were what had prevented me from returning, but maybe it was a sign that I needed to stay. I wasn’t sure yet what I was going to do, but I felt better than I had in ages. I heard the door bang behind me, and Zach stepped outside. ‘Do you feel more at home now?’ he asked. I nodded, looking at his face. He grinned and went down the steps to grab Waldo, who seemed to be considering making a break for it. I looked up at the enormous houses across the street, much bigger than any I had grown up with. Tall white pillars held up porches spanning the length of the house, and I could just make out porch swings and small white chairs. Despite the cold December air and Christmas decorations, Charlotte still gave the impression that summer would be back at any moment. Zach and Waldo were chasing each other under the cascades of snow flurries. I ran down to join them, snowflakes landing on my cheeks and neck, like cool kisses. Jodie Free is a final year American Studies student at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She enjoys baking, running, watching basketball and daydreaming about adventures abroad. Follow @JodieFree on Twitter or check out jodiefree.blogspot.com.

the snow edition ~ 21


snow writing

Ephemeral Blinding light floods all round my morning curtain. Carpet of snow laid even overnight. White flakes drifting down in their silent perfection. Not swirling, just floating. I hold out fleece-clad arms to catch one on my sleeve. Its stunning symmetry dissolves at once. First, sparkle, fractal, completely pure, then rapid deconstruction, leaving nothing. Not like love, which has to change, but lasts forever I wish. Jacqueline Pye Jacqueline has been a prolific writer for many years, mainly in non-fiction but recent publications include poems, short stories, flash fiction and short drama. She’s a member of Southampton Writing Buddies and has four entries in their newly-published anthology Wordfall. Her first children’s book is almost ready. jacpye.com jacpye.blogspot.com

Photo by Cynthia Cioccari On my way home from the high street, it started to snow delicately at first, then swirling around everywhere. I hid in a shop doorway, waiting for the right moment. The couple walked past me and down the hill, hand in hand, and I thought - ah-hah!

22 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

Snow Globes By Angela Readman

I

was in love with the woman in the snow globe; it wasn’t even mine. My wife got it when she was a girl. Some aunt bought her one back from a holiday in Italy. My wife thinks the first one is the one with two people sat outside a café. It’s hard to tell, but they look like they’re listening to each other and eating parma ham. Once, she said she used to shake things up and stare at the people inside, imagining their lives. Now, they just catch dust, snow lays on places she’s never been. My wife was burping the baby when I started to fall in love. I’d just had a haircut. It was different to usual. The guy in the barbers had one built up shoe to make up for having one leg longer than the other. It made him taller on the side of the short leg. He tilted, but somehow, always got the job done. I liked him because after I went there my hair was a little shorter, but never looked like it had been cut. This time, he was busy with another customer. I got the guy with a studded tongue and came out looking like a TV vampire. My wife didn’t notice. She jiggled the baby that had been crying for days for no reason we could tell. She was trying something called kangaroo mothering. The baby went everywhere she went. I picked up a snow globe from the shelf and shook it. It rained glitter on a casino. I put it back on the shelf. The shelves were full of snow globes, higgledy piggledy. The older ones had bubbles of emptiness at the top, and the water was yellowed like the people inside had abused a swimming pool. Little people in the globes faced the shelves like people looking into the window of a library that was always closed. The baby let out a glorious belch. My wife held him high as the world cup. ‘Who’s a handsome man, then? Who is?’ I knew she wasn’t talking to me from the smile in her voice. I picked up another snow globe and shook it. This one had shells on the side. Inside, yellow paint made an island. On it was a little woman wearing a woolly hat and an overcoat. I went to my desk with the snow globe still in my hand and set it down under the lamp. I looked at it for a second, the woman in a big coat in the tropics. The woman slumped, her coat messy and unbuttoned. The glass dome was hot in my hand from the lamp. I looked at the snow globe unsure why it bothered me. Then knew. The woman on what passed for a tropical island was wearing winter clothes. I had to really look to tell, but it seemed like she had been put into the wrong dome. I imagined there was a woman in a grass skirt stood next to a log cabin, or waiting for a tram in the snow on the other side of the world. I moved the dome from the lamp and put it in a corner where the sun never shone.

The next morning, the little woman in the globe was standing straight, holding her hand up to her eyes like she was looking out to sea. Her buttons were fastened. She didn’t look like she was sweltering. There was a small smear of red on her mouth that passed for a smile. It amazed me, the effect my one simple act could have. I went to work, collared by the receptionist on my way in to watch a funny clip on her phone. I looked at the screen full of a big guy having a hissy fit at a ticket on his car and didn’t laugh. If I laughed, if I showed her an even funnier clip, I might wish there was time to laugh more. I turned down my colleagues offers of a drink after work and made my way home. I called at the chemist and bought nappies. I walked round the shop looking at things, wondering if there was anything my wife wanted. Tissues? Cherry lip balm? Lipstick? Fishnet stockings? A row of bobbing plastic swans? A tiny tiger? I liked to surprise her with little stupid things, but it had been a while. There didn’t seem anything she needed. A young Chinese couple walked round the chemists with a basket. They laughed, stopped in front of mirrors to try on glasses, consider the facial expression on plastic ducks. Their basket overflowed. I picked up a bottle of glass cleaner from near the eye glasses, imagining the woman in the snow globe looking out her window, waiting for me to come home. The baby had stopped crying, slept on the couch beside my wife, just touching her thigh. She sat on the couch expressing milk from her breast with a pump, relaxed as a cow in a pasture. Milk trickled into the clear plastic cup. She glanced at me walking in, sitting down, and stared back to the TV. I felt the phone in my pocket vibrate and turned it off. At my desk I looked at the snow globe. The woman inside smiled. Very gently, I tilted the globe. Snow fell from my fingertips. She stretched out her fingers and stuck out her plastic tongue to catch flakes. Not once did I think about breaking the glass and letting her out to touch her. I just loved her, a tilt of my hand turned her world upside down. Some day, my wife may come in and find me inside the globe, lying on a hard plastic beach, if love could do that. For now, from behind the glass the woman in the snow globe looked at me. I watched her make snow angels on the sand.

Angela Readman won Inkspill Magazine’s short story competition. She has had stories in PANK, Metazen, Fractured West, Pygmy Giant and Southword. She was commended in The Arvon International Poetry Competition last year.

the snow edition ~ 23


snow writing

Eskimo Two girls pugfaced with shiny black hair stamp in their deerskin shoes hammer on the ice then sooty faces peer in on unsuspecting moon-eyed fishes waiting to be snatched by fur fists and pad home to cook Sitting on willow twigs they talk of dances they have danced rattling their puffin beaks and belts of human teeth tapping deerhooves in front of the men hoping to sleep naked with someone

Joanna has run a single parent organisation for the past seven years and recently started managing a band. She wrote and published a ‘newspaper ‘and began writing short stories at primary school progressing to poetry when teenage angst hit! Joanna’s interests are music, antiquities, archaeology, travel and travel writing.

they talk into the night about sun’s distress to discover that the moon her lover, is in fact her brother and how sun fled horrified and moon pursued they look up at the deceitful moon and sun’s fearful appearance and imagine their own love in waiting Joanna Gurr

No lifejacket Yesterday I was in quicksnow not so much out of my depth but drowning I listened to you creeping away on iced feet leaving me craning for any sound or scrape no lifejacket just distress Joanna Gurr

24 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

As Black as Snow By SJI Holliday

I

t was Eleanor’s first time. Most of her classmates had done it on an exchange trip when they were sixteen, and there were a few she knew who’d done it even before that. In her early teens she’d been more into reading supernatural novels and watching the horror channel; her usual heartbeat raising activity had been taking midnight walks through graveyards. Things had only begun to change when she started work in the benefits office and realised she’d better tone it down a bit to avoid scaring the customers. She started shopping in Next and enhancing her blue eyes with ubiquitous neutral shades instead of her favoured purple and kohl. It was on one of the Friday work lunches that she’d met Andrew. He was working behind the bar on his summer break and he was the complete opposite to the boys she usually met. He didn’t smell like he excreted incense and marihuana and his demeanour suggested he might have enough money to take her out for pizza and not make her pay for his half too. He’d asked her out that day, after enquiring about her jacket potato and cheese. Her workmates had cackled and made various lecherous comments about Andrew and when he’d asked her out, Eleanor felt her cheeks burn as she giggled in disgust at her own embarrassment. It was after their third date, at a posh Italian in town where they didn’t even sell pizza, and she’d had to wear a dress and a pair of fancy shoes, that he asked her if she fancied going skiing with him. Skiing? Eleanor’s first thought was to panic. She remembered all the kids in her year who’d gone skiing. They were the taut limbed, shiny haired children of teachers and bankers. Not the unwashed layabouts that Eleanor hung out with. She was Ellie, back then; Eleanor was too middle class. She’d even lied about what her parents did (sold things at antiques fairs) so she could stay in with the out-crowd. But now she had the shiny haired boyfriend and the smart work suits and she had to keep up the pretence because Andrew seemed to actually care about her. He’d never once left her waiting when they’d arranged to meet. He never made her sit through

endless nights of awful metal music that she pretended to be in to. He bought her flowers every Monday (yellow gerberas) and he told her she was gorgeous, and when they lay in bed in the huge room he rented, it didn’t smell of dirty boy duvets and sweaty socks. So instead of telling him how she felt, she lied and told him she’d love to go skiing with him, so he’d booked them a pre-Christmas break in the French Alps. Eleanor worried that by the time the ski weekend came, Andrew would be bored with her. It was over two months away, and she was still trying hard to be the nice girl he thought she was. She struggled through the whole of ‘One Hundred Days of Solitude’ just so she could quote passages at him when she met him in the student bars with his mates. She worried they would sneer at her for not going to uni herself, but luckily her working for the council was deemed suitably bourgeois. She often read up on the local social policies and regurgitated them back in between sips of red wine, and she had even started listening to semiobscure indie bands that she secretly detested, just so she could join in the inane conversations about the meaning of the lyrics. She’d become a different person. The only time she felt lost, was on the frequent weekends that Andrew went back to Oxfordshire. Every time she hoped he’d invite her, but he never did. But instead of moping, she’d decided to use these weekends to prepare for the ski holiday. Andrew said he would teach her, having skied several times a year since he was five; But Eleanor wanted to surprise him, so she began regular lessons at the nearby snowdome. By the time the ski holiday came around, having done eight lessons and read up on the ski resort they were going to, she believed that she was a reasonably competent skier. On the weekend before the holiday, she drove to the outlet village. She chose navy salopettes and a cream jacket, plus matching mitts and hat in a coordinating red. As she walked to the tills, her arms piled high, she laughed to herself at her ridiculous transformation. After years of dark and sombre moods, she felt happy and bright and hopeful; and she no longer cared what any of her old friends thought. She didn’t miss drinking cider on bleak churchyard benches. She’d chatted with the girls at the tills and practically skipped out of the shop, only pausing to look left, then

the snow edition ~ 25


snow writing right, trying to remember where she’d seen the café. And that’s when she saw him. Andrew was walking towards her, but there was little chance of him seeing her. He had his arms wrapped around a girl in a black duffel coat and they were both laughing and swaying into each other as they meandered towards her through the mall. Eleanor felt her stomach drop. His sister? The hopeful thought was shattered as Andrew and the girl stopped outside M&S and began a passionate, full-on snog. She backed into the doorway of the shop she’d just left, and pinned herself against the discount shoe rack until the couple unclenched themselves and walked by; still laughing and smiling into each other’s eyes. Eleanor wanted to throw up. Her first thought was to run after them, lay into the pair of them with her shopping bags, then calmly return to the shop and ask for a refund. But then she felt some of the old Eleanor return. Ellie: The girl who used to love nothing more than popping pills and burning the legs off spiders with Dave Gahan lookalikes in dark corners of pubs that smelt of spilled beer, patchouli and deep-fat fryers; and whose favourite films featured various grizzly murders. She ran back to her car without a backwards glance, and when Andrew appeared the next day, fresh-faced and delirious from his weekend in the country, Ellie hid back inside and let Eleanor welcome him with open arms. *** The hotel in the Alps looked like a giant log cabin. The lobby was full of overstuffed couches arranged around a roaring log fire, and as they sat together waiting to be taken to their room, Eleanor sipped her brandy hot chocolate and let Andrew kiss her the same way she’d watched him kiss the girl in the outlet village, and tried not to recoil at his touch. Later, when they sat entwined in the pine scented steam of the giant hot tub, she allowed him to touch her naked body one last time. The next morning they headed off to the slopes early. She let Andrew book an introductory lesson for her; then as he went off to have a few runs by himself, she cancelled the lesson and sat in a café and drank brandy hot chocolates and chain-smoked a packet of Gitanes until her

26 ~ what the dickens?

head became blissfully fuzzy. Her schoolgirl French and the waiter’s broken English provided enough vocabulary for her to understand that the previous three nights’ snowfall had meant for perfect skiing conditions, especially near the top, where the powder was 20ft deep in places. She also learned that the small café at the top that she’d read about was open today, and that the sun would be beating down on it for a while yet. But then the sun would shift to the other side of the mountain, and the piste would become icy and dangerous very quickly. The waiter recommended strongly to Eleanor that she should not go there after two. She’d already arranged to meet Andrew there at two-thirty. He’d protested at first, suggesting that it would be better to go there earlier, and that there was a nicer, busier café where they could meet, near the 1500m village. But she’d told him it would be romantic and winked at him, and eventually, he’d agreed. *** She enjoyed her first time on the chairlift. Sitting on the swinging seat, wrapped up warm, with the cold air on her lips and the spectacular views of the snow covered mountains, she felt exhilarated and alive. She managed several green runs with ease, pleased with her progress from her lessons at the snowdome. The skiing did not feel that much different, but the atmosphere and the electricity in the freezing air as she charged down the mountains was the biggest buzz she’d ever felt. She progressed onto blues, and by the time she was ready to meet Andrew, she’d even tentatively managed a red. The chairlift up to the top was the best one yet. It had small seats, barely big enough for two. The rickety seats squeaked as they swung and when it stopped momentarily, Eleanor took off one mitt and dipped into her inside pocket for her hipflask. The hot tang of the alcohol almost burned her freezing lips and she felt the stirrings of excitement and anticipation as the seat swung her off at the exit; and as she slid down the ramp, she realised there was no-one else behind her. The café sat on the right, two small tables perched on the edge of the mountain. The only barrier was a red and white striped tape attached to several widely spaced posts. The café was already closed and the workers were clicking on


snow writing skis, ready to leave. One of them shook his head at her, and she gestured towards Andrew, who sat at one of the tables with two steaming cardboard cups in front of him and a bemused grin on his face. She smiled back, expertly stopping her skis just next to the table. ‘Wow – impressive,’ he said, standing up to embrace her. ‘I was beginning to think you weren’t coming…’ Eleanor was still smiling as she unclipped her boots from her skis. ‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ she said. She had walked round to the other side of the table, and they stood together staring down into the abyss. The sun had already begun to slink away and the air had taken on an icier edge. ‘Look how deep the powder is down there,’ Eleanor said. ‘Bet you’d love to ski in that?’ Andrew sorted. ‘I don’t think that’s skiable, Ellie,’ he said. Eleanor felt a bubble burst inside her head. He’d called her Ellie. She glanced round at the café, to make sure the workers had all gone. Andrew followed her gaze. ‘What’re you−’

Before he could finish his sentence, she’d swung the little metal chair with all the strength in her body. It caught him just above the kidneys, and he wavered, arms flailing as he tried to grab hold of her. She stepped back and watched as his body swung wildly back and forwards and he tried to grab hold of the table. With one ski-boot clad foot, she kicked the table leg and it toppled, crashing over the side of the mountain at the same time as Andrew burst through the tape, uprooting two of the posts. After a few bounces, both Andrew and the table were out of sight. Ellie watched the tape as the wind whipped it and it hovered and danced over the thick white snow. As she clicked her skis back on and adjusted her hat over her ears, she thought she heard a faint cry from somewhere far away. She paused for a second, head cocked, listening. But there was only the faint squeak of the chairlift swinging overhead, and then the swish swish of her skis as she carefully attempted her first ever black run using her best wide parallel turns.

SJI Holliday is the author of a sheaf of short stories and is currently creating a crime novel. Her world domination via writing is limited only by time, motivational slippage and the perils of procrastination. She pins her ideas onto frames like dead butterflies. Does not bite.

Photos by Jen Hammell

the snow edition ~ 27


snow writing

One Cold Day Like a latex glove filled to capacity, its accusatory fingers bulging, pointing, wonkily in all directions, the index eventually bursts with a force, spewing its proverbial venom forth, the direction suddenly clear. ‘You cocksucker!’ she shrieks, a spray of angry spittle lands on the old man, now in the winter of his life… Sitting, a cold block of stone bench beneath, a jury of trees surrounds two narcissistic images staring, oblivious to the fact. Raw wind suddenly swirling up around the pair, pigeons take cover, no crumbs here A smug smile creeps At the corners of a mouth already lashed out at the scared little girl who is no more. Smokey cigar swirls, this sickness between them has grown over a lifetime rooted in dysfunction, pulling, stretching into a magnificent redwood, they, the two farthest branches on either side unwilling to bend. Permission to love unconditionally never granted, never given, now one cavernous emotional debt. Profanity is the salt of their dialog now Sprinkled often, generously over one another’s wounds which can never be healed. Jennifer Cannon

28 ~ what the dickens?

Jennifer Cannon is a freelance writer and founder of JenCann Productions (jencannpro.com) living in New Jersey, USA. She is the proud mother of 3 children, ages 26, 8 and 6. When not writing, Jennifer loves cooking and travel. She also blogs about a variety of topics at welladjustedorsotheysay.blogspot.com.


snow writing

Winter’s Breath By Cassie Davies

O

dette stepped off the crunchy gravel path and onto the soft, virgin snow. She placed a mitten clad hand on the wrought iron gate, pushing it open, leaving tracks in the pristine white carpet. It had been two days since the snowfall, and yet she was the first visitor to the old graveyard. Shivers ran up her spine. The gate never announced her arrival when the snow fell. She suspected it was the moist flakes that silenced the usual moan of rusted metal. She stepped with caution, following the path she knew well. She was careful to avoid the fallen stones, now hidden beneath nature’s thick white cloak. Her footsteps were muffled, the ground accepting her arrival with nothing more than a small ‘poof ’ as she crushed the snow. She wondered if he’d be here. Everything suggested he would. Once dusk had descended and the snow had fallen, he always appeared. Both conditions were necessary to ensure his presence. She wondered if the gate purposefully didn’t creak, if the ground only sighed, so that he wasn’t frightened away. She felt anticipation grow inside her. She tightened her grip on the two blood red roses clutched to her breast. Up in front she saw her sister’s headstone, dusted with snow. She dare not look to her right, to the place he’d be – always in the shadows of the old, gnarled oak. She could sense his gaze on her. She knelt down, sinking into the thick crystals of frozen water. Nature’s frozen tears. Her stripy, woollen tights soaked up the liquid, freezing her skin. She cleared the stone of snow, reading the inscription. She knew it word for word. It had been four years since her sister had been taken and laid to rest. She placed a single rose on the top of the headstone, its velvet petals holding droplets of melted snow, glistening like jewels. She gave a silent prayer that her sister was safe and happy, wherever she was. Only when her grieving was done, did she dare lift her eyes to him. She’d felt his heated gaze since her arrival at the graveside. He never spoke, just watched her usual ritual. For four years she’d seen him. The first time she’d cried out in shock, not

knowing he was there. He’d been stood behind a headstone, gripping the edges for dear life, his knuckles turning white. She’d taken a step towards him, but he’d ducked down behind it. He was gone by the time she’d made her way through the snowdrift to where he’d been. Any time she had tried to speak with him had been met with silence or more often, disappearance. Each time she’d visited since then, as long as dusk was cloaking the sky and snow dressed the floor, he’d been watching her. For four years he’d watched but never spoken a word. This was the first time she’d seen him in over seven months. He was lounging on the top of the headstone. He was older now, and yet he looked like he’d aged faster than her. He was a young man. His alabaster skin looked almost grey in the weak light. His hair was still black as coal. He wore black trousers and shoes, and a loose white shirt. Nothing more. His eyes, always cast in shadow, were dark and brooding. She locked onto his gaze. His lip hitched on one side into a grin. She smiled, feeling her cheeks turning pink. This had been the way for the last year. She dared to look at him, to make the connection. He’d grin and she’d smile. Then she’d get up and leave, hoping the snow would continue to fall, hoping the ground would continue to keep it. She looked at the inscription of the stone he sat upon. ‘Ira Floyd. Died aged two days. 1881.’ The inscription always brought a tear to her eyes. She stood, brushing the snow that clung with desperation to her legs. Keeping her eyes locked on his, she made her way to him, step by tentative step. The shadow of the old oak made the ground dark, the air freezing and her breath cloud in front of her. She came within a few feet of the headstone and stopped. He’d not run. Yet. She lifted the remaining blood rose to her lips and kissed it, still keeping her eyes on him. He was sat straight now, watching her with a burning intensity. His gaze almost scorched her skin. She whispered a prayer for the baby Ira and placed the rose on the snowy ground in front of the headstone. ‘This is for you, Ira,’ she whispered.

the snow edition ~ 29


snow writing She took a step back as the jet haired boy jumped down from the stone. He stood in front of her, staring. This near, he was tall and broad. She felt herself heating under his gaze. She removed her woollen hat to cool, running her nervous fingers through her long blonde hair. She fidgeted with the hat, not knowing what to do now he was this close. His lopsided grin was gone. Her breathing sped up. He was almost too beautiful to gaze upon in this light. He took a step towards her, being careful not to crush the delicate rose beneath him. His scent swirled around her, musky and dense, like soil and leaves and something exotic. She couldn’t move. She was rooted to the spot, the earth holding her firmly in place. She was his prey. Helpless. His hand came up slow, causing her breathing to hitch in anticipation. His fingers grazed her cheek, leaving icy cold trails on her skin. His palm cupped her face as he leant forwards. She trembled, frozen by his touch. ‘Say my name,’ he said through a frozen, ragged breath. He closed the distance between them, the tip of his nose touching hers. It was as cold as ice. His eyes were trying to penetrate her soul, begging her to answer. ‘Say my name,’ he repeated. She shook, but forced herself to stay strong. ‘Ira.’ His lips were on hers before she got time to think. His musky fragrance filled the air, making her dizzy. She lost her mind in the kiss. His cold lips were so soft and welcoming. His hands held her face in a desperate grasp. She opened her mouth, deepening the kiss, letting him take what he needed. She embraced him, craving him, a sudden fierce need for him taking her over. She felt heat growing inside her. It started in the pit of her stomach, a fire burning with intense ferocity. It snaked like lava through her veins, heating her entire body. His ice cold hands left her face, stroking her sides and pulling her against him. His cold tried to penetrate her, but her building heat fought it off. They were like two opposing fronts, coming together in a cataclysm of sensation, directly where their lips met. It was like feeling every good emotion all at once, and realising that your body just wasn’t built for that sort of sensation. It was like universes colliding. His icy fingers interlaced with her long hair, holding her tight, pulling her right back to the

30 ~ what the dickens?

here and now. She looked into his eyes as he continued to kiss her, slowing, savouring her. Then something amazing happened. Her pulse quickened as his colour began to change. The heat from her touch, from their bonding, began to soak into him. His face took on a more pinkish hue. His cold stopped trying to assault her. She pulled out of his embrace as he lifted his fingers to his lips. She watched, awed, as his pale skin receded to show nothing but fresh, pink flesh. He turned his hands over, inspecting them. She watched him, wondering what had happened. He looked at her with such gratitude on his face. ‘What is your name?’ he asked. ‘Odette.’ ‘Odette,’ he whispered, repeating it over and over again. ‘Beautiful.’ Snow began to fall around them. It was like Mother Nature was crying for her lost ice son. Ira held out his hands, palms up, watching the flakes float down onto his skin. ‘You made me warm. It is melting.’ He looked at her with amazement in his eyes. He placed his hand over his heart, burning her with his gaze. ‘It beats for you, Odette.’ They stared at each other for a time, the snow covering them both in sparkling crystals. ‘Ira?’ she eventually asked. He smiled at her, closing the distance until their bodies almost touched. ‘Kiss me again,’ she pleaded. He didn’t hesitate. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight. He was the one heating her now. She opened her mouth, kissing him deeper, drowning in his musky scent. She could feel his heart beating against her chest. It mirrored her own. When the air in her lungs was getting thin, she had to break away. She stumbled in the sudden aftermath of their joining. Ira lifted the rose from the ground and sat in its place, resting against the headstone. Odette settled in between his legs, resting her back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, making her feel toasty warm. She rested her head against his, savouring him. The earth beneath them seemed to heat, creating a space of lush green grass. Spring flowers sprung either side of them, little purple heads turning and facing them with gratitude. ‘I’ve watched you for years,’ he said.


snow writing She snuggled against him, leaning back and kissing his cheek. ‘And me you, Ira. I wanted to make you feel better.’ ‘You are the reason I know love.’ Heat erupted inside her, rushing down her skin like a forest fire. They sat cocooned together, warm in a frozen world. She got up as midnight was nearing. She kissed him, loving holding him, seeing happiness in his face. She knew they were connected, ever since the first time she laid eyes on him. It may have taken four years for him to let her in, or maybe for Mother Nature to release her icy fingers from him, but she was glad he was hers now. She slipped off her mittens, jamming them into her pockets. She was still warm from Ira’s inferno of a touch. She picked up her hat from where it had been dropped when the first kiss took her by surprise. Releasing herself from her scarf, she made her way across the ancient graveyard. She kept a fierce grip on his hand, scared of losing him. His warm fingers entwined with her own. As she stepped through the old iron gate, she knew something was wrong. Ira’s grip turned cold, freezing her skin. She took a few more steps until she realised he’d stopped moving. She turned and felt her smile drop as he released her hand. He was stood stock-still, hand on his heart, a pale tint to his skin. ‘It has stopped, Odette.’

‘No,’ she cried. ‘You can’t leave me.’ He shook his head and ran for the graveyard. A few feet in, he turned and she saw he was pink again. Realisation hit her with thundering precision. Mother Nature was not going to give him a free pass for her world. Tears left icy trails down her warm cheeks as she made her way over to him. Stood either side of the iron gate, they wrapped their arms around each other. ‘I love you, Odette,’ he breathed into her mouth as they kissed. ‘I love you too, Ira.’ ‘Come back,’ he whispered into her ear, in a desperate plea. Snow flurries began to fall, coating them both in sparkling droplets. ‘I’m not leaving without you,’ she said, shaking her head. She pushed open the gate, stepping back into the graveyard. Ira looked at her in disbelief. She kissed him, interlacing her fingers with his. She couldn’t lose him, not whilst their hearts beat for one another. As the white flakes fell with more urgency, they walked back across the graveyard hand in hand, their footprints already fading under the fresh snowfall.

Cassie Davies was born in England. She’s always had a love of books, thanks to her nanna who raised her and her mum who bought her many stories. She created worlds in her head, little knowing that one day she would begin to write about those worlds. She also loves art, and studied design before completing a degree in psychology. Emotion and the human mind have always intrigued her. In the last year, Cassie started to write, and now literature has taken over her life. She’s an avid reader and loves all genres, but she writes paranormal romance and has recently finished her first full-length novel. She can often be found curled around her laptop, lost in a fantasy world, her two terriers and cat by her feet and her understanding boyfriend at her side. Keep your eyes open in the early part of 2012. Cassie has a love story included in The Memory Eater anthology; anthologies2011.blogspot.com/p/all-about-memory-eater-anthology.html.

the snow edition ~ 31


snow writing

Winter’s Blossom I fell in love on that unforgettable January day, Cold wind outside ushering another white coat Of winter’s flower, a beauty most uncommon. As a child I had heard legends of this magical White gold-dust descending from the heavens In a soft, sensuous dance to kiss the land ripe. A grown man I saw the ground hallowed white, And in its reflection I fell in love with a princess from a Mystical Northern land, come to me on her illuminated Sleigh covered by that ephemeral winter’s blossom. She told me tales from her kingdom, of the earth on Its deathbed in winter’s depth, crying to be saved; Lamentable tales brightened by the ending, the earth’s Haunting death-throes always answered by this white rain, Its ills cured by the golden nectar of sunrays on winter’s flower. Still foreign to me after these many years, snowfall rekindles That youth’s love in this aging man, my heart Warmed by the glow of the white earth in full bloom; Bewildered, I hearken to her tales come to life before me and Like the snow fall in love again, surrounded by winter’s blossom. Ikhtisad Ahmed

Ikhtisad Ahmed was born in Singapore, grew up in Bangladesh and India, and now lives in the UK. An aspiring writer working in the field of alternate dispute resolution and mediation, he is also author of Cryptic Verses (poetry collection) and The Deliverance of Sanctuary (play). Video interview: youtube.com/watch?v=u6a_1NLD1xA

32 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

A Fine Snowmance By Debbie Viggiano

‘O

h for goodness sake, get a move on!’ I thumped the car’s steering wheel in frustration. The traffic lights glowed green, but the learner in front of me was going nowhere. I could hear the scream of an engine being over-revved. Moments later the learner bunny-hopped forward. And stalled. The traffic lights swung back to amber, then red. I drummed my nails – what was left of them – on the steering wheel. Up above the sky looked ominous. Dark clouds were jostling together, like rugby players in a scrum. Britain had been in the grip of icy weather and subzero temperatures for a couple of weeks now. I switched the radio on. Anything to dilute the tedium of idling at these traffic lights. ‘Motorists will face disruption as freezing temperatures cause icy conditions,’ droned a newsreader. Yes, and didn’t I know it. I’d already used two cans of de-icing spray this week. And it was all Neil’s fault. If he’d not run off with our bigbreasted neighbour, we wouldn’t have had to sell our lovely house. Our lovely house with the big double garage. Which had been a Godsend in freezing weather. And I wouldn’t now be living in a one bed-roomed flat with a parking space open to all elements. Or watching my biological clock tick away. All those years of saving our pennies, getting the house of our dreams, climbing all the way up the career ladder to feather our nest for the big brood we’d planned for. And then, when I’d barely unwrapped the cellophane from the ovulation prediction test, Neil had told me he had something life-changing to discuss. I’d been so excited! I thought he was going to talk about selling the Fiesta and buying that lovely Lexus we’d seen – the one with the huge boot. Ideal for a double buggy. He’d taken me by the hand. Led me to the sofa. And told me to sit down. I’d turned to him, eyes shining. ‘I’m so sorry Penny,’ he’d said. Disappointment had registered. ‘Oh. Can’t we afford it?’ There had been a small pause. You see, my head had been in that other world. The one full of rainbows and dreams. The other world functioned on a different time zone to the one

in which I actually lived. In the other world I’d already had baby number one (a darling daughter) and was now pregnant with baby number two (a boy naturally). Even as Neil was staring at me, looking oh-so-serious, a part of me had been busy whizzing through damage limitation. Okay forget the Lexus. What about a Citroen Picasso instead? ‘I’m leaving you.’ I’d crashed back to reality in a nano-second. ‘Leaving me?’ I’d repeated stupidly. ‘Yes. For Karen. Next door.’ ‘Karen? Next door?’ ‘Yes.’ I’d sat there, numb. Too shocked to articulate any further speech. That had been six months ago. Since then I’d managed to articulate a great deal. Especially since hearing that Karen was pregnant. And they’d bought the Lexus. Bloody woman. Bloody man. Bloody car. ‘Snow showers are forecast. However, according to wildlife experts,’ said the newsreader, ‘our hard winter is giving a much-needed boost to some of Britain’s hibernating animals ensuring a deep, healthy sleep.’ Was that why I felt the urge to curl up and hibernate? Because of impending snow? Certainly somewhere in the depths of my ribcage, a fullscale blizzard was still raging. At least I didn’t have work today. I’d taken the day off to do Christmas shopping. Which would be a doddle. I no longer had to think up amazing gifts for Neil – a Ferrari experience or helicopter lesson – or oversee his parents’ gifts. This Christmas I’d be wrapping just two presents. My mother’s and father’s. An only child, I had no siblings. No nephews. Or nieces. I sighed. Hopefully the shops wouldn’t be too manic. My tummy rumbled. A spot of lunch would be nice. The traffic lights began to change. I put the car in gear, ready for the off. In front of me the learner catapulted forward. And once again stalled. I couldn’t help it. I let out a beep of annoyance. Beep. Gosh that had felt so good. I did it again. Beep. Just one more time. Beeeeeeeeeeeeep. I should have done that to Karen. Not beeped her. But, you know, given her a piece of my mind. With lots of flashing eyes and waving arms. And plenty of cussing.

the snow edition ~ 33


snow writing Suddenly I was back in that other world. Where you could do and say whatever without repercussions. Oh I’d vented my spleen at Neil, but never at Karen. ‘You tart!’ I snarled at the steering wheel. ‘You beep-ing cow. Not content with just beep-ing my husband, you had to beep-ing steal him too. I suppose it was the beep-ing effect of your beeping bosoms on his beep-ing TODGER. You beeping beep-diddy beep-diddy beeeeeeeeeeeeep –’ ‘GET OUT OF YOUR CAR!’ I snapped to. I seemed to be panting. As if from exertion. A man was standing by my window. He looked absolutely livid. Which was a shame because he was incredibly good looking. He rapped on the glass. Loudly. ‘DO YOU HEAR ME?’ I buzzed down the window. ‘How dare you rap on my glass.’ ‘How dare you harass my pupil.’ ‘How dare you not teach your pupil to drive properly.’ ‘Have you thought about therapy?’ ‘Me?’ ‘Yes you!’ ‘Have you thought about anger management?’ ‘Me?’ ‘Yes you!’ ‘I’m not the one sitting in my car banging my hands on the steering wheel, blaring my horn and calling a learner driver a big-breasted cow amongst other UNREPEATABLE NAMES.’ I blanched. Had I? Out loud? ‘Right-oh,’ I warbled. Clearly I’d lost the plot. Neil had said as much. When things had become nasty. At the who gets which CD and custody of the ironing board stage. I hadn’t wanted any of it. Told him to take the whole damn lot and give it to Karen. The only thing I’d clung on to was my James Blunt album. Back to Bedlam. How apposite. I’d played ‘You’re Beautiful’ until I thought my heart had broken in two. And then Neil had smugly told me it was his and Karen’s song. Whereupon I’d hit him over the head with the CD case and instead that had broken in two. At that moment the radio burst into song. I couldn’t believe my ears. James Blunt. You’re Beautiful. I looked through the windscreen. Outside it had started to snow. The opening guitar chords filled the car. Flakes whirled

34 ~ what the dickens?

through the open window. I suddenly had an awful lot of images playing in my head. Neil telling me I was doo-lally. James Blunt. Suicidal and peeling off his clothes in a snowstorm. The driving instructor. His mouth working. Forming words. Although I couldn’t hear them. They were drowned out by blaring horns. This time from drivers behind me. The snow was coming down thick and fast now. It blew through the open window. Stuck to my eyelashes. My mind and vision were overwhelmed with snow. The traffic lights jigged through their colourful routine. I opened my mouth to speak. Somewhere deep within me a damn burst. I realised I was going into meltdown. The man suddenly looked concerned. ‘Are you all right?’ ‘Oh my God,’ I croaked, ‘I’m melting.’ Get a grip Penny. Of all the places to have a nervous breakdown. Not here. Not at these ruddy traffic lights. In all this snow. In front of this man. His long dark hair was sticking to his head. I felt completely disorientated. ‘Are you James Blunt?’ ‘I’ll be right back,’ said the man. ‘Don’t go anywhere.’ As if. I couldn’t remember where I was going. Or even how to drive my car. I gasped, shrieked, wept and wailed. The window was still down. I was now blinded by snow and tears. Cars were edging around me. Racing to beat the traffic lights changing again. In front of me the learner was shifting across the handbrake. Now she was settling into the passenger seat. The man started the car’s engine and screeched through an amber light. I put my head on the steering wheel. And sobbed my heart out. Seconds later my driver’s door opened. ‘Move over.’ The man was back. Obediently I unsnapped my seatbelt. Lifted my legs across the handbrake. The man shoved the car into gear and zoomed across the junction. Almost immediately he pulled over and parked – behind his pupil’s car. The woman was standing on the pavement. She opened my door. ‘Hello. Are you all right?’ ‘No Susie, she’s not,’ said the man getting out of my car. ‘Go and open up,’ he tossed some keys at her. Susie caught them deftly. ‘Put the kettle on. Make a hot sweet tea.’ ‘I hate tea,’ I bleated ungratefully.


snow writing The man led me up a garden path. Through an open door. ‘Come in.’ He steered me into a lounge. Towards a sofa. I sank into its squashy depths. He bent down and busied himself lighting a fire. Warmth seeped into the room. Susie came in with two mugs of tea. ‘Would you like a biscuit?’ she asked kindly. ‘N-no thank you,’ I took one of the mugs. ‘T-terribly sorry. D-didn’t mean to hassle you back there.’ ‘S’alright,’ Susie grinned. ‘James was giving me just as much hassle inside his car. I had reached the stage of shouting at him. At least we weren’t far from his house.’ ‘James?’ I squawked. ‘You really are James Blunt?’ Susie snorted. ‘He should be so lucky.’ ‘James Garvey,’ he said straightening up from the hearth. He took the other mug from Susie. ‘My brother,’ Susie added. ‘I bullied him into taking the day off work. I wanted some extra help with my driving. It’s my test next week.’ I smiled weakly. ‘Good luck. I’m Penny by the way.’ ‘Cheers Penny.’ She turned to James. ‘I’m going to catch my bus. Before this weather gets any worse. I’ll see myself out.’ She blew James a kiss before turning to me. ‘See ya.’ The front door banged. I took a sip of tea and cleared my throat. ‘I really am terribly sorry.’ James sat down opposite me. He put his tea on the low table between us. ‘Mind telling me what it was all about?’ ‘Oh. You know.’ ‘No. I don’t.’ And so the whole story came out. In stutters and gasps. ‘I see,’ James eventually said. ‘Well all I can say is, more fool your ex-husband.’ ‘What do you mean?’

‘Look, I don’t want you to think I’m coming on to you – because I’m not. But you are a very attractive woman. Quite stunning actually,’ James grinned, ‘even with mascara trails down your cheeks.’ ‘Oh God,’ I wiped my hands over my face. ‘Look,’ I said putting my mug on the table, ‘I’ve taken up enough of your time. I really should go. Thanks for the tea. And the shoulder.’ ‘You’re welcome.’ I picked up my handbag and went through to the hallway. James opened the front door. Outside the snow had stopped. ‘Will you be okay driving?’ he asked. I smiled. A proper smile. ‘Definitely.’ And I meant it. I stepped out onto the path. ‘Penny?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘I lied.’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘About not coming on to you. I don’t suppose you’d like to go out would you? Have something to eat?’ ‘What, now?’ ‘Why not? I don’t mind the mascara streaks if you don’t.’ I bent down, scooped up a shallow layer of snow and rubbed it over my face. ‘Better?’ ‘Perfect.’ James put an arm round my waist. Gently pulled me to him. And softly, very softly, kissed me. It was exquisite. ‘There’s just one thing I need to know,’ he whispered, eyes twinkling. ‘What?’ I replied breathlessly. ‘Your car or mine?’ THE END

Debbie Viggiano dreamt about being a show jumper or an author. She ended up a legal secretary. After a mid-life crisis she ditched Affidavits and Contracts to fulfil her dream of writing a novel. Stockings and Cellulite was the result. Check out her website debbieviggiano.com or follow her on Facebook.

the snow edition ~ 35


snow writing My mind has recently found a passion for poems and so I write. I’m not a poet, I write poems. I am getting ever closer to being 50 years old, I enjoy the company of words and their souls that they release and the friends they bring with them. agapintheclouds.wordpress.com – for poetry throughthemagicdoor.wordpress.com – for stories, bits & bobs.

Virgin Earth Ears on fire fingertips hurt pin cushion cheeks a nose that’s burnt. All this pain I will endure on a morning like this air crisp and pure. Ducks do practice for Dancing on Ice A Heron to judge a look that could splice. Further along the canal takes a twist where skimming snowflakes a winter morn’s bliss. All this happens while you’re so fast asleep you miss the wonders of mid-winter’s treat. So do what I do and wake with the birds put on your clobber and tread virgin earth. Martin Shone

Photo by Jen Hammell

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snow writing

Glimmer By Sara Crowley

T

he falling snowflakes are tired and small, they float to the ground and dissolve on contact. What a wasted effort, Gina thinks. A poor show. She watches the tiny downward drifts from her lounge window; white on black. Palm to glass pane she feels condensation on her fingertips. She traces a heart, high school style, her initials, and his. Underneath she writes ‘Forever.’ ‘Bastard,’ she says. Predictable tears come, like they have every night since his death. He’ll be cold, she expects, and then puts herself right. She pushes out into frozen air, inhaling it deeply into her lungs. It feels cleansing, an oxygen, and

then spikier; a subtle pain that she welcomes. In the garden she listens how the snow muffles. Far away there are cars, people, life going on. Gina tilts her head to the sky, small dampness on her face, chilly patches of skin. The snow becomes heavier, bigger, more persistent. As she stands it begins to settle, on her, her lashes, her shoulders, her coat, and around her, on the lawn, the bird table, the bushes. The magic is how it transforms, how it blankets and softens and brightens. It brings strange luminosity as the ineffable dance between light and ice changes the mundane into truly beautiful. This is not enough, everything remains the same, Tom is still dead, Gina still alone. She shivers, and wants to go back into the warm. Small as that desire is, it is all she has.

Sara Crowley is the winner of Waterstone’s Bookseller Bursary and her novel in progress - Salted - was runner up in Faber/Book Tokens Not Yet Published Award. Her short stories have won prizes and been published in many lovely places including The Irish times, 3:A.M, Pulp Net, Neon, PANK, Fractured West, elimae, Beat the Dust, and FRiGG. She blogs at asalted.blogspot.com and appreciates you taking the time to read this.

Photos by Ben Ottridge

the snow edition ~ 37


snow writing

Falling unheard For all the romanticism of autumn, we’re alone when december finally yields snow (but i think about calling to just let you know). As i’m braving the six-am walk on irregular legs, my uncertain shoes like a toddler’s first steps, heels slip back like i’m trying to hide something.

Red Newsom lives and writes in Manchester. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Keele University and blogs about beer, cats and ‘issues’ at rednewsom. wordpress.com.

White christmas is a near miss away on these frozen roads. i fall because i’m playing with my phone and my elbow hits pavement, iced over. Falling unheard surely still counts and the cold ought to numb, but it burns as i reach into the hours for your arm and wait for your words. This winter’s an island of written-off mistakes left to thaw, but before it fades into a sunken sludge, i’d like you to remember this moment, just once. Red Newsom

Photo by Ben Ottridge

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snow writing

The Winter Collection By Caroline Auckland

J

ust like fashion the garden has its seasonal collections.

We have just had the September issue with its glorious reds, oranges and yellows and now we are going into the winter collection. The winter couture collection is designed by ‘Snow’ and modelled by statuary. The cat’s walk is more of a prance as the tabby struts it’s stuff down the garden runway of ice.

Our gaze is demure and downcast. We do not look you in the eye. Our thoughts are dreamlike and frozen in a suspended time frame of sleepy dormancy. We are silently eloquent and elegant. We are hiding secrets and perfect forms beneath our brilliant white fur ruffs, ermines and millinery. We always like to look our best, for even in a cold, frigid, flowerless garden one never knows who may come calling. Our finery glistens and sparkles in the sunlight and we enjoy our moment in the sun.

But our clothes do not even last a season before they become rags and tatters , cloaks and hats become scarves as they trail and melt down over our grey forms. We cry tears of ice and watery diamond droplets as we transform ourselves into emperor’s new clothes for spring’s rude awakening.

Writer, reader and reviewer. Worked in publishing for Marks & Spencer. Now blogs - newtonhouseltd. blogspot.com. Can be found writing into the small hours armed with Earl Grey Tea and chocolate biscuits, surrounded by hundreds of pieces of paper.

the snow edition ~ 39


snow writing

A Gosling Goes for a Swim A young goose to a pond came one day, Waddling in his own clumsy way, He stuck out a foot, As black as fresh soot, And into the pond he did stray. But hold on, what was this? No water, cool and slick, Passed by his soft down, black and grey, Instead cold hard ice, Which was not very nice, As he’d surely come here just to play. Too late to turn back, The goose let out a quack, As he tried hard to stand and not sway, But this he could not and no fun had he got, From his hesitant, self-conscious way. With a jubilant honk, He slid out on his conk, As if down a hill like a sleigh, But he had no control and looked terribly drole, When into a snow bank did sashay. Amina Hachemi

Amina Hachemi holds a BA from Paris-Sorbonne University and an MA in Translation, Writing and Cultural Difference from the University of Warwick. A passionate linguist, she enjoys exploring cultural experiences and perspectives through her writing and translation.

40 ~ what the dickens?


snow writing

Book Review Frozen Fire

unsettle everyone but for Dusty he might hold the answers to what’s happened to her brother. For him she is the only one who can help defend him, and eventually herself, against the mobs who are determined to destroy this stranger who they claim is unnatural and dangerous.

Teenage Fiction

Bowler’s creations of a boy burning from the cold, the unforgiving and savage locals, and the raw, uneven, icy terrain in which the story takes place, are disturbingly and brilliantly evocative. A sense of magic, claustrophobia, and brutality resonates throughout and we are constantly fearful for Dusty despite her toughness and resolve. The blurring of dreams and the visions she sees in the harsh, white expanse is contrasted perfectly with Dusty’s crisp, stark voice that leads us through a story filled with bruising truths, moments of wonder, icy shocks, and a huge, generous heart. The issues of violence, destruction, and the severity of what adults and young people are capable of, are weaved carefully throughout the narrative without glory and without fear. In Frozen Fire, Bowler has created a novel that pulsates with the themes of so many great teenage fiction reads, acceptance, prejudice and identity, and allows them to flow through a story that is accessible, sensitive, bold, and genuinely touching.

by Tim Bowler (Winner of the Carnegie Medal)

‘She felt cut through by brightness, cut through Frozen Fire demonstrates admirably the power of by snow, by cold, icy whiteness. She felt her body setting and the force of the elements in regards to plot, character, theme, and creating tension. shiver as though it wanted to dissolve.’ A great mix of supernatural, family drama, and rozen Fire is the story of Dusty, a lonely, teenage dilemmas, Frozen Fire is also a novel that awkward but strong teenage girl looking for showcases how honest and challenging teenage her unreliable, secretive, and damaged brother, fiction can, and should be. Josh, who has disappeared. She is also dealing with the absence of her mum, her fragile and slowly- Sandy East mending dad, and the struggle of living in the shadows of the people who have left her behind and trying to accept, and be accepted for, who If you would like to review a book (all genres she is. Set during a winter where snow constantly welcome!) for the next edition of What the falls, tensions amongst the people in the town rise Dickens? then please send your suggestions to me after a strange, mysterious boy drifts into their via wtd-magazine.com or on Twitter @Zzzzzandy. lives and unnerves everyone with his unusual appearance, ability to read their thoughts, and to feel everything... In a body that some might say is made of snow, he burns with the pain and enormity of all that he knows. His strange powers

F

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memories of snow

Memories of Snow... ‘S

now on Wire’ and ‘Illustrated letter to Myron Lotz’ by Sylvia Plath

Eye Rhymes is a collection of essays that explores Sylvia Plath’s life as a poet, writer and artist. Excerpts of diaries and letters are merged with an exhibition of Plath’s vivid, versatile paintings, drawings and photography, and discussions of her life and work. It is a bright, bold insight into the life of a woman who was acerbic, forthright, funny, sensitive, and who undoubtedly created writing and art full of crisp honesty, strange beauty and heart. Two visual pieces that convey this, which are also two of my favourite memories of snow, are ‘Snow on Wire’, ‘Scrapbook-1947’ and ‘Illustrated letter to Myron Lotz pg 2 January 1953, mixed medium’. ‘Snow on Wire’ is a photograph of wire fencing and trees covered in snow. Three bundles of meshing layered thick with snow rest close to a shelter of trees. It is not aesthetically striking but it demonstrates Plath’s ability to shine a light on the forgettable elements of everyday life and illuminate them into something memorable and intriguing. The fact that

W

hen most people think of snow I imagine they think of Christmas, or skiing or the north pole. I don’t. I think of books. And one book in particular. A book that affected me so profoundly I’m not sure I could pick it up again. I read The Book Thief on a train going through the mountains of southern Germany. It was in the blazing heat of summer and yet I spent the entire journey shivering. The book itself isn’t set completely in the winter months, but there’s one image seared so indelibly on my mind that whenever I see a flurry of snow I’m instantly back on that train, except the train is in 1945 and I’m looking on as Death collects the innocent victims of an allied bombing raid, while snow and fire create hell around me. One book, written by 36 year old Australian Markus Zusak, did more to convince me of the tragedy of war

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she was a teenager when she took this photograph highlights her talent for finding the story in the ordinary, and this is the greatest skill of any writer or artist. The one bundle that is unravelling and the awkward slant of the whole image fascinate me. I always associated accuracy with Plath but the composition of this and ‘Illustrated letter to Myron Lotz’ reveal that there was a nerve-charged vulnerability to Plath’s passionate intent to produce truthful, thought-provoking work. Plath’s childish, vibrant sharp-edged colourful drawing of a blonde cartoon-version of herself falling in the snow and her telling of her time in hospital after breaking her fibula because of that fall, provides a huge spotlight on a twenty-something woman bristling with intellectual hunger and playful generosity to bring an account to life. It is just one page of a letter but it is a glorious glimpse into the life of a woman who composed so much work with so much heart. Both of these pieces show through two events involving snow how big, brave and rich Plath’s imagination was. Sandy East

than the sum total of everything else I’ve ever read. It is utterly compelling, completely believable and exquisitely written. I’m sure I’ve had an emotional bypass, yet reading it left me a quivering wreck. Read it and when you have a few flakes of snow on a January morning it really won’t seem that bad. Andrew Gonsalves Andrew Gonsalves is a wannabe journalist. He gave it all up to follow his dreams a little while ago, and is getting there, slowly. He likes nothing better than losing himself in a book, preferably ones about long-dead royalty. He also likes cake, preferably cheesecake, but any cake will be considered. His ramblings can be found on Twitter, @ ALGonsalves


memories of snow

E

very winter season I am reminded of Robert Fulghum’s account[1] of the life accomplishments of 19th-century American, John Pierpont. Being a “failure” at almost every professional endeavour, the story tells of his writing of “Jingle Bells”. A universally-known song about the simple joy of dashing through a snowy night, in the crisp, open air of a horse-drawn sleigh decked with merrily jingling bells. It is a song of joy that transcends our differences in language, culture, religion, and the world at large. Though authorship has since been attributed to Pierpont’s son, Fulghum’s story remains a testament to realizing that everything we do matters. Whether immediately apparent or manifesting through our children, we never know when we may just touch the world.

Jennifer Hammell is currently working in the “main stream” of the Interior Design industry, but is also avidly interested in developing Social Enterprises that utilize the healing capacity of the creative process, including and beyond developing interior environments, to affect positive change in urban communities.

[1] Fulghum, Robert. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. Ivy Books, 1989.

Jennifer Hammell

T

here was a pretty log cabin and about a dozen beautiful green fir trees – all nestled in a bank of pristine white snow. I’m not sure who gave me the snow-globe that Christmas. I must have been six or seven; certainly old enough to understand the difference between make-believe and reality. Yet still I wanted to escape into that little plastic haven, where the snow fell whenever I wanted. I can remember thinking it must be the most perfect place for a perfect family and I wanted to be there with every fibre of my being. We were anything but a perfect family at that time; Mum had filed for divorce and we were all still living unhappily together in the family home whilst due process was followed (it was the 70s and divorce was not the simple “prize” it can be now). Mum and Dad were perfectly civil when my brother and I were around during the day, but it was impossible not to hear and be disturbed by the arguments and shouting that occurred late in the evening; it was, after all, a very small house. So I would stare intently into my plastic winter wonderland. With one vigorous shake I could transform that quiet calm scene and make the snow fall on that log cabin, where I was sure there was a happy family were inside toasting marshmallows on a crackling open fire or all cuddled up together

listening to Mum or Dad read a story. A minute later all would be peaceful, until I shook it again. And again. It was up to me when the snow fell; it was something I had total control over. I know snow-globes are generally cheap and vulgar souvenirs; they certainly cannot compare to the quiet stark beauty of real snowfall. But I still love those glittery shimmery snowstorms you can summon at will and I find it oddly comforting to know they always settle back to a tranquil and serene (albeit slightly tacky) landscape. And I don’t care what you think; I think they’re pretty – so there! Donna Staveley @doonakebab: reader of books (avid); giver of hugs (real/virtual); maker of cake (and eater); believer of unicorns (they DO exist!); drinker of wine (explains the unicorns), trainer of juggling kittens (not really). Incessant chatterer/giggler; far too easily amused by too many things; every party should have me; novice sharer of words.

the snow edition ~ 43


memories of snow

I

went to Lapland in December of 2010. My niece Caitlin was 7 at the time and of the 5 children who came on our ‘Winter Wonderland’ trip, she was the only one who could read. We had tried to keep the trip a secret but she read the secret destination on the luggage tag. Have you ever seen the face of

a child who not only believes in Father Christmas, but knows she is going to meet him? Well, it was priceless. She was beside herself with excitement and made me promise that once we reached Lapland we would make snow angels and as you can see, I kept my promise.

Beneath sunny kisses They take to the air And vanish like the child That once left them there. Like a dark bird time sweeps over the hills And takes the winged prints from snow covered fields Back to the far north where all angels go That ever was made by a child in the snow. Judy C Meeker 2006

Carly Woodgate. aged 31 and living in London. Currently studying media at a local college and planning to finally get my degree. I enjoy meeting new people and spending time with some old favourites. Twitter lover, you’ll find me at @CantWalkInHeels.

44 ~ what the dickens?


a bit of shopping with...

A bit of shopping with...

Amanda White

“A John Keats Christmas” The perfect card for lovers of English literature, poetry in general and the poetry of John Keats in particular - not forgetting anyone with a love of naive art, Regency architecture, snow scenes and cats!

Available as an individual Christmas card (£2.32) or as a set of 6 with “A Jane Austen Christmas” (£13.28).

I am an English artist living in Spain, painting and collaging in naive style, with a special affinity with Sussex and Derbyshire. My influences are magpie-like: my favourite places, local history, patterns in the landscape, flora, fauna, patchwork, folk art, embroidery, books, Staffordshire pottery, any number of naive and not so naive artists, found objects, my sketchbooks old and new and last but not least my cats and other people’s dogs! amandawhite-contemporarynaiveart.blogspot.com amandawhite-contemporarynaiveart.com

the snow edition ~ 45


author interview

Author Interview Gabrielle Kimm

Photo Copyright © Charlie Hopkinson 2010

Gabrielle Kimm lives in West Sussex. She is married, with two teenage daughters, and has taught English and Drama in local secondary schools, on and off, for nearly twenty years. She is the author of the novels His Last Duchess and The Courtesan’s Lover. Have you got previous? What is your writing background? First of all - thank you so much for having me in your magazine! I first wanted to write a novel when I was twelve, and my mum bought me a copy of a book called The Far Distant Oxus which was written by two schoolgirls in the ‘40s. Katherine Hull and Pamela Whitlock were 14 and 15 at the time they wrote the book, and I remember thinking, with a sort of fizzing excitement, that if someone their age could do it, so could I. I had a couple of years to match their achievement, I reckoned, so I set to with a vengeance and started writing. (I still have a few pages of that early attempt, and it is seriously rubbish!) But from then on, on and off, it was always at the back of my mind that I wanted to write. I never really did anything serious about it though, until about 2000, when the need to write began to niggle at me, and I started to think I really had to do something about it. It quickly became less of a wish to write, and more of a need. I just had to do it. I started a correspondence writing course, and after a few modules of that, decided that it wasn’t for me, and that I’d like to do an MA course in Creative Writing instead. And that was the catalyst – the moment I started the course, the ambition to succeed with my writing became almost obsessive!

a real, historical character, who lived in Ferrara in the mid-16th century, the time and setting for my novel was dictated for me. I’d never really thought about specialising in a genre before, but I found that I loved it! (And luckily, so did Little, Brown!)

How did you find yourself writing Historical Fiction? That was not really a conscious decision. It happened because of Robert Browning’s poem. His dramatic monologue, My Last Duchess, which is narrated by the murderous duke of Ferrara, was the inspiration for His Last Duchess, my first book. As the duke was

The road to publication? Rough or smooth? Rough, basically. I have a lovely retired professor friend, who, when I decided I was ready to send His Last Duchess out into the world in search of an agent, told me to ‘pack a bag and prepare for the long haul.’ I thought he was being very pessimistic, but sadly, he was only realistic. It took about fourteen months,

46 ~ what the dickens?

How long does it take you to write a novel? I’m getting quicker! His Last Duchess took about three years, with breaks in the middle, and The Courtesan’s Lover was about two and a half years. Hopefully, I’ll speed up a bit now I have a little more experience.


author interview sending the manuscript out to agent after agent, and waiting, waiting, waiting for a response, and those fourteen months seemed endless. Sometimes the stuff would come back pretty much by return of post, sometimes the agent would keep it for weeks, even months without any contact. But, it was very much worth waiting, as I was eventually taken on by the lovely Judith Murray, of Greene and Heaton, who is so very much the person I would most like to be represented by! The day we first met, she gave me masses of work to do! His Last Duchess had originally been written in the first person, with six separate narrators, and Judith told me (quite rightly) that it didn’t work, and that the book needed to go into the third person. So I re-wrote the whole novel, all four hundred odd pages of it over the next two or three months! She was absolutely right, and I’m so glad she had the insight and the courage to tell me what needed to be done. Judith sent the book out in 2008, and that whole first year, we had no luck with publishers. Having been elated to secure such a prestigious agent, my morale plummeted, and the following season didn’t seem to be going much better. But then I had two offers in quick succession, and was able to make a choice about which I thought would be better for me and for the book – and I ended up signing a two-book deal with Little, Brown.

places in my mind. None of it consciously enters into my own work, but I’m sure in some form or other, some of it reappears from time to time. Where and when do you write? I have a lovely little writing room – formerly a small spare bedroom. In it there is a permanently untidy desk, on which sits my computer, a box of pens and pencils, a telephone, several untidy piles of paper I pretend I know what to do with, four or five part-filled mugs of cold tea, and a small teddy bear called Robert. There is also a lovely old junkantique chair, a little table, a wall of bookshelves, stacked with books, and on the floor is a kelim rug and a big fluffy cushion for my dog. I write whenever I can. I don’t have the luxury of a set number of hours per day – but I write every day, whether that be a paragraph or two on an otherwise busy day, or a whole chapter on a day when nothing else demands my attention. I try to progress the current novel in some way every day, that’s the main thing.

What inspires you? I’m presuming you mean in literary terms ... I love well-written, character-led fiction – I’m not tied to any particular genre, I just like careful craftsmanship, and a true understanding of the human condition.

The Courtesans’s Lover has just been published. What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? Well, I’ve got a fair number of author events planned over the next few months, based around The Courtesan’s Lover – library events, book group meetings, and a couple of festivals. I’m about twenty-five thousand words into a new book. It’s still very new and not ready to be discussed, but I will say that it’s set in Paris in the mid 17th century, and it opens with an execution!

Which books have influenced you the most and why? I grew up reading Rosemary Sutcliff ’s wonderful historical novels for children. Although what I write is totally different to her work – I write for adults, apart from anything else – I’m occasionally aware of her influence as I plan scenes or characters. Now, as an adult, I don’t think I am influenced by specific books. I read all the time, a wide variety of contemporary and classic books, and like most writers, I’m a bit of a magpie, and I’m sure I tuck away all sorts of phrases and images and ideas and vocabulary from everything I read, into little secret

What words of wisdom can you leave us with? Oh help! For aspiring writers, I’d say a couple of things. Firstly – read, read, read, and then read a little bit more! Read widely and prolifically, and absorb what you read. Read like a writer – looking for HOW the magic works. Also, as you start to write, follow the sage advice of one of my lovely MA tutors at the University of Chichester, Dave Swann. Dave always says that you should ‘concentrate on the process, and not worry about the outcome.’ He’s so right – allow ideas to flow and make their way from your head to the page. You can always change it later if you don’t like it!

Little, Brown have very kindly donated a copy of both The Last Duchess and The Courtesan’s Lover for us to give away. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning them head over to the Competitions page for details.

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my sweet shop is a library

My Sweet Shop is a Library By Marion Katrina Poerio

P

aperback. Hardback. Fiction. Nonfiction. Old. Nestled into a New. Short. Long. Happy. Sad. Chesterfield armchair (ideal Genre genre genre. scenario), heavy eyelids Deep breath. surrender to the all encompassing warmth that envelops you Fingers reach out to turn the glacier brass door prior to sleep. Don’t fight it, put the book down, knob. A gentle nudge and an old oak door groans return to the journey post shut-eye. The next part open. It is a circular, life affirming space. Books is tricky. World wars have been initiated over less. upon books upon books. Volumes disappear To turn the corner of the page or not? I say yes. into a ceiling-less infinity, studded with stars. A My sister says no. We argue. sanctuary of whispered words. Sacred. Holy. This is my church. Similar qualms debated the world over include bending the spine, leaving the book open, face Hungry hands slide over dusty shelves, fingertips down, and allowing pages to become ‘scratch and caressing silk. A single finger traces the faded sniffs’ advertising your favourite Starbucks coffee title embossed on the spine of a book, selected or what you had for breakfast. at random. Or maybe it has chosen you. Pry the book from between the grasp of its sticky Sometimes I lend. Sometimes I refuse to lend. neighbours who sigh in protest at the disturbance Sometimes I can only abide brand new books. of their indefinite hibernation. Feel the weight in Sometimes I covet second hand editions with your hands. Warming. Heavy. Comforting. The personalised dedications; the true meaning cover. Judge it? Always. Sometimes you are wrong of ‘share the word’. Sometimes I wish I could and sometimes you are right. Reader and read lay my hand on a book and absorb its contents consider one another, face to palm, face to face. instantaneously. But the pleasure is in the reading: the smell of the ink, the feel of the cover and its How many hands have grazed and gazed at pages, the looking towards the top to see if you this cover? How many readers have started and are over half way, the memories of where you abandoned it? Who has adored it, despised it, were when you were reading (the summer holiday agonised over it, savoured it, or been utterly when it rained incessantly, the cafe near the indifferent to its secrets? Once read though, station while waiting for your first love to arrive). books gain power. Each takes a piece of the soul of the book and carries it like a torn page in a Books are love. We are very happily married. back pocket forever. Smell. Actively. Empty your lungs and inhale. Flick the worn pages and breathe words, wisdom, life into your heart. Sight is superfluous, your nose is perfectly capable of assimilating literature in a litany of smells: musty, dusty (novels as old as grandad), fresh, crisp, clean (just published), perfumed (glossy magazines), starchy stiff (unopened text book), inky (newspapers).

48 ~ what the dickens?

Hello. I am Marion. I may contain nuts. I like making people smile, but I let my blog do the tickling. Rust and Gold Dust is a celebration of life; the ordinary things in life which, if you look closely, are actually rather extraordinary. Be inspired. Share the love. rustandgolddust.com Twitter @RustandGoldDust facebook.com/rustandgolddust


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whether you are an aspiring or published writer, writing.ie has something From tips on technique and getting published to author interviews and for you. advice, details of literary events in your area, courses and workshops, whether you from are an aspiring orand published writer, writing.ie something Get support other writers industry experts at the has writing.ie forum. for you. For readers we have book reviews, special offers and much more! Get support from other writers and industry experts at the writing.ie forum. • Tips from Top Authors For readers we have book reviews, special offers and much more! • Author Interviews • Events listings • Tips from Top Authors Courses listings Author Interviews • Writers Forum Events listings • Book and Event Reviews Courses listings • Giveaways Writers Forum • Library and Online Book Club Listings Book and Event Reviews • Self Publishing & Digital Publishing Giveaways • Guest blogs from great new writing talent • Library and Online Book Club Listings • Self Publishing & Digital Publishing Running a course or a writing or reader event? • Guest blogs from great new writing talent

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the snow edition ~ 49

Tel: 01 2765921/ 087 2835382 Email: contact@writing.ie


flash fiction

Flash Fiction...

Between April and August 2011 What the Dickens? ran a monthly Flash Fiction writing competition on the WritersGifts website. Below is the winner and shortlisted entries from the August competition.

Mixed Fortunes By Poppy Peacock

WINNER!

‘C

an’t say I was expecting you love.’ As she stoops and shuffles down the dim passage, I detect the weave of waxy roots lurking under her red whorls; yet from her nape a flaxen ribbon lays ramrod down her back. We enter a room she calls her parlour; velvet swirls adorn the walls, silk scarves drape over tiffany lamps dulling the light, an acrid smell of singeing. ‘What did you say your name was?’ Nimble fingers fleetingly knead my left ring finger then motion to the round table in the centre. It’s draped in violet chenille with a torn fringe, tarot cards are scattered and there’s a thick glass bottle with amber liquid. I imagine a thin line of sinister smoke were it to be uncorked. She slithers her hands over the cloth, gathering up the cards while eyeing my gold locket, inscribed as a birthday gift from my grandmother. A glint catches, dances on and engulfs a copper tea trolley; she shuffles methodically. The source comes from an opening door as a black cat slinks in. Beyond, a brightly lit room, quite clinical; rows of neat shelving, labelled boxes, a polished desk with a silver Newton’s Cradle and scented candle. A laptop displays eBay. Invoices impaled on a silver spike. Discarded, on the floor, a pair of patent stilettos with crimson soles. ‘Fox’ I say ‘Cecilia Fox. Inland Revenue.’ I offer my business card. ‘Oh!’ She can’t be that good, or surely she’d have seen me coming! A confession: I haven’t yearned to write since being knee-high, like writers often profess. My creativity was confined to amateur anecdotes for loved ones flung far afield and livening up dull customer dinners. With flattering responses, and a pressing need to change career, I pondered pseudonyms and started to dabble.

50 ~ what the dickens?

Punk Rock Love By Kirsty Logan

S

te loves Mavis as thoroughly as any man could love a giant tortoise. He always wears shorts so Mavis can nuzzle his leg hair. He adjusts his headphones to the smallest setting so Mavis can listen to his remixes. He never vacuums so Mavis can nibble crumbs from the carpet whenever she likes. Ste does not balance on Mavis’s shell and pretend that he’s surfing, no matter how great the temptation. When Mavis dies, Ste plans to honour her by eating all the soft, sour flesh of her body. But giant tortoises live for 150 years, and Mavis has sharp teeth. Kirsty Logan is a fiction writer, literary magazine editor, book reviewer, and arts intern. Her fiction and poetry has been published in over 80 anthologies and literary magazines, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is currently working on a novel, Rust and Stardust, and a short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales. She has a semicolon tattooed on her toe. Say hello at kirstylogan.com.

The Stripper

By Peggy White

H

ear them cheer as I strut on. Ta-Ra-Ra-boom. Ta-Ra-Ra-boom. Time to start. Off with the gloves, slowly. Twirl and throw. Yes, they love that. Slow turn and off with the jacket…take your time, girl. This is the last time you’ll need to do it. Drop it gently. Let it fall. More dancing rumba style. Listen to them as I sway my hips. I lift the skirt to roll the stockings down. Where is my stool? I can’t do it standing on one leg. Oh! Well! Leave them, flirt the skirt and a few grinds and bumps. The club lights go down as the ultra violet spot light comes on. I’ve become a silhouette highlighted


flash fiction by the white spots on my costume glowing in the dark. They see the skirt sway with the movement of my hips. Slowly, I take it off and toss it. I’m a shadow in a fluorescent spotted bikini. I unhook the bra; the spots sparkle like falling stars as I toss it to the watching men. Someone catches it and whoops. Good luck to him. They are calling for me to take the bottom off. I untie it and pretend – teasing as they yell. Once, twice, thrice and away. Whistling and whooping they shout for the lights to go up. The management oblige; a groan, then laughter, as, finally, I pose in my black bikini and stockings. I smile, tomorrow my Mother will see me presented with my medical degree…all debts paid. I am retired, having reached the stage of Jenny’s lady who can wear purple with a red hat. Grandmother, great grandmother. Writing is a hobby resulting from an OU course and the encouragement of the friends I met there.

She took in the finer detail: pencilled eyebrows – one drawn freestyle, producing a quizzical expression; and the tell-tale scarlet lips – original meticulous contours now blurred. Scraps of clues, tossed in her mind: student charity night; floats; Nick meeting Freddie… Nick was telling the tale. ‘…came here for Dutch courage!’ Kathy’s face was one of changing, fast-forwarding expressions. ‘Oh… and... did you have a good time?’ She wandered to the kitchen, scooping up the now exonerated glass, to be dealt with later. Flicking the kettle switch, ‘Coffee?’ She was right not to have doubted her Nick.

Words I’ll Never Speak By Danica Green

I

t’s not the perfume that bothers me when you saunter in at midnight, or the lipstick smeared in bloodied rainbows across your cheek. In this house Lipstick Lies we do not raise our voices, but still you invite it By Jane G. Tough with that look on your face that dares me to ask athy’s eyes locked onto the bare inch left in the where you have been, the head that tilts to bare vodka bottle. Shaking her head, she chuckled. a row of teeth marks bruised across your neck, Nick! The glasses chinked as she plonked them on the eyes that laugh in sing-song mockery as they tell me you won’t be checking on the kids tonight. the sink. Two glasses? One smeared deceit-red. Together, Every time I silently drink my coffee and pretend the glasses were a pair, like his and her towels. that I would have been awake anyway, though both No-one wears that garish red lipstick. And wasn’t of us know it’s a lie. I hate the breathy kiss you he meeting Freddie tonight, as she was working? place on my forehead with a laugh as I can always Earlier, this glass had been a simple, benign smell the scent of her lips upon you and see the container. Now, it symbolised betrayal. Should remnants of her sweat that smeared against your she clear the evidence, or just leave it there body, now cooling in the night to form a salted barrier that reminds me that you no longer hold confrontationally? any piece of me in your heart. When the kids ask me where you’ve gone, I lie and say you’re buying *** them presents, then give them gifts in the morning that they’ll thank you for and pile in the corner ‘Love, I’m home ... brought a friend.’ of their rooms, uninterested. All they want is their Cheerful and blatant. Kathy turned to see the mother back, and me... I just want my wife. ‘adulterer’ and… was it... Freddie in a short skirt – side zip straining to be free of its safety pin; fishnet tights with expanding hole; false boobs see-sawing Danica Green is a crazy British literatus under his skinny rib; a lonesome stiletto shoe? and lover of all things linguistic and literary. ‘What…?’ Her work has appeared in a variety of print ‘Hi, Kathy,’ Freddie flicked a curtain of peroxide and online literary journals and anthologies wig over his shoulder. which she won’t bore you by reciting.

K

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flash fiction The Englishman Who Realised One Evening Camarinas By Gail Aldwin He Understood Swedish By Andrew Kearsey

M

ike had decided to stay in that evening. Canute-like, he aimed the remote control and a succession of ‘why did they bother’ programmes flashed before him. He stumbled over an ABBA documentary. No need for subtitles, somehow he was translating Swedish. He attributed this to the almost empty wine bottle. Later that week, browsing through newspapers in a bookstore, a cartoon tickled his fancy. He wondered why the paper was printing the weather forecast for Malmo and Stockholm. Mike soon became an expert on Scandinavian politics. His newly-acquired linguistic ability created a sense of pride and shame in equal measure. Some may have even accused him of lying to draw attention to himself. Here was a man who had failed French ‘O’ level twice. On the pretext of a persistent verruca he mentioned his discovery to his G.P. She then steered the conversation to recreational drug usage, particularly those of the psychotropic variety. His internet family tree research failed to unearth a distant relative called Bjorn or Sven, hoping to find a genetic cause for his recentlyacquired bilingualism. Unsettled, he became virtually Swedophobic and leapt out of the way of groups of blond and blue-eyed people in case he inadvertently became privy to their small-talk. He wanted to disown his new talent. Wandering through Brick Lane he objected to the way a group of Asian youths were discussing in graphic terms the size of every woman’s breasts who passed by. Mike was now fluent in Bengali. Andrew Kearsey is a short story writer living in Brighton with his civil partner, Brian, and two disobedient dogs. His first short story collection has just been published – Brighton Shorts by Aquillrelle. His stories can also be found on his website andrewck.co.uk. He is currently working on his second novel.

52 ~ what the dickens?

S

unshine leaks through a gauze of cloud and patches of sapphire sky appear. Dan parks the Mini Traveller beside a stream and we amble past the dunes. Water pools around my ankles and I jump the waves as they turn in a froth. The tail of my cotton belt flies in the wind and I taste the salty stands of my hair. Knitting my fingers through his, we swing our arms. When the afternoon melds into dusk, we find the stream has turned into a river. Fumes choke from the exhaust and the car splutters across. It burps and groans and then like a naughty toddler, it refuses to move further. Dan lifts the bonnet and peers inside; I fold my arms. A row of shops frown upon us then a man calls in Spanish but I can’t reply. I shrug and beckon him over. His smile crinkles the parched skin around his cheeks. Examining the engine he pulls free an octopus of wires and strikes a disposable lighter to dry the cap. Ushered inside the vehicle, Dan starts the engine and it roars. He shouts a thank you through the open window and the man waves goodbye. I catch my last breath of Camarinas. Already it is growing late and darkness hides the sea. But still I hear the waves, the rush of water on the soaked the beach. ‘Do we have to go?’ I ask. ‘Come on.’ Dan fixes me with his caramel eyes. ‘We’ll find the hotel.’ Gail facilitates writing workshops and offers one-to-one support. She is currently working on her third novel titled Mistrust and she’s had short stories and flash fiction published.

Book Jacket

By Vanessa Cutts

I

winked at the waitress as she took the bill and finished my drink. I returned my wallet to my back pocket. As I went to collect my coat from the back of the restaurant, it struck me, the row of diners jackets and coats all looked the same, formless and black in the dim restaurant lighting. I was about to take mine.


flash fiction Something told me to take one of the others. Mine was far from new. I picked one imagining it might be cashmere. I lifted it off the hook. If anyone recognised it as I was leaving it would be an innocent mistake, I thought. Putting it on with the enthusiasm of reading a office equipment catalogue, the bright blue electric flykiller in the trattoria kitchen caught my eye through the open door. I could feel something like a phone in the inside pocket. I returned to our table. Everyone had paid and were talking. ‘Ready? Let’s go,’ someone said. Our party left. Distance. I got on the train.

Vanessa Cutts was born in 1965 and lives in London. She was the winner of the Richmond Poetry Competition in 1980, and last year she published her first novel The Lute and the Lyre by Isabel Moet. Vanessa has also worked in advertising and is currently compiling another book of short stories.

Past Showcase of Flash Fiction Winners from WriterGifts: Winners between April-July He gave her the card, sealed in a plastic evidence bag; one glance at it reduced her to a burst of By Sue Butler hysterical laughter. ‘You’re such a div Dodger,’ she managed in ello lad, I’m afraid we’ve arrested your appropriate adult, Mr Fagin. Arabella between giggles, Jack looked at her, anxiously. ‘Look boy,’ she held it out, ‘nobody’s gonna Winkle’s coming instead. Can we just establish that you are Jack Dawkins, aka the Artful Dodger.’ believe that you are Madame Therese Defarge; ‘You knows that Inspector Bucket, I seen you you should’ve practised your reading when you were told. You won’t get off this one, love.’ ‘ere before.’ ‘You’ve excelled yourself this time Jack; if you’d done less thieving and more schooling you Sue Butler didn’t get round to writing seriously wouldn’t be here today.’ until three years ago when she wrote her first ‘Dunno wotcha mean Inspector,’ Jack smirked, book, The Invitation to spite an ungenerous ‘I’ll ‘ave to do a no comment.’ He sniffed loudly. colleague and published the second one, Too ‘Come on Jack, dipping a credit card is one Much Death in December 2010. Both books thing, but trying to use it is another; you must’ve reflect her 1960s Portsmouth upbringing. realised you’d never get away with it.’ See her website web.me.com/suesabout/Site/ ‘No comment.’ Welcome.html ‘Fagin can’t help you.’ ‘No comment.’ ‘You’ve been dumped in it lad, your mates ran off. Who were they? Copperfield? Nickleby? Twist?’ The Registrants ‘No comment.’ By Monica Lang The policeman leaned back, watching the boy; he must be at least sixteen now but looked about ggs smash near the three squad cars as they twelve. He had been lucky so far but that was discharge their three blanketed-from-view about to change. passengers. The crowd chants ‘Paedos. Paedos.’ Raised voices outside the door resulted in a Eight-year-old Alice Bygraves has been missing small blowsy woman charging into the room. for over a week. ‘What the Dickens is all this about, Inspector?’ It’s the first time Jordon Salter has been arrested

Dawkins’ Last Dip

‘H

E

the snow edition ~ 53


flash fiction for questioning since they let him out. He still isn’t clear about exactly what he was supposed to have done before. ‘Assault,’ they said, to do with his special friends Ruth and Jenny. They’ve taken Jordon’s iPod off him, but as he rocks himself on his cell bench that afternoon, he thinks he’s singing Born This Way just like Lady Gaga sings it. ‘I’m on the right track baby…’ His tuneless whine becomes too much for John Tremayne and Robbie Anderson. ‘Shut up you moron.’ They rattle enamel plates across the bars on their cell doors. ‘You can’t keep locking us up.’ ‘Every time.’ ‘…European Court of Human Rights.’ ‘…compensation.’ The shoplifters and car thieves in the other cells spit another word for the three, ‘Nonces. Nonces.’ The duty sergeant lets Maria, the duty social worker, into Jordon’s cell. ‘Have you brought my teddy?’ Tears fountain and cascade down Jordon’s plump cheeks to pool in his lap with the snot from his nose and the dribble from his mouth. It looks as though he’s wet himself. It smells as though he has too. ‘They want to know if you’ve seen Alice Bygraves.’ ‘She’s not my friend any more.’ After a horse-riding accident in 1984, our doctor said I’d ‘lost brain cells’ so I studied Foundation in Mathematics with the Open University. Cleverclever or wot? Just completed the OU Creative Writing modules. Crime writing is fun. Will do Law module and complete my crime novel and my degree… one day… soon.

its contents like exploding cod roe. Delaney made a mental note to keep clear of the delicacy in future. And why did his reports always seem to have references to food nowadays? He gave a familiar nod to his mate, Robinson from Forensics, who in answer to Delaney’s raised eyebrow, suggested, ‘Pushed.’ Handing him a small, bulging clear plastic bag, he said, ‘This could be the evidence you need.’ Delaney blew a slow whistle and motioned that he was moving up to the penthouse office suite of the building. Around fifteen young executives rounded on him mob-like as he came out of the lift. Their post-contract party had ended abruptly following the incident. ‘You can’t keep us here indefinitely,’ a selfappointed spokesman shouted. ‘I need to interview each and every one of you. First, I notice you are all wearing name badges ...’ Delaney began. Immediately, one person clamped his hand to his lapel and gasped. Delaney slipped his hand into his pocket and showed the contents of the clear plastic bag. ‘From the dead man’s fist – I guess it’s yours, Maurice Daniels.’

Wind

By Manisha Anand

I

t is two in the morning when I first realize that I am not alone. It’s the scrape of something against the wooden floor that first gives it away. I am completely awake now, all vestiges of sleep thrown aside. I don’t move, but my hand tightens slightly on the Judgement Friday thin cotton sheet. That slow, steady sound repeats By Jane G Tough and then stops. The silence that follows is perhaps worse. I rained after a gruesome week, Detective lie there: cold, knees clenched and toes curled. Inspector Mike Delaney shambled alongside Waiting. the oil company’s tower block. Its mirrored I’m not too sure what for. windows reflected a disappearing orange sun. This is an old house and it has its history, of From a distance, the white peaked tent declared course. But those are just stories. Old wives tales. that Forensics had beaten him to the scene. Nothing more. There have always been sounds in Beneath the tent lay the corpse of a young male, the night here, from the very first day we moved splayed out like an almost perfect five point star – in. The wind has a funny way of slipping in intact, apart from his skull. It had haemorrhaged through cracks, hissing and whispering.

D

54 ~ what the dickens?


flash fiction I look over at the empty side of the bed. I was so sure that I’d be fine staying here on my own tonight. My eyes start to get used to the dark and I can see things clearer now. The curve of the vase on the table, the shadows on the wall. I must have left that window open. I feel myself slowly edge away from the foot of the bed. I don’t remember moving the chair though, or shutting that door. I pull the sheets closer around me. I don’t know. I hear a creak from the corner, and then another. It must be the wind again. It must be.

Manisha Anand lives in London where she excels at being a starving writer and is trying (rather hopelessly) to find enough part-time jobs to pay the rent. She is also working on her first novel and can often be heard trying out character voices. Fairly loudly.

THE NEW WRITER

What the Dickens?

thenewwriter.com

Also available on

The magazine you’ve been hoping to find

magazine

Autumn 2011 issue out now!

the snow edition ~ 55


author interview

Author Interview Emmy Swain

Meet Franklin Bean is the first in a series of upcoming children’s books from Emmy Swain. This self-published book has captured the hearts of young and old alike and here Rachel Dove discovers more about this fascinating author and this delightful book. ‘John is worried about adapting to his new life after his mother lost her job. With the influence and inspiration from his new friend, Franklin Bean, John finds a smile on his face once again. This magical little dog, full of surprises, will keep your imagination wondering; leaving you eager to read more Franklin Bean.’ A portion of sales from each book goes to the Worldwide Organization, ‘Operation Smile.’ This book covers many relevant issues such as separation and bullying. How much is drawn from your own personal experiences? I have had difficulties as a child and as an adult. However, I saw more watching the neighborhood bully when my son was growing up. As we all well know, kids learn from watching adults. Teachers and coaches at school and in local team sports bullied my son. You may read more about them in the future. Franklin Bean is a dog with a big heart, and a special secret. He is named after your very own Boston terrier, Franklin. Have you always had pets in your life? Always have and always will! Animals have a built in unconditional love. We’ve had my son’s turtle, Donatello, for 23 years. He is a spoiled aquatic turtle. We also have Franklin’s mother, Allie and his father, Dale.

I invented Hydraspout, a water-powered kitchen scrub brush. You can Google it, or check my Hydraspout website. I also have a polypharmacy application for individuals that I would like to pursue. If I could invent anything, it would be to find time and money to complete my polypharmacy application, as it could save lives. You will find that my birth name is Susan Cutler. Emmy Swain is my pseudonym. As an author, everyone knows me as Emmy. I like being Emmy!

You support ‘Operation Smile’ by donating a portion of your sales to the charity. What does this charity in particular mean to you? In 1990, my mother stepped down as President of the Virginia Federation of Women’s Clubs to become International Chairman. She adopted Operation Smile as her pet project, working with women all over the world. She travelled to the Philippines on a mission, and dedicated herself to this project until her death in 2003. In 2008, Aside from being a mother and author, you Operation Smile presented the first Paula Cutler are also an inventor. What inventions have you Award at the GFWC International Convention. made, and if you could invent anything, what She will live forever with this annual award. My contribution to Operation Smile is in memory of would that object be? my mother. And, it’s about the smiles!

56 ~ what the dickens?


author interview This book is the first in a series of books about Franklin Bean and friends. What other issues are you planning to tackle? If you don’t know by now, Franklin Bean has a secret identity. He is superhero, Pancho Frijole. While Franklin Bean will continue to make everyday problems easier, Pancho Frijole will be conquering on a larger scale.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? Spare time? Ummm....... not sure what that is.

Some reviews have stated that this book has been engaging for children with ADHD. Why do you think this is? It is exciting for me to say that everyone loves Franklin Bean. All ages are falling in love with this magical little dog. Everyone wants to know what’s next. I guess for children with ADHD, the “what’s next?” keeps their interest.

Lastly, if you could speak to the children out there going through any issues the book tackles, what would you like to say to them? Be yourself. You are unique. Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you. Making people happy is a great feeling. Try it and smile!

How have you found the self-publishing journey? Any advice for the aspiring Indie Author? Write about what you love and enjoy it. Oh, and don’t plan on becoming a millionaire.

Meet Franklin Bean is out now and available in paperback, Kindle and Nook editions.

Rachel Dove... Wife, mother of 2, writer, degree student training to be a teacher, book reviewer for The Kindle Book Review. Days filled with toddlers and laundry, nights spent between the pages of a book, anywhere I chose to travel. Visit my blog at frustratedyukkymummy.blog.co.uk.

WRITER’S DIARY 2012 Better than ever – and still only £12.99 Our redesigned diary has the theme of ‘getting away’ and includes creative ideas and exercises especially devised to help you gain a fresh perspective on your writing. Just add a pen – and your imagination – for an inspirational New Year ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

weekly inspiration and reading recommendations from top authors need-to-know directory of writers’ resources key dates in the literary year lots of blank pages for your own notes table for recording submissions section for logging books lent and borrowed week-to-view diary pages A-Z telephone and email contacts rigid plastic outer cover and wiro binding editing symbols and manuscript layout guide measures 14 x 18 x 1.5cm

CHRISTMAS GIFT OFFER – Get the diary for only £10 when bought with a gift subscription to Mslexia To order visit www.mslexia.co.uk/diary or call us on 0191 233 3860

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the old curiosity shop

The Old Curiosity Shop Weird and Wonderful Writerly Witterings, Tips, Tasks And Treats Sandy East

Splurge and Surge I

don’t believe that we need to ‘wait for inspiration’ to write. We just need to get on with it in some way, every day. Call it disciplined. Call it meditative. Call it brutal (or me, and yes, I have been labelled as such in regards to my attitude to my own writing). Whatever you call it, know that this is very much a rule for me because I am a thinker and a dreamer and I could very easily plan in my mind ideas for stories, scripts, poems all day, every day, and never actually write anything down. I need this routine to make sure I do write and I think if you really want to create that novel, develop that screenplay, share those adventures of travels and exploits, or just do something with that sentence and those words that keep scattering about behind your eyes then you probably need this too. You have to SPLURGE. Of course splurging is nothing new. A lot of you are far more refined than me and refer to it as stream-of-consciousness writing or ‘releasing the demons’ or something sophisticated and erudite and beautiful... I’m calling it splurging because to me that deliciously dirty word sums up pretty well the process of writing anything, without stopping, without spell-checking, without punctuating, without looking back, without clarifying, and very simply clearing out the mind-muck so that you can dig through to the good stuff and use that in your writing. I’ve made lots of people splurge in my time. I still do. Some jump at the chance; others scoff and protest. All of them splurge shamelessly in the end... One stroppy teenage boy insisted that I was a complete idiot for making him indulge in such a ‘stupid, pointless, embarrassing’ task but followed my advice anyway and wrote a great story, his ‘best story’. He now splurges all the time in order to exercise his writing muscle but not because I told him to of course. I am, after all, a ‘complete idiot’.

58 ~ what the dickens?

A

s idiotic as I am, I do splurge first thing in the morning for about fifteen minutes before doing anything else every day and I believe it helps me a lot. Not just in my writing but in facing the day with a bit of a brighter brain. Sometimes if I’m about to tackle a difficult writing project or I’m just feeling sluggish, I’ll have a quick, filthy splurge then too. The act of writing without limits is freeing and I know a lot of people who feel more confident, lighter and buoyed up for giving themselves that space. My advice to you is if you’re feeling nervous, reluctant, frustrated but you know that you should write something – that you want to write something – then have a great, big, fat, joyful splurge first... You can write, you will write, and you won’t let those thoughts about that obnoxious, snobby so-called friend who writes the most infuriatingly dull overlyintellectualised prose you’ve ever read stop you from doing so, and you certainly won’t let that person who questioned the point of writing any poetry block your way to you forming that collection of villanelles that you’ve wanted to write for months either. Splurging is your chance to get rid of those people, those thoughts, and that crud. Write it out, type it out, scrawl it out, draw it out, get it out and then throw it away... Next, reach for a fresh page. Embrace it, enjoy it and write it! Some books that will undoubtedly help you to remove that fear, push you to write in new, exciting ways, and to get you writing more... Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg Wild Mind – Natalie Goldberg Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft – Janet Burroway The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron


the old curiosity shop

Writing Tasks

subject or breath of an idea that comes to you is dull, boring, tired. And sometimes we just all need something new to take us away from the safe place and comfort of what we would ‘usually’ write ometimes our brains bubble, boil and spill about...Whatever you need, What the Dickens? over with too many ideas. Sometimes one is here to help. In each edition we will bring you image haunts you and that face, that place, that an array of tasks to get you started, rejuvenated, object is ALL you can write about. Sometimes experimenting... to get you writing! Please one idea whispers into your hair; runs a cool thin remember that all that has been offered up are finger along your collar bones; swells, flickers merely suggestions, so use these pages in any way and spits like a fire that licks the edge of your that you wish to. The intention here is simply to mind. Sometimes it seems as though every topic, encourage you to write and to enjoy the process.

S

Winter Words to Get You Writing! Use as many of the words below to create a story, poem, play or any other form of writing.

muscle spade boot dig jagged grit settle slush crystal edge knoll plume rag flip-flop lick pelt rouge drift duck seagull scrape plough melt liquid breath pulse burn shard adore bone flurry warn glove clear compact fleece purple time fleck slip crack point shoelace kiss cusp feather scar gouge smother heart split cascade bruise bath ginger swell sea skin the snow edition ~ 59


the old curiosity shop

Picture This... U

se the images below in any way you want to and create a character. Bring them to life using first, second or third person. Give them strengths, flaws, bad habits, quirks, contradictions, secrets and lies... Share with us how they look up-close, the texture of their hands, the scent on their neck... What makes them unique? Give them a voice and a struggle of sorts; give your reader their story...

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the old curiosity shop

Here is the Line...

Now illuminate it with all of your light

U

se any or all of the lines in any way to create a story, flash fiction, scene, monologue, poem or any other form of writing.

They came to our town. “If we are quick we can bury their tongues.” While she sleeps I paint my name on her spine. “Let yourself fall!” “I’m meant to make you feel welcome.” Agatha gathered the needles and thread, and allowed her husband, who was still slightly drunk and tearful, to wake up the twins. In the drawer lay an array of broken watches. A mix of honey, grit and possibly blood covered the boy’s hands. He smirked at his mother. The torn clear wing of wasp clung to his bottom lip, trembling. She painted spots on to the dance shoes. The front door slammed shut. A breeze weaved through the cracked window on the landing. Grandad Terry crawled out from underneath the bunk-beds. Vaginas? Meditation? Art therapy? Typical, sex-starved, emotionally-fraught housewife poets, Jed thought, looking around at his newest writing group. If I quote the Dalai Lama and the Duffy enough, I could shag ‘em all before the month is out. And probably rustle an anthology out of their feminist angst too. The Arts Council will love this shit. He kissed his wife’s hands and tried to ignore the pain in his jaw.

S

end in your responses to the various writing exercises and the strongest ones will be included in the next edition of What the Dickens? Please state which exercise inspired you along with your name and email address and send to: curiosity@wtd-magazine.com.

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What the Dickens? Word Search Find the all book titles connected to snow and winter. M

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Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow

Winter’s Bone

Snow Falling on Cedars

The Black Ice

The Winter of Our Discontent

Nickel Mountain

The Snow Geese

Fire Ice

Snow Falling

Winter Wood

Cold Mountain

A Spell of Winter

Winter Dreams

Alive

The Coldest Blood

Snowdrift

Stone Cold

Bitter Cold

Frozen Fire

The Cold Moon

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Literary Snow Quiz 1. What are the names of the two pairs of lovers in Helen Dunmore’s novel The Siege? 2. Who wrote The Ice Storm? 3. What event forces Ashley and his Uncle Sung to flee across the Himalayas in Michael Morpurgo’s King of the Cloud Forests? 4. Which March sister falls through the ice in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women? 5. What is the name of the village where Peter and his father live in Marcus Sedgwick’s My Swordhand is Singing? 6. In Philip Reeve’s Predator’s Gold what is Anchorage? 7. “A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.” This quotation is taken from an awardwinning novel. Name the novel and its author. 8. In which Margaret Atwood novel does the character of Elaine Risley make snow angels? 9. In Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife what happens to Henry at the age of 43 that significantly hinders his ability to time travel? 10. “It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight.” Name the short story and its author. 11. Who wrote The Fahrenheit Twins? 12. “Lies and half-truths fall like snow, covering the things that I remember, the things I saw. A landscape, unrecognizable after a snowfall; that is that she has made of my life.” Name the short story and its author.

13. Who wrote The Iceweaver: A novel? 14. Who wrote Snow Country? 15. In which famous children’s book do the characters of Giant Rumblebuffin appear? 16. Name the short story in which the character of Alyeshka, a manservant, features? 17. Name the character that Esther and Detective Bucket find dead in the snow in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. 18. “The snow crunches under your boots and clings to your trousers, to the cuffs, and once you’re inside, the snow clings to your psyche, and eventually you have to go to the doctor.” Name the novel and its author. 19. Who wrote Snow Falling on Cedars? 20. In which Hemingway short story does the character of Henry, a writer who is on safari in Africa, appear? 21. “The snow crunched beneath my feet. The pasture looked like a silver volcanic lake.” Name the novel and the author. 22. Where is the novel, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow set? 23. In Jane Eyre which character is associated with ice and snow? 24. Who wrote Snow Crash? 25. Ruby Thewes and Ada Monroe are characters from which bestselling novel? Get all the answers right and you could win a copy of Lit Libs! See the Competitions page for details.

Sandy East - words, art, stories, scripts, poems, novels, workshops, comedy, #GoodNews, flashes, portraits, teaching, murals, travel, contributor, collaborator, B.A, M.A, TEFL, QTS, sometimes a hungry student, sometimes a feeder teacher, enthusiastic, excitable, bit tired, well intended. Always more to come.

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book reviews

Book Reviews... By the Book Ferret 1Q84 By Haruki Murakami

1Q84, the new trilogy (in two volumes) by the cult Japanese novelist has been much anticipated by his army of followers and it does not disappoint. It is strange and beautiful, maddening and hypnotic. In essence, 1Q84 is an epic romance. It follows the lives of two characters, Tengo and Aomame, but when one slips into an alternate reality and the other encounters a sinister religious cult it becomes anything but a predictable love story. If you haven’t read Murakami before, do not let the size put you off from trying this trilogy. You will need to commit lots of free time before you start reading, because once you are immersed in this surreal tale you won’t want to do anything else, but it will be well worth it!

The Marriage Plot By Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides is an author who certainly takes his time writing his novels. His debut Virgin Suicides was published to great acclaim in 1993, nine years later he delivered his Pulitzer Prize winning follow-up Middlesex. Finally, after another agonisingly long nine year wait, we have The Marriage Plot. Thankfully it is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Opening on graduation day 1982, the book centres round three Ivy League-ers, Madeleine, Mitchell and manic-depressive Leonard, and is a Post-Modernist take on the marriage plot within the Victorian novel. It is a clever, powerful, funny and heart-felt look at life, love and intricate human relationships. The Book Ferret is an independent bookshop in Arundel, West Sussex, filled with old world charm and the finest new books. Whatever your age or taste, you will be sure to ferret out something special. We also offer an any-book ordering service.

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digital world

Digital World Ben Ottridge

H

ello all! My name is Ben and over the coming issues I will be your voice of insight into the realms of digital publishing. First of all, a little background on me...

However, although the work I picked up kept my head above water, it seemed to me there was a gap in the market for a new eBook publisher. Many people charged for eBook conversion and Smashwords – although having no upfront fees – I’ve been working in digital publishing since mid- seemed too large and impersonal. I wanted to use 2006, in the first instance at award-winnning indie my eBook knowledge, combined with a different publishers Summersdale, and since September last approach, to do something distinctive. And so year on a self-employed basis. I’d initially joined SelfSelfSelf was born. Launching in December Summersdale as a trainee designer but a natural 2011, it will offer all writers a place to publish aptitude with computers led to me being put in their work as eBooks online, with only a minimal charge of the company’s fledgling eBook program. royalty taken by the company. Over the following years I developed my skills, learning all the little tricks that would ensure As we continue in this column I will be taking the best results when it came to the (sometimes you through some of the issues surrounding unpredictable) world of eBook conversion. eBooks, from file formats to social networking, self promotion to formatting. I look forward to Cut to 2010 and I stepped away from full- helping you with your writing journey. time employment to finish a degree (in music production as it happens, although that’s another story!) and strike out on my own with the Twitter @SelfSelfSelfBen techniques I’d learnt.

• • Are you looking for a new way to publish? • • Do you want to enter the digital realm but just don’t know how? • • Do you want to concentrate on the creative rather then the technical side? • • Do you want to avoid high upfront costs?

Then

SelfSelfSelf is for you!

We take your completed words and turn them into fully-fledged digital products (mobi, ePUB, PDF), ready for us to distribute around the world.

S SELFSELFSELF

Coming December 2011

selfselfself.com

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a bit of shopping with...

A bit of shopping with... writersgifts.co.uk

Adventures in Wonderland Dream Journal (£7.99) Inspired by the magical world of Alice in Wonderland, this fanciful dream journal is the perfect place to record all the details of your nocturnal wanderings. 160 pages; secured with elastic; Flexi Cover; 14.5cm x 19.5cm.

Alice in Wonderland Teapot (£19.99) Featuring characters from the novel by Lewis Carroll. 2-Cup Teapot (18oz). Larger 6-Cup Teapot also available.

Alice in Wonderland: Mug, Coaster & Tin Set (£12.99) Featuring characters from Lewis Carroll’s famous story. Lovely gift for book lovers and writers. Mug (14oz/410ml) and matching coaster set.

The Disappearing Cheshire Cat Mug (£9.95) Well I’ve often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing! A hot beverage makes the cat disappear leaving only a grin, just add hot water.

Novel Teas: 5 Literary Tea Bags (Pouch £1.99) Novel Teas pouch contains 5 teabags individually tagged with literary quotes from the world over, made with the finest English Breakfast tea.

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competitions

Competitions Ben Hatch – Are We Nearly There Yet? p. 7

Literary Snow Quiz, p. 63

To win one of four copies of the book simply answer this question: What is Ben’s wife’s name?

Lit Libs: Mash Up a Classic ~ 40 Literary Rewrites Have some fun, fill in the missing words from literary extracts and rewrite some of the great classics (not suitable for children!). To win a copy simply send your completed Snow Quiz answers to the below address.

Gabrielle Kimm – His Courtesan’s Lover, p.47

Last

Duchess/The

Secret Santa hat... p.??

To win a copy of both books just answer the following question: Which Robert Browning poem inspiration for His Last Duchess?

was

the

To win a £10 National Book Token simply find the page number that is wearing a santa hat!

Email all answers to: competitions@wtd-magazine.com

Please include your name and contact details. All entries must be received by 15th January 2012.

Submissions The next issue of What the Dickens? Magazine will be out on 1st February 2012. Full details of how to submit will be up on the website after Christmas. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and fruitful New Year!

Credits Editor: Victoria Bantock Extra contributions: Sandy East Magazine & Web Design: Ben Ottridge benottridge.co.uk Advertising contact: advertising@wtd-magazine.com General contact: victoria@wtd-magazine.com

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The End

What the Dickens? Magazine  

What the Dickens? Magazine. Bi-monthly magazine for writers, readers and all literary types. Issue 1: the Snow Edition.