Pictures at an Exhibition

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Yesterday we drove down to Great Rollwright for the opening day of my sister’s Christmas Exhibition. Held in her studio it’s an annual event. We always try to get there, not always easy in December, but this year we simply had to go as it was a real family occasion.

Exhibition5Not only were there paintings and stained glass plaques by Anuk, but also it was the first time our niece Ailsa had exhibited her photographs.Exhibition7 And to add another family dimension Sarah Grindsted was showing her pots, hand-made cards and Christmas decorations. Peter’s books of poetry were also on sale.

Logs burned in the stove, mulled wine and mince-pies were served, people came and went. Some stayed only for a short time, others for longer joining us for lunch in the kitchen by the Aga.

I lingered over paintings of landscape that fed the imagination sparking off ideas for another story, or possibly even a novella and was also drawn in by the vibrant colours of the stained glass, the owl swooping down against an orange sunset, the bright green of fields against a blue sky.Exhibition6.JPG

Ailsa’s photographs were equally satisfying. A lace of branches against a pale sky, a splash of light on a dark background, tree roots, or were they dragon’s claws breaking through the earth.

Sarah’s crackle pots made me want to reach out and stroke them, the warm colours sensual and appealing, making me smile even as I type this.

One of the visitors to the exhibition remarked what an artistic family we are and I suppose that’s true. Where exactly this comes from, I’m not sure, though I would guess there is a genetic component. There is also a family ethos of encouraging and nurturing all kinds of creativity.

What will be interesting to see is whether this will continue through the next generation remains to be seen, but both my grandchildren love stories, both listening and adding to them and so taking the first steps to making up their own.

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Another day another competition entry

Competitions are the work of the devil. To be avoided at all costs.

Nic Hale

So, my (latest) cunning plan for World Domination (read: get people to read my stuff) is writing competitions. It’s brutal. Almost as brutal as magazine submissions. In fact, even more so, since you pay for the privilege of rejection.

Last night, I attended the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2018, and upon listening to the two winning entries, thought to myself, hm…. W-A-Y more literary than my entry (damnit)! Today, I’m working on an entry for Reflex Fiction’s Quarterly International Flash Fiction Competition- by which I mean, today I am finding other things to do to put off the pain of the final edit. Of course, as I sit here, avoiding edits, I’m starting to realise that this may not be the best thing for me just now…

In case you’ve not started down this particular road, let me tell you what it’s like to enter a writing competition.  You…

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Sale of the Season

Christmas bargains for horror fans.

The Alchemy Press

The ideal gift!

In the run up to Christmas, we are selling some of our books at super knockdown prices. Many of these titles are in low supply so this offer applies while in-house stocks last. The following paperbacks are on offer at £5.00 each plus p&p (£2.00 per book or £3.00 for two or more books up to 2 Kg in weight. UK orders; for overseas queries please email (see end of this post).

First up are anthologies, a fantastic place to discover new stories by a variety of authors.

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Nosiest People in the World #writing #peoplewatching #fictionprompts #janedwards

Like Jan Edwards I find stories all around me.

Jan Edwards

One of the most frequently asked, and for me at least, one of the most frustrating, questions for a writer is: ‘Where do you find your inspiration?’ One of the answers I am always tempted to give with my horror audience, but not yet used, is ‘imagining what I shall do with the next person to ask that question.’ I dread having to field this particular one because for me at least there is no straight answer.

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Travelling Without my Laptop

Autumn2018E

Up until last Sunday I have been more or less keeping up to schedule with my blog posts, but last week I was travelling to Bristol. Of course I could have scheduled it, but I had a very busy week and kept putting it off and putting it off, until finally I was hurrying to get packed to go away for a couple of days and I realised I  hadn’t done it. What was worse my little Notebook had frozen and I couldn’t do it, either on my journey, or when I was away.

The Notebook was something else I should have sorted out, but again I hadn’t got around to it. Mostly, I admit, because technology scares me and having to download a programme I’d never used before was one of those things that I consigned to the depths of my consciousness on the understanding I would do it when I had some free time, which of course never arrived.

So there I was with a new book, the next in the Letty Parker Adventures, to edit, plus a blog to right, sitting on a train for four hours with no means of doing either.

Refusing to let the guilt creep in, I decided that I would use the time to experience the journey in a way that is not possible when I’m working.

It was a beautiful late autumn day, blue sky, vibrant yellow and gold leafed trees. The drive to the station was very quick and the platform was empty. Gradually, however, it filled up and when the train came in I had to move fast to get a seat.

As the doors shut, I heard a woman ask “This is the London train, isn’t it?” To be told by another passenger that the train was going to Bournemouth. “But” she said mournfully, “it goes from platform 1.”

“That’s the next one,” someone replied and I was left wondering what she was going to do.

By the time we left the next station people were standing in the aisles. It was not hot, but the woman by the luggage rack was fanning herself with a paper fan. Was she ill? Menopausal?

At Birmingham, I had to get out fast, as I had a connection to catch and platform to find. Getting to the door, I joined the others who needed a quick exit, among them an older couple, the woman very pale, wearing a silky blouse and a black fur gilet which she took off and put over her arm. She was staring anxiously out of the window and husband, or maybe partner, smaller, older greyer, had his arm protectively on the small of her back. Was it simply that she didn’t like travelling by train, or was there another reason for her anxiety?

Getting from one train to the next was, as is usual at Birmingham New Street, fraught. The barriers were down, there were no staff to ask and none of the departure boards so much as mentioned Bristol Temple Meads. I was beginning to despair, when I saw someone in uniform. Bright red lipstick and a mobile and she gave me the number of my platform and I was ready for the second leg of my journey.

Travelling south west into the afternoon, sheep grazed in harvested fields. The sky was a softer grey-blue and the landscape was flooded with light. At the side of the track the branches of a tree were festooned with old-man’s-beard and the waters of the canal were a deep bronze. Stroud was a town strung along the side the valley. Red brick mills, Bath stone houses, churches perched on the hillside.

Then in the industrial suburbs of Swindon and out again through Bath Spa, pretty station and a view a sweeping Georgian terraces. The train sped up, plunging through the cutting and into the tunnel before emerging into Temple Meads.

Greeting by bright sunlight I made my way to the exit, where my son-in-law was waiting.

PS The picture at the top of this blog has nothing to do with my journey. It just gives a flavour of the day.