Monthly Archives: April 2014

lightandshade logo

So it has come too my attention that there are some new kids on the Flash Fiction trail daring you to flex those creative muscles. The Light & Shade Challenge has been set up to fill the void left by the recent and sad demise of Trifecta. Taking a similar, but not completely ripped off I should add, approach to prompts and submissions, L&S will work as follows:

Our idea is that we set a 500 word challenge on Monday with a picture and word prompt, and a 100 word challenge on Friday.  Both challenges end on the following Sunday at midnight GMT.  Occasionally we set an oddball challenge, something a bit different and we’ll set the challenge for around ten days then.  No-one has to commit to all of them as it is all about having fun.

If L&S gathers the community and standard of writing  standard that Trifecta was noted for then it should be a great deal of fun.

You can follow them @lightandshadech, or of course simply wander over as the first prompt is already awaiting.

Another weekend passes, another 160 word tale submitted into that infernal pit of talent and creativity that is Flash! Friday. The theme had to be based on knowledge, the photo prompt was:



Canal Workers (Suez Canal). CC Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy.


For a while I was stumped, unsure quite where the tale would go. Notions of rebellion or terrorism seemed to cliched, questions of the femininity and technology left me grasping for a narrative. It was the lack of understanding, the idea that this person was a fragment, a talisman if you will that finally brought the tale to the page.

Hope you enjoy


The Seer

Astrid sat, pen resting on notepad, the air conditioner humming, waiting for the man lying on her couch to talk. He was a regular, paranoid schizophrenic, heavily medicated, plagued by nightmares.

A right nutter her Dad would say.

She coughed gently, watching the newspaper he had brought shaking in his grip.

‘Mr Soldo?’

‘The dreams are back.’

‘Every night?’

Soldo nodded, his eyes fixed to the ceiling.

‘So I take it you stopped the tablets again?’

Another nod, ‘they make me sick, in a bubble.’

‘Hence the dreams. Anything different?’

‘No, same three each night,’ he rubbed his eyes ‘six numbers held by a pirate; whales rotting on a beach; a girl in black taking a photo whilst mushrooms bloom behind her.’

‘Well Mr Soldo, my advice, start taking your sedatives.’

‘Seems pointless.’


‘Today’s paper.’

Astrid stared at the photo of a one-eyed man holding aloft a glass of champagne. In his other hand a ticket.

Six familiar numbers.

Sorry folks, the Easter holidays had the standard impact on writing/blogging that it usually seems to do. Days spent wandering beaches, playing in parks and general splashing about meant that writing sadly took a back seat for a few days. Though I would love to admit to being refreshed by the experience for some reason the words seem locked away, aside from the odd flash fiction and submitting my first everyentry into the Bridport Prize Flash Fiction (foolish dream, but hell why not right?) it seems an aeon since I wrote anything meaningful.

Ah well.

Very soon you’ll be able to read a piece that I submitted to The Were-Traveler for their forthcoming issue thematically themed around the Southern Fried Freak Show. The piece is entitled Clownish Delights and should be up to read sometime around the 26th of April. It marks a shift in tone and style for me but I hope you find it enjoyable.

Of further news is that the anthology Happily Never After is scheduled to be released on the 9th June 2014 by Fey Publishing, inside lurking beside far better tales will be my tale, Thirst.

Anyway here’s a short flash I submitted to the fine folk at Flash!Friday the prompt was the photo below and the theme of Treasure.



Gare du Nord, Paris. CC Photo by Elliot Gilfix.

Gare du Nord, Paris. CC Photo by Elliot Gilfix.


The Return

The city devoured the train, banishing the green fields and grey skies that had lain across the world like a sodden blanket. The middle-aged businessman, returning from ‘a business trip to Bruges’ (#perv, #careerstall) was still snoring loudly, the knees of his suit shining with eternal failure.

He had tried flirting, yet what 22 year old is impressed by anyone boasting of trips to Europe? Astrid took her revenge, uploading a picture of his drooling edifice to tumblr:


Getting close now. Astrid checked her mental checklist:

Fags for Paul, Mexican.

Booze for Dad, Vietnam.

Art shit for Mum, Peru.

The train ambled up to the platform, grey faces gathered alongside greyer pigeons. She could see the banner already awaiting her, the final signifier that her gap year was over.


Astrid stepped onto the platform, bag heavy, body tired,

Yet her pace quickened, hurried by the realization of what she had been searching for all along.


The fine folk at The Angry Hourglass, a hot bed of talented flash writers, always set an intriguing prompt. Yet this week had me completely stumped, a porcelain lucky cat sat in a restaurant. For hours I tried to imagine what the cat was about, what story would unfold … Yet nothing, no hint of a tale, a character, a situation.

To compound things my twitter feed kept updating to the entries being submitted by writers far more talented than this humble scribe. I turned off the computer and walked away.

It seemed the best thing to do.

An hour before the deadline I was helping one of the jnrs with their homework, in particular how to use a line-jump technique to add numbers (they are only just beginning their own academic journey). The linearity, the jumping forward and backward, the sense of one thing led to another.

I apologised profusely, rebooted the Mac and started typing …

A piece I entitled Cause and Effect.


and it came first ….

hope you enjoy it



(image courtesy of Ashwin Rao)

This week’s Flash! Friday contest was seemingly a no brainer. A photo of a grimy underpass that would easily have fitted into the landscape of La Jetee and the directive to fit in the notion of space travel seemed well within my narrative capabilities. Yet the screen remained blank, a few tentative characters emerged, some apologetic ideas wandered into view, all rejected, cast back into whiteness.

Finally someone rather unexpected emerged, and the story slowly revealed itself too me. I love those moments of writing, when the act of creating feels almost out-of-body. Anyway the competition was a tad fierce this week and I wasn’t too surprised to find my entry had failed to be shortlisted amongst the winners. Then I noticed that the runner up spot was listed as ‘pending’ and Flash! Friday were apologising for a slight technical hiccup.

Well you can guess the rest …

So please find below my piece inspired by the photo … I’ve also included the judge’s feedback … hell this is my blog/ego after all …






Interstellar Trip

Fading light glints off the spaceship fueled and ready for launch. I don’t board just yet, teasing the desire burning deep within me of escaping this cesspit of a planet.

Cold concrete aches into my back as I strap myself down.

Footsteps approach a stranger hurrying past, arms folded, head down. Classic flight pattern, fearful that the vagrant slumped within his cardboard boudoir is going to attack, or worse, talk.
Unaware that I’m the last of the space cowboys, my comrades long since departed for alternate realities.

The stranger exits the underpass, my hunger now beyond control.

Commence countdown.

Ten … nine … eight … seven … six … five … four …

The dirty flaxen light of the underpass plays along the needle. Biting tenderly into flesh, tasting crimson.

Three … two

Scarlet flowers bloom deep inside my interstellar craft.


Blast off!

Red plunges deep into a network of blue.

Taking me into the stars.


Judge’s Comment

“Interstellar Trip.” An entirely different take on the theme of “Space Travel,” this story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It has everything, effective imagery, humour, sadness and anticipation which result in flights of fanciful space fantasy wrapped in bleak stark drug addiction reality; it was very clever. There are so many critical lines in this piece which weave the two realities together. I particularly loved: “a stranger hurrying past, arms folded, head down. Classic flight pattern, fearful that the vagrant slumped within his cardboard boudoir is going to attack, or worse, talk.” Ultimately despite the excitement and furry of colour and adventure that grows throughout the story, the overall feeling the reader is left with is sadness because we know this man is not a space traveller, he’s a homeless heroin addict and clearly reality simply cannot compete with the sad joy of his drug induced escapism. Wonderful story, well done!