Still She Stared…

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Our eyes locked and we held a gaze, hers bore into mine.

Seconds elapsed, I looked away, it was ten to nine.

I looked again in her direction to see if it could be,

paranoia or imagination, yet still, she stared at me…

Music filled the crowded room, feet tapped against the floor, then suddenly my memory zoomed, I’d seen that face before!

Our paths had crossed but where, but when? My mind began to search.

Perhaps at college, through a friend, a wedding, or at church.

People blocked most of my view, scents circled in the air.

But through a gap, I managed to catch her lingering stare.

Admiration? Curiosity? Spite? Or could it be, that she saw someone that she knew familiar in me?

I looked again with half a smile and she returned my gesture.

My curiosity urged me to make my way towards her.

At five to nine I made my move, simultaneously she came towards me too.

As I held out my hand to greet her, my fingers pressed against the mirror.

And still, I stared…

After one too many gins and tonics!

I wrote this poem many years ago. It was inspired by a friend of mine who told me that this had actually happened to him, and he also told me that he totally fancied himself in the mirror!

Dear Sun…

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Dear Sun,

Well, I just don’t know what to say to you anymore. You just drop by whenever you feel like it, raise my hopes, then go off to Spain, Greece, or wherever takes your fancy. And don’t get me started on Cyprus. It’s 35c over there today. Thirty-five! I mean, how could you? You spend all summer with them. Every year! I hardly ever see you.

Yes, I have tried self-tanning lotions but they’re all fake. FAKE, I tell you. What? Which incident with the sunbed? I don’t…oh, wait a minute. Ahem. That was ages ago, it meant absolutely nothing. I was desperate, wasn’t thinking straight. Yes, I know they can hurt you, thank you very much. Look, it was just one-off, okay. I didn’t even enjoy it. I mean, you’re always letting me down, aren’t you? Promising to show up then sending all that gust and rain in your place. It’s too much to bear. I’ve had to go into therapy. Me! Can you believe it? They’ve even put me on vitamin D.

Of course, I know you’re worshipped worldwide, but what about poor us in the UK? We’re your biggest fans, you know. In fact, whenever you turn up we take to Twitter and Facebook proclaiming our joy of your arrival. What do you mean I complain when you’re here? I’ve never…oh, hang on. That’s only when you’re a bit full-on. You must admit, you can be a bit over-generous and muggy, can’t you? I mean 38c in London, it’s unthinkable. I could barely type, and you kept me up all night with all that heat. I mean, is a cool breeze at night too much to ask for? No, a fan won’t do, I can’t sleep with all that noise. Open all the windows? You really are being silly now. What if a bat or insects fly in and chew all my toes off while I’m asleep? What then, hmm?

Anyway, I’ve had enough of your excuses and quite enough of your downpours, to be honest. I don’t think I can cope with this anymore. I’m leaving you for a light lamp. No, don’t try to stop me! My mind’s made up. Yes, yes, I’ll see you around. Bye.

P.S. I love you.

Is it Tomorrow Yet by Mark Mayes

MY 5* REVIEW

Is It Tomorrow Yet by Mark Mayes is wonderful children’s tale about a little fish called Archie. It’s his birthday tomorrow and he can’t wait to celebrate it with a big party and lots of fishy friends. Only problem is, Archie isn’t quite sure when tomorrow is! So off he swims to find out, encountering plenty of adventures along the way!

Is it tomorrow yet

Admittedly, I don’t really read children’s books, but maybe I should start because I read this wonderful little story with a big smile on my face. It’s fun and vibrant and totally absorbing.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Archie and his new fishy friend Goat, but the entire story was a joyous read. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments and the dialogue is superb.

The book doesn’t contain any pictures, but Mark Mayes’ writing is so vivid that I could actually imagine the story playing out in my mind’s eye, like a colourful movie, and that’s what good writing is all about.

Overall, I thought it was a very well thought out, beautifully written and clever story. Perfect reading for little ones, or big kids, like me!

Here’s the blurb:

Archie is a little fish with a faint yellow stripe along his body. He knows that tomorrow is his birthday and that a big party is planned for him. But exactly when is tomorrow? Archie needs to find out or he may miss the party altogether.

We follow the adventures of this intrepid little fish as he tries to find out the meaning of time. He is captured by humans, who are not at all like he had feared. He is even swallowed by a whale. In the belly of the whale, he meets another fish with a suspiciously similar yellow stripe. Who is this talkative and worldly-wise companion? And will Archie ever get to his own birthday party?

A story for children of all ages, but perhaps most suitable for age 8 upwards.

You can download Is It Tomorrow Yet by Mark Mayes from Amazon here…

To cut a long story short

I love short stories. In fact, I owe a lot to the short story market because it’s where it all started for me – writing short stories for magazines.

There’s something quite gratifying about a sharp, tight tale with a satisfying or clever ending. Sadly, short stories are not as widely read as novels, but they’re a lot more established than some people may think. Did you know that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a film adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella? Or that Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic film, The Birds, was inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s short story of the same name? And that Oscar Wilde, one of my favourite authors, mainly wrote plays and short stories? Yes, a lot can be said for the humble short story.

So what makes a short story good?

Producing fine, short literature requires great skill and tenacity. Unlike a novel, you’ve only got a few hundred, or a few thousand words to create a strong, believable plot with convincing characters and a fulfilling conclusion. Your aim is to engage readers within the first sentence, keep them connected throughout the story, and not let them down in the last paragraph with a poor or foreseeable ending. Most of the stories I write have a twist or surprise ending, simply because that’s what I like to read and what I enjoy writing, but not all short stories need to be twisty. Stories can be funny, poignant, moving, romantic, inspirational or chilling. They must hook the reader from the get-go, keep them engrossed or entertained throughout, and deliver a satisfying ending.

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Is it true that writing a short story can be harder than writing a novel?

Some authors, even bestselling novelist, have confessed that they find it harder to write a short story than a novel, some have even said they hate writing them. I must admit, writing a short story can be a bit tricky, mainly because of the limited word count, but I don’t think they’re harder to write than novels. The hardest part for me was coming up with original and fresh ideas. However, once you get into the flow, ideas fly into your mind. You can be inspired by so many things – a comment someone makes, a newspaper article you’ve read, an overhead conversation, something you see on television, or on the internet. There’s lots of good material out there! Both for short stories and novels!

analysis blackboard board bubble

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Why do so some novelists start with writing short stories?

Many authors, including myself, start their careers as short story writers before embarking on anything longer. I think this is because a short story is less daunting and doesn’t take as long to write, so results and gratification can be quick, and it’s a good way to break into the industry.

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Tips on writing short stories

If you like the idea of writing short stories, my advice would be to join a writer’s group. I did and I found their and support and critiques invaluable. There are many online groups if you can’t find a local one. Another idea would be to take a short story course to learn the ropes. A qualified teacher will show you how to construct a story and how to approach magazine editors. They will also offer critique and feedback on anything you submit during the course. I’m a big fan of self-help books and tutorials. I bought several ‘how to’ manuals when I first started writing. One that I highly recommend is The Creative Student’s Handbook by Margaret James and Cathie Hartigan.

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My short stories

A few years ago I published my own collection of short stories, To Tell A Tale Or Two.… It started off as 10 but has slowly progressed to 16. What can I say, I’m generous. To my utter astonishment and delight, it reached number 2 in the literary short stories chart on Amazon, and has received some very good reviews. The great new is that it now includes the first five chapters of my second novel, No Way Back, the first in the Audrey Fox series and prequel to Her Secret, both published by Urbane Publications. So, if you fancy a taster, download it now. It’s only £1.99p on kindle and free on kindle unlimited.

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And finally….

The joy of the short story is that it can be read and absorbed quickly. These ten-minute morsels can be a perfect friend for busy people who are pressed for time, or for people, like me, who sometimes enjoy a tale or two.

Smoothies

When I first started making smoothies, my husband would often pad into the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, and taunt me. ‘What’s in it this time?’ he’d say, peering over my shoulder. ‘Eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat?’ I must admit, it was a bit of a hit and miss in the early days and I did create a couple of unsavoury blends. However, I’ve become quite a connoisseur over the last few years and can now produce some great tasting, healthy drinks. Okay, I know that some people can’t bear the thought of drinking anything that’s green but I also believe in the saying, ‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.’ It’s necking one of these lovely concoctions every morning that fuels me with energy and sets me up for the day.

So, what’s in these drinks that are turning me into superwoman? (Okay, that’s a lie, a slight exaggeration). Well, it largely depends on my plans. If I’m going for a run or need extra energy then I’ll drink 300ml of a berrie, banana and flaxseed smoothie, on other days I opt for a green one with kale, spinach or broccoli. One of these drinks provides a host of nutrients and fibre, which I probably wouldn’t get from scoffing a buttery croissant or an iced bun for breakfast, though I’d love to, of course. And I don’t know what it is, but as soon as I drink one I feel almost instantly rejuvenated and bustle around the house with a spring in my step. It’s probably because I know I’ve consumed something healthy and nutritious.

clear glass bottle filled with broccoli shake

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Speaking of nutrition, a smoothie will provide:

  • Vitamins (a host plus lots of C which is excellent for iron absorption and boosts immune).
  • Minerals (bananas are high in potassium, an electrolyte which is good for muscle cramps and helps regulate blood pressure).
  • Fibre (keeps your gut in tip-top condition).
  • Phytonutrients (plant compounds, many of which are said to act as antioxidants).
  • Hydration (from coconut water and filtered water to dilute).

I usually drink a smoothie for breakfast and store the rest in the fridge for the next day but sometimes, if I’m in a hurry or if I’m on a diet (almost always) I’ll have the rest for lunch! You don’t need an expensive smoothie maker to create your blends of magic (although you can if you want to!) I use a simple and inexpensive Breville and it produces gorgeous results.

Here’s one I made earlier…..

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So, what do I get out of drinking smoothies?

  • Bags of energy
  • Fewer colds, or at least I’ve dealt with them swiftly and with a lot more control
  • Brighter skin
  • Shinier hair
  • Improved digestion – all that fibre!
  • An easy way to add healthy seeds to my diet (you can also add protein)
  • Weight loss
  • One of my five-a-day (only one 150ml glass counts)

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With regards to getting one of your five-a-day, the government’s advice is that only one 150ml glass will count towards one of your five-a-day, so you can’t just plonk five fruits and veggies into a glass and be done with it. This is because of the sugars that are released when they hit the blade! This said, smoothies do have the advantage over other sugary drinks in that they provide you with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Whilst I’m not suggesting for one moment that you exceed the recommended consumption, personally, if it’s a choice between a glass of fizzy drink or another smoothie, I’d go for the smoothie! Unless it’s champagne!

Smooth Operator (20 delicious and nutritious smoothie recipes) is available to download from Amazon, and it’s currently in the kindle countdown half price sale. Grab it for 99p!

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