Thursday, 15 December 2011

Competition: Holiday Hop!


It's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaasssss!

Well, nearly. Close enough. And to celebrate, I'm running a new competition to coincide with the exciting Holiday Hop. Don't know what a blog hop is? Have a look at the Holiday Hop blog page (http://www.holidaybloghop.blogspot.com) and all will be revealed.

As you'll see when you look at the Holiday Hop page, the grand overall prize is a fantastic Kindle Fire! So it's got to be worth entering, just for that!

The hop runs from 15th - 25th December, and after that I will pick 5 winners from my own competition. Those winners will go into the Hop draw, along with the winners from all the other blogs involved, for the Kindle. Easy peasy.

So, my competition is this:

My novel, Mother's Helper, begins with the following line: What’s the point? she asked herself desperately...

All I ask you to do is write your own (up to) 200 word story that continues that first line. The above words don't count in the 200, and neither will a title should you choose to give the work one.

When it's done, just paste it in the body of an email, along with your name and address (in case you win ;) and send it to mothershelper@hotmail.co.uk

And the reason to do this? The prizes, of course!

Overall 1st Grand Blog Hop Prize = Kindle Fire
And the five best stories that come to me in this competition = a paperback (ebook if you prefer) copy of Mother's Helper, and a 2012 calendar magnet.

Good, eh? And when you look at all of the other blogs involved in the hop you'll see some other fantastic prizes including Amazon gift cards, gnome candles and a carved malachite elephant!

Good luck, and don't forget the closing date is Christmas Day!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Flash Fiction: See A Penny

The dapper man picked up a penny. He rolled it around in his fingers, enjoying the coolness of it. It was raining, and he had had only seen it because the bronze colour had shone up in the middle of a shallow puddle.

The dapper man remembered a rhyme he had heard when he was tiny. See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. He thought there might be more to it than that, but that was enough for now. He had a Very Important Meeting to go to that afternoon, and if a bit of extra luck came his way, so much the better. He slipped the penny into his pocket and strode onwards, letting the rain hit him as hard as it could, challenging it to. He was that sort of man.

The meeting went well. Very well. So well, in fact, that the dapper man started to plan his early retirement, complete with yacht, summer house in the South of France, and ridiculous sports car that no one could really fit in well enough to drive.

His plan also included spending a lot of time in Monaco, and possible Las Vegas. He wanted to gamble and this deal would give him the money to do it. The dapper man, with his lucky penny and his six figure business deal decided that now would be a good time to start. He strode into the bookies and placed a bet. A few bets. Many bets. All were for tomorrow’s races; he could sit at home and watch the money roll in.

The dapper man did sit at home. He did watch the races. He lost every single one of them. And as he was telling himself not to worry, it didn’t matter that he’d just lost all of his savings because the Very Important Deal would fix everything, he got a phone call. The deal was off. It was a shame he hadn’t actually signed anything during that Very Important Meeting.

It was also a shame he’d forgotten the second part of the rhyme; See a penny, give it away, and your good luck is bound to stay…

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: Editing

We were given a wonderful simile for editing this week. Once the story or novel or chapter is finished from start to The End, leave it to rest like a piece of roast beef. But, for how long? An hour? A day? A few weeks? I left Mother's Helper for five years! But would it have made any difference if I had started my editing novel the week after I finished it instead?

For me, yes, it would have. The book needed all that time - I needed all that time - to mature, to be the best it could be. But that's not necessarily the case for everyone. If you can finish writing one minute and start editing the next, good luck to you.

But however long you leave it, the basics of editing remain the same.

Self-Editing:
Ah yes... Editing. Whether it is a source of pleasure or pain, it has to be done. Well, it should be done. If it's not, how can you be sure that you're offering your best work? Can a first draft ever be the best version of a piece of writing? It does depend on what the writing is for (a note to the milkman probably doesn't need to be pored over), but generally I would say no. No, it is not the best. And I can't imagine many serious writers would be happy with letting the general public read anything that wasn't as close to perfection as possible.

So what should you look for when you come to edit your piece? Obviously, obvious mistakes are... obvious. Spelling, grammar, syntax all need to be checked and made right if there are any errors.

The content also needs to be looked at. Does the story make sense all the way through, or are there enormous plot holes that need to be filled? I recently wrote a piece for the Sheppey group, and discovered (after I had given it over for peer editing - more on that later) that the ending was confusing as I had missed out a chunk of narrative. I knew the story in my head, and had forgotten that readers were coming to it fresh!

It may be a good idea to read the work aloud. The voice in your head is a forgiving one, which will happily gloss over missing words or clunky syntax. Speaking the words will alert you to where the mistakes are. It helps you to go through line by line.

Taking bits out of a piece of work you've slaved over can be hard. But, in editing one must be honest. Does the word or sentence or paragraph actually add anything to the piece? If not, be ruthless - it has to go. Your readers will thank you for that.

Peer-Editing:
Once you've done your bit, it's worth asking someone else to look at the work. An outsider's view is often invaluable. As long as it's an honest one. And to get an honest point of view, the right peer editing must be chosen.

But who? Should it be your nearest and dearest? A critical friend? Online support group? A writing group that you already belong to?

It should be whoever is going to give you an honest response. That may well be your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, best friend. Sometimes, however, as much as these people are interested, and are keen to help, because they are so close to you they may not be entirely honest. Not due to a strange mean streak, but because they love you and fear hurting your feelings.

If you want these people to be your editors, make sure that they know you want the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Make sure they won't shy away from telling you what doesn't work. You need to know all this. And to help them, don't take it personally. Don't become defensive. Take what they say and thank them. Whether you agree or disagree is something you can keep to yourself!

And what if you are asked to be an editor for someone? Exciting! You now have the opportunity to help shape a piece of writing, to help create a wonderful story. Be sensitive, and be honest. Give criticisms, but also give praise where it is deserved. Offer opinions, alternative ideas, ask questions. Be specific if you can!

Just don't try to write it for them...

Friday, 25 November 2011

Poem: Any Time After Now



Any Time After Now


They’re calling, I can hear them,

And I wonder who they are

And how they know me.

And they do know me so well.

Maybe I am one of them;

Are they calling me home?

Calling me to join them?

I think I want to follow,

But I know I don’t;

I can’t – how can I?

How can I even when they want me so badly?

It’s terrible timing.

My life keeps taking and grabbing

And I cannot stop it.

They are silent now, of course.

They’ve given up – given up on me.

Decision made.

Not my fault, nothing to do with me…

Innocent innocence.

But I would have gone, followed, left,

If they had asked

Any time after now.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Published: At The Water's Edge

Flash fiction, that favourite of mine, that tale in a thousand words (or fewer), is in. It is the thing. For me, anyway. I don't get much time to write at the moment. I try, but especially at this time of year (NaNoWriMo - eek!) it seems that I can sometimes only squeeze in 30 minutes to an hour a day.

And the thing with me is that I don't like leaving things unfinished. The thing with me is, I worry. My novel is causing me panic and stress because I am constantly thinking of new plot twists, characters, pieces of dialogue to squeeze into it, and I will do until it's finished (and even then I'll have trouble letting go, but that's another post...). And although I enjoy it, and wouldn't not be writing it for the world, it is nice to finish something. To simply sit down for a finite time with a finite number of words, and complete a story.

That's why I like flash fiction.

It is also why I decided to send a submission to Brazen Snake Books' Rattles Flash Fiction anthology At The Water's Edge.

There was a picture, a woman standing on a beach or perhaps a pier, the waves creeping towards her, and she was looking out over the water. At something. Or maybe nothing. That was the challenge - to take the picture and make a story from it in under 1000 words.

I love those challenges.

I'm pleased to say my story, 'Her House', was chosen for inclusion within the anthology. Mine is a story of loss and life. I hope it grabs you and saddens you and makes you smile just a little.

At The Water's Edge is available from Amazon for just 86p, and the print edition will be out soon.

Don't forget, Rattles Flash Fiction has a monthly prompt for inspiration, and plans more flash fiction anthologies, so there's no reason not to get involved!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Published: Satan's Toybox - Demonic Dolls

Lately I have become addicted to submitting stories to anthologies. It started just a few months ago after a chance remark in a forum; I clicked on the link, followed the instructions, wrote and submitted a short story and BANG! I was accepted and was going to be published.

It was a nice feeling, a great feeling, so I searched for more anthologies, and eventually came across Angelic Knight Press. They were looking for horror stories for their Demonic Dolls anthology. And the deadline was in two days. It seemed perfect for me, just the sort of thing I enjoyed reading and writing. But to come up with a short story, complete and edited, in just two days? This on top of a day job and a toddler? Somehow, I did it. And I'm so glad that I did - my story, 'Mr Doll' was accepted and became part of this terrifying anthology.

Here's the blurb:

"Remember when you got your first doll, that loveable companion who saw you through the best and worst of days? Remember when Barbie was the doll version of who you wanted to be when you grew up? Be careful what you wish for…

"In the world of Satan’s Toybox, nothing is ever what it seems, and being Barbie might not be all it’s cracked up to be. None of the dolls in these stories are the harmless comforting companions you may remember. From a haunted dollhouse to possessed porcelain dolls; you’ll find mischief, mayhem and bloody murders in these 18 tales.

"You’ll find Mexican "Worry Dolls" who will make you worry, a lonely woman's cherished companions, a little girl's vehicle for revenge, a beautiful doll with a strange taste for blood, an adult movie star's look alike doll, the strange world of Barbie, an evil doll maker’s minions, a witch's influential dolls, a dollhouse with revolving occupants, living dolls who punish the criminal, a foreign clown doll intent on possession, a lonely child's one true friend, a demon doll who collects the souls of the innocent, and a doll possessed by none other than Jack the Ripper.

"So go ahead, turn out the lights, cuddle up and prepare to be terrified. Just don’t take your eyes off the toybox…"

What more could you ask for? Every story in this anthology lives up to the promise - creepy, chilling, sleep-reducing stuff. And there's a new anthology on its way from the wonderful Angelic Knight Press; Satan's Toybox is filling up, and this time he's got his toy soldiers out to play...

Satan's Toybox - Demonic Dolls is available for Kindle and will soon be out in paperback.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: Plotting

Plotting... I've been doing this recently. Not only is the dreaded/longed for (delete as applicable) NaNoWriMo coming up in a matter of days, but I've got deadlines. Quite a lot of deadlines. This is not something I've ever really come up against before since until a few months ago I only really wrote to my own tune. Or something.

What I'm trying to say is that since I've been actively searching out writing opportunities, I've had to plot. Otherwise I'd never get anything finished on time. I've had to be organised and dedicated. I've had to stop being a pantser, which is something I never thought I'd say (for a variety of reasons). But the thing is: I love to plot! I can't believe I've never done it before! It makes writing so much more... fun. It also makes it more successful. For me, at any rate. And plots can change, of course. I can still do a little bit of pantsering (I made that word up, but you know what I mean) if the mood strikes.

Last night's third meeting of the Sheppey Writing Workshop dealt with plotting. We broke the plot down into its fundamental elements: structure, motivation, subplots, outcome. And from what you find here, you should be able to write one sentence which sums up your entire work, from flash fiction to an epic novel. And then you should be able to write the book or story.

Try it.

It works.

That should be enough to get a very basic plot for your story. Of course, there will be a lot of filling to do, that's what writing is about, filling the frame so that a picture emerges. Chaucer was one of the first writers to use the framing technique in his story-telling. Think of the Canterbury Tales: the frame here is that a group of pilgrims are travelling to Canterbury and each one has a story to tell. Within this simple frame, the stories provide the picture.

We also discussed what happens when a piece of writing simply isn't working. It happens. And it seems such a shame to delete the entire thing when a game of 'what if?' might just save it...

What if... you mix genres or change genres?
What if... you swap the main plot with the subplot?
What if... you change from first person to third person or vice versa?
What if... you change the structure, start at the end, in the middle?
What if...

But remember, don't alienate the reader. Remember who you're writing for. In the 1960s there was a movement of writers who thought that 'shuffling the pack' would be a good idea. Sounds interesting, right? It meant that the writer would complete their novels and then 'shuffle' the chapters, picking them randomly, putting them back in a different order. This piece of experimentation didn't last long.

Strangely, I'm tempted to give it a try (for my own curiosity's sake anyway).

The next meeting is on 14th November, and by then we need to have a first draft of our story... Now that it's been plotted, I need to get writing!








Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Second Campaigner Challenge: The Imago Mirror

I hope you enjoyed my first shot at the Rachel Harries' Campaigner Challenge. Now it's time for the second challenge!

This one was not an easy task... Rachel asked for a blog post of 200 words or fewer which had to include the word 'imago' in the title, and the words 'miasma', 'lacuna', 'oscitate' and 'synchronicity' in the story.

There was an added challenge to make the post exactly 200 words and to make reference to a mirror in the story... So I took all the challenges and came up with this...


There is a mirror at the back of this bar, and it is the only thing that stops me from leaving. It always stops me from leaving even though I should know better, even though the miasma is heavy, sorrowful, heart-breaking. I should go, but the mirror shows me too much, and I can’t stop looking. It fills the lacuna in my life, because it shows me my very own imago – my ideal love.

Or rather, my idealised version of love. It isn’t what I thought.

In the mirror, I do not sit alone. Next to me is a man, older than me, quite scruffy, but crinkle-eyed and wide-smiled, his tie is loose and his shirt is rumpled. He talks, he listens, he holds my hand. I can almost feel his fingers entwined in mine, the synchronicity of whatever brought us here at the same time, needing the same thing, blindsides me.

But when I turn to him, he is not there. Instead there is an oscitating emptiness.

I wonder; is there a lonely, crumpled man in another bar in another time, or world, or life, looking at me in a mirror?

I’ll have another drink and look for him.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: Characterisation


Lauren Cooper... Love her or hate her she is definitely a character. Not someone you would enjoy meeting in real life, I imagine, but someone who, simply by clucking her tongue or mouthing, 'Am I bovvered?' can induce rib-aching laughter.

And so began our second workshop meeting; Geof treated us to a Lauren sketch (the one for Comic Relief, also starring David Tennant - you can watch it here) to explain in no uncertain terms just what characterisation is.

I don't think I had ever considered Catherine Tate and Charles Dickens in the same thought before. Until now. Because Geof then asked us to read a excerpt from Hard Times (Chapter 1 - The One Thing Needful) which introduced us to Gradgrind, a despicable, tough, opinionated, loud, stocky, unsympathetic, aggressive man. And how do I know he is all these things? Dickens certainly never came right out and said it. No. Dickens and his masterful characterisation suggested these things through mannerisms, certain words, sentence structure, simile, everything, even down to the clothing Gradgrind was wearing. The reader fills in the blanks. The reader does the work.

Although I write, and I have characters in my stories, I hadn't really given much thought to characterisation so I found the discussion enlightening. How do you introduce a character effectively? How do you use stereotypes to shock the reader, to wrong-foot them? What about body language, mannerisms, the things they say, how they say them, even what they fail to say, what they look like (the implied information contained in the description), and maybe, just maybe, what their name, or nickname, tells the reader about the character?

We talked about them. Through Catherine Tate and Charles Dickens, we started to get an idea of just how to get it right.

Because characters aren't just there to make the plot look pretty. Without them, there is nothing. The character often drives the plot, and sometimes, due to their world views, their opinions, their innermost thoughts, they change the plot to suit them. It's a funny feeling when a character you have created starts to dictate to you, but it does happen... In my current work in progress, a novel, I have a character named Bear. I always did feel that his nickname told the reader enough about him, and I feel after our group meeting that I am right with him. I'll keep him.

Next came a tricky chat. How to present our work at the end. What would the final product be? We didn't come up with a final decision, and I don't think we will until the very last minute, because things change, new ideas spring up in the middle of something else, a thunderbolt of inspiration could hit at any time. We did create quite a list though:

- A performance (maybe a video option)
- A printed copy (booklet or paperback)
- An eBook
- Some form of Internet presence (Vlog, YouTube)
- A script
- Local radio
- A display of the work in local libraries and arts centres

So, we all have a task before the next session (25th October). It's time to get down to business. It's time to create a character for our story, to imbue him or her with just the right mix of emotions, physical attributes, stereotypical thoughts and words (to play with, of course). It's time. And who knows? This character may just write the story for us.

I think I have an idea...


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Competition: Winner: Melinda McGuire


And now I've like to announce the overall winner of my photo prompt competition! The person who wins the £10 Amazon voucher and a copy of Mother's Helper is...

Melinda McGuire!

Her vicious little vignette of a calm kind of revenge was the first choice of all the judges - congratulations, Melinda.

And here it is...

Dr. Leslie would understand when I explained that I had lost Sugar’s Ketamine pills. When I took Sugar in last week, Dr. Leslie and I laughed about how absent minded I was getting. I couldn’t find my glasses, even though they were pushed up on my forehead. And, Sugar, well, she would be fine as long as I took her back to the vet’s office tomorrow for a refill.

I keep dabbing my cheeks and chin, but the sweat keeps coming. My stomach is churning, but I continue to move my food around on my plate. When I checked the menu for the luncheon, I knew the fates had aligned to give me the opportunity I needed. I had been so angry with Agnes and Daniel when I found out. Damn them and their smiles and hugs and gentle pats on the forearm. They think I don’t know. They think I can’t see them and what they are doing behind my back. Even now, Daniel can’t keep his eyes off of Agnes. And, I see that she is wearing her new gray skirt, the one she just bought at the close out sale at Price Mart. She doesn’t think I remember. I can feel him looking at her.

They think they are being so clever, sitting across from each other, a part. But, I see what they’ve done. Every time she turns to sip her coffee, her and her damn sipping, they make eye contact. And, all through dinner, they looked at each other. I’m no fool. I see it. I saw you looking at each other over your cranberry sauce and dinner rolls.

I had been suspicious. I knew something was wrong with Daniel. He had been so chipper lately, even smiling at me while he did his crossword puzzles over toast in the mornings. He had never been a morning person, not in fifty years of marriage, and now he was smiling each morning. I wasn’t falling for it.

But then, when I saw them together after our church Christmas pageant, I knew. Daniel was smiling, and Agnes, that witch, was giggling. Giggling. At our age, giggling. Ridiculous.

Memories of all the times since Daniel started smiling in the mornings pieced themselves together, them talking quietly during the library fundraising brunch, smiling when we ran into each other while walking Sugar. They probably planned to see each other then and I ruined their plans. But, when we were at the market and they laughed over some shared joke, that was all the proof I needed. Laughing together, with me on the outside. I wouldn’t live that way, and neither would Daniel.

Daniel yawned again. He was eating less and less and starting to sweat. Agnes is pretending not to notice, but I am going to sit here until I see her look at him with concern in her eyes. Only then will I suggest to Daniel that we go home, that I will help him get ready for bed, that I will take care of him so that he will feel better. But, he won’t feel better.

And, in the morning, I will call the doctor. I won’t even call Agnes. I won’t even tell her. She will have to hear about Daniel from someone else.

Daniel’s hands are starting to shake. It’s time to take Daniel home.

©Melinda McGuire

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Competition: Highly Commended - Kirsty Newton-Kirby

Here is the second highly commended entry into the blog competition; there's a great twist in this! It is by Kirsty Newton-Kirby.

Food For Thought

From her vantage point, high above the tables, she could see everything going on without being seen herself. Normally she wouldn’t come out with so many people around, but they all seemed distracted by something happening at the far end of the street, and the smell of the food had been too much to ignore. Besides, they were unlikely to spot her on the high balcony above the street.

It was nice to be up on the balcony. It was a clear dry night and it was quiet up here. A rare moment of calm in her hectic life and a whole world away from under the railway bridge where she now stayed with her family. They once had a lovely home, with regular food and warm beds. But recessions hit some harder than others and all that had changed. At least the bridge gave them cover from the rain, and the homeless people that stayed alongside them often lit fires and were happy to have them join them, so they could usually find a warm spot even on the coldest of nights.

On the tables below, several plates of food were now unattended, and she was sure no one had any intention of returning to finish them.

It was amazing how people could leave so much food when her family were starving. Having to spend each day working hard to try and get together enough to fuel her rapidly growing family. Make sure they were brought up healthy and strong. Desperate to ensure their survival. And yet these people were allowing good food to go to waste. She knew it would end up in a secure bin and be left to rot. At a time when she needed it the most.

Some people were going round the tables, picking up the empty (and not so empty) plates and taking them back towards the kitchens. If only she was able to go round and take just one of the fuller plates and walk away with it. Normally she would never be so brazen, but her belly ached with hunger. It had been three days since she had last eaten. She had managed to bring home food each day, not a lot, but always something. But with her growing sons eternally hungry she had not been able to deprive them and so had gone without herself. If she didn’t get her strength up soon she wouldn’t be able to bring any food home and they all would suffer.

The need overcame her fear. She had to at least try! She scurried along to the stairs and quickly ran down them, staying close to the back wall and hoping not to be seen. Once at the bottom she crouched in a corner of the building and looked out onto the street where the tables were set out. The nearest was only a few meters away and the people were now standing up and milling about, chatting and laughing as though they had no care in the world.

She knew she had to act fast, before the last of the food laden plates were taken away. She dived for the table and for the nearest bowl of food, cramming as much as possible into her mouth. Then she froze! A pair of eyes were staring straight at her. She had been spotted. The reaction from the eyes was initially surprise, but then changed to amusement. They were kindly eyes, understanding eyes. She swallowed, and quickly went on to finish the rest of the food from the bowl. Then as the food hit her stomach she no longer felt any fear. All that mattered was the food! She furiously went from one bowl to the next devouring the leftovers from each.

Then the shouting started. She had been spotted!

‘Someone get that mutt off the table!’

‘Stupid dog! Get out of here!’

She dived onto the ground, feeling bad for not having got any food to take back to her puppies. Then she saw it. A bread roll lying next to one of the tables. Grabbing it she ran as fast as she could back to the safety of the railway bridge. Soon her pups had demolished the bread roll, and then they snuggled next to one of the fires and their ever changing homeless masters. Full, warm and content. Another day survived.

©Kirsty Newton-Kirby 2011

Monday, 12 September 2011

Competition: Highly Commended - Debbie Viggiano

The results are in! We had some really great stories, and so we decided to award two stories with Highly Commended, and one story as the overall winner. Here is the first of the highly commended stories by Debbie Viggiano:

As weddings went, this was a good one. Stunning bride. Handsome groom. Both now a little worse for wear of course. The speeches were over. Copious amounts of champagne had been quaffed. Ties and silk cravats were at this very moment being loosened. I peered around the floral centrepiece partially blocking the view from my seat. There was the bride’s father. Now he was on the dance floor, hips grinding as he imitated John Travolta. Shame about the beer belly.

I sighed and withdrew. Sitting back on the velvety upholstered seat, I tuned out the disco music and studied my empty wine glass. The other guests seated with me were strangers. Together we’d laboured through the wedding breakfast, small talk dutifully made. Nobody had voiced it, but it was obvious. This was the singles table. People without partners. The paunchy chap in the check shirt had turned his back on everybody, pretending to be fascinated by the dance floor antics. He was divorced. I had been privately incredulous that anybody had wanted to marry him once. Never mind four times.

The woman in the mustard cardi had made goo-goo eyes at Check Shirt earlier.

‘No I’m not married,’ she’d replied to Check Shirt’s question, all the while masticating a bread roll with her mouth open. ‘I’ve been saving myself for the right one.’ She’d smiled toothily at him, unaware of the bread lodged between her front teeth.

‘More wine?’ asked the chap next to me.

Warm vinegar wasn’t really my tipple. ‘Why not,’ I smiled. My table companion sloshed the liquid into the glass. And over half the tablecloth.

‘Oops!’

I laughed politely. Dear God. Was this my lot then? Going to other people’s weddings? Watching other people celebrate togetherness? A lump lodged in my throat.

‘Excuse me,’ I said to my table companion, ‘just need to powder my nose.’ I fled. Tears threatened. The last thing I needed was to break down. Not in public. You see, this wedding should have been mine. The bridegroom had once been my fiancĂ©. Yes really. We’d dated ever since Year 7 at school. And the bride? My best friend. I’d known her forever too. When Sam and I had announced our engagement, Jules had been thrilled for us. So how had it all gone wrong?

I banged the toilet door shut. Ripping off a stream of toilet paper, I blew my nose. Not now Cathy. Don’t get emotional. Not on their big day. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself. I dabbed my eyes. Took some deep breaths.

It had been me who’d broken off the engagement and cancelled the wedding. Cold feet. That’s what my father had called it.

‘Everybody doubts at some point lass,’ he’d put an arm around me. ‘Pre-wedding nerves.’

Except it hadn’t been that. I’d just suddenly realised that Sam wasn’t the man for me. Oh I loved him. Had done for years. But like a brother. And realisation had dawned: women don’t marry their brothers. Sam had been devastated. Until Jules had tentatively taken his hand. Squeezed it gently. Looked at him with hope. And love. Real love. And Sam had responded. He’d lit up like a Christmas tree. That was what had hurt the most. How quickly I’d been forgotten. A dented ego. Not something to be proud of really.

I scrunched up the tissue and tossed it down the toilet. I loved Jules and Sam. Wanted them to be happy. It would just be so nice to meet my own Mr Right. And not be seated at the Singles Table with Check Shirt, Mustard Cardi and Wine Slopper.

Rinsing my hands, I contemplated my reflection in the mirror. More lipstick. I foraged around in my bag and applied a shimmering layer of Passion – the only passion in my life at the moment. I’d had enough. Time to go home. I’d say my farewells, hug Jules and Sam and then slip away.

Exiting the powder room, I cannoned straight into a bulky body.

‘I do beg your pardon,’ said a deep voice.

‘No really, my fault,’ I assured.

My stomach flipped as I gazed up into a pair of eyes the colour of melting chocolate. Disco music filtered down the carpeted corridor. Suddenly the record changed. The opening bars of Love Is All Around filled the air.

‘My name’s Luke.’

‘Cathy,’ I replied.

‘Well Cathy. Would you like to dance?

Like I said earlier... as weddings went, this was a good one.

©Debbie Viggiano 2011



Friday, 9 September 2011

First Campaigner Challenge: Home

There is a challenge up at Rachael Harrie's blog - the First Campaigner Challenge. The idea is to write a piece of flash fiction, up to 200 words (excluding the title), and the opening must be, 'The door swung open'.

Interesting.

And there are some optional extra challenges too - make the piece exactly (excluding the title) 200 words and finish it with 'the door swung shut'.

I decided to try it, to see what I could come up with, and below is my attempt; wish me luck!


Home

The door swung open. Reluctantly. I thought it would be easier. On the way here, on the journey that you said was too long but which was really much too short, I had rehearsed what I’d say, what I’d do, how I’d cope with the disapproval.

But you told me not to come, didn’t you? You said that you didn’t want me to see you like this, old, in pain, that you weren’t the father I had known. And I, glad of the excuse, told everyone that you wouldn’t see me, that you wanted it this way. Which is why this is the first time I’ve been here, in this place they call a home, in the place you called home for the last three years of your life.

I stepped over the threshold - reluctantly - to collect what few belongings you’d left behind and I felt the loneliness being caught out and scattering to the walls. And what was there apart from some dried up flowers and a tatty paperback? Just one thing. That photo, the one of you and me smiling at each other, happy.

As I left, your distant voice still echoing, the door swung shut.

© Lisamarie Lamb 2011


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: A Roof Over Their Heads

It was a chance flick through a local newspaper that did it. And it wasn't even me doing the flicking. The Sheerness Times Guardian had dropped through the letterbox earlier in the day and I, too busy with work and baby duties, put it on top of my husband's pile of post and forgot about it.

I forgot about it until that evening when my husband burst into the office where I was working and pointed excitedly to an article featuring a local man named Geof Reed and his idea to bring together writers in the community to create a project called 'A Roof Over Their Heads'.

"This is just what you're looking for," he said. I scanned the article, still thinking about the assessment I was writing for work at the time. Halfway thought I forgot the assessment and re-read the article, slowly, trying to take it in, hoping I was reading it right. The idea was to research the area, the Isle of Sheppey, and write about the people who had lived where we're living now, or who might live where we're living in the future.

I read it again.

I wanted to join a writing group. I wanted to learn more about where I live. I wanted to be involved in something interesting and exciting. I wanted to meet other people who understood the love of putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard...

Would this group satisfy all of that? Would it be too much of a gamble for safe little old me?

I wondered for a bit, thought for a bit, mulled it over for a bit. And usually, being the sort of person who likes their routines despite yearning for a change, I would have left it at that. Instead I did a very daring thing, and sent Geof an email. He replied. I was in.

Some weeks later and it was the day of the first meeting. I had a time, I had a meeting place, I had looked on the satellite map to find out where to park (take the second right after the chemist's) and I was off. Nervous and desperate to fit in.

Desperate for this to go well.

There were eight of us in total, including Geof. And I think, although I was too sweaty-palmed to say anything, that we were all a little unsure where the day would end. What ideas might be brought out into the open, who wanted what and what was expected of us...

Introductions were first. Of course. No one likes standing up in front of strangers and... But wait, hang on. It wasn't that bad. The people around the table, the people in the room with me, had similar goals, had similar hobbies, did similar things to me. There were poets, non-fiction writers, short story authors, playwrights, Geof himself writes performance pieces, and all of them, no matter what genre or particular craft they specialise in, love to write. As I am sitting in my study writing this post, I imagine that they, or at least some of them, are sitting wherever they like to write and pouring words on to a page.

I'm sure they are.

And so, actually, it was all right.

The time went in a blur of excitement for me; I could feel it surging up and my mind was racing through all the possibilities open to us. Geof read some of his work, offered advice about plotting, where to get ideas from, showed us how he works (a massive sheet of paper taped to a wall with names and dates and scraps of information scribbled on it), we chatted about what we thought we might write about, what we wanted to get out of this.

And I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for. Geof had even arranged for us to go to Sheerness Library to learn about the local archives and history that they housed there; Florence the librarian and expert on all things Sheppey talked us through the microfilm machine (microfilm! I can't wait to use it! Will I really need to take sea sickness tablets like they do in the films?) and the censuses, the photos and the maps, the books and the articles relating to the Isle of Sheppey.

There's so much I don't know.

There's so much I want to find out.

The next meeting is on 21st September, and I can't wait - this is going to be fun!

But the strange thing is, we don't buy the local paper.

So I've no idea where we received it that day. We haven't since, and we'd never had it before.

But I'm glad that for whatever reason (mistake or fate or whatever) someone decided to give us that particular copy.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Smashwords: Mother's Helper

Just a little post... Mother's Helper is now available on Smashwords! It took a while as the formatting was different to Lulu and Amazon, but I finally made it and here is the link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/85364

And in doing so I learned a great tip - to get rid of all the TAB indents, simply click on (in Word) 'Replace' and then replace ^t with nothing. It deletes all of the TABs and makes the whole thing much easier to convert to eBook format... Phew!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Poem: I Try. I Wait. I Lie

I try. I wait. I lie

So long, the hours slap

Me in the face, about the head

And I just let them.

I welcome them.

I feel them pass, and become

The days that won’t let me

Sleep.

They punish me.

I cry. I hate. I die.

Or hope to, or not.

I wish I knew the answers here

But there are none.

There are no questions either

And that is the shame of it all

In a nutshell

A plain old nutshell

That crumbles in my hand.

I sigh. I mate. I fly

In air made of

Liquid, made of stones and

Nothingness.

I breathe it, I taste it,

But I cannot believe it.

Why should it, when it

Pretends I don’t exist?

Do I? Exist?

I try. I wait. I lie.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011



Saturday, 6 August 2011

Published: Moon Washed Kisses

My poem, 'Time Steals Everything', has been published in the July issue of Moon Washed Kisses and I thought I would take this opportunity to explain why I wrote it, and what it means to me.

The poem is, quite simply, about a man who loses his wife but does not want to, or doesn't know how to, say goodbye, to let go. I suppose we could call it closure, as all the TV shows currently tend to do. He doesn't have it, and he doesn't want it.

It's other people, when it comes down to it, who want closure for him. Surely he can't be happy now thinking about his wife's death. Surely not. And so they persuade him to think about it all the time, to analyse it as far as he can, to really delve into it and how it has made him feel. Even his magazine is now telling him what he should be feeling.

The man's grief, when he opens up to it, consumes him until he no longer wants to live with the pain. Any memories he had of his wife are now tainted by this grief. And time, instead of healing him, steals from him - steals the life he was managing to build alone.

I'm sure the people, the magazine writer, everyone, were just trying to help. I'm sure they thought they were doing the right thing, there was no malice involved.

But the man was doing okay.




Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Excerpt from Mother's Helper

Chapter 1

What’s the point? she asked herself desperately as she stumbled through the dark alleyways and unlit back streets that slinked around Greenash like an army of deceitful snakes, just waiting for their prey to get lost or trip or simply die at the climax of the journey. Her breath was catching painfully in her throat, great tugs of air grabbing at her abused larynx, and her lungs were refusing to do her bidding and draw in enough oxygen to keep her head from becoming a touch too light, but she wasn’t going to stop. She couldn’t. Not yet. Not until she was certain that she was not going to die in this cold, deserted, unfeeling place. Not until she was sure that she wouldn’t die like her mother had; painfully and too, too soon.

Finally she slowed, stopped, and listened. After a minute in which she stood, poised to run at the slightest pin drop, ready to flee if a shadow danced her way, she realised that there was no sound other than her own laboured breathing, furiously beating heart, and the distant hum of engines as early morning commuters started their days at work. Finally she felt that she was genuinely alone, her precious life safe. For the moment. Relaxing minutely, her body still aware that danger might not have passed and working on instinct rather than cogent thought, she leant heavily against the crumbling old graffiti stained brick wall at her back, wheezing and breathless and far too exhausted to care about the diseased germs crawling over every inch of the shiny dew-dropped black rubbish bags that were piled high next to her, and the ominously loud sound of what was probably rats eating their way through the plastic and into whatever was decomposing inside.

Standing straight, pulling her hands into fists in order to focus and concentrate, her ragged, bitten fingernails digging sharply into her palms, she made a conscious effort to try and control her breathing, but it was a difficult task, made harder still by the exhaust fumes that were beginning to silently seep into the alley from the nearby road. A fan or generator or some other industrial heating or cooling tool starting up in the building behind her made her jump, momentarily distracting her from calming herself down, jagging her body and breathing into flight mode once more. Now, however, with enough oxygen reaching her brain for it to work as it should, and the lactic acid making her leads awkwardly heavy, she did not run, realising that the sounds she was hearing were normal, everyday ones that she should be grateful to be able to hear rather than terrified since it meant she was alive,. This was a comfort to her, as the sound of the motors and the stink of the exhaust fumes had been. It meant that life – real life – was still going on as usual, mundane and wonderful, the world had not ended, and, miraculously, she was, in spite of everything, still a living human being. .

Exhaling a long stream of air out through lips that were chapped and chewed and rolled into a nervous pout, she answered her own silent question – what’s the point? - that had been asked so many times as she ran that should could no longer remember quite when it had started or even if there had been a beginning – she sometimes felt as though she had been asking it most of her life. But, despite the fear and the exhaustion she knew, of course she always had, what the point was, that the only reason she kept running, night after night, was that she didn’t want to die. If she simply stood still, there was a dark certainty within her that she would be killed, violently, painfully, with no dignity or grace, dream or not. And of that, she was terrified.

When her breath had stopped hitching in her chest like the memory of a toddler’s tantrum just fading, when her hands had stopped shaking sufficiently for her to tie the wet dressing gown belt that had been flapping uselessly along the ground for some time now, and that she had bizarrely been worrying about since she first realised that it was wrapping muddy streaks around her ankles, and after looking warily around her to make sure that she was still as alone as she hoped to be, Mary Bostall stepped out of the alley and placed a first guarded step on the wide pavement that ran along the river. The ground remained firm, reality was convincing, and her confidence came back to her, thawing her body as it rushed through her bloodstream. She was now almost completely sure that she was awake and that the world was real. She wandered across the street and sat for a moment on the wooden bench that faced the water, a small brick wall was between her and the river; she had sat on it many times, and even walked along it as a fearless child. The green paint on the bench was flaking, and she absent-mindedly picked at it, revealing cracked grey wood beneath. Staring out across the river, Mary could see the day preparing itself to start, a warming pink sunrise leaking across the morning sky.

At six o’clock in the morning, the town of Greenash was just starting to become busy. Joggers, hell-bent on getting their daily exercise out of the way as early as possible, trotted past her, music blaring from battered MP3 players, mouths set in a grimace, eyes focused on the ground at their feet. Bleary-eyed workers, ambition getting in the way of sleep, walked slowly, feet dragging, but their eyes still focused down. Mary wondered what would happen if the world suddenly ended. She wondered if anyone would notice since no one had apparently noticed so far that she was wearing a dressing gown and thick purple bed socks, disheveled and dirty and looking like a rather bemused and sleep-deprived lunatic. Or a tramp. Or both. She giggled slightly to herself at the thought and then glanced around quickly, scanning the area for anyone who might have seen her, her cheeks reddening at the thought. No one had. No one was bothered by her presence.

Mary watched the few people walking by her as she mentally instructed her body to do her bidding and stand. It was hard and took longer than it should have done, but she managed it with a groan that she didn’t mean to let out. She envied the apathetic glances – when there were any – and wished that she could be as indifferent to things that were going on around her. Mary yawned and brushed the green dust from her fingers, wiping her hands down her aching thighs which were still clad in the heavy pyjama bottoms she had worn to bed the previous night. She was intensely glad she hadn’t opted for a nightgown, or for sleeping naked as she sometimes did, as the breeze was a chill one when it came. She arched her back and bent her legs, feeling better for the stretch and yearning for her bed and a shower, despite the knowledge that the former was impossible because, even after the horrific night just gone, it was still a work day, and sick days were not something that Mary had ever been comfortable with, and the latter would probably be cold, considering the temperamental old – possibly condemned if she ever got it serviced - boiler that sat like a squat, square alien in her kitchen.

The slow, long walk back to her flat did nothing to quell the remnants of unease that Mary was feeling, as people were beginning to stare now that sleep had departed from them and they had had their first hit of caffeine. She realised that her legs and back were far stiffer than she had first thought as she started to climb the wet – always wet, even in summer, and always with a faint hint of public toilets and vinegary chips – concrete steps inside her building. Pushing through the thin, half-paned fire door at the top of the stairwell entrance and arriving on the chilly and dark third floor corridor, she realised that she didn’t have her front door key. She couldn’t remember leaving her flat the night before, memorable conscious thought only returning to her once she was outside. She supposed that what happened to her at night was a form of sleep-walking, but on the few previous occasions on which it had happened, she had always found her keys tucked into the waistband of her pyjamas, or in her dressing gown pocket and once, painfully, in her sock. This time she had obviously been in a hurry; she couldn’t even remember exactly what she was running from, let alone closing her front door and a heavy lump of dread settled itself in her stomach. Sure enough, as she turned the corner of the carpeted corridor, her dark night blue door was sitting slightly open, a thin chunk of blackness nestling between the bright white matching pillars of the door frame and the deep gloss of the thickly painted door. The deep and heavy dread grew deeper and heavier. It was simply not possible that no one had ransacked her home while she had been gone, especially as this was not the most desirable of areas to live in. The reason that her door stood out from the others on the third floor was that it was newer, replaced after the flat had been broken into not long before. The thought of another burglary made her feel nauseated. The first one had been bad enough, and she had still not fully recovered, still feeling unsafe at home, especially at night and locking her door like Fort Knox - when she was awake and capable of doing so, that was. She hated it; hated the fact that because of someone else’s cruelty – and she did see petty thieves and burglars as cruel – she now lived in a state of, if not fear, then certainly anxious nervousness.

Mary slowly reached out her arm and pushed the door open completely with a sharp thrust, her fear making her push harder than she had intended, sending the interior door handle slamming viciously into the wall behind it, leaving a cracked round welt in the magnolia plaster.

If you enjoyed this little excerpt, the novel is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Flash Fiction: Leila & Samuel

Leila and Samuel entered the coffee shop in silence. He held the door open for her and she smiled, but there was an effort in that face, a trouble brewing along with the green tea. Samuel didn’t notice; he’d already turned away from her and was weaving his way to the counter. Leila followed, distracted by the other customers – what were they doing there? Shouldn’t they be at work? At home? At school? She felt oddly displeased with them, these layabouts, these scroungers. This was her place. Hers and his. All the others could – should – disappear in a puff of smoke. She’d like that. It would amuse her.

But the magic was gone. That amused her too and a real smile stretched itself across her lips despite the sadness of the sentiment. She made it to the counter and ordered her latte, extra vanilla flavouring because she wasn’t sweet enough. Samuel asked for an espresso. He always asked for an espresso. He was always in a hurry. It was one of the things that made her realise how truly unsuited they were to one another. How utterly incompatible. What a terrible match. It was one of the things that made her realise she would have to end it.

Coffees bought, Leila and Samuel sat. He took out a newspaper and laid it on the table, folded. He pressed down along the crease, deepening it, running his finger over it again and again. She could read half of the headline – some boring story or other, she really wasn’t interested. She preferred a book. A love story. A romance. Newspapers were dull, much like the man she was watching, much like Samuel. Still, she was glad he hadn’t actually opened it and begun to read. No matter how many times it happened it still stung. Conversation would be nice, talking like a normal couple, discussing the day ahead, the day just gone, the world in general. It wasn’t going to happen and she knew that now. Because he would open that paper. Once he was settled and she was sipping. They had nothing to say to one another. It had been that way for a while now and she was more than aware of it. At first it had hurt, her heart gripped and ripped away from her as she realised he would rather do anything – anything – other than talk to her, look at her, be with her. But over time it had become the norm. They would have their morning coffee together, in this place, different faces but the same almost embarrassing situation – no words. Maybe a look, but only out of politeness.

No affection. No warmth. Certainly no love.

Nothing.

Leila stared at Samuel as he opened the newspaper – the inevitable – and took a swig of espresso. He grimaced and swallowed, looking pained. It was always the same. She wondered why, if he hated the stuff, did he continue to drink it. She guessed it was habit. Habit was the reason and the ruin of everything. It was the reason and the ruin of them at least. And that was everything to Leila. She drank her own coffee, her teeth aching with the syrupiness of it. She ran her tongue around her mouth, imagining she was wiping away the sugar left behind by the drink, feeling better for it.

Samuel looked up at her, caught her licking her lips and staring at him. He looked shocked, not entirely pleased. Leila realised what she was doing and felt ridiculous, quickly looking away at anyone else, out of the window, down at the floor.

There should not be embarrassment. Not after so long.

Another reason why their relationship was doomed.

Samuel gulped down the rest of his coffee and stood, swiping up his paper and securing it under his arm. He said nothing as he left.

Leila continued to drink her drink. She watched the waitress trot over to where Samuel had been sitting, the table on the other side of the café to her own. Watched her wipe the table, scoop up the tiny little cup, place the chair back underneath. Leila watched as a couple sat down, using paper napkins to dry the still wet table.

She supposed it was time to let Samuel – or whoever he was, she’d named him herself – go. She’d find someone else.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Friday, 8 July 2011

Competition: Photo Prompt

Well, we made it! Over 100 Facebook likes and, as promised, here is a competition for you to get stuck in to. Lesley Galston (http://sloanwriter.blogspot.com/) and Rebecca Emin (http://ramblingsofarustywriter.blogspot.com/) have both recently run flash fiction competitions, and they have inspired me to come up with my own!

There's not much to it - I just need between 500 and 750 words based around the picture above. It can be anything you like, any genre, any subject, as long as the prompt is used somehow. I want people to get creative!

The winning entry will receive a copy of my novel, Mother's Helper, and a £10 Amazon voucher.

There are, of course, rules (no competition would be complete without them...):

1. Please email your entry to mothershelper@hotmail.co.uk as a Word (.doc or .docx) file attachment
2. Please don't put your name on the actual Word document as they will be judged anonymously.
3. It goes without saying, please only send in work that you've written yourself...
4. Please be aware that the winning entry will appear in full on my blog (with full credit to the winner), so if you don't want it published, please don't enter!
5. Closing date is 5pm (BST) on 6th September 2011.
6. I can only accept one entry per person, so please send in your best :)

That's it! If you have any questions, please email the above address and I will try to help out.

Good luck and have fun!






Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Published: Ether Books

Good news! One of my short stories, 'Somebody's At The Door' has been selected for publication by Ether Books. It's free to download on their site, so if you've been enjoying my flash fiction, why not have a look at a longer piece?

Does everyone know about the Ether app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad? It's a great way to read new authors, and the app is free to download.

Here's the link for the app http://bit.ly/bpvC84

So if you do read my story, please let me know what you think, either here on the blog, or through Twitter (@lisamarie20010) or on my Facebook author page - thanks!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Flash Fiction: Profit and Loss


My name is Danny – named after my waster of an uncle who I never saw because he’s been inside since I was three - and my story starts one day when I was riding from the market where I worked to the nearest bus stop to my house which was still a good six minute walk further on. It had not been a great day. Or rather, it had been a brilliant day takings wise. But profits… Not good. Very bad.

I’d tried speaking with the boss, Ron, at various times over the past few weeks. Tried and failed. So instead of sorting things out, I’d stood there all day, high up above the rest of the stalls, touting my wares in a loud voice (which had got quieter as the day wore on and my throat wore out) and selling out of everything, down to the last mangy prawn, but making no money.

It was depressing. It was disheartening.

Even me, who had failed his GCSE maths in a pretty spectacular manner, knew that in order to make a profit, and therefore run a successful business, you had to sell stuff for more than you bought it for. But we weren’t. Not recently anyway. Ron had taken me to one side on a surprise visit when I was setting up and told me that he was slashing all the prices. Rock bottom. Between us we changed all the price signs and then Ron left me to it. But he had also left his supplier folder, and I leafed through, interested to see how it was done because I harboured the dream of buying the stall from Ron one day, of taking it over as my own. Branching out, expanding. Oh, yes, I had plans all right. I was excited, it kept me going through the dark, wet mornings and the boiling hot days.

But as I looked through page after page of numbers, I realised something. We were selling for less than cost price. We were going down.

I remember the bus stopping and making a move to get off. I made it to the front, paused, turned round to the driver and asked for an extension on my ticket. Just a couple more stops. Ron’s place. We had some talking to do.

Ron was standing by his gate when I arrived. “I’ve been waiting here every day for the past week,” he said, sounding a bit miffed. “You took your time.”

I said nothing. Stared. Must have looked a bit mental.

“Come on, lad,” Ron said. “I take it you’re here about the business. About buying it. I’m doing such a shoddy job and you want to take it on, am I right?”

That wasn’t what I had been going to say. I’d had been going to say that we needed to talk about profits, and ask whether I needed to start looking for another job since this one was going down the pan.

I honest to God heard my brain tell my mouth to say that. Only it didn’t. What it said was, “Ron, I need to buy it. I need to turn it around.” Jesus. I didn’t have more than a hundred quid in the bank and that was mostly spoken for. What the hell was I saying?

Ron was smiling. “Good boy. I knew you’d get there sooner or later.” We went inside, me with my legs trembling and my stomach flipping like an Olympic diver, him with his arm around my shoulders. I was grateful for that, it held me up.

We drank. We talked. We agreed that I would buy the business and pay him with a percentage of the profits until I’d hit his asking price. I signed a load of stuff that he’d had prepared and shook his hand.

So the next day, in a daze, I went to work as my own boss, put the prices back up and sold nothing.

Well what did you expect?

No one was going to pay the new prices after they’d seen how good they could have it.

I lost everything. I’d taken on the debts, hadn’t I? I’d signed for it all. And there were a lot of debts. Seems Ron had been siphoning off the profits for years now. No wonder I envied him. Envied his lifestyle, his house, his car, everything.

No wonder I gave him the out of date prawns. I didn’t mean to kill him, though. And that’s the truth.

On the upside, I have met up with my Uncle Danny. He’s not a bad bloke really.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Flash Fiction: Max

When Max finally opened his eyes the first thing he saw was the cracked yellow lines that were painted on the road where his head was resting. He blinked, testing his eyelids, then he ran his tongue over his lips, testing them too, only it didn’t work as well as the blinking and just caused him to hurt. He couldn’t tell whether the pain was in his tongue or his lips or both. Judging by the rest of him, it was probably both.

His ears were almost working. He could hear people around him and they seemed to be shouting, but the words were blurry and he couldn’t quite make them out. They were loud though. They hurt his head. He thought they were even hurting his eyelashes, and it amused him for a while, wondering how that could be, until he realised he could also hear traffic and remembered (by looking down at the yellow lines) that he was in the road. Which is also where the traffic was.

Panicked, he tried to jerk away, roll onto the pavement, or sit or stand or just move, but he couldn’t do it. What the hell had happened to him? Had he been in an accident, been knocked down trying to cross the street? It seemed likely. Lying in the road, every spare – and usable – millimetre of him aching, burning or downright screaming with pain, people around him shouting… But wasn’t he chasing someone? Something, maybe… He couldn’t remember and it didn’t seem important now.

Someone knelt down by his head. They reached out to him, and Max thought for a moment that they were going to touch him, accidentally hurt him, and his wished he could tell them no, but they stroked his head instead, and that didn’t hurt. Or at least it didn’t hurt much because the comfort drowned it out. He tried a smile, half managed it. The person stroking him noticed and smiled back. “You’ll be okay, Max,” she said, and Max realised it was the girl he lived with. “You’ll be fine. They’re coming to help you.” She paused, sniffed, tried to regroup but instead came out with, “Don’t die, Max, please! I love you, please don’t die!”

Max sighed deeply, even though it hurt. If it was the last thing he did he’d let the girl know he loved her too. He licked her hand despite the pain, and wagged his tail one last time.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2011