Stretching the Writing Muscles

I’ve been thinking about writing prompts again. I’ve done them before and had a lot of fun with them, but I felt that they were getting in the way so I stopped. They’ve always had a place in my heart, though, and I feel that it’s good for me. I look at a situation and a have a think and I have to be careful, disciplined and controlled in my writing. This is a good thing and I have always likened it to going to the gym. It’s a way of pushing ideas around and building up the writing muscles.

Unfortunately I’m the sort of person who, if I decide to go left, promise myself that I’ll go left and plan to go left, will inevitably turn right. I’m not being awkward. I’m just being me. So while I’m making a plan, who knows how it will turn out. I don’t stress about it any more.

The plan (and please let me stick to it) is that I will post a prompt every Tuesday and then post my response to that post on the Monday. Anyone who wants to join in with the fun is incredibly welcome. The rules are here, but the chances of me checking that you stick to the rules are very low indeed. In general, write something that is inspired loosely by the picture, the quotation or a combination, in more than twenty words but less than five hundred words and have fun. And write something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to be caught reading on the bus. When you consider the sort of things people read on the bus, you’ve got some latitude.

Writing and journalling can be incredibly good for your mental health. They are certainly good for mine. If I get two thousand words written then I have enough of a boost to spring clean the kitchen. Over the next few months I’m going to be exploring ways to write more and more and the writing gym is part of that.

I hope that you will feel able to use the prompts in a way that benefits you. You may not want to share, or you may want to write a novel instead of the 500 words, or you may want to play with the ideas for a while in private before sharing and that’s okay. If you do feel able to share, I would really love to see what the wonderful things that you create.

And I hope that, whatever else happens, you can have fun.

A Writer’s Life: Thinking About Murder

It’s well known that a writer’s search history isn’t fit to see. Mine includes gems like ‘saddles in 10th century Paris’ and ‘what sort of flowers are there in July in Italy’. It also may or may not include (and I admit to nothing) such gems as looking for arsenic on eBay or Amazon, descriptions of hemlock and what laudanum tastes like. It’s research and absolutely nothing to do with my very dull real life.

And that’s the thing – in my real life I’m looking for things like how to get rid of ink on school shirts, or when the council are collecting waste, or whether a shop will be open at a particular time. As a writer, I’m looking for ways to kill people. I worry that I’ll end up on a list somewhere.

I’m currently planning a murder – in a book, obviously, and it’s made me wonder. Murder is probably easy if you don’t mind being caught. You could just walk straight up to someone and be violent. And there’s a story, right there, about someone with a terminal diagnosis and a grudge. I’m not planning on writing that sort of story at the moment. But if you don’t want to be caught, you have to be tricky.

I thought about it some more as I was on the school run and I came to the conclusion that violence would be a difficult option. With all the forensics and CCTV and stuff, you would be bound to be caught. DNA gets everywhere and I wonder if old murderers will be caught because a relative posted their genetics on a family history site and there was a match with an old crime scene. And thinking about those sites, I wonder how many long lost cousins and unsuspected half-siblings have turned up and caused havoc in families. I’m sure that there are all sorts of scandals waiting to come out. But that’s a different book.

So if the murder wasn’t with violence, then wouldn’t it have to be by poison? I was thinking about this while I was knitting. Getting hold of poisons is quite hard, I suppose. You can’t call into the corner shop and pick up half a pound of arsenic for rat poison like you once could. I was told that apple pips contain cyanide, but I imagine that you would have to bake a vast amount into a pie. According to my brief and unscientific web search (which isn’t helping my search history), morello cherry pits have the most cyanide easily available in fruit. But what if you want to murder someone urgently and it’s not cherry season? You can buy sacks of cherry pits online (to make heating pads, apparently), but I don’t know if they need to be fresh if you want cyanide. I’m not searching for that. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Administering the poison could be tricky. Someone could notice that you had bought the supermarket’s entire stock of morello cherries and are now pressing some almond-tasting tea on rich Uncle Cedric. According to the murder mysteries I’ve read, cyanide smells of almonds, so someone collapsing after eating an almond macaroon will raise some suspicion. There will be questions about the source of that macaroon once a ton of cyanide is found at the autopsy and the murderer would be found in no time.

All the ideas I could think of about murder weren’t working out. If you stopped and thought logically about it, everything fell apart. I was facing the awful truth that I’m not very good at murder which is a drawback for a writer. Then I was looking for hand cream and found exactly what I was looking for.

And if everything goes well, I’ll be able to share the story with you by the end of July.

About Steve Adderson

I think the best way to describe my writing career is erratic. I’ve spoken how Forgotten Village ended up as an accidental self publish, and that I had the original inspiration for King’s Silver back in 1997, over twenty years before it made it to print. I have no idea to this day how I ended up being inspired by steampunk (though I’m glad I was) and, to be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to do next.

Steve Adderson was a character that I stumbled into back in 2013. I followed a writing prompt from Write on the Edge for a story prompted by a picture and limited to 500 words. Something about Steve Adderson seemed to work and so he ended up in the response to the next prompt, and the one after that, and the one after that. In the end, I had quite a collection which I pulled together and called Across a Misty Bridge. It was posted in a few places and added on to bits and pieces but it never made it to its own book. After that story ended, he became co-owner of The White Hart and found himself never far away from trouble. I have a soft spot for Steve.

After some very kind comments about Steve on the last piece of fiction, I went back and looked at his story. I’m a much better writer now than I was back in 2013 (though there is still plenty of room for improvement), and I’m not necessarily limited to 500 words. I would love to hear if you would be interested in me going back and rewriting the original series, giving it a bit more life and perhaps adding a chapter or two. It’s almost like I feel that Steve would deserve it. I may also have an idea or two for some stories about him as the main hero, which I also think he very much deserves.

I’m a little hesitant as it’s not new stuff, but it would be very carefully refurbished and shined up. With the shock of losing Three Furies Press, I’m shaking loose a lot of stuff and getting the old stuff properly organised to go forward into the new stuff with a little more energy. Giving Steve a little more polish would be part of that process.

As a reminder, here is the original from 22nd April 2013.

Exchange on a Bridge

Steve Adderson, call centre worker and now dealer with the Faerie Realm stepped nervously onto the bridge.  It was the same concrete bridge it had always been, however now there was a tall man in a motorcycle helmet standing next to his dark motorbike in the centre of the bridge.

The motorcycle rider removed his helmet.  “Are you Mr Steve Adderson?” He asked. 

Steve swallowed nervously.  What had possessed him to deal with someone who described themselves as elfen?  “I’m Steve Adderson.” He said, his voice almost breaking with fear.  “Are you Lord Marius?”

“I am indeed.” There was a hint of impatience. “Have you brought it with you?”

Steve swallowed again.  “Yes, I have.”

“And payment has cleared in your account?” Lord Marius asked.

“No offence, but when I was first contacted I read up a bit and they mentioned fairy gold…” Steve took a deep breath.  Lord Marius was a lot taller than him, and he had a dangerous edge that went beyond the trappings of a biker.

“As a kindness, and hoping for a speedy transaction, I will share some small information.” Lord Marius leant casually against the railings of the bridge.  “If you are dealing with the elfen, never take food, or drink or cash.  Cheques are usually safe enough, though nothing in any path is guaranteed.  And this treasure that you bring me, which has been bartered hard for, well, that is an illustration of elfen foolishness.  You were contacted by Lord Cerdig.” Lord Marius sighed.  “He does not see a great deal of the sunlight realm.  He ventures here rarely and his influence is waning, particularly amongst the younger members of his court.  He seeks to bolster his position so he finds something that his more powerful neighbouring prince covets to buy aid and support.” Lord Marius shrugged.  “However this neighbour is in the grip of a strange obsession.  It is a curse of our kind.  He is quite desperate for treasure such as you carry, no matter how odd it seems to others, he pines for it.  So Lord Cerdig offered highly for it, lest another find it first and win it from you.”

“I was a bit surprised.” Steve said.

“Your treasure has some value in your world, but it is not the same value as that to a desperate elfen prince, buying the heart’s desire of a much needed ally.” Lord Marius sighed.  “Please give it to me.”

Steve hesitantly handed it over.  Lord Marius took out the object, examined it with careful fingers and then finally nodded. 

“It is exactly as described.” Lord Marius said.  “Here is a bonus from Lord Cerdig, all the papers are in order.”

Steve’s reflexes caught the car keys that Lord Marius threw at him.  The very new BMW car keys.  And then he watched Lord Marius ride off into the mist carrying with him a package that would cost, at the best valuation, one fiftieth of the price of the second hand BMW he had been looking at longingly in the local showroom.  And some elfen was now the owner of a 1936 Rupert Bear Annual, mint condition.  He held up the keys to the growing light.  What was the car equivalent of fairy gold? 

Please let me know what you think – time for a spruce up?

My Writer’s Life 3rd May 2023

Look what I made! I’ve been sorting out a pic for the new story for Royal Road and I managed to do this! I’m speaking to someone incredibly talented who will do the proper one as things work out, but I think that this will do for a place holder. I’m still surprised that I managed anything like this! I fail at pictures.

Going forward, fiction will be posted here and on Royal Road. You can see where I’ve started here. I hope you feel able to have a look around the site. There’s a lot of interesting stuff on there, and some great stories. I’ll put chat and news on here and Substack, so that you can get a notification if you want one.

I’m looking forward to the Coronation. Yes, I am a loyal subject of King Charles III, and my ancestors would turn in their various graves and resting places if I didn’t show respect, but I also admit that I’ll be watching it as a writer. I’ll want to know what happens and when and there’s a chance that it will suggest ideas for scenes in books later on.

Image of Charlemagne and Einhard from WikiCommons

And I keep wondering about the coronation of Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor. He’d gone into Italy and down to Rome to help out the pope at the time, Pope Leo III. Apparently the Pope crowned him Holy Roman Emperor in a sort of ambush, without warning Charlemagne before hand. And apparently Charlemagne tried to refuse it. It’s hard to believe that a wily operator like Charlemagne wouldn’t know what was coming, and that he wouldn’t spot a large, shiny crown hanging around as he knelt to pray. On the other hand, being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor meant that Charlemagne and his successors kept getting dragged into Italy’s very complicated and fragmented diplomacy and regular warfare. And what the pope bestowed, the pope could take away and the struggle for authority didn’t encourage peace. The conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV, for example, was epic.

Saturday will mark a change, a point in British history, a moment when it is officially done and seen to be done. I’m looking forward to it immensely (and I’ll be taking notes)

Author Fail

The last few weeks have been more turbulent than average for me. This has led to two problems. On one hand, I’ve found less time for writing. On the other hand, I’m getting distracted and I am far too easily distracted at the best of times. It’s not a great combination.

Today I should be sharing Invitation Accepted Chapter Seven as well as the collection of short stories Whisper in the Shadows. Neither are ready and I sincerely apologise. However I am tidying up the last bits of both of them and they should both be ready in the next few days. Chaos is still continuing here, but I can see my way through it. I hate failing the wonderful people who are kind enough to read my work. I will share my work as soon as it’s in a fit state to be seen, and hopefully soon.

Meanwhile I’d like to share one of my favourite poems. I copied it out and pinned it to the wall when I was a teenager and the delight of it has never left me.

I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today –

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro,

And a rainbow held out its shining hand –

So what could I do but laugh and go?

Richard le Gallienne

A Writer’s Life 8th March 2023

It’s nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m actually feeling quite energised. I have to give some credit to Joshua Pantalleresco and his wonderful encouragement when I was on his podcast (you can find it here). I also feel restless, which is never a good sign. I fragment with too many ideas if I don’t keep myself in check.

I am going to take a massive risk and share plans. Anyone who knows me is probably either wincing or sniggering because my conversion rate of plans is pretty low, but I want to give a heads up on a few things.

You may have noticed that I have new covers for Forgotten Village and Digging up the Past from the amazing people at I re-edited and re-formatted both of them and actually put in chapters. This is a giant leap forward in my ability to format. In the next few months I plan to go through all of my self-published books to tidy them up and get decent covers. Some of them may finally get into paperback form. As a part of this, on 30th April I will be taking down Under Dark Hills and Dark Picture from my blog, tidying them up, smoothing them into a novel and giving them lovely new covers before publishing as an ebook and paperback a few months later, probably both in the same volume, possibly bound with Across a Misty Bridge.

Later this month I will be publishing a collection of slightly darker short stories called A Whisper in the Shadows. Some have been previously posted on this blog, but I’ve taken down so that they can be part of the collection. There’s some new material as well, of course, to make it fair. That will also be available in ebook and paperback form, but the paperback could be delayed because I am technically inept.

I am having a blast writing Invitation Accepted and the plan is that the story will also eventually end up as an ebook and paperback, but we will see how that goes.

I’m working on my productivity, so watch this space for hopefully plenty of new stories. As I have the attention span of a concussed duckling, I have no idea where my next stories are going, but I hope that you will be able to enjoy wherever they lead. I’d love to hear what you think.

Hugs and good vibes to all.

Getting On With Things

I have finally got The Forgotten Village published as a paperback. I feel like I should do a lap of honour around the study. The novel was first published as an ebook in 2012 and was my first attempt at self publishing. I recently had an awful review of it, which I read and thought that, well, it’s a fair one, so I’ve edited the book, divided it up into chapters and found a way to get it into paperback. I’d like to give a shoutout to who have been amazingly tolerant of my requests while creating this awesome cover.

To celebrate this, the new updated version of the ebook will be free on Amazon between 24th February 2023 and 28th February 2023, calculated midnight to midnight PST time. I hope that you’ll be able to enjoy it in its new form and now would be a great chance to update any old copies of this that you have.

It’s been a strange start to the year for me. I have been inundated with ideas for books, which I’m working on, I’ve done two podcasts, the first with Hidden Bookshelf about writing in general and the second with The Pajama People, who invited me to discuss horror movies and we talked about The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp. It felt very odd listening to them. The sequel to King’s Silver is with the editor as we speak and will hopefully be released in August – watch this space!

I have also finished the equally overdue editing of Digging up the Past and I’ve commissioned a new cover for that as well. I’ll share when that goes live. I have also almost (but not quite) finished the new material that goes with the collection of horror and supernatural stories that I’ve taken from my blog. Invitation Accepted – Chapters One, Two and Three will almost certainly end up as part of a novel that will eventually move to Amazon, and I can’t wait to work out how on earth I define the cover for it!

I would love to hear what you think and what you would like to more of. I think that Kane needs his own novel, and I think that there are a few characters from the White Hart that may turn up again, but I would be interested to know what’s important to you.

I Need to Sleep

I’m having trouble sleeping at the moment. I have a lot going on and as soon as I shut my eyes I have all the thoughts whirling around. It’s just as bad when I’m driving. I have nearly missed so many turns because I’m trying to concentrate on a plot. I forget more than I pick up at a supermarket and I have a habit of forgetting things are running. Last night’s thoughts went something like this…

Okay, time to go to sleep. I’m warm and comfy and tired.

I didn’t put a wash in before I went to bed. I think everyone has clean shirts. Well I’m not bothering with it now. I’ll sort it out in the morning.

I should put down some notes about that idea for a vampire story. I can do that in the morning as well.

I wonder if vampires worry about having a clean shirt? I mean, the vampires in this story I’m planning wouldn’t but the ones in that story would. Do vampires sweat? I suppose underarm stains would be the least of their worries. Blood is tricky to get out. The best way to get stains out is to hang them in sunshine, but that could be a problem. And Victorian vampires would presumably send them to the laundry. Would they get questions about the stains? Would they be charged extra? I would charge a fortune if I had to deal with all that bloodstained velvet.

Never mind the laundry – go to sleep!

I wonder about the location of the next fantasy story. I suppose I could move some stuff around. I’ll need to make some notes on that tomorrow but I need to get some sleep first.

I just can’t imagine a vampire with a washing machine. And I really can’t imagine Dracula looking along the shelves for laundry bleach. Would he use laundry bleach? There must be Victorian stain removal guides. No, I am not going to look them up now. I’m going to sleep.

I bet werewolves would do laundry. They’d have to go with the unscented stuff, though. I don’t think I’ve seen a ‘lamppost’ scented laundry softener. Mind you, that’s putting werewolves with dogs. Perhaps they’d like a nice scent on their clothes and they’d be able to tell the difference between brands, like those old fashioned adverts. I really need to get to sleep. I’ve got the school run in the morning.

Okay, tomorrow I need to do the school run, pick up fruit, write up notes about the vampire arc and the ideas of the fantasy setting. I wonder if vampires get the werewolves to do the laundry? I mean, at least the werewolves could hang stuff out in the sun.

Forget about the laundry! I need to sleep. Tomorrow I need to drop off at school, pick up fruit, make notes and I need to check on the meter reading.

That’s another thing about vampiric laundry. All the crypts and tombs are short on things like washing machine points. They’d have to send the laundry out.

How about medieval vampires? They have servants and everything so they could just have their laundry done. Mind you, I bet it would have been a problem to get blood stains out then. I am not looking up medieval bloodstain recipes at this time of night. My search history is peculiar enough as it is.

Perhaps I could have a chase through a steampunk laundry. I bet that would be atmospheric. There were huge boilers and lots of racks of clothing. Mind you that might be better for something like a ghost story. I should make some notes about that tomorrow. With the vampire notes and the fantasy notes.

Now that I’ve got the sequel to King’s Silver to the editor, I should get cracking on the sequel to Under the Bright Saharan Sky. Where did I put the notes. I need to add them to the notes I’m making tomorrow. I wonder if I can get an aether-powered, steampunk, subterranean laundry into that plot. I don’t know why it should be subterranean, but it feels right.


Christmas Memories

This is a stock pic of a chicken from Unsplash taken by Claudio Schwarz and nothing like the Godzilla of the avian world that we faced at Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Instead of the flash fiction that I normally post on Mondays, I thought that I would share some memories of Christmas which not only explain why I can get very tense around this time of year but also perhaps explain a little of how I came to see the stories in the world.

My parents divorced when I was quite young, and it was quite unusual in that part of the world at that time. I was the only child in the school with divorced parents. Nowadays there is a sort of rhythm in shared parenting when both parents try their best as people have an idea what to expect. My poor parents just made it up as they went along.

Me and my brothers were still quite young and fully believing in the magic of Christmas. My mother did her best on a very tight budget and had a few tricks to keep us happy. One of which was that we didn’t decorate until Christmas Eve, and that we had to make a lot of the decorations ourselves. She had hoarded shiny paper and eggboxes for months and they all came out, and after a lot of effort, running around and glitter, we were exhausted and collapsed into bed early enough to get a good sleep. Mother wanted us out of the way for the last of the wrapping and the stockings and she wanted an early night.

Father doted on us as kids and was desperate to see us open our presents, so he would come around on Christmas Eve, sleep on the sofa and then be there when we clattered down the stairs at 8am (mother really had us trained on this!). Every year he promised that he wouldn’t be late, he would be there at 9pm – 9.30pm at the latest and everyone could have a nice early night. Every year my mother pretended to believe him. Every year he was late.

Back in those days, if a pub or bar wanted to keep their licence then they had to close at 10.30pm, and it was strongly enforced by police who didn’t want more fuss than necessary on a night that they didn’t want to work anyway. However a lot of the working men’s clubs would informally have a ‘lock in’. That is, they would lock the doors to the general public but the bar manager, staff and their favourite customers would stay after hours and have a few drinks extra. Father was a very social person. He was a member of the clubs for all the political parties in the town plus a few clubs affiliated with businesses that he had never worked for as well as all the social clubs. He was great company, a happy drunk and always willing to buy a bartender a drink. He could take his pick of lock ins and he frequently did. He usually rolled up at our house around 1am, happy and swaying because he had to celebrate Christmas and it would have been bad manners to leave.

Father’s favourite tipple, image from Unsplash, taken by Anders Nord

When my brothers and I dashed down on Christmas morning we would find father perched on the sofa and looking fragile while holding a cup of tea in both hands. Mother would be banging in the kitchen. They did their best to keep a brave face on as we fell on our presents (mainly books), but there was a lack of Christmas cheer. Father was desperately hungover and mother, due to waiting up for father, had barely got enough sleep to get the sheets warm before she had to crawl back down stairs to sort out Christmas dinner. And that was also father’s fault.

It wasn’t exactly father’s fault, but that didn’t stop mother. Mother cooked Christmas dinner for all of us, including her ex-husband, and in return father donated the voucher that his work gave him as a Christmas bonus together with the turkey. The voucher wasn’t huge and was for the local small supermarket, but it covered stuff like potatoes, sprouts and stuffing, and mother was grateful as, like I mentioned, money was tight. She didn’t have such a charitable attitude to the turkey.

You see, father had an uncle and later a cousin who had a farm locally and they ran a few turkeys. I never visited but I could almost hear them thinking, ‘we can’t let our kid have a small turkey’. I remember mother pleading with father to get a little one, or even just a turkey crown, or a chicken. There were five of us (three small kids, father who had a normal appetite and mother who ate like a bird) sitting down to Christmas dinner, so it didn’t need to be too big. It was no use. I think the smallest one was 18lb (just over 8kgs) to 23lbs (around 10.5kgs). We only had a small electric oven. More than once my mother had to take out the oven shelves, line the bottom with foil and grease the sides. Turkey is supposed to cook for 20 minutes per pound and twenty minutes over. A 23lb turkey would take 8 hours, and mother would never be able to rest if the oven was on, so she was somewhat sleep deprived and tetchy. At least it had turned up plucked and dressed, though I believe it was a close call a few times.

Much daintier than the roast potatoes we had, image from Unsplash, taken by Jonathan Farber

Along with my brothers, I would quickly lose myself in one of the books that Father Christmas had left. I would still be aware that after at least two more cups of tea, father would go to offer help in the kitchen. There would be more banging.

Then we would all sit down to the feast. Mother firmly believed that you should only put what you could eat on your plate. There were plenty of goodies dished up, but a reasonable portion, and we could go back for more if we wanted to. Father believed that the world would end if you could see the tiniest bit of plate exposed under Christmas dinner. There would be mounds of potato, barricades of turkey and a lake of sprouts dammed with stuffing. He would eat about a third. Mother would mutter darkly as she handed around the Christmas pudding. Father wouldn’t feel it was Christmas if he didn’t have a good helping of Christmas pudding with extra brandy butter, brandy cream and rum sauce. He ate about a third of that as well.

Then we would be faced by the remains of the turkey. Even with father’s best efforts, we would barely make a dent. Father would take a huge box home with him for Christmas supper. It would probably last him over a week as he had a very poor idea of food hygiene and a notoriously iffy stomach. Mother stuck rigorously to keeping cooked poultry for no more than three days, perhaps stretching it to four in desperation. Our freezer was tiny so there was no chance of freezing any leftovers, and I suspect that after three days mother couldn’t look it in the wishbone. And with everyone in the UK having turkey, we couldn’t give the damned stuff away. We always finished up with a glorious turkey scouse which was the food of the gods and far better than Christmas dinner (and father usually turned up for that as well).

And then, with a certain amount of relief, things were over for another year. I can genuinely see the point of view of both of my parents, and they both did their best to bring magic to their kids for Christmas Day. It got better over the years, but it sort of stuck with me and I learned from it. This year, me, my husband and my son had steak for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. It may not be tranditional, but it doesn’t take 8 hours to cook.

The Longest Night

I love the idea of solstices and equinoxes. I love the idea of the wheel of the year turning and four times during that year there is a sense of balance. I love the feel of the rhythm of it.

I love the markers of the passing year. I always notice when the forsythia first comes out in spring and watch for the first dandelions. They always look so sunny and are one of the first wild plants out and welcoming bees. I love the rhythm as Palm Sunday and Holy Week lead to Eater, followed by the schools having fits in the run up to exams, and the caravans and motorhomes coming out for Late May Bank Holiday. I love the progression from FA Cup, to Wimbledon, to Charity Shield, to school uniform shopping, then gearing up to that time at the autumn equinox when the day and night are the same length, then the year slides down through Halloween and Bonfire night to the first storms and the first frosts and the longest night of the year.

It is rarely the coldest night here. The solstice, like Christmas, feels like it ought to be the middle of winter, but for me it’s the start. September, October and November have been spent winding down after summer. If I was any sort of gardener it would be about getting in the last of the harvest and preserving it. Then it’s time to get the big blankets out and the warm sweaters and make sure that the heating, of whatever type, is working properly.

The real winter starts, for me, in January. It’s usually getting colder then and the last traces of leaves have gone from the trees. It’s a hard slog through the grey days, past Valentine’s Day with all the artificial pink and red, and into Lent and spring again. Where I live I am statistically more likely to see snow at Easter than Christmas. This longest night is more like the start of a sleep, where you snuggle down in a warm bed and dream. Then the days slowly start getting longer and you see the first green hints of growth and you are back into the sunny rollercoaster of growing things.

This dark, long night is like a pause. We’ve journeyed down into the dark of the year, but now we pause and gather our strength to climb back up towards summer. Perhaps for me it is a better time for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a standing time, where nothing is moving and it’s a chance to look back at the last year and gather our resources for the next one. It is a moment of soft quiet between the tinsel and the parties.

As a writer, it feels like a time for stories. When it is bright and sunny, I feel like I ought to be up and doing, out and about and generally being active. As the nights grow longer and colder, it feels more like a time for telling tales by the fireside. So I will taking the quiet moments in the next week or so, between all the fun and family, to take stock of my stories and get ready for the upswing into the New Year.