Salvador

empty-st-marks-avenue

(850 words)

Waves lap at his toes. Gentle, quiet, rippling waves. Benny Saris stares out over the undulating blueness. Here goes. He begins to wade out. The water is freezing and goosebumps cover his body like a rash. Muscles cramp agonisingly in his groin. He looks back at the desolate beach and the empty guesthouses on the front. It’s no good, suicide’s the only option.
He’d awoken one week earlier after a heavy night, drinking almost two bottles of wine and ordering books on Amazon until the early hours. He’d looked at his phone. Almost midday. His head felt groggy, blurred. Funny, there was neither phone nor WiFi signal. He got up and went into his small, shabby kitchen, drew the curtain and looked down on the street far below. The road was empty, just parked cars. No-one in sight. He cast his mind back. In the five years he’d lived in the dingy flat, he couldn’t remember that. There was always traffic, passersby on their anonymous business, people waiting at the bus stop. He filled the kettle and flicked the switch. Damn! The power was off. He stood at the window. Silence. Absolute silence.
Benny went around his cramped flat, flicking switches. Nothing worked. Bloody Hell, this is weird! He pulled on a sweater and jeans. Going out onto the landing, he jabbed the lift button. Nothing. He began to worry. He rang old man Stalewski’s doorbell, then knocked loudly on the door. No response. Perhaps the old bastard had died? He jogged down the stairs, thinking to call at his friend Sonia Schliefer’s, but something kept him going, flight after flight, until he arrived in the lobby. He went out into the street and it hit him like a brick to the head. Where is everyone?!
The street had an aura of malaise, an indefinable look of neglect. Paving stones that had seen a million footsteps, abandoned. He crossed over to Sanjays. The door wasn’t locked. Yesterday’s newspapers stood in a stand. The usual racks of chocolate bars stood on the counter. He helped himself to a couple, then walked to a door – ‘Staff Only.’ Pushing it open he found himself in a short corridor. Light came in through a dirty skylight. On one side was a stock room, piled haphazardly to the ceiling with newspapers and magazines, cans of soup, beans, pot noodles and suchlike. On the other side lay a tiny kitchen and toilet. The toilet bowl was dirty and stained green. In the kitchen stood a cup with brown liquid in it. He smelt it. Instant coffee. It was stone cold. What the Hell’s happened to everyone?!
Benny felt a shiver run down his spine. Perhaps it was some kind of drill? One he just hadn’t heard about. Yes, of course! He tried to convince himself.
He spotted a radio behind the counter, battery powered, thank God! He pressed a sweat-stained knob and the radio burst into life, a loud, monotonous hiss. He turned the tuning knob and then changed the bands. The hiss came and went at different pitches, but no music, no pseudo-cheery DJ, nothing.
Now, with the freezing sea up to his neck he knows there’s no turning back. A small wave hits him in the face, soaking his hair and making him retch with the salt. He remembers walking the streets of the seaside town, shouting for help, companionship, he didn’t know what. Then going into houses, at first entertained by the wonderful entrapments of other people’s lives. Knowing he could have anything, take any painting, ornament, crockery, jewellery … if he wanted.
Maybe he’d died, gone to Hell, but didn’t realise?
He feels his numbed feet leave the seabed and swallows another mouthful of salty water. He retches again and nearly throws up. Suddenly he hears a sound he recognises, a sound from a thousand years ago. He suspects he’s delirious.
But no, it’s definitely there. With his heart pounding he turns and swims a few strokes until his feet are back on the seabed once more. He looks around and sees a black object approaching. My God! It can’t be! The object comes closer – it’s a dog, a black labrador! The creature paddles towards him, whining and barking between pants. He swims towards it. Close now, he sees the dog’s eyes, wide, brown, the whites a little bloodshot. Then its paws are on his chest and, bobbing in the sea, the dog tries to lick his face. It’s going crazy now, barking excitedly.
“Steady on boy, you’re OK!” The frantic touch of the animal’s paws makes him think. There’s a caravan park a few miles down the coast. Caravans have batteries and gas canisters don’t they? Refrigeration and power! He realises he is, after all, not alone. He has a responsibility to care for this animal now. Maybe there are other people too? They swim to the shore together.

Back on the beach, both wet through and shivering, he notices the dog has a collar. “Here boy!” He examines a metal disc. Salvador. How ironic! His eyes fill with tears.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Advertisements

Incident on Putney Bridge

putney-5

(700 words)

Impressive! A glance at his TomTom runner’s watch showed it had taken him just fifteen minutes to reach the kiosk. Smiling inwardly, he anticipated uploading the GPS data to Strava, and satisfaction at the thought of his running mate, Eric’s, face when he saw it. Ha! Who’s the better runner now?!
It was early, just gone 7.30 a.m., the pavements of the City of London still sparsely populated. Suited young men and women scurried to offices like robots, perhaps hoping to arrive early enough to impress the boss.
Towering buildings, beacons of opulence, homes to banking headquarters and financial institutions, dominated the area. Within their hallowed myriad offices, computers communicated thousands of impenetrable transactions a second with similar institutions in unimaginable places.
The sun was bright, the air fresh and Orlando felt good. He’d gone to bed early after a glass of expensive chianti, and slept a dreamless sleep, waking to the alarm at six a.m. He’d taken a shower, then performed some stretching exercises in his small neat garden, Victorian red brick walls protecting him from prying neighbours’ eyes. He thanked God for those barriers, high enough to keep the neighbours’ wretched cats out. He didn’t want those damned creatures scratching at his flowerbeds. His mind recalled a forbidden memory. A black cat digging in a rose bed in his previous garden. Taking a spade, he’d …. Don’t go there!
He’d taken the morning off, then later today, in his role as a top investment banker, he would be advising a Middle Eastern conglomerate. That was seriously big money, even for Hyland’s. He smiled at the thought of his commission, more than many ‘plebs’ earned in a lifetime!
Hot and sweaty, he stopped and paused his watch. A woman was deliberating over her coffee order. Hurry up you silly cow, just buy a bloody cappuccino! Orlando bought an espresso doble, so plenty of room left in the large cardboard beaker for running with it. He pressed the lid on, gave a curt ‘thank you,’ restarted the watch and began to run again. He’d stop at the park for the coffee.
He reached Putney Bridge, feeling a spring in his step after the short break at the kiosk. Then a stab of annoyance. What was her name? Sally! Two hundred metres away, strutting along the sunlit pavement as if she owned it, just on the edge of the long shadow cast by the parapet. Sunlight sparkled on the river, a pretty sight, but he felt too perturbed to appreciate its beauty. What the hell was she doing here? She worked on the other side of the city. Unless she’d changed jobs?
Traffic roared past as he approached. She was mouthing something, looking at him with anger etched on her face.
Orlando was almost upon her. ‘All’s fair in love and war.’ What was her problem? He determined to run past and ignore her.
“You bastard, I’m pregnant!” she shouted.
Without knowing why, perhaps fuelled by the adrenalin of running, he swerved into her, turning to give her a hard push with his right hand. Her face showed a mixture of surprise and belligerence. In that split second, off balance, she lost her footing. With his left hand holding the coffee cup clear, he pushed her again as she toppled. Thank God the lid stayed on. He didn’t want to go back to the kiosk again! He carried on without stopping, conscious that she had fallen right over. Good!
After a few seconds he became aware that there was no traffic passing him. He felt panic in his guts. Had she fallen into the road? Don’t look back!
As he passed the far end of the bridge, a multitude of disturbing thoughts competing in his mind, the running began to calm him down. They’d visited hotels booked under his alter ego, Robin Jackson, and she only knew his special ‘dating’ number. She didn’t know where he worked, or where he lived. Would the police trace him? Nothing to do but take the chance. Bluff it out if necessary. He reached the park and smiled. Exactly ten minutes from the kiosk. Despite losing a second or two on the bridge, a personal best!

Related: The ‘Putney Bridge Jogger’ Case: 20 Questions That Must be Answered!



Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

A Baker’s Dozen of Favourites

bread

Here’s a list of personal favourites from my book To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories. Some are long, some are very short, some have been very popular with readers, others not, but they’re ones that, for whatever reason, I find I’m generally still happy to read.

Enjoy!

ADDENDA

For easy reference here are links to three non-fiction posts I published recently. They cover self-publishing, how to write flash fiction, and random tips on using WordPress.

Pills for Thrills

alien-1979-ridley-scott-movie-review-xenomorph-harry-dean-stanton

(600 words)

“Profundity pills?!
“That’s right, three for a tenner, I bought six!”
“Wow, well done!”
Libby smiled, “Yes, they’d just got a new batch in, they sell out fast, I was lucky to get so many!”
The government had just licensed a new recreational drug with one eye on the national debt. ‘Profundity Pills – an exciting and safe way to relive your favourite books and films!’ said the ads. The pills somehow disconnected parts of the brain for a couple of hours, so that you had virtually no memory of anything you’d ever read or watched. A bit like a couple of bottles of wine but without the hangover. Consequently, you could watch a film, like Back to the Future, with no idea of what was going to happen when Marty plugs in his guitar at the beginning, even if you’d seen it ten times before!
Libby went over to a case of DVDs, running her painted red nails over the spines before plucking one out. Alien!
“Wow!” I felt a genuine thrill and some trepidation at the idea of watching it again for the ‘first time,’ unaware of the grisly surprises to come. “Then we could watch The Exorcist” I said.
“Yuk!” she exclaimed, putting the two DVDs on a table.
 –
It was the first time for Libby and I. She handed me two large green capsules. “This way we can watch both!”
I held the capsules in the palm of one hand and a glass of water in the other. “Here goes!” They went down quite easily, despite their size.
We sat on the sofa. After a few minutes Libby giggled. “I was just trying to remember the name of that book, the one about … Jesus … is it?”
“Oh, you mean the B …, the B ….” I just couldn’t remember the name!
I went over to the case of DVDs and scanned the titles. Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jaws. Hmm, they seemed somehow familiar, but I had no recollection of every having seen them, or what they were about, apart from a vague supposition sparked by the titles. I looked around the room, everything seemed familiar, including Libby, I could even remember getting up in the morning, but I just couldn’t remember watching any of those films. “I think we’re ready!”
Libby picked up Alien and took it out of the case. “‘In Space No-one Can Here You Scream!’ This one sounds scary! What’s this other one? The Exorcist, well we’ll watch that after.
“Wow, that was amazing!” I said, nearly four hour’s later. “When that monster came out of …”
“Yes, and when that girl’s head turned all the way round and she …”
“I’m not starting to remember properly yet, are you?”
“Not yet,” said Libby. “Maybe we should watch another?!” she giggled.
Just then the phone rang. It was my sister, Morag. “Hi, how’s you and Libby?”
“We’re fine, just tried those profundity pills, they were amazing!”
“Oh, yeah, I tried one yesterday. I watched Groundhog Day, I honestly couldn’t remember it. Just so funny. Hey, did you see on the news about that idiot who jumped out of a window. Seems he never read the instructions and took two! Then he watched some horror films and couldn’t stop hallucinating!”
I turned to Libby. “Hey, did you read the instructions?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. Why? What’s the big deal?”
“You idiot! Seems like we could be in for some unpleasant dreams!”
“Oh my God.” Her face was white. “Look!” She pointed at my stomach.

I looked down. Something was pushing against my shirt. From the inside.





Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 
 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

EC was Here

eric clapton fretless bass

(750 words)

Profundity of expression wasn’t Brad’s strong point. “I don’t care if you don’t fucking believe me. Eric Clapton’s my mate and if I asked him to come and play here he’d fucking come and play here!”
Fred, the landlord of The Black Swan, coughed diplomatically. “Well I expect he’s a busy man.”
Brad ran a hand through his greasy, swept back grey-blond hair. “He’d still come and play – if I asked him to.”
“Bollocks!” said Billy, a large bald-headed man with tattoos down both muscled arms.
Brad looked daggers at Billy. I’d never noticed how much Brad looked like Dracula before. Give him a cape and the fangs and that look would have killed.
“All right, how much?” said Billy.
“What?”
“How much d’you wanna bet? I say you can’t get him. Five hundred?”
“I don’t want your fucking money!” snapped Brad.
“You bloody liar, you don’t know him at all!” laughed Billy.
“All right then, you’re on. I’ll give Fred five hundred quid tomorrow to look after. You do the same, OK?”
“All right,” said Billy. I’ll give you three months, till September. Eric Clapton to perform in this bar! Never!”
“I shouldn’t really allow betting,” said Fred.
“No-one’ll know if you don’t tell ‘em,” said Brad.
“All right,” said Fred, “just this once, as it’s Eric Clapton!” His eyes lit up at the thought of an interest free ‘loan’ of a thousand pounds.
So the weeks passed. There was a blackboard with the name of the musician or band playing that week. So far the letters ‘E.C.’ had been conspicuous by their absence. It was a touchy subject. Mention it to Brad and he was liable to fly off the handle or, at the least, return abuse. He’d been in the pop business for many years, once a kind of ‘pop star,’ now, long forgotten and unmissed, but a ‘mate’ of EC? The idea seemed preposterous.
Brad’s ‘squeeze,’ Jilly, likewise acted schtum. “I’m not saying anything. You’ll find out by the end of September,” she’d say, with an enigmatic smile and a shake of her curly red locks.
The second week of September I called in on Tuesday for the weekly pool match, on this occasion a home match against the ‘Tigresses,’ a ladies team from the curiously named Coach and Tiger in Thaxleby, an ‘easy’ match – in theory. With embarrassment I remembered our last meeting when the motley crew of elderly ladies had emerged victorious, their near eighty-year-old captain, Ada, winning the final game with a gloating expression on her wrinkled face, “Hard luck boys!”
Then my jaw dropped. The blackboard for the music that Friday indicated ‘Special Guest.’
Fred appeared. “D’you want a drink?”
“Is that who I think it is?!”
“Well, all I know is it’s Brad’s friend.” He raised his eyebrows.
Friday came and, burning with anticipation, I called in just before eight, surprised to find a meagre handful of patrons chatting and listening to an old man wearing a fedora, singing ‘I Walk the Line’ to an out-of-tune guitar. Lizzy, the barmaid smiled at me. “That’s Eric Clapton,” she said whilst pulling me a pint of Old Gravedigger.
“You’re joking!” I said.
“No, honestly, he showed everyone his birth certificate and driving licence, his name really is Eric Clapton!”
“Bloody Hell, what a swizz!”
“Just then Billy walked in. He took one look, then turned to Lizzy. “Get Fred in here, I’ll have my five hundred back!”
Brad appeared, having returned from the toilet. “I didn’t say it was the Eric Clapton did I?” he laughed. Jilly came over and hugged him. She turned to Billy. “No he never. He won that money fair and square!”
Brad and Billy stood a few feet apart, sizing each other up. ‘Eric’ had stopped playing and the bar was ominously quiet.
Fred appeared. “Calm down everyone. I’ve got someone else in to play.”
There was a gasp of amazement as a familiar figure strode through the door, carrying a worn hardshell guitar case and an amplifier. He put them on a table, adjusted his round glasses and ran a hand over his stubbly grey beard. “Hello everyone, just give me five minutes to set up. Fred’s asked me to start with Layla, I hope that’s OK?”
There was a cheer and more customers came through from the restaurant area. I turned to Fred. “I don’t believe it!”

He laughed, “It’s amazing who you can book for a thousand quid!”





Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 
 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

One Year of My Blog: 20 Useful Tips!

 Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 13.05.23

(4750 words approx.)

Well, my blog has been going publicly for exactly one year today, August 22nd! It’s been an interesting and thrilling journey, with huge thanks to all those who have read and/or liked and/or commented on my posts, and/or followed To Cut a Short Story Short!

When I started I never imagined having any followers, let alone over 250! Also, it didn’t seem like I’d ever get any comments, but I’ve since written over 200 replies on my blog, plus probably half as many again to comments on my posts on Community Pool and other blogs! As for publishing two books (see Shop) with material from my blog, well that was something I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams!

Anyway, the point of this article is to give some tips, mainly fairly simple, based on my experience along the way. They’re kind of random, just things that I thought perhaps not everyone might know, and I’m on the free WordPress.com plan so they may not all be relevant, depending on your hosting/plan.

Contents 

(to return to this menu simply use your browser’s ‘back’ button.)

1

2

Comments

Community Pool!

3

Dashboard versus Desktop App

4

Drop Down Menus

5

Followers

6

Getting help

7

Indents, Fonts and ‘White Space’

8

Index/Contents pages

9

Internal Hyperlinks in WordPress Documents

10

11

Menus/Categories

Publishing Your Work in Paperback/eBook/Audiobook form

12

13

14

Removing Blank Lines etc.

Scheduling Links from Blogs You are Following

Scheduling Your Writing

15

16

Spam

Stopping ‘Self-Pings’

17

18

Tags

Uploading Multiple Images to Media Library

19

20

Widgets

Writing Matters!

1. Comments

I make it a rule to always reply to comments, or at the very least, to ‘like’ them if they are brief. I usually find the easiest way is to copy the comment from my original post or community pool etc. into a separate word processing document (‘blog comments’) including the poster’s name and the date. Then I find it easy to answer them all in that document in one go, and then to paste back into the post/Community Pool or whatever.

What I’ve found really useful, is by clicking the date hyperlink on their comment, it takes you directly to the post, whether on the blog, Community Pool or an external site! So it’s very quick to paste my responses in context. Alternatively they can be answered in the notifications area (click the bell symbol in the top right hand corner and choose ‘Comments’) but the text box there is small so you can’t see the whole post in one go. Also, I usually prefer to remind myself of the previous comments on a particular post when I’m answering the latest, in case I want to refer to one.

2. Community Pool

Well, if you are reading this on Community Pool, you don’t need me to tell you that it is a fantastic forum! I saw it recommended for quite a few weeks before having a look, then taking the plunge and posting. My follower, views and ‘like’ numbers leapt up almost immediately!

It’s a great place to post links to your work and get feedback on it. Also, there are hundreds of interesting posts to check out from other bloggers.

For maximum response I’ve found it pays to get on page one, which becomes live at 12.00 local Eastern time in the USA as far as I can tell. Recently they’ve taken to posting the new page at this time, but not opening comments until up to an hour or so later. I contacted the help-desk about both matters but couldn’t get a straight answer to either, unfortunately.

3. Dashboard vs. Desktop App

I’ve found that for some things I prefer to use the Dashboard and for others the downloadable WordPress App.

https://apps.wordpress.com/desktop/

It’s worth trying the same operation in each to see how you find them. As you likely know, the dashboard is reached by typing in your website name followed by /wp-admin. I’ve saved it as an icon on my browser page. Click on that and it takes me straight there.

I’ve found it handy when editing a post to have it open in both the browser AND the desktop app and to edit it in the latter. After making some changes that I wish to preview, I just ‘update’ the page, then switch to the browser and refresh the page displaying the post.

4. Drop Down Menus

After a while the page of posts gets cumbersome, even when selected under one category (see 11. menus/categories), so you might wish to incorporate a drop-down menu. These appear when you hover the cursor over the category in the menu (you can try this now on my menu at the top of the page).

To add posts manually (which you have to if you are on WordPress.com) you go to dashboard/appearance/menus then click on ‘add post to menu,’ check the relevant box and click ‘add.’ It then appears at the bottom of the menu structure.

You then have to drag it into position below the category in question. Then you drag it a little to the right. When the menu is updated it will then appear when the mouse is hovered over the category. This process can be a bit fiddly but you get used to it. To facilitate dragging into position when there are a lot of menu items I select full screen and then zoom out until the menu items are quite small.  

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 14.11.12

In my case the drop-down menus went off the screen, so I added some ‘dummy categories,’ A-D, E-H, for example and created sub-menus under each by dragging the posts further to the right. Then only the alphabetical categories pop up when you hover the cursor over the main category. You can see that in e.g. Longer Stories in my menu above. When you now move the cursor over the alphabetical categories the full menus of stories pop up.

Unfortunately, if you are on the free theme you can only have white backgrounds for drop down menus.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 14.02.58

By this system you can easily locate any of the 160 posts on my blog from the menu along the top of every page.

Here’s a helpful video that explains the process in detail:

5. Followers

I like to keep track of my followers, as they have been good enough to take an interest in my blog! On WordPress.com there’s no easy way to do this and no way to print them out either.

When I get a new follower I get an e-mail notification so periodically I copy and paste the followers’ names into a spreadsheet, together with the date, and the most interesting-sounding of the three posts listed. That takes about a minute per follower.

Then the spreadsheet can be sorted by name or date and it’s simple to click on the post link to check out their blog at a later date.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 12.12.59

If the follower number goes down (it does happen!) then to reconcile my spreadsheet with the figure on my blog, I go to ‘enhanced stats’ via dashboard/site stats (click on the Show Me button just below the date) and click on ‘followers’ in the top right hand corner. This list can be ‘zoomed’ in or out, unlike the app version. Then I go down the list versus my spreadsheet (set in descending date order) until I find the one(s) who’ve unfollowed. People sometimes change their account names, but you can match them from the date and there’s normally still a clue in the new name and/or their avatar. They are then moved to a separate spreadsheet. Sometimes they refollow at a later date. I don’t stress about the reasons for unfollowing!

6. Getting Help

In brief, I’ve found the quickest and easiest way to get help (on the free WordPress.com plan) is to e-mail ‘help@wordpress.com.’ A ‘Happiness Engineer’ will normally respond within 24 hours. If the answer isn’t particularly helpful (not unusual!) then another, hopefully more appropriate, answer is less than another 24 hours away! [But see section on displaying HTML in posts at end of this article.]

7. Indents, fonts and ‘white space.’

Normally I paste text into the editor from my word processor (Mac Pages ’09) after removing blank lines and new line codes via textmechanic. (Another way is just to paste it straight into HTML view.)

To get an indent of approx. 0.5 cm, I go into HTML view in the editor and add the following code at the beginning of the first paragraph of text:

< div style=”text-indent: 20px;” >

(there should be no space after the first and before the second angled brackets)

Then I go back to the Visual screen and go through the text, hitting ‘enter’ wherever I want a new paragraph i.e. indent. It will now automatically indent the text at that point. I haven’t found an easier way as yet, despite some spurious ‘advice’ from the help-desk! (Seems like you have to be on a paid plan to do it via CSS).

https://www.hscripts.com/tutorials/css/text-indent.php

Fonts: In the customizer select a nice clear font for your display text and be sure to include some ‘white space,’ i.e. blank lines. I’ve seen blogs with huge paragraphs of unbroken text that are just too hard to read, unfortunately. I use Cinzel for headings and Lora for display, both ‘regular.’

Creating blank lines can be a problem. If there’s a blank line in the editor but not in the preview (not uncommon!) then you can go to HTML and delete any superfluous < div > symbols, or just put a period or dash in the text and colour it white with the text colour tool in the menu. This latter method has the disadvantage that the dashes/periods will appear in black under certain circumstances, e.g. when printing and in the WordPress Reader.

Incidentally, if you don’t want a blank line inserted in the WordPress editor when you press Enter, then use Shift-Enter. (That also works in Facebook, Whatsapp etc. to force a new line instead of sending.)

8. Index and Contents pages

If you want to go a step further than just a menu you could create separate pages for index and/or contents lists. I do this by having spreadsheets of the entries and periodically copying these into the blog pages, having added the latest stories/articles.

Once the page is uploaded I might edit it before the next update, e.g. remove ‘scheduled’ from scheduled posts, add a link etc., so to make sure I have the latest version in my spreadsheet before updating the next time, I copy it from the web page (in edit mode) back into the spreadsheet.

What I found was that to copy from the blog page into my spreadsheet (Numbers ’09) – in order to incorporate any online changes I made – I have to do this from the browser (I use Firefox), one column at a time. To paste back into the page I have to use the desktop app. Then I simply erase the old table from the index or contents page and paste in the new spreadsheet table to replace it.

I have found issues with copying and pasting WordPress that didn’t used to exist – for me, anyway – so to enable some copying and pasting within WordPress using Firefox I have to do the following:

In a Firefox tab, type ‘about:config,’ accept the warning, then in the search box type ‘dom.event’ From the few that come up select ‘dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled’ and toggle the value to false by double clicking. I don’t find it necessary to restart the browser, it works straight away. Then I can copy and paste from one post to another with e.g. coloured text, links enabled etc. When I’ve finished I toggle the value back to ‘true’ and close the tab. Otherwise I can’t copy and paste to e.g. Facebook. Problems, problems ….

9. Internal hyperlinks

In this article I listed all the ‘tip’ subjects at the top (under Contents) and set links to jump straight to them. So internal hyperlinks can be pretty useful!

Creating an internal hyperlink in a WordPress document is not completely straightforward, but is quite easy once you’ve done it a few times. The process involves going to the point you want to jump TO and typing an ‘id’ into an HTML tag. Then, in the normal Visual view, you set a hyperlink from the point where you want to jump FROM.

The link below explains the process well, but I’ll give an example. In my contents list I have an item – Widgets. So in HTML view I locate the header for that item. It is a level 3 header so it will be in the form of:

< h3>Widgets</h3 >

Then it is modified to:

< h3 id=”widgets”>Widgets</h3 >

(there should be no space after the first and before the last angled brackets)

Note that I could have named the id, “Fred” or anything I wanted, but here “widgets” seemed sensible!

Then I go to Widgets in the contents list at the top and in the usual Visual view I double click the word Widgets and then click the link symbol. Then in the URL box I type a hash symbol, followed by the ‘id’ I wish to jump to, in this case #widgets. Now once the page is updated and previewed, clicking Widgets in the contents list jumps straight to the relevant paragraph. Neat!

https://www.wendycholbi.com/anchor-links-jump-links/

10. Menus/categories

When I look at other blogs I usually have two questions. What is the blog about and what is actually on it? Often it is by no means obvious! Sometimes it’s just a long page of posts of indeterminate length and you even have to scroll through them to find the titles, they’re not listed elsewhere.

So, ‘What is the blog about?’ is easy, just have an informative ‘about’ page and an obvious link to that page. You can set it to be the Front Page (via the customizer), so that people land on it when they go to your blog. And clicking the header in any page takes you there too.

‘What is actually on the blog?’ is more complex but I’d recommend at the very least you install the ‘recent posts’ widget.

The main menu in my theme (Sela) appears across the top and I was able to add pages and categories to it via dashboard/appearance/menus. You could add posts to the menu but it would quickly fill up the menu bar.

So every post is assigned one or more categories, and will then be listed in chronological order when someone clicks on that category in the menu. In my case, for the most part I chose length of story e.g. ‘longer stories’ but you might choose travel, food, humour or whatever.

For a more sophisticated approach see 5. Drop down Menus

11. Publishing your work in paperback/eBook/audiobook form.

I wrote quite a comprehensive article about this recently. Basically, if you have 5000 words or more (50,000 plus is good) of decent content, then you can compile it into a document and upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing, where you can also design a cover. The process is pretty straightforward, very flexible, and ‘free.’ The cost of printing a paperback comes out of your 60% royalty when sold. Your book/eBook appears on Amazon worldwide within a day or so! The article also covers audiobook production.

https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/publishing-the-best-of-your-blog-is-as-easy-as-1-2-3/

12. Removing Blank Lines etc.

When posting from my word processor (Mac Pages ’09) to the WordPress editor, new paragraphs are represented by blank lines instead of indents. Occasionally it doesn’t matter but it usually does.

There’s a useful site, textmechanic.com, where you paste your text, click on ‘remove empty lines,’ then paste it into WordPress. It strips all the code responsible for generating blank lines in WordPress, as well as empty lines.

It also strips italics so they have to be put back in manually (as well as any blank lines actually required) and I indent the paragraphs as described in ‘indenting text‘ above.

There are many other useful text tools on the site.

http://textmechanic.com/text-tools/basic-text-tools/remove-empty-lines/

13. Scheduling posts from blogs you are following

If you don’t want to receive notifications about new posts ‘as and when,’ you can arrange a delivery window to receive them. Firstly, go to the Reader, then click Manage under Followed Sites. Then click Settings on your followed sites and decide how you want to receive e-mail notifications from each of them – instantly, daily or weekly, or turn them off.

Then click on the little avatar symbol to the left of the notifications symbol at the top right of the screen. Then click Notification Settings/Reader Subscriptions. You can now set a day/time slot to receive scheduled notifications.

14. Scheduling your writing

Some people like to publish posts whenever they feel like it, whereas others prefer to schedule. I’ve come to definitely prefer the latter, with maybe an extra post on special days such as Christmas Day or Valentine’s Day. I think a weekly schedule is best but to push myself a bit I schedule every five days. Nearly always between 12.00 and 13.00 local time.

It’s useful to have a time chart of different time zones handy so you know what time it is around the world. In my naivety I thought I would just get views from Britain and maybe the USA, I had no idea how truly international WordPress is and I’ve had views from places as far-flung as Azerbaijan, Gambia and Papua New Guinea!

The dashboard has a nice view of scheduled posts on the home page and it’s very easy to edit the scheduled time and category via dashboard/posts and the ‘Quick Edit’ buttons that appear under the post names.

To facilitate scheduling and writing generally, I keep a ‘writing assignments list’ on the wall by my desk, sorted into descending date order, which I update and print every couple of days or so. That way I can be sure to start on a story/article in good time. I nowadays always try to finish something with a few days to spare, then work on something else in the meantime, before coming back to finalize the former. Then I can see it with much fresher eyes and improvements/corrections usually leap out at me!

 –

15. Spam

Askimet seems good and I only once had a problem with Spam. The answer was to check the boxes for ‘Comment author must fill out name …’ and ‘Users must be registered …’ as shown in the screenshot below under ‘Other comment settings.’ I’ve only had once since. At least I think it was Spam …!

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 21.32.09

16. Stopping ‘self-pings’

If you publish a post that contains links to another of your posts, you are likely to get e-mails alerting you to ‘ping-backs.’ I used to publish my index as a post and I would get over 100 e-mails, and on my phone too! The solution is to uncheck ‘Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article,’ as shown above under ‘Default article settings.’

17. Tagging

Any post can have up to 15 tags and categories in total (more than that and it won’t be displayed in the Reader). If you go to the Reader, click on Search and type in some tags (in the desktop app you can type them directly) you can get a feel for how quickly a tag’s ‘timeline’ moves from the times/dates on the posts. So ‘creative writing,’ for example, is a fast-moving stream with a lot of viewers, whereas ‘curious fiction’ has hardly any posts other than my own! I aim for a mix of fast and slow-moving streams. If you tag a post ‘creative writing,’ for example, you are likely to get a quick burst of views, than that’ll be it!

Now, when you publish a post, any follower who has subscribed to e-mail alerts will see either an extract from your post or the full post (depending on your settings in dashboard/settings/reading/‘for each article in a feed …’). This is followed by a list of your tags. If you’re showing just an excerpt, then a lot of space can be taken up by the tags and there’s less room for the excerpt. Also, who wants people to see all your tags? I don’t.

I couldn’t find any way NOT to display them, but found a simple ‘workaround.’ You simply wait until the post is published THEN, after receiving e-mail confirmation of this, add the tags. I go into dashboard/posts and simply copy tags from a similar previous post, perhaps amending a couple. Or you can paste them into a blank document or e-mail, edit them and paste them back in. To see the tags make sure they are enabled in Screen Options via the button at the top right.

Personally I prefer to have excerpts displayed in the e-mail. Otherwise people have no need to visit the blog and so won’t see the nice formatting and picture 🙂

18. Uploading Multiple Images to Media Library

It can be a chore doing this singly. I’ve found I can get a bunch of images (usually from Google Images or Pixabay) and upload them in one go. First I save them in a folder called ‘images.’ Then I go to dashboard/media/library and click ‘add new’ at the top. Then in the window that opens up (with the dotted line around it) I click on Select Files, highlight all the ones I wish to upload (shift and click, or command click if non-contiguous) and then click Open.

Other routes to upload images I’ve tried don’t seem to allow more than one at a time.

It takes a little while for all the images to upload but if you’ve got something else to do in the meantime I find this the better method.

19. Widgets

On WordPress.com we don’t have access to the wonderful world of plug-ins available to self-hosted sites, but some of the widgets available are pretty useful. As mentioned above, the ‘recent posts’ one is great. Anyone looking at the blog can instantly see and click on the list, although of course it doesn’t indicate what the post is about (if it’s not obvious from the title) nor its length. Widgets are selectable via the customizer.

My theme is Sela, which is free. I’ve looked at all the widgets available to me and the ones I use are as follows:

Translate. I’ve no proof as to whether anyone has ever used this but it translates everything, even the comments! Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m sure it could be helpful and it’s quite fun to see your blog in some weird and wonderful language! Also very useful if you are actually learning a language!

Custom Menu. I set links to my About and Contact pages. The About page can always be reached by clicking the header, but just in case people don’t know that …

Search. self-explanatory.

Recent Posts. I set this to 14 posts and entitled it ‘Posts Published in the Last Ten Weeks’ (as I post every five days).

Archives. A drop down box that enables readers to select posts by month. Entitled ‘Older Posts.’

Top Posts and Pages. I ordered this by ‘likes’ and displayed it as an image grid. I think this looks very nice on the page and invites visitors to click on the images.

Follow Button. There are a few ways for people to sign up to follow a blog. This one seems very simple. It’s a blue button which also indicates the current number of followers (if selected). Click on it and you are asked to confirm, then you are signed up. You receive an e-mail about any new posts, unless you unsubscribe from e-mail notifications. (You can always view the posts in the Reader anyway. Just click on ‘Followed Sites.’)

One thing I found is that if you are a follower (I follow my own blog too) and you click on the button again (‘to see what will happen’!) you are unsubscribed, without any request for confirmation in my own case!

My Community. This is great! I have three of these on my blog. It displays a grid of avatars of those who have liked, followed or commented on the blog. I have one under the follower button, set to display followers only, then two in the footer, set to display ‘likers’ and ‘commenters.’ The first two show 50 avatars and the latter shows a smaller number, chosen from recent commentators. My favourite widget!

Recent Comments. This displays the avatar of the commenter together with their name and the post commented on. It doesn’t give any of the comment itself but clicking on the post name takes you directly to the comment in question.

Tag Cloud. This displays all the tags you have used on your posts. The more often they’ve been used, the larger the font. Click on any tag in the ‘cloud’ and it takes you to a page with all thus-tagged posts on it. You can set the maximum number of tags and also exclude any you don’t want displayed.

20. Writing Matters!

Well, I sincerely hope you found some of the above information to be useful. To round off the article, here are a few miscellaneous remarks about writing content, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Writing: I published an article, Flash Fiction Matters, which details how I wrote the stories on my blog and includes links to a number of useful books and websites.

Dictation/screen readers: I haven’t explored dictation myself as yet, but I have found it useful to use a screen reader to read my posts aloud. Then if there are any ‘typos’ I’ve missed it’s easy to spot them. Also, despite its limitations, it does also help to find unnatural sounding dialogue. My MacBook has quite a number of voices/accents available, or there are online resources too.

Touch typing: If you are using the ‘hunt and peck’ system of typing then I can’t recommend learning to touch type highly enough. That way any thoughts/ideas can be transmitted directly to the screen without the ‘barrier’ of having to find the letters first. It only takes a few weeks and will save countless hours in the future!

Timer: I have personally found a timer very useful for writing. I set it to 20 minutes and get up and walk around for a few seconds when it goes off. After three 20 minute sessions I’ll take a 15 minute break if I’m going to do any more writing. Of course, you stop the timer if going to the loo, hunting for ink cartridges etc.!

Displaying HTML code in posts: Well, this was a hard one! I’ve tried everything I could find online and also e-mailed the ‘help-desk.’ They sent one reply that didn’t work and haven’t yet replied to my response, and it’s  OVER THREE WEEKS since I originally wrote to them. VERY disappointing service in this instance.

The problem is that if you display HTML code in your post and switch to the HTML view for whatever reason, then the code is implemented when you switch back to Visual, changing its appearance. You can write it normally as long as you DON’T switch to HTML view before publishing. The usual advice is to use ‘code’ tags but that doesn’t work here. So where I’ve used code in the sections above, I’ve put a space after the angled bracket and an instruction to ignore the space when actually using the code. I’d be most grateful if anyone reading this could let me know how to display HTML in WordPress posts that doesn’t change when switching between Visual and HTML views!

 

Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote right at the very beginning. It makes interesting reading now!

https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/onwards-and-upwards/

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Clarissa’s Missives – Part Three

piano-girl-h-b.jpg

(1500 words)

The third and final part of what became a trilogy! Links to parts one and two: Clarissa’s Missives – Part One, Clarissa’s Missives – Part Two

It was almost 2 p.m. by the time they got back. I’d taken the dogs to the park for a run and a ‘poo,’ poop-bag at the ready, but the grey-haired lady wasn’t on self-appointed duty today. Still, I did my bit, now knowing the ropes.
Henry was the more affectionate of the two, trying to stand on his hind legs, with his front legs on my shoulders, to lick my face, but his head was so far above mine he could only lick my hair, not that I was sorry. He weighed a ton too.
I’d discovered that Helena had quite a large garden – a long rectangular lawn, and a further sizeable grassy area with mature shrubs down both sides. Beyond that lay some steps down to a small stream and an area planted with ferns and bamboo. The whole was overhung by low trees, and there were two iron benches. Numerous Arum lilies graced the area, displaying their large scented white flowers. A pleasant place to sit in summer, I imagined.
There was new wire mesh across the stream at both ends of Helena’s property, so I imagined the dogs were allowed down there, although I wasn’t sure the mesh would hold those two hulking brutes if they felt determined to ‘explore.’ They seemed happy enough to sleep in the TV room for now though, where there were two enormous baskets, so why tempt fate?
I practised the music I’d looked at with Clarissa. In the cold light of day and no pressure of a talented pianist breathing down my neck, it wasn’t so hard. I found a pencil and marked some fingering in for future reference.
Then I had a little ‘wander.’ I looked in Clarissa’s bedroom. A large double bed stood by a huge bay window that went up to a high ceiling. The house was old and solid, likely Victorian I surmised. Clothes were strewn around the room and I saw some panties on the floor by the bed. I felt a sudden urge to pick them up and sniff them, but instead turned to a dresser, covered with spectacle cases and contact lens solution bottles, along with a pack of her violet stationery.
I had a peek in a medicine cabinet, grinning at myself in the mirror. Esomeprazole, Montelukast, Prednisolone, Seratide, Salamol, Beconase and the ubiquitous Ibuprofen, among other boxes and packets, haphazardly stacked. Looked like she had a few health issues! A small pink packet contained Zyprexa – hmm, where had I come across that before? Suddenly feeling guilty, I closed the cabinet, carefully wiping a thumbprint off the mirror. I wouldn’t want her to think I was nosy.
I made a sandwich for lunch, and some extra for the girls, and afterwards began to feel like a spare part. I was just thinking about going home when I heard the door bell ring.
I answered it, relieved to see Clarissa and, presumably, Helena, her sister, laden down with rucksacks and other gear. Clarissa looked old and tired, her blonde hair rumpled and out of place. She managed a weak smile. “Hello, John, I was hoping you’d still be here. I thought it’d save looking for the key if I rang. This is Helena, my sister.”
By contrast, Helena looked ten years younger, was about a foot taller and had short, bright-red dyed hair. She smiled brightly at me with even, porcelain-white teeth. “Hello, John, Clarissa’s told me all about you!”
I wondered what precisely, seeing as I barely knew Clarissa. “I made some sandwiches,” I ventured. “Ham, cheese and tomato.”
“Lovely!” exclaimed Helena, “We’re starving!’
After they’d eaten and tidied themselves up we all sat in a comfortable conservatory that gave onto some variegated shrubs in the lower part of the garden.
Helena looked at me. “You’ve got a good man here, Clarissa dear. His aura is very blue!”
“Pardon?” I said.
She turned her chair to face me directly and her eyes took on a faraway expression. I noticed they were large and pale blue, with wide pupils. “Yes, John, I see a room, a room in your house. There are some guitars, four or five, on stands.”
“She’s training to be a clairvoyant,” explained Clarissa, looking slightly embarrassed.
“Yes, there are some guitars on stands,” I affirmed. Clarissa had no doubt told her I was a guitar teacher!
Helena continued. “And is there a … a cello?”
“No, sorry,” I said.
“It’s just that I see those funny little holes that cellos have.”
Then the penny dropped. “Actually I do have a jazz guitar, it has the same type of holes, ‘f-holes’ they’re called.”
Helena smiled. “Now, your father, he’s in spirit, is that right?”
“What?”
“She means, has he passed over, died?” explained Clarissa, whose interest had perked up.
“Yes, that’s right, seven years ago.”
“He’s here with you now. I’m hearing the name Jim, or is it Joe? Yes, Joe I think.”
I looked around. No sign of the old man! “That was his name,” I affirmed.
Helena stood up and started lurching around the room in an odd manner. “I’m feeling no movement down my right side. Did he suffer a stroke?”
“Yes, he did,” I said, feeling a chill run down my spine.
She turned to me. “He wants you to know that he’s OK now, he’s well again.”
“Oh, that’s good.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“He says you’ve been offered a job, at a private school, but you’re not sure. It seems like there won’t be enough hours teaching for the travelling involved. Is that right?”
I was gobsmacked. That was absolutely spot on and I hadn’t told a soul either!
“He says to take it, it will lead to greater opportunities.”
“All right, I will!” I said and smiled. Well that was a turn up for the books, I’d been wondering what to do about it!
Just then, the ‘reading’ was shattered by a loud howl as Henry burst into the room. He began to bark loudly.
“Henry, stop it!” shouted Clarissa, but, looking from me to Helena and back, he continued his ear-shattering noise.
“Henry, shut up!” Helena shouted repeatedly, to no avail.
Then Clarissa clapped her hands. “Henry, play dead!” Henry dropped to the ground and rolled onto his side, occupying most of the conservatory floor, and becoming completely still and quiet.
Clarissa laughed, suddenly looking years younger. “I taught him that when he was a tiny puppy!”
Henry got up and sat with his head on Clarissa’s lap, making an odd whimpering sound. “Don’t worry Henry, the spirits have gone now,” said Clarissa, soothingly.
“I’m going to show John round” said Helena.
“OK.” Clarissa lay back in the chair and closed her eyes, one hand stroking Henry’s head.
Helena took me round the house. It was much bigger than I’d realized on my little ‘inspection.’ The kitchen was large and modern with oak units and extensive black slate surfaces. It looked expensive. A small staircase led upstairs. “That goes to an annexe,” she said. “There’s a guest bedroom, a bathroom and an office space, but we don’t use them right now. The main staircase is on the other side of the lounge.”
“Uh-huh,” I said, nonchalantly.
We passed through a chilly pantry, shelves covered with jars and packets, and down to the stream-side area. Helena gestured for me to take a seat. “Look, I like you, John, and I know Clarissa does too. But go easy with her. She took a nasty knock when Stan, er, her last husband left her.”
“Stan?” I said, surprised.
“Yes, he ran off with an ex-pupil, thirty years younger than him, can you believe?!”
“Wow!”
“Anyway, poor Clarissa almost had a nervous breakdown, what with the press interest ….”
“What happened with them?”
“Oh, they’re still together. Got three little kids now too!”
We heard a door close up at the house. “Shh,” said Helena.
“Hello!” Clarissa appeared with a piece of paper in her hand, Boris and Henry at her heels, almost up to her shoulders. The dogs lay down by the side of the stream and Clarissa handed it over.
‘The Lucknow Centre presents Circus Skills with The Joules Mangier Troupe – unicycle, juggling, tumbling, clown workshop, acrobatics and more!’
“It’s on Wednesday evenings, six to nine, starting next week” said Clarissa excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to juggle!”
“Me too,” said Helena, “and I’d just die to go on a unicycle!” She stood up and motioned her hips backwards and forwards, as if balancing on one, laughing.
“John, say you’ll come!” exclaimed Clarissa, an earnest expression on her face.
I looked from Clarissa’s wide emerald eyes to Helena’s pale blue ones and back. I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for, but I felt at home here. I’d have to rearrange four students, but, what the hell, ‘in for a penny ….’ I laughed. “I always wanted to run away and join the circus!”
THE END


Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Gravity Hill

magnetic hill

(800 words)

“Not wishing to doubt you Sue, but cars can’t coast uphill, get real!” So said Spencer Schneider, generally regarded as the class ‘nerd.’
“Come on Spence, she says it happened. You calling her a liar?” Johnny Serpa’s tone was hostile.
“No.” There was a hesitation in Spencer’s voice. “I’m just saying there has to be a scientific explanation.”
“Scientific explanation my arse!” retorted Johnny.
“Come on boys, cool it. There’s a simple way to find out. We’ll just drive out there tonight,” said my sister, Sue. Six years older than me, she was infinitely more sensible than Johnny, good friend that he was. I was inclined to believe her, whatever the explanation.
“On whose wheels?” I asked pragmatically.
“Jojo’ll drive us,” said Sue, speaking of her boyfriend.
“Have you asked him then?” asked Johnny.
She smiled enigmatically. “No, but I’ll … make it worth his while.”
We didn’t enquire further.
So that evening Jojo pulled up at the house to pick me and Sue up.
“Don’t you ever wash your car,” Sue exclaimed. “It’s filthy!”
“Look, d’you want a lift or don’t you?!” he snapped.
He collected Spencer and Johnny, then, as we set off, Spencer asked, “What exactly happened Sue?”
“Well, I was with my friend Olivia. She was driving us back from friends in Manchester and our normal route was closed for roadworks. We had to take a detour. Well we were going up this hill and the engine just cut out, it was really weird. She put the car into neutral and it just started moving of its own accord!”
“I’ve heard of this,” Spencer replied, “it’s an urban legend, supposedly the ghosts of a bunch of school kids are supposed to push the car up the hill.”
“What in Hell’s name are you on about?!” exclaimed Jojo.
“Well, at the top of the hill there’s a junction.” Sue took over. “A bus full of kids crashed into a petrol tanker. It went up in flames and most of them got burnt alive. They were the lucky ones.”
We all fell silent, horrified.
Then Johnny laughed, “It’s rubbish, a bullshit story made up to scare kids!”
Spencer continued. “Some people say there’s a magnetic deposit that attracts the vehicles up the hill, but it’s not. It’s just an optical illusion. It looks like you’re going uphill but you’re actually going downhill!”
“That don’t make sense!” retorted Johnny.
“Look, let’s just wait and see, shall we?” said Sue. “It’s just off the road to Redcliffe. I have the co-ordinates from Olivia’s satnav.”
Jojo pulled into the side of the road and programmed in the co-ordinates. “Clever stuff nowadays!” he remarked.
Presently the satnav directed us onto a smaller forest road. The sun was sinking and it was growing darker.
“You have reached your destination,” said the satnav, as we arrived at the foot of a gradual hill.
“Is this it?” asked Jojo.
“Yeah, I think so,” said Sue excitedly, I remember that funny little bridge we just came over.”
Jojo turned the satnav off and stopped the car. “Are you sure?”
Sue continued, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure. At the top we join a bigger road. There’s a ‘Stop’ sign.”
“Shame the kids’ bus driver didn’t see it then!” laughed Johnny.
No one else felt like laughing. We all got out. It sure seemed like any normal hill.
“Come on, let’s go,” said Jojo.
We all got back into the car and Jojo started up the hill. Suddenly the engine conked out.
“Jesus Christ!” Jojo exclaimed.
“Just a coincidence … probably,” said Spencer.
Jojo put the car into neutral and it began to roll uphill.
“There, I told you!” Sue laughed.
“Hang on, I think I know what’s happening,” said Spencer. ”It’s an illusion. The trees aren’t straight. We’re actually going downhill.”
“What the Hell are you on about, man,” snapped Jojo.
“There was a meteorite strike hereabouts. It bent all the trees.”
We reached the Stop sign. The main road was empty. Jojo stopped the car again and we all got out. Looking back the way we came it was hard to tell if it was uphill or downhill if you screened the trees out of your view.
“Look, we’ll come back tomorrow and test it out properly,” said Jojo.
He put a CD on and we relaxed, listening to Steely Dan’s Aja. After a few miles there was a petrol station. Jojo pulled in. “We’re running low on petrol.”

I got out to go and buy some M&Ms. I craved chocolate for some reason. The others got out to stretch their legs. Suddenly there was a scream. “Oh my God, look at this!” Sue stood pointing, her hand shaking. In the bright station lights we could see little handprints all over the dirt on the boot.



Incidentally, I’ve been nominated for a Star Blogger Award by How To Addict, someone who writes very helpful motivational posts, definitely worth checking out! There are 10 blogs nominated for July and the voting closes on Thursday 17th August. If you’d like to support To Cut a Short Story Short, then here is the link to vote. Thanks! 🙂

http://howtoaddict.com/star-blogger-award-nominations-july-2017/ (latest blogs reviewed and voting box at the bottom)

http://howtoaddict.com/spreading-message-positivity-blogs/ (includes a review of To Cut a Short Story Short)


Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Phoning a Friend

horse drawn funeral

(700 words)

Not wanting to dial, but wanting to dial, Jessica Sumner hesitated, her finger poised over her phone’s key pad. She felt nervous. This was silly, she could simply say she’d dialled a wrong number, no one would mind. Her brain commanded her finger to press but her muscles refused to cooperate.
She’d upgraded her e-mail program and a window had popped up, asking permission to migrate her address book. She’d had the option to manually approve the entries. Having some time to kill, she’d checked through the list, one at a time, deleting contacts from her detested last job, waitressing at Burger Legend, and others she wanted to put out of her mind forever. How she’d hated that job, all those cowboys leering at her chest. It wasn’t her fault she was so ‘full figured’! She felt a pang of regret at the name Roland Korzybski though. She’d delete that one later she told herself.
Suddenly, seeing an old familiar name, she felt a lump in her throat and a burning sensation in her eyes. Eleanor Naddeo. Dear Ellie. Jessica felt a tear trickle down a cheek, almost relishing the chance to give in to overwhelming sadness at the memory of her good friend.

Jessica had visited Eleanor almost every day towards the end, looking into the sunken yellow eyes in Ellie’s gaunt face, feeling desperation whilst trying to exude optimism. “You’ll be OK Ellie, the doctors say the prognosis is good.” The next thing had been Ellie’s funeral, the coffin pulled on a carriage by two white horses, Jessica watching with tears streaming down her face. She choked back a sob at the memory. Come on Jess, that was over two years ago. We have to move on! But still, she and Ellie had enjoyed so many good times growing up together.

So now she had the inexplicable urge to dial Eleanor’s old number one last time, just to see who was there. Crazy, she knew. Do it!
“Hello, Eleanor Naddeo.”
It couldn’t be, that was impossible!
“… Hello, is anybody there?”
“Y-yes, it’s Jessica, Jessica Sumner.” Just hang up!
“Hi Jess, I haven’t heard from you. It’s been so long. Just so long. Are you still hanging with Rolly?”
It must be a prank! “Who?”
“Roland Korzybski, your boyfriend, the biker.”
The voice sounded so familiar. “No. No, I’m not. Ellie, is that really you?”
“Yes, of course it is, who did you think it was?” Eleanor laughed her unmistakable laugh, a kind of giggle that rose in pitch.
“Ellie, don’t get me wrong, but you … you died. Two years ago. Liver cancer.”
Eleanor laughed. “Yes, I remember being ill. I don’t remember after that. But I’m OK now. I’m back at college, finishing my teacher training.”
I’ll wake up in a minute, Jessica thought. She pinched the skin above her right wrist. “Ow!”
“Jess, are you OK?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I just …. What college are you at?”
Eleanor hesitated. “I … I forget the name right now. Sorry, I … I seem to forget stuff.” She sounded upset.
“It’s OK Ellie, don’t worry. It’s just great to talk to you! How’s your family?”
“Oh, mom’s fine, dad’s doing a lot of overtime, they’re aiming to go on a world cruise next year!”
“Wow!”
“Chuck’s got himself a new girlfriend, Sandy, a pom pom girl! He’s finished college. He’s working at MacDonald’s whilst he finds himself a proper job.”
“That’s enterprising of him.”
“Yeah, and I get free Big Macs!” She laughed her unmistakable laugh again.
Jessica felt a stab of love and longing. “Ellie, can we meet? I want to see you.”
Again, Eleanor’s tinkling laugh. “Of course, why not? It’s been so long!”
Just the thought of seeing Ellie again, illogical as it was, to throw her arms around her friend and hug her again, made her heart pound. “Wow, that’d be cool. Look, I’m free tomorrow afternoon …” Jessica realised the line had gone dead. Frantically she pressed the redial symbol. Ellie’s number popped up and she pressed the dial button. The number rang … and rang. Come on Ellie!

Finally someone picked up the phone. A man’s voice answered. “Hello Pizza Hut, how may I help?”





Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 
 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Postcard from Hispaniola

Port-au-Prince

(150 words)

Hello Darling, Well they were right when they said the recipe for a great marriage is to live in different countries! Missing you and ‘the babe’ though. Looking forward to our ‘meeting’ in the Autumn! As the pic shows, I’m in Port-au-Prince. Splashed out on a Caribbean Cruise, don’t be cross! Someone said, ‘You can live to be a hundred, if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred!’ At this rate I’ll be dead at sixty! Still, my heart is true to you, never fear! Trust it’s still the same with you? Haiti’s crazy, a place where a black cat at a crossroads stops everyone, but a red light doesn’t! How are the shows going, you don’t phone or message me. All that practice that used to drive me nuts finally paid off. You show ‘em girl! Tarquin xxxx





Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 150! 

 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.