The Fool

Down what thrush hole
swirling escape
A pirate’s dream
doth now awake

Combat ye soul
what is it worth
A bag of shells
a riptide pulls

Where would thou hide
if not sidestep
An island’s coat
a harbor rest

Seek shelter from
the world outside
Thou are misunderstood
fool is your card


Winter Song

Where the road bent away the sidewalk was bright and cold and where the sun reflected back from the snow the road trapped noon shadows cast by bare oaks.  Parked cars lined one side of the road. The road curved away and up out of sight between the old brick houses with roofs made bright from the sun on the snow.  Bare oak limbs glistened and shed freezing clear droplets of moisture onto the cars lined up below.  Plumes of white exhaust escaped a car coming to life down the road.  It was cold and bright from the snow.

He waited, leaning against the hard metal cross-bar of the bike rack with his feet planted in the fresh cover of snow.  The bike rack sat in the shadow of the cafe he had been inside a few minutes ago and it was warm inside the cafe.  The snow in the shadow had not melted.  It felt good leaning against the round of the cross-bar.  It felt good where the hard metal bar hit his back just below the belt.  It was cold in the shadow and he wasn’t wearing a jacket, but it was not too bright so he could see better.  He could hear droplets of water striking the cars lined up below the oaks.

Three people approached passing through the shadow and disturbing the snow and heading for the entrance of the cafe.  He could hear them stomp free the snow that had collected on their boots.  Bells jingled releasing the aroma of wood-fired bread, onion, and roasted garlic into the chill of the mid-day air.  Notes of conversation cut short by the slap of wood and muffled jingle as the door snapped closed.  A second door bounced open and closed at the back of the cafe.  Tobacco cut through the warmth of the bread and garlic.  It was cold in the shadow.

Another person approached heading down from the road that curved up and away.  Wool cap pulled down over her ears, hands jammed in her pockets, keeping to the sun and careful not to slip in the snow.  She reached the bike rack without breaking stride and he was no longer resting his back on the bike rack.  She crossed from the sun into the shadow, removed her hands from her pockets and pressing her head against his chest wrapped her arms around his waist.  He held her close, hands high on her back and liked the warmth of the top of her head as he rested his cheek on the curve of the wool cap.

“I missed your car,” raising his head, looking down into sharp grey eyes.

“It’s down around the road that way.”

“I mean I didn’t see it.”

“It’s new, I don’t have Keys anymore,” eyes pelagic now.

“Where is she?”

“In a field above the plateau where the mountain goats sometimes come to eat the grasses.”

‘This place was easier to find than I thought,” glancing back over his shoulder, nothing meaningful to add.

Together they turned away from their place at the side of the cafe toward the sidewalk and followed the footprints of all those that passed this way before  The surface was tricky where melting snow filled the footprints and they were careful, hand in hand, to where they knocked the slush from their shoes and made the bells ring.


Tranquil Mountain

Look at the colorful scenery,
Smell the fresh greenery;
So many places to be,
In this open country.
Streets of tar;
A midnight star,
The ten-acre lake side;
Visual senses satisfied,
The good with the bad;
The happy and the sad,
Have you ever been a happy bride?
Experience that blissful ride?
After all of that energy high,
Just take a relief sigh;
Did you ever cry?

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When the writing flow stops – 12 TIPS to keep writing

Rosie Johnston

At our last Churchill Writers session, we started off talking about our perfect writing days, when the muse is our best friend and the writing flows like chilled mojito down Papa Hemingway’s throat. Then, of course, chat turned to how we keep our writing going when things are not so good.

We came up with this list – feel free to add your own:

  • Keeping a journal can limber up the writing muscles and clear the mind before you start on your novel. Liz Lochhead has described it as like skimming the top of a good broth before it’s served.
  • Congratulate yourself as much on a good session of wool-gathering or writing exercises as on producing pages. It’s all needed.


  • A trick I learned from journalism is to get a rough draft down, quickly, last thing before bed if need be, so that you have something to work on…

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Nuuk and Maarit – Episode Three


“Where are you?” Words escaping bursting bubbles of confusion.

Brass trumpets accompanied by the percussion of sheet metal hi-hats and splash, a calliope of rattle-trap crowing and thin-tin bells ringing. Indeed it was time to wake up. Maarit’s alarm clock turning gears and dancing across the smooth currents of wood in her bedside table. Fatigued from her journey. Having a rough time waking from the cool blanket wrappings of deep blue sea.

“Good morning,” words to herself, reaching an arm out to calm down the new day’s reminder. The blow from the side of her hand nearly toppled the glass there filled with fresh water. Early morning sun just prying open the slats of her blinds. Needing the flick of her desk-lamp switch to brighten the room. Illuminating.

And from the block shelves and shadow boxes, a little girls toys frozen in their dance. A toy horse, tail braided balancing on its back legs, kicking at the sky. Books of adventure one laying on its side, pages read over and over again. Picture of her grandmother holding Maarit tight. Several dolls long forgotten, living in the margins of yesterday’s fancy. Sailboat, sail puffed out proud from a child’s manifest. Droplets of water tracing the line of the keel and finding the floor.

“Good morning Maa…,” this time Maarit’s mother opening the bedroom door to greet her daughter….trying to make sense of the puddle.

“Now Maarit that’s the last…,” tone a warning caught in her throat as she considered the contents of the glass about filled to the brim. An odd chill to the room and scent of high adventure. Breaking the surface of the pool with the flattened palm of her hand. Ice-cold.

“But it wasn’t me…”

“Salt,” as she placed a wet finger-tip to her lips. “Where did you say he is from?”

“I’ve been there,” were Maarit’s words as she acknowledged her mother.

Nuuk and Maarit – Episode Two


“What is that?” Maarit puzzled the gnarly grey spike.

“It is time,” came back the reply as Nuuk spun in a circle looking beyond the tip of his horn and up past the moon.

And knowing no fear, but to be alone, Maarit stared at the creature in the center of the hole and into the darkness below and the deep and the cold. Ice that surrounded shaped smooth formless shadows and the tips of the wake kissed the air as they collided. Maarit now in full flight.

The shock from the cold caused a burst of white light as her lungs filled with fire and then her world faded to black. Icy sharp fingers reached out for the child as she spiraled and sank, but it was Nuuk that dove hard and reached Maarit first. Reaching out with a fin he found her wool covered hand. What was black was now blue and then green and then yellow and had the warmth of a good night blanket. A new world righted in that moment below the ice floats and Maarit stopped her descent. Shaking her head it was her turn to float.

“I can swim!” voiced in wonder that knew nothing of swimming.

“Of coarse you can swim,” it was Nuuk’s turn to speak. “Of course you can swim with that very fine tail.”

Where there had been mittens now there were webbed fingers with nails shaped like key hooks and where boots and then feet now a length of flowing tail. A tail that streamed out into the breeze of the current to wave like a flag made of very rich silk. Shimmers of metallic green, purples and pinks and then joined at the knees. Silver scales interlocked in a wrap of her legs reflected what light that was able to survive a trip through the dark.

“I can breathe!”

“Of coarse you can breathe, you can breathe just like me.”

Taking a moment Maarit felt the thickness in her throat and could count the sensations as her neck pulsed with her breath and her hair swum about her face in an opaque halo of lace.

Nuuk was swimming in circles around and around observing Maarit glow accepting her form.

“Let’s go let’s go there’s no time to waste!” Nuuk pointed his horn to the south and much deeper.

“Where are we going?” Maarit’s words bubbled as she checked for her watch.

With a twist and a thump of his powerful flukes Nuuk was clean out of sight leaving nothing behind but his own trail of bubbles. Bubbles that started as small as pin-points and then grew and grew in size to the shape of grand holiday balloons and from inside the bubbles the sound of brass trumpets announced it was indeed time.

Ten reasons to write short stories, even if you’re a novelist.

I spent a lot of time on short stories – now I feel much better about that 😉 Another thought-provoking post from DOUGLAS WILLIAM THURSTAN SMITH.

Douglas W. T. Smith

At first, I thought writing short stories would ultimately distract me from my novel projects, in fact they make your other projects stronger.

Here’s ten reasons why you should write short stories:

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Chasing Stars

A Writer's Soul

Let’s chase the stars together, catching the wind and her stories,
Each whispered so gently; I missed the most important parts when you wandered off, running to catch you, but you were already far too gone…
Mine to have, mine to hold, but you were like the tide,
Falling in and out with the moon, coming and going with the night sky,
You were mine once, but this love was gentle, so gentle, too gentle,
That one strong gust of wind came, and you were gone.
She carried you off, let you dance onto the next cloud,
And I was left alone in that meadow,
Wishing on a star that had already granted another’s wish….

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Work in Progress – Todor Zhivkov’s 67th Birthday

Back into my archives for this one…here are some bits and pieces I was brainstorming while considering the anniversary of the assassination of Georgi Markov.


Oxenholme Station sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Kendal, and has done so without recognition since est., 1847. A place where a man in a fisherman’s sweater, flat-cap and ratty old field-bag would be a routine observation.  That said, would it be routine if the same man made the same arduous serpentine up to the green slate terminal almost every day for the last four years, rain or shine, reason or not? The specific days varying week by week, and month by month? This September morning had both rain and reason. Under a cooling air that signaled the arrival of Fall this man was expectant, excited, the train would be at the platform soon.


Approaching his destination a discordant symphony of aging tannoys announced the pending arrival of the 12:17 from Euston Station, London. Seven minutes. Jim maintained a casual gait, breathing, as he made for the east side of the station where the northbound train would soon arrive.


Several kilometers after departing the terminal Jim played out his role, feigning illness, unable to continue on.  He excused himself from the train at Penrith intent on returning to Kendal aboard the next southbound train.  At the last possible moment the passenger offered Jim an umbrella, a shield from the mist turned drizzle as the wind kicked up. The black umbrella tucked out of sight between the passenger’s seat and side of the cabin. Jim accepted the kindness apologizing one last time for having to abandon the day, leaving his guest to forge ahead alone.


With calling points at Carlisle, Lockerbie and Haymarket the passenger would change trains twice, clothes once and spend the night at a bed and breakfast once eighteenth-century farmhouse, long hair cut short, blue eyes no longer blue.


Resting in front of burning coals, scotch in hand, the guest prepared to examine in detail the contents.


Folded within the brownish wrapper was a series of maps that when sequenced detailed a crude line north through Scotland, crossing the Flow Lands of Caithness, the breeding ground of the dunlin, greenshank and golden plover. Caches flagged in the usual manner.


Plotting a course to the north-east the route terminated at land’s end, leaving to supposition an undocumented North Sea crossing from Peltland Firth to the Orkney Archipelago and onto Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen or Larvik. It didn’t matter.

4 Tips for Writing Round Characters

Lately I’ve been spending some time working on developing more salient characters when these novel ideas found their way to my inbox…

Writer's Blog


I’ve never had a character come to me fully formed and ready to go. They come to me like ghosts and I have to make them real by getting to know them over time. Creating (good) characters is hard work, but when you take the time and effort to make them ’round’ it’s always worth it.

So what is a ’round’ character? E.M Forster wrote in Aspects of the Novel, that:

The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat… It has an incalculability of life about it – life within the pages of a book.”

Someone once told me that if you can imagine the character existing outside of the novel, if they have lives that reach beyond their role in the book’s plot, they’re round. It’s all about putting life back in those…

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