Daily Prompt – Pat on the Back (Short Story)

I am proud of many people but this is the story of one of them. Lets call him Ralph.

Pat on the Back

Ralph loved his job, in fact he was one of the best at what he did. The people around him would look on enviously and as a result pick on his clothes and look.

“Does he have a quiff?” they would giggle behind hand disguised mouths, but Ralph would ignore them. He walked on his way happy with his life and himself.

Ralph was a strong man. Just under six-feet he was able to lift engine blocks, you see he was a mechanic. But his current job was teaching maths, he had to branch out or lose his job, so he’d accepted an extra post teaching maths for those who could not understand the confusing numbers. They were the dregs from school, and they came into Ralph’s class knowing there was no hope. Ralph gave them hope.

He would walk out into the towns gardens and ask them how many of these or that and suddenly the young adults would be doing maths. At first they would walk with heads stooped and backs rounded, but eventually they would stand straight and look at their peers with clear eyes.

One day though Ralph was in a hurry, he had to get from one level of the college to another. To do that he needed to get down five flights of steps. He walked these so many times that he had no need to watch his step. So he didn’t, instead he chatted to the students with him. It happened with a laugh.

Ralph laughed, his foot hit an empty can of drink and he fell. The files he carried flew from his hands and the students gasped. But Ralph didn’t fall forward.

He fell back. It saved his life but as he smashed onto the concrete steps something cracked. Maybe if he had stayed still, but he didn’t. He jumped up and limped on.

“Must get to class,” he said. He did love his job.

Except he had broken his back. Ralph was slowly becoming worse and he never realised. Every twist and turn hammered another nail into his career.

A month later he was told of his broken back and that there was nothing to do. Six month later he only had 30% movement and six months after that he admitted defeat and left his job.

Ralph became depressed, but, and this is the reason I am so proud of him, he got up from the sofa one day and looked out of the window.

“I’ve decided,” he said. “I want a small-holding and I want to be self-sufficient.”

Six months after that he had his chickens, geese, turkeys, market garden, sheep and pigs. And for that, for pulling himself up and doing it with only painkillers and determination, I pat him on the back.

He is my hero.

Next month I will…

Next month I am determined no to worry. My parents say that I worry about there not being anything to worry about but lately there has been. But I have decided that it helps no one – least of all me. So no worrying.

I want to finish the child’s book and get about 4 more chapters done for my dissertation/novel. At least that is the wish… Whether I’ll manage is another matter, but if I don’t I’m not going to worry about it.

I also want to write some short stories and I was wondering about doing some of the logline challenges at Write So Fluid… Not all of them, I’m a bit busy for that, but a few would be good. After all you never know were the next big idea will come from.

My Current Project

Just the one? Not me! I have a slight commitment problem so I have a couple of projects on the go, but the main two are –

  1. Echoes – this is a series of children’s books written for ages 9 and over. It tells of a girl called Crystal who is thrown away by her parents. She goes to live with her grandparents and finds out that she is a time guardian. It is a mix of fantasy and history.
  2. The Dissertation – ‘A Terrible Beauty’. This is a novel for adults about a female serial killer. Except it is also a romance and a classic crime story of a chase between Ash (the killer) and the police.

I’m using the two to keep me going, when the novel gets too heavy with research and literary language I quickly swap to the children’s book which is full of action and dialogue. It’s kind of odd writing the two at the same time, but the characters of both books are screaming just as loud as each other. I know that makes me sound weird but the characters always tell me what they want to do or see. I just report what they say.

I will keep you posted on how the two are coming along, but so far they are both in the early stages. 🙂

Short story – ‘The Run’

It’s about family and the fact that they needn’t be blood relations. Enjoy 🙂

The Run

Nelson’s Row is the toughest street in Clapham. Hell, even the coppers go down it in twos; too scared to take the walk alone. So it is surprising when a small boy of about fifteen turns into the street with a swagger in his step and a smile on his face. The street is quiet, but then it is about four thirty in the morning and most of the houses won’t begin to show life for another half an hour. The lad goes to one side of the street, leans against the wall and lights a cigarette. Taking an empty packet from his trouser pocket he carefully opens it out so it is a flat piece of cardboard. He then carefully folds the pack back up leaving the rough card on the outside. The gold insert that is still stuck to the bottom he carefully rips off and drops. The small piece of paper blows away and floats onto a step just down from where the boy is standing.

“Oi! Tom! This yours?”

Tom looks over and blushes. “Sorry missus,” he says and walks over. “He in?”

The woman looks at him and places her hands on her hips. “He is,” she says, glaring at the boy. She doesn’t want to see him, not with him wanting money, but doesn’t want to say anything, not with her husband inside and within earshot. Stepping aside she says, “Go in and mind the bucket.”

Tom nods and ducks inside, turning as he passes her to place a quick peck on her cheek. He has to go up on tiptoe but her blush and smile is worth it.

“Cheeky sod,” she says and pushes him in the direction of the sitting room. As he turns to enter she taps her head and Tom dutifully removes his flat cap. Inside, the range is burning and giving off a welcome heat. In the one good chair sits a large man.

“Let’s hear them,” he says with a gruff voice. Tom gets out the cigarette pack and a small stub of pencil. The man doesn’t even look up; instead he lists off a series of names and numbers. When he stops he finally hands the boy a small envelope of cash. Tom finishes writing down the figures and takes the cash. “You got all that?”

“Yes, sir.”

He turns back to the range and Tom knows he is dismissed. Popping the pack and the cash in his pocket he heads to the front door. The Missus is on her hands and knees scrubbing the step. Tom can see her hair is just turning grey and her hands are chapped raw from the water. For a moment he stands quiet, then he says, “Missus, I need to get out.”

The woman looks at her clean step and sighs. Standing she lets him pass. Tom takes a step back and launches into the air, missing the step and landing in the cobbled street, his metal bottomed boots ringing sparks into the road. The woman ruffles his hair, a smile on her face.

“Go on with you, Tom.” He grins and jogs, off his boots clattering his progress.

The next three houses run without a hitch and Tom knows he only has one more to do. He’s left this one to last. The Missus of this house is young and Tom likes her. Her old man he doesn’t know. He works and Tom doesn’t see him. Instead she will give him the bets. As he walks to the house he sees that she is scrubbing the step, later than the others. Stopping next to the step he coughs.

“Tom,” she says warmly. “You okay?”

Tom grins. “Yes missis, fine. Yourself?”

She ignores the fact that he has asked only about herself and not her husband. “We are both fine, thank you, Tom. How’s your mam?”

“She’s good.” Tom reaches into his pocket to bring out the packet.

“Not today, Tom. Said this morning he didn’t feel lucky.” She grins. “Try tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Tom says with a sigh. Not having a bet from them would cut his money, but it couldn’t be helped. “See you tomorrow.”

He turns to leave. Just as he does two coppers start along the street. “Tom!” The woman behind him calls. Standing, she picks up her bucket and walks inside, motioning him to follow her. Not needing to be asked twice he steps into the terrace behind her. “Go into the living room.” He does and she closes the door just as the coppers come into view.

“They’re probably going to be knocking on doors in a bit,” Tom says. The woman nods and goes to the range. There, on top, are some warming rolls. She grabs one and shoves it into his hand.

“The back door.” She points past the scullery.

Tom leans forward and pecks her cheek, turns, and is gone. She sighs and wonders why she is willing to risk trouble for Tom, a bookies runner. Then the answer comes to her. She sees him almost every day and he has become family. Hell, he’s become family for the whole street. She’s doing no more than anyone else would. A knock sounds at the door and she jumps. Sighing, she walks to the front and opens the door. She says nothing.

“You seen the kid?” one says.

She remains silent. Behind her she faintly hears Tom’s boots scrape the top of the wall and she smiles at the coppers.

Daily Prompt – Life after Blogs

Life after Blogs

I have a favourite programme on TV called “Life after People”, it shows broken houses and abandoned cities. It reminds me that the world will go on without us and the images can be hauntingly beautiful. But a life without computers?

Well, my desk would become more cluttered and I’d have to get a number of reference books. My study would look more like a library, or more than it already does. I’d also have to visit the library more often, luckily I am only 30 minutes away from the national library. But if there are no computers does that also include the ones in your car? In which case it is a hell of a walk to get there. Thinking about it I’d probably have to get a horse and travel by trap.

But my desk would look different. At the moment it is a bunch of papers surrounding a computer but if there were none then there would be just a bunch of papers. And of course a fountain pen and ink. I love writing with a fountain pen.

It wouldn’t stop me though. I’d have to write, it keeps me sane. And when I wasn’t writing I think I’d be telling stories. I used to before I started writing. You see, I thought that dyslexia was too much of a hurdle so I didn’t write. Now I know that it isn’t a hurdle at all but only a slight bump in the road. But if I couldn’t blog then I would have to tell people my stories, long and short.

No computers would change how I did things but wouldn’t change what I do. I am a story-teller and that is what I will always do, just as long as people are willing to listen or read.

Marketing Strategy

If you are a writer should you have a marketing strategy? I mean we write for a living (or try to), so why do we need to do anything about marketing? Well, if you have a blog you’ve already started.

As writers we write and most of us have blogs or Facebook pages or twitter accounts or some other form of social media. Most of us do this for a writing fix. It can be hard-work being alone and, the fact we can write a small piece that is instantly published on a blog and then people can show their approval by liking it, makes you feel good. And makes you want to continue to write.

But this simple act means that we are holding the doors open to the world and yelling at the top of our lungs – look, do you see what I can do?

We are branding ourselves. I have another business and as soon as I realised that I was going to blog with the writing I recognised the strategy. First of all you come up with a name. Which was easy – it’s my name.

Then you has your USP… Anyone not in business will have no idea what this is, but it is your unique selling point. Everyone has one or two. I have two:

  1. I am dyslexic
  2. I only started writing in Jan 2011

This may not be why people read your stuff but for any publisher or agent it is important. It can be the life you have led or the way you write. It could be what you write or the trouble you have to write. It is what make you – you. And even if you haven’t consciously thought about it you will probably already have put it in your ‘about’ page.

Then there is your logline. The line that describes you as a person, or your book. Look at the top of my blog and you will see mine:

A guide to being a dyslexic on a creative writing masters course

Although I do more than the creative writing course in the blog it is a brief description that describes what the blog is about. Soon I’ll have to change it as the course is coming to a close and I will probably describe what I write. It gives people an idea about what they are going to read. Pick up a book and you will see them on there. For example I have one in front of me that states “Funny Verse and Nothing Worse” and its a kids book of poems, or “The Scream meets the Exorcist” which is a young adult horror book.

That little line can be the reason behind people reading your work or not, so it is important.

Suddenly you are not only writing but you are also branding yourself. You are creating a marketing strategy without even realising it. What do you write in your blog? Whatever you want, but remember once it is published it is out there.

Even the avatar picture you use is important. One person I know who is excellent at this is the Opinionated Man. He markets his blog as a Harsh Reality and it works. He has worked out the look, logline, avatar – the whole nine yards. Brilliant!

So even if you don’t think you have a marketing strategy, if you have a blog you do. It’s just recognising it and altering it so that you get the very best from what you type.

My Bio and how to write one

I recently did a course on how to get published and they gave me a ‘how to’ on writing a biography so I thought I’d share it…

Author Biographies

For use in cover letters, to agents, websites and blogs… and anywhere else that needs them.

  • Keep it short – I have a 50, 150, and 300 worded biography saved that can be used when needed.
  • Write it in 3rd person – my first ones were always.
  • Make yourself sound unusual and interesting… What makes you different? If you had to write an article heading about yourself, what would it be?
  • Is your work history relevant? – I always mention that I haven’t been writing long.
  • Are your qualifications relevant? – in about a year I may get to mention the MA (if I get it…)
  • Have you liver anywhere interesting?
  • Prizes and previous publications – mention them.
  • Include your web address and blog details.

And that is about it. Sometimes you need a long bio and sometimes a short one, so I suggest that you write a few that you can choose from.

This is my attempt with a 150 worded bio…

Kate Murray has been only writing since 2010 when her Aunt brought her a leather bound journal for Christmas. Nothing unusual about that, but she didn’t write, in fact she’d only tried to keep a diary for one year. She had done it but it had been a chore. So she started 2011 by enrolling on to a local writing course. It was free and she thought why not, after all she was always telling people stories. That’s where she differs, you see she is dyslexic and has been actively steered away from writing. Don’t get me wrong, her parents are really supportive and now she’s at university studying an MA in creative writing she has a mass of support. But that first step into the writing group was terrifying. She’s now studying at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David and thoroughly enjoying it.

I have got to include the places I have been published but I am pleased with it so far. 🙂