Friday 8 June 2012

#FridayFlash - The Usurper

Alicia stood in the living room, drawing patterns in the thick pile of the carpet with her toe. She'd only started dating Sean three weeks previously, and this was the first time she'd visited his house. On the way from the station, Sean confided that she was the first woman outside of his family to set foot through the front door since he lost his wife nine months previously. Talk about pressure.

"Sweetie, I forgot to do the shopping so the fridge is a little embarrassing." Sean's voice floated through the open door from the kitchen.

"That's okay, hon."

"Do you fancy pizza? We can order something in."

"Yeah, I haven't had pizza in ages. Have you got a menu?"

"Try the telephone table."

Alicia saw no flyers on the table, only an ancient Bakelite telephone. She pulled open the drawer, and was confronted by a mess of old receipts, batteries of assorted voltage and takeaway menus. A leaflet for Raymondo's Pizza lay on the top, pinned down by a silver plastic hairbrush. Alicia thought of Sean with his close-cropped blond hair, and gazed at the long red curls entwined in the bristles of the brush.

"Found it," called Alicia. She closed the drawer and set the flyer beside the phone. Sean appeared in the doorway, drying his hands with a scarlet towel.

"I feel really silly about this," he said.

"It's okay, it happens," replied Alicia. She forced a smile.

"What kind of pizza do you fancy?"

"I'll let you choose. I'll eat pretty much anything. I'll just nip to the loo while you look at the menu."

Alicia ducked out into the hall and padded up the stairs. She found herself torn between relief that she wouldn't have Sean's infamous cooking inflicted on her just yet, and annoyance that he hadn't planned ahead. He could have at least bought something to chuck in the oven – it wasn’t like he didn't know she was coming.

She pushed open the bathroom door and movement in the mirror caught her eye. Alicia started to apologise, sure she'd walked in on someone, but scanning the room, she saw it was empty. Must have been my reflection, she thought.

After flushing the toilet, Alicia looked for the soap, but saw none on display. She opened the cabinet above the sink, wondering if Sean put it away between uses. Her eyes roved across shaving foam, shampoo and spare razorheads. She paused when she reached the pale lavender bottle of violet-scented shower gel. Testing the weight with her hand, she guessed it was half full. Behind it lay a packet of makeup remover wipes, dried out with age.

They must be Manda's, she thought. I doubt that shower gel is Sean's - look, there's his Lynx Africa gel. And unless there's something he's not telling me, he doesn't look like he wears makeup.

Alicia squirted a blob of Sean’s shower gel into her palm and washed her hands. She closed the bathroom cabinet, and started when she caught sight of a figure behind her. Sunlight glinted on long red hair, but when she looked again, the bathroom was empty.

Alicia backed out of the bathroom. Downstairs, Sean ordered a pepperoni and Cajun chicken pizza over the phone. A sharp bang to her left made Alicia jump. She looked around and saw that a small photo frame had fallen from on the bookcase at the top of the stairs. She picked it up and peered at the photo; Sean and a beautiful redhead standing on a beach at sunset. Sean wore a tuxedo, and the redhead wore a wedding dress.


Alicia frowned. She turned to look back in the bathroom, and glared at the mirror. Alicia screwed up her face in a silent snarl, and put the photo frame face down on the bookcase. The redhead in the mirror’s reflection glared back.


Sean stood at the bottom of the stairs, still holding the phone.


“I’ve ordered the pizza.”

“Oh. Erm, I’m really not feeling well, I think I might have a lie down before it gets here.”

“Are you okay?” Concern clouded Sean’s face.

“Yes, it’s just been a long day, that’s all.”

“Alright. Well the bedroom is the room on your right. I’ll come get you when the pizza arrives – he said it would be about forty minutes.”

Sean ducked back into the living room. Alicia headed into the bedroom, and scanned the walls looking for more photos of Sean and his dead wife. She heaved a sigh of relief that only landscapes adorned the walls.

She clambered onto the bed and lay back, her head sinking into the pillow. The firm grip on her stomach relaxed, and she stretched out.

Alicia was on the cusp of drifting to sleep when a knock on the wall jerked her awake. Condensation fogged the glass of the photo frame opposite the bed, obscuring the print of London by night. Alicia hauled herself upright and stared as letters appeared in the moisture.


Alicia didn’t remember the flight down the stairs but she found herself in the downstairs hallway, pulling on her shoes and reaching for her coat. Sean poked his head around the doorframe.

“Alicia? Where are you going?”

“Home. I can’t be here.”


“It’s your wife.”

Sean sighed and a pained expression settled across his features, adding ten years to his face.

“She’s dead, Alicia. She died nine months ago. I’m over it, honestly. I’ve told you that.”

“Try telling her that, then.” Alicia gestured to the grinning reflection of the redhead in the hallway mirror. The front door slammed behind her before she registered the surprise, and fear, on Sean’s face.

She didn't hear him beg for mercy.

Thursday 7 June 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

I was saddened yesterday to hear that Ray Bradbury, the legendary writer, had died at the age of 91. The author of such classics as Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes has been widely credited as a huge inspiration to hundreds of writers, and is often believed to be the figure most responsible for bringing sci-fi to the masses. He certainly inspired me, and I'm sure his books will continue to inspire new writers for years to come.

Goodnight, sir, and thank you.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers

Sometimes it's easy to fall into the trap of saying "I'm a writer...but what now?" Well we all need to keep working on improving ourselves (see my post on continued professional development for writers) and I've decided to devote the next few weeks to working on Jeff Goins' 15 Habits of Great Writers program.

I stumbled across it through my Google Reader, and we're now onto Day Two. Day One was simply an affirmation - a chance to say "I am a writer". I know that some people have problems with admitting this, possibly believing others will think writing a frivolous waste of time, or worrying that others might dismiss their ambitions. I'm quite lucky that I've been writing for so long that it's firmly entrenched in who I am - both in terms of my sense of self, but also my 'persona'. Everyone who knows me knows I'm a writer, and I usually get introduced to other people as being a writer, so telling people what I do is quite straightforward. But here, just to benefit from the repetition...

I am a writer.

There. It's online so that makes it binding.

Day Two is all about belief - something with which I often struggle. Belief implies blind faith in something, and I'm the type of cat who appreciates empirical evidence and tangible proof. Jeff wants everyone to get up two hours early and do nothing but writing. Now, I get up at 6:30 for work, and there is no way I'm getting up at 4:30, particularly since I often don't get to sleep until well after midnight. He says "this is how you know you really believe something". Well I disagree on this point, but I WILL be building an hour of writing into my day. I can't see the point in waking myself up early to write when I know my brain won't be working yet, and I'll just stress about it if I find I can't achieve it. So I'll be making the task more achieveable by tailoring it to fit how I work.

I won't be blogging my progress on a daily basis, but I'll try to keep you updated as to how I'm getting on. Why don't you join me?

Monday 4 June 2012

Photo Prompt 88

New prompt available!

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The 88th prompt is Victoriana.

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!

Sunday 3 June 2012

Jubilee Yarnbombing

I don't normally post about things in my life outside of writing but I thought, in the spirit of the day, I'd break with tradition and talk about both current events AND one of my hobbies! As some of you know, I'm a keen knitter and I really enjoy putting together new projects. Well everything I've ever done pales into insignificance alongside the recent yarnbombings in Saltburn, North Yorkshire!

Yarnbombing is essentially graffiti composed of knitted or crocheted objects, although it doesn't damage its environment and it's easily removed. In Saltburn, the guerilla knitters first struck with a set of Olympic themed figures along the pier, and now they've done the same for the Diamond Jubilee up by the clifftop lift. Aren't they fantastic?!

Jubilee chinaware

Royal Couple

Queen Victoria

I think this might be the Queen Mother but I'm not sure!