Things that are thicker than water

There is blood in friendship,
it irrigates gardens,
distills in the colours of sunsets,
pours like nectar from the honeysuckle
or rain from storm clouds.

Whispered voices blow in blue winds,
shaking the roses, and petals fall
with the clang of bronze,
but the sea still laps the shore
in the sweet salt breath of the tides,

and the moon’s hand
strokes the waves,
gentle as a mother,
kissing her child’s hair.

Microfiction challenge Moonlit night: the entries

Bit slow off the mark today with the round up, but it let one last entry slip in under the wire. I really enjoyed the stories this week. They explored the subjects of friendship and loyalty with great thoughtfulness, and I think it says something about your sensitivity that the dog was an important character in your stories.




JD’s Microfiction Challenge #24: Anya – Lorraine’s frilly freudian slip


Microfiction challenge #24: Moonlit night | Morpethroad


neelwrites/fiction/200wordstory/27/11/2016 | neelwritesblog

Lady Lee

Microfiction challenge #24: Moonlit night – Ladyleemanila


 Waiting For Iliya. | Ellenbest24


Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge : The slap and hush of the water – Word Shamble


On the backside of Time – REINVENTIONS BY REENA


The Memory River #microfiction | TanGental


Thoughts in the Moonlight: Microfiction | Yesterday and today: Merril’s historical musings


Postcard Fiction: What She Saw, Part 3 | method two madness



Moon Spill


Flash fiction: Sheba Epilogue

Couldn’t resist it.


Hilda Scally put down her cup of tea and her head turned slowly, following the antics of the kitten as it chased an imaginary mouse behind her chair.

“Whose is it?” she asked.

Irene started. The idea that the little cat might belong to someone hadn’t crossed her mind.

“Nobody,” she said, defensively. “It just wandered in.”

The kitten made a grab for Hilda’s ankle and she swept her feet out of the way.

“It didn’t just drop out of the sky, though, did it?”

“I’ll leave a notice in the shop. If anybody’s lost a cat they can come and claim it.”

“I’ll bet it’s got a dozen brothers and sisters,” Hilda went on. “You’ll have ’em all traipsing in sooner or later.”

The kitten rolled on its back and looked at Irene upside down. She smiled. “Sheba used to do that when she was little.”

Hilda huffed. “A dog’s different. More intelligent. You can talk to a dog.”

Irene gave her a look. “Not like your Stan.”

Hilda huffed again and chuckled. “Let’s just say, I get more sensible conversation out of Blackie.”

“I’ve never had a cat,” Irene said. “It’ll be an experience.”

“You’ll have to get it spayed.”

Irene shrugged. “Time enough for that. We’ll see if somebody claims it first.”

She cleared the tea things away and got a piece of paper and a biro out of the drawer. Stripy kitten found Nelson Street, she wrote, and added her phone number at the bottom. She looked at the paper wondering what it would feel like if the phone went and it was someone who’d lost a cat. She knew. She felt it already, the slow, tearing pain of loss. She sighed and the sigh came out as a sob. Suddenly aware that she could no longer hear the skitter and patter of paws, claws and balls of tin foil, she pushed back the chair in a panic. She looked under the table and the dresser, behind the coats in the hall, inside the corner cupboard. Her breath was short, her heart pounding when she found the kitten in the bedroom, curled up asleep in Sheba’s basket.

Irene went back into the kitchen and tore up the notice.

“You’re my Sheba now,” she whispered. “Don’t let anybody tell you different.”


Microfiction: Tears

Ronovan’s Friday Fiction prompt is ‘A sad friend.’ It isn’t just the word ‘sad’ here that’s open to interpretation.


The girl was sitting on her own in the cafeteria. That in itself was an exploit, as the place was pretty full. But she had a space around her, a cordon sanitaire, as if her misery was infectious. Her hair was dangling in her untouched sandwich, but she hadn’t noticed. Probably didn’t care. DJ nudged me and nodded in her direction.

“Sad. But, you know.”

“Know what? Isn’t she supposed to be your girlfriend?”

“Was. And she’s still sad. Every way you spell it.”

“It’s the word friend you need to sort out,” I said and shrugged off the hand he had slid around my waist. He looked at me as if I’d just slapped him, his eyes furious, his lips parted, as his brain struggled to come up with a smart retort. That could take a long time, and I was in a hurry.

“I don’t like you that way, DJ, never have. And now, I don’t like you any way at all.”

The girl’s shoulders trembled. Tears were dripping onto the lettuce and tomato.

“You think I give a flying f—”

She raised her head sharply, and it twisted as if she had radar, towards the sound of DJ’s voice. Her breath caught, and her eyes opened wide and soulful. No anger. No hatred. Just hope. I snorted and headed for the door before the big reconciliation scene got underway and I had a violent urge to throw up.

Finbar Congo and Papou

While I’m waiting for the Finch Books site to go live, and to stop myself from going completely barmy, here’s a Finbar post. The last six months have seen such a change in his behaviour I’m still not used to it.

Finbarlying down

In the six years he’s been with us he has been bitten, chased and bullied by other dogs, culminating in a very nasty attack by a Weimeraner that almost punctured his lung and got him 20 stitches in his right flank.

He became very wary of all dogs, and had a tendency to get his retaliation in first if ever another male dog approached with remotely ambiguous intentions. Letting him off his lead became a nerve-racking experience. Would he just scare the daylights out of the other dog or trample it to death? I even bought him a muzzle so he could practice running around with other dogs without biting their backsides when he caught them. It didn’t work. He just pulled the muzzle off with his outsize claws.

Then he met Congo.

Digital StillCamera

Congo is a Weimeraner, big and bouncy, and as far as Finbar was concerned, a serial biter. At first he would freeze and refuse to go a step further when he saw Congo. Then the penny dropped. Congo liked him. And when he ran after Congo, it was Congo who was scared. That was at the beginning of the summer and since then they have been best friends. Congo is big enough not to fall over when Finbar barges him, and not fast enough to ever beat him in a race. It has given him so much confidence that he even invites other dogs to play with him and doesn’t have to be put on his lead every time another dog looks sideways at him.

Last week we met Papou. A galgo from the same awful hole near Seville that Finbar was rescued from.


Papou is nearly twelve but he still enjoys a short 40 mph sprint. Galgos aren’t demonstrative dogs unless something winds them up. Then they lose it completely and have so much fun they end up doing themselves an injury. One reason Papou doesn’t encourage Finbar who is younger and stronger to chase him. Papou is sensible.

Finbar and Papou hanging


and just doing what dogs do.


It might not seem like much, for a dog to go out for a walk without being constantly on the look out for trouble, but it’s a big step forward for Finbar and makes me feel happy for him. Maybe soon we’ll be able to think about adopting that friend for him.

Editor’s pick: Friday

Last November, Literally Stories published Friday, a short story I wrote about an old neighbour here in Bordeaux. June Griffin chose it today as one of her three editor’s picks. You can read her review here..

You can read the story of François and how he made a new friend here

Thanks to June for the review, and to the editors at Literally Stories for publishing Friday.

The painting is by Verrocchio, but you’d think he used Vendredi as the model.

The Eye-Dancers

It’s been a while since I last posted. Been busy writing and editing, and doing a bit of reading too. This is the book of a blogger friend, YA and also fantasy in a way, that has intrigued me for months now. Well done, Mike Fedison; you’ve written a book about children that gave this adult food for thought.

I had already gathered, from following the author’s blog that, although the boys who feature in this story are quite young, this wasn’t going to be a straightforward comic book adventure. In fact, the action is secondary to a thoughtful exploration of the individual motivations, personal problems and anxieties of the characters.

Using the vehicle of solving a kidnapping mystery, each of the boys takes a burden of small personal dramas with him into a parallel universe, which becomes more a setting for their voyage of self-discovery rather than the whole point of the story. They all have problems that are part of growing up, dealing with family tensions, and coping with social and physical stigmas. The boys don’t behave as a pack, and I think the author has very cleverly chosen a disparate group of not really close friends. Each character is essentially alone with his anxieties, and only at the end of the story, by learning to overcome these anxieties does each one discover the true meaning of friendship.

The pace of the story is always measured; the first part especially, which describes each boy’s home background, is slow to gain momentum. Throughout, to show character growth, each of the boys spends much of his time alone in introspection. Although this slows the action, the end result is a more satisfying read.

The characters themselves are likeable, touching even, though in some aspects they come closer to metaphor than flesh and blood. There’s the ‘Brains’ who nobody likes, the aggressive one who has trouble controlling his violent streak, the joker who just wants to be liked, and Mitchell who is lumbered not only with rowing parents but a speech impediment.

Given the subject, the whole story could have been rather preachy, as each boy faces his personal demons and overcomes them. But the tone is not at all moralising, and the author has a light touch with the theme of growing up. Joe, the aggressive one, for example learns to control himself, not by having the daylights beaten out of him, but by understanding Ryan’s quiet courage. Brainy Marc learns the limitations of his rational explanations, not by having stronger intellectual arguments thrown at him, but by accepting Mitchell’s simple statement that you can’t explain everything with handy theories. The boys learn a lot about one another and themselves, and all four appear at the end as more likeable, balanced human beings.

The least convincing aspect was the mystery of the ‘ghost girl,’ which to my mind leaves a lot of loose ends. The girl herself understands an awful lot about the paranormal, psychic messaging, and the workings of parallel universes for a seven-year-old, but is surprisingly inept when it comes to conveying vital but very simple information to the boys trying to rescue her.

But that aspect of the story is almost incidental. The real story is about self-discovery, growing up, and learning how to be a friend. This is a book any parent would be happy to have their child read. Unlike many books with a ‘message’ aimed at the young teen age group, this one takes the subject of friendship, unhitches it from any religious connotations or motivations, and goes right to the heart of the notions of tolerance, selflessness and responsibility.


Urbi et Orbi



On this last day of the year, last day of the pretty falling snow effect, I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who have followed this blog through 2013, seen the build up to the release of The Dark Citadel and In the Beginning, and encouraged and commented my first steps in writing poetry and short fiction.

I feel as though I have made some real friends through blogging. It requires an effort to read and comment, not like a once a year phone call or Christmas card, and I feel humbled every time a post gets a like or a view. There are no family obligations, long-standing and deadly boring traditions, or neighbourly conventions involved in our exchanges. Nobody’s arm gets twisted, and I’ve never heard of recourse to blackmail and harassment to get likes.

Like using a dating agency, we study and examine posts and decide who we like enough to keep up the acquaintance. Unlike a dating agency though, the point isn’t to whittle the choice down to a single blogger and hook up for life.

Though I’ve never met any of my blogger friends, I feel as though I know you, and what’s more important, that I like you. It’s at this time of year I imagine, if only such things were possible, what a wild party we could throw!

When I pop the cork at midnight tonight, I’ll be thinking of all you bright, creative, colourful, generous people and hoping you are all having a ball.


Happy New Year!