Welcome – writers


Welcome to our blog, the casual voice of the Sheppey & Sittingbourne Writer’s Group.

We have changed our meetings venue to The Napier on The Broadway, Sheerness on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. On the 1st Tuesday we meet at 2.30 pm (14:30) and on the 3rd Tuesday at 8pm (20:00) although the latter time may be subject to change. All writers are welcome, and also welcome to contact us through Facebook or of course this blog site.

Flight of Fancy

What happens when some silly bugger says “I know, let’s make a movie” with an eager look that shows he has already made up his mind to go ahead?


Poster distributed for the movie

You end up writing scripts, acting out parts, worrying about the deadline you have set for it to be complete and ready to show and hoping that it works. The movie Flight of Fancy by Sheppey Writers was a response to the 2016 Sheppey Promenade theme Flight.

In the meantime we also arranged the Readings in a Country Church as part of the Promenade Festival and of course continued writing short stories, poems and some continuing to write novels. That does not mean to say we stood still although with a little confusion and some thoughtful deliberation we are also changing our meeting times and venue. The new times are 8pm on 1st Tuesday and at 2:30pm on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Napier in Sheerness. The 2:30 meeting will be for readings and discussion and the 8pm meeting will be mostly for discussion with readings.

All writers are welcome to this former haunt of Uwe Johnson.

So, what about the movie?

Flight of Fancy, the movie, used original work by Sheppey Writers, stories adapted by Sheppey Writers and an eyewitness account of a raid on the Eastchurch RAF Airfield during WWII. Ranging from the flight of James II through a WWI account of a German Gotha raid, the story of early flight, poems and a comic tale to end with the WWII tale and a tribute to those who gave their all, the movie has a small insight into the history of flight on Sheppey.

Thanks to Larry O’Flynn for the use of his public bar, the Swale College Media Studies Class fro their contribution, Jack Bee and Sheppey FM for support and readings, and for Cllr. Mark Ellen who contributed a voice and some funds to help us pay for the work.

As for the bloke who suggested it – he worked hard, had to face deadline that was almost impossible given he had to do most of the production, and all of the post-production work. Peter Apps, whose idea it was, and wilfully encouraged by myself, and more or less supported by the rest of the writers’ group.

That we needed to rehearse readings before filming never occured to us, or that a Green Screen may have worked for one movie but was not the best in these conditions, or that filming live in a bar was not as easy as it seemed, but it got done on time.

Undaunted we are now contemplating making more movies and telling stories and reading poems in our own program on Sheppey FM radio.

In addition to publishing books for local authors, we are doing all right.

Visit Sheppey Films for information about Flight of Fancy and other movies.



Christmas Carols

Sam the Scam looked at the crowd around Tiny Tim and Orphan Annie and was well pleased. He could see the punters putting their spare change in the hat behind which Little Oliver was sitting playing his flute. Tiny Tim’s crutch was just the right sort, modern yet it looked like its Victorian counterpart. All three looked mildly malnourished.

The kids were doing all right singing and playing Christmas songs, all the old favourites and especially when Tiny Tim sang Once in Royal David’s City; it was a real treat to hear his sweet voice burbling out the words with Orphan Annie backing him softly and Oliver playing the melody so tunefully. Even better was when the coins kept slapping into the hat.
Sam looked across the mall and caught Maisie’s casual glance.
All clear.

Orphan Annie gave them a rendering of Silent Night and the trio finished with a good rousing Hark the Herald Angels Sing and just in time because Maisie signalled to roll it up. Sam walked past the little group and swiftly the youngsters packed away and moved on. Sam was proud of them when they stayed in character until they were outside where he and Maisie caught up. Sam took the money and shook it into his copious shoulder bag, and the little troupe hurried away. Sam figured they were at least one step away from being nicked, but it was working.

‘Right, we move on folks,’ Sam said, and guided his little flock to a spot where he and Maisie could keep a look out and the escape route led them to the car.

The Christmas shoppers were generous this year so it seemed but the authorities were not so keen and to help out Maisie had cobbled up a pretty poster declaring that they were collecting for charity which explained the costumes and names. The punters seemed to like that.

‘And what charity are you subscribing to Sonny?’ Asked a gentleman dressed in an expensive looking overcoat, and a smart hat carrying who was prepared to give a note.

‘It’s for a children’s Christmas party sir,’ said Oliver.
The man beamed at him and put the note in the hat and patted him on the head.
‘Good boy, good boy,’ the Gentleman said.
‘Thank you sir,’ said Oliver giving the gentleman a smile. ‘And a Merry Christmas to you sir.’

‘He’s learning,’ muttered Sam. Oliver hated being patted on the head and detested being called Sonny. Sam chuckled as Oliver picked up the flute and managed a surreptitious two fingered gesture as he began to play.
Maisie gave the warning partway through God Save Ye Merry Gentlemen and with a quick pip on his instrument Oliver stopped playing and they all packed up and moved off.

‘To the car and off,’ Maisie said. ‘We been bleedin’ rumbled.’
What happened next will stick in Sam’s mind for the rest of his ‘bleedin’ natural’. He operated the lock with the remote, they piled in and he started the engine turned the wheel to move off and scraped to a clunking stop. Sam got out and looked at the rear offside wheel.
‘Bloody clamped!’
And coppers.
There was a gang of police officers in uniform. One inviting Maisie to alight and others ordering the kids out.
‘Bugger,’ said Sam. ‘We been nicked.’
Afterwards, when the nightmare was over, Sam the Scam had to agree that the Beak had a point. But to see all his hard earned cash wasted like that was a heartache too much for any man to bear.
‘Samuel, my good man,’ said Sergeant Burrows grinning broadly as he helped Sam with the hat and the false beard, ‘on behalf of the Salvation Army and my lads and lassies in your friendly local police force, I would like to thank you for your generous donation of time and money to what is a most worthy cause.’

But playing Santa for a crowd of noisy kids, being forced to hand over the day’s takings and his own brood and Maisie acting as bloody skivvies, was not his idea of fun.

Sam knew he was sunk when as they were ushered into the court room who should be on the bench but the gentleman in the expensive overcoat.

‘Ah mister Cooper, it seems we must meet again. I suggest the punishment fit the crime,’ he announced and that was it.

‘Do it proper Samuel and you get your motor back,’ said Burrows.
He Ho ho ho’d almost enthusiastically, put up with a procession of small children expecting him to be nice. Most humiliating of all he had to witness his little troupe of singers perform for free.
It was heartbreaking.

Driving back home after the party the family was silent until Tiny Tim said: ‘I got an idea.’

And at last, making up for their recent losses performing in a shopping mall near you Sam the Scam’s small troupe of Salvation Army look-a-likes will sing well known hymns and Christmas Carols for your delectation.

And naturally, at this joyful season of the year, the proceeds will go to a worthy, and deserving cause.

2014 Christmas stories – merry crimble.


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The group members are busy writing Christmas Tales as you do and these offering are the first of them.  A tale by Ruth Partis that has the ‘aaah’ factor – a thought provoking story. One by James Apps which is a little different. Another by Anthony writing under the name Karm Ager that reflects his sense of history – a touching story. Peter has added an essay on poverty which asked some questions.

A Christmas Story –  Ruth Partis

A Christmas Fairy Tale – James Apps

A Christmas Tale -Karm Ager

Not Quite Scrooge – more Jacob Marley – Peter Apps


Jingle ruddy bells!

Jingle ruddy bells!

A Christmas Story

by Ruth Partis

In spite of his warm red coat and hood he could feel the chill as soon as he entered the house. If possible it felt colder indoors than the December outside air. It was darker too. Outside the moon had been full and bright stars filled the sky. Inside there was no lights, not even the glow from modern technology on stand-by that most houses had.

The house smelt awful. There was an overwhelming stench of damp mixed with the familiar smell of stale human body functions. There was silence too, a loud silence that made his ears ring with the effort of trying to hear something.

He pointed his torch around the room and found the light switch. He turned the light on and a bare low power light bulb showed him the room. Shabby didn’t really cover the state of the house. Clothes, washed and unwashed, covered most surfaces and dirty crockery and food was all over a small table in the middle of the room. An overflowing ash tray was balanced precariously on the edge of a stained and ragged settee.

Trying to ignore the state of the room, and the smell, he consulted his list. There should be two little girls living here, but the cold silent room had no toys or signs of them, apart from the little bags obviously containing used nappies. And the smell.

There was a battered door leading to another room and he went and opened it, quite fearful of what he would find. With that light on too he could see that there was a bed and an empty cot and a pile of dirty clothes on the floor. A movement attracted his attention and he could suddenly see a tiny tear stained face amongst the stained bedding. A child made a whimpering sound and he uncovered it to reveal that it was a girl wearing just a grey vest and pink knickers. Her hair was matted and her arms and legs stick thin. Tear stains marked her face and her huge eyes stared up at him.In her arms was what he thought was a doll, but when he touched the child’s cold skin, he realised that she was cuddling a baby. He picked them both up, sat down on the edge of the bed and gently put them on his lap. The child made the little whimpering sound again. The baby moved and he was so relieved that tears filled his eyes. He had thought that it was dead.

The girl started to cry and he held her close so that she could share the warmth in his coat. He wrapped the baby in too and held them both close.

He took out his mobile phone and dialled 999 asking for the police and an ambulance. He sat, rocking the children, and waited until the blue lights flashing appeared outside, their lights filled the rooms around some torn old lace curtains.

He gently patted each child to reassure them and then he open the front door so that the police and medics could get in. He placed two wrapped presents, a soft teddy for the baby and a cuddly dog for the child, into the children’s arms.

As the police entered he disappeared up the chimney to carry on with his deliveries, a little late, but feeling good. He picked up the reins and stirred the dozing reindeer into life.



A Christmas Fairy Tale   


by James Apps

It was close to Christmas and the stock in the store was selling rapidly. The Santas and the Rudolphs disappeared at a steady rate and the pretty, slender, Christmas Tree Fairies were literally flying off the shelves. Except Diaphene who was examined, put back, mocked and generally verbally abused by potential customers. Diaphene was, to put it mildly, overweight. She was the fattest Christmas Tree Fairy anybody in the Pop Up Christmas shop had ever seen.

Pleasantly plump, if you please,’ said Diaphene.

She mumbled when a rotund child pointed to her with a fat finger and said: ‘Ooh look! A really fat fairy.’

I’m not fat!’ she shouted but the child didn’t hear her although she must have seen the ugly face she pulled.

Oh yuk she’s really ugly too!’

Diaphene could put up with remarks like that as long as somebody chose her for their Christmas Tree. She imagined the sight of all those Christmas goodies, the sweets, the chocolates, roast dinner, mince pies, sausage rolls, Christmas cake and delicious Christmas Puddings. Yum! Even the thought of them added a little weight to her already plump body.

She was not obese.

But when a customer suggested the shop run a ‘guess the weight of the Fat Fairy competition’ she emitted some extremely foul un-fairy like language. The row of chubby Santas looked amused and one even managed a chuckle.

Shut it you fat freak,’ Diaphene said.

I’m supposed to be fat,’ retorted the Santa and completed his reply with a sarcastic peal of ‘Ho, ho,ho, ho bloody Ho!’

That was followed by the chuckles of the other Santas, irritatingly tinkling giggles from the other Fairies and a few braying snorts of derision from the row of Rudolphs.

At closing time on Christmas Eve all the slender fairies were sold, most of the Santas and Rudolphs were gone and the Manager made up a box of goodies she had promised to send to decorate the Church hall for the charity Christmas dinner.

Diaphene found herself included in the gift box.

At last! She was wanted.

The Church Hall was bright with lights, tables were set out with clean cloths, cutlery, festive sprays, crackers and glasses. Paper chains and tinsel brightened the ceiling and in pride of place beside the stage was the Christmas tree bedecked with baubles, more tinsel, flashing lights, and mounted on the top was Diaphene the overweight Fairy. Roger, the volunteer who had fixed her to the tree tied her firmly with lashings of tinselled twine, a little lower than the very top but still allowing her to gaze over the revellers.

The reverend Wallace of St Agnes in the Wold looked on pleased with the scene and started the proceedings off with a grace fitting for Christmas Day.

The Christmas dinner was as lavish as a charity meal could be and those who were in need enjoyed the food, the company and the chance to feel wanted and cared for by the volunteers and the members of the Church.

Diaphene watched in delight as the revellers enjoyed the feast, a simple starter of soup and bread, a full roast with turkey, a portion of Christmas pudding with custard and the final scoffing of mince pies; each course adding to her pleasure, and it has to be said, her size.

First her dress became uncomfortably tight. Next the twine that tied her to the tree strained and stretched but thankfully Roger was not so good at knots and it loosened as she grew ever larger.

Oh dear, I think I have eaten too much,’ she said, and burped.

This was at the turkey roast stage when potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and stuffing was disappearing rapidly inside the diners. It got worse when the Christmas Pudding began to be devoured.

Her dress split and I am afraid she not only burped but she also farted, which was most un-fairylike.

The reverend Wallace wandered from table to table, giving a blessing here, a kind word there and joining in with the joviality often at his expense. He was an essential part of the revelry and Diaphene felt that she too was being drawn into it. Actually she appeared to be getting closer to the nearest table and wondered what in Fairydom was happening. Underneath her something creaked.

Ooh, what’s that?’ she said.

The something creaked louder, and the tree shifted toppling with a crash bringing an immediate halt to the party. Spoons on the way to mouths, or dipped into dishes, and glasses were held suspended in surprise by hands that were suddenly stopped in mid movement and the diners,servers and helpers fell silent.

His Reverence had disappeared.

The volunteers rushed to see what had happened to their patron followed by some of the more curious diners. Laying on the floor unconscious in the wreckage of the fallen Christmas tree was the reverend Wallace, floored not by the tree but by Diaphene the overweight Fairy which he was clutching to his bosom with a beatific smile on his face.

It was a sad Christmas Day for the Reverend Wallace who sped, hopefully, joyously to his maker, and a sad day for the volunteers and diners who would miss their jolly patron. Like everybody else Roger was sad at losing his patron but he was also puzzled by what happened when he retrieved the Fat Fairy from the reverend’s clutches. As he lifted her obese figure from the supine body he thought he heard somebody burp, let off a sharp but quiet fart and a voice quite nearby that said: ‘Oops, pardon me!’




(in four parts)
Karm Arger

(Part 1)

The small 13th century church lay in a remote part of the English wetlands. Built out of local stone, the mediaeval masons had cleverly bound them together with lime mortar. Their final coats of white lime wash paint made it look exquisite. Though tiny, it was still a beautiful church.

Santa Claus came early that year, in 1943. Normally, he would have been expected to arrive only in the second or third week of Advent but this time, for some unknown reason, he came during the first week. It was a great occasion – as always. Father Andrew set aside the small Lady Chapel for Santa where the children could visit him.

And the little ones came bubbling with excitement. It was a Saturday. Mothers and adult relatives were accompanying them, holding fast their hands. The children formed an orderly queue outside. Then one by one they traipsed into the mysterious grotto to meet Father Christmas. They knew he loved them all. You could see that from their faces. They also knew he was capable of fulfilling their wishes, whatever they were. Every single child that left the grotto afterwards had a radiant smile on his face.

(Part 2)

General Sir Hugh Willoughby-Grant was in his office. He was drawing up the fine details for the coming offensive. Nearly a million soldiers were earmarked to take the field in that massive invasion. He had left strict orders he was not to be disturbed. Nevertheless, there was a knock on his door. His aide, Major Moreton entered the room quietly and waited.

“Yes, Stanley? It had better be something important!
“Sir, there is…you have an urgent call…
“Father Andrew – says he knows you…
“Yes. My stepson. Put him on.
“Yes sir.”

Major Moreton went out of the room. Almost immediately, the yellow telephone on the general’s desk rang once.

“Yes Andrew…
“Dad, Santa Claus has just been in my church. He saw our Little Marjorie. Her mother Mrs. Williams is seriously ill in hospital. Not expected to survive. The child is inconsolable. Is it possible for you to find her husband and…
“Service, name, rank and serial number Andrew?
“Leading Aircraft Man Reginald David Williams No.884332167909…
“Got it. Contact you later.”

Sir Hugh got up and moved away from his desk. He took out of his cabinet one of his treasured cigars and carefully lit it. After two deep satisfying puffs, he walked over directly to his red telephone.

“Get me General Arnold of the 9th US Army Air Force,” bellowed the general. There were a few inexplicable clicks on the telephone. Then he was through.
“Red, this is Hugh…”

(Part 3)

LAC Reginald David Williams did not like the Maltese weather. He came out of the hangar where he had been servicing a Mark IX Spitfire. At the other end of the field stood an American Liberator aircraft which had landed a little while before. Its engines were still running. A Jeep roared up to him braking violently to a stop.
“Get in,” shouted the corporal.
“What the f…
“Get in and don’t ask questions…” LAC Williams obeyed at once jumping in and doing up his unbuttoned shirt.
The tyres screeched as the Jeep roared away.

(Part 4)

Much to his disgust, General Sir Hugh Willoughby-Grant found he had no choice but to enter the Hospice of St Agnes for his final farewell. Aged over three and ninety years, his physical faculties were rapidly fading as was his strength although his mind remained alert. It was the feeling of tiredness that was the worst – that never seemed to leave him. He sat in his big rocking chair looking towards the lake where the swans competed with the ducks and seagulls for scraps of food.

“Tired…Lord I’m so tired,” he muttered to himself. He thought he sensed the presence of others around him. Yes, they must be because he could hear them whispering. A firm grasp of his arm. The sharp pinching sensation as the needle went in. He felt someone holding his hand. His wandering mind returned.

“General Sir Hugh, I’m Dr. Marjorie. Do you want to be put to bed?”
“Bed? What on earth for? Who? Dr. Marjorie? I knew of a little girl called Marjorie once. Marjorie Williams. Her father was serving in Royal Air Force. Yes…I had something to do with them. But a long, long time ago.” Sir Hugh was clearly recalling memories from the distant past. His mind was going again. It was his stepson Andrew who had telephoned him. And he mused…Santa Claus! Who? Marjorie? Marjorie Williams?
“Thank you Red for not letting me down. You were a great chap…a…great…ch.a.a..pppp…”

The General breathed in deeply once. Then, no more. Dr. Marjorie Williams, the consultant geriatrician leaned over to examine him.
“He’s gone,” she said. “I’ll miss him.”

The nurses standing by never really understood why Dr. Marjorie Williams was crying.





Not Quite Scrooge – More Jacob Marley  

 by Peter Apps

I’m not in a creative mood at the moment but I thought that I should write something for tonight even it was only worthy of Facebook.

I’ve said before that I’m not a great fan of organised religion and as a rule of thumb the higher the church the lower my interest. However, I do have a soft spot for the Church of England because of its history for turbulent priests at Canterbury.

Now the Church of England is very much a state institution, with the state involved with its appointments while its bishops sit in the House of Lords. In return the state hopes that its priests confine themselves to flying the Cross of St. George from the tower, encouraging the congregation to sing ‘Jerusalem’ and remembering poppy day. The reality is that Thomas a Becket set a precedent and the incumbents of Canterbury do not always toe the party line.

It was the recent furore over a report on poverty that prompted this piece. Justin Welby the present Archbishop of Canterbury commented that although less serious, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa – because it was so unexpected. The keywords of course are that ‘it was so unexpected’.

It’s difficult writing this piece without showing political bias, and yes, my politics are well to the left of the present day Labour Party.

However, since the eighties, successive governments have tried to create the notion that only the idle need benefits. Today, pundits condemn food banks because they encourage scroungers. It seems that the consequences of those attitudes are becoming more noticeable and in true C of E tradition, Archbishop Welby has spoken out against them. Consequently, he has been dismissed as a crank, not understanding the difference between an African state and the UK, or as an opportunist.

Now, obviously this is not a Christmas story but it is relevant and an extract from Dickens Christmas Carol might tie it in. It’s where visitors arrive asking for charitable donations:-

“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?”

“Plenty of prisons.”

“And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Again the situation today is not as bad as it was then – yet, but the attitudes are the same and, maybe I am developing a story.

Archbishop Welby uses his influence with the Almighty and sends a host of Jacob Marleys to parliament. They arrange for the spirits of Christmas to show its members the consequences of their decisions. The twist in the plot would come afterwards. How many MPs would prefer to keep the chains that Joseph Marley displayed, ignore the warnings and denounce his efforts as a socialist attempt to undermine capitalism?


Christmas – enough said? And a touch of Bah Humbug!

Just starting to get the idea - traditional Christmas scene for some.

Just starting to get the idea – traditional Christmas scene for some.

I expect you have noticed that it is that time of the year again when we are supposed to remind ourselves of the message of Christmas as opposed to simply another pagan festival.

So, this year Primary schools are putting on their Nativity Plays and including some of the suggested characters when in reality the story is best told traditionally with the right number of characters – note that when a Church Community enact the scene they do it with the characters from the bible – also the right idea.  This is a Christian story.

Okay, rant duly established.  What I am annoyed about is the way as the years have passed how Christmas has evolved into Greedymas and the message of the nativity play is lost so the message of life, hope, love and giving that Christianity offers at this time of the year is also lost.

Black Friday, borrowed from the USA by retailers, is the latest example of how the message is getting lost.  People talk of a ‘Traditional Christmas’ not actually realising that traditions have changed beyond recognition from that depicted on many Christmas Cards.  Tradition seems to be now to buy as much as you can, eat as much as you can, drink to excess and watch crappy movies on TV.

What is this idiot on about you ask?

Sheppey Writers will be doing their bit to amuse and confuse you by posting Christmas stories on this site which I hope you will enjoy.  Dunno how it will turn out but let’s hope for the best.

Book Launch

The Sheppey Writers through TAUP – the publishing arm of the writer’s group is pleased to announce the launch of Pigeon Pie and other tasty tales by Gordon Henderson.  The collection of short stories explore the macabre, ghost tales, detective tales and the subject of suicide.  Gordon Henderson writes on a wide range of subjects and the result is an entertaining collection of short stories sometimes making some disturbing perceptive points and others simply thought provoking and others quite spine chilling.   For a first public collection of fiction this book is a good read.

The Author posing with his book.

The Author posing with his book.

Extract from Gordon Henderson’s Press Release.

The MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Gordon Henderson, is to have his first book, Pigeon Pie And Other Tasty Tales, published by a newly formed group set up by Isle of Sheppey based writers.

Terrestrial And Universal Publications (TAUP UK) was set up by unrelated Peter Apps and James Apps, as a vehicle to publish their own literary work and that of other local writers.

Mr Henderson explained:

‘I agreed to have Pigeon Pie published by TAUP UK in the hope that my involvement will help them generate the publicity they need to make the venture a success.

‘It is incredibly difficult for unknown writers to get their book published by the large publishing houses and this fantastic initiative by Peter and James allows new and unknown writers to see their work in print.

‘We have loads of talent locally, all it needs is a platform on which to be showcased. I think TAUP UK is that platform.’

The official launch of Pigeon Pie will take place at Sittingbourne Library at 1pm on Friday 28th March 2014 and Mr Henderson will happy to sign copies of his book on the day.

Pigeon Pie will be more widely available, in either in hard copy or Kindle version, on Amazon on March 30th 2014.

Mr Henderson is hoping to have other work published by TAUP UK and has five novels in various state of preparation that should be available over next couple of years, the first of which, The Nightjar, should be available by the end of 2014.

In addition Mr Henderson plans to publish his first children’s book, The Almost Twins and the Litter Angel, during the summer of 2014.


For more information about TAUP UK contact Peter Apps on enquiries@taup.co.uk

Writing short fiction

A short story can be very short or it can be a medium length, or even a novella.  The problem for many writers is getting their tale into the length required, or aimed for.  Some can write very short stories and struggle with the longer versions wanting to cut out what they see as padding.  Others have equal difficulty writing the short versions.

For both writers the exercise of writing out of their normal fashion is useful.  For the novel writer attempting short stories is a way of training themselves to write more concisely and get the best out of their writing.  Obviously for the writer of short fiction the enormous task of writing a novel is daunting.

The trick for the latter is to treat each chapter as a short story with a similar theme and the same range of characters.  The short fiction is much like writing for a soap opera, you have to begin, write a middle and leave the tale hanging to use it for a novel, or conclude the tale.

The skill is in writing to a set formula and ignoring the fact.

The challenge for most of us is to allow our creativity to be controlled by discipline but writing is a discipline and any extra skill that enhances your prose is a good move.

Some comments on writing short stories are, in the main, that it is useful to concentrate your story structure, to create a discipline that is useful for longer prose in that it tends to restrict you to getting to the point quickly.  The last is a great tool for packing more into your longer stories and will help when cutting out the ‘purple prose’ so beloved of the long winded descriptive writer.

To paraphrase, a short story such as ‘The last man on Earth turned in surprise when he heard a knock on his door.’ carries everything a short story needs including an ending that leaves the reader with a mystery.  Whether or not it has a beginning, a middle and an end is a moot point, but it has a protagonist and an unknown antagonist and leaves the reader wanting to learn more.  The object of the tale is to let the reader engage with the story and anticipate an end, or project an ending although the ending is the knock on the door. 

The idea is to entertain and allow your reader to interpret the tale in their own way but to also direct them where you want them to go.

Sometimes the short story is a glimpse into a passage of a larger tale, or is related to a longer piece of fiction.  Others are deliberately complete tales that make up a series, and we are all familiar with the Sherlock Holmes tales that use the same characters in each tale as protagonists that give consistency to our expectations.

The skill comes in creating a tale that is unpredictable as to the conclusion and satisfying in the telling.  Most of us have trouble with that and that is where our peers come in handy when we read them out loud and receive constructive criticism. The satisfaction is having the faults pointed out and the good bits praised.


We are heading into the time of commemorating the advent of WWI and although as a group we have resisted this realising that what happened 100 years ago is history, we are planning to take part a little.  Not because we expect to do a ‘thing’ about WWI but because at the moment it concentrates our thoughts on short writing pieces.  2009_0623poppies0343

We are planning some great things for this year and we want to be ready to carry them through as well as take part in the 2014 Promenade event.  So, the theme is short fiction based around the 1914 – 18 conflict – with apologies.

We have a new author on our list who will be launching his book of short stories next month – a moderate mystery at the moment but more soon when arrangements are finalised.

In the meantime let us go with a theme of poppies – the symbol of remembrance each year and a story of the flowers of Flanders fields.

Poppies like to seed in disturbed soil – plough the ground and they will grow or where animals disturb it, or they are shoved out of the fields during tilling to the edge.   One year a farmer allowed the poppies to grow in his rapeseed fields near Boxley.  It was quite pretty.

Also realise that the bright red of the poppy is also the colour of love – Cupid’s Red.

Christmas – it’s that time of the year again

It’s that time of the year again or haven’t you noticed?  Scrooge is rampant, the retailers are trying to suck us in – since September would you believe? – and the radio is playing endless reels of “Christmas songs”.

Jingle ruddy bells!

Jingle ruddy bells!

Dominating the adverts I have seen in the press and on the Net, in my inbox and all the shops is the Big Red Clobbered Fat Man selling everything from merry radioactive Robins to a complete suite of dining room furniture.  Try getting a sofa down my chimney Fat Boy!  So, what of it? We get suckered in every year forgetting that many people celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas having hi-jacked the end of year feast for the purpose, and others simply get p… Inebriated.

Anyway, for your entertainment here is a lovely Christmas Story.

Santa’s Grotto by James Apps

Danny Morris hated being Santa.

“It’s because I’m fat they choose me,” he complained to the new boy.

“They say you have the deep kindly voice the children like,” the new boy replied. “You know, the ho, ho, ho and the jolly laugh.”

“Nah, I’m the only fat old bloke they’ve got,” Danny said, and with a dismissive gesture of his fat hand he indicated the row of Santa suits hanging on the rack.  “And on Monday I have to get into one of those and act the fool for a few hours.”

The new boy shook his head. “Well, it is Christmas, and the store does a nice Grotto.  I will be one of the Elves, sort of helping you out,” the boy said enthusiastically.

Danny glowered at him. “You cheeky sod.” He said.

On Monday morning Danny had a last fag outside in the yard and walked reluctantly back into the store.  Donning the Santa Suit, with a fat sigh he waddled into the Grotto using the rear door and took his place on the Santa seat flanked by the helpers, the bloody elves, who were there to give out the gifts and make sure the brats moved on.  It was a Santa conveyor belt.

“Oh well, here we go,”  he said with a groan a few moments before the doors opened.

“Should be fun,” said the new boy cheerfully and pushed the switch to start the music.

“Oh no! Not ruddy Jingle Bells!” cried Danny glowering at the new boy who grinned at him and mouthed the words in time to the song. Danny clenched his fists wanting to smack the silly grin from the new boy’s face but already the first children were coming in.

From the first HO, HO, HO that launched him into the mind boggling realm of snotty noses, suspicious mothers, endless questions about bloody reindeer and greedy kids who wanted too much he was embroiled in the beginning of the worst three weeks of his employment.  That he managed the first week without taking to drink or throttling one of the kids was a minor miracle.

The second week the elves started to get on his nerves, especially the new boy who was cheerful, helpful and sickenly enthusiastic.  It was week three, on the Monday after a weekend of drinking trying to deaden the run up to Christmas that it all went pear shaped.

A small boy waddled up to him, wiped his nose with his sleeve, picked the gum from his mouth and stuck it on Rudolph’s pulsating red nose.

Danny had no chance to remonstrate with him because the far from angelic face looked up at him and said: “All right fatty, what am I gonna get fer Christmas then?”

He wanted to say: ‘Your legs slapped hard, for a start and your ugly mother given a walloping for birthing a horrible kid like you and your father hung, drawn and quartered for possibly being a moron.’  Instead he gave the little horror a smile and a meaningful Ho, Ho, Ho and said: “I cannot say what Father Christmas will bring you, sonny.”

“Who you callin’ sonny, fatty?” said the kid whose mother waddled up close behind clutching a mobile to her ear declaring that she was “In effing Santa’s effing grotto, and it’s effing crap,” virtually ignoring what her offspring was doing.

“‘Ere mum, fatty called me sonny!” the boy wailed and ran forward, stopped and kicked Danny’s leg hard.

“Ow! You little sod!”  Danny yelled and clutching his leg, bent forward in the seat, his eyes watering from the pain, and without thinking he whacked the kid with his fat hand and knocked him, as he liked to say, base over apex.

There followed a confused cacophony of female indignation, small boy yelling and crying, Elves rushing to sort out the incident.   Samantha, the chief Elf fussing around calling the supervisor.  The new boy trying to comfort the child and the mother demanding action.

Danny eased his leg and swore one long string of unrepeatable oaths and, overcome by the previous night’s drinking, and the pain in his leg he attempted to rise from the seat to leave the grotto by the back door.

He needed a fag.

Instead he staggered and dropped to the floor to the same level as the small boy who sat staring at him with his mouth  wide open, no tears but eyes wide in wonder as he gazed at Danny whose beard and whiskers had shifted to reveal his fat face mapped with small, broken veins and his tobacco stained moustache.

“You said rude words and hit me,” the boy said.  “Cor!”

“Cor?” said Danny,  “What do you mean by Cor?”

“You said more rude words than me Dad,” the boy said, his face aglow with admiration.

“Do you mean you think that’s good?” said Danny struggling to raise his fat, weary body to its knees and succeeding.

“I didn’t fink Santa was real, mister, cor!”

Danny, aware of the noise surrounding him and the boy’s sudden hero worship he had an inspiration: “What do you want from Santa, sonny?”

As quick as a flash the boy pointed out into the shop and said: “One of them!”

And before the men from Security grasped him and hauled him off to the staff room Danny replied.  “Then that’s what you will get.”

What Danny Morris got was a dressing down by his employer, his status as the stores Santa taken away from him and given to the new boy.  Penitent and promising to behave, he changed out of the Santa suit into his normal working clothes and settled down to carry on as usual in the store.  He was surprised and pleased that nobody pressed charges, and even more pleased when he was informed that he would ‘never again be trusted to work in the Grotto’, and that he also kept his job.

“You are lucky that we were not charged with assault,” said the Manager.  “The child’s mother gave him a whacking on her own account referring to him as, and I paraphrase,  ‘akin to an awkward, illegitimate, fundamental orifice’ adding a string of epithets that I will not repeat.”

Danny walked off happy with his lot and happy that somebody else was lumbered with being the store’s Santa.

He was still very happy on Christmas Day, drunk maybe, but happy.

And so was little Robert Walker.

His ‘one of them’ stood on the carpet in all its glory.  His father, Denis and his mother, Sylvia, were surprised when the courier delivered the large parcel late on Christmas Eve addressed to their four year old son.  They were puzzled too.  The label on the box inside the parcel had written on it ‘To Robert from Santa’ and the moment the boy saw it his grubby little face lit up and he said: “Coo, bleedin’ ‘eck, ‘e give it me, didn’t ‘e?”

“What’s the effing little bugger on abaht?” said Denis.

“I don’t effing know do I?” said Sylvia. “You ask him.”

And Robert’s reply when his father spoke rudely to him as he sat on his new collapsible trike was: “‘E couldn’t ‘alf bleedin’ swear!”

His father’s face was a picture of puzzled confusion.

Publishing books – a guide

Attached is a PDF that Peter Apps put together as a brief guide to publishing.  The notes are just that – a guide – but it is a good working document for the moment.

Peter has saved us a lot of effort by working on creating a template for a book, and is working on another for a cover.  Through TAUP – the publishing site we, as a writer’s group can begin to produce publications that look professional, are professional and will have an identity as part of a local publishing house based on Sheppey.

The idea is to create a local publishing base, to share costs plus create some momentum for publicity beyond the shores of Sheppey.

How ever you work, the steps outlined are useful to follow because they will give you realistic deadlines.  Taking your time means that you probably wilt procrastinate and never get that book on the shelves.

I am about to take the plunge with The Reluctant Hero the first volume of The Zradian Chronicles.  The major restructuring and editing is done and now it is a matter checking to make sure that the gaps are right, the story lines tie up and I have eliminated the typos.