Stars and their parties.

On the morning of the 17th March 2012, Bristol waited with baited breath. Finally, a little before 11am on that fateful Saturday morning, the words every British astronomer longs to see came over email “clear skies tomorrow night – the star party at Tyntesfield is on”.

15 Bristol Astronomical Society members and 45 members of the public jumped in the air with joy.


The night itself started as so many of them do – cloudy. I arrived and set up the society’s 8inch Meade in the hopes of the clouds parting. Members were already setting up when I arrived and everyone was feeling enthusiastic for an interesting night ahead.

As the setting up progressed, it was clear to see there was a wide range of equipment for the public to see. The telescopes ranged from large 12 inch to the humble spotting scope and binoculars. We arranged them all in two long lines so the public could circle easily around them.

The members of the public turned up as expected – 15 minutes early. A member of BAS gave an introductory talk and explained some basic constellations. In fact, by the time they had reached me, I felt they knew more about the night sky than I did!

Fortunately the clouds had started to part and I successfully aligned the telescope. My first target was M37, an open cluster in Auriga (which most people were able to point out to me thanks to the excellent introduction).

The telescope arrangement worked well, with a steady stream of eager people coming to look at the telescope and ask interesting questions, which, thanks for a crib sheet and a red torch, I was able to answer smoothly.

My next object was M3, a globular cluster in Canis Venatici. The public were amazed when I explained it is almost 10 times further away from Earth than M37 and has 1000 times more stars.

I was able to briefly see what others were up to. Telescopes were trained on a myriad objects, from planets to galaxies. There was even a laptop set up to show live images through a telescope.

As the visitors were thinking of heading home to bed, one planet was only just rising – Saturn. A few stayed around to see this wonderful planet, with several delighted comments of “Wow”, “Oooh, you can actually see the rings” and “what are those three stars near it?”


Eventually we all had to pack away as the public left and the cold seeped through my shoes. Everyone had enjoyed themselves, public and volunteers alike.


Oh the Horror of it all

Hello all,

Another one published! Again, it’s another horror – I think a trend is being revealed. It’s strange really because I hate watching horror films.

The story is up at Microhorror, which is rapidly becoming my favourite website.

The story is called Teacher Knows Best.


Just a little back story for those interested. This story went through three stages of evolution: ‘Absolute Rubbish’, ‘Better But I Can Do More’ and ‘That’s More Like It’. Annoyingly I put the “Absolute Rubbish’ version up on WriteWords because I rushed it. I learnt a lesson that day – when you write a story, leave it overnight, then read it again. If you don’t understand what you’ve written, throw it out.

That lesson goes second in my list, below “Don’t write when steaming drunk.”

Anyway, enjoy the story.

5 Minute Fiction

Another story has been successfully accepted, this time on a site called 5 Minute Fiction.

The guys there were quick to respond and currently offer a £10 Amazon gift voucher for stories published. That makes this story officially the first one I’ve been paid for, which is splendid. Other members of WriteWords have had stories published there, which is how I heard about the site.


The story is called “Opposites Attract” and is quite a sad one.

Another Short Humourous One

I’ve been feeling rather dry recently, having written very little and, therefore, had even less accepted. I’m not sure if I’ve been distracted or I’m getting bored of it already. That’s the problem with me. In the wake of my life lies the tattered remains of hobbies I’ve tried then discarded when bored.

I was politely told by my other half it’s because I give up on them when they become slightly difficult. He’s probably right too, I tend to give up if I don’t miraculously become an expert in them overnight.

So when I had the following story accepted so quickly, it really put the wind back in my sails. It was written last minute, for a WriteWords flash fiction challenge and after some positive comments, I sent it off to Short Humour.

The story is called Loving Family. Enjoy


Microhorror 100 word competition

A competition was held recently, at Microhorror. The challenge – to write a horror exactly 100 words long (no more, no less). I submitted three stories. The competition ended a week ago.

All three stories are up on their website. The winner hasn’t been chosen yet, but there are many very good stories up, all of which can be found on their website. Several are from Writewords members, which is excellent to see.

My stories are:

Finding Happiness

What’s in a name?

Beauty is skin deep

Happy reading!

Analysis on the emotion that is “arrghh”

Well, less of an analysis and more of a small writing related incident that had me saying “arrghh” by the end of it.

Last week, it was my birthday. For several days beforehand, and on the day itself, I received many cards through the post. It was lovely and I enjoyed reading them all and putting on on display on the living room table. The day after my birthday I received one of those Royal Mail slips, which said “Unfortunately we can’t deliver your item because there’s a fee to pay”. Ooooh, someones sent me a pressie in the post, I thought.

I finally get round to paying the bill on-line and, a couple of days later, the letter arrives. The hand-writing is mine. My heart sinks a little – it’s a response to a short story I sent out before Christmas. Still, I’ve never had an acceptance, maybe this really is a delayed birthday present.

I force myself to think that until I open it and read the rejection letter. This is the point I’m saying “arrgghh”.

I had got my hopes up on two counts. Firstly, I think it’s the best short story I’ve written to date, which means I’m still nowhere near good enough. Secondly, I thought I was going to get an exciting and lovely birthday present only to find I’m £1.22 out of pocket and back to square one with my dreams of writing at least one sellable short story.

Still, it could be worse. I’m not 30… yet…

Market Research

As my previous posts demonstrate, I’ve had a small amount of success in flash fiction and none in short stories. I’m in the commercial short story group on WriteWords but everything I’ve written has flopped. I decided that I simply didn’t know the market well.

While home for Christmas I found myself in an excellent position for a bit of market research.

I was a little bored one afternoon so I wandered into my parents’ bedroom, to see what my mum was up to (Dad was hogging the TV downstairs). I found her curled up on her bed reading a magazine. I saw the name of the magazine and realised that it’s one that other writers in the group have had success with. Now was an excellent time to find out what the readers think. However, my family don’t know about my writing hobby and, for various reasons, I want to keep it that way. So I tread carefully.

“Hey, Mum, what you reading there?”
“Dunno, a mag your Gran gave me.”
“What’s is called?”
“People’s Friend”.
“Ah, you read this often, Mum?”
“Yeah, I like the stories?”
“Really. Which type exactly?”
“The funny ones. I’m not into the heartfelt ones, but I like the jokey ones.”
“Oh, that’s interesting, Mum. Which ones does Gran like?”
“How should I know. Anyway, why are you so interested?”
“Erm, No reason. Gotta go…” I run off to make some notes.

A few days later and I’d been asked to pick my gran up and bring her round for dinner. I decided to ask her questions about “People’s Friend” and see if her answers complement my mother’s. It was a little hard work as a simple question like “So Gran, I hear you read People’s Friend with Mum”, prompted a 10 minute rambling story on the complex social circle that is the People’s Friends reading group that my Gran so heroically set up! I was ever the dutiful granddaughter, placing appropriate “uhuh”, “ooh” and “really” throughout.

Anyway, eventually I managed to get in “so are the stories nice to read, are they funny?”

“No they’re not funny!” she replied. “They’re nice, clean stories. You know, no frills.”
“Oh,” I said, not daring to ask anymore questions. Not that I needed to, as she’d already moved on to why one of the ladies in the group was always forgetful and always late for coffee…

So, what I learned from that is my 60-year-old Mum thinks they’re funny, my 90-year-old Gran thinks they’re warm and heartfelt. This was not as helpful as I thought, so I decided to read one.

It was quite funny, heartfelt yes but also quite surprising in some ways. I had always been under the impression that a world of polite people and ideal families was portrayed. However, there was one divorce with a single parent family mentioned and the MC was getting together with someone else with no hint that both were actually single. They were both grandparents so it’s not like they were portrayed as bachelors! Not exactly as clean as I thought it would be. But then I sometimes see a twinkle in my gran’s eye that suggests she’s lead more of a life than I want to imagine!

Anyway. I think I’m going to give up on market research when it comes to my family, too much like hard work.