An Intention and Meet Starry-You

 

To date I’ve not been one to declare an intention publicly (I’m more the quiet person in the background puttering on with their work – vague intentions in my head, but never ‘out there’) so it feels a bit strange to do this, but I can see one big positive of declaring an intention of mine: that it’ll (hopefully) keep me accountable and on track to actually doing the thing that I want to do.

So here goes. I have a little dream of putting together a book – a collection of short stories in the SFF genre – and (whisper it) getting it published and ‘out there’. At the moment the whole publishing thing is not something I’m thinking about too much – it’s the whole good quality short story stuff that’s keeping me occupied!

But you see, something absolutely wonderful happened to me a short while ago. First, my story ‘His Birth’ was shortlisted in a competition. (The Wellcome Trust sponsored ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’ Creative Writing Competition.) And then second, it got awarded 2nd place by the judge Adam Roberts, who is like some kind of god when it comes to science fiction writing. And believe me, it gave me such a boost (and actually, some much-needed validation) that I started to think, Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can allow myself to consider putting together a short story collection. Maybe.

So… it’s going to take me a good long while (my writing happens at around midnight once or twice a week, or on the weekend) but I’m in no rush. The main thing is to get around 12 good short stories written that I want to include. Now, I’ve got a couple already that I want to include, but there’s still a whole lot more to write. And, there’s also the fact that only about 1 in 5 of the short stories I write are actually good enough to put in a collection. This I know because I only consider a story ‘good enough’ if my husband (aka my editor extraordinaire) really likes the story (and that only ever happens in approximately that ratio!).

So I’m going to aim to increase my publication history when it comes to short stories (no doubt there will be plenty of rejections ahead – perhaps some acceptances too!) but the main thing is that I persevere.

Inspired by Maddy’s image of her ‘Self-Doubt Demon’ I decided to draw a character that represents the opposite: the ‘Supportive Star’ (aka Starry-You in reference to the Pokemon, Staryu). Or does Sammy Star work better? Who knows? Basically, this little guy (or is she a gal?) is there to say: Well done! and You can do it! You got this! Because sometimes we all need a little encouragement when things get tough and the self-doubt demon appears…

 

Yay! You can do it! Starry-You by Marija Smits

Yay! You can do it! Starry-You by Marija Smits

 

Anyway… wish me luck, and if you ever have a spare moment please do ask me about how things are going. It will be good incentive for me to keep going!

Lastly… my blog turned 4 last month (although sadly, I was too busy to do anything about it then) but I’m creating a little something for a giveaway I’m going to run, so please do pop back in the next week or two if you’re interested in seeing what I’ll be giving away in celebration of my 4th blogiversary.

 

Some zentangle-art-to-be, photo by Marija Smits

Some zentangle-art-to-be, photo by Marija Smits

 

So, ta ta for now, and I hope to see you soon!

 

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Peggy’s Decision

A short story by Marija Smits


“Hello Rose. And how are you today?” asked Peggy. “I expect you’re enjoying all this glorious sunshine?”

Peggy didn’t really want an answer from her old friend, so without pausing for breath she launched into her one-sided conversation. (Peggy was like that; it was just best if you smiled and nodded in the right places.)

“Well I suppose you’ve heard about Mr Whittaker? Or should I say Benjamin? Oh of course you have. I guess I’ve been wittering on about him for what must be months now. But you’ll never guess what the old fool’s gone and done? He’s only proposed to me, that’s what!

“Well I’m sure you can imagine my surprise. I mean, at his age! And that’s nothing to say of my age. Silly old thing. I mean, what on earth do I want to get married for? I’m quite happy as I am, aren’t I?”

Rose couldn’t possibly comment.

“In fact I’m very happy as I am. I see my daughter, Alice and her two boys most weeks, and what with the Church and the WI I’m busy enough. And there’s the house and garden to look after as well.

“For fifteen years I’ve been a widow and I’ve been pretty content. I can’t think of a single advantage of getting married to Mr Ben.”

There was no doubt that Peggy would soon think of some.

“Gosh, this sun is hot,” Peggy added. “Let me go and get my hat.”

Why Peggy had to always state the obvious was beyond Rose.

“Oh I do love this patio, don’t you?” said Peggy on her return. “Oh of course you do, I don’t know why I bother asking. Everybody loves this patio.

“Where was I? Oh of course; Benjamin and his silly ideas. There he is, on bended knee in the middle of the living room, a great big turquoise ring in his hand. Well I never. ‘To go with your eyes,’ he says. The great big wally.

“Still, it was an awful handsome ring. And people have commented on what a striking blue my eyes are.”

Rose kept very quiet.

Peggy looked out over the garden and twisted her old wedding band round her finger. How she missed Arthur. They had spent many happy years tending this garden together. She still remembered the day that he planted the copper beech hedge which surrounded the garden on all sides. He had worked tirelessly from dawn until dusk, digging and planting, watering and pruning. She had brought him cups of tea and corned beef sandwiches, his favourite. They had joked that the hedge would outlive them. She smiled sadly. No doubt it would. It had grown so tall now and she found it a real effort to keep neat and tidy.

“But Benjamin could be put to good use; there’s the hedge to trim, and the old apple trees need a really good prune.”

Rose nodded serenely.

“He says that he doesn’t mind where we live – he’s happy enough to move in with me, or I could go and live with him. Ha! As though I’d want to live in that poky old bungalow of his. No, no. It would be much better if he came here. He could sort out that dripping tap, for a start.”

Peggy twisted her hat around and bent down the brim to shield her eyes from the midday sun.

“I dare say I’ll be needing to buy a new hat for the wedding. I’ve seen an awfully pretty one in that new shop in town. It’s all feathers and pearls. It would go beautifully with a cream two-piece. I’ll have to ask Alice to come shopping with me. She’s very good at that sort of thing.

“But there’s still so much to think about. I mean, where on earth would we hold the reception? Ben does have a friend who hires out marquees; he said he’d give us a good deal, but where on earth would we put it? Of course my lawn is big enough for a large marquee, yet how would it look?”

Peggy could see it now – golden chairs with red velvet cushions around circular tables set with crisp white linen cloths, crystal glasses and silver cutlery. And each table would have a huge floral display on it. She would make the bouquets herself. She was famed for her bouquets. Mrs Ferguson of the WI was her nearest rival for floral ‘creations’ as she called them, but she could never quite match her.

“A cream and blue colour scheme would work best, I think. Yes, cream lilies and blue agapanthus would make a striking combination. And the scent would be divine.”

Peggy glanced at her old friend.

“No, not lilies,” said Peggy quickly. “Too showy.

“And if the weather held, we could celebrate into the night. I’ve always thought that dancing by candlelight on a summer’s evening a most romantic thing to do. Yes. That would do very nicely.”

The doorbell suddenly rang. Peggy sprang up.

“Oh that’ll be my daughter. I’d almost forgotten that she was coming over today. I’d better let her in.”

“Hi mum,” said Alice, giving Peggy a big hug. “Have you come to a decision then?”

“I have. I’ve had a good chat with my old friend, Rose and we both agree that Benjamin would make me a fine husband. He’s a good man, with a big heart. I don’t think I could do much better for myself. And he does so adore me.”

Alice couldn’t help laughing.

“And Rose helped you to decide, did she?”

“Oh yes,” said Peggy. “We’ve had a lovely, long chat.”

Alice went through the house and out onto the patio. She bent down to Rose’s upturned face and gave her a good long sniff.

“You and your plants mum. She’s a real beauty though, this rose. But I guess she doesn’t say much.”

“No. And that’s the way I like it,” said Peggy, her blue eyes sparkling.

***

This short story took first place in the Swanezine 2012 Short Story Competition. If you’d like to read what the Judge’s thought of it, click here: https://sites.google.com/site/swanezine/short-story-competition-results-2012#TOC-JUDGES-CRITIQUE

The Memory of Water

A piece of flash fiction by Marija Smits

 

Ever since Stephen had died, Maddie had experienced vivid images of him; they swam in and out of her consciousness, surprising her with their comfort when she least expected it. She understood these ‘waking dreams’ to be a normal part of the grieving process and found solace in the brief respite that they brought. A friend had suggested that she get away for the weekend, and Maddie, spurred on by the crazy hope that she would be consoled by visiting one of her and Stephen’s old haunts, packed a bag and drove to Llandrindod Wells. She walked around the town, going from one memory-rich place to the next. Yet the waking dreams did not come. It was only when she stopped at a water fountain, and drank of the spring water that she finally saw Stephen. It was then that she made the connection: the more she drank, the more real the image became. She drank until she was dizzy and then had to sit down.

A tourist asked if she was okay, and she said she was fine. And she was, because suddenly everything made sense. It was the touch of water on her skin that brought forth the images; this strange, colourless liquid, which had claimed Stephen’s life, had somehow remembered him.

Maddie longed to bathe her whole body in water, to sense Stephen’s touch; to feel his arms about her. She got up and started to run towards the hotel. She smiled at her good luck – if she’d made this discovery at home, she wouldn’t have had a chance to have a bath right away; their tiny flat only had a bathroom big enough for a shower cubicle.

When she got to her room she immediately ran the bath, and as soon as she stepped into the water she could see Stephen beckoning to her. He was standing at the edge of a lake, and as he walked into it, she watched herself run after him.

As Maddie’s body became immersed in the hot water Stephen pulled her into his arms and took her deeper into the lake. She took a deep breath and put her head under the bathwater. Stephen’s face came towards her and she opened her mouth for the long-awaited kiss.

Water rushed into Maddie’s lungs and drowned her, in sweet, sorrowful memories of Stephen.

***
This piece of flash fiction was first published on the Cazart website: http://www.cazart.co.uk/index.php?page=story&id=255
where it was a runner-up in the June 2011 flash fiction competition. It also appears in this Cazart anthology: http://www.blurb.co.uk/books/2287968

 

photo-2-e1394104529287

 

Thanks to Nikki Young Writes who I’m linking up with today. 🙂