Your invitation to my book launch

Remember Me To The Bees cover smlScopophilia Publishing invites you to the launch of Remember Me To The Bees, a short story collection by Judy Darley

In just over a month, my short story collection will finally be out, officially! To celebrate I’m holding a party at local vintage clothes shop/bar/cafe/cool and quirky venue The Birdcage, Bristol, and you’re invited.

Here are the important details:

Time: 7-10pm
Date: Monday 31 March 2014
Venue: The Birdcage, 28 Clare Street, Bristol, BS1 1YE

During the eventing there will be a scattering of readings from the collection, live music from Rabbit City and art from Louise Boulter, who illustrated the twenty stories that appear in Remember Me To The Bees and created the original cover artwork.

Signed copies of the book will be available to purchase at the launch.

Please RSVP at judy(at) to let me know if you can make it.

It should be a fabulous night!



Remember Me The Bees – Button Maker

Button Maker cr Louise BoulterOh my goodness, can you believe that it’s barely a month till the launch of my short story collection Remember Me To The Bees? Monday 31st March  – put it in your diary – you’re invited!

The seventh story in my  collection is Button Maker, a bittersweet tale of a fleeting romance.

The artwork is by Louise Boulter.

I wrote this short story after interviewing a woman who made buttons for a living – her craft really intrigued me and made me think of that moment in small talk at parties when someone asks what you do. Wouldn’t it be fab to say something as unusual as button maker? Once I imagined that beginning, the rest fell into place, with the created character become as elusive and alluring as the idea of her profession.

A short excerpt from Button Maker

She comes to a halt over something shining on the pebbles – large and flattish. It gives off a faint stink like earwax and cod liver oil and vomit. The sky-facing eye has been pecked away, consumed.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” She’s nudging at the fish corpse with a twig. Part of me recoils. What if she asks me to help her carry it back up the cliff, through the forest?

“Fish scales, they’d make pretty buttons, wouldn’t they?”

“What about the smell?”

She pauses, like she hasn’t noticed it till now, then wrinkles her nose, shakes her head. “I’ll remember what they look like, make some from silver. And a series of little dead fish buttons, cavities where the eyes should be! People will buy them thinking they’re cute and never even realise the truth of what they’re wearing.”

She drops the twig, turns and hugs me, whispers hot and loud in my ear: “If it wasn’t for the pebbles I’d like to fuck you on this beach. Right now.”

I hold her close but can’t help shivering at the thought of baring my skin to the elements. The heat of passion is locked away deep inside me, far from the wind that is sawing away at my face. In the city it never gets this cold. The buildings give off heat like I imagine stabled cattle do.

I bury my face in her hair, inhale the green apple smell of her. “Can we go back to your house?” I ask, thinking of her room full of buttons, the warm, blanket-laden bed where we cocooned ourselves till daybreak.

Cornish beach cr Judy Darley

Midweek writing prompt – the professionals

Siviano net factory cr Judy DarleyThe world is full of fascinating skill-based professions, and the more specific you get, the more intriguing they become, opening up a whole world of fictional possibilities. Think about the people who make the keys on your computer keyboard for instance, or the person who designs bus stops, whoever designs and makes your buttons, or the people who make football nets.

The latter is something I’ve encountered first time, on an island in an Italian lake. At the net factory there, fishing nets were once high priority, but as time has moved on, and competition has arisen from other parts of the world, they’ve branched out into football nets, tennis nets, volleyball nets, hammocks…

What kind of drama could arise in a place like this? How might their skills be reflected in their personalities?

If you write something prompted by this image, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on!

Siviano net factory worker cr Judy Darley

Remember Me The Bees – Rabbit Hunt

Rabbit Hunt cr Louise BoulterThe sixth story in my short story collection Remember Me To The Bees is Rabbit Hunt, which tells the tale of schoolyard bullying, from the bully’s point of view.

The artwork is by Louise Boulter.

I originally wrote these scenes as part of a novel, but lifted them out to create this short story. I often find that doing this – taking scenes from a novel-in-progress and revising them to suit the short story form – tightens and strengthens them, ready to be reinserted into the longer storytelling form.

In this story, I wanted to explore the feelings of the bully faced with a new potential victim, in this case a progressive mute, and how the bully’s emotions might become confused through their interaction.

A short excerpt from Rabbit Hunt

Sue and Abi loiter nearby – ready to grab Rabbit if she tries to break away.

“Why d’you do that, Rabbit?” Letty asks, trying to sound reasonable. “Why get us in trouble like that? Didn’t I try to be your mate? Why turn on me when all I’ve been is nice?”

Letty widens her eyes reproachfully and the girl shrugs her shoulders ever so slightly. The movement shifts Letty’s palm from her arm and Letty scowls, slapping both hands onto her shoulders and knocking her backwards against the trunk of an old oak.

“Why couldn’t you just take the blame for us?” she snarls, fury crackling through her. “What harm would that have done? Worst you’d have had is a telling off. Me, I’ve got a letter for my mum that’s going to ruin her week, and Sue and Abi have the same. What’d you rat on us for? We’re in deep shit, and all because you weren’t mate enough to take the blame.”

“Smack her one, Letty,” Abi says, edging closer. “Whack her in the face and give her a nosebleed. It’s not like she’s going to tell on us, is it?”“I could do that.” Letty narrows her eyes in a way that she hopes makes the rabbit feel like she’s being sized up by a hungry cat. “Or I could do something a bit more lasting.”

She lets go of one of Rabbit’s shoulders and takes a cheap lighter from her pocket. Still eyeing the girl, she fingers the lighter, stroking her thumb over the red plastic and trying to look menacing.

Abi nods eagerly. “Oh, yes! We haven’t done a branding in ages!”
That does the trick. The girl gasps for air, body twitching as fear spikes through her.

Cornish rabbits cr Judy Darley

Midweek writing prompt – creatures

Baby birds cr Judy DarleyApologies if you’re eating. I took these photos while visiting a local farm park – I believe they’re baby raptors, but can’t be absolutely certain.

They are fairly revolting in their nearly nude state – but who’s to say they won’t grow up to be glorious creature? They could be majestic eagles, dinosaurs, or even infant dragons.

Baby birds cr Judy Darley3

I love the idea of something small and grotesque and seemingly insignificant holding the potential to grow into a truly awe-inspiring beast. And when it comes to fiction, it’s a idea that’s been played with time and again, from tales of changelings to the old Ugliest Duckling story. How would your version stand out? Whose nest might the unformed creature be found in, and what might the consequences be?

If you write something prompted by this image, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on!

Baby birds cr Judy Darley1

Remember Me The Bees – Condensation

Condensation cr Louise BoulterThe fifth story in my debut short story collection Remember Me To the Bees is Condensation. The artwork is by Louise Boulter.

This story went through a variety of versions before it appeared in this form. I knew I wanted to write about the influences of the past on the present and how you might attempt to reconcile the two, and I knew I needed letting go to be a big part of that. So it seemed natural to give the main character, Yolanda, a beloved mother who was dying from cancer, and a young daughter who had grown up in a different culture to her own.

A short excerpt from Condensation

Their first months in the village had been hard. Beatriz insisted they speak only English at home, to help them along, but there was far more to learn than the words. Yolanda found herself picking the vocabulary up faster than her mother, as well as learning new ways to behave, to dress, to eat. Even years after their relocation, when Yolanda had shed almost every trace of her Mexican identity, Beatriz continued to seem foreign, different.

When her mother came back from the village grocery shop, having failed in her search for fresh avocados, Yolanda’s teenage self cringed as Beatriz complained in her thick Mexican accent about the woman behind the cash register. “She was so condensation to me!” Beatriz exclaimed.

“Condescending, Ma, not condensation!” Yolanda shrunk into herself with embarrassment.

Now, Yolanda’s own daughter, deliberately named Ellen rather than Elena, had begun asking questions about her heritage. Yolanda was reluctant to talk about the country they’d left behind. At just the thought of it alarming sensations stabbed through her – desire, trepidation, and bitter, brutal heartbreak. She would swiftly change the subject, avoiding Ellen’s questioning gaze, and bury the emotions as deeply as the animal bones in the garden.

Midweek writing prompt – landscape

Tal y Bont stream cr Judy DarleyLandscape plays a vivid part in many creative works – providing a backdrop, establishing a mood or even introducing peril.

Inspired by Alice Oswald’s poem Dart, I invite you to use the landscape pictured here (Tal Y Bont in South Wales) or one of your choosing to set the tone for your tale. Who walks here, what challenges might they meet, and how might it reflect on their internal struggle or external interactions?

Don’t hold back – if you feel moved to, bring in the voice of the stream and hills to add a deeper sense of your setting. After all, half of the joy of writing is experimenting, and you can’t know what will or won’t work for you unless you give it a try.

Don’t forget, if you write something prompted by this image and idea, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on!

Poetry review – Dart by Alice Oswald

Dart coverFollowing the journey of the river Dart from its source to the sea, Alice Oswald has woven a work of meandering voices that conjures up every person the water encounters on its way.

Using three-years worth of recorded conversations as her starting point, Alice has summoned up the river’s many aspects and visitors, from an elderly hiker carrying “tent, torch, chocolate, not much else” to a naturalist “hiding in red-brown grass all different lengths”, to a forester “knocking the long shadows down”, to a young, drowned canoeist, and the result is a quiet yet powerful deluge you can dip in and out of at your leisure or allow to carry you along at a rate of knots.

I began to read it shortly after Christmas, during a train journey that cut through Somerset’s flooded countryside, where fields had been transformed into shimmering swamplands. It felt curiously apt. Continue reading

Remember Me The Bees – The Taste of Tayberries

The Taste of Tayberries cr Louise BoulterThe official launch of my short story collection, Remember Me To The Bees is on Monday 31 March. Here’s a sneak preview of story four in the collection.

The Taste of Tayberries tells the story of a little girl, Deena, trying to understand the world of grown ups and make the right choice on what to do about something she’s overheard. At the beginning of the tale, her older sister’s boyfriend, Jan, gives her a pair of love birds, and  this gift, what she does with the birds, and the tragedy that follows as a result, all affect her judgement when it comes to a far bigger issue.

As with all the stories in the collection, the artwork for this story is by Louise Boulter.

A short excerpt from The Taste of Tayberries

Jan puts the cage on top of the chest of drawers in Deena’s room. He shows her how to spoon seeds and small grey pellets into the food dish each day, and how to take the water bottle from the side of the cage so she can refill it from bathroom tap. When she goes to bed she covers the cage with the fabric so the lovebirds will know it’s time for sleep.

But they don’t sleep.

Snuggled up under her blanket Deena hears their murmurings, the occasional rustle and flutter. Deena can’t sleep either. What if the birds have a clutch of chicks somewhere, or some eggs that are growing gradually colder without anyone to warm them? She lies there in the darkness with worry gnawing away at her insides.

Just before dawn she climbs out of bed and goes to the cage, slips off the cover. The birds stare at her.

“It’s all right,” she whispers. “I’m going to rescue you.”

The bedroom window is stuck fast. Deena struggles with the latch, using all her strength. The birds tweet softly in alarm. At last the latch creaks back and the glass rushes up so fast Deena nearly topples out onto the inky-shadowy flagstones far below.

She hangs onto the windowframe and sucks in the dawn air, feeling her heart pound in her chest, wilder than next-door’s cat.

The sky is just beginning to turn gold where it meets the city roofs. Here and there a windowpane flares like it’s on fire.

“Look,” Deena says to the lovebirds, hauling their cage over to the windowsill. “See all that sky? It’s all for you.”

She pops open the little gilt door and waits.

Bird cage

Midweek writing prompt – peoplewatching

A crowded street scene is always good writing fuel – thousands of mini dramas unfold all around you, and countless characters present themselves for your consideration.

Rua Mouzinho da Silveira cr Judy Darley

I took this photo on Rua Mouzinho da Silveira in Porto, Portugal. There are several folks who catch my attention in moments, including the elderly couple walking together in the foreground, and the lad in yellow rushing along slightly behind them.

But the star of the scene for me is the older lady with her back to us, stalking through the crowd in her leather jacket and skirt – the woman who walks like she owns the street. Now, there’s a character with a story to share.

If you write something prompted by this image, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on!