Sky Light Rain – Invertebrates

Arnos Vale woodland grave cr Judy DarleyI don’t know about you, but I adore catching a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into stories, music and theatrical productions. It’s part of the reason why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The twenty-second story is ‘Invertebrates’. It bubbled up in my mind when I was strolling in Arnos Vale Cemetery, a grand Victorian amphitheatre cemetery which recent provided an area for woodland graves.

When I saw this rustic place of mourning, my intrigue and imagination were piqued. The profusion of flowers scattered on the bare earth made this seem an ultimately tender gesture. I pictured the people who might have laid someone to rest here, amid the trees and insects, I couldn’t help thinking of the brutality and beauty of many fairytales.

The resulting story, ‘Invertebrates’, serves as a sequel to a familiar fairytale.

It was originally published in Door Is A Jar Magazine.

The story begins:

We dug her up each solstice; each time she was a little lighter, her joints a little more unhinged. I worried she might come apart entirely, sinew and bones giving way as we propped her in the place of honour.

My brother and I allowed the invertebrates that had made her their home to attend our celebrations too. Sometimes centipedes fell from her eye-sockets and throat cavity to roam among the feast. I watched beetles nestle into her breastbone, and recalled how comfortably my head once rested there.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lodged‘.

Sky Light Rain – Lodged

Lodged by Judy DarleyI don’t know about you, but I adore catching a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into stories, music and theatrical productions. It’s part of the reason why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The twenty-first story is ‘Lodged’, which is one of the first ghost stories I have had published. It tells of a couple who move into a house where a former tenant has left behind more than a creepy atmosphere. I was inspired to write it while living in a rental property where the cellar was filled with items belonging to the previous resident – everything from old pots and pans to gymkhana ribbons, asthma inhalers and old teddy bears. My brain began mulling over why anyone would abandon things that seem so necessary, and of such sentimental value?

The second spur for the story sprang from ‘The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This eerie story seeded in the idea of Charlie, my character named in honour of Charlotte, becoming increasingly obsessed with the former tenant, July. I began to wonder what had happened to make the person leave so abruptly that they didn’t take half their things with them, and then to wonder whether they’d truly left at all…

An earlier version of ‘Lodged’ was published by Origami Journal.

It begins:

It’s just after 5am when Graham comes to find me. I’m in the cellar, still in my pyjamas, one leg half over the old armchair that sits in the section where the landlord’s dumped the former tenant’s possessions. I pause when he comes in.

“Charlie, what are you doing?”

“Did I wake you?” I push my tangled hair out of my eyes with one hand. “Sorry. Couldn’t sleep.”

I’ve found all kinds of things: old paintings, teddy bears, dressmaking fabrics… I wave a blue gymkhana ribbon in the air, half amused, half aghast. “Why would anyone leave this stuff behind?”

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’.

Published stories – October 2020

Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

This photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash illustrates my story ‘Kitten Heeled.’

While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, including within my own home, October has seen a generous number of my short fictions published, which has offered some light in the fog.

Last week, two tales inspired by real life moments found homes. The second, ‘Calamities of Varied Weights‘, is now live at The Daily Drunk. It covers a real day out with my teenage niece and nephew back in February 2020, rainfall, grumpiness and all.

The first, ‘Kitten Heeled‘, has been published by The Art of Everyone. It captures a moment from my childhood. Adam at The Art used a royalty-free photo I supplied, shown at the top of this post.

Uh-Oh Books published their beautiful Wild and Green kids’ magazine featuring my children’s story ‘Grace Under Lockdown‘, about a grey seal coping with noisy, messy humans! Marine Conservation Society helped with insights.
On 5th October, Dream Journal published a teeny tiny pandemic flash fiction inspired by my middle nephew – ‘Ezra Can Stand on One Foot Forever.’
So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Earlier in October, wonderful book post arrived from Indianapolis – the ninth edition of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, containing my hopeful story ‘Reaching Branches‘, which is about a newcomer to a suburb seeking a way to forge a sense of community.

The folks at the journal say: “The journal has become well recognized in the writing and artistic community. This year, we received 267 entries for 65 slots, so the selection process was challenging. Here are a few stats: Of those selected: 41 men, 24 women, and 12 veterans. Fourteen of our contributors are from Indiana; 42 are from out of state; and 9 are international. The journal features 38 poems, 17 prose pieces, 10 photographs, and 9 works of art.”

Extraordinary to have my work selected out of 267 submissions, and as one of only 24 by women and nine from overseas!

To top it all off, today is the book birthday of my short story and flash fiction collection, Sky Light Rain. Happy first birthday, Book 2!

Sky Light Rain by Judy Darley

Sky Light Rain – Not Every Wound Can Heal

Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho by james Hainsworth_crop

Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho by James Hainsworth

Ever wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The nineteenth story is ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’, which is particularly well suited to Halloween week. It was prompted by a misremembered tale of a holy relic glimpsed in Prague’s Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho. I wanted to examine how we’re occasionally driven to tell ourselves myths to make horrible situations tolerable, and how we find the strength to break free.

The tale was rings in at just over 330 words and was originally published by Spelk.

It begins:

A dark artefact hangs from the ceiling of the Baroque church. It resembles a bit of branch, or a stick covered in rags. Our tour guide tells us it’s a mummified arm.

Afterwards Tim and I each remember the story differently. He’s convinced it’s the relic of a saint. I’m sure it’s the limb of a thief who tried to steal jewels from a statue of the Virgin Mary, and that she came to life and twisted his arm entirely off.

Perhaps it’s not an arm at all.

I can’t get it out of my head.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.

Sky Light Rain – Elevated Truths

Lift at ABode by Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The eighteenth story is ‘Elevated Truths’, a story that has its ups and downs. It began to form in my mind after I went down a rabbit hole researching the invention of the lift, I discovered an innovator called Elisha Graves Otis. My first thought was that this remarkable woman had saved us all from trudging up endless stairs. The second was that she sported an impressive beard in her photo.

I love a good misunderstanding for presenting curious juxtapositions. This one gave me the impetus to explore the balance of truths and lies in a girl’s relationship with her father, and how a ‘smile-lie’ can serve as a form of protection.

‘Elevated Truths’ was originally published by Fictive Dream magazine.

The tale begins:

2000 <> 1852

“The elevator was invented by a woman in 1852,” I tell my father when he looks up from the article he’s writing and asks me what I’ve learnt today. “Her name was Elisha Graves Otis, and she founded the Otis Elevator Company. See, women can do anything men can.”

He looks at me over his laptop screen, his eyebrows doing that weird pinch in, thrust out move that means he’s not sure what to correct you on first.

“That’s not quite right,” he says, and I scowl.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – Lamp Black

Train station cr Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The seventeenth story is ‘Lamp Black.’ This unsettling tale took root when I was waiting at Bath Spa Train Station. On the platform opposite I saw two children playing. One was giving the other a piggyback and they were wobbling close to the edge, just a stumble away from toppling onto the tracks. My pulse was beginning to race when the train roared up and they ran on board, thoughtless of the danger they’d been in moments before.

I got to wondering where their parents were and why no one had been keeping them safe. A story began to unfold in my mind of a woman sending her two daughters out searching for the dad they’ll never find, just to get a but of time to herself. But then one day they come home and tell her they’ve found him…

The tale’s beginning faithfully reports what I saw and felt:

Two children on the other side of the station are playing close to the platform edge. One is giving the other a piggyback ride, stepping along the yellow warning line like it’s a tightrope. None of the adults within reach intervenes.

I think about shouting out, but don’t want to startle her. As I watch, she wobbles and staggers towards the train tracks. My hands clench and unclench at my waist.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.

Sky Light Rain – Flamingos and Ham

Flamingos and Ham by Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? We’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The sixteenth story is ‘Flamingos and Ham.’ This dystopian flash fiction tale could be a metaphor for 2020, but seeded in my mind when I interviewed the instigators of the Pussyhats that appeared in photos of the 2017 Women’s Marches – Krista Suh, Jayna Zweiman and Kat Coyle – for a crochet magazine. Do you recall the sea of hot pink cat-eared hats in those visuals? That was thanks to these three women.

I was inspired by how they’d taken a colour associated with women and weakness, and reclaimed it as something powerfully striking and unifying.

Imagine if the colour pink was outlawed. What infringements might come next?The story looks at how our freedoms can be eroded almost without us noticing. It was originally published in Ellipsis Zine Two.

The tale begins:

I was twelve when the ruling came in, banning certain words, colours, and clothing. It seemed farcical at first. My mum and dad laughed in disbelief as they watched the news.

“How can they outlaw pink?” Dad hooted. “What about flamingos and… and, ham?!”

Mum grimaced, clutching her crochet hook. “Why forbid hats, and yarn? What are they afraid of?”

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

This Too – a short story and a prize!

This Too_ladybirdI was delighted when my short story This Too was selected for publication by The Great Margin, a project set up by Paper Nations. The selection included a chance to have my story edited by the splendid Michael Loveday, who pointed out a mixed metaphor, which led to me amending a single sentence. Other than that, the story went live exactly as it had been submitted.

The story began to bubble up in summer 2019, when our garden was parched and everything felt poised by the heat for something big to happen. In my story, the ‘something’ becomes a wait for a phone call following medical tests.

Roll forward to summer 2020, and we were all on tenterhooks thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. I found myself thinking about everyone who’d had to put immune suppressing treatment on hold, and about the strain that was causing them and their loved ones. The story gained a new dimension.

I brought in the ladybird plague of 1976 because it’s something so strange and dramatic, and yet as someone who wasn’t yet born it seems to be like the stuff of folklore. I wanted to imagine that one day the Covid-19 pandemic will seem that remote and strange thanks to the passage of time. This too will pass.

This week, I have cause to celebrate the story once more as the amazing folks at Paper Nations got in touch to let me know This Too has been chosen as story of the month. I won a book voucher for the marvellous Mr B’s Emporium. Even better, they published a piece explaining all the reason’s they love my story. Aww. *blushes*.

Sky Light Rain – Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire

Ever wondered how a short story takes its first breath and finds life? We’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fifteenth story is ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire.’ This longer than average title leads you into a drabble – a 100-word micro fiction – about a couple carrying out a ritual to mark the end of their relationship. It was originally published by the aptly named The Drabble.

If you have any 100-word tales knocking around, I highly recommend you send it their way. One of my writing passions is compressing whole lives, relationships and break-ups into less than half a page.

My drabble popped into my head when my man and I (still vey much together) decided to hide a pair of small stone gargoyles in a local woodland. One disappeared pretty promptly, but the other lurked in a mass of ivy for months.

The tale begins:

They dressed in the dark, fumbling over bootlaces and coal-black buttons. Lucinda picked up the ceramic gargoyle Crispin had given her early in their romance. He chose the straw doll Lucinda wove for their first anniversary.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – Far From the Farm

14_Far From The Farm by Judy DarleyWe’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fourteenth story  is ‘Far From The Farm,’ examines what roots us, and how displaced we can feel when removed from the scenery and people we associate with home. It invites us into the world of Eilidh, a young girl from Skye coping with a new life in urban England

‘Far From The Farm’ was originally published as ‘The Creak of Snow’ in a special Scottish-themed edition of Literary Orphans.

The tale begins:

If Eilidh leans close to the bedroom window and breathes out, she can make the world beyond grow cold and fog-filled. She dapples her fingertips against the glass, creating pools of light that shine sharp and ice-bright. The sky is yellow today, swollen with clouds heavy with something chillier than rain.

It won’t snow here. This southern city would grind to a halt if a few sparse flakes fell from the sky.

That’s what Franny says, anyways. It bothers Eilidh to think of her old gran managing the farm alone, without anyone to ride the tractor with. Who’ll bound out to drag the gate open, close it again once she’s through?

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.