Sky Light Rain – Apollo’s Offspring

Apollos Offspring
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My seventh story in the collection is ‘Apollo’s Offspring’.

I glimpsed the above scene at Bristol Botanic Garden, and got to wondering about the uncanny qualities of a crow who can seemingly walk on water.

Seeking out myths on the topic, I discovered masses about ravens, and decided to shift my corvid focus for purely artistic purposes. I then catapulted my characters into the present and made my protagonist a perfectly ordinary modern mother fretting over the  inevitable guilts of farming out child-care.

Giving the children such old-fashioned names (Mabel and Stanley) reminded me of Ladybird books and their resolutely matter-of-fact prose. I get a lot of pleasure from mixing the mundane and otherworldly. Perhaps because of its utter oddness, this is one of my favourite tales in Sky Light Rain.

The tale begins:

Raven comes highly recommended, but despite this, something about him makes me nervous. That beak, those clawed feet, and his way of looking at Mabel and Stanley with one eye and then the other makes me deeply uneasy.

The children are delighted by their new au pair, however. I haven’t heard Mabel chatter like this since before their father left.

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.

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

Sky Light Rain – Two Pools of Water

Twin Blue and Green Lakes, Sete Cidades cr Judy Darley
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My sixth story in the collection is ‘Two Pools of Water’.

As you may have noticed, I have a passion for myths and fairytales. This story is inspired by a local legend of a princess and lowly shepherd I was told while visiting Sao Miguel, one of the Azores islands.

My tour guide took me to a ruined hotel to take in views of Sete Cidades, the twin blue and green lakes. The stark contrast between the rotting building and the extraordinary contrasting pools struck a chord with me. It became the prompt for a story about two sisters, the elder of which, Estella, is trying to protect her younger sibling from the adventures she craves.

Initially I was intrigued by how different the two sisters seemed, but discovered as I wrote that Estella, too, once yearned for escape, and learnt to quell her unquiet nature. In this way, the girls mirror the two pools that appear so unalike, but are far more similar than you might suspect beneath the surface. The question is whether the younger sister will listen to Estella, or instead follow their mother’s example in seeking something more.

An earlier version of this tale was published by Dear Damsels.

The tale begins:

The hotel has stood empty for seven years, or eight. In the humid island air, lichens and moulds bloom along the balustrades. Almost every valuable item, from linens to sinks, has been stripped out by creditors. The carpet remains – squelching under our sneakers. In one en-suite a claw-footed bath still stands; its curve of porcelain laced with grime.

My sister Estella leads me to a balcony. The twin lakes show beyond, half-shrouded in cloud. With the sky overcast, the green and blue are harder to see.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.

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

Sky Light Rain – Knotted Rope

5_Knotted Rope_by-Judy-DarleyOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The fifth story in the collection is my three-voice tale ‘Knotted Rope’.

I used to live next door to a nursery school that took its tiny charges on daily meanders in the nearby Victorian cemetery – the atmospheric sprawling wilderness that provides the setting for this tale. I’d encounter them occasionally playing amid the headstones or obediently clinging to their strip of rope like the one pictured above.

I think we’ve all experienced that dizzying moment when you realise you’ve mislaid your wallet or door keys. As a child I liked little better than disappearing for a time. I decided to combine the two to examine the plummet of mislaying a child, as well as touch on the tot’s motivations for wanting to be gone, if only momentarily.

An earlier version featured four voices, including that of the tot who’s gone missing.

The tale begins:

Rita and I and our two volunteers count with care on the nursery steps. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… That’s everyone, isn’t it? A whole flock of little ones. Every child wears a fluorescent tabard and clasps tight to the length of blue rope, tiny hands wrapped around knots tied like memories.

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 ‘Two Pools of Water.

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

Sky Light Rain – Shaped from Clay

4_Shaped From ClayOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My fourth story in the collection is ‘Shaped from Clay’.

This tale was prompted by the scene above, photographed in a local school playground, coupled with an urge to write something that made my skin creep. That strange white horse just looked so out of place. I needed to know what and who, and why. Personally, I also believe that any story populated mainly by children teeters on the brink of savagery.

‘Shaped from Clay’ explores how communities can turn unhealthily insular, and the way coincidences might string together to suggest something uncannier. Add a couple of outsiders and you have an inevitable hint of love story…

The tale begins:

On the last day of term I allowed the children to bring in toys to play with. As her choice, Ebie brought a bag of whitish clay dug from the river that ran through the village. It wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind, but she looked at me with those silver-blue eyes, and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. I instructed her to use the area by the sink where we washed our story-time milk bottles, and watched from the edge of my concentration as she began to pound out air bubbles. Her hands dug into the clay, pushing into the flesh of it like it was something she was attempting to throttle the life out of, or palm life into.

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 ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water.

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

Sky Light Rain – Woman and Birds

3_Woman and BirdsOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My third story in the collection is ‘Woman and Birds’.

This story was inspired by two journeys – one to Barcelona, where the story is set, and an overnight train ride from Sacramento to Portland. In the latter, I sat next to a woman travelling to retrieve her child from her ex-partner who’d had the child in their custody for the summer, and now refused to give them up. The challenges of that scenario stuck with me for more than a decade before surfacing in this tale.

‘Woman and Birds’ takes the form of a treasure hunt through Barcelona as my protagonist follows clues to track down her ex, Eulàlia, and their daughter Ocell. The title is an homage to Catalan artist Joan Miro and his sculptures, most of which seemed to be titled something along the lines of Woman and Bird.

The story begins:

Eulàlia doesn’t meet me at Barcelona Airport as promised. I tell myself that she must be busy with our daughter Ocell, and catch a taxi into the city instead. The driver has a kind face; I tip him more generously than I normally would and feel a stab of something like self-righteousness. See, I’m being good even when Eulàlia is not.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
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.

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

Sky Light Rain – Weaving Wings

Weaving Wings by Judy DarleyOver the coming weeks, I will share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My second story in the collection is ‘Weaving Wings’.

This flash fiction story is only half a page long, but it was inspired by a huge true tale. I’d read articles about Mexican migrant children separated from their parents by the US government, and the idea haunted me. It seemed so barbaric. Two details about this really got to me – the fact that some of the children were writing letters they weren’t even sure would be sent to their parents, and the heaps of yarn brought out to keep them occupied during leisure time.

According to this news story published in October 2019, 5,460 children were separated from their parents due to the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

In my flash fiction I try to examine this ludicrous behaviour from the point of view of a child trying to make the best of an appalling situation.

My version of this story begins:

The best time is when we have an hour outside and can run and race like we’re still on our way. I pretend that I’m running to my mama and that this is all a game.

I’ve recorded myself reading ‘Weaving Wings’, which you can watch here. It also featured in National Flash Fiction Day’s #FlashFlood on 6th June 2020.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
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.

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

Sky Light Rain – Untrue Blue

1_Untrue Blue by Judy Darley
Over the next few weeks, I will share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book, so will begin with the tale ‘Untrue Blue’.

This story examines a relationship between a brother and sister, from the point of view of the sister Tia. Themes include trust and betrayal, and when the truth can be the greatest cruelty of all.

You might notice if you’ve read my stories that sibling relationships and rivalries are recurring topics. A brother or sister might be the first person you come to know on an equal footing – your earliest memories are likely entwined with theirs, and there’s a high possibility that they know all the versions of you. It gives them a rare power. If anyone can derail you, I bet it’s them!

Bristol’s Cabot Tower, which I can see in the distance from my home and spent many childhood days climbing, is a key location for the pair in ‘Untrue Blue’.

The story begins:

As children we would go flying at night. You were always the instigator, shaking me awake then unlatching the window to let the night creep cool and bright beneath our pyjamas, under our skin. I’d edge out first, blinking in the sweep of orange-tarnished sky, beneath the faint stinging stars.

The story contains hints of fairytales and a touch of magic realism. For me, there’s a bit of wish fulfilment too – as a child I believed there was no more enviable superpower than the ability to fly!

I started writing it with the image the tale opens with, and then wanted to know why Tia seemed so wary of her brother. A lot of my fiction unfurls that way – with a scene I glimpse in my head like something from a film, and a question that leads me to what happens next. In fact, a lot of my writing is a journey of discovery.

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.

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

A short story – Wild Times

Bees_MIR_darleyI’ve really been relishing the wildlife in my garden and surrounding area over the difficult months of lockdown. My short tale ‘Wild Times‘ takes this thought, exaggerates it and blends in a splash of curiosity about human nature,

I’m thrilled to share the news that ‘Wild Times‘ has been published as part of MIR’s Stories in the Time of Covid 19 project. A meditation on nature, both human and other…

You can read ‘Wild Times‘ in full here: http://mironline.org/wildtimes/

Two tales – The Rules of Contagion and Sanctuary

Elephant, Thailand. By Judy DarleyI’m so happy to have two stories in issue 34 of the wonderful The Cabinet Of Heed literary journal.

Firstly, a lockdown inspired story titled ‘The Rules of Contagion’ at https://cabinetofheed.com/2020/06/10/one-word-prompts

Secondly, a story inspired by a visit to Thai elephant sanctuary, titled ‘Sanctuary’, under https://cabinetofheed.com/2020/06/10/photo-prompts/… (scroll down to the elephant).

There are drawers full of fabulous tales to distract you in this fine issue!

A short story – the ebb and flow of tides

The Ebb and Flow of Tides by Judy DarleyI’m delighted that my short story ‘The ebb and flow of tides‘, in which a couple separated by lockdown enjoy a two-person remote carnival, has been published in issue 1 of Perhappened Magazine.

In solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement currently rocking the Globe, Perhappened’s excellent editors are password-protecting the first issue upon its release and asking you to either show evidence of a donation of ANY AMOUNT to a BLM/bail fund-related cause, or  proof of signed petition(s), and/or email templates for justice.

Here’s how The ebb and flow of tides begins:

For my lover’s lockdown birthday, we devise carnival costumes to cheer ourselves up.
My mask will be the sun, to represent my fiery temperament. Hers will be the moon:
calm, cool, reflective.

We live in different households, so there’s no chance of holding hands.

I must have water on the brain at the moment, as on Saturday 6th June, National Flash Fiction Day, I wrote a short tale prompted by the photo of a stormy sea. My story is called ‘Why rivers run to the sea‘, and explains exactly that in the words of the River Frome which  rushes through Bristol. Happily, this story is now live at The Write-In.

Here’s a taste of the tale:

I hunger for salt. I call to the gulls to follow me. I ripple with the anticipation of
spider crabs, squat lobsters, cuttlefish, cup coral and squirts.

I crave the North Atlantic.
My spine shivers with the instinct to surge in peaks.

This story has since been played on BBC Radio Bristol.

My teeny story ‘Ruby‘ is now live at https://thedrabble.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/ruby/ Interestingly, in my head the characters are both female, but the pic they chose seems to show a man and a woman. What do you think?