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’.

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‘.

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‘.

Sky Light Rain – The Moth Room

Moth wings cr 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 thirteenth story in the collection and also the first in ‘Part Two – Light’ is ‘The Moth Room’.

I wrote this flash fiction in response to a visit to the studio of artist Rose McLay, interwoven with strands of Cinderella together with a touch of moonlit iridescence. The story embraces ideas of the scant lines separating beauty and brutality.

‘The  Moth Room’ was originally published in issue 21 of Gone Lawn, which describes itself as “a web journal of artistic and progressive literature.”

The tale only spans half a page and begins:

He follows her home from the ball, trailing in the pitch of her laughter. She’s taken off her shoes for dancing and runs barefoot through the ragged streets, giggles glinting in her wake. 

The warehouse she leads him to is shuttered into rooms, each with its own door to unlock. Hers is labelled The Moth Room.

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 ‘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 – Strawberry Thief

Strawberry Thief by 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. The twelfth story in the collection and also the final in Part One – Sky is ‘Strawberry Thief’.

I wrote this story especially to perform at a local literary event, Novel Nights, which was about to host an evening at a bar called The Strawberry Thief. I love writing to prompts, and this was an excellent one. I thought about the sensory pleasure of picking strawberries, and how as a child I’d eat as many as would end up in my pot for weighing.

The drowsy summer days felt like the perfect backdrop to a first love based on shared secrets, thefts, lies and discoveries.

‘Strawberry Thief’ was originally published by the deliciously named Straylight Magazine, biannual literary magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

The tale begins:

The hide is empty but for herself and Jonathan. In the clearing beyond the structure, birds cavort – more species than she can name. Jonathan would know them all. He understood their code of feathers and colours in a way she’s never been able to grasp.

She reaches into the bag beside her and draws the thermos out.

The cup that sits neatly over its lid makes her pause, flooded with a memory. At the hospice, she’d crushed strawberries against its rim, fed the crimson pulp into his mouth with a teaspoon. He’d swallowed, then muttered, soft enough that she had to lean close:

“Wrong season for strawbs. Where’d you get ’em?”

Not wanting to name the shop she’d bought them from, where they nestled in the fridge alongside own-brand sausage rolls, she smiled back and said: “The pick-your-own. Remember?”

That lie had seemed worth it for the brief lessening of the pain she saw in his mud-brown eyes. She popped one of the berries into her own mouth, chewing fast. It was cold against her tongue, and lacked the burst of sweetness she craved, but its flavour connected her to the moment, to him.

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 ‘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‘.