Sky Light Rain – Edge of the Sand

Cornish shore cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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 thirty-fourth story is ‘Edge of the Sand’. The story began to take shape when I visited a millinery shop in Bristol and learnt how feathers are used to create extraordinary hats. An image popped into my mind of a woman walking along the edge where sea meets sand and collecting seagull feathers. I wondered who she wanted to make a hat for, and why.

The answer took shape early as I imagined her brother preparing to get married, and what it would take for her agoraphobic mother to attend. The seagull feathers felt like the perfect representation of taking a leap into freedom, even if that feels like trusting your weight to be carried by the wind buffeting a cliff edge.

The story begins:

The tide has just begun to turn. Arianne walks along the edge of the sand, collecting seagull feathers one by one.

They’re white, the feathers, and dappled with grey, mirroring the clouds overhead.

Her meandering route carries her to the narrow stairs that lead to her childhood home. Deepening shadows cast a chill over clumps of delicate purple flowers that sprout from the cracks between rocks. Her dad would have known what they were named. He always knew details like that – it was he who first got her interested in insects and other invertebrates when she was barely more than a dot herself.

The back door is sticky, its wood swollen by spring rain. She forces it open and steps into the stillness and stands motionless for a moment, feeling the thrum of her heart.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.

Sky Light Rain – Milk and Other Lies

Kaunas, Lithuania, River2. By Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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 thirty-third story is ‘Milk and Other Lies’. This fable is just 208 words long and tells of a seemingly magical river in a time of famine. I wanted to test ideas around how we see what we want to see, and fear and desperation can prompt us to swallow our own lies. In the story, not everything is as it seems.

The story began with me examining how intense hunger can pervade your every waking thought. The title, ‘Milk and Other Lies,’ refers to the travesty of multinational milk companies convincing women that bottle-feeding their babies was better than breastfeeding, which led to infants dying in poor communities, especially in third world countries. My story aims to examine how something that appears to be enticing can in  fact be a treacherous and dangerous illusion.

The story began life as a poem, which is probably why it’s so distilled. I often write in one mode and then change to another to tease out more depth, hopefully without losing the power of the original form. I like the fact that extreme brevity invites the reader to be fully engaged, as they’re required to fill in the gaps between words.

Fiction is often a good route into examining stark truths. We’re all somewhat jaded from relentless bad news, which can mean we close our eyes and ears to what’s actually going on. When we read fiction, our frame of mind is usually more receptive. Fiction helps us get our heads around vast, unpalatable truths.

‘Milk and Other Lies’ was originally published by SmokeLong Quarterly.

The story begins:

One day the river runs with milk. I watch as holloweyed mothers bring infants to the shallows. They pour the clouded liquid, scooped palm by palm, into their babies’ gaping mouths.

The next day I wake to the sound of children’s laughter. I step outside, smelling a cloying sweetness in the air. The river has been gilded overnight, shining with butterscotch. Children hurtle in, barefoot – hungry for its sweet promises.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.

Sky Light Rain – Merrow Cave

Iona Abbey carving cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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 thirty-second story is ‘Merrow Cave’. It tells the story of a young boy, Callum, who is sent to live with his aunt and granddad on a remote island when his mum is unwell, and discovers a rather fishy family secret.

The story grew from someone telling me how their ageing grandma was forgetting her English and reverting to her mother tongue, which his granddad had never learnt, so that it was as though the grandma was being cast adrift with no one to understand her.

The route I took to explore this sorry situation wove in marine folklore, in particular Irish tales of mermaids, or the merrow. Imagine if your relative came from a world more alien than simply being from another country? How could those differences reemerge as they aged and grew frail?

Introducing Callum as the protagonist gave me an opportunity to examine the scene with an outsider’s eyes. Relocating him from his inland home to the windswept isle makes him feels as out of place as his grandma is becoming.

‘Merrow Cave’ was one of those rare tales that seemed to almost write itself, as though carried by a tide I had little control over.

‘Merrow Cave’ was originally published by Querty Magazine, the literary journal of University of New Brunswick Department of English in Canada.

The story begins:

It’s carved into the side of the rock – a face tilted to one side, hair streaming behind. The jaw is angular and strong, the whole thing larger than life.

Running his hands over the smooth stone of the cheeks and nose, Callum senses it again, that feeling of someone behind him, watching. He lets his arms drop to his sides and turns, slowly, gazing into the darkness at the rear of the cave. The shadows are so deep he feels blind for a moment, but then there’s something, a movement of some sort, and the thin light crawling in from the entrance snags on something back there.

“Hello?” he calls, and his voice bleeds back to him, causing him to shudder with self-consciousness. He wants to run outside into the sunshine, but as the last echoes ebb away, he hears something very like a cough being stifled. Whatever it is in the darkness, it sounds unwell.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.

Sky Light Rain – Blossoming Almond Tree

Blossoming Almond Tree by Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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 thirty-first story is ‘Blossoming Almond Tree’. An extract from a longer work in progress, it’s a story of canals, art, and secrets between siblings. The title is a reference to one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most hopeful paintings, ‘Almond Blossoms’, which he completed as a gift for his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo to celebrate the birth of their son. Just months later, Van Gogh took his own life.

It creates parallels with my character Elise’s concerns about her brother, Davey, and the dark holes that might be appearing beneath his surface.

The pendant pictured above features in the tale.

The story begins:

We travelled to Amsterdam as a celebration the year you turned eighteen. Mam wasn’t thrilled but I promised her we’d visit too many museums to keep straight in our brains, and that I’d make sure you did nothing more than look at the other options on offer.

I planned to keep at least half that promise.

You’d been quieter than usual in the run up to your exams, only your wordless humming occasionally breaking the silence of several days.

I knew Mam was worried about you. I dug into that anxiety and assured her that seeing a bit of culture would do you good, especially with me, your big sister, to watch over you. She couldn’t argue with that.

The journey to Bristol airport took longer and cost more than the flight to Schiphol.

Somehow, we managed to hit a heat wave that slowed the city to a gentle saunter. We strolled around gawping at the canal houses with their gabled façades, and then went and sat on the National Monument in Dam Square eating cones of chips strung with mayonnaise.

I was intrigued by the smoothness of the travertine stone riddled with tiny cavities – like the marks left by miniature artillery fire.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – Underwire

Underwire by Judy DarleyHave you ever created a fictional character who gained traits and powers you didn’t expect? You may have noticed that for a while now I’ve been offering ‘behind-the-scenes’ insights into the inspiration that prompted the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

A few weeks ago, entirely unintentionally, I completely skipped over my story ‘Underwire’. This tale is the twenty-seventh in the collection, and should have appeared in this series of posts between ‘The Sculptor‘ and ‘Breathing Water‘.

This most curious thing about this omission is that ‘Underwire’ tells the tale of a woman who chooses to disappear.

It originally washed up in issue 67 (Winter/Spring 2018) of Tears In The Fence.

The image above shows where the story ends. It begins:

The pebbles of the beach are cold lumps beneath my soles. A January wind whistles in from the sea, but I ignore the goosebumps sprigging my flesh and with effort I think the core of me into heat. That’s a trick, imagining an inferno lit at the centre of my gut, flames licking the ropes of intestines and keeping me warm.

The whole world is dressed in shades of bruises today – bluish pebbles, the greenish sea, a sky like slabs of ice above.

I glance up the beach; see the violet trim of my sneakers where I kicked them off a few steps back. Nearby, my socks lounge untidily like patches of lichen or moss. 

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – Fin

Fin. Photo by James Hainsworth

I can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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 thirtieth story is ‘Fin’. It surfaced in my mind one rainy January when I was certain our cellar (the same cellar that brimmed with uncanny encounters in my story ‘Lodged‘) was filling with water.

The idea merged with a whale watching trip I’d taken the year before, when I’d seen and fallen in love with the majesty of fin whales.

The story is about an ending, so the title works on two levels.

The story begins:

It began after their trip to the Azores. Toby had booked it as a celebration of their years together, complete with a voyage to look out for whales. Rachel glued on a smile and let Toby take her hand when he reached for it. She didn’t know how to tell him it was over, but something in the skitter of his glance made her wonder if he’d already guessed. It was as though he no longer dared to fully see her, in case he mistakenly found himself staring at a truth he’d rather not face.

Of the numerous species those Atlantic waters attracted, it was the fin whales that deigned to make an appearance. While other tourists, including Toby, stood and snapped photos, lens to eye, Rachel sat back in her seat and drank the sight in. The slap of fin against the waves, the slide of an immense, narrow body swooning up then over and down into the depths.

“Second largest mammal after the Blue Whale,” their biologist tour guide commented. “These ones are behaving strangely. Normally they come up for air only, but these ones have risen, what, three, four times?”

Each time the pair rose, they came a little closer, and each time, Rachel felt herself singled out by their deep-set, knotted gaze.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – Reeds and Curlews

Laugharne Castle by Judy Darley

I can never resist the opportunity to catch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s 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-ninth story is ‘Reeds and Curlews’. It carries us through a rainstorm to one of my favourite places, Laugharne in Wales, at the moment when a mother recognises the hazards of the age her son has reached following the death of one of his friends. Even as she attempts to shepherd him through his grief, she’s swept sideways by the relief that it wasn’t her son who died.

We all have those moments, don’t we? Those terrible, guilty feelings of “Thank goodness that happened to them, not us.”

An earlier version of ‘Reeds and Curlews’, then titled ‘Wriggler’, was published in the October 2018 issue of Ghost Parachute.

The story begins:

The suspension bridge tries to catch us in its wires as we drive from Bristol to Wales, chasing storm clouds as we go.

“It’s a spider with a gazillion legs,” Oli says, staring up throughthe sunroof.

I can’t help but smile. In those words I hear the little boy he used to be, just last year or the year before. Not that twelve is so very close to full maturity, but the perils in his vicinity seem disturbingly adult.

The thirsty July ground is too hard-baked to let rain soak in. Puddles form, then lakes and rivers, gushing down hillsides to meet us. The deluge fills me with a kind of fierce delight. I feel we’re amorphous – regressing to the amphibious beings we were in the womb.

“I was never a frog,” Oli says, holding tight to the backpack cradled in his lap. One hand is closed in a fist, gripping something I can’t see.

“No, but you were a wriggler,” I say, my own hands fixed to the steering wheel as we aquaplane for a second, and then regain the road.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – Breathing Water

Breathing Water by Judy Darley. View of harbour from prow of boat.I can never resist the opportunity to catch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. 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-eighth story is ‘Breathing Water’. It examines the small rituals we carry out to feel safe and to try to keep others from harm, and explores the tensions and tenderness within a family where two brothers have chosen very different paths – one an artist and the other a fisherman. The viewpoint is the artist’s son, Gil, whose neurodiversity perturbs his father and uncle.

An earlier version of ‘Breathing Water’ was published by Little Lantern Press.

The story begins:

The moon is thin, casting a faint spool of light that catches in the waves beyond the harbour wall. Gil likes this kind of night, softened by the salt in the warm air, all colours subdued. He pads down to the dock, strips off his t-shirt and shorts, clambers down the steel steps welded to the wall. The metal is cold against his skin, but not, he knows, as cold as the sea itself will be, even here in the harbour where it has been quieted.

He enters slowly, allowing the chill to creep over his skin. Become the blood in his veins. He sinks until his ears are submerged, and exhales with something like relief. There, now not only the sights are muted, but the noises too. All except those he creates himself, which sound distinct and pure.

He swims across the harbour to the first shadowy hull, heaves himself on board and stands, shivering.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – The Sculptor

The Sculptor by Judy Darley. Photo of an ice sculpture against a sunset.I can never resist the opportunity to catch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. 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-sixth story is ‘The Sculptor’.

When my father was diagnosed with semantic dementia, it was difficult, ironically, to find the words to express that cruel incremental loss. Fiction gave me a way to express what I was experiencing and communicate it to others.

Semantic dementia is the gradual erosion of language and meaning, and watching my father battling to recall the words he needed was both heart-aching and alarming. I’ve always written, and my working life has been centred around words as a journalist and fiction writer, but finding the form to talk about this particular situation was a challenge. I needed to create some distance, and fiction provided the means to do that.

I grew increasingly aware that other people around me were suffering shockingly familiar drawn-out plummets into grief. It seemed every other stranger I fell into conversation with was struggling to survive a similar tragedy. In this way, fiction became a way not only to understand my own emotions around my loss of a man who still lived, but as a means to reach out to and connect with others.

My first successful short story on this subject became The Sculptor. I made my protagonist, Isha, an ice sculptor and had her fall in love with a glassblower, using these elemental artisan-ships to create a fictional landscape in which to place the ‘dad’ character. Nothing was true to my life apart from the situation, Isha’s grief, and the words stumbled over by the man representing my own dad.

The photo shows an ice sculpture at my cousin’s Thailand wedding in 2019. Remember when travel was a thing? *sigh*

An earlier version of ‘The Sculptor’ was published in Unthology 8 by Unthank Books.

The story begins:

She has to pause every hour – that’s what the orthopaedist advised – to take a break from the frozen quiet and ease warmth back into her body. Standing in the studio, Isha cradles a steaming mug close to her throat so that the licking fingers of vapour lap at her chin. She feels the quietness inside her soften and begin to melt.

Even the juddering growl of the chainsaw can’t disperse the peace that takes hold while she’s working. She feels it grip her interior like the shy fingers of ghosts. Isha wonders how much time she has left before the orthopaedist’s caution makes itself known.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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

Sky Light Rain – Distant Storms

Sunlit water cr Judy DarleyI can never resist the opportunity to peek behind the curtain and catch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. 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-fifth story is also the first in the ‘Rain’ section, in which all tales are dappled with rain, or washed by ocean waves and rivers. ‘Distant Storms’ invites us to glimpse a future when rising sea levels creep above the lower areas of cities, isolating many people.

Imagine you and one other have been finding ways for the two of you to survive for a decade when a column of smoke lets you know you’re not entirely alone. What will you do?

I originally wrote this flash fiction for the Redcliffe Future Way story walk.

A shorter version was published in Mslexia’s Little Ms newsletter.

The story begins:

When the floods came, most people stuck it out for a time, then lost their nerve and travelled beyond the outer reaches of the city, seeking higher ground.

Not us. We stayed put in the tower block, watching as the streets went under, and then the bridges and even the skyscrapers closest to the strand. You showed me how to fish from the windows, going up a floor each month as the water levels climbed. We learnt to swim through the murky waves, salvaging anything that floated, diving down through waterlogged buildings to rescue anything we could make use of.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

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‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.