Tag Archives: friday fiction

Friday Fiction (Disability)

So, I wrote my first piece for the Huffington Post blog today, so I think that really has to be today’s FF.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Hello, I’m Penelope Friday. I am a disabled mother: I’ve had a diagnosis of moderate to severe ME/CFS for 22 years, and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia for 1 day (yes, really. No thank you, in the nicest possible way, I don’t want to know what you advise for either of them). I have a very wonderful son of nine, but when he was a pre-schooler, I had a horrendous amount of trouble getting him to pre-school. I have been reminded of this recently because my car – fairly vital when you can barely walk – has unfortunately gone the way of all things mechanical. And I’m back to relying on… well, that little (or, in my case, big) bit of help from my friends.

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Friday Fiction (Parenting)

Disclaimer: I wrote this a while back so my suggestions may be out of date 🙂

 

Penelope Friday offers parents five easy ways to help the environment without losing their minds!

1. Change Your Ideas On Nappies.

Okay, in a perfect world we’d all be putting our babes in reusable nappies (and doing even more loads of washing than we already are), but realistically for most of us, that’s just not going to happen. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do that, so I can’t do anything,” think again. It’s worth checking for local reusable nappy laundering services: if you’re worried about the cost, rest assured that compared to the cost of buying disposables week after week after emergency-trip-out-at-midnight-because-the-baby’s-just-pooed-in-his-last-nappy… well, put it this way, the price begins to look quite reasonable. AND the companies come to you – think ‘Tesco Direct’, the nappy version.

Unfortunately, it’s also true that not every area has a local nappy laundering company. After days of scouring the internet for any information on it, I discovered that my fine plans for reusable nappies were in tatters. No one (and frankly, I can’t entirely blame them) was willing to take away smelly nappies and replace them with beautiful, freshly laundered ones. Failing this, there’s still another option that is at least green around the edges – biodegradable disposable nappies. Not, I grant you, as great for the environment as reusable, but a darn sight more practical. ‘Nature’ nappies are not only mostly biodegradable, but also (and this is important) widely available in shops like Boots and Mothercare – places you’ll be visiting anyway. What’s more, they are not (as you are no doubt suspecting) extortionately expensive. They’re a similar price to name brand nappies, and work just as well.

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Friday Fiction (The Sisterhood excerpt)

This is my current WIP, another Regency romance. This is currently the beginning of the first chapter, but when I think through how much the beginning of Petticoats and Promises changed during editing, I do not promise that a single word of this will be in the final story!

 

The Sisterhood

 

The simple fact was, Charity Bellingham should have been born a boy.

 

Charity, not for the first time, was pondering this as she practised her scales on the piano. C major. C minor harmonic. C minor melodic. She had played these enough times that her fingers knew the positions by rote, leaving her able to mull things over as she played. If she had been a boy, perhaps her parents would have loved her. (C sharp major; all the sharps.) If she had been born a boy, wouldn’t have been thrown out of Forsbury, their old, beautiful house. The entail would have gone to her. (D minor harmonic – easy) If she had been a boy, perhaps her father wouldn’t even be dead. She might have been with him as he toured their estate, able to fetch help immediately he was thrown from his house. He wouldn’t have lain there alone so many hours, wouldn’t have caught that awful chill which led two days later to his death.

 

If she had been a boy…. E flat melodic minor. Charity thumped the notes down, trying to drown out the voice in her head. Her mother looked up from the chair in which she sat sewing, her lips pursed.

 

“Charity! There can hardly be a need for that volume. It is unladylike.”

 

“Sorry, mother.”

 

And ah yes, there it was. The fact that in all ways save the only one which mattered, Charity was a boy – or at any rate was boyish. Having been born a girl, she had not even had the courtesy to act like one. To pursue girlish interests with the same enthusiasm as her sister. Rebecca, source of this comparison, looked up from her place at her mother’s side, and gave Charity a sympathetic smile. Becca, like their mother, was sewing: a neat line of stitches to embroider a dress. The best that could be said about Charity’s sewing was that it was serviceable: two edges she sewed together would stay sewn, but they would win no merit for beauty. She preferred reading to sewing, and outdoor exercise to either.

 

Friday Fiction (Petticoats Excerpt)

There was really only one choice for this week’s Friday Fiction. You might (just possibly) have gathered that my novel, Petticoats and Promises, came out this week, both in paperback and in ebook. So there clearly needed to be an ‘excerpt’ moment here.

Serena, my heroine, and her best friend Clara are at their debut ball, but all does not go as expected…

 

It was a frightening time for me at the beginning of the ball, or would have been without Clara’s support. We stood by the doorway, welcoming the guests–speaking to stranger after stranger after barely known acquaintance. Clara had the poise that I lacked, and she laughed and chattered as I fought for the words that tripped so easily off her tongue. But Clara drew me into the brief conversations, and encouraged me to show myself to my best advantage. I might not want to marry any of the guests, but at the same time I did not want to be shown up as a country bumpkin. Perhaps I might be vain, but I wanted them at least to consider the prospect of marrying me, even if I had no interest in them!

 

Our cards were marked with our partners, and the ball began. As it was taking place at Clara’s house, it was she who led the couples out. I was content to take a secondary role, however, content to watch my love dance the figures and to follow where she led. I had never seen a gathering of so many people, and I was stunned by the heat and the noise, but at the same time I loved every second– the dancing, the drinks, the beautiful attire of the ladies and gentlemen. After a glass of champagne, I began to relax and enjoy myself, and I could see Clara doing the same.

 

My happy mood was not to last. Halfway through the ball, as I finished dancing with Edward Latimer, a man I had known since childhood, I looked up and caught a troubled expression on Mama’s face.

 

“Excuse me,” I said apologetically, as he offered to fetch me a drink, “but I must go to my mother.” I knew better than to dash across the ballroom: I had no wish to draw attention to my mother’s distress. Instead, I walked towards her as casually as I could. The mask slipped only when I was by her side. “Mama, what’s wrong?”

 

My mother forced a smile.

 

“Nothing, dear; why do you ask?”

 

I had never known her lie to me, and my suspicion of some intentional deceit was in itself more frightening than any truth might have been.

 

“What has happened?” I demanded urgently. I grasped her hand and held it between my own.

 

Her eyes fixed steadily on my own, her voice but a whisper. “I need you to be brave, Serena,” she said quietly. “I need you to return to the ball as if nothing has happened. Can you do that one thing for me?”

 

I nodded and squeezed her hand. If my silence was all I could do for her, I would keep my counsel. I paused a second, as the careless, laughing crowd turned about the room, and wondered whether any of them knew my mother’s secret. Clara danced past with her partner–a soldier who had received a major injury eighteen months earlier in the Battle of Leipzig. One of his legs was undeniably shorter than the other, but as he danced, his face showed no trace of the anxiety I saw in my mother’s. Whatever had upset her appeared to be only a family matter.

 

I looked around for my partner for the next dance, a Mr Feverley. He was a timid, young red–headed gentleman who stammered his request and looked appalled rather than grateful for my acceptance. He came hesitantly to meet me, still apparently deciding whether to dance or run, but his ambivalence was just what I needed. I began to forget my own troubles (and I still did not know what they were) even as I allayed his. I smiled at him encouragingly, and he managed the final few steps to my side with only the smallest of stumbles.

 

“Thank you for asking me,” I said, as he tripped towards me.

 

“My… my mother–I mean… my pleasure…”

 

My smile broadened. I recognised his mother from the hunted glance over his shoulder: a formidable woman who was determined that all of her relations should marry above their station.

 

“Don’t worry,” I murmured as the music started up again. “It’s only a dance, not a proposal to wed.”

 

Red–haired as he was, his face mirrored his scalp.

 

“It’s not–I don’t mean…”

 

“I know,” I soothed, and grasped his hand a little tighter. “Just relax and enjoy it. If truth be known, I’m as shy as you are. So let’s forget about it and dance.”

Friday Fiction (Article)

Author’s Note: An excerpt from an article I wrote for Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine a few years ago. On the ever popular subject of alcohol.

 

Alcohol!

 

“Does [Mr Allen] drink his bottle a day?” the obnoxious John Thorpe asks Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, going on to say that “at the last party in my rooms… upon an average we cleared about five pints [of wine] a head”. Now, even taking into consideration that Thorpe invariably exaggerated everything he’d ever done, there was still a note of truth in the comment. Alcohol was known to flow freely at the universities. Drunken students are not merely a modern phenomenon!

 

But drinking a surfeit of alcoholic beverages was certainly not limited to students. Jane Austen herself wrote in a letter to her sister that “I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.” And as to the parties of the ton, it was positively expected that the wine should flow freely throughout the evening and into the early hours of the morning. The Prince Regent, predictably, took drinking alcohol – as he took so many other things – to excess. Indeed, he was not sober even at his own wedding, and his new wife Caroline would later claim that George was so drunk that he “passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him”.

 

Even away from the upper classes, however, it was common for adults to start drinking with their breakfast. Ale was a common accompaniment to the large plates of black pudding and other meats which constituted a Regency ‘breakfast’. Indeed, small beer, a phrase used to describe the second, weaker, brewing of an ale, was even drunk by children. Whilst it was low in alcohol (approximately 0.8%), it is nevertheless difficult to imagine anyone but the most hardened drinkers nowadays starting quite so early in their libations. And even they would be unlikely to give it to their children. Of course, the dangers of drinking untreated water meant that it was actually safer to drink beer than fresh water, which may give some measure of defence to the Regency drinkers.

Friday Fiction (Article)

Questions of Identity… Coming out as disabled

Having to “come out”. Being called “abnormal”. Or described as “queer”. All of these phrases are regularly used as descriptions of non-straight sexualities, yet they work equally well as definitions of disability.But what is it like “coming out” in two different ways – being disabled and gay/lesbian/ bi/pansexual? And which is the most difficult for others to acknowledge? (Please click text for more.)

 

Friday Fiction (Short Story)

Please note, this story is NOT WORK SAFE and appropriate only for over 18s.

 

Beltane

She walks, Maiden of the Spring, across the sweet smelling grass on May Day. A hint of dew still glitters at this early hour, but the rising sun will soon dispel it. A blackbird chants its pleasure at the new day, and she looks up and smiles: they share the same joy. A Spring Maiden, soon to be a Summer Bride. She stands in the sunlight and waits. (Please click the text for more)

Friday Fiction (Fanfiction)

There is a theory that there has been fanfiction about just about everything, and I intend to prove it. Herewith, a short piece I wrote based on Milton’s Paradise Lost.

 

The Way To Hell

 

from sence of injur’d merit,
That with the mightiest rais’d me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits arm’d
That durst dislike his reign…
/the Tyranny of Heav’n

And did he believe these words, Satan? Did he beilieve the sentiments that took him crashing from Angel to Devil; the Fallen Angel who fell furthest, fastest? Or was he seduced by his own rhetoric, made dizzy by the effect his speeches had on his fellows? Was it the heady taste of power which brought about his downfall?

Power – corruption – pride – greed.

He accused God of his own failings, as mortal man so often does in his stead, preferring to fault another rather than examine his own conscience. And others flocked to his banner, persuaded by their own vices – jealousy, anger, covetousness. And he chose to challenge that greatest of authorities, the Almighty Lord, because his pride would not allow subservience.

But once – once, surely, he believed in what he said; before his ideas became twisted and perverted by his untrammelled ambition. Once, he was an Angel of all things good.

Truly the way to Hell is paved with good intentions.