The Priest – by Hazel Key

The Priest

She caught him in the church. He’d sensed her presence, her movement, heard the distant echo of her heels on the worn flagstones and the rhythm of her movement as she approached. He’d felt the lift in his heart and the catch in his breath. It would be fine, he thought. She was one of his flock after all.
“Father,” she said.
He hesitated before turning to her.
“Mrs Baxter?”
“Can I have a moment?”
He looked at her deliberately then nodded, indicating they could sit, choosing a spot where they’d be visible from the main door.
“I need some help.”
She paused, then added, “It’s Tony and me.”
“I see.”
He wasn’t surprised. Melissa Baxter had been married a few years now but with children yet. Edward himself had married them.

Her expression was unusually solemn, angelic almost. Heavenly. But that was just the light perhaps, an effect of the late afternoon sun, shining golden through the coloured glass. God’s sculptor, he thought. He followed the movement of her mouth as she spoke, hearing none of it, only the glorious resonance of her voice and its echo high above. She looked at him expectantly, awaiting his response as he studied her, as he thought he saw a yearning in her that drew on him.
“Yes, I see. Well, you must have faith that the Lord will watch over you Mrs Baxter, if you stand by your husband. It’s important to-”
She was shaking her head. “You don’t understand. It’s bigger than that.”
“Uh huh, have you thought further on the subject of children?”
“No! I mean, that won’t help. Not now.”
Nervously he fiddled with the gold ring on his finger while she slid along the pew towards him, as if to help him understand.
“I need to ask you something.” She leaned close to him as she spoke. He stood up with a gasp, his throat tightening as he re-arranged his robes. He took a moment, then sat again, having edged some space between them.
“Please. It’s important,” she said.
A sudden noise behind them interrupted her and the Deacon entered. Edward turned quickly to see who it was then stood up again to face the man, growing pale and wide-eyed, like an accused in the dock as the older man approached. All the while Melissa Baxter was telling him how she must speak with him privately. He reached for his carefully ironed handkerchief, wiped the sweat from his palms.
“Can I have a word?” the Deacon asked, looking sideways at the woman. The man, grey and solemn, nodded at her, but she missed it. Her eyes were on the Priest.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” He was peering at Edward with his slitty eyes, turned them slowly on the woman. Edward saw the struggle in her. Her mouth stiffened and began to open in response. He hurried, “No, no, of course not. I’ll see you now Philip, we’ll use my office.”

He excused himself and disappeared into the hidden recesses with the man. When he returned 10 minutes later she was gone. Edward had never liked that Deacon. He was too full of his own importance. He talked too much.

Locking the door of the church he turned towards home. The walk often calmed his spirit, reviving his dreary soul. He thought about his life. At 35 there was still so much time ahead, so much space to fill. Where would he be now if it weren’t for his faith?

He crossed the street, relishing the walk, feeling rattled. She always had that effect on him. He thought of his family – his father. If he were able to read Edward’s thoughts! No, he dashed the idea from his mind, began to walk at a pace.

It was his father who’d steered him away from temptation, and Edward was grateful to him, of course. ‘Evil lust’ he’d said one Sunday, describing the behaviour of the local girls. Edward was just 11, and wondered at the meaning of the word lust. He’d sensed the barely concealed anger beneath his father’s calm exterior, had seen his eyes bulging and the veins in his neck darkening. Heard the terrible snarl in his voice.

Edward hastened across the street, heading for the park which lay between the church and home. Home, he thought, a misnomer since there’d be no light on, no smell of dinner on the stove, no warmth to bring the place into life. How foolish to hope there would be, how often he fell into foolish daydreaming.

He could feel the sweat beading on his skin as he recalled his father’s voice again. “These bitches poison the purity of men with their filth,” he’d said. The man’s face had boiled with a fury that threatened to tear Edward to pieces. “They are weak. We must be strong,” he insisted. “Do you understand?” Then Edward spotted the cane on the desk. He heard himself panting now, recalling the man pacing in circles around him.
“I saw you with them, Edward.” He stopped and looked hard at his son. “You touched one of them.” He went to the desk and picked up the cane. “The Louise girl, I saw you.”
Edward cried out, imploring his father to forgive him, reassuring him that it would never, ever happen again.
His father shook his head. “Nothing can be done. We must remove this stain on your soul.”
His pleas grew loud. He fell on his knees and begged him not to do it.
“This is the only way.” You’ll be a priest one day Edward. You’ll guide this family into the light.” He hesitated then added, “you must be cleansed.” Edward gasped now as he remembered the agony of the cane on his body.

Stopping at the corner opposite his house, he mopped his forehead. The place was lifeless, reminding him of the emptiness he felt after the beating. He thought of his mother. The hours she spent, just staring at the wall. Hours. Grim-faced, she’d bathed the wounds, but ignored his screams.

He continued on, past his gate, not sure where he was going. It didn’t matter. There was a furious energy burning in his legs.

His father had made a special visit to him that night, at bedtime, explaining in a gentle voice the necessity of it, for Edward’s own sake.
“Your pain is mine,” he’d said. “You’ll remember my words when you’re a Priest. You will be a Priest.”
Edward said he understood. It was worth it after all, his father having come to him like that, spending precious time with him, explaining everything. The days were always too short for a teacher who needed to work every hour of them, and so often into the night. And the kids in that remote, pitiful little town appreciated none of it, deserved none of it.
“Thank you,” he told his father as they said goodnight. “I shan’t disappoint you.” He thought about Melissa Baxter and vowed to keep her at bay. Thank God for his faith.

That evening he sat in his winged armchair with the half glass of red he allowed himself on the worst days, listening for the oven timer, feeling very weary and letting his mind drift. He felt the darkness expanding. He could see it, behind his closed eyes, something evil spreading in him, something that he feared he could not escape. Then he heard something. He listened and the sound came again, louder this time. Someone was at the door.

It was her. She smiled broadly at him. He stood paralysed in front of her, like prey caught in the headlights as she stepped forward and reminded him why she was here. They’d agreed she could call, remember? He remembered nothing and looked about worrying that someone might see her. Hurriedly he mumbled an invitation to her to enter.

She dropped herself with a flourish onto his leather couch, causing a stir in the stale air, spreading herself and looking up at him through long eyelashes.

He averted his gaze to his watch and prompted her. “I’m somewhat short of time Mrs Baxter, what did you want to discuss?” He could smell her perfume. Her green eyes had wandered to the wineglass on the table, offered her something to drink, tea maybe.
“Ooh yes please. I could do with some of that Blood of Christ that you’re having.” She laughed.

Pouring her a measured half glass from the half-empty bottle, and glancing quickly at the oven timer as he left the kitchen, he noted that dinner would soon be ready – an excuse to keep it brief.

He watched her throat as the wine flowed down inside it – sensual satisfaction visible in the movement of the muscle and sinews as she swallowed. Her skin was like velvet, covered with a fine golden down. Edward looked away, rested his eyes in the gloom. He sighed and began the stock sermon about the need for a wife to support her husband.
“It’s too late. We’ve decided to split.”
A brilliant flaxen waterfall of hair lay over her shoulders. She flicked it away to reveal the silky terrain of her blouse as she chattered on about how marriage isn’t necessarily a life-long or permanent arrangement, claiming that couples should be able to simply ‘walk away’ when things get tough.
“Mrs Baxter,” he interrupted, “if you’ve already made the decision to divorce, what do you need me for?”
She shifted in her seat, crossing her smooth tanned legs. They were long and lightly covered by a skirt of mauve, one he hadn’t seen before. She breathed deeply.
“I want you to bless my divorce.”
Edward wondered for a moment if he’d misheard. He was stunned, and then stunned all over again as he realised he hadn’t. He laughed a short, derisive, nervous laugh, in the hope she’d laugh too, but she didn’t
“You cannot believe for one minute that I could-”
“Why not? Call me crazy but I’ve been thinking about it, and I need this.” She hesitated then added with the curve of a smile creeping into her face, “surely you’re all about providing a service these days Father?” Her tone was mocking. She grinned at his open-mouthed gaze.
He sighed and shook his head. “Can I ask you something Mrs Baxter?”
“Call me Melissa.”
“It’s rather personal but I need to know.”
“Ask away!”
He wiped his forehead. “Did you consummate the marriage?”
She laughed, he felt the blood rush to his cheeks. “Of course!”
“Well then, I’m sorry, you’re no doubt aware that if the marriage has been consummated then a civil divorce is not recognised by The Church.” Her smile faded. “You and your husband are forever bound by this marriage.”

She said nothing for a moment. Then, tipping the contents of her wineglass into her mouth, she swallowed in one gulp.
“You may want to re-consider the civil divorce under the circumstances.”
There was a frigid silence while she pondered his remark, then a sudden sharp thud as she slammed her glass to the table and stood up.
“The whole idea of marriage, it just doesn’t work does it?” She glared down at him. “How can you marry someone and really know what it means to commit to a lifetime with another person come hell or high water when you’ve hardly lived yet?” She seemed to be exorcising her anger by waving her arms about. “How can you know what you’re letting yourself in for, I ask you?”
“Mrs Baxter-“
“Stop calling me that!”
She was pacing. His breath was shortening and his hands felt sodden. “Marriage is a holy state that provides a stable environment for the upbringing of children,” he said.
“Bullshit! It’s love that matters. A man and woman who love, and by that I mean having respect for one-another, that’s what a child needs.”
“Yes, of course, and-“
“It’s love that holds us together, all of us, the whole world. She was flushed and rattling off at a pace. She turned to face him. “Nothing else matters.”
“I couldn’t agree more and it is God’s love that achieves that. And it’s God’s love that will repair your marriage Mrs Baxter, if you can have faith, if you can listen. If you can talk to your husband, tell him how you’re feeling-”
She folded her arms. He continued.
“As I was saying before, marriage provides a secure and loving environment for the upbringing of children. Without that-”
“So, I’ve the absolute right to his sperm?”
“I’m sorry?”
“You heard me,” her hands flew to her hips as she repeating the question. “Does his sperm belong solely to me?”
“Well, yes. Of course it does.”
“Right, so what if he’s given it to someone else?”
He hesitated, trying to grasp what she was telling him. “I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Are you suggesting-?”
She sat heavily opposite him with her legs unfolded and slightly apart. Her feet, in strappy shoes revealing pink toenails. Vanity, Edward thought, he despised it. The ankles were slender, as were the calves that rose out of them, disappearing up inside the skirt, dragging his focus with it. He felt woozy and pulled at his collar. She explained that the ‘donation’ as she called it had been made to his brother’s wife.
“Excuse me?” Edward asked, “I don’t quite follow, via a clinic do you mean?”
Her short laugh was laden with sarcasm. “Are you wondering if he ‘delivered it direct’ so to speak, along with an orgasm loud enough to disturb the neighbours?” His cheeks, already flushed, turned crimson.
“No,” she admitted, “but doesn’t that make it worse?”
He tried to ask why but her ranting was making it impossible. Meanwhile his head was a muddle of questions, like was it legal? And what in heaven’s name did the brother think about the arrangement?
“How could he do that to me? How can I possibly have his children now?”
“Well, yes, I do quite see how devastating this must be for you. However, love, as you said yourself Mrs Baxter can overcome everything, if you were to-”
“Love? He knows nothing about love! This was planned. It wasn’t just some drunken mistake! That woman’s walking around with my husband’s child inside her!”
She was pointing to the window as if she knew the exact location of her sister-in-law at any given moment. “Talk about stroking his ego!”
“Well, technically the child would be illegitimate in the eyes of The Church. I imagine they’re Catholic?”
She stared across at him, her eyes sagging in despair, then leaned forward with a sigh, covering her face with delicate hands.
“What would you like me to do?” he ventured.
She lifted her head.
“I told you, I want you to annul it. I couldn’t give a fig that it’s not allowed in your stupid-” She straightened herself then looked down, remaining silent for a long moment. Finally she turned her liquid eyes on him. “The legal divorce is one thing but I can’t shake the filth of his touch, not without your cleansing.” Then she said, “You married us Edward, only you can do this.” Her voice was quieter now and fragile. “I need some sort of prayer, or ceremony, something from you.”
He scanned the room for a box of tissues, passing them quickly then withdrawing to a safe distance. He sat opposite her.
She wiped her eyes. “Funny how The Church creeps into your flesh, hey?”

Edward shook himself. “Mrs Baxter I can’t do this. You simply don’t understand!”
In a second she leapt up in despair and was on her knees in supplication before him, her cool hands clasped around his own and her sweet breath on his face.
“Please? No-one will ever, ever know, I promise.”
Her proximity and a lack of air had turned his brain to mush and for a moment he couldn’t verbalise a single sane reason why he shouldn’t perform her ridiculous ceremony. Yet the whole idea was outrageous, blasphemous. And then there was that nosy Deacon to consider. He’d be thrown out of The Church if it were discovered. His whole life would end.

Leaning forward in an effort to make her understand, he opened his mouth to speak and without warning her lips were on his. And they were so warm, and soft and delicious that he was paralysed by the naked pleasure of her touch. She invaded every part of him through her mouth, annihilating his defences as she flowed into him. His own existence expanded out as her arms snaked around his neck. He felt himself releasing, allowing his whole being to merge with hers, warming him. The beast in him rose up, roaring in his ears. He hungered for her now, to have her. His arms were about her exploring the flesh.

Suddenly the utterings of his father surfaced like toxic magma on his brain. ‘Lust,’ he heard, ‘evil lust! Adulterer!’ He pushed her away, disgusted and panting. What in the Lord’s name was he doing? He jumped up in the hope of finding a smidgen of sanity, half expecting her to cry ‘rape!’ or something. But no, this woman seemed as cool as a refrigerated cucumber.

She was back in her seat adjusting herself, her lips plump and red. This was unreal! This married woman, part of his congregation, had come to him for advice about her marriage and he had somehow managed, like a fool, to get himself entangled with her – lustfully! It pained him to even think the word. He must ask her to leave, and he would, if only he could rid himself of this sudden fear that if he spoke now his voice would reveal not Edward the priest but Edward the boy.

“I used to believe that God was a distinct being,” she was saying, “but I’m not sure. I’m losing my faith. I’m not sure I believe it anymore.”
Where the hell is this going now? he wondered.
“Do you Edward?”
Whether it was the question, or the seductive tone of her voice he didn’t know, but he felt a fresh weakening in his legs and a lightening in his arms. He blinked, afraid to speak.
“What are you asking me?”
“I think you know exactly what I’m asking you. God’s our own creation isn’t he? We made him for ourselves. We can make him do exactly what we want for our own salvation.”
“No, that’s not the way it is-”
She stood up. “He’s not up there floating about, he’s right here.” She pointed to her breasts. “He’s part of us, he is us. Just, he’s the better part, the best bit.”
She was looking right at him, her eyes dark and unblinking.
“I love that idea” she said, “that all I have to do is search in the right place.” He was astonished to see her undoing the buttons of her blouse as she spoke, “and I’ll find him. I’ll find myself.”
Her blouse was open now as she approached him, revealing plump soft mounds of flesh cupped in white lace. He backed away and was forced to sit as he hit the couch.
“I think it’s what people need. To know that there’s real goodness in them, and strength, that they can trust themselves.” She was almost within reach now, staring down into his face. “Will you do it?”
“All I want is a little prayer or something, to cleanse me. You’ll know what to do, in the church.”
Edward was transfixed by the voluptuous temptation before him. He felt a rush of blood that warmed his whole body. He wanted her, and all he had to do was nod.

And so he did, and she rushed at him in blind joy and hugged him. He fell backward and the next moment she was sitting over him, legs astride, one hand behind her back. Pinned down against the squeaking leather his new-found courage evaporated fast and he felt the desperate need to pray. In slow-motion she brought her hand round. He crossed himself and closed his eyes, waiting for hell to open its gates.

There was only silence. He opened one eye. She was waving a bible.
“What…? What are you doing?”
“I need you to swear that you’ll keep yourself for me and me alone.”
She reached down to his hand and held it in hers, warm and dry in her long cool fingers. “You have beautiful hands Edward,” she said as she placed his on the holy book.

Edward was vanquished. Flowers bloomed everywhere, heavenly perfume and butterflies of joy! He was chasing her in a meadow, calling her name, her hair suddenly the length of her body-

There was something cold and wet in his lap and a noise was violating his ears. He sat up with a jolt and looked about the dimly lit room. She was gone. The meadow full of flowers had packed itself into the bookcase, the sunshine disappeared inside the table lamp and the glass of wine emptied into his lap. He could smell burning lasagne and the phone was ringing. Lifting the soaked fabric of his trousers away from his groin he struggled to answer it.

“Hello,” came the voice of a woman. “This is Melissa Baxter. I was wondering if I could pop by and discuss that matter with you. I could be there in 15 minutes. Is that ok?”

Beat Sheets and How they can Help you Write your Book

In researching something to help me to plan my writing as well as assess progress as I write I came across the Beat Sheet concept which has it’s origins in the film-industry.

A beat sheet essentially sets out the structure and progress of a story, within which one can then enter the plot, scenes and events to ensure they happen at the correct point in the story structure. There are several available freely for download on the internet, the most well-known of which seems to have been developed by Larry Brooks.

I’ve taken his format and combined it with several others then modifed it to suit my needs. Here it is for your free use.


Do hope it’s helpful. Below you’ll find notes to explain the more obscure terms used.

Would love to get feedback and ideas about how this could be further developed and improved.


Beat sheet Explanations

Pinch point – an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct form.

E.g. an action is portrayed where the pain, suffering etc. of the protagonist is being felt by the antagonistic force (action) of the antagonist. Pinch points can be very simple and quick – In fact the simpler and more direct, the more effective, eg, one character reminding another of what’s going on, a glimpse of an approaching storm, or the kidnapper beating the captive just for fun. Pinch point may need a setup scene, or it may not.

Hook moment – happens in the opening prologue scene in which a question is posed in the reader’s mind – what’s going to happen?

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.

Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.

Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.

Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster aboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.

Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.

Break into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.

B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.

The Promise of the Premise – This is the fun part of the story. This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.

Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.

Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.

All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.

Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.

Break into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.

Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!

Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.

What are the Key Features of a Successful Writer?

Or at least some of them according to one observant marketing executive who over the years has identified the seven that follow as common to the successful authors he’s encountered.

Consistency – successful authors wake early and write every day for around 3-4 hours.
Inspiration – those same authors find inspiration not in monetary gain or the promise of fame. Their focus instead is to to serve the reader, to add something to their experience of living.
Platform – from early in their career those who hit the big time actively build relationships with other authors and people in the industry. Networking is a road to success.
Reading – and massively, of all genres, of good and bad writing. They also read about writing and about marketing their work. They’re hungry to learn.
Work – they work hard, they focus on detail, they get on with the non-glamourous stuff.
Website – they have a website and their own name domain (the website being the modern-day business card).
Marketing – They recognise that marketing, and knowing their reader well, are part of the job right from the very start.



Yours by Mary Robison

At our last group of six meeting, we discussed (among other things) how reading affects writing. In other words, what an author finds himself (or herself) reading, informs and infects that author’s writing. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. An agent that I met briefly last year essentially said the same thing to me. I should be reading crime writers since that is the genre that I am currently writing in. She was right, of course, but I think there is more to it than just that. I think we also need to be reading things that inspire the writer in us.

Tonight I was organising my office in anticipation of doing some writing when I came across an old print out of the story Yours by Mary Robison. Mary Robison is what you might call a minimalist writer. She writes short short stories, but her real gift is the ability to tell a story that is deeply moving and authentic as well. Anyone can write only 721 words (which is the length of Yours) but only someone like Mary can tell such a story in 721. 

I encourage you to read it. It will take only moments. Then find something to read that inspires you in the same way Yours inspires me.


Marketing Yourself as a Writer

Author Media are a company that specialise in marketing for authors and come highly recommended. I’ve gathered some uuseful tips and ideas from their articles as well as their newsletter. Here’s one that features 89+ ways to market your book.

In list form it’s an easy reference to pin on your noticeboard.

Three stories Katrina is working on For Your Interest

Story 1

It was a rainy night, and Jamie went to the bar he had been going to, off and on, for a long time. Tonight there was nobody he knew, only a scattering of tourists. He sank a couple of beers and reflected on how much his life suited him. He had mates who were married and tied down and balding and worrying about money, not like him. He knew he still looked under 30. He worked a few days a week in his father’s building company, and the rest of the time, he surfed. His lived in a little place a block back from the beach, had lived there for years. His father didn’t appreciate his lifestyle, but would never upset his mother by making an issue of it, and who else did they have to leave it to anyway? He’d found the meaning of life at 13, and since then it had been an endless summer. The surf, a few mates to hang around with sometimes, a bit of dope now and then, chicks to pass the time with, nothing too heavy, no ties.

Thinking of the chicks, his eyes scanned the tourists. Yep, there were a few girls. One in particular, a girl with long blonde plaits (plaits!) and a beautiful complexion, was looking around her with a strange intensity. She seemed to be alone, so he went over and introduced himself. Her name was Greta, and she was a backpacker from Germany, seeing the world. She’d always wanted to come to Australia.

He rolled out the pure Australian surfer boy persona, and watched her interest.

“Jamie,” she said. “You’re a surfer. Have you always lived at this place?”

“Sure,” he said, “Born and bred.”

“And maybe you have come to this bar many times, for many years?” she stated.

“Well, yeah, I guess so. And whereabouts in Germany are you from?”

“Stuttgart” she said. “I think you like German girls.”

There was a coolness about the way she said it, but he didn’t let it put him off.

“Sure. German girls are my favourite. The rain’s stopped. Would you like to see the beach at night?”

There was an intensity of emotions, sentiment, irony, sadness.

“Don’t you have a family to be getting back to?” she asked.

“Nope, not me. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but I’ve never had any of my own, and never will.”

“Are you sure?” she said.

“What do you mean?” He laughed.

“Don’t you remember Karen,” she said. “The letters she sent you? The phone calls? About being pregnant?”

“What? Who is this Karen you’re talking about”, he said, laughing but uneasy.

“My mother,” she said.


Story 2

Rising Action

Arrived in Glasgow to meet daughter later in day at the hotel she had booked, realised on arrival that the information about the hotel was in my work email back at the office. Went to Tourist Info, tried to get a list of hotels, hoping I would recognise the name, no luck, decided in the end to go back to the airport and wait for her there.


Went to airport knowing there were actually two airports, hoping I had the right one, taking my baggage with me on the bus, only one flight due in from Copenhagen later in the day, it was delayed, nobody could tell me why, rising anxiety.

Ending 1

Finally plane arrived and she disembarked, happy to see me there, the plane had had to turn back to Copenhagen airport because of a freak accident on first take-off – a flight of birds flew straight into the engine, we took the bus back into town, and went to our hotel – sleep and bliss.

Rising Action

Prior to above: Misunderstood boarding signs at home departure airport, had meant to call the phone service and get my phone plan put on hold for a month, didn’t in the end make this call, at the first European airport, I could have got a European SIM, but I said no because I was frightened of getting into trouble with the phone company – and of course I couldn’t call them, because I didn’t have a phone. Spoke to Tourist Information – they said, simplest thing is to buy another phone, which I did, before heading out to the airport.


Spent the night trying to call people at home according to the instructions – didn’t work. I kept calling the Service Number. After several hours, they said, Oh well, we’ll have to call the technical section. What? Haven’t you called the technical section yet? Their feedback was that the phones were fine, the numbers I had tried to call were disconnected. They are my home number and my mother! I called them on my daughter’s phone in the last few hours! Sorry, that is our last word.

Ending 2

Took it back to the shop I had bought it, problems about a refund. I left it there with them. Result: Less frustration, but no phone for the rest of the journey.

Rising Action

Similar problem with credit cards because I hadn’t called them prior to departure (again, problem at the airport) to say would be using them OS, and then didn’t know which numbers to call on daughter’s phone.


No money, lots of Euros, couldn’t help pay for hire car, so paid for other expenses on currency card, it more or less evened out.

Ending 3

I finally managed to email other daughter, who looked it up on the web, and contacted me, and I called them from my first daughter’s phone.

Rising Action

Trying to vote in Paris: I couldn’t vote before I left, because the voting ahead started two days after my departure date.  The one day I was in the right city in Scotland to pre-vote, I just couldn’t get there. On the last day for foreign voting, I was in Paris. I set off for the consulate by public transport, Climax

I had it all worked out, but I couldn’t work the ticket machine in the Metro Station and in the end I gave up.

Ending 4

I consoled myself by thinking that it probably wouldn’t have made much difference, and when I finally saw the results, I was confirmed in that.

Rising Action

Lost in Marseilles. Walking around looking for my hotel – surely it was just uphill from the harbour.


Then it was getting dark, and the area seemed rather seedy.

Ending 5

Tried to catch a taxi, the taxi-driver said, it’s just around the corner.

Rising Action

Realised that I I had missed my plane (12 pm is midday not midnight) when I was nearly at the airport.


Traipsing around the airport looking for someone to help me: Singapore Airlines has gone home for the day, come back and see them in the morning.

Ending 6

Great politeness, Australians do this all the time, got on the same flight the next day.

Rising Action

In between previous climax and Ending 6:

Trying to find accommodation for the night near the airport: very helpful staff member making dozens of phone calls, finally accepted somewhere quite a way away.


Taxi driver, another dodgy taxi driver, dumped me, on the wrong side of the road from what he said was my hotel, had to cross the road with my luggage, they told me it wasn’t my hotel, gestured vaguely up the road when I asked about where it was then. It was dark, in a “bad area”, no taxis, I had no phone, nobody knew where I was, and I had my luggage. I felt quite desperate.

Ending 7

Rescued by a series of young people, got to hotel.

Other elements to include for interest:

Themes:  bad taxi drivers, just missing out on interesting things by one day or one hour, the coffee made on long-life milk, the photographs I missed, luggage too heavy and unwieldy, B&B ladies

  • Beautiful scenery +++
  • Beautiful buildings +++
  • Beggar at Glasgow train station
  • Glasgow and how it feels
  • “The MacNab” portrait in Kelvin Grove Museum and Art Gallery
  • Kintyre
  • The little cottage
  • Journey north
  • Little herring fishing town
  • The Orkneys
  • Travelling to Paris
  • Paris good and bad
  • Barcelona
  • Marseilles
  • Aix-en-Provence
  • Train journey
  • Sheep at Charles de Gaulle Airport

Story 3

  1. Ordinary World

Glimpse of daily life on O’Reilly’s dairy farm/guesthouse.

  1. Call to adventure

Discussion with relative during visit, realised that the plane must have been heading to Lismore as planned, working out where it would have gone – line on map (intellectual), sense of responsibility about trying to find the wreck

  1. Refusal of the call

Little girl asks to go with him, this makes him think about how his wife and child would grieve if he did not return – almost decides not to go.

  1. Meeting with the mentor

Flashback to someone who taught him bushcraft – could have been an Aboriginal person (about learning the way and the way back without maps), or some old bushie who learnt from an Aboriginal person, or even someone older in his own family.

  1. Crossing the threshold

Packing up the loaves of bread, butter onions, tea and sugar, setting off, hard going. Sent horse back.

  1. Tests, allies and enemies

Spent the night in the bush, he heard the dingoes howling not far away, as they do around dead bodies, he couldn’t sleep, cold and wet, rainforest at night, the Aborigines wouldn’t pass the night there (Mirkwood).

  1. Approach

Next morning, climbs to peak of Mt Throakban – cloud prevented visibility, the – clouds split, and he saw a treetop that was light brown, 8 km away. He knew that reaching that spot would require amazing skill, and also he would have to keep his bearings.

  1. The ordeal

Five hours to the top of the next ridge, starting to tire, slump in morale – meaningful success (finding anyone alive) seemed impossible. The on the next ridge, he was in cloud again, did not get another cloud break, so he couldn’t get another glimpse on the burnt tree. Kept on for another three hours.

  1. The reward

Heard the Cooee, at first thought it was another searcher, didn’t believe anyone could have survived so long. Cooeed back, it was not so far away, they kept cooeeing back and forth until he reached them. “You poor bastards”, he said. News of Bradman 165 not out in the Ashes.

  1. The road back

Had to get help, left them, went down to the creek, set off down the creek, found Westray’s body, realised he was dead, spooked at that point, kept on going, falling over, wading through deep pools, finally heard a shot, found a young farmhand who was out shooting.

  1. The resurrection

Farmhand got him a horse, he reached a homestead with a phone (1 am) roused district, everyone turned out, advance party with doctor set out at 2:30 am, they reached the survivors after 24 hours (amazing achievement), and then brought them back. (The survivors had given up hope before O’Reilly arrived.

  1. Return with the elixir

Returned home, long and successful life, lived to write his books and tell the tale.




Read: Short Stories


Short stories; a form I find both wonderful and frustrating in equal measures. A “short” story must still tell a whole story. Every word must be laid out with precision, so that time and space are not wasted. It is a science as much as an art, I’ve found.

At our last meeting, Hazel made the comment that when writing fiction, each scene, each moment, must be furthering the story. Each page, each paragraph, each word really, must be moving the reader along the narrative arc. If not, you risk losing them to the allure of TV dramas, internet shopping, or, god forbid, better writers. This is something that is very hard to do, but it is a task that short story writers, good ones that is, have mastered. They must for their stories to be told.  Every writer should delve into the world of short fiction, if simply to experience for themselves the torture of eliminating every non-essential word from a work.

As writers, we like to write. But that can sometimes also be our downfall.  Writing short fiction can teach us to “economise” our language. And though as writers, most of us love the written word, it is important to learn when enough is enough. Write some short fiction. And read it too. It is wonderful.