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Flash Fiction Friday no.13: ‘The Paper Doll’ by Cindy Vaskova

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the thirteenth piece of flash fiction in this weekly series. Today’s piece is a 996-worder, entitled ‘The Paper Doll’ by Cindy Vaskova.

There was a circus on the beach of the sea. Right on the sand, no more than five meters from the water and its waves. And it performed only at night.  For certain people, at a certain price, an entertainment one-of-a-kind, once а year for three nights. Until the dawn. There was no tent, just a few huge pillars, build deep into the sand for the performance holding the ropes for the trapeze and tightrope acts, so except for the seats and the lights, the circus was opened to the sky above.

There were magnificent acrobats, twisting their bodies, in the most amazing ways, then slowly, unwinding themselves; trapeze acts, flying high, swinging, unbelievable for the eyes of everyone watching. How could they manage that, with no roof to hold all the strings required to hold the bars, no metal, nor anything? Was this, which held them, coming down from the dark sky? Alas this illusion optical or psychological remained unanswered for the audience. It was the magic of the circus no doubt.

The tightrope walkers were balancing on tin ropes and wires some lower, some on a greater height, balancing with umbrellas or only with their bodies and hands, without protection whatsoever to hold them if they tend to fall, making the audience gasp and shiver and tremble and fear. They looked like moving on the spine of the night, on some invisible line, only for them to see. Then of course for a comic relief came the clowns, funny and stupid, stomping and falling, with red noses and green hair, blue trousers and big yellow shoes. Animals, though a few, roared or crawled, and watched with, as people imagined, hungry eyes.  The sand was flattened in the centre of the circus and there, unicyclists three of them were riding, and juggling at the same time, making everyone dizzy. Musicians were playing from the darkness, out of the light, no faces just music, corresponding to the acts of all the performers, following their every step – piccolo for the clowns, fast violins and loud drums, most likely timpani, keeping on edge the public while the tightrope walkers or the trapeze performers were making their final step. Not the usual circus music you would expect to hear, but then again not the usual circus you’d expect to watch.

And then the music ceases, just for a moment, for The Ringmaster to appear, all dressed in red, with white gloves, a white bow-tie, big red top-hat, black pointy beard, and eyes mesmerizing, deep and black, with a sparkle in them. Without a microphone, his voice spreads in the vastness, loud, remaining powerful, for all to hear. He gathers round the public’s attention, with smooth words and moves announcing the next part. There are no pauses for this circus.

The Ringmaster opens his hands, pointing them in direction, to nowhere, to the dark, and flames start walking towards him. Fire-breathers, like dragons step into everyone’s vision and suddenly the lights turn off. No one dares to move.

Music changes. There are Arabic drums and flutes, to which the flames dance like snakes. The audience can see only a glimpse of the performers’ faces, when the fire catches them. They hypnotize with this dance macabre. All fades to black, for a moment, then the lights turn on again. Applause, like thunder, comes from all around. Everyone is speechless. But there’s more to see. They feel it. It’s time for the 13th act, the last one which performs as the sun is about to rise, making a path for itself on the surface of the water. They know something is about to happen when The Ringmaster, smirking, announces:

“Ladies, gentleman you are about to witness the most extraordinary act in your lives. One which you will not forget, one you will tell stories of, one to show you magic inhabits this reality. This is one to test the nature of your minds, to ask not only your eyes but your inner vision as well – your ability to dream and fantasize. Let your emotions feel you, let them circulate in your souls. Face them as you watch. For your entertainment, and yours only, tonight you will be reborn seeing the unbelievable. Welcome, The Paper Doll and her Master – Sasha!”

“Go on, your dad be proud.”

Sasha looked at the big, strong acrobat, nodded silently and made her way into the light. Her father, The Ringmaster came close and whispered in her ear, “Be a good girl. Don’t make me angry”.

The sky had started to lighten. Sasha, holding a human-sized paper doll moved around the audience making them turn on their seats, watching baffled at what was happening.

Under the sounds of darbuka and kaval the girl, barefooted, stepped in the water, and continued until it reached her waist. The sun was an upside down smile on the horizon, burning orange.  She then dived and again the audience gasped. A wave passed and the paper doll appeared above the water with no sight of Sasha. From where the audience sat, it didn’t look like a paper doll, but like a woman dancing on the tip of the water, curving her body, slow with the rhythm of the music, a sound sad and lonely. She was a mirage, dim before the watchers’ eyes, a mermaid, a siren, calling for all. It looked so real, yet impossibly for this paper doll to touch the water, to dive and appear again, reaching a hand for the ones on shore, with no voice, only body language. The audience stood up, with tears in eyes, breathless. Kneeing down, before the water they gave their souls away for love, for salvation. For this unknown girl drowning as her dance stops, lost forever. They cannot bare this end, so they die with it, soulless. Behind, the devil and his demons await their feast. They lick lips tasting the souls they’ll devour. Tonight the circus on the beach opens again.

Morgen: Wow. I asked Cindy what prompted this piece and she said…

Well, crazy as it sounds, the inspiration for this flash story came to me one morning after I woke up from a curious dream about a circus on the beach, a girl whose father seemed to be The Ringmaster and one particular, strange, strange dance with a paper doll which she performed. Couldn’t put my head around it for a while, because as we all know dreams tend to become a bit weird at some point, but then I thought it might just transform itself into a proper story. So I decided to build the rest of the scenery around those few things I remembered from the dream and voila! A flash fiction story was born.

It doesn’t sound crazy at all… very normal, to me anyway. 🙂 Thank you Cindy.

Cindy is a first year student in Journalism. Other than that normal bit of her life, she writes short fiction stories and has a novel in progress in the background to which she dares go near from time to time. She has been involved in a school project, creating a short fiction story anthology called “The Red Hill”. Recently Cindy started her own blog, where she posts her writings, while doing some twitting in between that.

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with Tannbourne publishing editor Ellen – the two hundred and twentieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers, editors and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in short stories, writing


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Author Spotlight no.38 – Miranda Newboult

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlights, the thirty-eighth, is of children’s author and interviewee Miranda Newboult.

Miranda lives in East Sussex with her partner, three children (one of whom is a very recent addition to the family) and an ever-growing collection of animals.  The headcount easily exceeds thirty and some days are an endless round of feeding and watering.  “Everywhere I turn there is someone else standing there with their mouth open hopefully” she jokes.

Miranda graduated in 1991 with a degree in English and Related Literature from York.  The experience put her off reading for years.  When she eventually regained her childhood pleasure in reading she also discovered whole new genres unheard of in the hallowed halls of university.  Chick Lit, Crime, Adventure, Fantasy – her shopping basket suddenly overflowed with novels that held no place on a dusty academic course.  Yee-hah, the passion had come back!

During this time, she worked in London with varying degrees of success.  It was the recession and – with hindsight – flogging advertising space was a soul-destroying activity, and deeply unsuccessful.  She fared marginally better as a recruitment consultant before moving into Human Resources where being helpful and pleasant was seen as a useful commodity rather than a serious character flaw.  This lasted a couple of years before being made redundant.  After this, she worked for herself – having cleverly forgotten how bad she was at selling.

The uncertainty that reigned post-9/11 put paid to this plan and she took a job as a Leadership and Management Consultant at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2002 and lived happily ever after.

And now from the author herself:

Apart from a short post-university strop with literature I have always loved reading.  My nose was permanently in a book as a child and I still fundamentally believe that reading is the best form of escapism there is.  I am the person who constantly says, “the book was so much better than the film”.  With a book you completely immerse yourself in the experience, the characters’ voices in your head are heard just as you want them to be, you visualise the story as you see it internally.  No film or video game has ever been able to emulate that.  What you see, hear, experience is someone else’s interpretation of a story – not your own unique version, the version you only get when reading a book.  I love the fact that people experience your characters for themselves, and take them to their hearts as their friends (or not).  Books allow for rich debate, for readers to disagree with each other and with the author, to take from the story what is powerful for them.  Books about the human experience can be read on so many levels, from a basically good yarn through to a profoundly moving and cathartic experience which is entirely their own.

My novel, “Emma’s Stormy Summer” is a children’s book which illustrates this point perfectly.  On one level it is about a young girl whose life changes over the course of the summer.  Her friendships at school change and her relationship with her father deteriorates in ways she doesn’t understand.  There are themes of bullying and depression in the book which can be accessed by the reader to the degree that is right for them.  For those who have no personal experience of such issues it is simply an enjoyable and life-affirming read.  For those whose lives have been touched by bullying, depression and the over-whelming feeling of responsibility for the happiness of others the book is – hopefully – a profoundly liberating experience for the reader when s/he realises they are not alone.  I hope it will open up opportunities for children who are struggling with similar issues in their lives to feel they can discuss what is happening to them, even if they do nothing more than talk to Emma.

My second novel is about a boy who has recently lost his mother.  It is about his relationship with his father and how they come to terms with their loss and move on with their lives.  It sounds a gloomy topic but the protagonist, Ben, is an optimistic boy who has good friends and a great outlook on life.  Again, it’s a story that can be accessed on many different levels, depending on the mind-set of the reader. It needs some tweaking before it is ready to face the world.

One day I may write an adult novel but for now I find the world of children endlessly fascinating.  Children are incredibly resilient, positive and emotionally intelligent and it’s a privilege to give them a voice.

You can find more about Miranda and her work via… TwitterFacebook and her (very supportive :)) publisher Tannbourne, and you can read my full interview with Miranda (released 14th August) here

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery, suspense, fantasy author Nancy Adams – the two hundred and eleventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks at Smashwords.


Posted by on December 7, 2011 in childrens, ebooks, interview, novels, writing


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Due to other commitments (client editing, my writing, competition judging, Writers’ Forum column etc.,
I’m not currently taking any guest posts but will update this page when I am.

If you’ve been a guest on another WordPress site, then feel free to email me the link and I’ll gladly reblog it.

Below is a list of all the authors, editors, illustrators, and agents who have appeared on my blog since March 2011. The green links indicate the relevant posts and their blue-linked names will take you to their websites.


























That’s the list so far and I’ll be adding new links as new posts go up. If you’d like to take part in this blog, do take a look at Opportunities on this blog or email me.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via or You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything.

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

For anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.


Author spotlights

Due to other commitments (client editing, my writing, competition judging, Writers’ Forum column etc.,
I’m not currently taking any guest spots but will update this page when I am.

I started posting weekly author spotlights in August 2011 and below is the list of those posted to-date.

Guidelines: An author spotlight is made up of…

  • <1,000-word third-person point of view biography (this makes up the first half of the spotlight)*
  • <1,000-word first-person point of view about your writing / anything interesting writing-related (the ‘And now from the author him / herself’ second half)*
  • full website links please (no etc.) to you and your work*
  • * text only (no photos) together in one document attachment please (.doc or .docx preferred but I can usually work with whatever I’m sent, although I’d prefer not receiving .pdfs especially with embedded photographs as it’s time-consuming pulling everything out and the photographs are never as clear)
  • please, not pasted into the email, not separate documents per section, nor a link to external files such as Google Drive or Dropbox please.
  • a photograph of yourself and your book cover/s (as separate attachments, not pasted into the document) to add some colour to the post. Feel free to send as many book covers as you have. Please email me ( – note I’m Morgen with a E) as (ideally low-resolution .jpg: no more than 200kb in size, ideally 200-250 pixels max at the shortest length; Facebook only accepts photos with a minimum 200 pixels) and N.B. as attachments rather than email- or document-embedded text / photos. Thank you.
  • and I am human, so please don’t just send everything through, please at least say “hello”!)
  • Before submitting your own, please do look at one or more of the spotlights (the green links for the spotlights themselves (the blue links are the authors’ websites) to see how they ‘work’.
  • Please read through and spell-check your text before sending it to me.
  • Because of the high volume of enquiries received across this blog – over 900 currently outstanding, I don’t schedule in advance but when I receive the content, sorry about that.
  • NB.  Please include all the text as a document (.doc or .docx ideally), not pasted into the email or as a link to external files, and the photographs as separate files (
  • Please allow a minimum of two weeks for a reply before chasing me!
  • There is no charge for running your author spotlight. The only item I charge for is the full blog interview because it’s so time-consuming.

I don’t do book reviews – see Reviewers (and the genre sub-pages) for some other sites that do. From 1st May I will be posting guest book reviews (of other authors’ books) see Book Reviews.

In January 2013, I created five new online writing groups to share your short stories, poetry and novel / script extracts for feedback. I also post weekday 15-minute writing exercises – see Online Writing Groups.