Book review – for readers and writers – no.173: Morgen reviews Rocco and the Nightingale by Adrian Magson

Today’s book review, is brought to you by Adrian Magson who gave us ‘A Change of Setting’ yesterday and previously talked about planning.

I no longer take review requests but you can read the ones done to-date on book-reviews. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. So, on to today’s book…

Rocco and the Nightingale

Synopsis: When a minor Paris criminal is found stabbed in the neck on a country lane in Picardie it looks like another case for Inspector Lucas Rocco. But instead he is called off to watch over a Gabonese government minister, hiding out in France following a coup.

Meanwhile, Rocco discovers that there is a contract on his head taken out by an Algerian gang leader with a personal grudge against him.

The novel is available from (change the to your country).

Author biography: Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.



As many crime novels do, the story alternates between the criminals and police, and poor Rocco has the added complication of babysitting a reluctant African dignitary – accompanied by his bodyguard – with scant support from Rocco’s superiors. Over the course of the novel, we meet a variety of Rocco’s colleagues and a fine array of the underworld’s finest.

As a former dog owner, I liked the comparison between one of the victims and a sheepdog “that didn’t understand what he’s supposed to do. Good at running but crap at following the whistle.” Funny.

Humour is often evident in crime novels, and it’s well known that the police (in real life) make jokes to keep themselves, and their colleagues, sane. Another particularly amusing line was (and I assure you that it doesn’t refer to a child but a man from the Interior Ministry): ‘Rocco wondered if drop-kicking the little tyke down the stairs could be done without losing his job, and decided not. Maybe he could put sugar in his petrol tank… or something stronger.’ (Don’t try that at home!)

There was plenty of conflict – good vs. evil as well as antagonising characters – and well paced.

This is the fifth novel in the Rocco series. I’ve not yet read the previous stories so came to this one as a standalone reader and didn’t feel that I had (a) missed vital information that had already been covered in the previous novels that we should have had here; nor (b) information where it feels it’s been over-explained.

Rocco himself is highly professional and dedicated, wanting to solve the cases he’s involved in (and one’s he’s relieved of). He’s wily, and cleverly outplays a younger colleague without her knowing to suit his end without the reader losing any respect for him because we know it’s in the best interest of the case.

And now for writers…

  • The best piece of writing advice is to ‘show’ not ‘tell’. An example in this novel is ‘The old man looked shocked’ which is fine but it’s always best to have the character doing or saying something, e.g. ‘The old man’s mouth dropped open, his eyes wide’… or something better! 🙂
  • Exposition is a lesser-known term. It’s where two characters are talking about a topic they both are familiar with and know a piece of information but one has forgotten it and asks the other to remind them. It is a technique some authors use to provide information for the reader’s benefit. This may not have been Adrian’s intention but it’s a useful occurrence as I get to tell you about it. So, in this case we have…
    Character 1: ‘Maybe the information was rubbish.’
    Character 2: ‘What was it again?’
  • There were few clichés, which are fine in dialogue (up to a point – one character only) but less so in narration and an example is ‘nip it in the bud’.
  • At times, the story strayed into present tense, e.g. now, here, this, today etc. When writing in past tense, the narration should stay in past tense so the equivalents would be: then (although most ‘now’s can actually be removed), that, the previous day / a day earlier / the day before etc. Dialogue will be present tense regardless.
  • There were also points where it wasn’t clear who the he / she / him / her was where there were two characters of the same gender in the same scene or conversation. An example would be: ‘Rocco wasn’t so sure. It was the end of a long road, and time would tell if the charges stuck and Farek went down. He had no illusions about what a clever lawyer could do…’. The ‘He’ means Rocco but the last male name mentioned was Farek so the reader could think it was Farek who had no illusions.


It was an intricate plot, cleverly weaved, but I didn’t feel lost or confused, the expertise of the author of so many (twenty-two) novels. It was interesting to see how the threads would converge at the end.

Although crime is my favourite genre, I’m not normally a reader of historical fiction. With the occasional reference, e.g. telex rather than fax or email, and characters being threatened with the guillotine, it felt like a contemporary story and for me, an enjoyable read.

Rating: 5 out of 5


If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

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Guest post: A Change of Setting by Adrian Magson

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of locations, welcomes back Adrian Magson, this time as part of his blog tour celebrating the release of his latest novel Rocco and the Nightingale. My review of Adrian’s novel will appear here (on my blog) tomorrow and you can read Adrian’s previous post on planning here.

A Change of Setting

After writing a series of five contemporary crime novels set in London, and the first of a spy thriller series, I thought the idea for the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series, based in Picardie, France, in the 1960s, had come out of left field. But it was probably in there all the time – it simply had to find a way out.

Most of my writing begins as a punt, often based on little more than a nugget; it might work, it might not. Planning a crime series in rural northern France was certainly a punt, although the setting wasn’t. I went to school there, aged ten, in a tiny village that is the basis for Rocco’s home base of Poissons-les-Marais (I changed the real name because it doesn’t sound very French to English ears), so I know the area. I couldn’t speak French and nobody locally spoke English, which was a bit of a challenge, albeit useful for performing a quick learning curve!

I had a good reason for taking an experienced investigator out of Paris and dumping him in a rural setting, because I didn’t want to find myself simply exchanging London city streets for Paris. In any case, France was expanding its policing initiatives at the time, so the idea fitted quite well.

Part of my thinking for Rocco was being aware of the rising popularity in the UK of European-based crime fiction, rather than UK or US-based, and I wanted to tap into that market if I could.

Placing it in the sixties was a challenge technologically (how many times did I want Lucas reaching for his mobile or tapping into the internet!), but it made the research and fact-checking fascinating because France, like the UK, was going through very interesting changes at the time, and I wanted to use a backdrop of historic events of the time on which to hang the story.

In the case of the first in the series – Death on the Marais – that backdrop lay in echoes of France’s Indochina war, in which Rocco and his boss, Commissaire Massin had both served, and which brings to the books an atmosphere of tension between the two men, and similarly the connections between a WW2 resistance fighter and a now highly-placed industrial figure with secrets to hide. In Rocco and the Nightingale, the fifth and latest book, it was the re-emergence of a gangster figure from Algeria’s independence and the rise of a criminal empire based in Paris that formed the backbone, as well as being a revisit of an earlier Rocco title.

Although the area and people are based on personal knowledge, Rocco came fully formed. He’s tall, dark and wears a long coat out of habit, likes English brogues and drives a Citroen Traction Ariane. All this makes him stand out among the locals, where horses are still used for farming and he doesn’t (yet) have running water, but a garden pump that needs priming in cold weather. Part of his struggle from book one is coming to grips with being out ‘among the cowpats’, as a former colleague puts it, and his interaction with the local villagers and villains.

But that was also part of the pleasure in the writing. If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing.


I love it when settings are so vivid and absolutely, writing should be fun. If it isn’t, the reader will know.

Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.


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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Results of Morgen’s last ever 500-word competition

Hello everyone. The entries to this competition have been a lot slower coming in than the 100-word competition… possibly because it’s me writing the story rather than you so the results this time are actually from mid-March to mid-July entries… with only nine entries in four months! I have therefore put this challenge on hold for now and can reveal the results of this final competition, and as I love dialogue, I decided to write all three in dialogue only… drum roll please…

First placed, winning a free <5,000-word edit: John T with…

  • Character name/s: Janice and Harry
  • Location: a cellar
  • Object: torch
  • Dilemma: something’s missing
  • Character trait / emotion / quirk: one’s afraid of the dark
  • Colour / shade of colour: yellow
  • Other comments: a twist ending please

Picked because I’m a sucker for twist endings


On / Off



“Come down here.”

“Where are you?”

“In the cellar.”

“What are you doing down there?”

“Looking for my torch.”

“What? Why are you looking for your torch? Surely you used it to get down there.”

“I did but then I put it down. It must have rolled on to the on / off button.”

“Put the light on then.”

“I can’t find the switch and need the torch to–”

“Yeah, OK. Oh, Harry. What are you like?”

“Six feet four, sixteen stones, salt and pepper…”

“Ha ha very funny. Can’t you find it on your own? You know what I’m like about the dark.”

“Only five minutes. Search together and it’ll halve the time.”


“So where did you put the torch?”

“On one of the benches.”

“The window side or the stairs side?”

“I don’t know, I can’t remember.”

“Alright, you take one side of the room, I’ll take the other and we’ll feel our way round.”

“Good idea.”

“Oh Harry, how often have I told you to clear up after yourself?”

“Often but it’s my space and you never come down here.”

“Except for when you lose the torch.”

“Except for… yes.”

“You’d think being yellow it would be easier to see in the dark… the torch.”

“You would. So did you have a good time at your gym class today?”

“Er, yes thank you.”

“Was Marjorie there?”

“Of course.”

“That’s nice. And you’ll be seeing her again tomorrow?”

“Erm… yes. You know I am.”

“Any luck your side, finding the torch?”

“Not so far… you?”

“No. Your voice is getting nearer so…”

“Here it is!”

“Oh, Janice, you’re such a star. Thank you.”

“There we are. Now you can see to… Harry? What’s all this stuff? It’s not DIY… it looks like… Harry? What… what are you doing? No, stop! Harry!”


Second placed, winning a free <3,000-word edit: Sandra

  • Character name/s: Duckie (female)
  • Location: her car
  • Object: hammer
  • Dilemma: the car won’t start
  • Character trait / emotion / quirk: frustrated
  • Colour / shade of colour: duck-egg blue

Picked because I felt it was a challenge making something interesting out of an ordinary situation. Not sure I succeeded!


It Tries to Chug

volkswagen-899046_640“We wouldn’t normally recommend you hit it with a hammer, madam.”

“It’s what a Japanese guy on YouTube recommends.”

“We’ve despatched an operative and he’ll be with you within the hour so if you’d like to refrain from… madam?”

“Yes still here.”

“And you have no life in the car at all?”

“It tries to chug but won’t start.”

“How many times have you tried?”

“Three. Toshiko says no more than three or it’ll flood the engine.”

“Very wise, Mrs Higginbottom.”

“And you say your man will be here within the hour.”

“Should be around forty minutes, no more than fifty. He has a flat tyre to change about a mile away from you then he’s all yours.”

“All mine. I like that.”


“Oh, nothing. Thank you, I appreciate it.”

“No problem, Mrs Higginbottom. It’s what you pay your dues for.”



“You shouldn’t end a sentence with a proposition.”

“I’m sorry. I…”

“No problem. I’m an English teacher.”

“I see. Well, Jonathan will be you shortly and… anything else we can help you with today?”

“Not unless you can get me a nice cup of hot sweet tea.”


“No, I’m fine, thank you.”

“OK, well, as I said Jonathan will be with you as soon as he can.”

“After the flat tyre.”

“Yes, Mrs Higginbottom.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. You take care now.”

“Oh, I will.”

“I forgot to ask… Are you away from your vehicle?”

“Oh, yes. Toshiko said to stand behind the crash barrier. It’s funny he called it that because it’s what we call it too.”

“Yes, right. As long as you’re OK, I’ll–”

“Oh yes, I’m fine. Tickedy boo in fact.”

“Good. Have a good day then, Mrs Higginbottom.”

“I will do after Jonathan… oh, she’s gone.”


“Hello, Madam.”

“Hello, Jonathan.”

“I understand it’s a non-starter. What seems–?”

“Like a horse.”


“My husband was a horse racing fan and it’s a term… he still would have been a fan of course but he died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It was a while ago now.”

“So, your car, van. What seems to be the problem exactly?”

“It tries to chug but won’t start.”

“How many times have you tried?”

“Three. Toshiko says no more than three or it’ll flood the engine.”


“YouTube. My sister’s boy is an avid fan and it’s so useful. I learned to change a washer in my kitchen sink’s tap. It’s not that difficult when you have someone else showing… anyway, you’re not hear to listen to me.”

“It’s fine. I have nothing else booked in after you. This is a lovely example of a VW camper. I would have loved one but my ex-wife was never the galavanting sort. Lovely colour too, this one.”

“Thank you. Ex?”

“It’s aqua?”

“Duck-egg blue.”

“Oh, nice.”

“My nickname’s Duckie.”

“It suits you. I’m sorry I didn’t mean…”

“Not at all. I love it. So ex?”

“I see what you mean about trying to chug.”

“Tries, yes. Ex?”


Third placed, winning a free <2,000-word edit: newbie

  • Character name/s: Sebastian and Zoe
  • Location: Zurich
  • Object: gun
  • Dilemma: bank robbery
  • Character trait / emotion / quirk: scared of noise
  • Colour / shade of colour: black

Picked because I’m a sucker for a crime story


bang-148261_640“What was that?”


“The noise. The bang.”

“Sounded like a car backfiring.”

“Didn’t think they did that anymore. It’s a terrorist attack!”

“It’s not a terrorist attack, Sebastian. You’d know if it was a terrorist attack.”


“There’d be more than one–”

“Another bang! It told you, Zoe, it’s a terrorist attack.”

“It’s fine. No one’s attacking us. We’re in Switzerland. No one attacks Switzerland.”

“But Zurich’s the capital. They’d go for capital–”

“No it’s not. Bern’s the capital of Switzerland.”

“It is?”

“Of course. Bern was a compromise. Back in the late 1800s, Zurich, Bern, and Lucerne were competing to be the capital. The Swiss French objected to Zurich so Bern was chosen. In compensation, Zurich got the ETH.”


“A huge science, technology, engineering, mathematics and management university.”

“Oh. Didn’t know you knew so much about Switzerland.”

“We did it in geography at school.”

“Another bang! Please, let’s get out of here.”

“My bank’s just round the corner. We’ll be fine in there. I know one of the cashiers quite well. We can see if she knows what’s going on.”


“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Shut up and sit in the corner with the others.”

“Zoe, what’s–?”

“Do what she says, Sebastian.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nor do I, she was always so quiet when she served me.”


So, there have it. The last… for the foreseeable anyway, of my 500-word challenges. It’s been fun. Thank you to all those of you who entered. There’s still the 100-word comp, the deadline for which is the end of each month, with a different theme each month. I look forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Morgen’s Weekend ‘What’s Up’date

Hello everyone.

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been. Apart from the weekday exercises, I’ve been unusually quiet on here. Never fear, there are some guests coming along in the next few weeks (if you’re one of those and haven’t heard from me, I do apologise. I’m not ignoring you… I plan to blitz my emails next week).

I’ve been busy getting all my eBooks (apart from the single freebies) paperbacked – see pictures below and My books, and have even added a ‘Selected Shorts: Morgen’s Favourite Stories’ – my favourite twenty-two stories from my five collections of ‘Fifty 5pm Fictions’ and three ‘Story A Day May’ collections (see pic bottom right below) – which I’ve paperbacked before eBooking!

I’ve also created another online creative writing course called ‘Plot Scenarios Month 1’. As the other six courses, it’ll be £15 / $20 and like the other six, I have half-price coupon codes on my Online Courses page, or you can just go to my Udemy profile page, click on any of the courses and ‘redeem a coupon’ below the green ‘take this course’ button and type in MB-BLOG-HALF and you’ll get any of them for half the price I just mentioned. A bargain… although I could be biased. 🙂

Speaking of my courses, I’m hoping that both Month 1 and a forthcoming Month 2 Plot Scenarios course will be available before I announce the results of April’s 100-word competition next Friday, 10th June, so that the successful entrants have more choice than the existing six courses. I’m also pleased to say that after a quiet few weeks’ worth of entries to the 500-word challenge, there are now* enough for me to pick my favourite three and I will be announcing the results of that the following Friday, 17th June. * those received up to the 15th May, any winning entries received 16th May to 15th June will be announced 1st July.

As well as editing my own writing, I’ve also been helping new and existing clients and if you’re considering taking on an editor, do take a look at my Editing & Critique page and take advantage of a free 1,000-word sample full edit. I now also offer a kindle-read through service (see option 6 on the Editing & Critique page) which is now included in the (post-freebie) full edit option.

courses & book covers

Writing a story from ‘consequences’ prompts

FACEBOOK background books smallHello everyone. I’ve just finished writing a piece of flash fiction from prompts given to me by some of my (sixteen) intermediate students and I thought you might like to read it, especially as I’ve been a bit rubbish recently at telling you what I’ve been up to (mostly getting my eBooks available as paperbacks!!).


I was hosting a session on structure last Monday and we ‘played’ the story outline game I do in most of my courses. Take a look at How to write a 28-word story for the details of a previous challenge. This time I had to write a 246-word story featuring Eric and Storm (or Eric Storm), in a conservatory with a russet lion, one of the characters was fearful and it had to be a romance. This took me about twenty minutes to write but fell short of the 246 words (by about fifty) so I added in some description and tweaked it to my satisfaction until it hit the word count. So, without further ado, here’s the story…
Eric looked from the garden to his son. “Why the Wizard of Oz?”

“I don’t know. Why not?”

“It’s not very Christmassy, not very…” Eric did ‘jazz hands’. “Nativity.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “It’s on TV every Christmas.”

“And you’re playing which part?”

Lion 897102Ben wiggled his tailed bottom. “Look at my costume, Dad.”

“The lion then. But that’s red.”

“Russet, Mum said.”

“A shade of red. Not really brown though, is it?”

Ben sighed. “Does it matter? It’s the only bit of material Mum had. I thought it looked really–”

“Alright then, but why have you chosen the name Storm?”

“Because it’s a storm that takes Dorothy to Oz, on the yellow brick road anyway.”

“I thought the lion was called… What was he called?”

Ben crossed his arms. “He’s just called the lion. That’s dumb. He needed a name so I’ve given him one. Storm. It’s also an X-Men–”

“Mmm. And he was… scared.”

Ben coughed and looked at the conservatory’s chequered flooring. “Yeah, that’ll be easy.”


Ben didn’t look up. “Because I’m good at scared.”

Eric leaned forward. “No, you’re not. You’re the bravest boy I know. Take that time when–”


“You are. What have you got to be scared about? You’re good at learning your lines and…”

“Lucy’s playing Dorothy.”


“Falkner. You met her dad, Andy, at last month’s barbecue. They’ve just moved to…”

“Oh yes. Really nice girl. Why are you…? Oh…” Eric giggled.

Ben blushed.


365 covers montageThere you have it. My 246-word story. If you’d like to have a go at writing something from a consequences sheet, let me know how you get on. If you’d like to write from some of my prompts, take a look at my home page for the weekday writing prompts (or click Today’s online writing groups’ poetry and story exercises: 20 May 2016 for yesterday’s)… or you could buy one or both of my Writer’s Block Workbooks, each containing over 1,000 prompts and weekly tips. I’m currently devising no.3 which will be sets of prompts (two characters, a location, an object, a trait, and a dilemma each day for a year!).

Morgen’s 500-word competition: Feb / March 2016 results

Hello everyone. There were just two entries to this competition from 16th February to 15th March (inclusive). This isn’t as popular as the 100-word competition, probably because most writers like writing rather than getting me to write but you can win free editing (perhaps daunting for some) and they’re both free to enter so definitely worth it… I think, anyway. Do it now… or better still, read these stories then enter. 🙂 Everything you need to know is here.

So, with two entries, we have a first placed and second placed so I have written and published both here and on Smashwords. The first story is exactly 500 words but the second has gone over a little (542). Do let me know what you think.


First placed: Jane Dutton (winning a free 5,000-word edit of her writing). The prompts Jane provided can be found after the story…

Wednesday’s child (500 words)

coverPeering over his John Lennon glasses, Byron Salisbury, of Salisbury, Peech and Talbot, studied the legal documents adorning his leather-topped mahogany desk, then re-read the birth certificate given to him by the young man sitting opposite. “Oh.”

George Foxbury edged forward on the Chesterfield visitors chair. “Oh, Mr Salisbury?”

“There is…” Salisbury scratched his right cheek. “There is a… er, bit of a hitch.”


“Just a small… very small…” Salisbury pinched together his right thumb and first finger then peeled them apart, leaving a miniscule gap. “Nothing that cannot be worked out, I am sure, Mr Foxbury. George.”

“Let me guess…” George sighed. “Grand pa pa Henry’s left all his money to a cat’s home?”

Salisbury shook his head.


Salisbury shook his head again.

“No, a dog’s home. It was Grand ma ma who loved cats.”

Salisbury coughed as he rubbed his hands.

George Foxbury looked from the solicitor, out through the window to the trees thrashing around thanks to Storm Katie, then back at the solicitor via the bland magnolia walls. “I don’t mind how much money he’s left to… whichever… but I’d really like the house.”

Salisbury frowned, pushing his glasses further down his nose. “I’m afraid it says here you inherit all of his wealth–”

“Yes!” George clapped his hands and leapt up, grabbing Salisbury’s right hand, shaking it vigorously.

Salisbury cleared his throat then watched George sit as the words “I’m afraid” sank in.

“Afraid of what?” the younger man asked.

“As his… legally proven next of kin, you are to inherit the estate of Henry Foxbury III, late of Foxbury Hall, Bumbington, Oxfordshire.”

“Yes, yes,” George chivvied.

“Yes indeed. You are to inherit the said estate on your eighteen birthday.”

“Right. The year after next.”

“I’m afraid not.”


“Because legally you are…”

George leaned further forward. “I am…”

“2000… 2016…”

“Sixteen, yes. I’ll be eighteen in two years.”


“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“You were born at the end of February.”


“The very end.”


“The very very end.”

“Yes. 28th. So?”

“Have you ever looked at your birth certificate?”

“Not really. Grand ma ma kept it with all the other official paperwork after my parents die… her, Grand ma ma, and Grand pa pa Henry’s driving licence, shotgun licences, other guff, you know. She kept them all together, our three, in an envelope marked ‘Birth Certificates’. I just pulled out mine. Opened it to check.”

“And you know what year it is this year?”

“Of course. 2016. What’s that go to do with–”

“A leap year, George. What day do you think you were born on?”

“I’m not sure. I think Grand ma ma said it was a Wednesday. Far to go.”

“Wednesday is full of woe. Let me just check…”

George pursed his lips as the solicitor looked up something on his computer.

“It was a Tuesday, George. Full of grace, and I hope you will be as I explain how this is going to go.”


  • Character name/s: George Foxbury, Henry Foxbury, Mr Salisbury
  • Location: Solicitor’s office
  • Object: Henry’s will
  • Dilemma: George is expecting to inherit on the 18th anniversary of his birth. He was born on February 29th.
  • Character trait / emotion / quirk: Henry is dead. Mr Salisbury rubs his hands frequently and pronounces his words carefully.
  • Colour / shade of colour: Magnolia
  • Other comments: George is sole beneficiary.


Second placed: Ash Nazir (winning a free 3,000-word edit of his writing). The prompts Ash provided can be found after the story…

Number 18 (542 words)

Sébastien leaned into the microphone. “Hello. Good evening. My name is Sébastien Tellier. I am from France but I work here in London.” He waited for some kind of reaction from the small audience but none was forthcoming. He tried a wide smile as he announced, “I would like to start with one of my contemporaries. One of Shakepeare’s best known sonnets…” He ignored a groan from the back of the café’s audience. “Number 18.” Sébastien winced as someone nearby scraped back a chair, checking – louder than was necessary – their friends’ drinks orders.

Sébastien blew out a silent puff of air, coughed, rocked his neck around shoulders, then stepped closer to the mic. “I shall be playing one of my own melodies to this poem and in the key of C major… sorry, minor,” he blurted, then strumming his guitar, tilted it and himself further into the microphone. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temper–”

Someone giggled as something flashed on a screen behind him. Although he suspected he’d regret it, Sébastien turned round then blushed at a picture of a busty brunette inviting an oversized plumber into her kitchen.

“Sorry!” one of the café owners shouted then reverted the screen to the usual title of ‘Café Rouge Monday night Folk Fest’ accompanied by a dull logo of an orange sunset, an anaemic-looking cow, and an acoustic guitar.

Twiddling his handlebar moustache, Sébastien decided that Shakespeare was not the way to go. With most of the audience’s attention back on him, Sébastien announced, “This is a new song, with no help from Mr Shakespeare.” Sébastien’s upper lip twitched as a small cheer emitted from the region of the earlier groan. To a simple melody, he recited, “My girl she loved science-fiction…”

A louder cheer erupted.

“…but I could sense there was some friction.”

A boo replaced the cheer.

“And one day she said ‘enough’.”

Another boo emanated from the middle of the small crowd.

“To win her back, I knew would be tough. To win her love forever, I had to be clever. So I opened a love portal, for my love immortal. And while she went away, I vowed one day, to find another girl meant for me.”

As Sébastien took a deep breath to continue, a girl rushed forward, making him flinch.

“Oh, Sébastien, that was so romantic!”

Sébastien looked down at the girl, whose black t-shirt barely made contact with her tiny black and pink check pleated skirt. “Erm… thank you. I am very pleased you like it but I have not yet…” He squeaked as the girl jumped onto the stage.

“Eighteen’s my favourite number,” she sighed.

Sébastien frowned then remembered the sonnet. “D’accord.”

She held out a hand. “I’m Isobel.”

As he shook her hand, he looked closer at her t-shirt. It was black but with a small pool ball in the top right-hand corner, where a buttonhole flower would have been on a funeral suit jacket. The ball was pink, matching the skirt, with a white number eighteen. She had a beautiful smile and although she was much too young – about eighteen, Sébastien thought – he could see them as a couple. Sébastien and the eighteenth Mrs Tellier.


  • Character name/s: Sébastien Tellier
  • Location: Folk singers’ café
  • Object: Guitar
  • Dilemma: Opening a love portal
  • Character trait / emotion / quirk: Eccentric, speaks poetry
  • Colour / shade of colour: Pink



*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are just £1 or $1-2 each but just until April 3rd! ***

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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.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and 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.