Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode no.5

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode number five was released today, Sunday 15th January. Part of a fortnightly series tucked in between monthly hints & tips and red pen critique sessions, I’ve been starting off the first few weeks with the flash fiction that have appeared on this blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’, reading out three per fortnight. Eventually I’ll run out so should you like to submit your own feel free to email me (

This episode’s stories were ‘The Grey Stones and Leaden Cross‘ (520 words) by Issy Flamel (who also brought us ‘The Ruby Stradivarius‘ back in episode 002),  ‘Loss‘ (314 words) by yours truly, Morgen Bailey 🙂 and a 548-worder entitled ‘That old feeling‘ from regular contributor JD Mader who offered his story ‘Green‘ for the first red pen critique session (I’m looking for more of those by the way).

I wasn’t critiquing the stories in this episode but just simply reading them out and I hope you enjoy this format.

The podcast is available via iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe). Total running time this week was 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

This episode’s contributors were:

When not writing, and being mentioned on The Society of Authors website, Issy Flamel can be found hanging out on Twitter and in the depths of Radio Litopia and WriterLot where you can read equally atmospheric and haunting pieces from the minute-long ‘Cherry Blossom’ to a make-yourself-comfortable 12-minute ‘Gloriana’.

Morgen Bailey, me, is (am) a podcaster, blogger and writer of fiction and articles about writing (a new one’s coming out on Fiona Veitch Smith’s website in the next day or two). My blog is, here, and my eBooks are available on Smashwords.

J D Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. You can help him buy a brick (although I think the eBook is actually cheaper!) by checking out his debut novel ‘Joe Café’ and there will be more soon. He’s done a lot for my blog so probably the easiest way is to read them all is via the ‘Contributors‘ page… just scroll down to the Js (although not too quickly in case there are some other authors you like the sound of :)).

Thank you for downloading and / or listening to this short story episode. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to bringing you another a fortnight. In the meantime, next Monday’s episode will likely be a hints and tips episode as I’ve run out of stories or novel extracts to red pen! So if you’d like to submit yours for consideration (or stories for these episodes) you can email me at All the links mentioned in these shows are listed on the podcast page of this blog.

Flash Fiction Friday 012: ‘The grey stones and leaden cross’ by Issy Flamel

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the twelfth piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is a 520-worder entitled ‘The grey stones and leaden cross’ by Issy Flamel. One thing, I’ve already learned about Issy is his skill for spooky – added to this was my selection of the date on which this piece would appear on my blog; December 9th, which meant nothing to me but when I advised Issy he told me that it’s the anniversary of the publishing of The Charge of the Light Brigade in the London Examiner. With this in mind, please read on…

Cold snakes of fog writhe from the sluggish flow of the Thames, deadening the clip-clop of the carriage horses that trot past in the gloom, harnesses clinking as they dissolve into the mists of Soho.

‘Shilling for one of the Six Hundred Sir? First to the guns for Queen and country.’ As the beggar thrusts a battered army cap forward with a reek of sour ale, a grimy eye-patch, set in a sea of scars that disfigure a shattered cheek and jaw, breaks into the flickering glare of the gaslights. Tennyson only published in The Examiner days ago, and surely this wretch cannot have been shipped from the Crimea in six weeks? But he gets a sixpence for sheer gall, and raises a knuckle to his temple as he turns for the gin-shop at the corner of Wardour Street.

A siren voice calls from the warm light under a painted sign announcing Mrs. Dawson’s Dress Emporium.

‘Care for a fitting, dearie? You look a well-built fellow,’ she trills, swishing her skirts so the material gleams in invitation. An acceptance will win passage through the veil of heavy velvet curtains at the rear of the shop to the narrow stairwell up which the real business is conducted. Under her feet, entombed in the dripping walls of the basement room, two sullen-eyed waifs watch as their mother vomits her life away, while Vibrio Cholarae breeds inside her. The industrious Pacini has this year identified the germ through his microscopical investigations, but what can a subject of that medieval fantasia Lombardy-Venetia know of medicine? Doctor Snow, who cannot be doubted on the grounds of being a feverish Latin, has also produced his outlandish theory of little unseen creatures – but everyone knows the science is settled and a miasma of foul breezes transmit the disease. So although the handle was removed from the pump on Broad Street in September, other sources of infection remain. The children will be buried in the same grave, as the parish coffers of St. Luke’s are drained by the epidemic.

Next door to the bawdy den the grey stones and leaded windows are covered in a spreading crust of green algae, as though nature is rebelling against the artifice of human ingenuity and reclaiming the façade. The curious potential customer extracts his handkerchief and wipes clear a viewing hole into the dank interior; he makes out an eccentric jumble of bric-a-brac, furniture and dusty piles of leather-bound manuscripts. A balding toy monkey sits expectantly, cymbals poised to clash, waiting for the maestro’s acknowledgement. A pair of russet enamel vases, one with an umbrella poking out of the top, the other blessed with a cascade of curling, desiccated lilac blooms, the promise of their heady, sultry perfume enticing one over the threshold through the glass. And perched atop a French Empire escritoire, eyes glinting ovals of night in the reflected brilliance of gold leaf patterning, sits a lacquerware demon. His tongue protrudes rudely between razor teeth, lolling down onto his blood-red chest as his gaze beckons. Entering, as under a spell, the traveller falls into the darkness of another world.

I asked Issy what prompted this piece and he said…

I had just devoured the first few chapters of Umberto Eco’s latest novel The Prague Cemetery, and I wanted to see if I could achieve similar effects. I’ve always admired his work (his books On Beauty and Kant and the Platypus are both accessible to the non-specialist and breathtaking in scope) with the incredible density of the ideas. So I sat down, gave myself half an hour, and this is what came out. In the modern age we are used to being bombarded with data from every angle, and his novels in some ways mimic this with an intertwining of narrative and milieu that is astonishing at times. When going through life we are aware of a multiplicity of events, thoughts and emotions, and in many cases we don’t know what is important as we experience them – they are just part of the background babble that is the soundtrack to our lives. I’ve tried to produce this feeling of a melting pot of immediacy. Whether I’ve succeeded or not is for others to judge!

Half an hour? I despair. <laughs> Thank you (again) Issy.

When not writing, and being mentioned on The Society of Authors website, Issy can be found hanging out on Twitter and in the depths of Radio Litopia and WriterLot where you can read equally atmospheric and haunting pieces from the minute-long ‘Cherry Blossom’ to a make-yourself-comfortable 12-minute ‘Gloriana’.

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 multi-genre author Terra Hangen – the two hundred and thirteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, 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 and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode 002

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode number 002 was released today.

This is a new series tucked in between the now-monthly hints & tips and red pen critique sessions and for the first weeks will include the flash fiction that appeared on this blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’.

Because they’re short and, at the moment, I have plenty of them, I read out three per fortnight and today’s were ‘The Ruby Stradivarius’ (at 588 words) by Issy Flamel, ‘Horror story’ (986 words) by Theodore P. Druch and a 999 word ‘Lorna doomed’ by Phoebe Matthews – no critiquing, just simply reading them out and I hope you enjoy this new format.


You can read the full transcription of these stories as well as the author biographies on the Flash Fiction Fridays page but then that may spoil your enjoyment of the audio. 🙂

Next Monday’s episode should technically be hints and tips but as we have a holiday coming up (although I will likely keep these podcasts going, albeit a day or two late with Boxing Day falling on a Monday this year) I plan for the next episode to be a series of exercises, some easy, some less so, for you to complete during your time off work, assuming of course that you won’t be engrossed in all things family – maybe the exercises will be just the excuse you need to escape!

Thank you again for subscribing, downloading and listening to this episode and until the next time. As Issy’s characters would say “Auf wiedersehen”.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

Flash Fiction Friday 003: Issy Flamel’s ‘The Ruby Stradivarius’

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the third piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. This week’s story is a 588-worder entitled ‘The Ruby Stradivarius’ by Issy Flamel.

The room fills with the scratching of nib across paper as Jacob prays for his hand to cease trembling and let him sign the contract. He closes his eyes and forces in a ragged breath as he screws the barrel of the pen back into its lid and places it with a solid clunk on the heavy wood of the table. He opens them to see the knowing smile of his new employer breaking across his broad, open face, the greying eyebrows arched above the cornflower blue eyes.

‘Congratulations Herr Shulman! And welcome to our little band.’ Jacob’s hand is wrapped inside the older man’s and shaken effusively.

‘Thank you Herr Direktor, thank you! I hope… that is I know… I mean I want you to know…’ the words come rushing out until the Direktor shushes him with a wave of his hands.

‘Peace Jacob, peace, or how will you play? For, now we have the formalities over with, it is time.’ As he speaks Jacob follows through the gleaming oak doorway and glides down the scarlet silk carpet, under the opulent glint of gilded traceries and diamond sparkle of teardrop chandeliers, breathing in the history heavy air to the echoes of ghostly applause showering down from the gods. And there it is. Balanced on a single chair, commanding the platform of the gently raked stage, the Ruby Stradivarius, its dark sinuous tones gleaming under the spotlight, throwing down its challenge.

‘As leader it is yours, and only yours, to play as long as you are with us…’ and the gesture is made, inviting Jacob to claim his prize.

‘I can’t believe… all my life I’ve wanted… how did you come by such a masterpiece?’ and instantly the question is regretted, as the first note of dissonance intrudes. The esteemed Direktor pulls at his cuffs and shifts his glance away.

Jacob feels without being able to say why that somehow a mistake has been made, expectations tarnished, the off-colour joke at a family funeral, or the unwanted advance that hangs in the air long after the rejection.

‘We have been very fortunate Herr Shulman… after the war… well you know how things were. A generous benefactor, a reparation you might say…’ he coughs into a handkerchief and the words tail off.

And still Jacob stands, disturbed and dazzled by the moment, his limbs chained, until a controlling grip on his shoulder thrusts him forward. Now the instrument is cradled in his hands, nestled to his chin, and with a sweep of the bow is singing, singing with such ethereal sweetness, rise after rise of spiralling cadenzas that flow one upon another as he feels the violin pulse under his fingers, the strings shimmering. Plunged into ecstasy Jacob is lost.

Then in an instant his startled eyes recoil as the polished veneer is now not ruby, but a roiling sea of blood, and the music a despairing, mournful glissando, as cold skeletal fingers entwine with his, falling whispers of ringlets brush his cheek and caress the living wood. Flesh pressing down on the strings, flesh pressing out against the razor-wire, a cremation ash of falling rosin gleaming under the searchlights, as the dogs snarl and the wail of the music is lost in the dead rumble of wagon doors. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Hear me when I call O God of my righteousness. Crimson flames glimmering in its curves, a defiant crescendo spills out, denying death, as a stolen life reclaims a stolen violin and sings its song into eternity.

I asked Issy what prompted this piece and he said…

The inspiration was a re-watching of Schindler’s List. The scene of the piles of belongings, spectacles, even human hair shorn from those about to be liquidated was so haunting I wanted to record a reaction. I suppose I centred on the idea of what do we leave behind when we are gone? And faced with the monstrosity of the attempted eradication of a whole people I wanted to show a defiance, a repudiation if you like. It is difficult to address this issue, because one doesn’t want to fall into sentimentality, and finding a new way to approach the Shoah is not easy! I think it works. I hope so anyway.

Thank you Issy, it’s a very powerful story.

When not writing, and being mentioned on The Society of Authors website, Issy can be found hanging out on Twitter and in the depths of Radio Litopia and WriterLot where you can read this story and other equally atmospheric and haunting pieces from the minute-long ‘Cherry Blossom’ to a make-yourself-comfortable 12-minute ‘Gloriana’.

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