It’s all over now

nanowrimo 2019

The final week shuddered to a grinding halt yesterday, with not a single word more written since Thursday. ‘Life’ got in the way. 

Never mind.

The ‘life’ bit included trying to persuade people to help themselves to the free download of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ I’m pleased to say there has been some success so far, and the offer will still be running for almost another 24 hrs.

Back to NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite reach my hoped-for word count of 30K, but I’m beyond 25K and story-wise I’m reaching the mid-point, although there are a few blank spaces in the chapters I’ve written so far. Compared to last year, I’m about two chapters shy of where I got to with Following the Green Rabbit, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Of course it isn’t all over. The story continues to drip forth. I’m hoping to have something approaching a completed MS by next Easter. Then comes the tricky bit. To paraphrase one of Mr Shakespeare’s characters: ‘To query or not to query?’

If you were participating in NaNoWriMo on any level, how was it for you?

NaNoWriMo Week #3

nanowrimo 2019

Well, I’m pretty pleased with myself at the end of week 3. I have a further six chapters more or less completed, although obviously not polished, and the story is flowing now.

My characters are fleshing out nicely: they have quirks and foibles and they’re starting to spark off one another. Yesterday I nearly fell off my chair trying to imagine what it would be like to climb up the inside of a cave, and I became quite breathless swimming along an underwater tunnel.

It’s been fun!

I’ve fallen a little behind today, as I spent all morning chatting over rooibos tea and biscuits with one friend, and half the afternoon chatting over coffee and stollen with some other friends. I must take advantage of the sudden sugar rush!

On to the final week…

Enjoy, fellow NaNo writers! My tip of the week: cake helps.

NaNoWriMo Week #2

nanowrimo 2019

Well I’d be fibbing if I was to say it was all going swimmingly. And, in a sense this is more prevarication. So I’ll keep it short.

This week two things have been troubling me:

Firstly, the story I’m working on is set in a semi-fictional part of South Africa, which I know fairly well, and it’s sort of present day, but there’s something which doesn’t feel right. I’m not yet sure what it is.

Secondly, I’m having trouble with a couple of characters. I can’t quite work them out. I’m still waiting for them to speak to me. I’m sure they will. I need more conversations!

I just checked back to this time last year. I was doing better word-count wise, but I can see there were doubts in my mind.

Oh and my laptop is on a go-slow. Must be the heat: mid afternoon, 34C in the shade.

Okay, I’m telling myself it’s going to be fine, fine, fine. Just go with the flow and enjoy it! It’s not that anyone but me is piling on the pressure.

Going back to the writing ‘happy place’ for a couple of hours…

Onward and upward, fellow Nano writers!
(as I said this time last year).

To which this year I add:
Relax. Enjoy.


NaNoWriMo Week #1

nanowrimo 2019

Okay, I can’t stop long: brain to squeeze, imagination to let fly, words to get down…

I was feeling confident to begin with; I had a bit of a head start: the main characters were waiting for me and I already had parts of their stories. Some of you might remember, young Sam and his little boat, Johannes the retired engineer, feisty Albertina, the two little aunties and shopkeeper Abdul.

So I spent a day or two reviewing and re-writing. Big mistake! I wasn’t getting the flow. No-one speaking to me, so no-one was guiding the story ahead. (You have to remember, I sit back and let my characters do the work).

Temporary crisis of confidence. Why am I doing this? There’s nothing there! NO story to tell!

But then I ran out of old stuff and started out again. Now we are moving forward. Scenes are emerging before my eyes, there is an overarching theme, there’s going to be a road trip, and I can see a little vervet monkey sitting on a book shelf. The monkey tells me he’s called Felix, but I’m not sure where he fits in yet. But he will.

Oh, and there will be mystery… and magic… and a stick fight…


Heads back down, fellow NaNoWriters! I hope it’s going well.

NaNoWriMo here I come!

nanowrimo 2019

But not officially.

I’m going to write, write and write some more under the ‘NaNo’ umbrella, but just for me, just as I did last year. That was pretty successful. I have the recently released ‘Following the Green Rabbit‘ to show for it!

I don’t do unachievable targets. I don’t set myself up to fail.

I’ll consider around 30,000 words a major success. I won’t have finished a new book, but I’ll be well on the way. And that suits me.

I’ll be touching base out there in ‘twitter-land’ and I’ll post a little weekly update to brag (or shame myself).

And for a little light relief, I’ll be continuing with the what do you see?’ challenge, which has recently been revived by Sadje.

Good luck to everyone who’s doing this! See you on the other side.


Ducking Under the Radar


Okay, those of you who’ve been following the unfolding story of ‘A Nick in Time’, my children’s novel, will know we are reaching the climax and soon the story will draw to a (very satisfactory) close.

I’ve decided to devote the next couple of weeks to doing just that, so I shall be going rather quieter than usual, although I will be popping up now and then to see what you’re all up to.

One more cliff-hanging chapter will appear here, but the ultimate finale will remain undisclosed until the story is ready for publication. Then you, loyal followers of ‘A Nick in Time’ (and you know who you are), will receive a free advance copy of the ebook. 

Bear with me. If I work hard it shouldn’t be too long.

see you soon



A Nick in Time – Chapter Seven


Lessons continued in the school room every weekday morning. The afternoons were devoted to a selection of pastimes; outdoors if possible or else in Papa’s library, ‘for a change of scenery from the schoolroom’, Mr Eyre had proclaimed as he darted about the room. One rainy afternoon, Mr Eyre had attempted to teach them all knitting but, as Hodge had pointed out, the girls were actually rather better at it than he was. Mr Eyre simply didn’t have the ability to sit still for long enough. He would spring up from his seat in the middle of the row to consult a book or demonstrate something about a topic which he and the girls were discussing. Stitches would unravel from his needles and he would be forced to start again.

Next he found a book about knots in the library. After a couple of afternoons’ practice, each had mastered the intricacies of the sheep-shank, reef knot, half-hitch and more. “You never know when a skill like this might come in handy. I mean, we might have to tie up a runaway horse!” Mr Eyre had exclaimed to a sceptical Hodge when she came upon them in the garden tethering the wheel barrow to the garden bench with a length of Mr Eyre’s abandoned knitting wool.

Of course, as any kitten would, Astra loved the twine and wool that they were using, tugging and pulling at any stray piece which came her way. The little black cat was devoted to Bethany and had taken to following her wherever she went anywhere outside, and every afternoon, just before teatime the two of them would ‘take a turn about the garden’. “Very Jane Austen,” Mr Eyre had remarked.

“That cat’s done Miss Bethany the world of good,” Hodge observed, as they watched the young girl and her little cat wander around the garden one afternoon. “She doesn’t seem to be missing her Mama and Papa nearly so much.”

The following Saturday, Mr Eyre had an errand to run in the village and invited the girls to accompany him. Hodge had several things she’d like them to fetch too, so off they went with their empty baskets and a list which Bryony had made out to make sure they didn’t forget anything. Astra had accompanied them to the end of the driveway, but Bethany had spoken to her firmly and seemingly the cat had understood, remaining perched on top of one the large, square gate posts like a miniature Egyptian statue when they turned out of the drive and into the lane.

Weaverton village was a pleasant fifteen minute walk from Bluebell Wood House. The narrow lane was lined with leafy hedgerows where insects buzzed. “We collected blackberries and elderberries for jam along here last year, Mr Eyre.” Bryony pointed out a row of tall bramble bushes. “Look Bethany, there are so many again, and they’ll be ripe soon.”

“And did you eat as many as you picked?” Mr Eyre said, laughing as he rummaged about in the bushes, examining the fruit. “I know I did as a boy.”

“Do they have blackberries in London?” asked Bethany.

“Well, not in the city itself, apart from in some of the parks. But I grew up in Kent. I only went to London later on when I became a tutor.”

They walked a little further. “So tell me, ladies of the flowering vine and house of figs, what other useful plants can we find here in the hedgerows?” He rubbed his chin. “You know we really should’ve brought a flora.”

“A flora?”

“Yes, you know, Miss Bryony, a book for identifying flowering plants. No doubt your Papa has such a volume in his collection?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure he has.”

Mr Eyre plucked a couple of likely samples from the hedge and tossed them into Bethany’s basket. He crouched before her, eyes wide with enthusiasm. “Maybe you could try drawing some of them?”

Bethany nodded happily.

“And I could label them,” added Bryony.

“Splendid idea,” Mr Eyre exclaimed, rising swiftly to his feet and waving his forefinger in the air. “Using the original Latin names, of course.” He spun around and pointed down the lane. “Now let us press on into the village.”

The lane broadened out at the crossroads at the edge of the village which boasted a line of neat brick cottages arrayed around the village green. There were couple of stone water troughs for passing horses and, much to Mr Eyre’s delight, the old village stocks, which fortunately were padlocked shut, or otherwise, no doubt, he would have felt himself obliged to demonstrate.

The post office and general store was on the far side of the green. Mr Eyre lengthened his stride on seeing his objective to such an extent that the girls had difficulty keeping up with him.

A little bell sounded as Mr Eyre opened the shop door. Rosy-cheeked Mrs Gilbert was standing behind the post office counter. She greeted the two girls warmly and asked when they were next expecting a letter from their parents. “So exciting dealing with post from such a distance!” she exclaimed. Bryony answered politely and swiftly introduced Mr Eyre, who she noticed was twitching with impatience.

He rubbed his hands together. “Mrs Gilbert, delighted to make your acquaintance; tell me, have you a package for me? I am expecting one.”

“Likewise I’m sure, Mr Eyre, I’ll have a look in the back.” Mrs Gilbert bustled through into the storeroom. A few moments later she returned with a parcel almost the size of a shoe box neatly-wrapped in brown paper. She looked at it inquisitively, peering up at Mr Eyre from behind her half-moon glasses.

“May I?” Mr Eyre put his hand out.

“An intriguing parcel from my newest customer. What can it be?” she said speculatively.

“Aha, you will have to wait and see, Mrs G.” Mr Eyre replied, touching the side of his nose. He turned to the girls: “Miss Bryony, Miss Bethany, will you accompany me further?”

“Well I never did. Not a word of an answer,” said Mrs Gilbert as they left the shop.

“Onward to Mr Fenton,” announced Mr Eyre as he sallied forth. The girls exchanged glances as he strode away from Mrs Gilbert’s curious eyes.

“You have it then?” said Mr Fenton as they entered The Weaverton Dispensary.

“I do,” Mr Eyre held up the parcel. “I’ve just collected it from Mrs Gilbert. She was so desperate to know what was inside; I couldn’t resist not telling her,” he said grinning widely.

Mr Fenton chuckled. “That’s Ida Gilbert for you.”

Bryony and Bethany looked at each other. Bryony raised her eyebrows and Bethany looked as though she was about to speak when Mr Eyre placed the parcel on Mr Fenton’s counter and started to unwrap it. “So, Mr Fenton, what do you think?” Mr Eyre removed the brown paper. Inside was a box labelled ‘Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera’. With reverential care he drew out a small rectangular case with a handle on the top and a small round glass window at one end. The two men gazed at the object. Mr Eyre turned to the girls. “This is my new toy; a very special present to myself. It’s a camera.”

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” said Mr Fenton.

“Indeed. Now all I have to do is figure out how to use it.”

“What does it do?” asked Bethany, looking at the object with her head on one side.

“Why, it takes photographs, of course.” Mr Eyre picked it up and pointed it at her, squinting through the viewfinder. “Smile!”

“It’s not like the one Mr Craddock had when he did our portraits before Mama and Papa went away.”

“No, Miss, that’s the beauty of it,” said Mr Fenton leaning forward on the counter. “It’s small, easy to carry and easy to use. The exposure time is so much shorter,” he saw Bryony’s puzzled look. “It takes a photo in just a jiffy.” He turned to Mr Eyre. “You have film, of course?”

Mr Eyre took two small, bright yellow boxes with the word ‘Kodak’ written in red on the sides out of the wrapper and held them up. “Two rolls.”

“You’ll need the wherewithal to develop your pictures. I have the chemicals if you need them, although I’m sure old Craddock with help you out if you ask him.”

“I thought it might be rather fun to set up a darkroom of our own.” Mr Eyre looked at the girls, who stared back at him blankly. “Well, first things first; I’ll need to take some pictures with it.”

“I’ll be interested see how you get on.” Mr Fenton reached under the counter. “Here’s the book on photography, I promised to lend you.”

Mr Eyre bowed his thanks and gathered up his new camera, pocketing the two reels of film. “Right-ho, Mr Fenton, we still have some errands to complete. We’ll bid you good morning.”

The two girls hurried off with their baskets and Hodge’s shopping list while Mr Eyre sat on a bench at the edge of the village green and started to peruse the instructions for his new Box Brownie.

The girls darted ahead on the way back. Mr Eyre strode after them so engrossed in his camera, that they had to come back and help untangle him when he got caught up in an overhanging branch. When they arrived home Astra was waiting for them by the gate. She immediately started twining herself around Bethany’s legs to such an extent that she had to hand her basket to Mr Eyre so she could pick the kitten up and carry her.

After lunch they took a basket with the samples, the plant book and drawing materials up to the orchard. It was far too nice a day to be working inside, and Mr Eyre was keen to take some shots with his camera now he had loaded the film. 

As they passed through the gate he remarked. “You know, there’s something I’m very keen to take an image of,” he paused and scanned the orchard, shading his eyes with his hand. “The other morning when I was out for a stroll I saw the most curious-looking rabbit.”

“A rabbit, Mr Eyre?” asked Bryony.

Mr Eyre nodded. “Of course I’ve seen rabbits before, but never one with green fur.”

The girls exchanged glances.

“Oh, my word, look,” Mr Eyre cried, pointing. “There he goes!”

Just then Astra shot past them through the gate, chasing at full pelt after the rabbit.

“Astra!” Bethany dropped the basket and scampered after the kitten. Bryony hurried after her.

“Wait!” Mr Eyre took out his camera and fiddled with the settings before joining in the chase.

Bethany and Bryony reached the bluebell clearing just in time to see the rabbit leap over the fallen log. Astra, meanwhile, was clinging to the uppermost branches of the tree above it, mewing piteously. The girls charged forward, Bethany calling anxiously to the kitten. It was then that she tripped and fell. Bryony, with no time to stop or change direction, landed on top of her sister. She seemed to be falling for a long time, then everything went black.

©2019 Chris Hall

On to the next chapter

From my latest work-in-progress. What do you think? I’d really appreciate your feedback.

A Nick in Time – Chapter Six


“Look up. What do you see?” Mr Eyre was lying on the grass in the centre of the lawn with Bryony and Bethany on either side of him. Hodge had also been invited to the late evening lesson but had declined saying she had better things to do that lie about looking at the night sky. She had, however, fussed about making sure each of them had a blanket to lie on, although Mr Eyre and the girls had all protested that it wasn’t necessary. Hodge had insisted, so that was that.

It was a warm and clear summer night and with the curtains drawn inside the house, conditions were perfect for Mr Eyre’s astronomy lesson. He turned to Bethany. “Miss Bethany of the House of Figs, what do you see?”

“The moon and lots of stars,” replied Bethany. “They’re so bright! It’s almost as if you could reach out and touch them.”

“They look like pin-pricks in a velvet curtain,” said Bryony.

“Very poetic; as I would expect from a writer, Miss Bryony of the Flowering Vine.” Bryony smiled broadly in the darkness.

“Is the moon made of cheese like in the story of the Fox and the Wolf?”

“What story is that Miss Bethany?”

“Oh, Mr Eyre, you must know that story. You know, the one where the fox is made to do all the work by the wolf because he’s bigger than him, the then one night, the fox tricks the wolf into going down the well by showing him there’s a big round yellow cheese at the bottom. But it’s only the moon’s reflection.”

“Ah, that story. So, Miss Bethany, do you think the moon is made of cheese?”

“It can’t be. That’s the point of the story,” said Bryony.

“Well, what keeps the moon up in the sky?

“Ah, an excellent question, Miss Bethany. It’s because of gravity.”

“Sir Isaac Newton and the apple,” said Bryony.

“Go on.”

“Well Mr Eyre, it’s something to do with the size of the Earth holding everything down. Otherwise we’d all just float off.” Bryony paused. “But I don’t see what that has to do with the moon.”

“The moon is also pulled towards the Earth by gravity. However, it’s moving so quickly that although it’s always falling, it falls past the Earth.” Both girls were silent. “Remind me tomorrow and we’ll do a little experiment. It’s too dark to see properly now and anyway, we must take advantage of this wonderful view of the night sky over Cheshire.”

“Is it different elsewhere then?”

“Absolutely, Miss Bryony. That’s another question for tomorrow; when we have our globe in front of us.” Mr Eyre patted his pockets. “We should be writing these down. Have either of you got a pencil and paper on you?”

Bryony reached into her pinafore pocket. “My writing book,” she waved it in the air. “I can use this.” Bryony sat up and noted down ‘Moon and Gravity’ and ‘Night Sky in Different Places’ in her neat cursive script.

“Right then, let us proceed. Observe that tonight’s moon is full, like in Bethany’s story; and we’ll talk more about the moon tomorrow. Now, what do you know about the stars?” Mr Eyre quizzed them on their knowledge of the constellations, pointing out such wonders as Orion, The Big and Little Dippers and the North Star. Then his voice became quieter, almost a whisper. “You know when we look at the stars we are actually looking into the past.”

“I don’t understand, Mr Eyre.”

“I’m not sure I do entirely, Miss Bryony. It all has to do with the speed of light which travels very, very fast.”

“Faster than a train?”

“Much, much faster. Faster than we can really comprehend; but the stars are so very far away, that the stars in the sky which we’re looking at now, are as they were in the past.”

“How long ago?”

“I’m not sure. We’ll try to look it up tomorrow.”

Light suddenly spilled across their faces as Hodge opened the kitchen door. “Mr Eyre? I think it’s about time you were coming in. It’s well past the girls’ bedtimes.”

“Right away, Mrs Hodges,” replied Mr Eyre springing to his feet and picking up his blanket.

Hodge opened the door wider and a small dark shape rushed out, streaking across the garden past Bethany’s legs and into the bushes at the edge of the lawn. “Astra!” Bethany started to run after the kitten.

“No, child!” Hodge hurried outside. “Not in the dark.”

“A black cat in a black night…” commented Mr Eyre, unhelpfully.

“Oh but Hodge, we have to go after her…she’ll get lost,” Bethany wailed.

“Don’t worry, sure she’ll come back when she’s hungry,” said Hodge. “Cats are very good at looking after themselves. And it’s time she got used to being outside.”

“But it’s so dark,” Bethany sobbed.

Hodge put her arm around her. “You’ll see, my chicken; she’ll be home in the morning. Sooner, more like.” She looked up. “Isn’t that right, Mr Eyre?”

“Certain to be. Remember cats can see much better than us in the dark. Astra won’t get lost. Trust me. She knows she has a good home here.”

Bethany sighed and with one last look across the garden she was persuaded to come inside.


Bethany was out of bed as soon as it was light. Dressed in her nightdress and carrying her sandals, she sneaked past Hodge’s door, crept downstairs and went through to the kitchen. She looked up at the door, about to fetch a chair so she could reach to slide the top bolt open when she noticed that it was already drawn, as was the bottom bolt. The key was in the lock and not hanging on its little nail by the side of the door. How strange, she thought. It was surely too early for Hodge to be up and about since there were no fires to lay in summer. She took a deep breath, turned the large door-knob and pushed the door open just enough for her to slip outside.

The first thing she noticed was a saucer of milk which had been put by the doorstep. It looked untouched. She looked along the side of the house. There was no-one about. Maybe Hodge had put the milk out last night in case Astra came back and was thirsty. But who had gone outside? Surely nobody would have left the back door unlocked all night. Hodge was most particular about security.

Bethany pushed her feet into her sandals and hurried into the garden. The dew on the lawn felt cold and wet as she paced around the edge of the lawn peering under shrubs and behind bushes. “Astra! Astra!” she called softy, hoping the kitten would hear her and come running. She finished the circuit of the lawn. No Astra.

Glancing back towards the kitchen door and the untouched saucer of milk, Bethany screwed up her eyes for a moment. Then she set off towards the orchard, not even pausing to look at her fish. She hesitated with her hand on the gate, knowing she was breaking Hodge’s rule about not venturing out of the garden by herself. But the thought of poor little Astra, lost and alone, strengthened her resolve. She’d find her kitten and bring her home and no-one, least of all Hodge, would be any the wiser. Bethany closed the gate and scanned the orchard wondering where Astra might be.

A movement off to the left caught her eye. It was Mr Eyre. Bethany hurried towards him, but as soon as she could see he was empty-handed, a lump began to form in her throat.

“Oh, Mr Eyre, where can she be?” Bethany wailed.

Mr Eyre looked down at her, shaking his head. “Astra hasn’t returned then?”

Bethany’s bottom lip quivered.

“Come on, chin up, Bethany. Don’t give up hope yet. There are plenty of places where she might be.” He put his hand on her shoulder and steered her back through the garden.

Bethany’s stomach was churning and she was trying hard to fight back the tears, but as they passed the fountain she noticed a little black shape by the kitchen door. “Astra!” she cried, breaking into a run. Mr Eyre strode after her. As they neared the back of the house they could see that it was indeed the missing kitten. Astra was sitting on the doorstep by the empty saucer calmly washing her little black face.

“Astra!” Bethany called out again. At the sound of her name, the kitten started trotting towards her. Bethany bent down and scooped her up, gently cradling her in her arms. Astra purred loudly as she was carried back to the house.

At the kitchen door, Mr Eyre picked up the empty saucer. He looked down at Bethany’s feet. “Give me your sandals and I’ll clean all that mud off them.” He raised his eyebrows. “Not word to Mrs H. eh?” He winked, then went to the sink to run the saucer under the tap, before locking and bolting the back door and taking Bethany’s sandals from her. “Off you go then.”

Bethany hurried upstairs with Astra in her arms. Bryony was sitting up in bed. “I just saw you from the window.”

Bethany grinned. “Astra was just outside the kitchen door when we came back.”

“So Mr Eyre was out looking for her too?”

Bethany set Astra down on her bed beside Bryony, continuing to stroke her. She looked up at her sister and nodded. “Yes, he was coming back from the woods. He must’ve gone a long way in, his jacket was covered in burrs and bits of twig and his trousers were all muddy.”

©2019 Chris Hall

On to the next chapter

From my latest work-in-progress. What do you think? I really appreciate your feedback.

What will 2019 bring?


Just a teeny-weeny slightly self-indulgent post to clear the decks and set me on a whole new year of writing. Note the new theme which is perhaps a bit tidier (unlike my desk).

I have finally finished editing the novel which I was writing all last year (between other things, like paid work). The next phase is the boring and daunting bit, the publishing and marketing. I’m going to take this slowly. Deep breaths!

So now I shall be turning my attention to my new work-in-progress novel. It’s the children’s book which I roughly drafted during NaNoWriMo. It hasn’t even got a working title yet, but very soon it will take the place of You’ll Never Walk Alone which will be disappearing from the pages here.

And there will still be my weekly little fiction pieces, responses, random thoughts and that kind of thing, and of course, reading all your lovely stories and engaging with the writing community on social media. However, I will mostly be writing fiction!


The Clock’s Ticking!

the clock is ticking lunasonline Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels
Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Just to let you know that I won’t be around quite so much for the next 6 weeks. It’s nothing bad.

I promised myself at the beginning of March that I would finish the draft of my new novel by the end of October (this year), and then do something I’ve never done before, and which I’ve wanted to do for almost 10 years: NaNoWriMo.

2018 is the year.
It’s going to be a challenge because I’m going to have to plan this properly.
Starting…now! Well, soon.

I’ll be popping up for air to see what everyone’s up to, but if I don’t interact with you much, you’ll know it’s going well. If I do start wittering on it will mean I’m prevaricating which will not be so good. You might even find me crying in a corner of Twitter.

But let’s be positive. I’m going to get it done.

Wish me luck!