Friday, 13 December 2019

Flash fiction (25): Harry

Written for JD Mader's 2minutesgo website. If you fancy writing or just reading, head over there this weekend.  This one took longer than 2 minutes! :) Cheers


Harry never wanted to be normal, do the usual things, the average humdrum walking-through-life-not-seeing-it-really kind of normal. So he did everything in the book to prove he was otherwise. He grew his hair, got some tats, even a facial piercing or two.

And then he travelled. Everywhere. On a shoestring. And not the usual; the stuff that involved scaling mountains with one hand or hand-gliding in ill-advised weather, giving goofy looking pigeons a run for their money. And money was something he really didn’t have much of, or crave. He didn’t want the wife, Volvo and two-point-three kids, so he bought a guitar and played gigs for a bit, and took up painting houses. But then being skint got boring, so he got the only job that truly scared him: stuntman.

Ah, relationships. Well, he’d had more than his fair share of those. And fair they were, to be sure. Back in the day, he didn’t have to try too hard, there was always someone; always someone who took a shine to him, and whom he took one to back. It wasn’t that he wasn’t picky, he just loved women, and he fell in love or lust frequently. Of course, it wasn’t his fault that these things never worked out. He just never met the right woman who got him where you’re meant to be got. And when he’d finally given up on that, he met her.

Bang! Slap in the middle of town, outside the bookies, walking his so-not-normal dog. The one everyone crossed the road to avoid. His grin was like a graveyard of jagged canines, looking to rip your head off. But no, she bent down and stroked him, coo-ed and ahh-ed, and had the soppy old sod eating out of her hands in no time – both of them. One thing led to another and they married (not the dog). But even Martha couldn’t tame him. She came close, but that wandering spirit couldn’t be rested.

Thirty years of wedded bliss and then came ‘the affair’. It wasn’t even an affair to remember, but she couldn’t forget it. And he could never forget that she left. But he had the most wonderful daughter. She forgave him, still spoke to him. Harry read an article once, claiming people who could never settle, moved a lot, had the wanderlust, had many relationships, carried a special gene. He forgot the name, but some of the world’s greatest explorers had it. How he’d love to get tested for it.

It was just like him to be a stuntman, Martha always said, and “can’t you get a proper job?”. He’d never meant to make it a career. It just looked fun. A pitstop. A break in the road. But a whale of a time it was. He never meant to get a little bit famous, but that happened too. Some might say that’s almost normal, but he managed to put a crazy spin on it. Until the accident, the one that brought him here, to this bed in this ward, this piss-coloured place. Who chose this damn paint anyway?


Harry glanced down at the little face staring up at him through a shagpile mop of hair. “Did I drift off again, son?” he asked.

The boy nodded. “Were you daydreaming? I do that all the time.”

The old man laughed, knowing that dreaming was the start. “Yes. And I have some advice for you, son. Be normal!”

The boy screwed up his face.

“Be normal. Don’t stand out. It’s easier. No one will question anything you do. And everyone will understand you.”

The boy bit his tongue and shook his head. “But Mum will kill me!”

Harry turned to the bonnie, red-haired woman holding his hand on the other side of the bed, her eyes creased up in amusement. “He’s a chip off the old block, Dad. It’s too late now! Look at the example he’s had!”

“Well, I never approved of all your tattoos, Joy. Wait til you’re eighteen before you get one, son. These things stick with you for life.”

“Uh-mm, okay, granddad. Can I get a ring in my nose like you instead?”

 Copyright Vickie Johnstone, Friday, 13 December, 2019

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

A zany cat series for your Christmas stocking...

With Christmas just around the corner, do you know anyone who likes stories about cats? Or tales where kids go on adventures with their pet cat to a land full of cats? If so, you or they might like my Kiwi in Cat City series... They're available for under a dollar or a pound in kindle, and also for sale in paperback on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Waterstones, and all of the regular places. 

The Kiwi Series is based on a little black, very fluffy and sometimes cheeky cat I used to have, called Kiwi. 

I wrote Kiwi in Cat City in April 2002. I had been made redundant and suddenly had a lot of free time. I began to write this book, adding more and more characters as I went along, not sure where the story would go. I sent a synopsis and a few chapters off to a big publisher, which replied with a single-line rejection. I put the book away in a drawer. In February 2011, I friend told me about Amazon Kindle Publishing. I typed up the book, edited it and published it in March 2011. This inspired me to keep on writing.

In March 2011, I published Kiwi in Cat City.
In June 2011, I published Kiwi and the Missing Magic. 
In October 2011, I published Kiwi in the Living Nightmare.
In December 2011, I wrote Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle. It was published in June 2012.
In August 2012, I finished writing the fifth book, Kiwi in the Realm of Ra. It was published in November.
In November 2012, I wrote Kiwi's Christmas Tail during NaNoWrimo, and published it in December.

The series is illustrated by the talented Nikki McBroom.

Kiwi in Cat City

Amy and James live with their parents and their little black cat, Kiwi. One dark night, Amy cannot sleep and she looks out of the window into the garden to see Kiwi transfixed by the moon, which has taken on a weird, glowing shape like a cat's claw. Waking her brother, Amy suggests they follow Kiwi to see where she goes... whether it involves a hunt for mice or something else. Little do they know that with a flick of her tail, Kiwi is going to lead them on the adventure of their lives to a land they never knew existed in their wildest dreams. In the blue-lit world of Cat City, they gain an understanding of what it's really like to be a cat while helping Inspector Furrball to investigate a missing catizens case.

Kiwi and the Missing Magic

In book two, James and Amy embark on another adventure with their little black cat, which will take them to the Land of Giant Mice. The children return to Cat City to help their friends from the first book and meet some new characters along the way, including the Worry Bee, Whiskers and Moggie. The catizens' home is at risk of invasion and some of the Magic has gone missing. Can James and Amy help Kiwi to save the day? More importantly, will James' pet hamster find his true calling in life? 

Kiwi and the Living Nightmare

In book three, Amy, James and Kiwi embark on their spookiest adventure yet – on Halloween. What begins with an eerie dream about a three-legged cat will take the budding detectives on a quest to find an old house in the middle of the woods, meeting some familiar characters and some perky squirrels along the way. Little do they know that there awaits an angry, restless spirit that will do anything to stop them leaving. 

Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle

In book four, the wedding of Inspector Furrball and Madame Purrfect approaches. But, catastrophe, the ring is stolen from the Gem Shop! A pawprint identifies Fyre Cracker as the thief, but he lives in a dark world beneath Cat City, which is inhabited by crimicats. It’s up to the Kiwi Klub to find the ring. In the human world, the hamsters decide to stand up for their rights to better plastic wheels and an abundance of sunflower seeds. Meanwhile, the dastardly Dev shocks Kiwi with the news that he knows a big secret about her family –  her father, Delphinius, may still be alive! The key is The Sculptor, who will lead Kiwi and friends on their biggest adventure yet – to the strange Isle of the Serpent where they will come face to face with their most dangerous adversary so far.

Kiwi in the Realm of Ra

In book five, inspired by the film 'Back to the Future', Whiskers invents The Time-Squeaking Mouse. He plans to take his friends on a fantastic trip to celebrate Amy's thirteenth birthday. However, the time machine falls into the wrong hands and dastardly Dev travels back to Ancient Egypt when cats were sacred. With Dev having changed the path of history, it's up to Kiwi and the gang to travel back in time to find him. What will Kiwi, Amy, James, Whiskers, Hammy, Misty, Furrball and Siam think of this desert world of tombs, pyramids and sacred gods?

Kiwi's Christmas Tail
Book six is set over one Christmas and involves a star, a fairy, a witch, a toad, some catizens and Santa himself. Amy, James and their magical cat, Kiwi, find a star. But this is not an ordinary star. He's living and breathing, and his name is Sharissimo. A year earlier, the star and a fairy called Lilabel were captured by an evil witch with a big wart on her nose. While Sharissimo managed to escape, Lilabel didn't. Can Amy, James and Kiwi find the fairy before Christmas Eve, and rescue her from the clutches of the witch? The witch herself is in for a shock when she finds herself in the furry land of Cat City where she might be forced to be... nice.


Sunday, 8 December 2019

A Poem a Day (118): Rail sparks

Written for JD Mader's 2minutesgo website – head over there to write, read and comment every weekend... you've still got time. This one is about a train journey. The passenger is gazing out of the window, looking back and forward. 

Rail sparks 

We talk in time of sober news,
Colours fleshed out from the sun.
Paired in vases, clipped tulips stand
To attention, listening, not judging,
I decide. Do they find us wanting,
Still pretending to be bold?

They are as we were in our youth,
Petal-soft, unwrinkled, their fresh
Scent of positivity taking the room.
They nod in the summer breeze,
Offering their sweet pollen with a
Suggestiveness only known to bees.

Here are the places where we walk,
The spaces abandoned by walkers,
Who circled in and out before us.
Their footprints press into this earth
Like restless roots, seeking to delve
In deep, seeking a key to grounding.

The memory twitches back and forth.
It’s made for them to breathe and shout,
Petals. Words. Words are everything.
They stand waiting for an explanation.

This metal lung chugs lonely in the dark,
Electric sparks dance upon wet rails,
Flicker, trigger, across this sombre field,
Wheels creaking in a slow-drawn wind.

We scatter our light in suitcases
For our neighbours to see and wonder,
To investigate whether these things fit,
And check if we were ever really here.

Travelling lightly, the velvet tulips breathe,
Not knowing where our wanderlust shall go.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, December 3, 2019

Sunday, 24 November 2019

A Poem a Day (117): Brush

Here's another one I wrote for JD Mader's 2minutesgo website last week.


He paints a life in seconds,
An image of use, departed feathers,
Where the grasses stand tall
Sucking nutrition from the sun.

Sparrows squawk, dip and hide,
Finding rest on the highest limbs.
These woods offer silent repose,
An escape from the grey metal grind.

He circles wonder to render order,
Colour trickles through his hands.
The Cumulus sail, gather to roll in,
But supper can wait, time still.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, November 16, 2019

Saturday, 23 November 2019

A Poem a Day (116): Tick

Here's one I wrote for JD Mader's 2minutesgo website last week.


It’s time,
The clock says it’s time
For all hours, minutes, seconds to
Unwind, sinking, swimming into mist.
The telling time.

The seeker waits in the wings,
Frozen in the dream state humming.
Nimbus rolls in darkest thunder
To keep the fireflies buzzing.
White candles flicker in the burn,
A hint of sage sweeps the air.
He listens to this dark electric,
Sparks tripping off beyond the veil.

The puppeteer resides in corners,
Moving pieces around his board,
Stuck in this stasis, in rehearsal,
Not seeking a reversal of his fate.
He ushers full sound upon this stage,
Ringing a bell for the Pharisee, who
Like the witch, has far to travail.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, November 16, 2019

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Narcissus and the artist

I came across an interesting or bizarre comment – however you want to look at it – the other day that poetry is narcissistic. The commenter thought that every poet writes about themselves and things that are only happening to them. From a personal point of view, I think I’d be a great cure for insomnia if that was the case!

So is everyone who creates something just writing about themselves?

Is everyone who is an artist or creates anything at all a narcissist?

By extension, is a story writer a narcissist? Are all those characters just the writer in disguise, acting out echoes of their own life?
Is a songwriter – and I think of songs as poems with a chorus – just a narcissist writing about their own experience and nothing else?
Is an architect a narcissist in designing a building? Is it just a big replica of his…?
Is a painter always painting a reflection of themselves or their own life?
Is a director always imitating himself in his movies?
Where does that leave the autobiographer? Mega narcissist?
And are parents who create a child the ultimate narcissists, creating something in their own image?

Well, of course not.

It’s quite funny really when you think about it.

With a story of fiction, it’s pretty obvious who the characters are. They usually have names. But then some are written in the first-person ‘I’ and that isn’t the author. Poetry runs the same. The ‘I’ in a poem is not always the author. With some writers, the ‘I’ is never the author, sometimes it is, and I guess for some, it might always be. But a lot of the time, the ‘I’ is a character made up by the poet – the Everyman or Everywoman, the existential being. Like fiction. If the ‘I’ gets too big for his boots, the author can always bump him off. And some poems head into the abstract, representing something else. Others are like little paintings of scenes.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who was known for his beauty and loved everything beautiful. He was proud, looked down on those who loved him, and in the end he fell in love with his own reflection in a stream, laid down next to it, stayed there and died of thirst. (I love Ovid!)

So, there you go. Feeling thirsty?

You’ve created something. You’re an artist. Are you therefore a narcissist?