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The King's Angel

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I would have laughed but for the fact the man who spoke to me did so with such an air of authority. His words were English, but the accent unusual. Not the lilt of Irish or the drawl of Australian, something altogether different. 
The world seemed very still. I don’t mean things weren’t moving. The leaves on the trees on the other side of the tall grey stone wall rustled pleasingly. The man’s odd clothes moved with him. There seemed though, a space, a gap, where a sound ought to be. The air was crisp, his words distinct, birdsong soft and clear. It was as if some low buzzing ear worm had been removed from my ear, FM to digital. Crystal clear. 
Though I had no idea where I was or how I had got there, I was certain I was trespassing. I noticed a movement some way behind. A woman, hurrying across the lawn. She came to a stop some twelve feet behind the man. She regarded me with amusement. As I looked at her she bobbed down and up again. Her eyes expressed some urgency. Finally I understood…

A Bridge Too Far

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"Morning."
"Almost." Inspector Dalgaard looked along the bridge to where dawn would arrive. "How's your coffee?"
"Terrible. Yours?"
"Same. No budget for a new machine."
"Seems we have more than one common cause." Inspector Stendahl threw the cup over the side.
"I could have you done for littering."
"It was on the Swedish side."
"Might wash up in Denmark."
"Might. See where the current takes it. Call me if you find it." They looked at the body lying across the borderline. "At least it's in one piece."
"Anyone know you're here?"
"No. Got the message, came immediately."
"Lots of paperwork if we do this together."
"Lots." Stendahl pulled out a coin. "Call."
"Tails."
Stendahl tossed the coin high. A gust caught it, stealing it into the night.
"The sea," Dalgaard muttered. They lifted the body over the side.
"See…

Going off-road...

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Greetings Aphraites!

I have just read the article below on the ever-wonderful website, Writer Unboxed. (If any of you are not familiar with this fabulous blog, check it out now.)

This piece, called The Off-Road Vehicle Mind vs. the Paved Story Plan, by Therese Walsh, really resonated with me. 

Do any of you feel the same way? Do you ever get bored of writing a story if you have it all plotted and planned out in advance? And what do you do if that happens?
Comments welcome below...

And may you all have a block-free writing season this Christmas!!

Sara x



To Kazantzakis

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I visited your grave on Crete 
You said god pardons the singers 
but I think he has doubts about poets 

God sends streams of milk 
flowing down the mountain 

We whores of the imagination 
tell stories of weeping prophets 
and priests no one believes 

We create ideas of winged clouds 
filled with fiery kingdoms 
but angels lie, steal and cheat 
then break into tears 
when they lift their arms up to heaven 
and their hands fall off


by Mario Zecca




Image, "Heaven's Gate", by Mario Zecca

Coffee Connections

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“Grande non-fat latte,” Simon yelled to no one in particular as he set the warm cup of coffee on the counter.  Both Tammy O’Hara and Walter Pankins reached for it. “Oh,” Tammy said, “I’m sorry. I thought it was mine.” “No, it’s a non-fat latte,” Walter replied. “That’s what I ordered.” They both pulled back their hands and looked at Simon. He checked the cup. What an idiot, Tammy thought. We know what it is; we just don’t know who it belongs to. Walter stood taller.  I’m getting that coffee. If my therapist thinks I can’t stand up for myself, I’ll show her. They both reached again, almost touched hands and withdrew.


Simon looked up; his hand still on the cup, sensing the door at the front of the store had opened. Please let it be Jill coming in for her shift. It wasn’t. He reached into his apron to check his phone for messages. Looking at the woman in front of him, he noted her long red hair, red lips, and a mole near her mouth. Almost as beautiful as Jill. Jill who would barely look at him,…

Writing short and weaselling out weasel words

10 top writing tips from Without Bullshit.

Quite a general list but still well worthy of a perusal! (Peruse?)

Without Bullshit 10 top writing tips

Some good ones in here, including re-writing the passive voice. I'd also include getting rid of adverbs. 

Which top pieces of writing advice would you include? 
Post your comments below...

One day on the lake

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Using the cool of the early morning before the sun rises to become its usual summer furnace, the two boys are preparing for their special day. They comb, they preen, they each shave twice, slyly checking each other over at the same time as they check themselves in the mirror. Each wants to do well yet the other’s success is integral to their own. Each needs the other to be cool, stylish and in control but not to the extent of outdoing the other.
Hopping and skipping down the steps they reach the boat where she is waiting. She’s casual, relaxed, looks as if she has no idea of the boys’ hopes and expectations. Is this an elaborate game? The boys aren’t sure, but the preparation they have put into this encounter is proof that they're prepared to endure a few knock-backs.

She walks to the bows of the clinker-built boat and spreads her towel on the deck. Sitting dangling her feet in the cool waters of the lake she half day-dreams, half watches the boys as they continue their pre…

Big Magic...

Thanks to a recommendation from one of our Cafe Aphra contributors, I have just watched this amazing video interview between Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo, and I have to say I found it absolutely brilliant. 

The pacts and contracts we have to make with ourselves and our creativity; perfectionism as fear in high heels.... authenticity and originality... martyrdom and tricksterdom, and the many traps we lay ourselves and misconceptions we hold onto regarding our creative process. 

I have enjoyed hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about writing in the past before and on this occasion she has lived up to my every expectation. I can feel I will be buying her new book, Big Magic, and reading it for myself very soon!

So, Aphraites, this is my offering to you on this 'What We Do Wednesday'! Enjoy!!

Big Magic: Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo

The Visitor

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Rex picked up the brush and began sweeping. In the past week he had aged fifteen years.

Helping out friends when you can is a no brainer of course. You don’t think ahead to the grief it may cause you. You just do it and that’s the end of it. Though he’d always enjoyed the solitary life, having someone stay (“for a coupla days, max”) had held the promise of fun and conversation, a few high jinx perhaps.
Yeah, no doubt about it, body and soul needed to be yanked out of the comfort zone now and again.
And yet, as he nursed flecks of tortilla crumbs across the floor it struck him how he’d never before felt so middle aged and so damned English. He mused that if Hollywood were to make a film of the last week of his life a trailer would show Hugh Grant trapped in an elevator with Sofia Vergara and most cinemagoers would grab the broad gist of events.
Latin emotions are strongly felt and expressed. Boy, aren’t they. English ones aren’t. Rex had often felt the latin way to be admirable, more so s…

Ugly Histories

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Before the reign of light skinned beauty, before the war of pale and dark

East of the Nigerian Delta and resting low amongst the viscous swampland

A baby born in ochre dust, plum-pudding black, eyes full of coal fire

Unbound by western influence and their disorders of mind and body.

There she reigned from her first sticky steps to a long hunting stride

In the savannah, boiling from red light to dark, husky from the chase

Full from the kill, slick with the sweat of victory and animal shapes

Until a night, drenched by the blood moon, when men crept and stole

Leaving her land deprived, ships packed with a weeping cargo.



by Charlotte Stirling

Remember, remember, the month of November...

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Today is the 1st of November and for many people the beginning of what is now a well established institution in the worldwide writing community... NaNoWri month!

November has been 'National Novel Writing Month' for several years now and has produced spectacular results for many writers in need of an extra push to just get that baggy first draft finished.

Here at Cafe Aphra, we offer our own take on NaNoWriMo via the Cafe Aphra November Challenge... (drum roll, please!)

Essentially, this is the same idea but we just prefer to offer people a bit more flexibility in terms of setting their own writing goals, whether total word count, daily word count or something else entirely. Writing a novel is a highly personal experience and 50,000 words in 30 days in not necessarily be the right challenge for everyone. 

We still think NaNoWriMo is a fabulous idea, however, and a really admirable institution - so we would encourage all our readers who are currently struggling to make the progress …

All that is left

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Emma loved bookstores. The intoxicating smell reminded her of the library in her late parents’ house: the sweet scent of all things lost. She liked to brush her fingertips over the sharp edges of books showcased on spotless shelves, seeking forgotten particles of dust. She could hear the hidden letters whispering to her, like the voices of men who had long since passed away.
On the last Friday of every month, there was a reading at the nearest store. Emma always made sure she got a seat at the front. She loathed sitting in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by the voluminous bodies of strangers pressing against her frail frame. 
This particular Friday there was an author who was dear to her. She had been his devotee since she was young. A love from years past had introduced her to him - now every page seemed to take her back in time. 
In agony, she pushed through the faceless masses streaming towards her on her way to the store. They were shoving her, knocking into her with their massiv…

The Apprentice Journalists

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A man was arrested for having sex with his bicycle. It was in all the papers from The Financial Times to the London Evening Standard. ‘How did he do it?’ I asked my husband. ‘How should I know?’ ‘You’re the man.’ ‘This could only happen in your country, kiddo,’ he said. ‘Everyone here’s eccentric.’ My husband is American. Only one week later a man was caught having sex with his garden table, the kind with a hole in the middle for a parasol. ‘More painful than fun,’ my husband said, holding his crotch. We are apprentice journalists, my husband and I. We met at Southbank University, which has the worst record for out-of-work graduates. We think that’s why they took us. Good students didn’t apply. If you can’t be clever, be cunning. That’s what I say. ‘Have you worked out what these stories have in common?’ I looked at him slyly. ‘Sex,’ he said. ‘And gardens. Each of these guys was in his garden. Alone.’ ‘Alone but for an audience. Both gardens were opposite primary schools.’ ‘In lower class areas…

I will bring you red apples

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I will bring you concord grapes,
for you like the color of them

I will cut the meat for you,
in razor thin slices

the nurses tell me
to let you feed yourself
to gain your strength
back

but you and I know
your arms become more flaccid each passing night,
and no amount of measured movement,
will make that right

I will make the soft cloth wet,
caress the dirt away, for they scrub you
like canvas, painted all wrong
I will brush your hair,
a hundred strokes
as you did

I will read you stories
of children at play

I will bring apples
for your wooden bowl,
to help us remember red, round things,
beginnings, in a world before this room
of endless ending

Interview with Afia Nkrumah, writer and filmmaker

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Cafe Aphra contributor, Afia Nkrumah, is a theatre director who moved into making films a few years ago. She recently got a break when her short film, Shadow Man, was selected for funding by Film London. Here she tells us about her experiences...
Cafe Aphra: Hi Afia, I know you've been involved in film for quite a long time, but what made you want to write screenplays in the first place, rather than novels or short stories? (Or anything else!)

Afia: I come from an oral story telling background and I worked as a theatre director, so scripts are a more natural way of telling stories for me than the novel or perhaps more 'literary' forms of writing. I also love working with actors and screenplays facilitate that.
Cafe Aphra: Where did the idea for Shadow Man come from?
Afia: Last year after seeing the "go home" vans driving around parts of London asking migrants to leave the UK or be deported, I was so incensed that I sat down to write my response and a script of Shado…

One Rainy Night, Midweek

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Josie offered him a lift to the station so he could drink if he wanted to. Just before he got out, she yanked his tie sideways, downward, then more or less straightened it.
“Perfect,” she said.“Go get her, tiger!”
Did it go well?
They’d recognised each other, from their online photos, remembered each other’s names correctly.Stephanie, Steph, either was fine with her.She hadn’t been late. They’d both found the right clock to meet under.From there, it wasn’t far to a bar, running, where he’d helped her off with her jacket and bought drinks.
“I’m absolutely soaked!” she said with an embarrassed laugh, shaking her head so her red hair flew out in a fan of water droplets.He wiped his face with the end of his tie. “Sorry, sorry!” He waved off her apologies and noticed that her blouse was wet, perhaps too obviously: she slid her jacket off the back of her chair and back onto herself, muttering about it being colder than she’d realised. “I could kill this,” he said, reaching for his beer.Froth slopp…

Incident at the Cafe Josephina

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Two men tumble in from nowhere and crash onto the pavement, the distance of a thrown match from my al fresco table. Waiter arrives, setting down hot chocolate ordered thirty minutes ago, hardly acknowledging  brawl, as though it might be a cabaret performance. But my heart races like I’ve been ambushed in a paint-ball combat game. In Europe I’d heard Buenos Aires was a city with stories unfolding on every street corner. Surely not this; not on so balmy a Sunday evening in upmarket Recoleta? 
Bigger of the two men is wearing a well cut suit, jacket half come off in the fracas. Other man - no more than a boy now I see him clearly - is gripped in a headlock. His dirtied and oversized T-shirt emphasizes spindle arms, skin chargrilled by the sun. He twitches silently, in the manner of freshly caught prey, but otherwise puts up no further resistance. For brief seconds his gaze meets mine. His eyes have a woebegone stare; all hope given up, they say. Neither of the two men speak. Scene from a…