There was once a woman who loved to drink tea with four spoonfuls of powdered milk. She was also prone to unique superstitions.

So when she was pregnant, she ran into trouble with the old rhyme:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret, never to be told.

Four for a boy. With every cup of tea she drank, she was casting a little spell for a son. And she absolutely, definitely wanted a daughter. This would never do.

She cut down to three spoonfuls of milk in each cup. Three for a girl. The tea tasted thin and bitter. This wouldn’t do either.

Finally, she reached a solution. For the rest of her pregnancy, she had five spoonfuls of powdered milk in every cup of tea.

She was my mother. My gender is ‘silver’.

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To Find Him

I don’t care if it was just a dream. I need to find him again.

In the dream, I was walking down a street, one of those streets where the houses have no front gardens and people’s living-room windows are right there. Behind one of the windows, I heard someone crying.

I couldn’t see him because the curtains were closed, and I don’t remember much of what he said. But as I listened, I realised this was a young trans guy crying to his parents about his transition. About the years of pain he had to go through to make his female body look anything like the boy inside.

I walked away before I started crying with him, right there in the street. As I left, I heard him scream, ‘I wish it would just be OVER!’

All down the street I thought of him. I wanted to help, but there was nothing I could do. Except that -

except that this was a dream.

I’d been practising lucid dreaming. And in that moment, I went lucid. I realised I could do anything. I could change him in an instant, just by thinking of it. I could be the angel who made his wish come true. I turned round, and started running back down the street -

- and I woke up.

I don’t care if it was just a dream. I need to find him again.

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Pride and Joy

The two children at the palace gate were dressed in rags, with broken chains around their ankles. They were the colour of dirt, from their tangled hair to their bare feet. The only bright thing about them was their eyes; and from their eyes, the king and queen recognised them. The lost prince and princess, Pride and Joy, had found their way home.

The palace erupted in celebration. The royal blacksmith was sent for to strike the chains from their thin, scarred ankles; the royal barber cut away the hair that was matted beyond brushing; the ladies-in-waiting stripped them of their rags, and bathed them, and dressed them in silks and jewels; and the cooks prepared a feast for them.

But the spiced meats and sugared fruits went untouched. The prince and princess snatched at the bread and ate it dry, like scared animals, their hands to their mouths and their wide eyes darting around them. They drank only water, in quick gulps, as if someone might take it away.

‘Oh, my darlings,’ said the queen, ‘can’t you see that you’re safe?’

‘Give them time,’ said the king, who had been a prisoner of war in his youth.

That night, Pride and Joy were tucked up in two huge, sumptuous beds, in two great gilded chambers.

But morning found them curled up in each other’s arms on the prince’s bedroom floor. They had walled themselves in with chairs and blankets to make a little shelter. The princess had taken her necklace of gold and rubies and tied it around her ankle, as if she couldn’t sleep without a chain there.

‘Oh, my darlings,’ said the queen, ‘can’t you see that you’re safe?’

‘Give them time,’ said the king.

The queen began to weep. ‘I have given them silk and gold and jewels, I have given them sweets and spices. I have given them my heart and soul, and must I now give them Time?’

‘Yes,’ said the king, and put his arms around her.

And so they waited. And the next night, the shelter Pride and Joy made for themselves was just a little bit bigger…

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Not sure I’m going to go back to trying to do it on a time limit, because I’m still very busy (moving house and transitioning to being a full-time writer/proofreader, among other things. Anyone got work for me? :) ) but dude. Dude. Just spent the past several hours re-reading my own stories and crying. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE AGAIN.

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On hold

I’m reluctantly putting Wordbirds on hold for now because of Life Stuff, but I will definitely be back at some point. All my love and thanks to everyone who’s supported me with this project.

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In the Waterfall…

You always get wet going through Waterfall Gate, even if you stick close to the rockface (which is wet anyway) and edge around behind the falls. But nobody much cares because it’s so hot here. When the knights ride out they run their horses right through the falls. It’s a sight, I can tell you, when the armoured horses come rearing through the spray with their red nostrils flaring, and the knights on their backs sitting bolt upright under the force of the water.

Beyond the falls is the cave-court, big as a cathedral, cool and dark, except when there’s a tourney or a feast and they string paper lanterns between the stalactites.

In the waterfall, there was a cave.

And all around the cave-court, the castle walls rise up, towers carved from the rock, a jumble of little windows full of candlelight.

In the cave, there was a castle.

Go in past the Great Hall and down the cellar stairs, and just as the sound of the falls dies away behind you, you’ll hear the sound of water under your feet. Down in the castle cellars, the River Secret bubbles up from the ground to meet the River Bold.

In the castle, there was a river.

Here among the echoes and the cobwebbed barrels of wine, the rush of water and the ripples of light, be brave enough to follow the river to its source. Don’t worry, the tunnel isn’t long. Hold on to the rusty chains as you climb the slippery stone steps. Sniff the palms of your hands and they’ll smell of iron. Turn the corner, step out into the cavern full of candlelights bobbing on the water. You’re on the shores of Lake Secret.

In the river, there was a lake.

This is where we come in the heat of summer, to splash in water as cold as the bones of the earth. And this is where we come to build and play with boats. There are always half-built boats around the shores of the lake, some just big enough to hold a doll or a single candle, others as big as houses. And on the lake there are always dozens of them, riding up and down on the tides that well up from the earth. Some of these boats have been worn out and mended and added to for generations, and never once seen the sun. Lake Secret is their sea.

The biggest and best one is the Children’s Boat. Nobody knows how old it is. Perhaps not a stick of the original boat remains. It’s a ramshackle jungle of decks and masts, tattered pennants and patchwork sails. There’s no wind, of course, under the ground, so only the Children’s Boat has sails as well as oars. The glass in the portholes is all different colours, and when the lamps are lit it shines on the water like treasure. Children scrambling in the rigging make impish shadows against the coloured light.

In the lake, there was a boat.

Inside is even better. The Children’s Boat is a houseboat, with rooms just our size, and years and years of our paintings running riot all over the walls and ceilings. There’s a toy armoury for playing knights, and a kitchen for making sticky marchpane animals and mixing things and squashing things and piling things up till you can’t get your mouth around them. Instead of a dining room there’s a picnic room with coloured rugs on the floor. Instead of beds there’s a room full of hammocks and blankets and cushions.

In the boat, there was a house.

You can pile up the cushions and blankets to make a fort, or a nest, a place you can crawl into and curl up and hide and nobody can see you.

In the house, there was a nest.

In the nest, there was a child.

In a nest in a house
in a boat in a lake
in a river in a castle
in a cave in a waterfall.

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State of the Wordbirds

My last story wasn’t even meant to be a story – I just wrote it on Twitter and people loved it, so I decided it was story-able…

Once again, I’m quite behind. Luckily, I’m on holiday this week, so I have a chance to catch up. Catching all the way up would involve writing 22-23 stories a day, but given I spent Christmas day writing 81, that’s not beyond the bounds. We’ll see.

What’s actually been worrying me, to the point where I was thinking of giving up, was how far behind I was with the actual craneification. I know in a LOGICAL world I would have reacted to that by, say, making cranes, rather than getting completely stuck and neither making cranes nor writing, but it should be clear by now that I do not live in a logical world.

HOWEVER. Today I realised what my problem was. I’d been trying to make cranes while reading or watching television, and this was slowing me down like crazy. Each one took me 15-20 minutes. And I thought that was how fast I could go, so being well over 200 cranes behind was worrying, to say the least.

Then tonight I tried making cranes while actually focusing on making cranes. Oh. Right. Each one now takes me 3-4 minutes. THIS IS NOT THE DISASTER I THOUGHT IT WAS. Worth remembering that sometimes the thing you’re scared of proves to be completely non-scary on investigation…

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Awesome new BOOKSTORE initiative from Dogs Trust

Hope they don’t mind me ripping this out of the email they just sent me…

We’re delighted to announce we now have our very own online bookstore with can now support Dogs Trust through buying and selling your books online from the comfort of your own home.The next time you buy a book, make sure it’s from Dogs Trust:

  • All books cost just £3.75 – including the latest bestsellers!
  • Free delivery – on most paperbacks
  • For every book bought, Dogs Trust receive a 50p or £1 donation

The next time you finish a book, why not sell it on behalf of Dogs Trust:

  • De-clutter your home and turn your unwanted books into donations
  • For every book sold, you’ll receive a book payment to cover postage
  • From every book you sell, Dogs Trust receive a 50p or £1 donation


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