A Year In The Life Of Howard McAllister

March 2020 – Howard found a sext-message on his girlfriend’s phone from some guy named Nick

April 2020 – Howard lost his wallet and had to wait for two weeks for a replacement bank card

May 2020 – Howard found a strangely shaped mole on the side of his torso

June 2020 – Howard lost his grandfather who had been in ICU being treated for Covid for eight weeks

July 2020 – Howard found a new route to work that meant not passing the hospital where his grandfather died

August 2020 – Howard lost his face mask on the way back from shopping in Westfield. He was not allowed on the bus and ended up walking home in the rain.

September 2020 – Howard found his boss snogging one of the cashiers in the stock room

October 2020 – Howard lost the chance to see his parents because he had a cough and a temperature

November 2020 – Howard found a note from his girlfriend saying she could not take any more and was moving out

December 2020 – Howard lost any glimmer of confidence in the government as Christmas was cancelled for London

January 2021 – Howard found a twenty pound note underneath the sofa cushions

February 2021 – Howard lost his job when the store closed and everyone was made redundant

March 2021 – Howard found an online support group whom he could talk about his dark feelings


his little post is my response to this week’s FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

Melody Finch – The Writer, Not The Bird

I had a surprise the other day. I was showing a colleague at work how they can find my books on Amazon and next to my book appeared what seems to be a brand new children’s eco-fantasy book entitled “Melody Finch”. I read the description….a girl turns into a bird…and her educational adventure focusing on Australian wildlife.

Now, simply on the basis that they have given their book the best possible name out there, I will be buying and reviewing their book. Look out soon for a CARMEL’S CORNER post devoted to “Melody FInch”, the children’s book!

Anyway, I just want to make clear, I am the writer Melody Finch, I am not a girl who has somehow been transformed into a bird. I am Caramel and I generally write romantic comedy mixed with learning about life, about ourselves, about relationships and about how to overcome challenges and thrive.

You see….that is who I am. Melody Finch – the epic adventurer who seems to have come through challenges with pizazz and not only has lived to tell the tale, but can sing it out with gusto!

Melody Finch books include the following:

First Car Fling


Passing my driving test was the most amazing feeling on earth! I remember looked in the newspaper to see if there were any cars I could afford. For £300 I had my very own set of wheels.

That night after I picked up my new car, my friend Adrian and me went for a drive. I drove and I drove and I drove. Adrian and I sang our hearts out all the way from Milan in Italy, all the way to Edinburgh in Scotland!!

Woooh hooh! Driving license is the greatest freedom! No looking back for me!


The short post above was my response to the….

…hosted by Cyranny’s Cove

The Lantern


My heart was beating as I listened to my grandmother tell me about how for years she was secretly courted by a wealthy young man, despite his family being dead against their relationship.

During all those years that he and I snook away for romantic rendezvous…

We ne’er showed

Our secret code

At his abode

…to any other soul. It was a mysterious unspoken language between he and I. All those years when we were kept apart by the most miserable of circumstances, his rich aunt who detested that my father was a mere tradesman. She announced our union would be a disgrace to the noble bloodline from which she descended, and forbade him to see me.

However, with his encouragement Auntie would go away for the occasional trip to Lyme or the New Forest on one of her little vacations. My beloved would always hasten to give me that sign, so that I knew that apart from the servants, he would be alone at home and could receive me…

I’d see that light

That meant we might

Make love that night

…and I would rush down to the manor house, squeeze through the gap he had created in the perimeter walls and make my way through the pristine gardens. I had to climb the trellis erected for the wisteria, to reach his balcony. He would be there waiting to lift me over the stone balustrade.

It was terribly exciting, terribly romantic. He would kiss each one of the scratches I had incurred in my climb up over the gnarled twigs that scraped against my soft skin. He would hold me in his arms, whispering to me that it was agony not being allowed to see me.

Eventually your Grandfather spurned his rich aunt’s wishes in choosing to elope so he could marry me. In outrage, his aunt cut him out of her will. Your grandfather gave up his inheritance for me.

After his crabby aunt had passed away, he went to visit his second cousin who had received the inheritance and made just one request. Your grandfather asked for the lantern that hung in the porch on the south side of the house. His request was granted, and we fixed it up in the vestibule here at the cottage we raised our children in.

The lantern that for eight years proclaimed the message I was longing for:

“The coast is clear

You need not fear

Come in my dear”



This was my response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION Challenge:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #71

Lost In This World

Image by TanteTati from PixabayI have been writing another fictional story. I don’t know where it came from…but I suddenly find that I have a lot of material. I copied and pasted what I had already written into Microsoft Word and in three weeks, I have written 60,000 words. I have the rest of the story in my head, and time permitting I will try to type it up. Then I need to edit. Editing is painful!

It’s kind of a story of a young woman who is lost and alone in many ways. She has no living family members. She has no close friends. She works and plays and tries to find somewhere, something, that resembles love. But she is another learner at love and makes lots of mistakes along the way. I am developing her character carefully. I am still not sure how I want her story to end. Will she find real love? Will she just learn to live with loneliness? Will there be a hero or rescuer? Will she conquer alone? I have lots of ideas, but I expect that by the time we get to the conclusion, the questions her story has raised will point to one answer.

Anyway…now I am trying to play around with how to start the story. I have made a start, but it needs more time and attention:

Man, Woman, Composing, Dispute, Thoughtful, ProblemsIt’s still fresh in my mind as if it was just yesterday that he walked up those stairs. I still feel that clench in my gut as I felt the threat of him approaching. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. My face was stern, my body stiff, my voice cold.

I did everything I could to send out the message I did not want to speak to him, that he was an unwelcome invader. I was hostile and unresponsive to his friendly questions. I gave him monotone yes and no replies. He detected I was not at ease with him. He persisted cautiously, maintaining an appropriate distance.

Somehow he managed to figure out why I was there on my own. He carefully broke down my defences. I gave in. I gave up. I gave him a chance. I still remember it all vividly.

Man, Woman, Composing, DisputeI am not sure where to begin to tell you our tale. I know my side of the story better than his. But I often think that for a stranger to hear, it makes sense to know how he it must have played out for him. For him it was all fairly simple, straightforward. For me it was anything but simple. It was complicated and crazy and contorted.

Before I let you see what happened from his perspective, let me introduce myself. My name is Hayley. Hayley Buchanan, born in 1987 to Paul and Collette Buchanan. I lived the first few years of my life in Galesburg, Illinois. I left home to go and study English Literature at the University of Virginia.



Breathing Life Into Characters

rsughbg Since the first part of my LEARNERS AT LOVE series was published, I have been slowly scrutinising every word. I have painstakingly corrected grammar and punctuation. I have also got to know my characters much better and learnt more about the expressions they would use and their habits of thought and action.

It’s a very enjoyable process, but one that it seems you have to be devoted to (for a time period that is). Perhaps I went about it all the wrong way. I have post-edited. It would have driven me crazy to have to edit like this before ever publishing. I don’t think Annabelle Riley’s story would ever have been published if I had to keep postponing it because of a paranoid perfectionism.

You have a character in your mind, and you have to make them seem real in your story. You have to get to know who they are are what made them that way. It’s really fascinating, especially from a psychological point of view.

rusdjdbjafI’ve started to develop another character recently, Leah Carter. I have already decided she is not going to have her full story published. She is more personal to me and the men I have loved. While there are thousands of miles between Jack and me, Leah is in some ways helping us share what we cannot. After I send a part of Leah’s story to Jack, he reads it and sends something back. Maybe, it’s a bit like cybersex but more personal and way more erotic. We are talking about scenarios we have already shared, reminding each other of intimate moments together.

I have ideas for other characters though. I would like to develop the story of Anna and Natalia, two sisters from the LEARNERS AT LOVE series. I also have a character in my head who is inspired by an amazing colleague of mine. I would love to weave a fictional tale of how she finds love.

When Leaving The House Is An Ordeal

Corona, Mask, Full Face, Coverage Mike knew that he had no choice. He had spent two weeks trying to book a slot for home delivery on the supermarket’s website. But every time he checked there were no slots left.

He opened the cupboards…all he could see was forty bags of dried pasta. He had run out of everything else. There was nothing he could make a sauce out of. He didn’t even have any oil or salt left.

Realizing he was now going to have to venture out to the local supermarket in person, he went to his store cupboard to pull out his “bag-for-life”. To reach his shopping bag, he had to pull out the two hundred toilet rolls he had managed to squeeze into his store cupboard.

Mike then spent ten minutes preparing himself to leave the house. He placed his makeshift PPE over his face and finally put on his bright yellow marigolds. He opened the door and set off down to the supermarket.

On arriving at the PriceDropper Supermarket, Mike joined the back of the queue that stretched across the entire carpark. Forty minutes later he finally entered the doors and was able to fill up his shopping basket.

Mike walked back up the hill with his groceries. On reaching his home, he put his hand into his pockets to pull out his keys. Damn! Mike had left the house without his keys. Mike tried to locate his phone. Double damn! Mike had left the house without his phone.


Apparently…It’s World Book Day

bukThe BBC News had a report featuring children around the country who will be engaged in reading activities in recognition of World Book Day.

So I thought…since it is apparently, World Book Day…why not drop a post on you to mention that Part Two of The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series is on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats. This part is called WHERE IS THIS PLACE THEY CALL “HOME”?

It continues Annabelle’s epic journey as she learns about herself and about love. I loved this part of her story.

You may have seen my posts a while ago about Part One of The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series, which was entitled WE HIDE WHAT WE HATE ABOUT OURSELVES.

Thank you so much for the wonderful support and encouragement. Writing the story of a young woman who wants to be happy but has been afraid to seek help with her mental health been an amazing journey. Publishing it and receiving feedback from others has been such a joyful experience!


At the moment I am fine tuning Part Three, but it is taking me longer than I hoped because I have so very little spare time at the moment. But it is 80% there. I’ll let you know when Part Three is live and kicking on Amazon.

Make It Special

I was out all day today, but I had seen Teresa’s writing prompt and I had a story in my head all day that I was looking forward to typing up:

Your challenge today, should you accept it, is to explore love and romance on the sports field. Write your take on the romance subgenre of Sports Romance and see where it leads…or whatever/wherever the prompt takes you. (Note: Sports romance can include any sport, but the romance traditionally includes at least one sport’s player.)


I have used a slightly different picture to set the scene for my story. I am going back to school with Annabelle Riley, who like every other girl in her year has a crush on Trent Walker, the high school sports jock. We’ll also see Dean Mathers (before Mildew get their recording contract), who is a few years older than Annabelle. I will be honest with you, although I have a character who is a sports player…this story is not particularly sporty at all!

Football, Team, People, Game, Crowd

Annabelle had just finished her history lesson and was putting her books into her locker. Hearing a round of giggles a couple of metres away, Annabelle looked over to her right and saw some of the girls in her year who were on the cheerleading squad. As she made eye contact with them, their laughter erupted again. “Losers” Annabelle thought to herself.

“Hi Annie. How you doin’?” came a voice from her left.

Annabelle turned to find Trent Walker with one arm stretched against the locker and the other clutching the strap of the rucksack on his shoulder. He was smiling down at her. Her eyes could not hide her surprise. She felt flattered that Trent even knew her name. “Um, hi!” she responded.

“Have you caught your arm on something? That looks like quite a scratch you have there,” Jordan’s fingers gently stroked Annabelle’s forearm.

Annabelle felt butterflies in her tummy as she felt Jordan’s caressing her skin. But realizing that he was referring to one of the deep scratches she had inflicted on herself, Annabelle pushed her sleeve back down and gasped the edge of the cuff to prevent it from riding up her arm again. “Oh it’s nothing. Yeah I just caught it.”

Trent continued to flash smiles, revealing his perfectly white teeth “So, Annie, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the school dance with me?”

Annabelle nearly choked on hearing the question Trent had just directed towards her. “You’re asking me to the dance?”

Trent grinned on seeing Annabelle’s face flush with pink, “Think about it Annie. Here, take this, why don’t you send a message when you have decided.” He passed her a scrap of paper with a cellphone number written on it.

annie as teen1

As Trent turned away and walked down the corridor, there were more chuckles heard from the crew of cheerleaders who had probably heard the entire conversation. Ignoring them, Annabelle shoved her entire bag into her locker and closed it.

Twenty minutes later, she was on the outskirts of the woods. She could detect a familiar aroma and moments later she heard a guitar strumming.

“Hey Dean.”

“Alright Nan, are you skipping class again?”

Sitting down on the dry grass near to where Dean sat with his guitar, Annabelle drew ler legs up and hugged them, “It’s phys-ed after lunch.”

“Bleedin’ waste of time” scowled Dean breathing in a drag of the roll-up perched at the side of his mouth.”

Annabelle laughed, “You’re no Trent Walker.”

“Who the hell is Trent Walker?”

annie curled up“The guy who has asked me to the school dance,” she smiled with pride.

Dean was surprised, “You’ve never mentioned him before. How come?”

Annabelle hesitated before answering, “It’s kind of new. He only asked me to go to the dance with him today.”

“Do you hang out with him?” he asked.

“No, he’s on the football team. He hangs out with other guys on the team and the bitchy girls on the cheerleading squad.”

“So he’s a popular kid then?”

Annabelle nodded, “And he is soooooo gorgeous.”

Dean seemed amused, “So why’s he asking you to the dance?”

“What’s that supposed to mean? What am I that repulsive that you think he wouldn’t be interested in me?”

Cheer, Cheerleader, Girl, Women“Nan, you are pretty. Any guy would be lucky to get your attention. But you don’t sound as if you have any connection with this Trent guy. So why, out of the blue, does he invite you to the school dance? What about the other girls he hangs out with? Has he hooked up with any of them?”

“Hooked up. What? Do you mean actually hooked out, like making out and stuff?”

“If he’s really sooooo gorgeous as you say, and on the school football team, he’s probably screwing half the cheerleaders. Why doesn’t he ask one of them to the dance?”

“Don’t say stuff like that! Trent seems nice. Maybe he doesn’t want to ask one of them because they are all nasty cows.”

Man Sitting Holding GuitarDean put his guitar down and moved over to sit besides Annabelle, “I’m going to tell you something now, and you are not going to like it. Either he is planning on pranking you and getting your hopes up before the dance only to stand you up. Or he is hoping you will be so chuft that he asked you to the dance that you’ll let him shag you.”

Annabelle’s eyes opened wide, “You don’t even know him. Why would you say something like that?”

“I might not know him, but I know enough about guys like him. I’m not trying to be unkind. I’m telling you, he’s a jerk.”

A few tears began to trickle down Annabelle’s face, “Do you really think that?”

Dean put his arm around Annabelle, “Nan, I would never want to hurt you. You know that don’t you. I don’t want to see anyone else hurt you though.”

Annabelle tried to wipe her eyes with her sleeves, “I didn’t actually say yes when he asked me. I was so surprised that I couldn’t even speak. He gave me his number and told me I could think about it and let him know.”

“Do you have it?” When Annabelle nodded, Dean thought, “Don’t use your phone to reply. Use mine. Here, let’s send him a text message, just to kind of suss out what his game is.”

tex.png“What do you mean?”

After Dean had typed a message, he presented his phone to Annabelle to read it: THANKS FOR THE INVITE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO MEET UP SOMETIME BEFORE THE DANCE? MAYBE WE COULD GO OUT FOR A DRINK.

“Dean, Trent might not like it.”

“It doesn’t matter Nan. Let’s just see how he reacts.”

Trying to distract his younger friend and cheer her up, Dean began showing Annabelle a song he had been working on. He played the chords and sang some lyrics that he had scribbled down onto a notepad. Annabelle was enjoying his playing when she noticed his phone flash up and sound a message tone. Dean picked up his phone and read the message: I THINK YOU HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER.

hindsight1Annabelle’s face revealed her confusion, “Did you type the number in properly?” Dean sat next to her again and the two of them carefully checked the number against the one Trent had given her. Dean asked Annabelle if he should reply. She shook her head. Dean could Annabelle’s disappointment. He pushed her hair away from her face and brought his face close to her’s, “It looks like all he’s done is give you someone else’s number. It’s just a stupid little prank. He’s being a jerk. Better that you realized now, rather than getting all excited about going to the dance with him.”

Annabelle nodded, “I feel like such an idiot.”

“He’s the idiot!” cried Dean. Softening his tone he added, “I’m just relieved he was just pranking you. I was scared that he just wanted to…Well, I’d have killed him if he hurt you.”

Annabelle was silent, “Have you ever done something like that to a girl?”

“I’ve never pranked a girl. They wouldn’t have been impressed enough by me anyway.”

Man Kisses and Hugs the Woman“No, I mean have you ever had a girlfriend? Have you ever made love?”

Dean smiled at Annabelle, “I’ve fooled around with girls. I’ve never had a steady girlfriend.”

Annabelle pursed her lips, “How many girls?”

“I dunno, a few. When I was fifteen, we went on a family holiday to Tampa. There was a girl at the fair who was cute. She looked like Avril Lavigne. She was the first girl I ever kissed. There was a girl who worked at Taco Belt over at Claremont. I asked her out. We went out to see some lousy movie. The movie theatre was empty. She had different ideas than watching the film though. It’s a good job she had a packet of Kleenex in her purse. After that experience, I really wanted a girlfriend. But I’ve been out with other girls and it’s not worked out. I haven’t made it past second base with any of them.”

Annabelle didn’t understand everything that Dean was telling her, which he realized by the hazy look across her face. Feeling embarrassed and not knowing how to reply to Dean, she muttered, “Ok. I have never even been kissed.” She was staring into Dean’s eyes.

Dean looked at Annabelle. It wasn’t the first time he had noticed how pretty she was. She was still sitting next to him but had started to lean against him. Dean gazed at her, “Nan, promise me that you won’t let the first guy who kisses you be some jerk from the football team. Guys like that are only interested in shagging as many girls as possible so they can boast to their mates. Promise me that you will make it special. Make sure it’s someone that you know really cares about you.”

annie as teen.jpgAnnabelle stood up, “I’ve got to go Dean. School will be out soon, I need to go and pick up my bag from my locker.”

Dean jumped to his feet as well, “Nan, promise me.”

Annabelle turned to look at him, “Promise you what?”

“Promise me to make it special. Make sure it’s someone who cares about you. It’s important.”

Annabelle shrugged, “Whatever Dean.”

Dean grabbed her hand, “No Nan. You’re not listening. You’re special. When it happens, make it special.”

Annabelle let her hand linger in Dean’s as she gazed at him searching his face for signs of something he had never said to her. “I have to go.”



The Writer’s Soul Award

Here is something that cheered me up this past week. Teresa, aka The Haunted Wordsmith, has combined two blogging awards and established a new accolade named THE WRITER’S SOUL AWARD, as you can see from her post below:


I am very grateful for all of the support from Teresa and other bloggers. It is almost ten months since I started blogging and I have enjoyed it much more than I ever imagined I would.

I have been in the habit of writing since I was a young child, but not stories, and certainly not poems. Even at school I struggled with that kind of writing. I could churn out essays easily, but making up a story or poem was not natural to me.

I am a life-long letter writer. I had little penpals all over England and then in other countries, and other continents. The post office must have loved me! During my teens I was an extremely prolific letter-writer. Eventually, as I became busier and busier and technology became more accessible, I made the switch to e-mails. I was rather pleased that I could type a long e-mail about our adventures and then send it to hundreds of friends who I had been keeping in touch with previously by post.

I have had shorts spells of keeping a journal. I went through eighteen months of illness requiring several surgical procedures about twelve years ago. Keeping a journal helped me at that time. Also, when I was twenty four and I split up with my teenage sweetheart who had been courting me for years. I do believe that the letter writing and the occasional journal keeping have shaped my style of writing.

Since I started blogging, I have read the work by many other writers and have loved their poetry and flash-fiction and longer stories. I have made a few attempts myself. I must admit I find I often revert to writing about a real-life experience, instead of making up something imaginary. But I have decided I will keep trying to develop better writing skills, and especially with regards to short flash-fiction posts.

At the moment…I feel a bit aghast at the thought of writing about myself. It’s all a bit raw right now. I am sure that will pass! But in the meantime, I quite like the idea of working on a bit more flash-fiction, immersing myself in completely imaginary fictional characters. Thinking up little stories and hopefully throwing in some clever twist, as so many talented bloggers have mastered the skill of doing.

I am really looking forward to spring and summer ahead. I want to be outside as often as possible. I will take a little notebook and pen and if I have any ideas or see anything that inspires me, I will jot them down and work on some stories to keep my site light-hearted and joyful. And all of my stories will have happy endings – because those are the type that I prefer.

I think it will be good for me…to try to write a bit of fiction, and I might even subject you to more bad poetry. I love that no matter how awful my occasional poems are, there is always a lovely blogger willing to tell me it’s nice. Some gorgeous bloggers out there. 🙂