fiction, Tuesday Trying

Tuesday Trying – Disturbance in the Court Room – a historical rewrite

Victorian woman shutterstock_223843117

Years ago after I wrote my Master’s Thesis on women criminals in Auckland in the late 19th Century, I wrote a couple of starters of stories based around some of the cases. This is one of the pages I discovered the other day – it was written maybe 16 years ago? The dialogue is based pretty closely on what was recorded in the deposition books of the court and this is a true case that happened.

I thought it would be fun, since I always have intended to write historical fiction at some point, to rewrite it for today’s Tuesday Trying. (NB: I changed the POV character’s name because Harry is my son’s name and I find I can’t comfortably use it in fiction…). I found it interesting to see how my style has changed. (the picture below is the original writing).



The wooden bench was narrow and Matthew’s knees banged against the back of the seats in front. He had to stand twice to let people pass as they filed in, loud voices in accents from all over the world filling the room. It was odd that the court would be so full. Shivers of excitement tickled his spine. Perhaps there would be a good story today.


Pulling out his pen and notebook he started sketching the courtroom. The magistrate had to be included, of course; his large nose lent itself perfectly to caricature but Matthew’s pen was mindful of those who paid his wages and focused on the stateliness of the wig and gown.


His eyes darted around the room as on the page he scribbled likeness after likeness. The woman with the massive hat that made her head look like a pin, the large man with the bright red face and the worker’s apron sitting stolidly with his cap in his hands. Twisting hands, Matthew noticed. Not so stolid then.


The magistrate called for the next case, a woman directed to the bench by a policeman. He turned over the page of sketches and got his pen ready to jot down the details, hoping for something worth the page space.


“Minnie Knox”, the magistrate’s voice boomed, another caricature. “You have been charged under the Vagrant Act 1866 with indecent behaviour in a public place, to wit Queen Street at 11 o’clock in the evening on Monday 4th July. How do you plead?”


His pen had slowed as soon as he’d realised it was yet another indecent behaviour charge. Honestly, that’s all he ever seemed to hear. He thought of Barty and his scoop last week with the woman and her lover who had been found guilty of murdering her husband. The smarmy idiot had been drinking for free on that one for days. Pulling his mind back to the courtroom he heard Miss Knox stridently denying that she would ever behave in such a way. His eyebrow went up and he tried not to smile. She was dressed in a bright mix-match of clothes that looked to his, admittedly inexpert eyes, to be hand me downs from someone rather better off.  Her face was twisted in a scowl and her chestnut hair was tumbling down around her shoulders.


“Please, Miss Knox, just answer guilty or not guilty. How do you plead?”


“Not guilty”


A ripple of laughter shot through the room and the young woman’s chin went up defiantly. He started a quick sketch, caught by the angle of what was actually a rather pretty face. As the lines filled in he found himself noticing what others probably didn’t; she might be shouting defiance and standing with her arms akimbo and scorn writ large on her face, but her eyes were frightened. It was all in the lines around the lids. He looked up from his sketch, staring at her. Such clear blue eyes for such a woman.


The constable stepped forward to testify, his voice heavy and bored. “The defendant was drunk and was tearing her clothes off in the street. She is a common prostitute and a brothel pest.”


Harsh, he thought, as his pen stroked lines down that full mouth, noticing the tremble of her lips as the constable spoke.


“That’s a lie you blackguard!”


His eyes widened as Minnie pulled out a bottle from somewhere and hefted it confidently. “Take it back, Copper, go on!”


“Miss Knox! Be Quiet! Order in the Court!”


The bottle flew, Matthew’s eyes tracking it as it shot unerringly to its destination, hitting Constable Mason in the side of the head with an audible impact. The silence in the courtroom was split by shouts and laughter as the policeman clutched his head, blood oozing between his fingers. Matthew flicked his gaze back to Minnie. She looked rather shocked, as if she, like everyone else, couldn’t quite believe what she had done. He felt his lips twitch as she pulled herself together, crossing her arms over her chest and nodding as if this was exactly the result she intended. She was younger than he had thought, maybe only 20.


“Constable Gleeson, restrain that woman.” the Magistrate disregarded the noise in the courtroom, pointing at Minnie. “young woman, you are now charged with assault on Constable Mason as well as indecent public behaviour. The court finds you guilty on both charges and sentences you to 6 months with hard labour for the first charge of vagrancy and to a further two months with hard labour for assault.”


He frowned as he scribbled down the sentence. Excessive, surely. Minnie seemed to catch her breath and those blue eyes seemed to glisten. His heart sank. 8 months in prison. It seemed such a shame.


As the Constable took her by the arm the magistrate pulled his gown around him and peered at her over his glasses. Really the man was begging to be pilloried. “I can only hope that your time in gaol will bring you an awareness and regret of your sinful nature.”


Her lips curled up in a smile and he wondered why his heart hurt suddenly. “Not blooming likely, sir.” she said and went with the constable, shaking his hand off her elbow and marching out with a toss of her curly head.


He realised he was grinning, his pen motionless, and pulled himself together. Next case, next page. But his eyes were drawn once more to the sketch he’d done of her and his finger touched the line of her jaw. He remembered the look on her face as the bottle smashed into the poor policeman’s head and his lips twitched again before a laugh burst out. She was certainly a character. He looked up at the next case and knew a moment’s unexpected disappointment that he would, in all likelihood, never see Miss Knox again.




fiction, Tuesday Trying

Tuesday Trying – a superhero love story

Today’s writing is inspired by a prompt given to me by Adam Guillemette at

you’d think that staring down the barrel of cupid’s arrow, one would feel elated

as with all these challenges I write them in about an hour and then press publish, so they’re not polished – but they’re a great exercise to keep me trying different ways of writing and different genres.  This one ties into a plot bunny of mine where a superhero falls for the villain. As soon as I decided on her name (and it is so hard to find a name for a villain that isn’t already taken..) I realised it fit perfectly with the backstory for my plot bunny character. I’m tired and it’s not my best work but I’m keen to develop it further some day.


You’d think that staring down the barrel of cupid’s arrow, one would feel elated. Stomach churning bile probably doesn’t feature in the manual, even if a racing heart does. Guilt shouldn’t be a part of it. At least, not at the beginning.

“Have you met Ophelia McDonald?”

I shook my head at our host, forcing a smile.

Her lips, red and fierce, quirked up and I rubbed my jaw, trying to release the tension. What the hell was wrong with me? It was a pretty easy code: me – hero, her – villain, never the twain shall meet but they fight.

But the code hadn’t counted on the sparkle in her grey eyes and the way her smile promised things. It certainly hadn’t factored in the dress. Fighting with women had never been something I liked, even when they were dressed head to toe in leather armour and threatening the world with annihilation. It would be impossible to hurt her while she was wearing that stupid yellow dress.


For god’s sake what kind of villain wore daisies on their clothes?

“Commander Stevens, don’t say you’ve forgotten me already? It’s okay Sarah, we’ve met. The Commander just doesn’t remember poor little me.”

Night. A warehouse. Seconds to spare before the building blew up with the guard still trapped inside. Her eyes. I hadn’t been able to get them out of my mind. Mocking. Beckoning. Daring. I’d let her go and rescued the guard, just as she’d known I would. That’s the thing about being a hero, you always have to do the right thing. And the right thing that night two weeks ago was giving up the case with the data clips in it to save a life.

“I’m sorry.” My heart had stopped racing but my breath still caught at the way she flicked her unruly curls off her shoulder. “I admit I thought I recognised you but I wasn’t sure; I had a different name in mind.”

Medusa. Not that she could really turn people to stone but she had the power to still your heartbeat, slow it to an infinitesimal pace so you were as good as stone.  That is, if you weren’t fast enough to avoid her touch. Which I was.

Our host smiled happily at us and sent us in the direction of the drinks table. Hundreds of tall flutes of frothy gold covered the tables lining the path down to the gardens. I cast a sidelong glance at her, her head barely topping my shoulder, dark curls bouncing as she walked. Champagne wasn’t going to cut it.

By mutual and unspoken consent we took our drinks down to the edge of the path, close to where the band was setting up, where we could smile at everyone while we spoke knives at each other.

“I had expected your boss.”

“He didn’t think he’d fit in. I offered.”

I eyed her consideringly. She certainly fit in.

“So what’s the deal? You think you can incapacitate Lady Morgan’s security and take the rest of the map? Because it ain’t gonna happen.”

She smiled and my heart raced again. I took a sip of the sickly champagne to wet my throat.

“What if I told you tonight was off the record, so to speak. That I didn’t come here to steal anything?”

“I’d say you’re lying.”

Her laugh was deep and throaty, and unexpected. “You’d be right. I’m lying. But it’s not the only thing I hope to steal.”

She stepped closer as she spoke, her hand about to land on my chest before I took a step back. I eyed her and she shrugged, her mouth twisted. “I wasn’t going to hurt you Max.”

Hearing my name on her lips did hurt.

“Forgive me if I don’t believe that one either.”

Her eyes weren’t grey, they were pure silver, and as I looked at her, her mouth pinched now and a small line between her brows, I saw them flecked with gold.

“Believe what you like, I don’t want to hurt you. I asked my boss if I could meet with you, ask you to back off. You don’t understand what we’re trying to do, Max. I hoped that if you did, you’d let me take it and I wouldn’t have to fight you.”

My brain told me she was lying but my heart heard the urgent truth in her words, the bluntness of her tone with no coquetry to soften it. There was no way her boss would let us off that easy, but maybe she did believe it. I frowned, as if the lowering of my brows could force down the hope that shot through me.


She was a villain. Their plan, her plan, would put millions of lives at risk. The fact that cupid’s arrow had met its mark was irrelevant.

I might have fallen in love with her, but I’d still fight her.

It’s what heroes do.

Music sounded, wafting over us as the band began playing. She looked away and I had to fight not to tuck her hair behind her ear. I’d been an idiot thinking that cupid’s arrow had dodged me two weeks ago. I had been enchanted then and I was enchanted now. Silly yellow dress and all.

It was probably just frustration that had darkened those beautiful eyes. Cupid’s arrow didn’t always go both ways.

An impulse struck me and I spoke before I could think better of it. I found I’d rather regret doing it than never having done it.

“Dance with me?”

She looked back in surprise and I could read every emotion on her face. No wonder she wore a mask when she fought.

I took the champagne from her hand, placing both empty flutes on the ground next to us. Straightening I held out a hand.

Her smile was no longer fierce; it was warm and, ridiculous as it felt, I thought it was a smile just for me.

She stopped just before she touched my hand and met my eyes. “Do you trust me, Max?”

I looked down at her, saw the anxiety she tried to hide behind the mask. “I trust you, Medusa”

Her eyes shimmered silver and gold and when her hand took mine I felt it; an energy restrained, held in check. We smiled at each other and I wished the world away for just another 10 minutes.

Stepping closer she raised her other hand to my shoulder.

“Well then, Max. Let’s face the music, and dance while we can.”


fiction, Tuesday Trying

Tuesday Trying – A Rose by Any Other Name

rose tanalee-youngblood-341674
Photograph by Tanalee Youngblood, sourced from Unsplash

This week’s Tuesday Trying i decided to use a rose (at the suggestion of a friend) and there was something about this photograph, by Tanalee Youngblood, that spoke to me. So the rules for today are to mention the roses, and to focus on description through emotional response (which was the topic of a writerly discussion I followed today). It’s a short one, but I quite like it. Hope you enjoy.


The room was too small to pace properly in. White walls tried for a chill calm but only served to scrape nails down her nerves.


He should have been back by now.


She wiped her palms on her pants and then shook them, a frown twisting her brow. Habit. She’d not sweated in over a century. Her jaw clenched, fangs pushing against her lips in a harsh reminder. She took a breath. Another habit. Marching across the room, heels clicking on cold tomblike marble, she threw herself on to the sofa.


Time pulsed on, counted in heartbeats. She could hear them when she listened.


Her fingers crept out and traced over that awful gold edging that she’d raised her brows at and he’d simply shrugged and laughed, the joy of it a bright sound that shooed away her doubts. The scarlet of her nails trailed like blood across the white fabric and she curled them back under her hands.


There had been so much blood that last time.


No. Think of his laugh instead. That was better.


Her eyes dragged, unwillingly, trepidation in every blink, to the roses in the ceramic pot by the back window. The dusky pink was the only colour apart from her deep raven black. She stood out against the white, a challenge, a statement. Take me as I am, damn it. And he had.


Petals dropped. They didn’t fall fast, and they didn’t fall together. Every so often, in time with the heartbeat that she heard in her waking dreams, one would tear itself away, breaking, giving up, forsaking.  Her eyes fixed unblinkingly on a petal as it floated, ruffled and brown at the edges, dying, down to join the rest of them on the floor.


He should be back by now.






fiction, Tuesday Trying

Tuesday Trying – Espionage on the Esplanade



Earlier this week a writing friend on Twitter posted a challenge – to write a scene based on a photograph of a woman at a station she put up. The only requirement was to use the name of the city (whatever city you chose). It was hard and fun so I thought I’d give myself a similar challenge with one of my own photos. I chose this one because as I was scrolling through I liked the city and the fence which gives me a more modern setting than the last Tuesday Trying. I wanted to avoid a heartbreak scene that I initially thought of when I saw the locks because I feel I’ve done that a lot. My requirement – a phone must be mentioned.

so, here we go.


Late afternoon sunlight reflected off the padlocks, scattered on the fence in a local attempt to recreate the famous lovers locks of Paris. The harbour was busy, as it always was, and the daytime families and sightseers were making way for the evening dates and out of town businessmen in the restaurants that lined the viaduct. Ella watched the water rather than the people. As the sun dropped further behind the buildings of the city behind her, the ripples on the ocean reflected the stark lights of the industrial boats. It was a far cry from the marina further along the waterfront, with its multimillion dollar yachts and sleek technology.


She arched her back a little, trying to stretch out her neck, then had to tuck her scarf back into her coat. Her other hand was in her pocket, resting on her phone, waiting for a telltale vibration. As she waited, she walked slowly past the fence. It was natural that she should look at the padlocks but although she scanned each one carefully with needle focus, she was confident any onlooker would see only a lone woman killing time.


A bronze padlock no different from the others except for the inscription, Logan ❤ Leilani, and a tiny series of cuts in the base sat nestled next to two other locks. She saw it at the same time as her phone vibrated and the coincidence nearly made her jump. Her fingers found the accept call button and she pushed it but left the phone in her pocket. Everything would be transmitted from this point.  She strolled a few more paces on and turned to lean on the railing, face out to the water but eyes sliding to her left and along to where a blue van had just pulled up in the five minute loading zone.


Irritation was a bitter taste in her mouth. Max never let her do things her own way.  It soured into anger as he got out of the van, long legs in shabby jeans with a checked fleece like some kind of hipster pretend lumberjack. He turned and ducked back into the van and emerged holding a rucksack. Oh good. Nice and subtle. Idiot.  She flicked her eyes back over the water. He leaned on the railings just the right distance away – not so far that they couldn’t talk, but not so close to cause suspicion. She didn’t know why that irritated her more.


“I found it. Just where he said it would be.” Her voice was quiet but carried.


Max had taken out a muffin and was alternating between chewing and flicking bits of muffin into the water for the seagulls below.


“You shouldn’t do that, you know. Cake isn’t good for birds.”


“It isn’t a cake, it’s a muffin”. His voice was muffled by the food in his mouth but the deep growl flicked her heartbeat into a skip that she ignored the way she always did.


“It’s the same thing. It’s just smaller.” She shook herself. “Anyway. That’s not important. It’s here.”


He finished the last of the muffin and wiped the crumbs off his fingers, licking chocolate from one lean finger as he grinned at her.


“You’re not being very subtle, Max.”


“On the contrary, Ella, I’m establishing a very good cover.”


She rolled her eyes at him and pushed off the railing. “Whatever. I’m going to retrieve it. You do whatever it is you thought was so important you had to get out of the van.”


“I told you, Ella. Cover.”


The tone of his voice was different, or maybe that was just the lack of muffin. She flicked her gaze past him as she turned away and noted the tension in the broad shoulders beneath that ridiculous fleece and the way his jaw clenched. Her own shoulders tightened and she tried to consciously relax them as she walked. Tracing her fingers over the railing and the stiff wire fence she stopped next to Logan’s padlock. She pulled out her phone as if she had just received a text and shifted slightly so that the camera at the back of the phone was centred right over the markings on the base of the lock.


She’d practiced in the mirror, trying to get the right level of stillness. People reading and answering texts didn’t actually move a lot, but they weren’t completely motionless. Her hand lightly brushed non existent hair off her face and she itched her nose as her hand came down. It was unlikely than anyone in this bustling viaduct was here for the lock and what it held inside it, but better safe than sorry.


“Ella”, Max’s voice was closer than it should have been, and more urgent. She looked up with a startled frown as he appeared at her shoulder, dark hair flopping incongruously in front of eyes that now showed the man beneath the flippancy. These were the eyes of a killer. A protector. “They’re here. We got to go.”


She kept her phone over the lock. “It isn’t finished. I need another minute for the upload to complete, maybe less if we’re lucky.”


His eyes bored into hers and his hand gripped her arm for a moment. “The keys are in the central panel in the van. If you have to, you get to it and you go. You don’t wait for me. Understood?”


She bit her lip on her protestations and simply nodded. The data was the important thing. They were expendable.


She watched Max walk towards the men in black who were stalking towards them like panthers watching their prey. He palmed his knife and his other hand went to his hip, under his fleece. Willing the upload to finish she stared at the screen, counting the numbers, 89%…91%…82% fuck! Screams erupted from behind her as something went crashing into a table. Hopefully they stayed away from guns as much as possible. She thought fleetingly of the little children who had galloped gleefully along the wharf not so long ago and knew a fierce kind of satisfaction that she’d held out for doing this later in the day. The casualties would be minimal. She damped down the desperation that flooded her. That was what she would tell herself anyway.


Gunfire erupted and she hunched her shoulders but kept her hand steady over the lock. 99%…. come on, come on. Yes! Upload complete. She debated for a second whether to turn off the transmission and then decided to leave it on. They should know, the men sitting in the tall towers behind closed doors, just what it took to get them their prize.


Her head up she looked to where the empty seats and closed doors of the restaurants meant that most of the patrons had taken shelter inside. Max was locked in hand to hand combat with two men, three others lay on the ground. He was probably all right. Her fingers played over the phone. There was more in the device that they would want but they had what they needed, her job was done. Max took a blow to the face and staggered back, the man in front of him pulled out a knife, tossing it lightly from hand to hand. She began to run. Not to the van. But to him.


They both knew they were expendable. But he wasn’t expendable to her.







fiction, Tuesday Trying

Tuesday Trying – Ice Witch and Fire Mage


Ekaterina Belinskaya Photographer
Photograph by Ekaterina Belinskaya

Today I was struggling to find some inspiration. I was determined to find something since I haven’t done one of these in a few weeks. Driving home I was listening to Let it Go by James Bay and this lyric struck me:

“I used to recognise myself

it’s funny how reflections change”


I still wasn’t quite sure where I could take it so decided to have a browse through some photos on my Pinterest visual writing prompts board. I thought it could be a good challenge to try and combine the idea behind this line from the song with the picture above and see what comes out! It was not the easiest one for me (it’s hard writing something where you don’t naturally see a story) but there are some bits I’m happy with. I hope you enjoy it.



It was so heavy. Each step was like wading through water as the tide pulled you backwards. The gown seemed ethereal, but the crystals glittering as they reflected the chandeliers above weighed a tonne in their brilliance, and the inner seams were lined with lead, to stop the tulle floating away.  Emmeline discreetly tugged the hem forwards and forced her gaze to flutter from person to person, granting each one a tiny smile as befit her new station. They bowed low, gratified – or at least seeming to be so. Gowns of brilliant hues outshone her ivory splendour and she fought off a frown. Pearls and diamonds were scattered through intricate fabric rosettes from her neck to her waist, but in her mind she saw a garnet, cheap and small but bright and well loved. Gone now.


Even her hair had turned white.


Purple velvet billowed behind the thrones at the end of the room, shadowing the Royal Couple in soft darkness.  A small smile lit behind her eyes at the thought that she who had once held the dark would now light the way for the Court of Feallan.


She let her hem go and felt the small train drag behind her, catching now and then on the tiles that clearly weren’t as smooth as they appeared.  Like me. The thought appeared only to be pushed away. She was here. She was enough.


Her smile shining as brilliant as the crystals, and as brittle, she made a deep curtsey to the King and his consort.


“Madam Wyrd, you grace us with your presence. Some light, if you please.”


The king’s words tugged at a feeling deep inside, a thought of fire and flame and darkness. She covered it with lead and increased the brilliance of her smile.


“Your wish is my command, Majesty”


She took her place at the side of the dais. The lights flickered and danced but the royal couple remained enshrined in darkness. She raised her arms to the side and her long sleeves fell to the floor, silver embroidery tracing patterns that caught and held the light. It was still new to open the magic this way, to feel ice instead of fire, and she convinced herself that the weeping she felt in her heart was from joy.


Light burst from her hands, twisting into sharp crystal swirls and flying through the room, touching on and sparking person to person until all were dancing with the light. Brilliant reds and greens spun through icy whiteness and the room glowed with her magic.


Her hands dropped. Craving the dark and remembering flame, she stepped away from the dais.


She didn’t know he was there until a voice came over her shoulder, weaving with the melody of the musicians until she wasn’t sure which was the music and which the man.


“An ice witch indeed. Bright and brittle and as deceptive as the moonlight that breaks the dark.”


The world seemed to stop and then start again just slightly off rhythm. She wanted desperately to turn and look at him, but the memory of leaving him was a wall she wasn’t sure she could break down.  He solved it by walking around to face her, long legs encased in black hinting at a swagger. He curled his lip at the dancers a moment before turning to look at her.


He looked the same. His black hair curled slightly longer than before but the shimmer of ravens wings was still there, and her fingers curled against the stiff white tulle of her skirt, remembering the feel of those silken strands. His face was as strong, but colder. The fire was tamped, waiting.


His gaze went to her hair and with some difficulty she kept her hand from adjusting the roses plaited into the tightly curled tresses. The look on his face was unreadable, even for her and she tossed back her head, making the curls bounce.


“It’s very rude to stare.”


His eyes returned to hers and her breath caught. Rich dark hazel flecked with gold, they burned through her and she felt the ice crack.


She blinked, and the pull towards him and his dark wells of eyes stopped.


“This is not a place for you, Bastien.”


“It shouldn’t be one for you either”


Her spirit shrank at the harshness of his voice, she felt it replaced by lead, heavy and cold. She lifted her chin and pushed the lead into her gaze.


“I changed.  You have not.”


He took a step forward, his hand reaching out and she would have flinched from his urgency but for the fear of eyes watching.


“Emmeline, it doesn’t have to be this way.”


Darkness filled her head. Creeping. Watching. Waiting. And her heart died a little bit more.


“Yes Bastien. It does.”


“There are others who would be the sacrifice. This burden should never have been yours to bear.”


She closed her eyes against the broken heart in his. His hand sought hers and without volition her fingers twined with his.


“Bastien, it has all been said. The decision has been made and there is nothing else to do but accept it.” She opened her eyes and looked towards the dancers.  “It is not a sacrifice, it is a blessing”


His grip tightened on hers and little flares of flames sparkled up her arms.


“It is a curse.”


His bitterness spurred the flames on and she quenched them with a look, she who once danced with the flames all night.  She took a step back before she lost the strength to do so, disentangling her hand.


“As I said, Bastien. I have changed. You have not.”


He grabbed her as she walked off but she flared ice and kept moving. His hand passed down her arm to her hand and she couldn’t help but return the pressure of his grasp one last time.


Her chamber was cold. She was always cold now. The maids fussed until she sent them away, roses and pearls strewn across the dresser.


She uncurled her fingers from where they’d stayed hidden in the folds of her gown since Bastien had left. A deep red garnet lay reproachful on her white skin. A shudder ran through her and tears that she had thought burned out long ago slid slowly down her cheek.


Looking into the mirror she saw not an ice witch of the court but a smiling woman with dark tumbling hair, wild blue ribbons flying around her, and a dress of golden flame. The woman met her eyes and sadness crept into the smile.


A blink, and she was gone.