In the last #UKRomChat Column, Lucy Flatman brings us the winner and runners up of their #RomInAFlash writing competition! And you can read the winning entry, right here!
Back in April, we launched our #RomInAFlash writing competition, in search of an outstanding piece of romantic flash fiction between 500 and 2000 words, Jeanna Skinner and Robyn Rychards were the judges and were impressed with the quality and variety of entries, with stories ranging from historical to futuristic and from romcom to angst-ridden dramas.
We were captivated!
Thankfully, one story in particular stood out from the crowd. Our judges said of the winning entry, “I absolutely loved this story. It was believable and easy to read. It also wrapped up nicely within the word limit. It had a lovely setting and a perfect HEA. Well done!”
Our Fabulous prizes are as follows:
First Prize: Publication right here in our Pink Heart Society Magazine column AND a Novel Submission Package from Wonder Writers. This latter includes a review and feedback on the winner's cover letter, one-page synopsis and the first three chapters of their manuscript.
Second Prize: EITHER a 30-minute book coaching session with Sarah Pesce at Lopt & Cropt Editing OR a marketing brainstorming session AND a copy of Liz Fielding's Little Book of Writing Romance.
Third Prize: EITHER line edits on the first three chapters of the selected winner's novel OR a structural edit on the first three chapter of their novel by author and editor at the PHS Magazine. Robyn Rychards AND a copy of Surprise Baby for The Heir by Ellie Darkins.
So we’d like to give a huge shout out and congratulations to our #UKRomChat flash story contest winner and our two runners up!
Emma Jackson - On The Edge
Emma lives with her partner and two young daughters in a seaside town she likes to imagine inspired Tessa Dare’s wonderful Spindle Cove. A devoted book-worm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old, this year Emma joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association on their New Writers’ Scheme, determined to focus on her writing. As a stay-at-home mum, she squeezes in her word-count when her youngest daughter is at nursery and in the evenings while her partner is enjoying Netflix. All her stories feature romance, but she loves to write across sub-genres, from contemporary to historical to fantasy and is currently editing her festive romantic comedy novel, with hopes of entering the querying trenches at the end of the summer. In 2014 she came second in the Mills & Boon Hotel Scandal short story competition, and previously won the Gender vs Genre competition with Early Works Press. She studied Creative Writing with the Open University, receiving a distinction.
When she isn’t running around after her kids and trying to finish her novel, Emma loves to bake, plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished, goes for walks in the forest and visits old buildings for inspiration. She has been overwhelmed by the encouragement and kindness of the romance community, finding the readers and writers as up-lifting and full of positivity as the books they share a love for. One day she hopes her daughters will discover the same joy she has from reading romance novels but will understand completely if they never want to read any of hers!
To find more about Emma's writing you can follow her on Twitter
Toria Lyons - Coming In From The Rain
Toria lives by the coast in Mid Wales and mostly writes stories about rugby, cycling, and disability. She was a civil servant in London until increasing health problems, including a sitting disability, forced her to give up desk-based work. Toria decided to finish the rugby romances she was working on, and now has a fourth in the works. She is currently attempting to corral a series of stories about cycling into a novel or two, as that’s what she enjoys when not at the beck and call of her canine companions. Her other loves include red wine, curry, and dark chocolate.
To find out more about Toria, you can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or visit her website
Kristina Stratychuk - Portree
K.C Stratychuk is an avid reader and writer of romance, short stories, poetry and creative nonfiction.
She is a freelance writer/copy-editor, and works at her local newspaper. She lives in a small town on the Canadian prairies with her husband, their 3 boys, and 3 cats.
To find out more about Kristina you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram
And now for our winning entry!
On The Edge
by Emma Jackson
The Gratton Herald
Small business owner, Rubie Monroe, 24, is taking a stand against a local authority enforcement warrant to demolish her café on Gratton Head. Cathy and Clive’s Shack is situated six metres from the edge of the cliff, which has been deemed too close for customers safety.
Ms Monroe is camping out in her café to prevent enforcement officers taking possession of the property in her absence. Regulars to the café have shown support by circulating a petition and providing Ms. Monroe with essential supplies. One local resident told us why he believes people have rallied behind the cause:
‘It’s Health and Safety baby-sitting gone mad. People can walk wherever they like along Gratton Head – there are no restrictions. If the council get their way and demolish the Shack, they’ll be wanting to put fencing all the way along the cliff edge. It’s ridiculous.’
Council employee, Mark Jarvis, who issued the warrant, spoke to us in his official capacity to state that: ‘Enforcement does not hold the power to have fencing erected along Gratton Head. But it is our responsibility to ensure consumers are safe when frequenting any business. There have been several incidents of sudden cliff erosion along this coast line in recent years. It’s a risk the local authority is unwilling to take – particularly when official planning consent was never sought.’
Ms. Monroe has so far declined to speak to us.
Rubie sighed and put the newspaper down on the counter, staring out at the sea. She could picture Mark’s face as he’d spoken to the journalist; stern yet earnest, those heavenly eyes imploring them to understand.
Rubie had hardly believed her luck when she met him a week ago. She’d tripped over her own feet, trying to carry too many boxes from her car to the Shack, and there he’d been: six foot plus of gorgeous man out on an early morning jog, offering her a helping hand. They’d talked. They’d clicked, she thought…and then he’d seen the café and beat a hasty retreat to get a cease and desist notice typed up.
Some luck.She couldn’t just let them tear down her parents’ retirement dream – a place where they’d been able to see the sun rise over the sea every day. When she was there, she could almost feel close to them again.
Or she had done, until she took up residency. Sleeping on the floor and existing off cup-a-soups and pot-noodles, washing in the tiny sink…she wasn’t sure her parents would have been happy with her living like this.
‘Is it true?’ she asked when Mark arrived in the late afternoon as usual, intent on persuading her to leave.
‘Is what true?’ His short blond hair was darkened at the temples by tiny beads of sweat. The sky was grey, the sea steely in reflection, but the air was warm and unmoving. A storm was coming.
She turned the newspaper, folded to the page of the story, around so it faced him on the counter. As he pulled it closer, his thumb brushed the side of her hand, both of them quickly looking up to catch each other’s eyes as a tingle of electricity darted along her arm. She found herself trapped in his gaze, that impression of honesty she always got from his beautiful blue-green eyes now clouded by desire.Suddenly she could feel all the places her clothes were sticking to her skin. She needed a cold shower, for more than one reason.
He took a deep breath and glanced down at the newspaper.‘What bit in particular are you referring to?’ His deep voice had grown husky.
‘The bit about official planning consent.’
‘Yes.’ He slipped his hands into his pockets, pushing back his jacket and she could see his shirt clinging to his broad chest. ‘Do you know how your parents came to own this building?’
‘No. It was last year…my last year of Uni. I -’ she broke off and looked down at her hands on the wooden counter. ‘I was always in a hurry to get off the phone to them. Either to study or to go out drinking with my friends.’
The rush of the waves below and a lone seagull crying out into the wind, filled the silence between them. Mark stepped closer to the counter and rested his hand over the top of hers. The same tingle sparked at the contact, but it was also joined by a warmth that made her ache.
‘You weren’t to know.’
She swallowed hard. No, there was no way she could’ve known they would die in a car crash, both taken from her in a split second. She forced herself to tug her hand away.
‘So, how did they get this place then?’
‘The people who built the lighthouse, who owned the land, used a loophole to do it, they classed it as a temporary wooden structure. Then they sold it to your parents privately before they demolished the lighthouse.’
‘Right.’ Dad had probably handled it all. Told Mum there was nothing to worry about and they had muddled their way through.
‘Rubie – ‘
‘I know.’ She held up her hand to cut him off. ‘I know. Just leave me alone okay. I need to think.’
She watched him walk away, scrubbing her hands over her face as he disappeared down the hillside. The air suddenly cooled, and the rain began. She left the shutters on the window open for as long as possible before she started to shiver. By the time she closed up properly, the rain was falling heavily. Within half an hour the wind was picking up too.
And then the thunder and lightning began.
Rubie had never been scared of storms, but she’d never been sitting in a wooden box on the edge of an eroding cliff during one before either. She knew she should leave. All Mark’s warnings – her own common sense – told her she wasn’t safe, and she had to go but…that would be it. She knew once she left, there was really no going back.
She wrapped herself up in her sleeping bag and squeezed her eyes shut, willing the storm to end just as quickly as it had arrived.
Then she heard three loud bangs on the door of the shack.
It couldn’t be a person out there. Probably some flying debris. Even more reason not to open it and attempt to get to her car. Maybe she was safer inside.
The banging came again and, this time, a catch of sound, like a voice being whipped away in the gale. She untangled herself from the sleeping bag and put her ear to the door.
‘Rubie. Rubie, it’s Mark. I know you’re in there, please open the door.’
The numbness of Rubie’s heart was instantly thawed into a chaos of anger and longing and fear. She tugged the bolts across and the moment she turned the handle the door was flung inwards, catching her in the eye and forcing her to stumble back from the waterfall of rain driving into the cabin.
Mark wrestled the door shut. As soon as it was closed and the din had receded a few decibels, he spun around to her, cupping her face and lifting it towards his. ‘Are you okay?’
She stared up at him, her eyebrow throbbing and her skin tingling beneath his wet, cold fingertips, cradling her jaw so carefully. Water dripped from his hair and ran in rivulets along his eyebrows, along his sharp cheekbones, into the collar of his shirt.
‘Why aren’t you wearing a coat?’
He gave a half startled, half exasperated laugh and rubbed his thumb along her cheek.
‘I was in a hurry to get here when I realised how bad the storm was.’ He frowned and his jaw set. ‘We need to get out of here. It isn’t safe.’
She pushed back, detaching herself from his hands.
‘You thought you’d take the opportunity to get me out, did you? Well, I’m not scared of a bit of wind and rain. I’ll be fine. You can just go back to your office and wait both me and the storm out.’
‘For goodness sake, Rubie. You might not be scared but I am,’ his voice cracked. ‘The edge of this cliff is going to crumble into the sea -’
‘Then go -’
‘Not without you.’ He stepped closer, his wet shirt, plastered to his chest dampened the front of her t-shirt and something in her stomach coiled tight, poised. ‘Please.’
His simple plea cut through her arguments and defiance. They stared at each other, their breathing loud and she could see in his face, in the tight lines around his mouth, that he cared.
‘What if I’m not ready to leave?’ she whispered.
‘I don’t think you’ll ever know until you try.’
‘If you take away this place, that’s it, they’ll be gone forever.’
‘They’re already gone, Rubie,’ he spoke so softly, so gently, that a tear slipped down her cheek. He swooped in and kissed it away. At the feel of his lips against her skin she trembled and slid her fingers into his wet hair, gripping tightly and pulling his head down further so she could fit her mouth against his.
He broke away, shaking his head. ‘Please, don’t. Not if you’re still going to hate me afterwards.’
‘I don’t hate you, Mark. I hate what you’re forcing me to do but I -’ she exhaled, ‘I know you’re doing it for the right reasons. I do. I’m just…’
A sob caught at her chest. ‘Take me away. It’s the only way I can do it. Take me to your place and make me feel more of this instead.’ She pressed her mouth against his again, tasting his lips with nibbling, teasing kisses until he responded, succumbing like the tide had pulled him under and they tipped over into something deeper and hungrier.
A massive cloud burst overhead and they both jumped, gasping.
Mark took her hand. ‘Time to go.’
The next time they returned to the cliff, Mark’s hand was tight around Rubie’s again. She’d grown used to the feel of it, the comfort and strength it offered. She needed it now as she looked out towards the sea and saw nothing. Literally nothing. The Shack was gone. She drew in a breath that cut through her chest. ‘That was quick work.’
‘The storm did most of the damage.’ He cleared his throat and turned his body towards her, as though he could shield her from the vision of the empty cliff edge. ‘But there’s something else I want to show you, just a little further along. Please.’
And just like the night of the storm, she couldn’t really refuse him.
They stopped at a bend in the path as it dropped between the valleys of the headland, in the near distance people were all over the hillside; carrying things, hammering, calling to each other as they worked on constructing something...
‘Well, the problem was how close it was to the edge of the cliff, so I figured if I could change that, well, then there would be no problem.’
‘I can’t believe it,’ Rubie watched with tears brimming in her eyes and her free hand pressed to her heart. ‘It’s wonderful,’ she threw her arms around his waist. ‘You are wonderful.’
‘There is a catch….’
She pulled back and looked up at him.
‘Technically, it is on local authority ground and the only way I was able to get sign off was for the council to take ownership. You can run it, but it doesn’t really belong to you anymore…’
‘So…you’ve stolen it?’
‘Yeesss…I suppose so.’
‘Well it figures.’ She smiled and squeezed him.
‘It does?’ He raised an eyebrow at her, but she just nodded.
It made sense that he’d stolen her business, since he’d already stolen her heart.
You can find the #UKRomChat team on Twitter as @UKRomChat, and will get information about upcoming guests both there on their Facebook page