Tag Archives: inspiration

January Girl. Another year on . . .

I’m a January girl. Those who are also January girls will know it’s not easy. Maybe it’s different in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps January girls in Australia have barbecues or go to the beach or both. Write and tell me. I’d like to know. In my half of the world January birthdays slip by unnoticed. You get used to that. That January girl feeling inspired me to write a story about it.

January Girl is the title of one of my short stories.

I submitted this particular short story some time ago to a women’s magazine but they didn’t go for it. Too sad. Too quirky. Not their thing.

But I am a January girl so I didn’t give up on it. I made it sadder still and just a bit weirder and I liked it better than before. It still isn’t right for a women’s magazine but it has found its place. More about that later.

You see, January girls have a lot to put up with. For a start who actually enjoys January? (excepting southern hemisphere)

January blues

waiting for spring?

It’s cold. It’s probably wet. Nobody’s interested in the January girl’s birthday and, anyway, they haven’t got any money left after Christmas and New Year. Birthdays in the middle of the month before the next pay cheque comes in are a bummer. Too close to Christmas and people give you one package and say,

‘This is for Christmas AND your birthday.’ They deliver it with bright eyes and a smile that says I know you won’t mind and you’re too polite to tell them they’re a tight-wad and how would they like it if you did the same to them in May or August?

January is full of disappointments. But January girls are made of stern stuff. We inherit some of our steel backbone and the rest is picked up as we go along.

January girl

when the going gets tough . . .

The January child learns to wear layers, literally and metaphorically. No wonder it can take a long time to get to know the real person underneath. I got to thinking about whether there were January people who had overcome their years of disappointing Januaries and made it to the top.

What a surprise.

Famous January birthdays

Where do I begin?

I used to watch a television programme called Golden Girls. I loved it. It ran from 1985 to 1992. Remember the theme tune?

I was in my thirties at the time. Forties by the time it finished. Now I’m old enough to be one of them. Here are some clips.



I loved ditzy Rose.  I looked her up.

Betty White – birthday  January 17th. Day after mine. Well, what d’ya know? I liked her spacey humour.

January quote

words of wisdom

Were there any January writers? I wondered.

How about J.R.R. Tolkein – January 3rd. Isaac Asimov – January 2nd. Jack London – the 12th. Anne Brontë – the 17th. Wilbur Smith – January 9th. A.A.Milne -the 18th. Edgar Allan Poe – the 19th – master of dark and creepy tales.

I’m on a roll now. How about January people connected with music, my other love? I already knew about Elvis on January 8th. Who else?

Janis Joplin – 22nd January. Rod Stewart – 10th January. Eric Whitacre whose choral work I’ve performed with our choir -his birthday is January 2nd. ( now I know why he loves minor keys) and the composer and celebrated conductor Simon Rattle – January 19th.

While we’re on the subject of music, last year I was looking for a song to sing in French at a local gathering. I came across Les Chemins de l’amour by Francis Poulenc. I’d never heard of Poulenc but I loved the song immediately. There’s an inherent wistfulness in the melody that spoke to me on first hearing. Perfect for the occasion.

If only I sang as well as Ms Véronique Gens. Well, the audience liked my interpretation. And the composer Francis Poulenc? Birthday – January 7th. Ah, that accounts for why I was attracted to him then. He probably learned how to wear layers, too.

What other fields feature January babies?

How about Muhammed Ali January 17th, Lewis Hamilton -7th, Michael Schumacher -3rd, Jenson Button -19th, Jim Carrey -17th.

Other famous January battlers include Joan of Arc and Robert E Lee.

Stephen Hawking’s birthday is on the 8th January. Wow. How tough is that guy?

There’s Sir Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur and Benjamin Franklin and Louis Braille and James Watt all who were January babies.

There was Al Capone and Rasputin as well but we won’t talk about them.

Jeff Bezos. Now there’s a name to conjure with. January 12th. How about selling some more of my books, Jeff? They are all on Amazon.

So how about my own birth date? January 16th. Who shares that?

James May -January birthday

Top Gear’s top man.

James May. Bless. I think he’s adorable. He doesn’t know he shares my birthday.

I’ll leave you with a few words from Martin Luther King born on January 15th .

January quote

Little by little. Step by step. Keep going.

January quote

And my short story January Girl? It’s going in my next collection of short stories Queer as Folk to be published in spring. You hear that, Jeff?

Thank you for reading my Random Thoughts blog page here on my website. Stay awhile and read some more. Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep warm and stay well . . .











A pain in the Arts.

Pain shut off my creative spark. I didn’t have the faintest glow. Not even a hint of warmth, never mind sparkle. So, I got to thinking where does creativity come from? And where has it gone now that I’m battling this CRPS diagnosis?

How can we measure suffering?

pain scale

on a scale of 1 to 10 where would you place your pain?

Doctors usually ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. What I’m looking for is proof that there’s a connection between pain and creativity so I can understand why my light went out temporarily.

Doctor Joy Madden who’s the self development editor for Bella online says that, actually, we might need suffering because it can have a positive effect on our creativity.

(Not mine, Doctor Joy)

Indeed, her article goes on to say, and I quote:  “Some of the most famous creative works have been accomplished when experiencing the greatest pain.”

(Oh dear)

In Pain and the Creative Process, author K. Ferlic says:

Although pain is not inherent to the creative process, it is integrally tied to the creative process as performed by humans because of how we create our experiences. Pain and the creative process are related in several different ways.”

Similarly, in Pain and suffering and developing creativity, 

Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D., a psychologist specializing in creative artist issues, says “Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conflicts or let go of suffering…”

(Oh, double dear)

It seems to me that in articles such as these they’re talking about the need to have experienced pain of depression, loss, longing and desire to fire up the creative processes.

I’m not talking about the ‘tortured’ artist who creates on the agony in every brush stroke or word of what it felt like to be dumped by her precious ‘other’. I think it’s only common sense to see that if you want to write about heartbreak, it helps if you had it yourself at one time.

I’m talking about having CRPS right now.

CRPS pain scale

CRPS pain scale

It hurts. It really hurts. Now. And now. And NOW. Over and over like Groundhog Day.

‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken,’ mine tells me. ‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken. Tell your arm your wrist just got broken. Tell your elbow your wrist just got broken. Tell your shoulder your wrist just got broken. We’re all broken. NOW. Broken. BROKEN.’

You get the picture. But other people don’t. They’re so happy to see you out and about they slap you on the shoulder or they rub your arm and don’t realise they’re putting you through agony. I try to anticipate and turn to the side but I’m never quite quick enough.

Chronic pain is tiring. Exhausting. Medication gives you nausea on top of everything else you’re putting up with. You can’t sleep so you’re even more fatigued. You begin to avoid going to places where people will rub your arm and tell you they’re glad you’re all better now. And, yes, from time to time you get a little depressed.

With all of the above going on, how could anybody find the energy to be creative?

So where do ideas come from?

Read Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on this. I like his thinking. I like the reference to daydreaming. I like how he says ideas come often when you’re doing something else.

But, when you’re in real, excruciating pain, right now this second, you don’t do something else; you don’t do daydreaming. You’re not relaxed enough for those things. All you can do is try to cope with your pain and get through the day, the hour. When you are relaxed it’s because medication got you there and you probably wouldn’t even remember how to write a shopping list in the state you’re in, never mind write the next five thousand words.

I found I could edit, though. I could look at what I’d already written and reshape it, get it ready for publication. So there is a positive to come out of it. Maybe without the enforced limitations on my capabilities I might never have got around to editing Patterns of Our Lives. I’m pleased and proud it’s out there and selling.

But, don’t tell me pain is conducive to creative arts. It only works in the past tense.

Getting on the writing piste. Talking to myself.

I’ve wandered off my writing piste. The weather’s fine, but I’m lost in heavy going.

Maybe I’m on the wrong horse. No point in riding a fast sprinter when you’re in it for the long haul. Sprinters are for short stories, writer in Languedoc, but you have something else in mind now, don’t you?

writing piste direction

which way?

I do.

But which way to go?

There’s no worn track to follow. I’m going to have to make my own way.

See, the thing is, it doesn’t matter how many times you read how other people do their thing, how they organise their time for writing, whether they pants it first and sort it afterwards. Some of them will tell you get your outline, plot your scenes, follow this rule, follow that one. Get the backbone straight before you give it legs. It’s got to have a sound skeleton (structure) before it can run (be good enough to publish).

Yes, yes. I know, I know. And I’m grateful to all the wonderful writers out there who freely give of their experience and time to help others. Well, maybe they do want you to buy their How To book, and why not? What they have to say has helped other writers find some measure of success in this fiercely competitive world we want to break into.

However, dammit, it doesn’t matter how successful all these other writers are at following their path, because when it comes right down to it –


You are on YOURS.

Let me take stock of my writing journey. It’s September and through my year so far I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

1. New Year’s Resolution – get a website. Check.

2. Blog regularly on said website. Check.

3. Learn about SEO and other wizardry. Check.

4. Tweet regularly and support other authors without always peddling your own stuff. Check.

writing missions

on target so far

5. Get Mick’s collection of short stories out on Kindle. Check.

6. Prepare Arse(d) Ends for paperback version. Check.

7. Finish that Airport short story and submit it. Check. Sold it.

8. Keep up to date with new ideas for more short stories. Check.

9. Have another go at writing something for serialisation. Half-check.

10. I didn’t have a tenth thing on my must-do list.

So, what’s the problem, Writer in Languedoc? It sounds to me like you’ve been busy.

writing maze

which way?

Oh, I’ve been very busy. But, I’m in a maze. That’s the problem. I have a decision to make about which way to go now.

I have three novels ready for final edit.

I’m going to choose one of them and get it out there.

But which one?

The family saga – an epic 140,000 words spanning 1934 to 2010? The psychological drama? The one with the theme that hides itself?


I’ll probably write a few more short stories while I’m thinking.

keep writing


Another baby on submission

I’ve been sitting on this baby since May. Out of the blue, as seems to be the way with most of my ideas for new stories, a set of characters presented themselves to me as I was waiting for a plane.

Conception of latest idea

baby story conceived here

baby of a story conceived here

Now, I’ve heard of the five mile high club and often thought what an uncomfortable proposition that would be on the kind of budget airlines servicing our local airports. Toilet spaces are minimal to say the least. And if a child was somehow conceived during such a short hop at 36,000 feet, would it have to be called Sky or Cloud or Cramp?

Why Montpellier?

So, writer in Languedoc, what were you doing in Montpellier airport when Béziers is closer to home?

Languedoc airports

my choice of airports

I have a good choice of airports. This map doesn’t show all of them. To the west of Béziers, I also have Carcassonne, Perpignan and, at a  desperate push, Toulouse at my disposal. It all depends on where I’m going.

Last May, I was going to Leeds/Bradford airport, back to my home county for a much longed-for family visit. You can’t fly to Leeds from Béziers, not yet anyway, so Montpellier was the next best choice for my journey.

I like the Leeds/Bradford flights. They’re full of people who sound like me. It does me so much good to hear a nay, lass spoken with feeling. I love those old Yorkshire sayings such as you make a better door than a window, when somebody’s blocking your view. Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell ‘im much and when somebody’s left the door open, were you born in a barn?

long lollikers

Yorkshire wit

Eee, lass, you can’t beat ’em. So, last May while I was waiting in Airport Departures, I noticed a little French girl with her Yorkshire father. Dad’s French came with very pronounced Yorkshire vowel sounds. We never lose them and, anyway, why would we want to? Mademoiselle’s French, on the other hand, was perfect. However, when she spoke in English, she spoke it like her father with his pronunciation. Mother was conspicuous by her absence.

I was fascinated. Out came my notebook.

Regular readers of my Random Thoughts blog will know I always carry my notebook and camera with me. I do a lot of people watching, and listening. You never know what you’re going to find that might be the inspiration for a new idea. This time, I didn’t need a photograph. It would have been too intrusive and you can get into a lot of trouble taking photographs of other people’s children. Fortunately for me the pair of them made such an impression on me the words flowed so fast my wrist ached.

Nobody could see what I was writing. Nobody would have been able to work out I was making detailed notes about this handsome father and his little French daughter. Before we boarded the plane, I had an outline.

But no ending.

This is unusual for me.

I always know what the ending is going to be before I begin to write in detail.

And that’s why I’d been sitting on the baby since May.

Ideas mulled in and mulled out again. I wasn’t satisfied with any of them. But, I make it a rule NOT to beat myself up about tricksy stories that won’t end themselves. I leave them alone. If it isn’t happening there’s a good reason for that. So, I wait. Something will happen. There’s always something else I can write instead.

This morning, I submitted the finished story. I hope the editor enjoys it. I hope the editor decides to pay me for it.

And if she does, and it goes into that very popular Fiction Special, I owe a plane load of thanks to the little Mademoiselle and her father on that flight to Leeds/Bradford last May.

I wonder if they would recognise themselves? I can’t tell you any more about the ending. That would be a spoiler.

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Thank you for visiting. Send me a message. I love to hear from readers.

Edit: 5th September. Airport Departures sold today. Look out for it in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special

Guest Post by author Luke Murphy

Luke Murphy

Luke Murphy – author of Dead Man’s Hand

Author Luke Murphy is my guest today. He’s celebrating great reviews for his novel Dead Man’s Hand. I love the chance to share in other people’s celebrations.

July 14th is a day of high rejoicing here in France, where I live. We’ve already had a week of firework displays, live music and street parties in town squares from north to south and east to west. Tonight, French people celebrate becoming citizens of a Republic. There’ll be a procession through the streets of our village. Children will carry the flame of truth (lanterns) to the main square to remind us how in 1789 the principals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity underpinned the movement for change. No longer were ordinary people prepared to accept the hand they had been dealt by an unfair society.

It’s probably fair to say that the French have been ornery ever since, but . . .

. . . What better day to celebrate author Luke Murphy’s debut novel Dead Man’s Hand.

I follow Luke Murphy on Twitter. I like to see how other writers are doing. Share the good news.

Luke lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Dead Man`s Hand was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

Luke has received excellent reviews. Here are just a few from Amazon.

Make sure you have a few days free if you start this book because once you start reading, you won’t want to put the book down! 

S.Dox  |  8 reviewers made a similar statement.
So, I’m thrilled to bits to have this talented writer as my first guest post.


It’s a great title isn’t it? I’m not a card player so the phrase wasn’t familiar to me. I didn’t know the history behind it.

Historically, the phrase, Dead Man’s Hand was given to the last poker hand that Wild Bill Hickok had been dealt when he was murdered during a game of five-card-draw. Although there is  controversy over what those five cards were or even if there actually were five cards when the infamous Hickok was slain, there appears to be a general consensus that he was holding a pair of 8s and a pair of Aces. However, the most controversial aspect about the poker hand in question, was the the number and suit of the fifth card.

Here’s Luke’s tantalising introduction to his novel:

Luke Murphy - his novel

a must read!

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don’t fall your way? 

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you’re dealt a Dead Man’s Hand? 

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

Wow! A real thriller writer on my website. Isn’t that something? I asked Luke to tell us a little about where he finds his inspiration.



 What Inspired my Fiction?

I never thought much about writing when I was growing up.

But I was always an avid reader, which I owe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I was young, I will always remember a stack on Danielle Steele books on her bedside table, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.

My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. DEAD MAN`S HAND has been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.

Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.

Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.

I’ve always been a self-motivated person, and my harshest critic. Whether it was in school, hockey or writing, I’ve been the one to put the most pressure on myself to succeed, to be the best in everything I try.

I made my decision in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.

I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.

I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work.

My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent DEAD MAN`S HAND. My dream became reality in 2012 when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books.

Writing allows me, for a short time, the freedom to leave my everyday world and explore new avenues, to be in another place and time. It allows me to get inside the head of characters—to think, do, and say whatever I want with no rules or restrictions. It means liberty and freedom to express myself.

That’s great, Luke. Thanks for sharing that with us. I wish you all the very best for this and future novels.

And isn’t it nice that the principals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity somehow found their way into this post?

Not Rodgers and Hammerstein new short story of the month

There’s always a revival of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show going on somewhere.

In a former life, I was in a few. You might have seen me, in an end of the pier show, strutting my stuff.

Britannia Pier

the end of the pier show

Love of musical theatre runs in my family. My mother took me to the Hippodrome theatre in my childhood hometown. See this page. My love affair with the stage began then. When my little sister was born, she loved music, too, and her favourite song of all was Bali Ha’i from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.


one of my favourite shows


The best musical shows feature strong stories and strong characters, as well as memorable melodies, of course. One of the worst criticisms my mother might come out with would be you can’t come out of the theatre humming the tunes.

I’ve been humming Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes all my life. So has my sister. The year I played Bloody Mary at the end of the pier show, she couldn’t be there to see it. We both regret that. There’s a line in Bloody Mary’s big song that takes us both back to her baby days when she bobbed up and down to the rhythm of the music before she’d learned to say the words properly.

When I decided to write a romantic short story, I wanted to write about people who don’t quite fit into the usual parameters of what is considered the norm. We all have our own Bali Ha’i, a magical place where everything will work out just as we’d like it. In South Pacific, that place is an island, out of bounds to the marines. In my short story Not Rodgers and Hammerstein, that place is . . . you can find out here.

May we all find our own Bali Ha’i – wherever and whatever that may be.

Bali Hai

. . . most people long for another island

I’ve discovered Oneword. Get over there.

Brilliant, this Oneword website. What a way to begin your day. Sixty seconds to write whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t even make sense. You just write. You throw away all your inhibitions and write. You fly by the seat of your pants for sixty seconds and the freedom of it is exhilarating.

Now, we know you ought not try to write a novel this way. We know where pantsing gets us. It gets us lost. That’s where it gets us. In the wilderness, a little voice crying Help me, I’m lost.


go there

But, oh, the joy of flying by them for 60 seconds.Prompted by just Oneword.

What if?

Sometimes, as soon as I wake, and I’m talking the very second, there’s a question clamouring for an answer. It’s there, in my head and I don’t know where it came from, but it’s pushed itself forward demanding attention. There’s nothing else for it but to do something about it.

This morning the question was about two halfpennies rubbing together. You know the saying, I haven’t got two halfpennies to rub together. What if you had? What if you had those two halfpennies and you rubbed them. What would happen? This What if? question is huge. I read somewhere it’s often the question Stephen King starts out with. So, I looked up the derivation of the saying re: rubbing two halfpennies together and I learned something about myself: I have a tendency to take things too literally.


what if the answer’s in the clouds?

I’m not too hot, it turns out, at this blue sky thinking. See, when I think of rubbing two halfpennies together, I immediately imagine there has to be an element of manual manipulation in there somewhere. You have to grab hold of those damned halfpennies, don’t you. and physically rub them together? Actually, no you don’t. They might rub together all by themselves, jangling in your pocket as you walk along the street, thereby demonstrating to the world around you that you are a person of means.Listen everybody, those jingling coins say to your neighbours. I have the wherewithal to buy whatever one may purchase for ready cash. Of course, the neighbours wouldn’t know whether those were coppers rubbing along in your pocket, or guineas.


what if it’s me?

And so, the whole phrase can mean so much more than I had thought. Now, there are images in my head; there are sounds; there are values and attitudes creeping into the old saying that I’d never considered before.

Hmmmm. More food for thought.


And now I’ve sorted out the link thing

Here’s the proof. I’m actually going to place a link within this post, I might be green and cabbage-looking on a bad day, but I consider this new knowledge no less than a triumph.
I’m picking up on the subject matter of Holly Lisle’s tip of the week at http://hollylisle.com

ideas tap

Can you simply turn on ideas?

Today she’s answering a query about ideas and it got me thinking about my own ideas and where they come from. I have a page on here dedicated to Inspirations. Take a look while you’re here – drop me a line if you like.

So, can you turn on ideas like a tap? Or fawcett, depending on where you are. I can’t. I have no control over them. I could sit in a specially designated ideas room with an extra comfy ideas chair, drinking a specially brewed cup of ideas tea and nothing would happen. I know for a certainty that nothing would happen. I’d be wasting my time. You can’t force ideas. Well, I suppose some people can, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about what works best for me. Letting it happen is what works for me. Not trying to force it. Not beating myself up if it doesn’t happen.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Sometimes, it’s a visual motivation: a mountain, a lake, a celebration. Sometimes an idea comes from something I’ve heard someone say. I’ll be right there, in the middle of a conversation and . . . bang . . . I have a new title to work with or a situation ready-primed with emotional conflicts.

On a coffee break with friends, the subject of planning meals came up. It was one of those light bulb moments to use a cliché that are supposed to be forbidden. The idea stuck with me and another short story came into being. I wrote it in a matter of hours, sent it off and the editor liked it – except for the ending. A quick revision solved the problem.

A chance remark became this short story

A chance remark became this short story