The Long Road to Oxford

Having been quiet on the writing front due to work commitments, it was a joy to get back into the swing of things on Saturday. First stop was the very first London Short Story Festival at Waterstones in Piccadily ably organised by Paul McVeigh and a host of volunteers. Tania Hershman hosted an hour of ‘weird writing’ with Dan Powell, Adam Marek and Rob Sherman which provided food for thought. Then it was up to the boardroom for a workshop on generating ideas with Adam Marek. As I spend a lot of time in boardrooms in my day job, it seemed a bit cruel to spend a lovely weekend day in yet another one but the workshop itself was really interesting. It confirmed some things I think I knew about how I write but also gave me lots more to think about.

Then, I headed off to Paddington aboard a tube that must have experienced the London Blitz firsthand, sprinting like a Michelin Man possessed to leap above the train to Oxford for what proved to be a four hour journey to Oxford, being thrown off at Didcot. Left to fend for ourselves and no taxis for about 30 mins, I went for the bus on the basis, I’d be moving in the right direction. How wrong I was and I arrived in Oxford a broken man having:

1. Toured round an empty industrial estate (Saturday night!!)

2. Visited the village with the most speed humps per 100m in the entire universe (can’t remember, my brain still hurts!)

3. Navigated Abingdon like a Google Maps car (sure we went down every bloody street!)

Eventually I arrived at the Albion Beatnik bookstore in Oxford  at the halftime interval for the National Flash Fiction day event hosted by Virginia Moffatt, author of Rapture and What Comes Next and a member of the Friday Flash community which encouraged me to start writing. Indeed Virginia wrote a lovely blog post about my writing by way of introduction which I really appreciate. I read a couple of stories – ‘A Room With A View’ from the Stories for Homes Anthology and ‘The Last Last Ride’ which is about going round in circles (somewhat appropriate for the evening) then enjoyed listening to some lovely stories from other writers.

Fortunately I’d decided not to travel home that evening and instead settled for a relaxing night in a hotel before hitting Blackwells in the morning (or did they hit me, I’m not entirely sure!). It was a tiring but inspiring day and I am so looking forward now to August and September which will be my writing months for 2014.

Thanks to Virginia and Paul for organising these events and helping flash and short fiction forms of writing gain the respect they deserve.

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Stories For Homes

I’m really pleased to say that my story ‘A Room with a View’ will be published this summer in the ‘Stories for Homes’ anthology in support of housing charity Shelter. As you may know, many people are now facing homelessness as a direct consequence of Government policy and the ongoing economic crisis in the UK. As I was brought up on a council estate (my Dad still lives there), I’ve an appreciation of what’s going on so this is a project close to my heart.

I’d struggled to come up with an idea for a short story right until the final day and was apologising to one of the editors, Debi Alper on Twitter. ‘You’ve got until midnight.’ she said. Actually, I hadn’t. I had two hours before I had to go out. Somehow I managed to think of something that would work and then there was a mad scramble to write and submit it in the time available.

An acceptance is always good but it comes as a nice boost to my confidence and I’m looking forward to seeing the final collection. I’ll publish more details when I get them.

As a teaser, here’s a short excerpt:

From our window, you can see the pier and sea. There’s a film called ‘A Room with a View’ and that’s what we have. Except it isn’t ours. It belongs to the hotel we stay in now. Most people think living in a hotel by the seaside would be fabulous, like being a film star, but there’s nothing good about living here.

Two Worlds

A Friday Flash, this story was highly commended in a National Flash Fiction Day competition on the 1000words site Feb 2013. 

Two Worlds

‘More plates, I need plates. This is a restaurant, not a take out.’

‘Yes, Chef. Right away Chef.’ Yes Chef, no Chef, Kiss my arse Chef.

Greg stared out of the kitchen window above the sink, his hands continuing to work on autopilot. He could see the lights of the Piste Bullies high up on the mountain bashing down the snowfall of the last twenty four hours.

‘For God’s sake, what do you call this? Do it again. Focus on what you’re doing or you’re out of here!’

‘Yes Chef, sorry Chef.’

Greg hit the take off point fast, twisting to his left as soon as his skis hit the air. As the skis came towards the vertical, he pulled his left arm back increasing the speed of rotation. On his first turn, he stared into nothing but sky. On his second, he could see the town nestled in the valley below as the sun sank behind the mountains. He watched for a second as he fell towards the ground then pushed out his skis to absorb the energy as he landed, then set off down for evening service. Down here nobody, up there a King.

Down By the River

My flash story ‘Down By the River’ is being published today (22nd May) on 1000 Words .

1000words is a project celebrating the first ever National Flash Fiction Day  held in the UK on May 16th 2012. As they describe the project

‘It has been said that a picture paints a thousand words. Well, if that’s true, a thousand words must also write a picture. And that’s what this project is all about: writing a story from a picture prompt. For the last couple of months, people have been sending us stories written in response to the images on our Pinterest board, and over the course of May and early June we will be posting the best of them.’

Thanks to Natalie for choosing my story and all the best for the project.

Freak Out Thursday


Today I’m turning my blog over to ‘FREAKS’ which is being launched this very day in ye old paperback or e-book Kindle thingymebob. It’s a unique collection of short stories with comic book style illustrations written by two of my favourite twitter people, Caroline Smailes (99 Reasons) and Nik Perring (Not So Perfect). It’s illustrated by Darren Craske with the rather tranquil and demure cover designed by leading movie poster designer Sam Bennett.

These short stories explore the more disturbing consequences of ordinary, flawed human beings obtaining superpowers, each featuring a character with an unusual superpower.

Meet The Photocopier, a woman who can reproduce herself at will and attempts to teach her daughter to do the same. The man who can break his way into his lovers dream and the woman in My Little Pony pants who likes to be ridden like a pony (I’m not wholly convinced about that being a super power, I think that’s just a bit of a personal fetish!)

The stories aren’t credited so the reader is left to guess which is written by Caroline or Nik so I’m having fun trying to decide who wrote what (especially the My Little Pony Pants woman ). As someone brought up as a kid on Marvel comics, 2000AD featuring Judge Dredd and Commando (plucky Brits shooting Germans until they emerged from their bunker waving a white flag and wondering at the courage of our glorious WWII troops), I love the the idea of combining the short / flash fiction story  with the comic book and it’s another great example of why I love the vibrancy of short and flash story telling.

If anything else was needed to whet your appetite, here’s one of the stories from the book (I’m guessing Caroline for this one).

SUPER POWER: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye

Invisible

If I stay totally still,

if I stand right tall,

with me back against the school wall,

close to the science room’s window,

with me feet together,

pointing straight,

aiming forward,

if I make me hands into tight fists,

make me arms dead straight,

if I push me arms into me sides,

if I squeeze me thighs,

stop me wee,

if me belly doesn’t shake,

if me boobs don’t wobble,

if I close me eyes tight,

so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,

if I push me lips into me mouth,

if I make me teeth bite me lips together,

if I hardly breathe,

if I don’t say a word.

Then,

I’ll magic meself invisible,

and them lasses will leave me alone.

 Just a reminder that we’re just over a month off from National Flash Fiction Day so look out for events via the website and help put flash fiction in the spotlight. I’ll be in Oxford on the night (they won’t let me during the day) reading a new story, which I erm… need to write. *exit stage left pursued by nagging doubts*.

Good News Monday

Last week really was good news Monday. I’m doing a bit of management consulting work for a friend’s construction company down in Wimbledon which meant a very early morning start. The journey was made more pleasant by an email telling me that one of my early flash pieces ‘Greyhound’ had been selected for the 2nd Flash Friday anthology and at lunchtime I received another email telling me that one of my ‘small stones’ (very short pieces of observation – flash without a story if you prefer) written in January has been selected for the 2012 Small Stones book. since I set up my submissions spreadsheet, I’ve had four pieces get to at least longlist (for competitions) or acceptance out of eight.
It’s lovely to see some older stories doing well but there’s pressure on to start writing some new ones. There’s loads of competitions and anthologies to submit for and not many stories in the box. I’d better get on with it then.

 

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