Just had another short one-minute sketch/piece accepted by SLAMX Theatre Company who will be performing it at the Vault Festival, London, SE1 7NN on Sunday 23rd Feb at 3:15pm.
It is an adaptation of the flash story, "The Girl Within," which was originally published in A Cache of Flashes (Black Pear Press) in 2016. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they stage this as it calls for a youngish (under 10 years old) girl as one of the characters, otherwise it just will not work at all. Admittedly she doesn't have any lines, but she does have to act a bit and I'm not entirely sure where a self-professed guerilla theatre company will procure a young child. I suppose I'll find out on the night....
I've always liked this one though, as it was one of two or three flash stories which, whilst conceived as short-short ideas in their own right, were heavily influenced by Chris Morris' Jam TV show and Blue Jam radio show in execution (one of the others being, funnily enough, "Genuine Photo" which will be staged by SLAMX on the 9th of Feb). So it will be interesting to see it performed on the stage, even if it is only a minute long.
Looks like I'm branching out..... Just had a one minute (well actually, it's over two but I guess they're being forgiving) play/sketch accepted by SLAM X Theatre company in London, who will be performing it on Sunday February 9th.
On the event Facebook page, they describe themselves as "A guerrilla theatre movement" and the night will be 30 Performers+1 Secret Location+1 Trending Topic+1 Minute Each = Motley Opinions & Solid Entertainment." While it's only a short performance, it will be interesting to see my work performed by actual actors on the stage. It will also be interesting as while I've been more involved in live readings over the last few years, I've been working pretty much just in Worcester, so working with actors and other creative-types in London will be a new and hopefully exciting experience. The piece in question is an adaptation of "Genuine Photo" which was originally published in A Cache of Flashes in 2016 and was shortlisted for the 2016 Worcestershire Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition.
In what must surely be the final publication of 2019 (I had the acceptance a few months ago, but only just received the email confirming release - at 7pm on Christmas Eve!), I have a story published in the latest volume of "Palm-Sized Press."
Very pleased to have a short flash piece published in this year's Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction Competition anthology, The Jar Thief: Flashes from Litfest. "Casanova Jones: A Tale of the near Future" is an edited down version of a story I wrote last year but thankfully it still works at 300 words (even though the longer version is far better, in my opinion). It is a story about the effects of electronic communication on actual human interaction and so is largely told through Messenger text boxes. I actually read this live at 42 last year and, despite the visual nature of the storytelling device, it still seemed to work. That said, I'm glad this has found a home somewhere as it's one of those that I have a soft spot for, even though I have no real idea why.
I was talking to a friend yesterday when he mentioned the possibility of self-publishing.... audio books. Admittedly, while I'd considered self-publishing before, this was something I had never thought about. For a while I dismissed it - after all, I'm no actor or voice artist. But then as I thought about it further I thought, "Well, my voice isn't that bad! I normally get decent feedback at spoken word nights and I don't have any annoying verbal tics or speech impediments" (as far as I know!). But as he pointed out, a lot of people listen to audio books now, either as they work (he is a visual artist so listens to podcasts and audio books as he works on his canvases) or while commuting. So why not take advantage of that new medium?
So what do you think? Would you have any interest in an audio version of some of my work? Maybe the upcoming flash collection?
While I have a far better audio set-up at home now (I was planning to do some YouTubing a while back but never got round to it), some audio versions of my stories can be found below. Also, if I did do an audio book of stories, would you prefer it as a straight reading of the stories (such as in the link to decomP magazine below) or do you like the sound effects and music of some of the YouTube examples?
On unrelated news, I will be attending the book launch of this year's Worcestershire Litfest and Flash Fiction Competition anthology, The Jar Thief, tomorrow (Sunday) at Titania Ltd, Security House, Barbourne Road, Worcester, WR1 1RS at 6pm. I apparently have at least one flash story in there - I submitted three but haven't been told what has been accepted in it as yet, so that will be interesting. I have also had flash stories accepted for publication by Palm-Sized Press and the Bumper Book of British Bizarro Vol 2. And in the best news of all, my collection of flash fiction, This Septic Isle, has been accepted for publication, possibly some time in mid-2020. More news as it comes in!
Just received a copy of Fiction International 52: Body, which features my prose-poem "If Janus Had Two Faces, Then Why Can't I?" I haven't had a chance to read some of the other work yet but there is some great art and design in here. It's now available here (UK) and here (US).
Fiction International 52: Body, featuring my prose-poem "If Janus Had Two Faces, Then Why Can't I?" is now available here (UK) and here (US).
As noted in a previous post, this is a somewhat atypical piece in that it is a prose-poem, the style of which was very much influenced by both Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition and by classical Modernist works, such as The Wasteland. That said, while its form is very different to my usual work, its themes (plastic surgery, the mutability of the flesh and so on) is very much in line with my usual interests, and of course, it also features the first appearance of my go-to deranged medic, Dr Kokoschka (who has since appeared in "It", "And From the Heads of Babes" and "The Byronic Man).
Fiction International is a very well-respected journal which has previously published the likes of Burroughs and Kerouac, so I am very pleased to be published here.
I have a 12 minute slot at "The Long and the Short of It" event at Caffe Bolero, St Nicholas St in Worcester this evening. Doors open at 6:30 pm and entry is apparently £3.00. The slightly longer than usual time-slot means I can do a longer story than is common at such things, so I'm currently thinking that I'll do an old favourite from the Ugly Stories for Beautiful People, "It."
I'll be reading at this month's "42" Event at Drummonds: The Swan with Two Nicks, Worcester tonight, at 7:30pm. I'll be reading "The Hole in the Wall", the only story I wrote this Summer (yes, a pretty disastrous Summer from a creative point of view), so I'm hoping it is well received. That would at least make my total lack of creative progress over the last few months somewhat more tolerable.
UPDATE: Well, that was encouraging! It may have been the only story I wrote this Summer (and only 1300 words at that!) but it went down really well. Unfortunately, as I'm now back at work I didn't have the chance to rehearse reading it and it was only when I printed it off that I realised it was 1300 words rather than sub-1000, which I knew would be pushing it for a 6 minute slot. As such, I did race through it a bit in order to not over-run which meant I committed the cardinal sin of talking over audience laughter. That said, there WAS at least some some audience laughter, and quite a lot more than I thought there would be. A lot of people came up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it and I had several people telling me to get it published ASAP. Of course, that leaves the question of where I should submit it. While it is in my usual Twilight Zone / semi-surreal / Bizarro vein, it's not quite overtly Bizarro enough to be considered by many Bizarro publishers but is too odd for many publishers of more mainstream "literary" fiction. Also, while it does need an extra polish and round of editing, I don't see it getting below 1200 words which puts it in that awkward "longer than flash" / "shorter than a short story" category.
Still, a really fun night with a generally very high quality of poetry and prose as well as some very encouraging feedback.
Next week I will hopefully be reading at a new spoken word event, The Long and the Short of It, at Cafe Bolero in Worcester.
This one has the unique selling point of focusing entirely on longer poetry and prose with 12 minute slots. This will be a nice opportunity to move beyond flash fiction and read some old favourites from the Ugly Stories for Beautiful People such as "It", "BobandJane" and "Foetal Attractions." More news once the slot has been confirmed.
I'm currently looking to publish a collection of flash fiction (around 20,000 words in total) and am looking for publishers who may be interested. However, it's frustrating as so many publishers just seem permanently closed to submissions even though they have a steady slate of books being released.
Most of the stories have been previously published (see the Publishing History page on this site) and I would really appreciate any suggestions on publishers who may be open to looking at the manuscript.
The stories in question are:
Nanny Knows Best
– Prologue – 1060 words – originally published in The Wild Word
900 words - originally
published in Bizarro Central
The Man in the
Street – 960 words - originally published in decomP
Genuine Photo– 650 words - originally published in A Cache of Flashes
(Shortlisted for the 2016
Worcestershire Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition).
Butterfly – 930 words - originally published in Bizarro Central
MWC ISO RL– 1050 words - originally published in Wired
(Shortlisted for the 2017
Worcestershire Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition).
The Last English
Speaker – 1250 words - originally published in Trembling
Marks on a Page– 300 words - originally published in Wired
530 words - originally
published in Bizarro Central
A fable in two indistinct parts – 2800 words -
originally published in Raw Edge
Jones – A tale of the near future – 760 words.
The Girl Within– 290 words - originally published in A Cache of Flashes
The Friend We
Made- 520 words - originally published in Bizarro Central
HUMOUR-CHIP™- 1000 words - originally published in The Ginger Collect
The Pub Fight– 910 words - originally published in Bizarro Central
460 words - originally
published in Reflex
- 299 words - originally
published in Ellipsis
words - originally published
in Planet Prozak
And From the
Heads of Babes – 830 words - originally published
in Horror Sleaze Trash
Celebdaq– 1000 words - originally published in Trembling with Fear
Nanny Knows Best
– Epilogue – 880 words.
Thanks a lot for your help - any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I'll be performing at the 42 Spoken Word event at Drummonds, The Swan with Two Nicks in Worcester tomorrow at 7:30pm. The theme of the night is "Through the Arched Window". While they don't enforce the theme stipulation particularly hard, I have come up with something on theme called, imaginatively enough, "Through the Arched Window." I'm a bit nervous as, while I rarely get nervous when doing readings, this involves me singing. In public. Something which is a bit of a deep-seated fear of mine. While I'm doing it in character so it doesn't matter if I'm flat or croaky (Hell, it'll probably improve it), it's still something I'm not particularity looking forward to.
I doubt very much if I'll ever attempt to get this published anywhere; not that I don't think it's any good but because I feel it probably stands better as a performance piece than a published one. In addition, it's also a straight-ahead horror story, something I've only ever really attempted to write once before, again for a specific theme for 42, so I don't feel it really fits in with what I usually do. That said, it should be interesting as it'll be the first time I'll be using recorded music in a performance (I've been editing clips in Mixcraft all day), so depending on how it goes down (it is pretty dark, so even at a horror event I'm not sure how it will be received), I may record it as a spoken word clip which I'll upload to YouTube at some point. Let's see....
I will also be performing at the next Worcester Speakeasy at its new venue of Paradiddles at 7:30pm on Thursday 8th August. I'm thinking I may be performing "Celebdaq" which was recently published in the Trembling With Fear: Year 2 anthology.
Yet another anthology featuring one of my flash pieces - which I had previously completely forgotten about - has come out. Trembling With Fear: Year 2 is now available on Amazon, and it features my flash piece "Celebdaq" which was originally published on the Horror Tree/Trembling With Fear website back in 2018.
This one was a fairly simple idea based on celebrity adding value to objects and people being willing to pay the prices demanded for those objects. The idea of people bidding on celebrity body fluids, toe-nails, hair clippings and so on is not new (and I believe is already "a thing" in this world), but I liked the idea of pushing that further towards celebrity tissues and bodily organs. It was then just a small step to conceive of a specialist market place for such transactions (the title of which I got from a short-lived late 90s celebrity news show which I remember was always quite good fun) before then pushing the desired celebrity attributes from the bodily to the more abstract.
This piece also ties in with a longer story called "Shooting Stars" which was published in Suspense Unimagined last year. In that, the final body Babs comes across, the one that revives her fortunes (that of Pete Doherty), is the first celebrity the protagonist of "Shooting Stars" kills, at the beginning of that particular tale. As with the Ugly Stories for Beautiful People, many of the stories in State of the Nation will be inter-connected in some way or another (beyond just basic themes).
Horror Sleaze Trash's latest anthology is now available on Amazon and it features my flash piece "And From the Heads of Babes" that was originally published on their web-site last year. Featuring my favourite deranged medic, Dr Kokoschka, it's one of those stories that was just a collection of ideas (mainly psychological experiments that I thought it would be interesting to do even though they are obviously entirely unethical) but which somehow still manages to hang together as a cohesive whole. It also means Kokoschka will feature in two very different publications this year - this collection which, as the title suggests is a degenerate collection of dark, sleazy, trash fiction but also in the upcoming Fiction International anthology which is very much an academic journal interested in formal literary innovation that has published the likes of William Burroughs in the past.
It seems somehow fitting that good ol' Dr Kokoschka is equally at home in both.
"Burr's stories are hard to categorize, as they're not strictly horror or fantasy per se. However, all are imbued with a dark flood of macabre images that continue to disturb and haunt long after reading. The stories carry a core psychological reality (even the more surreal), layered with pathos and fatalism wrapped in punkish sensibilities. Each narrative in Ugly Stories feels like a complete and nuanced world inhabited by isolated souls walking a dark, lonely road.As difficult and uncomfortable as it is to see ourselves sometimes in the darker aspects and recesses of art and literature, we are somehow compelled to stare into that abyss. Burr's collection just happens to make it all worth the pain."
Read this review in full at THE HARROW.Garvan Giltinan, The Harrow
"This is a collection of short stories that steadfastly refuses to be shoehorned into any genre niche, though those who enjoy horror will assuredly find much of what they like within its pages. If you pinned me down and asked for a writer James Burr is similar to, my answer would be Russell Hoban, though even that may be stretching a point, with perhaps a hint of the early Vonnegut. These stories are not ugly, though they often touch on aspects of life that are, and you don't need to have model girl/boy looks to read them, just an open mind and a willingness to embrace a young writer whose work is that little bit off the wall, but refreshingly so."Peter Tennant, Peter Tennant's Case Notes, BLACK STATIC.
Burr is not merely a "new" voice, he is a fresh voice – a different and disturbing voice - and one deserving of your attention. His work is not easily categorized, which may, or may not, be a good thing. There are certainly horrific elements to Mr. Burr's fiction, but also what can be more readily described as "dark fantasy" and even, perhaps "Bizarro" fiction. .....There is also a dry, sardonic, and often satirical humor running through much of the stories in the book. The stories in this collection worked, for me, because they were not merely "different," but because they truly were disturbing to me, as a reader, and many of the stories stayed with me long after I'd finished reading it. Be forewarned - these stories ....... require, perhaps, a bit more effort on the part of a reader; but those looking for something a bit different and challenging, will be handsomely rewarded. This book is highly recommended.
Read this review in full at HorrorworldNorm Rubenstein, HORRORWORLD
"Ugly Stories for Beautiful People feels like a book in its own little world. I don't mean to suggest that its stories never joined the party – a glance at the list of previous publication credits will reveal that they did – but there is a certain sense that this book stands to one side, that it's doing its own thing, as it were. The collection begins and ends with a story called BobandJane and its postscript, about a couple who are so very much in love (Burr's prose conveys this superbly) that, yes, they don't perceive reality as it is – and, at the very end, their bubble may just be starting to burst. Not just a neat story, it serves as a summation of the whole book, a book which covers a range of human emotion, precarious relationships and equally precarious realities (and there may not be much difference between the two); and whose intriguing constituent parts form a complete, intriguing entity."
"This reviewer has read countless collections of fiction, in many genres, many eras. That being said, Ugly Stories has got to be one of the oddest. That could be a negative, yet in this case, Burr's strong imagination and plaintive, yet very effective prose manages to pull it off. Odd, unique, very cool, and extremely readable, this collection is recommended for anyone looking for something different - or for one of us who isn't one of the beautiful people!"
Read this review in full at Hellnotes.David Simms, HELLNOTES
"It's always a pleasure to find an anthology that's well written and unique and that strikes a chord long after turning the final page. Ugly Stories For Beautiful People is just such a collection.These loosely linked stories begin with Bob and Jane, A Fable in Two Distinct Parts, about a couple whose adoration for each other is all-consuming. Foetal Attraction is deftly narrated by a pregnancy kit that wants nothing more than to deliver the happy news of impending motherhood to its rather unsavory owner. In The Dada Relationship Police, a man discovers that a shadowy group seems to know every aspect of his life and his relationships. In The Byronic Man, a man must decide how far he'll go to make himself attractive to the opposite sex. Burr takes a satirical look at what could happen when humans' proclivity for pretentiousness suddenly runs amok in It. And in the "postscript" story, Bob and Jane make a final disconcerting discovery…From the darkly twisted, to humorous to stories filled with illuminating social commentary, Burr's innovative speculative fiction is an insightful, and sometimes disturbing exploration of the human psyche. Read Ugly Stories For Beautiful People in its entirety for its full effect -- James Burr's work exemplifies what a well crafted short story is all about." Rating -- 3 out of 3 books
"Burr brings to life an almost zoological variety of characters, a sweeping menagerie of insipid drug dens, high art soirees, faltering romances, madness, and the ever-present reggae. Burr convincingly weaves together the various societal strata of London and Barcelona from beggar to bureaucrat, acid-head to activist, and brings them to life to co-exist side by side in the same heartbroken, disillusioned universe.Ultimately, Burr's view alternates between the sentimental bitterness of failed romance and a sweeping image of modern life in all its sickness and beauty. Burr's writing, like his characters and his world, fluctuates from the simple to the complex, from the vulgar to the sublime. It is as if Burr cannot decide whether he wants to indict society or glamorize it.And because that's the point, Ugly Stories for Beautiful People is worth a read."
These stories offer a wry sideways look at modern life and culture, twisting and turning the quirks of everyday life into something recognisable and yet entirely odd - like a caricature, perhaps. There are common themes: is what we call reality really real? How can our own minds fool us? Can simple statements and thoughts help use see the true reality from within our mindless everyday haze? There is also an obsession with relationships - and specifically what happens when they come to an end.....Ugly Stories for Beautiful People is a good collection of entertaining speculative fiction, which I would recommend without reservation. "
The most interesting thing about James Burr's stories, in my mind, is the use he makes of urban fantasy. In Burr's stories, the mundane creates the fantastical. When a real-life issue is loaded enough, when the mundane pressure grows and grows, then reality will twist and expand, and the impossible will occur. What Burr really pulls off well, then, is resonance. His stories are powerful because they are about pain, conflict, and emotions, and he tries to pick the ones that will be so powerful the reader will believe they are strong enough to warp reality. The impossible happens because the characters desperately want it to—and so Burr grants their wish. The bleak, depressing nature of these stories shows us full well how much confidence Burr places in humanity's desperate desires."
Ziv Wities, THE FIX
"Burr's short stories defy categorization. The stories vary in length and range in type from a tale told from the point of view of a pregnancy stick to the story of two people who are so in love with each other that they literally become one. The format of the book is also unusual. It has no table of contents, and the stories just sort of flow into each other. If there is a theme to the collection, it is about how the characters' perceptions prevent them from seeing the reality around them. Burr is a talented storyteller with an impressive imagination. His stories will be appreciated by readers of horror, bizarro fiction, and those who just like good writing. Recommended."
"The majority of the book is brilliantly written, with the basis for many of the stories involving relationships between wives/husbands, boyfriends/girlfriends, people/drugs, that range from the perverse (BOBANDJANE) to the bittersweet (Ménage Á Beaucoup). My personal favourite is probably ‘Life Is What You Make It’, involving as it does a woman dealing with grief in such a bizarre way that she’s fundamentally altered the structure of reality. [...] It might not be too bold to say the world needs more writers with fresh and weird ideas, and James Burr falls firmly into that camp."
"This collection could just as easily have been called Ugly Stories For Unsettling Contented People, for to enter the world of James Burr is to step into a region where reality is fluid and to be happy, or at least settled, is to be in incomplete possession of the facts. Once you enter, reality fractures in surprising and innocuous places. It was the shortest tales which for me had the greatest impact -- the delusions and, ultimately, kindness revealed in Mutton Pie; the pace and linguistic inventiveness of The Byronic Man; and best of all from this collection, It, which is a gem of a story, at once hilarious and horrific, a story which leaves you envying the author its premise while admiring the perfect balance with which that premise is developed. The best test of such a collection is the success with which the author inveigles you into their world. In this case, I finished the book in the food court of a shopping mall, put it down, looked around me, and waited for the cracks to show. "