Sunday 30 December 2018

New acceptance from the "42 Stories" anthology.

Just had an acceptance from an anthology with one of the weirder submission criteria I have ever come across - exactly 42 words with a 42 character title (including spaces).

I sent two submissions, both of which didn't have 42 character titles (I missed that stipulation but have since changed the title on the accepted story to satisfy it).  However, just for the fun of it, here is the submission that was not accepted (with its original title).  I may turn it into a standard flash story of sub-1000 words at some point.

James Burr

He thought the cerebral vacation in his girlfriend's head would be a refreshing break in point of view. But when he saw himself filtered through her eyes he was first surprised, then ashamed, to see he was a caricature, ridiculous and absurd.

The 42 Stories anthology will apparently be available from Amazon at some point in 2019.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

"Shooting Stars" in "Suspense Unimagined."

Just received my copies of Suspense Unimagined which features my 5000 word short story "Shooting Stars."  I originally wrote "Shooting Stars" maybe 15 years or so ago (I do tend to sit on my stories for many years; partly out of being too busy to work on them and partly because I'm a big believer in polishing and editing stories, and I think this works best once you've pretty much forgotten them so you can approach them with a fresh pair of eyes).

I can't really remember the origins of the story but I think it was one of those instances where I read a story somewhere else and the story went nowhere near where I thought it would go based on its premise, so I ended up writing the story I thought I would read.  I had been reading Alexei Sayle's Barcelona Plates collection, so it could have been "The Minister for Death" although I can't remember anything about the story other than it featured a pensioner who was a contract killer.

One thing that was certainly the case was that, even though this wasn't the usual kind of collection I read, it did really resonate with me at the time and I very much enjoyed Sayle's sneery narrative voice in many of the stories.  I'd used a similar type of narrative voice in "Foetal Attractions", "It" and "BobandJane" and not only did I like it but I also found it very easy to write in and, as I had recently written several stories with a more traditional narrative voice, I felt it was time to do another where I could sneer away to my heart's content.  Like all those stories, this one too came out quickly and virtually fully-formed (as easy as I find that voice, I try not to use it too much as I am aware it can wear the reader down).

I can't remember where the initial idea of s celebrity serial killer came from, but the title came from the Vic and Bob quiz show, (".... Welcome to Shooting Stars / Welcome whoever you are / The guests have been greeted / The stars are now seated / So come along and let's start Shooting Stars!") and the intent was to use the story to satirise contemporary attitudes towards celebrity, attitudes which have become even more bizarre with Instagram models and Love Island competitors and so on getting their mugs into the national Press.  Throw in the thwarted (and clearly terrible!) novelist aspect and the "creative" deaths angle and bingo!  There you have it.

This one did the rounds of lots of anthologies and magazines and even though I always liked it, it never quite got accepted.  Several places said they liked it and one or two said they would like to use it but they felt uncomfortable about the use of real celebrities' names.  But it finally got accepted by Suspense Unimagined and I am very happy with that.  It's a really nice looking product that has clearly been put together with care.

Anyway, Suspense Unimagined can be bought from Amazon UK here or directly from the publisher's here.

Friday 14 December 2018

Reading at Worcester Speakeasy - Thursday 13th December.

A particularly good night at the Worcester Speakeasy last night with, as always, a great flash story from Roz Leavens and some powerful poetry from Daniel Burton and Wesley Rolston.  I gather Wesley is relatively new to the Spoken Word scene but his delivery and stage presence is superb.  However, they got my name wrong on the flyer (yet again!) despite putting "Burr" in huge letters at the end of the email asking for a slot.  Still, I'll let it slide since they call me a "master of deep, dark works from the flash fiction master."  I guess that makes me a super-master, or something.  (*blushes*).

I read "BobandJane" from the Ugly Stories, one that while on the longer side (7 mins in its most edited form) usually goes down well.  It was a weird one, though - the audience was split so around half of them were in their 60s and 70s and half were in their 20s to 40s.  I noticed that in the spots where there are usually big laughs, there were just two or three of the younger people laughing, but not the almost comedy-set laughs it usually gets.  And when I finished, instead of the usual polite but hearty applause you get at these things, there was a few moment's silence before people started applauding.  At first I thought it had actually bombed, but then I realised as people actually cheered (!) and started applauding that it had been an almost stunned silence.  The poet who came on after me was all, "Well, how do I follow that?" and I had 5 or 6 people come up to me afterwards saying how much they enjoyed it and how they thought it would go down well in some of the more raucous spoken word events in Brum.  But despite the very positive response I got from the younger half, I got the feeling the older group were confused or disappointed or wanted to hear more conventional fare.

Still, I enjoy Speakeasy and will undoubtedly do a few nights there next year.  But now it is really time I start branching out into Birmingham and the Permission to Speak night in Stourbridge.

Friday 30 November 2018

"Shooting Stars" in "Suspense Unimagined" - Out Today!

Have just found out that Suspense Unimagined - which contains my 5000+ word short story "Shooting Stars" - is out today.  It is available from Amazon UK here or direct from the publisher, here.

Friday 9 November 2018

Reading at "Worcester Speakeasy" Thursday 8th November 2018

So, another reading done with the good folks at "Worcester Speakeasy."  When booking my slot I rather stupidly forgot to give my pen-name so was listed under my real one, but the MC, Suz Winspear, knows me and announced me as "Burr", so it was all good.

I only had 6 minutes so I performed "The Chaotic Butterfly" and "Genuine Photo" (which was originally published in A Cache of Flashes in 2016).  Both seemed to go down well, although one audience member did seem confused and said he had no idea what I was on about.  So, success!

I'm also hoping to attend Stourbridge's spoken Word event, Permission to Speak, at Claptrap the Venue next month, although that will mainly be as an audience member and just to get the lay of the land and to see if it's the sort of night where I would go down well.  Hopefully, that will mean expanding out beyond Worcester.  Then there is also a night in Wolverhampton and several nights in Birmingham I want to check out.

Who would have thought I'd get so into performing when I hate public speaking so much and my idea of Hell is being an actor on stage?  Then again, being able to read and not having to rely on my blown short-term memory is, of course, an advantage.

Monday 29 October 2018

Upcoming Readings

Just a quick note to say that I'll be reading a flash piece, "Casanova Jones", at 42 on Halloween at the Swan With Two Nicks in Worcester (7:30 pm start).

Then I also have a 6 minute slot at the Worcester Speakeasy at Wayland's Yard, Foregate Street, Worcester on 8th November, starting at 7pm.

Sunday 28 October 2018

"Trembling With Fear" update.

Just received my copies of Trembling With Fear.  Very nicely produced volume, I have to say.

Sunday 14 October 2018

"Trembling With Fear" anthology out now!

The Trembling With Fear anthology from Horror Tree Press is out now.  I have flash ("The Last English Speaker") in it.

Trembling with Fear is available from Amazon UK here and Amazon US here.

Friday 12 October 2018

Reading at "Worcester Speakeasy," Thursday 11th October

Well, had another good night at the Worcester Speakeasy last night, even if they did somehow manage to get both my real name and my pen-name misspelled on the flyer.  ;)

Still, who can quibble when they call you a "flash fiction master"?

Was a fairly low turnout compared to most evenings (maybe a dozen?) but there were some great performances.  I particularly enjoyed Heather Wastie and Mike Alma's readings from their book of WW1 inspired pieces, Voices of 1919.

I ended up performing "The Friend We Made" which was published at Bizarro Central last week and was happy that it seemed to come across quite well when read out loud (you never know, especially when reading "weird stuff", how things will get across, especially if people are unfamiliar with you and your work and don't know what to expect).

                                                          *                   *                   *

In other news, there are quite a few pieces coming out in print anthologies very soon.  The Trembling With Fear anthology should be out literally any day now, and that contains a flash piece, "The Last English Speaker."  Then Suspense Unimagined should be out nearer the end of the year, which contains the 5000 word short story "Shooting Stars."  And finally, talking to the editor of the Worcester Flash Fiction Prize last night, it seems I have at least one flash piece (and maybe more?) appearing in this year's Competition anthology Sacrifice, which will be published on 25th November.  I'll be reading something at the launch, which takes place at 3:30pm in The Swan With Two Nicks, 28 New Street, Worcester, UK.

Friday 5 October 2018

New story published at "Bizarro Central."

Very pleased to announce that I've had a new flash piece published at Bizarro Central.

This is yet another very old idea - probably 25+ years old.  Yet for the longest time it remained just that - an idea.  I couldn't work out how to turn it into an actual story until I became more familiar with, and more proficient in, the flash fiction form.

The origin of the story is probably fairly obvious - I had a friend of a friend who was a nice enough guy but who seemed to be a friend to all.  After watching him for a while, I noticed he seemed subtly different with different groups of people - a bit more "laddy" with the beer drinkers and a bit more chilled when with the weed smokers.  Obviously, this was pretty subtle (and not like the wholly different wardrobes and haircuts of the story!) and we are all guilty of it to a certain extent. but when I saw him getting on with groups that should have been diametrically opposed (like an SJW getting pally with everyone at a Trump rally), I started to wonder what he was really like?  What was he like when no-one else was around? 

Hence this story of someone who doesn't really have a personality, or even an existence, of their own.

Hope you enjoy it!  And for anyone who is local, I will be reading this story at the next Worcester Speakeasy  at Wayland's Yard, Worcester, UK on the evening of October 11th.

"The Friend We Made" can be read at Bizarro Central - here.

Friday 10 August 2018

New story published by "decomP magazinE"

I have a new story published by decomP magazinE today.  And this one really is a new one in that it was written this year.  That said, I had the original idea decades ago - well over twenty years - after having read Bradbury's "The Crowd."  From what I remember, for those who haven't read it (and you should - all Bradbury is worth reading), "The Crowd" is basically a story based on the premise that every crowd you see - gathered outside opening sales, gawping at roadworks, jostling around accidents - is actually the same crowd,  an amorphous blob of people that appears and disappears depending on there being a need for a crowd.  (Or at least that's how I remember it.  As I say, it's probably been 25 years since I read it).

Anyway, when I read that story I couldn't help but think of, "What would the story be like from their point of view?"  Hence an idea that for many years lay in my ideas file as "A Day in the Life of the Man in the Street" until such point as I realised that flash fiction was the perfect form for many of my ideas that couldn't really support a longer story.  The actor angle came from reading a flash piece a few months ago that all the writers and editors that I follow on Twitter were lauding.  It was rather good and was a first person actor tale thus inspiring the actor angle, which I thought worked rather well as a narrative framing device.

That said, I think the Twilight Zone-esque elements of the original story got somewhat lost in this shorter piece and I think it could actually support a longer story of 5,000 - 10,000 words.  So while I am happy with this piece as it stands (and I'm certainly happy with where it's been published - decomP is very well-respected and has many of the stories that it published be nominated for prizes and awards, including the prestigious Pushcart Prize - I still don't consider this idea done quite yet.....

decomP also has the rather nice feature of also having the authors read their pieces as audio files.  So you too can now get the full experience that the dozen or so audience members at the Worcester Speakeasy 2018 LitFest Special had when they heard me read this a couple of months ago!  ;)

Friday 13 July 2018

Reading at "Worcester Speakeasy" 12th July 2018.

Just got back from doing a tiny 3 minute slot at "Worcester Speakeasy" tonight where I read my most recently published flash story, "Authorsoft tm", which appeared in Ellipsis Issue Three.  At only 300 words it fit pretty well into the 3 minute time slot I had and thankfully it seemed to go down well with the audience, which is always good.

It was also an interesting evening as "Speakeasy" has moved to a new venue which has a nice outside stage area.  As far as I know, this was the first "Speakeasy" to ever be held outside and it had a really relaxed atmosphere as a result.

I'm looking forward to expanding out beyond Worcester to events in other towns and cities in the months to come.

Saturday 30 June 2018

New story published by "Ellipsis"

Ellipsis' collection, Three is available today from their website and will, eventually, be available to purchase from Amazon.  It features my story "Authorsoft tm".  This is another ooooolllllldddd story - maybe 15 - 20 years old - written in a period when I was still looking for my own voice but had been enormously influenced by Baudelaire's prose poems.  So I ended up writing a load of short-short stories (which I called prose-poems, like Baudelaire's, as at the time the flash form didn't really exist) which featured my usual vision and ideas albeit written in a tone of voice that was very heavily influenced - overly so, in fact - by Baudelaire.

I liked most of the ideas, however, even if at the time I recognised the writing style was derivative and not "honest."  Thus, most of the "prose-poems" that were written in this period  languished on floppy disks then memory sticks and then finally the cloud until recently.  Some ("The Chaotic Butterfly," "A Fresh Perspective," "The Friend We Made"), now that I have my own authorial voice and I feel (somewhat!) more in control of the form (which now has a name - flash fiction!) have been totally re-written and subsequently published, while others, like "HumourChip tm" and "Authorsoft tm" just needed a bit of tweaking, editing and polishing.

So anyway, enjoy "Authorsoft tm" (and other excellent flash pieces) in Ellipsis' new collection Three, available from here.

Also, on a somewhat related point, here is the companion piece to "Authorsoft tm", "Poetsoft tm".  Now bear in mind that I am not a poet when reading this although from a conceptual point of view I think that actually works better for this piece in terms of its subject matter.  I do think this was actually published in some poetry pamphlet at some point almost 20 years ago, but it was such a small scale photocopied thing, I really can't remember its name.

 PoetSoft tm


James Burr

"I really love you, and I think your body's great!"
 I type onto the screen.
 Artistic inspiration
 Direct from a machine.

 Alphabetical index and simple colour display,
 Place the cursor on the poet
 And Bingo!
 We're away.

 I've never heard of this guy,
 But let's look at his style,
 Put the cursor over "cummings"
 And access the algorithmic file.

 "i really love you and i think your bodys great".
 What?  Is that all?  Don't tell me that that's it.
 Oh no, I think I've been ripped off.
 Trust me to buy this shit.

 But hang on.  The sixth Lord Byron,
 There's a name I know.
 The manual says he's a romantic,
 So let's give him a go.

"O radiant love shining 'pon dusky flesh
 Of beauty that ne'er will fade."
 Yes, yes, this is what I want,
 This is bound to get me laid!

 But I'm a sensitive Millennial man,
 so let's try some Plath
(for a woman's point of view).
 After all, even if it's rubbish
 I can always make it new.

"In darkness blood milky-weeps from cracked and swollen breasts..."
 Ugh!  I've seen enough!!
 For what I want this is just too poor.
 I'll press delete and cancel.
 And try one poet more.

 So who the Hell is this one?
 His name rings a bell;
 I can't remember what he wrote,
 But apparently they did quite well.

"O radiant love shining
        the breasts of the dull secretary,

 Eh?  What's it say?
 I don't know what it means.
 But then judging from the looks of her,
 I'm sure neither will she.

 But now I think I'm finished,
 And that was a lot of fun.
 Because, like the advert says,
"Art at the touch of a button",
 But a readership of one.

Thursday 21 June 2018

New story published at "The Ginger Collect."

I've had a new story published today by The Ginger Collect'Humour-Chip tm' is actually quite an old story - possibly over 10 years!- but it's only taken so long to be published as I hadn't really tried getting it published anywhere.  Until my recent rash of flash fiction publications, I didn't really know what to do with it.  In many ways it was flash fiction before I knew what flash fiction was.  It was also a weird mix of slightly speculative and vaguely humorous but with a melancholy tone, which again made it a hard piece to put forth.  But in the last few months I edited it down slightly and I also performed it live (and it seemed to go down well) so I felt a lot more confident in finally trying to get it out in the world.

It can be found here.

Ginger Collect also have a nice feature where they interview their authors and ask them for a bit more detail on the stories and on their work in general.  That can be found here.


Wednesday 13 June 2018

Reading at Worcester Speakeasy Thursday 14th June.

I'll be reading at Worcester Speakeasy tomorrow, Thursday 14th June.  I'll be performing a new piece, "The Man on the Street" and an old favourite, "The Lexical Guide to the Bulldog Breed."  Come along if you can!

More details here and flyer, below.

Friday 11 May 2018

New flash fiction piece published by "Bizarro Central."

A new flash fiction piece, 'A Fresh Perspective,' has been published on the Bizarro website, Bizarro Central, today.  Yet another piece of gritty, realistic, kitchen sink drama.  ;)

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Live reading in Worcester tonight.

I'll be reading at the 42 night this evening in Worcester and performing the flash piece that was recently published by Horror Sleaze Trash, "And from the Heads of Babes."

Don't forget that this month 42 will be at Cafe Bliss in Sansome Street.  See you there!

Sunday 22 April 2018

New flash piece published in "Trembling With Fear"

New flash piece published in Trembling With Fear.  I had to change the names of some of the celebrities (for legal reasons, apparently) which I think has a slightly negative impact on the story.  However, I think it still works.

Pop over to Trembling With Fear for a read.  I'm also hoping this and/or "The Last English Speaker" will be appearing in The Horror Tree anthology when that comes out later in the year.  We shall see.....

Wednesday 18 April 2018

New flash piece published.

Just a quick update.  I've just had a flash piece accepted by Horror Sleaze Trash.  Don't even ask me where this one came from, it just sort of bubbled up fully formed (or fully malformed?).  It was probably just me thinking about a load of experiments that I thought would be interesting to do but which "the liberal pinkos" would probably think were "unethical" or something..... ;)  Anyway, no real point to this story as such - just a disturbing, and hopefully funny, scene in time with one of my favourite recurring characters, Dr Kokoschka, a man whose circumstances are now so reduced that he is performing his quackery and insane research in a former industrial unit in Tipton.

Go visit Horror Sleaze Trash - I really like the aesthetics of their site.  Fits the name well.....

Saturday 13 January 2018

New flash piece published at "Bizarro Central."

Starting the New year with an acceptance from Bizarro Central is a pretty nice way to get it going.  The piece they have taken, "The Creative Game" is also quite unique in that it was written specifically for a theme, something I don't usually do and have never done before.  This was for a reading at Worcester's 42 night and the theme, if I remember correctly, was "The most dangerous game."  Now I did also write another short piece with that title for performance (posted on this blog around Halloween).  That was very dissimilar to what I usually write in that it was pretty much a straightforward ghost story.  "The Creative Game" however, is much more in my usual area, inspired by Burroughs' cut-up literary technique and (I think) Tristin Tzara's Surrealistic games to inspire surrealistic writing but, as with most of my stories, then pushed to the nth degree.  However, as I say, this one was quite unusual in that rather than just writing up my big, long list of ideas, I had to sit down with a theme in mind and think, "Hmmmm, what can I do there?"  Not my favourite way of working but it was nice for a change and, when you're talking about flash fiction, it was hardly massively time consuming, either.

Anyway, it is over at Bizarro Central, now.