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.