In which things are published, or almost nearly imminently published

Some time has passed since my last blog post. Traditionally at this point I offer some sort of excuse or random self-flagellation for my failure in this area. Today I’m going to go down the excuse route. You see, there was this dog and it ate my homework right off the computer screen, or possibly it was a magpie and  it stole my keyboard’s unusually shiny semi-colon key, and I do like a semi-colon so that was very limiting, or maybe I became briefly obsessed with watching old episodes of The Biggest Loser on youtube even though it is unquestionably terrible for my soul and wasn’t able to write blogpost because of all the time that took up. At least one of those things is true. Or possibly all. Anyhow I’m back now. Let’s get on.

This week I shall mainly be sharing news of recent and upcoming publications for they are cropping up all over the place and there is much excitement chez Alison.

I’m going to kick off with a short story anthology I’m super-proud to be involved with. The Write Romantics who are either a single multi-headed romance writing creature from another dimension, or a group of lovely individual romance writers who blog together and support one another (it’s definitely one of those) have put together a short story anthology in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust. I was terribly flattered to be asked to contribute a story, and I pretty much will do anything if sufficient flattery is offered. My story is ‘The Handsome Stranger’, and like all the stories included, it’s has a vaguely wintery or festive theme.

Winter Tales cover

The anthology, ‘Winter Tales’, is available to pre-order for kindle now and will be available in paperback later this month. You can also join the Write Romantics at their online launch party this Saturday (8th Nov 1pm-3pm) where there will be competitions and much virtual wine drunk, and possibly real wine, but you’ll need to provide that for yourself.

Secondly, two more short story anthologies. It’s a little bit late in the day, but if some of you want an excuse to keep hold of your pumpkins (oddly not a euphemism) a little bit longer, you can still download or order the Halloween anthology, Hocus Pocus ’14, that I was involved in back in October. My story, Haunted House, is about a young divorcee, Melly, her best friend, Max, and an interfering old man called Ebenezer. As it’s a Halloween story, at least one of those three is, unfortunately, dead.

The final short story anthology I want to tell you about is Kisses and Cupcakes, from my publisher, Choc Lit, which features short stories and fantastic recipes from eighteen Choc Lit authors, including my good self. My story is ‘Imperfect Timing’ and it features a couple of characters that you might get to meet again next year. Possibly… I’ve also included the most awesome cupcake recipe in the whole wide world. Kisses and Cupcakes is available to download now.

Kisses & Cupcakes

And finally… drumroll please… my second Christmas Kiss novella is nearly ready to be launched onto an unsuspecting world. Cora’s Christmas Kiss is going through its final tweaks and edits at the moment. We’re finalising the cover design, and it should be available to order very soon indeed. Squeeee! In the meantime I recommend that you all prepare yourselves fully by downloading book 1, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, forthwith.

Holly's Christmas Kiss

*takes a deep breath* So there you go. That’s all my publication news at the moment. And with that I shall stop thinking about books that are already written and turn my attention back to the books that are yet to come.

In which I offer a little fable what I wrote

After managing to blog in both ranty and writerly forms last week I’m feeling a tiny bit light on inspiration today. So in the absence of anything to shout about here is a tiny little flash fiction fable what I wrote. It’s called ‘The Children of the Forest.’

 

The trees of the forest grow tall and strong, and the children of the forest play low in the hollow beneath the branches of the oldest trees. They are safe in the hollow, safe in the forest, where the world beyond cannot get in.

The elders of the forest are afraid of the world beyond. There is a story, whispered from mother to baby, from father to son. ‘Beyond the last tree,’ they say, ‘a dragon lives. And the dragon breathes only fire and loves only gold and eats only children who don’t listen to stories and who run and skip and play beyond the hollow, beyond the forest, beyond the very last tree.’

One day a small girl grew tired of the hollow, and yearned for adventure elsewhere. She was a clever little girl who had heard stories of the dragon and the fire and the world beyond, and knew that they were only stories. Stories couldn’t hurt her. Dragons weren’t real, so she ran and skipped and cartwheeled her way to the edge of the forest. At the very last tree she paused. She would be the first of her kind to leave the forest, and one day she would return with new stories to tell the children she had left behind. She took that last step into the unknown her head full of dreams and her heart overflowing with hope.

And the dragon ate her.

The End.

 

I do of course write whole big book-length things as well. You can find details of those here.

In which I am writerly for the 2nd week in a row

Well, you can wait for months for a writing-related blog post around here, and then two come along at once. So after getting all researchy for my novel in progress last week (thanks to everyone who offered their own memories of being a 1960s teenager in the comments), today I’m thinking about writing shorter stuff.

I used, way back in the mists of time when I was fresh-faced young creative writing student, to write quite a lot of shorter pieces. I dabbled with both poetry and short stories, with fairly limited success. When I decided, back in 2009, that I wanted to Do Novels, I pretty much stopped writing short things. More recently I’ve started again, mainly with short stories – I am so definitely not a poet –  and I’m trying to work out the best approach.

There are gazillions of places that writers can submit or showcase short stories and poetry. There are big competitions, little competitions, print magazines (although sections of that market are shrinking rapidly), e-zines, writing blogs and spoken word events. So what’s the best line of attack? Should one just write stuff that you think is good and interesting and then look for a outlet for the piece? Or is it best to target specific competitions or publications?

One story that I did have success with, winning a lovely shiny little cup, was written specifically for that competition, but that was a competition with a specified theme. Others are more open, so perhaps have less requirement for the writer to write something specifically for that competition.

Another big potential outlet for short pieces of writing is Spoken Word events. These seem to have got more and more popular over the last couple of years, to the point where I, at least, can barely leave the house without someone shouting their poetic offering at me. I find spoken word events tricky though. For me, there’s a big difference between a piece of writing that works well for an individual reading it off the page, and a piece that works as a verbal performance.

Attending Spoken Word evenings I’ve sat through plenty of pieces that might have been just fine to read quietly to oneself, but which all but died on their author’s poor tired feet in performance. So, for me, Spoken Word events are something that, if I choose to do them, I have to write something particular for.

So, how best to target one’s writing resources? Is it better to keep one’s eyes on a single goal – for me that would be novel writing – and exclusively focus on that? Or is it better to pick out and target specific short story competitions to build experience and profile (and if you’re lucky get some prize money)? Or should writing be a purely creative endeavour where we write what we love and look for somewhere to submit/publish it later? What do you think world?

In which I acknowledge being a bad blogger and offer a small festive story in way of apology

I have been a bad blogger of late. I have failed to offer you Monday thoughts on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, David Cameron’s reaction to the Leveson Report, the freakishly rapidly decreasing size of Curly-Wurlys, or the upcoming festive season. And I have thoughts on all these things. Oh yes, indeedy, I have thoughts.

Alas, of late time has been short, and life has been busy so these many and fascinating thoughts have remained unblogged. Please accept my humblest apologies and this short festive storyette in recompense. Normal thought-sharing service shall be resumed in January. Promise.

 

The Shepherd

“So Bob,” Miss Pennydew shuffles slightly in her seat. “I think you know why we’ve asked you here today.”

“Aye.”

“It’s…” She coughs. “It’s about last Monday. We’ve.. em… we’ve talked to young Sam, but I just wanted to give you the opportunity to take us through your version of events, just as you see it, from your point of view.”

“Aye.”

Miss Pennydew pauses. “Just in your own words…”

“Aye.”

“Whenever you’re ready.” She waits for Bob to fill the silence. The silence extends. “Ok. Well, what if I run through Sam’s account and you can just jump in whenever you think?”

“Reet.”

“So Sam told us, with regard to the incident in question, that he initially noticed an unusually bright star.”

“Aye.”

“And then…?” She tails off. “Ok. And then Sam says…” She consults her notes. “He says that you were surrounded by a heavenly throng.”

Bob nods, apparently feeling that he’s said quite enough already.

“After which one of the…” She makes quotation mark fingers. “…’throng’ addressed you telling you not to fear.”

“Aye.”

“Sam said that this was because a…” She does the fingers again. “…’mighty dread’ had seized your troubled minds.”

Bob pulls a face, suggestive, he hopes, of the notion that Sam might do better with a bit less book-learning and a bit more watching of the flock by night.

“After which, and you’ll understand our concern here, it appears that both yourself and Sam, left the flock and went into town with the intention of visiting a newborn baby, apparently located in a stable.”

“Aye.”

“Just to be clear…” She smiles, the sort of smile that hints at men in white coats and the idea that Bob might like to take a little bit of time off quite soon. “..You didn’t know the family with the baby? They weren’t relatives or close friends?”

“No.”

“You, and Sam, simply decided to leave the sheep, and visit a baby because you were told to by a ‘heavenly throng’.”

“Aye.”

“And, still just so I’m clear – no one’s in trouble here – you hadn’t been erm… drinking at all prior to leaving the flock.”

Bob shakes his head.

“Ok. Not that I’m accusing anyone. I’m sure a little drink every now and then to keep the cold out won’t do any harm, especially at Christmas.”

She pauses and re-runs the sentence in her head. Bob crinkles his brow.

“Anyhow, you do understand our concern, I’m sure. Given that your current role is very much sheep-focussed, any time spent outside of immediate shepherding arena, should really be booked in advance using the green form, which then has to be approved by myself or Mr Hargreaves.”

“Aye.”

“Good. Good.” She does the smile again. “Well, so long as that’s clear.”

 

In which I share a very little story what I wrote

I don’t usually blog stories or poems, but just for variety (and because it’s far too silly to try to actually sell) here is a little storyette what I wrote. It’s called “Bored”.

The sky hangs dark and menacing above the horizon. Rain beats mercilessly onto the cold barren land. A light shines from a single dwelling-place, defiant against winter’s icy hand.

Inside two men survey their labours, waiting for the coming of the hour.

The older man speaks. “Come forward, young apprentice, and behold.”

“Behold what?”

“Do it properly. We agreed.”

A sigh. “Behold what, oh glorious and worthy master?”

“Behold the power in this land writ large.” He holds aloft a manuscript covered in mystic runes. “Above us,” he declaims, “only the Great Ones. Below us, the minion classes quake in their fear.”

The young one takes the manuscript and reads in wonder. “Then it is finished?”

“It is.”

Silence.

“Why are maintenance-”

A sharp look from the wiser older man quashes his tongue. He tries again. “Why are those who tend…” he shrugs, ”…those who tend this mighty ground on which we stand shown green?”

“Because, my youthful friend, green is the colour of hope. Green is the colour of life. Green is the colour that was prophesied.”

The younger man pauses. “Can we stop doing this now, Dave?”

The older man scratches his armpit and gazes out across the Rotherside and Armley Business Development Centre carpark. “’Spose.”

His colleague puts down the manuscript and spins on his seat. “It’s good that you finished the Org Chart.”

A sigh. “It’s ok. You wanna do corridor chair races?”

The young one nods. “Why are Maintenance in green?”

Another sigh. “I quite like green.”