December 28, 2009

An acceptance! The Small Town Storyteller

My fourth overall publication acceptance. The Small Town Storyteller will be going into Crow's Nest Magazine early next year. This was a story I did for a travelling show anthology and it was the second story in a row (after Screen Six) that had a time-travel aspect to it.

This was one of those stories where I struggled with the ending and I eventually changed the final 10% completely after its initial rejection - injecting a whole heap of mystery into it that wasn't there originally. You need to craft every part of a story with equal care. "Always bring your A-game" is something I learnt in poker and it's equally valid in writing. Don't sell yourself short, keep the quality high throughout and don't submit poor work.

At 3600 words, this is the longest story I've so far had accepted too. The seed of the story was a famous quotation by Arthur C Clarke: "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I suppose if you travelled back 400 years and told tales of microwave ovens and pagers, they'd burn you as a witch - unless you got yourself to the sanctuary of a travelling show and passed yourself off as a slightly odd storyteller.

The storyteller placed himself high on a branch of a tree and beneath, a hundred or more listened. This man so tall spake with words that were to my ears mighty peculiar. He told the citizens of Norwich about his world, across the great oceans, he said. In his world, I heared him say, a man can travel faster than ten horses and roast a whole fowl in mere minutes. He spake of things that were too fantastic for normal human reason to investigate, but the folk did not wish him ill fortune nor speak poorly of him. Every soul I witnessed enjoyed the show and his stories caused mirth and merriment.

Flight 714

I wrote Flight 714 (any Tintin references, purely accidental!) for the weekly writing contest I particpate in, back in around June/July 2009. The theme that week was "politics" and this is a tale of when politics threatens and extinguishes lives.

I'd read about the anti-socialist repression in South America when I was young and living in Argentina as I currently do, this year was a good time to tackle this issue in a story. Thousands lost their lives being thrown either into the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans from military aircraft. But what would happen if something went wrong?
"Right, they're far off in front, open the ramp."
Manuel flicked the switch above him. He wasn't killing anyone with that switch. Above the roar of the engines, no sound of the ramp opening could be heard but the plane gave a slight kick as the aerodynamic forces wrapping the plane altered their grip slightly.
I have sent Flight 714 off to a couple of magazines, so should hear something back in the next month or two.

December 27, 2009

Under Earthless Skies

This was orginally a 1000-worder I wrote for the weekly competitions I enter. The idea of the story was to examine what happens when you try to defeat something (in this case a automated prison security regime) that is getting stronger and stronger all the time.

I'm going to try and turn Under Earthless Skies into a novella in early January and submit to the Distant Worlds anthology. If I don't manage that in time, there are plenty of other places accepting large sci-fi stories.
The guards here were the machines of your nightmares and could, would kill for fun. We lost a few prisoners every week. You didn't confront this particular regime head on. You went above the arms that could generate 2000 kilos of lift and slam, above those steel and carbon fibre shoulders, behind the ears that could hear a whisper at fifty yards - and you attacked the strongest link in the chain: the brain. That was where Edward came in.


Duotrope is the largest site listing writing markets currently. They report that about 8.5% of story submissions result in an acceptance.

My own figures, at the end of 2009, are currently:

Acceptances: 3
Rejections: 21
Acceptance Rate: 12.5%

In other words, I'm doing better than average...just! I'm hoping for 2-3 more acceptances in January to try and get that figure up nearer 15-16% which would be a very healthy average.

December 26, 2009

The Last Foot

This was probably the strongest of my stories for the now-defunct Fifty Grand project: a collection of fifty stories put together by a great bunch of UK writers in the summer of 2009. Short story publishing has changed a lot in the last twenty years and the stories have now been released back to their original authors for submissions to anthologies, literary magazines and websites, where 99% of short stories get published nowadays.

The Last Foot was written for one of the 1000-word contests I began entering in March, 2009 and the theme for that week was "regret". I got the idea of freezing time, freezing the regret that many would feel caught up in a horrific situation like a plane crash. The story also explored the possibility that the dread felt by the vast majority may not be unanimous:
Sarah Miles, in 34C, is with her boyfriend or rather, her fiancĂ©. His proposal in the fluorescent-lit shame of the hotel restaurant was three dull years too late for her, but she gave him a 'yes' bereft of any hope or desire. Even now, tawdry £155 ring on her finger, she watches the beets rush to greet her and ignores the desperate pawing of now-never-to-be-husband Richard to her left.
I am currently submitting this cheery tale to magazines and will of course update on its progress.

December 25, 2009

Screen Six

This was one of the longer stories I wrote in what was a busy November. I live in one of the swankier stretches of Buenos Aires, many of the plush apartment buildings complete with 24-hour security and balding men sitting in front of multiple CCTV screens. This is where I got the inspiration for Screen Six.

This 7000-worder explores what happens when you alter something in the present due to knowledge you have of the future. Perhaps it's The Butterfly Effect meets The Time Machine, all set in the marbled microcosm of a West Palm Beach apartment complex.
Manny looked at screen six. Pete's Lexus was just as they'd left it: the driver's window broken and some sooty black marks down the door, but he'd seen this just before going down to the garage to see the car in flames. The ground that was visible from the high camera was dry: there were no signs of water from the extinguisher. This was not a live shot.
 I've sent this story off to Northern Frights for their Time Lines anthology. Fingers crossed. If it gets rejected, of course, I'll just get Manny to switch the cameras around. ;-)

December 24, 2009

Those In The Flames

Clive Martyn, who runs the Elements Of Horror anthology, picked up this story in November and it should appear in the spring or early summer of 2010.

I'm old enough to remember having a real fire in my first London house in the 1970s and, as you do, I'd watch the leaping flames and see all sorts of shapes and figures therein. Fortunately, I didn't go quite as far as our protagonist in Those In The Flames.
This time, they plunged down from the hay loft where I set them in motion. They danced through Hayley's pretty hair and threw her dress mischievously over her head to ride on hot torrents to the roof. One young buck took two leaps up her arm, darted through the flames around her head and burst an eye with a skip and a jump. I couldn't help but giggle.
One of the toughest asks of this story was to do it all, start, journey and end, in 500 words.

The Weight Of The Wish

This was an enormously enjoyable romp to write: naughty genies and a whiff of Harry Potter in the school set-up. Several people have told me I should pursue this character into other adventures, which is something I'll have to think about for the future.

Bards & Sages quarterly magazine took up The Weight Of The Wish in November and it will be published in the summer of 2010.
These student genies were all less than 100 years old and didn't understand the cold realities of being a real genie, of spending half a century inside a sodden rum bottle in a flooded cave.  The stench of rum was still on Yushi, he was sure of it.  He was even seeing a healer about the dreams he was having.  The cave. Always the cave.

Storm On Fifth Avenue

I'll always have a soft spot for this story as it was the very first one to be accepted for publication. Someone (and that someone is Karen Romanko!) is going to give me cold, hard cash for these 2000 words.

The anthology is called Retro Spec and should be published mid-2010. The remit was to write a speculative story involving a heavy retro theme and I chose the 1930s construction boom that saw the New York skyline race upwards.

Storm On Fifth Avenue, without ruining the surprise, is about what happens when the paranormal meets a fast-moving construction project. And the New York of the early 1930s is as much a protagonist:
The great city of New York was waking to another day of opportunity. Along the East River, tugs buzzed around huge merchant vessels, passenger liners heading for Europe. Others pushed giant piles of timber. Along every horizon in every direction, a thousand factories spewed steam and smoke into the air. The machine, oiled by the good people of New York, was revving into action, even at this early hour.
I've always had a fascination for the very fabric of buildings being haunted and another of my short stories, Within These Walls, explores this phenomena.

This Blog

For around a year, this blog has held my short stories, but tonight, I've burnt them all and started afresh.

This blog will no longer be about my writing; it will be, somewhat selfishly, about me! My efforts to get published, my acceptances, my rejections, my current projects. And of course, something about the writing process itself, what I struggle with and what I give in to. I'll also talk about some of the ideas and inspiration behind my stories and print excerpts of them.

I guess this will end up a sort of writing diary for myself - I don't imagine anyone else out there will be reading it. :-)