Shock treatment

The first page of 'Like a Dog' in the Future Shock anthology

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Future Shock, the anthology of the winning stories from the 2018 Retreat West short story competition.

I made the shortlist for this earlier in the year and, as a result, I have a story in the book alongside nine others and ten pieces of flash fiction. My story, Like a Dog, was inspired by Kafka’s The Trial – being a sort of tongue-in-cheek update of the novel for the social media age.

The event featured readings from several of the winners. Joanna Campbell read her story, Will You Go Out Tonight?, a hugely impressive piece that was clearly a worthy winner in the short story category. Alexis Wolfe also read part of her story, The Stutter, which hooked me right away and made me eager to read the rest of it.

On the flash side, Sherry Morris read her funny and touching Sticking Point, about a young boy’s love for Magnum PI, which took third place in the category. The brother of second-place flash winner Fiona Mackintosh also read her story Old Woman Cooking Eggs, Diego Velazquez 1618 in her stead. This one was a real sensory feast and I’m looking forward to reading it again.

Thanks to all at Retreat West for the wine, cake and company, and for selecting my story for the anthology, which marks my first appearance in a book.

An ebook version is available from the Retreat West website, while the print edition can be bought from Amazon.

Infinite best

The Liars’ League ‘Infinity & Beyond’ night last Tuesday was a suitably epic affair, with five superb stories and five amazing performances. Tony Bell did a fantastic job with my story, Frozen Futures, elevating every word, and the video is now up on YouTube.

Each of the other four stories was very different, showing just how widely a theme can be interpreted. Wan Shinfah’s London 2025, read by Cliff Chapman, was an expertly timed and controlled story about time-travel disaster tourism. Proxima Centauri, written by Oliver Parkes and read by Greg Page, about the clone crew of an interstellar colony ship, was the most traditionally sci-fi tale and built up slowly to a devastating climax. Alice Franklin’s How to be an Astronaut, read by Gloria Saunders, was a fun meditation on dead-end jobs and childhood dreams, while The Martlet, read by Lois Tucker and written by Abigail Lee, was an elegiac tale about a woman haunted by recurring visions of a heraldic bird, referencing Bede’s description of life as being like a bird flying briefly through the noise and light of a mead hall before disappearing once again into the dark beyond.

The Future

I’ve had another story accepted by Liars’ League! Frozen Futures will be performed by one of the League’s retinue of amazing actors at their sci-fi night on Tuesday 11 June. There will be four other stories on the night, promising a mix of “deep space, time-travel tourism, cryogenics gone wrong, vanishing clones, astronautical ambitions and a terrifying game of Murder in the Dark”.

The event will take place at The Phoenix on Cavendish Square in London, with doors at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. I cannot resist posting another link to David Mildon’s reading of my dungeon master story for the Liars’ League Trick & Treat night last year, which was beyond-words-amazing. Should be a great night.

Elsewhere, the Retreat West 2018 short fiction anthology will be launched at a special party in Reading in September. The collection will be titled Future Shock, after one of the stories inside, and will include my Kafka-inspired entry, Like a Dog. This will be the first time I will have a story in an anthology, so I am really excited about it.

Every dog

I found out this afternoon that I’ve been shortlisted for the Retreat West short story competition, a piece of news perfectly placed to brighten up ‘Blue Monday‘. My story, Like a Dog, will appear along with nine other short pieces and 10 flash fictions in the 2019 anthology. There is also a final round of the competition to decide first, second and third places, which will be judged by Paul McVeigh. Results on this are due in February, but to be honest getting into the anthology is such a great start to 2019 that I already feel like a winner. Cash prize would be highly welcome, though.

The full shortlist for the competition can be seen on the Retreat West blog page.

A league of their own

The video of David Mildon reading my story, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, for the Liars’ League Halloween night is now up on the Liars’ League YouTube channel. David gave a truly legendary performance, and it was quite amazing to hear my words brought to life in that way. It was a whole new experience for me.

The YouTube page also includes links to the other five stories performed on the night. I particularly enjoyed Victoria Finan’s Stawberry Creams, read by Margaret Ashley, and Dan Howarth’s Hide, Go Seek, read by Math Jones, but I thoroughly recommend watching them all. There was some wonderful writing and plenty of scary twists and shocks.

The next Liars’ League event is a Christmas special and takes place on Tuesday 11th December. If you’re in London on the the night, you should definitely go along.

Scare stories

I’m very excited to say that a story of mine will be performed at the Liars’ League Halloween event at The Phoenix in central London on Tuesday 9th October.

The story, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, is about a disgruntled AD&D dungeon master and, along with my CRPG story from last year, is probably the geekiest thing I’ve ever written.

Liars’ League is a monthly reading series I’ve wanted to get a story accepted by for a while. The premise is that writers submit stories and professional actors perform them. It’s a great idea and I can’t wait to hear my story come to life in this way. Previous stories in the series have been broadcast on Radio 4.

Doors are at 7pm and entry costs £5, which is a bargain for a night of six scary Halloween tales! Full details are up on the Liars’ League website.

One in a million

I have a story out in the first issue of a new lit mag, A Million Ways. The story, titled Everybody’s Waiting, is – perhaps typically – somewhat morbid. You can buy a copy from the mag’s Facebook store.

Thanks to Dan Hancock and the team at A Million Ways. They’ve done a great job putting together a beautiful little magazine, which I know must have been no easy task. You can read more about Dan’s inspiration for the mag in an article he wrote for the Dorset Writers’ Network.