Category Archives: Short stories

Books, Work and WIP

Work and life do have a habit of catching up with you and I will admit that after the busy day job, there is nothing more satisfying that settling down with a good read.

My current WIP (work in progress – yes, another Carentan book), has been completed in as far as a first draft has been written and I’m now working on a second draft. Lots of plot holes that need fixing, but I hope to get it out to an editor some time soon.

In the meantime I am getting continually distracted by reading (and work, of course), which I am excited to share with you. I’ve been exploring different types of writing and particularly classics which I have not yet tried. Some of my recent reads, include Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, which is an extraordinary psychological thriller. I’ve also just finished a biography of Angela Carter, whose work The Bloody Chamber has been had huge influence on my writing over the years – particularly my short stories. Deerskin by Robin McKinley (another of my favourite authors), has the timeless quality of a fairytale with the page turning quality that I have come to expect from the author. I’m currently reading Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy.

The curious thing that I have noticed about classics, is that the authors employ a variety of techniques and styles that in time have become out of vogue and in some cases, a red flag for novice writers. Some (not all) of these works are littered with exclamation marks, for example, and a proliferation of adverbs, rambling narratives and over descriptive paragraphs. The other thing that I have noticed as a reader, is that I am willing to forgive these stylistic foibles (according to modern editorial standards) if the author gives me the one fundamental thing that keeps me reading; a damn good story!

So there you have it. Story eats Style for breakfast. But then I may well just eat my own words for breakfast as I’m off now to edit the living daylights out of my second draft.

Kemal’s quote here is quite apt and can be applied just as neatly to story craft as well as martial arts.

Happy Reading!

When They Came For You

The shrieking siren of the police car gets people making the same comment, ‘they’re coming to get you’! Ha ha, very funny, but what if ‘they’ were coming to get you, what if you had a threat of retribution hanging over your head, what if you disregarded the warnings that they were really coming to get you…this set of stories will show you just what some people have been through when ‘they’ were about to interfere with a life…

New horror anthology available from Fiction4All, which includes my short story Just A Woman

Running from a terrifying past of government experiments and conspiracies, Jade was so close to realise her dream of freedom when they came for her…

27 stories from various authors present you with their unique take on When They Came For You

Available now from a variety of retail outlets – read an excerpt here.

Surrey New Writers Festival 2019

Festival flyerLooking forward to attending Surrey New Writers Festival on Saturday 8thJune in Guildford. Fantastic programme of events for the day including; panel discussions, readings, masterclasses on pitching to an agent and building your career as a short story writer. There will be a wellbeing table, with the opportunity to chat about your work, a poetry stage, headline readings and an evening soiree. Phew! That’s a lot to pack into one day, but well worth the price of the ticket (with lunch included). Check out the link above to find out the finer detail.

What I’m really interested in is a panel that I will be chairing on the theme of ‘Female Futures’. We will be discussing the future of women’s writing, as well as women writing the future in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I will be exploring this theme with Kate Potts, whose second poetry collection, Feral, sets out to explore and trouble the boundary between ‘animal’ and ‘human’; Stephanie Saulter, who is the author of novels Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, a science fiction trilogy which uses the lens of an altered humanity to take a new look at the old issues of race, class, religious extremism and social conflict; and Kerry Drewery, the YA author of Cell 7, Day 7 and Final 7, a dystopian trilogy which takes a sinister look at the future of the justice system. Join us on the 8thJune for what promises to be a fascinating discussion.

During the day, we will also be launching our third print issue of the Stag Hill Literary Journal, carrying the same theme of Female Futures. My story, Shooting Stars, will appear in this issue; a time-travelling alt-history look at one hundred years since British women were given rights to vote. Copies of the issue will be available for purchase and we will also be doing readings during the day.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Surrey New Writers Festival

Slide from Surrey New Writers Festival
At the weekend, I joined a lively group of writers in Guildford at the Surrey New Writers Festival at G-Live, organised by the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. The mix of discussion panels and workshops made for some insightful debates, including; literary start-ups, creating and nurturing a support network, writing for TV and Film, a panel of agents, publishers and editors as well as a lunch time workshop delivered by writing coach and author, Melissa Addey. There was also a poetry stage going on throughout the day with readings from special guest poets.

It was a great opportunity to network with local writers and chat with students and staff from the University, who invited me along to do a reading at the evening launch of the Stag Hill Literary Journal. As a contributor to the inaugural issue, I was honoured to read an extract from my short story, Habitat, an near-future SciFi story, which appears in the journal. Stag Hill Literary JournalYou can follow the future of the journal on their facebook page here, where you can get a copy of Issue One, read the online version or send in your own submissions. Thank you to M.E. Rolle and the editorial team for the opportunity to network and share my work with a wider audience.

 

 

Save

A Darker Shade of Green

Cemetary Moon
This is a story about recycling.

Recycling? I hear you say… sounds a bit boring. But bear with me. This is environmentalism explored on multiple levels.

And… there are monsters lurking at the bottom of the garden.

Sustainability is a dish best served with a touch of darkness. Enjoy.

Available here from Cemetery Moon.

 

At Goodge Street

My latest short story, At Goodge Street, is published today in STORGY Magazine; an online literary short story magazine which aims to ‘challenge literary conventions and experiment with genre, style, form and content’.

What I like about STORGY is that it is an exploration of story across genres and media that at its heart examines what it means to be us… to be human. You’ll find art, culture, books, TV and film, competitions, interviews and more. But before you explore the other delights STORGY has to offer, take a quick trip to Goodge Street, where you’ll find a weird adventure awaiting you.

At Goodge Street follows the story of a couple who cross the boundary between fantasy and reality, playing a hidden game of love and betrayal against the backdrop of the myth and legend of ancient Hindu demons and gods.

Thank you to the staff at STORGY for publishing my story and I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

The Gone Gods

Gone GodsWhen I was a girl, my granda used to take me and my siblings for long walks in Ashridge Forest. We explored acres of glorious beech and oak woodlands, crunching through the bracken and collecting beechnuts and acorns to use as projectile weapons in the eternal sibling rivalry war. Trees have always fascinated me. The garden of my childhood was filled with hardy tree-climbing inspiration; Pines tall enough to see over the town and across the downs, Horse Chestnuts with perfect nooks and crannies for makeshift tree houses and stashing secret conker supplies. So, I guess it’s not surprising for me to link my love of trees and forests with my love of fantastic fiction.

The Gone Gods is one in a series of stories that feature dryads, nymphs, wood elves and other magical creatures. Writers have handled dryads in different forms for many years. Such stories are as old as the gods themselves. We find dryads represented throughout literature; Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Virginians by William Thackeray, and particularly as symbols of nature in; On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad and On the Plethora of Dryads by Sylvia Plath.

Dryads can also be found in fantastic fiction; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Belgariad by David Eddings. I am sure that you can come up with many more examples.

This short novelette, The Gone Gods, is three chapters, which explore the juxtaposition between modern urban life and ancient myth; how these wonderful and alien creatures rub up against the modern Londoner. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Speak to Me

New RealmMy story, Speak to Me, is published this month in New Realm.

If you follow me on Pinterest, might have noticed my board for Dryads and Trees where I have been collecting pictures and researching dryads in literature to inform my latest obsession.

According to Greek mythology, dryads are considered to be shy creatures, supernaturally long-lived and intrinsically linked to their trees. In the case of hamadryads, they are quite literally part of their tree and if the tree dies, so do they. Dryads are also known as wood or tree nymphs; ‘Nymph’ meaning ‘young woman’ in Greek, so they are always female. They never grow physically older, though they are very long-lived, wise and intelligent. They do not like being disturbed but will always be friendly if approached in the right way.

Generally, they preside over groves of trees and forests. A dryad is born with a certain tree over which she watches and will punish mortals who harm trees. Animals and trees are friends of the dryads who are thought to be their protectors.

This is a story about a dryad I found in a local park in East London. She too is quite shy, but harbours a deep desire to start conversations with people. Ironically, she has a curse hanging over her, which makes this particular yearning somewhat tricky.

 

Save

Unheard

The Mechanics' Institute ReviewAs writers we strive to engage in sensory description to bring alive our stories for readers. Through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste we can evoke a sense of the familiar and colour our characters with graphic depth. So, I thought I’d mix it up a bit in this story. Synaesthesia is an extraordinary condition where the stimulation of one sense automatically triggers sensations in one of the other five senses. For example, sound triggering a tactile response, music or voices seen as colours. I chose to play about with touch and taste in this case, but I’ll let you, my curious reader, decide for yourself how well you think that worked.

This particular story was also inspired by the deep divisions in our society that are growing ever wider and threaten our unique and inclusive cultural identity. The story takes us into a near future that is already sitting on our doorsteps. As a writer, you can’t help but reflect what you see going on around you. Whether set in our world, a future world or a re-written past, stories give us the opportunity to take a good look at ourselves and wonder what we can do to make the world a better place.

Thank you to The Mechanics’ Institute Review Online for publishing Unheard.

The Watchers

Steampunk shipI became interested in steampunk fiction when I used it as a theme to research London’s influence on the genre as part of my MA in Creative Writing.

As well as discovering a rich backdrop of inspiration, I uncovered untapped memories of my own. When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take me and my siblings to traction engine fairs. I remember the green fields and muddy tracks, bold red and green painted engines with huge wheels and pumping pistons. Most of all, I remember the noise and smell; the sudden whoosh as steam was released that made me leap behind the safety of my grandfather and set my heart hammering against my ribs. The grimy, oily scent would stay in my nostrils for days and linger on the periphery of my senses. I was barely the height of those massive cast-iron wheels and the engines terrified me, deeply embedding a sense of awe. It is that same sense of awe that drew me towards speculative fiction with its big question of ‘what if?’ and then steampunk fiction, drawing on a nostalgia that has sat in the back of my mind for most of my life. If science fiction deals with the ‘what if?’ of pure invention, then perhaps steampunk deals with the ‘what then?’ – a reimagining of what has already been discovered.

My aim was to write a piece of fiction using the city as a backdrop, evoking a strong sense of place. Victorian London has always been a classic backdrop for steampunk and because I know the city well, I felt able to feed on its nostalgia. I chose Paris because it fascinates me and the similarities and differences between the two cities was interesting to explore. So with the background suitably steampunk, I managed to get in a bit of steam-powered tech alongside the retro-futuristic inventions. The protagonist’s story itself attempts to subvert the norms of the historical times, simply by the fact she is female attempting to enter a male dominated profession. And of course, there have to be aliens involved somewhere.

Hope you enjoy it – published this week in Electric Spec.

%d bloggers like this: