Shush was a small flash fiction story that wrote itself. I'm not sure the word 'Story' actually applies either. It's more of a mood piece. A piece of writing to reflect on. I wasn't sure what I felt about it on completion. That's very unusual for me. My gut instinct is pretty good in determining the quality of a piece of finished work. So I sent it to a writer friend of mine along with another piece of flash fiction that had already been accepted for publication*.
His response was interesting because he preferred Shush. He pointed out several elements and explained why he liked it so much. I was pleased that he liked it and surprised. Armed with positive feedback I sent the story off to Theme of Absence.
Theme of Absence publish speculative fiction. I've sent them work before and had it rejected, but they were encouraging and at the time requested to see more of my work. At the time I didn't have anything that fitted with their submission guidelines, but Shush seemed to be a good fit. Thankfully, they liked it too and it's due to be published early April. I'll post again nearer the time. Shush will be available to read for free.
* That other story I referenced... I've been playing around with pen names lately and it's an acceptance that I've had under another pen name. There's no reference to the story anywhere else on this website. I'll do a post on pen names sometime during April.
The Flash Fiction challenges in Issue 1 & 2 of Firewords Quarterly were a great success. Issue 1 saw us publish four challenge winners. The quality of the submissions for issue 2 took us completely by surprise and we ended up publishing six winning entries. In no particular order the winning entries were:
The Fall by J. T. Harrell
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Richard B. Knight
The Right Words by Vicky Walker
Lost in a Familiar Place by David Wiley
The Rink by Andrew Patch
My Evil Twin by Alison Wassell
Submissions are open for Issue 3 along with a new flash fiction challenge. If anyone is interested here's the prompt:
"She regretted it instantly, but it was too late."
The rules are simple. 400 words max. The story must contain, or be inspired by the above prompt. The all important deadline is Friday 3rd October. What do you win? Publication and a complimentary print copy of the magazine. What have you got to lose? At the very least you'll get feedback on your entry.
Don't forget that we're also on the lookout for quality poetry and fiction. Full details can be found here: http://www.firewords.co.uk/submit/
Get submitting & Good Luck.
Those of you that like to read flash fiction might like to know that you can read my first piece of published flash fiction. It’s called Monsters and it started life as a challenge pointed out to me by my South Korean writing buddy J T Harrell. The original challenge was to write a 13 word story, which both of us managed to do but neither of us managed to get our efforts published by the magazine running the challenge. That was back in 2013.
I always liked my effort so every now and then I went back to it making revisions here and there, and expanding it beyond the 13 word limit. A couple of months ago I stumbled across Hellnotes.com and if you’re a horror fan I suggest you check them out.
One aspect of Hellnotes is Horror In A Hundred. All you have to do is write a 100 word maximum flash fiction story, send it to them, and if they like it they’ll publish it.
Without further ado here’s the link: http://hellnotes.com/horror-in-a-hundred-monsters-by-m-j-wolfson
Writers are you up for a challenge? Submissions for Firewords Quarterly Issue 2 are now open. As usual we’re looking for great fiction & poetry from new and established writers. In addition we’re holding a flash fiction challenge
We had some great responses to our last challenge but let’s see if we can raise the bar even further. If we like your efforts your story gets printed and you receive a complimentary copy of the magazine. It doesn’t matter where you’re based we ship globally. We genuinely welcome new writers and if we do decline your submission you will get feedback. So you really have nothing to lose. At the very least you will get concise independent feedback on your work.
Here’s our submissions link: http://www.firewords.co.uk/submit/
Good luck & happy submitting - Mike
Its been far too long since my last post. I can sum up the reason why with just three words: Busy, busy, busy. Ok, so it’s one word repeated three times, but it’s the best excuse I have.
Anyway, onto what’s been happening…
Do you remember Project 13? I hope you do, it’s the project that saw the publication of The Thirteenth Camera. The talented editors behind the project want to do it all again. This time the anthology they have in mind will have a theme of ‘Saints & Sinners’. I’ve written a very early draft of my particular entry which is entitled Acid House.
I couldn’t turn the opportunity down. Did I find the original project frustrating? At times, Yes! But only because I was forced to work in a different manner. The creative collaboration between the editors and the writers was excellent, and I learned a great deal during the experience.
Speaking of that original project sales of “13 The Anthology” are trickling in. We had an excellent review from Soundsphere Magazine which you can find here: http://www.soundspheremag.com/reviews/book/book-review-13-the-anthology/
I am immensely proud of the specific reference the review made regarding The Thirteenth Camera:
The collection closes with another tale that would sit easily alongside books of the ‘New Weird’ ilk with a shot in the arm of arresting surprise not unlike Ian McEwan’s ‘Solid Geometry’.
We could use some more reviews so if anyone reading this would like to offer an independent review on Amazon, or via their own blog, let me know. A free copy for review purposes can be arranged. (Note: This is not a plea for gushing five star reviews. It’s a request for honest feedback be it praiseworthy, constructively negative, or some fence sitting middle ground.)
Unrelated to any project is a new piece of flash fiction entitled The Ending. It’s a little bit experimental with a non-standard narrative, but I’ve got an eye on a couple of magazines that might be interested. Feedback from trusted sources is currently good on this one.
The My Stories section of the Musings has been updated to include The Ending and Acid House, and gives a little bit more information about those stories.
The Useful Links section of the blog has been updated with details of:
The Screenwriting Goldmine http://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/
Gareth L Powell http://www.garethlpowell.com/
More information on both those site is contained in the Useful Links section.
The Favourite Quotes section has had an abundance of new quotes added. I’ve re-structured this page too. I’ve now listed the quotes alphabetically based on author surnames. For various reasons I didn’t want to do this, but it’s the simplest way of checking which quotes I’ve already got listed and which I haven’t. The criteria for listing quotes remains the same. Any quote has to resonate with me in some way. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with the sentiment behind any listed quote, it may mean that the quote makes my blood boil. I hope you find them interesting, inspiring, provocative, but most of all engaging.
If anyone’s interested in a flash fiction writing challenge then you might want to consider a game of Flash Cricket. If I could remember the blog where I originally stumbled across this little gem then I’d acknowledge the credit here, but unfortunately I can’t.
All you need is twenty random words. These will do:
Now copy those words into a separate file, and leave them there until you’ve forgotten any of the words on the list. It took me a good few weeks.
Once you’ve erased all remembrance of the twenty words get yourself into the mood for a non-stop writing session. This has to be done in one go. It’s all about creative spontaneity.
Ready? Good, then open up the list, read the first word and start writing incorporating that initial word. As soon as you’ve used the first word, check the second one, and continue writing incorporating each of the twenty words in order. It can be really difficult to make the links between the words, but the creative challenge is really fun.
The original rules allow 20minutes for the task. I think that’s fine if you’re a practiced flash writer. If you’re new, or relatively new to flash fiction, then give yourself anything from 20 minutes to an hour maximum.
Don’t be worried about the end result. There isn’t a writer out there who will produce a work of genius based on a random string of 20 words. It’s a fun exercise and nothing more. It’s there to trigger your imagination.
I found it to be very effective way of loosening up the old writing muscles.
Here’s my effort which I’m happy to share as it has no life outside of the challenge. It’s presented as is, warts and all as we British say, just how it first came out. No re-writing, no polishing, no corrected grammar. Here goes:
The man looked out over the Thames from a private area of the terrace at the palace of Westminster. Shadows from Big Ben and Westminster Bridge lay across the wide expanse of water. Sunlight glistened off the tops of the red buses as they crossed the bridge, like sparks coming from a flint.
On the other side of the embankment he could see a broken down tourist boat. The heat haze coming from the broken down engine caused a shimmer.
He thought about the various security arrangements at the front of the palace, the CO19 officers with machine guns, the police officers at all the entrances, and yet here he was, enjoying a pint on the terrace and there was nothing but a stone wall and the Thames. He wondered if it was something they’d overlooked; was a stealth attack by river possible?
He sometimes wished that he didn’t need to worry about these things. He wondered what it was like to have a normal job, almost to the point of jealousy.
He helped himself to a handful of complimentary cashew nuts that had been placed on the tables.
“Mr.Priest, Mr. Priest, sir.”
His reverie was broken. He turned to look at his caller. A Serjeant-at-arms adorned in traditional attire – green tights, white shirt, black blazer, and oversized gold medallion – stood at the entrance to the terrace. His hair slicked back with far too much oil.
“Yes, what is it?”
“The minister has sent me to find you,” the serjeant said.
“Well keep looking. You haven’t found me and my mobiles turned off,” James Priest said.
The serjeant was about to remonstrate but he saw the look in Priest’s eyes and he turned away like a child scolded by his mother.
Priest knew what the minister wanted to talk about, but it wasn’t strategy or spin that could solve this predicament. No, this particular puzzle called for a certain type of steely determination and that would have to come from Priest himself, not from some Eton educated Champagne Charlie.
He took a swig from his pint, and wondered how it had come to this: Operation Bergamot, huh, what a disaster.
The minister would be looking to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, and he’d expect Priest to help. But he wouldn’t do it. Too many bad things, morally indefensible actions, had happened. The solution had to be buried somewhere in the throes of honesty.
That thought took him back to an article he once read about Cassius Clay. The young boxer had just won his Olympic gold medal, and he went into a burger bar on the banks of the Mississippi. They refused to serve him as the server stated the company policy, “We don’t serve niggers.”
The young Clay replied, “That’s alright. I don’t eat em.” He walked outside and hurled his gold medal into the Mississippi.
To Priest those were the actions of a man being true to himself, and that’s what he had to do now.
The minister would exert political pressure, and possibly even threaten Priest. He knew he’d have to stand his ground, almost tiger-like in his resolve.
He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a keyring. An innocent looking item, but one of the keys amongst the bunch opened far more than a lock, it opened secrets. Shadows and silhouettes. Lies and deceits.
He looked back out over the Thames and saw an empty hamburger wrapper floating down the river. Would that be him or the minister? Yesterday’s Emperors, and tomorrows litter in the wind.
As a precaution Priest had left a detailed written account of events in case he had an ‘accident.’
He smiled at how much it had cost him to get the document witnessed by a solicitor, and the difficulty of finding a solicitor who would agree to secrecy without seeing the contents of the document first. Priest looked up at the impressive palace, more commonly – but incorrectly - known as the Houses of Parliament. Despite being the seat of government it was still a royal palace, although the last monarch to have been in residence was King Henry VIII. How much easier things would have been back then? All he would have had to do was write down his story, and seal the manuscript with his official seal stamped into hot candlewax. No witnesses, no costly solicitors.
Even now he had doubts, but he knew that absolution lay in truth.
He looked around him at this place of privilege, and he knew it would be his last day here. He would have to resign. The press would have a field day, it was only a few hours now and the story would break.
They would pension him off, and he’d retire to the coast. The minister would face the threat of criminal proceedings.
He still had the opportunity to back track and play more of the minister’s games. It was the easier option to take, and there would be financial rewards, gifts, as a thank you.
Priest once again thought back to the young Cassius Clay.
He wondered what the price for redemption would be? But he knew it was priceless, and with that thought his course was set.
- End -
The words I struggled with the most were Bergamot, and Candlewax. I think it shows too!
If you’ve got a writer friend who wants to tackle the challenge then rope them in. I did this at the same time as my writing buddy J T Harrell. We swapped the end results and gave each other constructive feedback. It’s also useful to see how another writer has utilised the words. My word count is high. I’m sure a more experienced flash fiction writer would complete the challenge in way under 800 words.
It’s a game you can play and repeat. Sites like Random Word Generator: http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator will allow you to generate new lists.
That’s it from me. Take care,
I was having an online chat with my writing buddy, and fellow Project 13 collaborator, the immensely talented J T Harrell.
JT was telling me how he'll initially attempt to write out a story idea as a 250 word piece of flash fiction. If he manages to get to that limit, or below, then the story stays as a piece of flash fiction. If it just can't be done then he sets about writing a short story, or possibly even a novella.
It's an interesting technique / process.
The feisty fellow also laid down a flash fiction challenge: Write a max 250 word story. The theme was voyeurism, but we agreed we were able to interpret voyeurism in any way our muses demanded.
Prior to the challenge I'd never managed to finish a story in under 600 words.
The challenge turned out to be a great piece of creative fun.
It wasn't without it's frustrations. I aborted the first attempt. I was thinking about it too much, trying to be too clever, and failing.
I then did what I usually do best. I emptied my mind and just wrote. Those who know me well will tell you there's not a lot to empty!
The end result was "The Man on The Train" completed in 220 words. I doubt anybody would call it a masterpiece. It isn't. But it's very me. Simplistic and above all it's tongue in cheek. Nothing more than a bit of fun.
Creatively, I took a lot from the challenge. 250 words isn't much. I found myself ruthlessly editing. If a line of prose wasn't moving the story forward then it became history. I loved some of the lines I had to delete. I can honestly say that I've never been so hard on myself in any previous story edit. It was a real eye-opener and I know that all my future edits are going to benefit.
I doubt I'll work in the same way as JT but I wanted to share the experience.
JT came up with a story that had more depth than mine. A kinky tale about a blind man who shares his wife with a sighted man. The sighted man has to describe what he's seeing as the blind man's wife reaches her climax. I loved the concept. As a writer it's an idea that can be tackled in many ways. My only complaint is that he thought of it before I did.
I'm beginning to understand, and appreciate, flash fiction to a much greater extent.
A lot of the story can be outside what we see on the page. The trick is to use the right words to make it so.
I won't be neglecting the longer short story, but I can see my flash fiction output increasing.
M J Wolfson - That's me.