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Monthly Archives: August 2014

So this weekend had the odd moment to grab sometime to write flash for the virtual competitions that linger out there (wherever out there is). Was incredibly pleased/shocked/stunned etc to find my 500 word short entered into Luminous Creatures Press‘ Summer of Short Stories taking first place.

The prompt this week was this rather satisfied creature:

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The photo prompt at first left me staring at a blank screen, a lack of inspiration when I then perused Karl A Russell’s entry (that you should read along with the other entrants, one story in particular features your erstwhile scribe as a dog!).

Thankfully however the block faded away and I found myself in a Terry Gilliam-esqe realm of bureaucracy, waiting rooms and the everyman. Shades of Gilliam’s wonderful Brazil and 12 Monkeys just kept popping into my mind as I wrote.

Anyway hope you enjoy

Ir

 

Return Ticket

“Number 11232242, please go to desk 48.”

Felix lifted himself up from the plastic orange chair that had adhered itself to his skin. Legs complaining, he set off across the vast room, past rows of bright orange chairs, each occupied by a resident clutching a numbered ticket. Envious glances marked his progress across the hall. Felix didn’t care, he was just glad that his number had finally been called.

Behind the polished glass of the cubicle was an attractive young woman. Felix felt his heart sink as his nemesis stirred in his trousers. They were always attractive and young, no matter his self-delusion he knew they saw him only as the balding overweight middle-aged man he knew he was. Her attention was focused on a computer as he approached, Felix went to cough politely but a raised manicured finger halted him mid intake.

Her fingers danced over the keyboard, she was blonde. Why always blonde?

Fucking hell he felt so horny.

“Boarding details?”

“Ah, somewhere and please, call me Felix …”

The look back, a marvelous combination of disdain and boredom stopped him midsentence.

“In the chute …”

“The chute?”

Another malevolent glare, a finger pointing to the brass tube beside the glass.

“Take a tube, put your documents inside.”

Felix clumsily stuffed his documents into the small canister, then watched it disappear up into the ceiling.

Moments later and with an elegant whoosh it dropped onto the desk in front of the girl.

“So …” She perused his documents, “ hmm, you’ve requested a return.”

“Yes, well when the gentleman at arrivals had explained my options, to be honest a return seemed a great deal.”

“Gentleman?”

“Tall, beard … very helpful … handing out brochures.”

Another raised finger; Felix dutifully fell silent as she picked up her phone. Her voice cheerfully melodic as the other person answered.

‘Hi, this is Claire from processing. Sorry seems Peter’s at it again … I know its just we’ll never hit our quotas if he … excellent okay, yeah and you.’

She put the phone down, her warmth fading immediately.

“Well if it was me you’d be getting the standard eternal darkness package, yet seems my hands are tied, so what were you after?”

“Well I was hoping for something a bit more athletic, sporty, I mean it’d be great if I was into running maybe?”

“”Sporty … well lets see, ah yes seems I have something suitable” her eyes lit up at the information on her computer screen, “if you could just place your hand firmly within the square etched on the glass.

Felix lifted his hand. The glass was cold.

“Will this hurt?”

“Probably.”

She hit a button.

White light.

Felix was running across a field, tongue lolling, heart racing, four legs sprinting in unison. He sped through the thick grass that brushed against his fur, a perfect blue sky above him.

A young blonde woman waiting for him, leash in hand.

Maybe this was going to work out after all.

 

Judge’s Comment

Image Ronin’s masterful humor is on display in “Return Ticket,” the story of a man who chooses reincarnation with lovely results. I love the carefully drawn details in this story: the plastic orange chair that sticks to skin and that raised manicured finger of the woman deciding his fate. Such well-placed details draw the reader further into the story just like a cinematic close-up—a perfect technique for flash fiction. Felix makes a great end, returning to life as dog. I’d choose the same thing.

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Really, he must have made a mistake was the general train of thought as I perused the message from flasher-extraordinaire (in the writerly way) Karl A Russell. It seemed that Karl wanted to co-opt me into being part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. My usual response to such proposals is to feign interest and then flee, for some reason I find the spotlight the least desirable aspect of writing.

I mean most friends, family and acquaintances are oblivious to my alter ego and the fact that I even write.

Yet I appreciated that this was a wonderful opportunity being offered by Karl. Not only to engage with the flash community but a moment to step back and reflect upon my relationship with writing.

So thank you firstly to Karl, who decided that I deserved to stand alongside Beth and Voimaoy, writers who leave me in awe most days. I should also acknowledge that Karl is somewhat of a lurking behemoth in my short writing journey. A towering nemesis whose work has routinely inspired awe and fear in equal measure, not only because his technique is that good, but his mind is that scary. At the same time he is one of the most supportive and generous writers out there. You can find out what I mean by venturing over to his blog, where lurks not only his corpus, but also links back to those writers who have grasped the baton of the tour before (yes I am looking at you Shakes72).

Right intro waffle over now the questions …

What am I working on?

As I write this I’m currently in the post flash weekend comedown, my brain fried by the triple rush of Flash Friday, Luminous Creatures and The Angry Hourglass. Flash! Friday is the reason why I began to write, actually interact with twitter and was the conduit through which I met fantastic writers such as Karl, Shakes, @blukris, @brett-milam, @making_fiction, @theniceone, @fallintofiction and @donnellanjackie and the list goes on and on (so apologies if I missed you x). Flash Friday then led to The Angry Hourglass, comprised of some insanely good writers and then onward to my somewhat sporadic contributions to Luminous Creatures and Finish that Thought.

Aside from the online community, I try to maintain a target of writing at least three tales a month (be it flash or short stories). Currently I’ve just had accepted a Halloween tale of a boy and a stolen talking pumpkin to feature within the anthology In Creeps the Night; finished up a flash fiction based on the Krampus myth; and I’m currently wrestling a tale into shape about a demonic printing press for The Lane of Unusual Traders project being hosted by the Tiny Owl Workshop. I also seemed to have written, purely by accident, a project proposal to host some flash fiction workshops here in my new hometown as part of the QWC 2015 writer sessions.

Finally I would like to mention my flash fiction The Rink, which is currently lurking within the wonderful second issue of Firewords Quarterly and on sale now from their lovely website. Not because I’m in it, but because the talented people at Firewords have created an incredibly beautiful and supportive tome that more people should buy and read.

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The larger projects, as in the one’s that I know I should get on with, yet flash and shorts get in the way. The first is a sci-fi novella featuring time travel, space-arks, mad priests and an immortal organic supercomputer, a second re-write is way overdue. I’m also tinkering with a novel set in 1990s Britain dealing with super powered people, aliens and the end of the world, which is slowly rumbling past seven chapters. And there’s this other thing itching at me to be written set on a desert prison planet, featuring the crew of a solar-powered vehicle known as Behemoth and a visiting VIP dignitary hell-bent on having his own personal army of nasty guys.

That last paragraph feels a tad ridiculous, like the Wizard of Oz I prefer keeping things hidden away, but slowly these projects are taking shape. One day I might indeed release them into the wild. Watching them soar elegantly into the sky before being gunned down by agents and publishers.

Sob!

How does my work differ from others of its Genre?

Ah the genre question, if pushed I would probably say that I lean normally towards a dystopian inspired narrative which riffs on everything I’ve read, watched, played, strummed, eaten or ridden. I’ve always been inspired by writers who can blend the everyday with the surreal/fantastical (e.g. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Iain Banks, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Mervyn Peake) and filmmakers who stretch cinematic convention (e.g. Nicolas Roeg, Christopher Nolan, Kubrick, Powell & Pressburger).

From such minds I’ve learnt that genre is there to be both fetishized and subverted, a path of thematic conventions that one can seek solace from and deconstruct. However, at the center of everything is the desire to simply write something I want to read, whether it is generically pure, a mash-up or subversive. Each time I sit down, all I’m striving to achieve is to simply enjoy the experience of writing that piece at that point in time.

So to answer the question, my work doesn’t differ, I lack the requisite talent to reach such heights. Yet I find it amazing that my work does exist, albeit virtually, alongside the millions of other tales that spring into life each day.

Maybe one day Neil Gaiman might stumble across one of my tales.

And that scenario I’m pretty content with.

Why do I write what I write?

Because I have a scratch that cannot be itched.

Because it makes me happy.

Because the elation at nailing that final line is as good as scoring a goal (career total three thus far) or car jacking in front of a police officer in GTA. Much like Karl however my writing style, ideas, passion and themes are rooted in a childhood obsession with film and comics. Many childhood summers were spent lying in in the shade of a tree, sweet cigarettes in my pocket, reading Watchmen, X-Men, Halo Jones, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis and Judge Dredd. Or consuming pirated film after film on our battered VCR, from Evil Dead to The Crazies, Condor Man to Performance.

Be it on page or celluloid I always noticed that I was never really interested in the artwork or the film effects, I was always drawn to the characters and the narrative. I gained as much pleasure from imagining the world beyond the frame as I did with what was actually contained within it. Writing just seemed the natural way of exploring that interest. And for a while I scribbled and wrote, working on ideas, supported by some amazing teachers and then …

Well I would then like to say that I spent my formative years writing, filling journal upon journal till in my twenties we burnt a giant paper Wicker Man sacrificing my art to some deity or other. But the truth is life just got in the way, the road is paved with good intentions etc. It wasn’t until recently, when I found myself living on the other side of the world, cut off from family and friends that I found myself returning to the idea of writing. As if I could deal with the stresses and strains of my diasporic reality by escaping it for a brief moment. So sometime in 2013 I found myself sat at the computer, white screen, black coffee, and writing a flash (at the time I was unaware that this was the term) about the end of the world, a cannibalistic husband, and a scratched bench.

Told you writing was a way of dealing with being a migrant!

To my surprise/horror/concern the folk at With Painted Words liked it enough to feature it on their site. Subsequently the passion that had lain dormant for so long was ignited and I began seeking other creative outlets.

Then I stumbled into the realm of creativity that is Flash! Friday.

The rest is history, so in truth I feel ill equipped to be answering any of these questions for I’ve only been writing for just over … [checks calender] … ten months. Barely anything in comparison to most of the other dedicated artists I’ve encountered along the way. But I suppose in answer to this particular question it is simply that I write to exist. I write to express what is happening around/within me, and I write because somehow it makes me feel connected to the rest of you.

Hmm.

How does my writing process work?

A lot depends on the prompt and how my brain decides to engage. Most times it’s a period of gestation, the lingering deadline enough to push something to the fore. I then normally scribble with a pencil various thoughts; drawings and dialogue into an A4 notebook (never pen, tales written in ink die on the page for me) and then the inevitable sitting in front of the white flickering screen and watching the thing slowly take shape. Sometimes, albeit rarely, it will be almost instantaneous, like alchemy, a prompt will just scream at me, the idea setting like concrete in my mind, those tales are the ones that go into the odd, dark places.

The writing process needs three further elements, chilled water, espresso and music. The music selection is the key component, the wrong artist, album, or playlist and the writing stalls, the right one however and the story flows. I’m forever in debt to the likes of Sigur Ros, New Order, Pixies and The The for helping me create some of my more layered works.

Then there follows the inevitable moment of rewriting, the hacking and slashing and rendering of fat. Sometimes I’ve found I’ve shredded and rewritten 1200 words for a 300-word piece. Other days the tale just fits like a glove, barely an alteration required.

Then that dalliance with the submit button, and the inevitable dance of rejection that follows.

The Good Bit

Right I’ve waffled on and thank you for being such a tolerant reader. The next section was the one aspect I was uncertain about. Having to select three writers from the extraordinary talent that I have read, engaged with, stalked over the past months, seemed such a foolish task. In the end I had to just pick three whose work, or role in the flash community, have inspired me to work harder at my writing.

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Now the first is an individual (as my internal gooner reminds me) I should despise, primarily due to his staunch support of all things Liverpool. Yet the enigmatically named Zevonesque’s fiction lingers in the darker recesses, capturing effortlessly cinematic imagery. Part of the Poised Pen writing community (alongside other familiar names) back in Liverpool, his skill and dedication to writing as an art form has been incredibly inspiring to a rookie such as myself.

http://www.zevonesque.com/

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The next is someone whose style, playfulness and lightness of touch are just inspiring. StellakateT is a contributor to both the Angry Hourglass and Flash Friday and has a wide range of publication successes, the most recently featuring in an anthology entitled War, Conflict and Resolution anthology. A outstanding writer and active member of the flash community, her support and feedback has always been greatly appreciated.

http://stellalikesspidersandothermyths.blogspot.com.au/

Now the final person, well this is a wildcard. To be honest when I reached out to this person I felt like one of those supporting actors approaching Brando in The Godfather, expecting to get whacked for having the gall to make contact. Yet I should have known better, for such was their enthusiastic response. So, step forward the Godfather, sorry, Godmother of Flash! Friday, writer of immaculate taste and a dedicated advocate for flash fiction, the Dragon aficionado herself: Rebekah Postupak.

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Her incredibly intricate and rich flash fiction is justification enough to warrant a mention in this post. However it is Rebekah’s time, enthusiasm and dedication to creating a space in which writers of all levels and styles are welcome and supported that made this decision a no-brainer. Genuinely, if it wasn’t for Flash! Friday I wouldn’t be writing this now nor would I have reconnected with that kid who dreamt of what lingered beyond the frame all those years ago.

Now go, engage with those three talented writers, tell them how cool they are, and follow the virtual trail back to the rest. There are some talented folk out there on the edges of publishing, working tirelessly, striving hard, not for fame or wealth, just because they have an itch they need to scratch.

So go say hi.

Trust me we really appreciate it.

Best

Ir

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So the little badge above is a marker of my second Flash Master win at The Angry Hourglass. Some incredible work was submitted from some very talented flash writers, so to get the nod was both a surprise and a boost to the old confidence. The prompt was supplied by the talented artist/photographer/writer/raconteur that is @Theshakes72, who this week also doubled up as the judge.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

IR

photo courtesy of TheShakes72

photo courtesy of TheShakes72

The Tinkerer

‘Police been on the phone love … you want to go?’

Cedric shook his head, his gaze never lifting up from his workbench. His wife lingered in the shed’s doorway as if there was more to say. Finally his silence had the desired effect and she left, leaving behind the usual scent of Chanel and Marlboro. Moments later and Cedric heard the Astra’s engine splutter into life, the sound of tires reversing out onto the road.

Cedric put down the screwdriver. In front of him were strewn the innards of the kitchen radio. He didn’t recall taking it apart, or even if it needed to be fixed. If Danny were here now he’d be mocking his efforts, telling him to buy a new one off of ebay, that no one repaired anything these days.

Wiping his hands on a rag Cedric ventured back into the house. Soon the kettle was boiling, a tea bag dangling in his mug. As he poured the water the phone rang. Cedric reached out, his hand hovering, as if the handset was a coiled serpent waiting to strike. Finally the answering machine kicked in, Danny’s voice cheerfully demanding information after the beep. He should change that, it wasn’t right, tomorrow, tomorrow he’d record a new message.

The beep, Cedric stood waiting for someone to talk, yet there was only the sound of breathing, then the phone was put down.

Cedric picked up his mug, retreating back to the shed. The bike was hanging on the wall, as it had been since the police had returned it. The back end crushed, the rear wheel missing. He ran a finger over the crudely scratched marks that Danny had etched into the seat post in case the bike got stolen: DH 12501. Cedric had been so cross with him that day, so hurt that Danny had defaced his gift. They had bickered, stood by the shed, Danny’s face flushed red with resentment at receiving another lecture.

Then he had left, cycling down the road, head down, pedals turning, disappearing into the grey light rain.

Cedric retreated back to his bench, trembling fingers rebuilding the radio.

 

Judges’ Comment

Cedric’s sad withdrawal into the shed is the only way he can deal with the tragedy at the heart of this tale. He loses himself ‘tinkering’, all the while the ruined bike hanging in clear sight – a bitter reminder.

The father’s view of the value of things countered by his late son’s adherence to a philosophy from our modern ‘throwaway’ culture.

I’ve had the same conversations with my Dad.

I sensed that Danny loved his bike as much as any of the boys in the other stories so far. To him, the etched letters were protection for a precious gift. To Cedric -it’s a defacing.

I felt Danny’s anger and frustration as he cycles off into that ‘light grey rain’.

Cedric’s ‘trembling fingers‘ tell us all we need to know about how much he feels to blame.

Really moving tale.

 

Vardezia, Georgia. CC photo by Ben van der Ploeg.

Vardezia, Georgia. CC photo by Ben van der Ploeg.

Sorry for the ridiculously pompous title of this flash fiction that I submitted for last weekend’s Flash! Friday competition. It was one of those writing moments in which I had half an hour to get the piece done before I had to be off to play football (top of the table clash if you were wondering). For once the tale just flowed out, the theme of a thunderstorm and the photo prompt quickly coming together.

Yet the title just wouldn’t emerge … I sat staring at the screen, time ticking, bereft of any ideas … till I slammed a cliched string of words into google translate … bingo, pretentious title achieved!

Thankfully the judge this week kindly overlooked such flaws and I grabbed the runner up spot.

Hope you enjoy

best

IR

Le Château de Tromperie

Clouds gather, dark laden beasts distorting the world. Even now, as the storm reaches its crescendo I stand on the precipice, burdened by the knowledge that the fortress we have built is crumbling around us.

It had been majestic at its height, polished stones and glistening metal marking our certainty. However the foundations we had lain together was built knowingly upon treacherous sands. A deceitful bedrock, wrought with fissures, that this storm has torn asunder.

Hot white sears across my head, my hands clasping my temple. The lightning consumes everything, filled with rage and frustration. I’m shocked to realise it’s my voice, his rage responding thunderously. Before either of us realise the fortresses ramparts give way, revealing hidden catacombs from which spill our secrets and resentments into the night.

Then the storm abates.

Silence. Broken by the dull drumroll of his wedding ring hitting the table.

I look up, tears streaking his face.

Then he walks out the door.

Clouds gather, dark laden beasts distorting the world. Even now, as the storm reaches its crescendo I stand on the precipice, burdened by the knowledge that the fortress we have built is crumbling around us.

It had been majestic at its height, polished stones and glistening metal marking our certainty. However the foundations we had lain together was built knowingly upon treacherous sands. A deceitful bedrock, wrought with fissures, that this storm has torn asunder.

Hot white sears across my head, my hands clasping my temple. The lighting consumes everything, filled with rage and frustration. I’m shocked to realise it’s my voice, his rage responding thunderously. Before either of us realise the fortresses ramparts give way, revealing hidden catacombs from which spill our secrets and resentments into the night.

Then the storm abates.

Silence. Broken by the dull drumroll of his wedding ring hitting the table.

I look up, tears streaking his face.

Then he walks out the door.

 

Judge’s Comment

Many stories made use of the punctuation provided by a storm, but this one did it particularly well. I loved phrases like “polished stones and glistening metal marking our certainty.” Also, “built knowingly upon treacherous sands” is all you have to read to know this relationship was flawed from the beginning. And finally, the ring hitting the table brings it all together.

John Talbot’s presentation of the Book of Shrewsbury to Queen Margaret of Anjou ca 1445 AD. Public domain, courtesy of the British Library Royal.

John Talbot’s presentation of the Book of Shrewsbury to Queen Margaret of Anjou ca 1445 AD. Public domain, courtesy of the British Library Royal.

So Flash! Friday forced me to tread that genre that, I sadly must admit dear reader, leaves me bereft of imagination, Romance. I blame the years spent watching my mother devour Mills & Boon tomes, the cover always replete with a maiden swooning over some gent of nobility or other. Anyway, as I get repeatedly assured, it’s good to push oneself creatively, so pen in hand I sat down to drawn inspiration from the photo prompt above and the theme of a wedding.

The result, well you can decide for yourself, (it got a mention by the judges so I’ll post that under!)

hope you enjoy (fingers crossed)

The Bride To Be

Luxurious fabrics and fragrant rose petals caressed Isabella’s skin. Today had been a triumph, thousands gathering to witness their union, the bells pealing across the realm, a feast of exotic wonders.

At the ceremony she had stood beside her true love, heart fluttering. She had never looked so beautiful, her dress accentuating every curve. Even the King had noticed, whispering lustful comments as they knelt in front of the Cardinal.

Isabella was prepared to surrender herself, becoming a queen through his conquest. Comforted that the goblet of wine, thrust into his hand as he ascended the stairs, was laced with something slow acting and untraceable.

He would be dead in the morning, a heart attack the doctors would declare.

The nation would mourn and Isabella would vow to honour her departed king by never taking another man again.

Thankfully her true love wasn’t.

She just knew that the reign of Isabella and Beatrix was going to be a joyous one.

 

Judges Comment

This wasn’t the only same-sex marriage entry this week, all of which were a fun surprise, but I loved the lines, “At the ceremony she had stood beside her true love, heart fluttering,” which of course we assume to mean her bridegroom. Then we get, “She had never looked so beautiful, her dress accentuating every curve,” because at first we think it’s describing Isabella, only to, at the end, learn Isabella was describing Beatrix.”

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“Everybody wants to feel that you’re writing to a certain demographic because that’s good business, but I’ve never done that … I tried to write stories that would interest me. I’d say, what would I like to read?… I don’t think you can do your best work if you’re writing for somebody else, because you never know what that somebody else really thinks or wants.”
Stan Lee