Flash Fiction

kaleidoscopeNo flashy words:
Review of Eating My Words: 2014


Edited by Callum Kerr
Angela Readman
Amy McKelden

One of the beauties of an anthology of flash fiction is that it gives exposure to such a large number of different authors. It was good to see this, rather than many entries by a few authors. Furthermore, the anthology included a section of micro-fiction entries, a form requiring even more skill if a reader’s involvement is to be engaged.

I reviewed last year’s anthology, Scraps, ScrapsBkand approached the present one with happy anticipation. I didn’t have the advantage of seeing the foreword – I only had the e-book.

This year’s title is appealing and apt. It refers to the theme set the writers – The Senses. There was a wide variety in how this was interpreted, and a degree of variety in the quality of writing.

The opening story was totally enchanting in its reversal of perceptions of the rat. With a good arc and subtle references, Becky Tipper’s story set a promising tone for the book.

At the end of the book the winners of the micro-fiction competition displayed the economy of words against the ingenuity of concept.

In the remainder, the following stories pleased me particularly. Different readers will have different preferences, but those stories that feel complete in the read surely master the genre. It doesn’t have to be a surprise ending, but it does need to make sense of the beginning and/or display a clear concept. This blog emphasises the importance of character in writing.  In flash fiction, a character must make an immediate impact.

The imagery in Tasty – a story about pornography – works well, and the conclusion is both believable and restorative. The concept of ‘unfinished stories’ in Dress Sense ensured that the issue of loss and stasis would resonate after the read. This was a sensitive piece as was the much longer story by Sarah Hilary. She paired two unlikely characters and set them forth for an imagined future.

There were several sad reads, and a wry one, Show Don’t Tell, which made me smile. Nik Perring’s story was even more wry. A girl with an addiction to giving up and her boyfriend’s understandable responses suggested two interesting characters who would hold their own in a longer story, but nevertheless the piece had a satisfying conclusion. A wider smile still for What We Do In Our Sleep. It really pays to consider the ridiculous sometimes, for it can illustrate a point – in this case, hypochondria – more clearly than a set of descriptions. Tino Prinzi uses dialogue well and wittily here.

I did balk at some hefty wordiness (“feculent metastatic lesions”) in Seven Breaths, but the psychology of the piece was well understood. Another insightful piece, more about coming to fruition than coming of age, was Launch Pad. It launches the reader into a vivid classroom scene and slyly comments on adult expectations. Handle with Care was itself beautifully handled, displaying sensitivity and poignancy in a piece that explores a child’s revulsion against cruelty.

Michael Marshall Smith totally encapsulated the theme of The Senses in his story, Half-Life, with a very clever plotline. I admired this, as I did the well-written Chekhov’s Gun, for imaginative use of the theme.

Eating      EATING MY WORDS 

It is hard to pick out some stories for mention when there are many that make the purchase of this anthology worthwhile. Death, love, lust, thwarted ambition – all are aspects of the human condition that these writers consider. All the more surprising, then, to read about swallowed kittens, chemically induced sensation removal and the beauty of being an oyster.

Long live the flash fiction genre.

Berko Writers: Learn The Art Of The Short Story With Adam Marek

The characterful writer:

What a good course, and very reasonable price indeed.

Originally posted on ShortStops:

The Berko Writers’ Workshop has announced its next course – a six week programme getting to grips with the art of the short story.

It will be led by Adam Marek, author of the collections Instruction Manual For Swallowing and The Stone Thrower.


Adam won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. His stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and in many magazines and anthologies, including Prospect and The Sunday Times Magazine, and The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2013.

The course runs every Tuesday evening 8pm-10pm from October 7 to November 18 (not October 28 for half-term), upstairs at Here Cafe, Berkhamsted.

Berkhamsted is 35 minutes from Euston and there are four trains an hour, returning late to London.

The course fee is £150 and…

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Writing persistence


Leonid Pasternak


I’ve never read any Stephen King novels because I don’t like the horror or dystopia genres, but now I shall, starting with The Stand, (the novel he rates as his best.)


I just finished his biographical On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft which reveals Stephen King as an avid reader, a no-nonsense advocate of writing skills, an honest, humorous, generous guide and a devoted husband of over thirty years to boot. Such a guide soon impresses with his engaging style and self-revelations. The first half of the book is less about writing than about Stephen King’s early life, hardships, and above all, persistent writing. He writes when he’s hungry, in a corner, on his lap, in a trailer, in a run-down apartment, after ten bit jobs and later a rough day’s teaching. He does everything to put food on the table for his wife and little one before the time when he can prioritise his writing. Then the wondrous telephone call comes and he makes his first big money. (Carrie is the novel).

‘This is such a nice guy,’ you find yourself thinking, ‘I want to know and celebrate his success and then take account of the how and why.’ That success is so immense, but above all, so appealingly hard-won, that you just can’t refuse to accept what he is saying. Essentially, what he says about writing comes in the second half. It is clear, uncluttered, simple and to the point.fountainpenpaper

Many, if not most writers read books about writing: plotting, planning, joining retreats, engaging in courses, identifying underlying themes and despair that their organisation and acquisition of techniques will never be sufficient.

King has no truck with much of this.  His recommendations come down to this: honest, always honest writing, getting the story down ‘as it comes’, ensuring that the action is or could be true of the characters, similarly that the dialogue rings true of them. He is not precious, and does not value pretensions.  His stories all stem from some initial experience and the personalities he has met. Add to this the imagination to latch on to a stunning ‘What If?’

He gets his first draft finished without recourse to beta readers, then puts it strictly away for six weeks. He works on other things.  In the second draft he fills out as well as corrects. At this point he may sit back and think what the novel is really about, what is important and consistent throughout the story.  This is when he might come up with an image or metaphor that enriches the writing. What is very apparent is that Stephen King is excited about what he writes and loves the activity. He is not identifying a genre where he can make money or intending to write blockbusters. He writes with an audience, an ‘Ideal Reader’ in mind.

This book cleared my mind and stopped the flow of words circling round and down the plug-hole.


It’s not a new book and it will have been lauded and praised many times before this.

However, if there is any reader who has not read a book on Writing, they would do well to read On Writing.   It’s changed me from avoiding his novels to seeking them out.




Stand Up Tragedy: Tragic Misadventures

The characterful writer:

Lovely to see the rise of live lit.

Originally posted on ShortStops:

Tragic Misadventures: Some super hot live event slash fic!

Two nights enter, one night leaves: Stand Up Tragedy and Romantic Misadventure team up to delivery a night of tragically romantic variety.

Wednesday 9th July at the Blackheart in Camden
7.30pm till late

Featuring Helen ArneyHayley CampbellRadcliffe RoydsNell FrizzellAllan GirodLily PotkinGloria SandersJoel Golby

Hosted by Kit Lovelace and Dave Pickering.

Plus: Tragic Tales: Story Snappers from J Adamthwaite, the unveiling of some Tragic Scents created for SUT by Jo Barratt from Life in Scents and a Tragic Tombola! Plus live art from Liam Willday.

Tickets in advance £5 from: http://bit/ly/TragicFringe

Tickets on the door: £7

Proceeds from the night go towards taking Stand Up Tragedy to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of Spoken Word at PBH’s Free Fringe. We’ll be at the Banshee Labyrinth…

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Writer? 4 steps towards a writing career


The arduous path to a writer career

Karen Perkins



For today’s post I have a guest writer, Karen Perkins.

I invited her because her story demonstrates a journey from starting to write seriously to established employment. Like many interesting writers, Karen had a developed skill and passion beforehand that could colour her fiction and support it with first-hand knowledge. Like other successful people, she did not let disaster down her, but adapted to new circumstances, using her experience to develop new skills. Furthermore, the experience of writing enabled her to help others improve theirs, then her path through the arduous work of preparing a book for publication led to self-help books on editing and formatting.

Step 1: Interesting experience

Step 2: Perfect skill in writing about it – whether fiction or non-fiction

Step 3: Tell others how to write well.

Step 4:  Provide vital techniques for publishing the book.

Readers of this post can see the path Karen has taken from beginning to end. That is what interested me and led to my invitation. Karen, please tell us: -

My Journey

I have been passionate about books since I first learned to read, and was also a very keen sailor. Unfortunately, I injured myself in the Contender European Championships in 1995 (although still won the ladies title), which resulted in a condition called fibromyalgia. This is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and resulted in the loss of my previous career as a financial advisor.

I started writing, almost as therapy, and it quickly became a compulsion. I cannot see myself ever stopping now! I struggle to travel, and realized this would work against me in looking for an agent and traditional publisher so I decided to self-publish as a way to show publishers I was able and willing to promote and market my books online, as well as—hopefully—prove sales and gain positive independent reviews.

I enjoy the publishing side of writing so much, I have not submitted to a single agent since I pressed that ‘Publish’ button the first time, nor do I expect to. All three of my current books: Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in the Valkyrie Series (historical novels about piracy and slavery in seventeenth-century Caribbean), and Thores-Cross (a historical paranormal stand-alone novel) are #1 best sellers in their categories on Amazon—Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in Sea Adventures, and Thores-Cross in British Horror.

I had established LionheART Galleries with my partner at the time I had started writing, designing, making and selling jewellery, and broadened this to include LionheART Publishing House when we published our first books. This has grown to offer copyediting, proofreading and formatting services for other self-published authors as well as cover design and book trailers. In the past year, I feel very privileged to have helped over one hundred books be published on four continents—some very successfully.

Recently I published The LionheART Guide to Formatting, a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to formatting e-books and paperbacks in Word 2010 to help Indie authors who prefer to do it themselves.        formatting guide


This was followed by The LionheART Guide to Editing, in both UK and US Editions. There are a number of comprehensive grammar guides out there and I wanted to compile a tool which is simple, easy to use, and full of tips to include punctuation and grammatical rules, paying attention to current trends in the publishing industry. The areas I highlighted are the ones I come across most often when editing.  I also detail the method I use when editing and polishing a manuscript for publication. Even if you decide to hire the services of an editor, most charge by the hour and the higher the standard of your manuscript, the lower the final editing cost.

EDITING guide UK - small

As writers, we are wordsmiths, creating a world, characters and story through language, and punctuation is one   of the tools of language. To ignore it, except for rare exceptions, to me is like Monet painting with the wrong colors, or Michelangelo attempting to sculpt using a hammer when a chisel is needed.

Words are what we do, language is our medium and punctuation our tool. When I write, I want to take my readers to my world, to join my characters on their journey, to experience their challenges, traumas, desires. I want them to take this journey with me, without noticing the individual words, full stops or commas. I want them to lose themselves in the story, not in the mechanics of it, and this will only happen if all the elements are right.



This involves checking the detail, then double-checking it, then checking again; not only the spelling, tense, grammar and punctuation, but also any factual information in your manuscript such as real-life names, whether of historical figures, place names or brand names. I will suggest changes and highlight any inconsistencies or contradictions and focus on the writing itself, keeping the reading experience at the forefront on my mind as I work to make sure everything is clear, there is no opportunity for misunderstandings (unless part of the plot), and your novel flows well.



This is the final stage in the process and focuses on the words themselves. It is a detailed check for even the most minor errors and typos—the final polish of your manuscript



There are three main avenues to publish your book as an Indie author: Kindle (KDP), paperback (usually CreateSpace) and EPUB (usually Smashwords), and each avenue needs a different format, each with its own challenges.

Kindle (KDP). The main difficulty in your Kindle format is that what you see in Word is not necessarily what you get on a Kindle after your Word file has been converted to their mobi format. This means indents have to be properly set (tabs or a number of spaces can be corrupted in the conversion). Also, watch out for spaces at the ends of your paragraphs and extra paragraph breaks with can result in blank pages in the Kindle book.

CreateSpace is an Amazon print–on–demand company. Publishing through them means your paperback will be available on every Amazon site in the world (including Book Depository), and they will print and send a copy of your book to order. You therefore have worldwide distribution with little or no set up costs. This is also the format where you can add your own style to the finished book, with headers and footers, different fonts etc., and the main issues here revolve around the sizing of the file, and formatting page numbers etc. correctly.

 Smashwords is the difficult one. They convert your file into a number of formats, the most important of which is EPUB, and distribute to a wide range of online e–book companies, including Barnes &Noble (Nook), Kobo and iBooks. Because your book has to meet the criteria of all these sites, the requirements are more stringent than for KDP above. The best way to ensure your book passes is to use their Nuclear Method, which strips out all the existing formatting, and then start again. It is time consuming (and at times frustrating), but it is the best way of ensuring there is no stray formatting, such as hidden bookmarks or fields, that would cause your book to fail their review process.

LionheART Publishing House

LionheART Publishing House offers low-cost, high-quality copyediting and proofreading for novels, non-fiction manuscripts, scripts, dissertations, poetry, children’s books etc., whether you write in UK English or US:

£12.50 (US$21, €16) per hour

As a rough guide, this usually works out as £5—£8 per 1000 words ($9—$15 or €6—€9)

We also format your book, ready to upload to either or all of the three main sites (KDP—Kindle, CreateSpace—paperback and Smashwords—EPUB). Our charges for this are:

CreateSpace Format: £25, US$42, €32

KDP (Kindle): £25, US$42, €32

Smashwords: £40, US$70, €50

Full details are on the website, including testimonials and links to books we have worked on: www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk/Publishing–Services or you can contact Karen Perkins on publishing@lionheartgalleries.co.uk

We are happy to carry out a no-obligation sample edit so you can make absolutely sure you are happy with our work before you commit.

Karen and LionheART Publishing House are also on Facebook:



and Twitter:




The LionheART Guide to Formatting is now available:




The LionheART Guide to Editing Fiction: US Edition is now available:




The LionheART Guide to Editing Fiction: UK Edition is now available:




Getting Into People’s Heads

The characterful writer:

I can’t comment. I am doggedly perservering with the second half of a story.

Originally posted on Jane Bwye:

I am delighted to introduce authonomy friend, Rosalind Minett today. I have always admired her dogged perseverance with her writings; she is an example to us all.


Thank you, Jane, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. Nowadays I think of myself as a writer. It’s how I spend my time, reviewing, blogging, writing and above all, re-writing. I would really have liked to be a character actor. At university level, I wanted to read English Literature but another career as a chartered psychologist intervened. It has influenced my writing as I’m told my strength is being able to get into peoples’ heads.

I worked with adults and children over their learning, behaviour, and/or understanding, their parenting and their career aspirations. I was frequently in the Crown Courts, work that involved direct contact for psychological assessment (sometimes in odd situations), research, copious reading of documents, writing of lengthy…

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