Category Archives: Short Stories

I am still here!

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Still very much alive and kicking!

This is probably the longest I have not blogged since I set this writing blog up.

I just wanted you to know it’s just the new programme at the gym (very early mornings!) and lots of lovely work commitments that have made me decide to post only sporadically. This will be for at least another week or two and then I should be back on track with my writing advent countdown, so all things writerly! Yay!

I am currently busy with more editing for other people than writing right now but that’s okay and it will change for sure in December! I am ready to work on Chutney (renamed now too). Yeah!

So, in other news…

Earlier this year, I was asked by my lovely business partner, the FAB Gill James, to contribute a short story to a new Bridge House collection. This time it was commission only, and it was a kind of Brexit reaction about identity. The collection is called Citizens of Nowhere.

This collection is finally out TODAY  (whoop!) and so I am sharing the link with you all. While the remit was stories of about 3000 words this one is the one that ended up being closer to 12K. Yikes. But Gill liked it enough to still want to publish it — thankfully. That makes it the longest short story I have in a collection to date! It’s called Boarding House. I guess you could call it a kind of half-way house for lost souls! It is a bit different!

So, this year has seen me in four collections no less… including the Canvey Writers one we launch this Friday! Wow! It is an incredibly busy week for me! But, mid-Cornerstones ‘interim report read’, I decided to have a quick break and that I needed to touch base!

I will be back and blogging about the book launch later this week and will share photos etc. next week… still time to come if you’re local! Or not so local! Use this link to reserve your eTicket. This is the first time a lot of the group have read like this and I know some of them are nervous but I am sure people will appreciate that and I know they will all do FABULOUSLY!

Here’s the link for tickets and to find out more!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/canvey-writers-book-launchcharity-event-for-havens-hospices-tickets-38721127936

Poster Upper Room

And here are the book links for you… HOT off the press…

Citizens of Nowhere

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And this one below that we launch on Friday! It’s all happening! Get it for £5 special price at the launch! Or use the link to get your copy from Amazon!

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Short Journeys

I have talked about short stories before and how important they have been to me on this journey to become ‘real writer’… that makes me think of Pinocchio I want to be a real boy… 

I think, all too often, we tend to overlook the short story form, assuming that the real success and I guess therefore the real creativity and even the real money is to be made from the novel that becomes the bestseller that becomes the Hollywood blockbuster… and so on. But short stories have also been made into movies you know. And besides, not all short stories want to grow up to be movies, do they?

I always talk about how I ‘cut my teeth’ as a writer working on the short form, and how important this was for me in terms of developing my style and honing my craft and I have spurts now of still writing short stories and sending them out. When I did that earlier this year I had three successes and two of those placements has resulted in a publication; one of which is now available to pre-order, I was runner-up! So I thought I would share a short extract of that as a teaser with some links…

Thinking in Circles

In order to understand something, we must exist outside it.
We are all made of numbers.
Aged 13, Size 8 shoes, Form 5, the 14.35.
We are all on a journey to somewhere from somewhere else with
our eyes half-closed.
And sometimes we get stuck.

You are standing there. Head tucked down; reminds me of a
penguin. The strap of your big blue school bag cuts across your blazer
and it’s as if there’s a thread attaching your head to your shoes. Not
shiny new shoes. These are scuffed, end of term Clark’s one-size-too-small
shoes; they didn’t buy new shoes. Because of what happened
over the summer.
It’s the thing – the thing no one will want to talk about – but they
will talk about it. They’ll whisper. They’ll pretend they’re not talking
about it.
People say bad news is always better when it happens to
somebody else but even when it happens to somebody else,
sometimes it’s happening to you.
You shuffle last year’s shoes to the front; to the desk you used
last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Soon they’ll
all come in and sit where they always sit and nobody will ask. But
they’ll all know.

They’ll all know because it was in the Echo. It was in the Echo
over the summer. Shock had filled up the kitchen: a line of uttered
Oh Gods.
In the sound you were sure you heard something break.
Not like a snap. Not like an ornament shattering into a million
pieces. Not like that. And not like the jolt of something stopping
suddenly, because that happens all at once. This was like a slow
unpicking along the seams.
It happened because of what happened over the summer. It
happened to your dad when he went quietly mad and your nan had to
move in.
It was in the Echo. Everyone knows. About the thing – not your
dad going quietly mad, or your nan moving in. About the thing. The
thing that happened over the summer.

The train left London at 14.35. The name on the front said
Southend Victoria…

© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2017, With Our Eyes Open, Published by Bausse Books October 15 2017

The book is available now for pre-order as an eBook and a paper version will follow in tine for Christmas! I will share the link again!

With Our Eyes Open

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Friday Writing Prompt

Inspired by my talk last weekend, and thinking about the close interaction between fact and fiction, here’s a prompt for you.

Take a key moment in history; so something that ‘literally’ stopped the world, not just your world, so let’s say, as is the case in my novel, the death of a president, maybe 911, Diana’s death, Elvis… ? and then write a short piece of ‘alternative history’ as if it never happened. So you will need to use fictitious characters perhaps or make it a memoir piece where the event affected you, but now let us see what happened if something else happened instead… So, for example, JFK Airport used to be called Idlewild and, in fact, this is the name of Mark Lawson’s alternative history novel, if Kennedy had not died as he did and make him the icon he is, would the airport still be called that? In fact, that is the case in this novel; Kennedy is still alive years later. Perhaps juxtapose what might have happened with what did happen, so some of you might even want to write two versions…? I will leave that to you! Allow your imaginations to run wild… and not be idle! See what I did there 🙂 Groan!

Happy Writing!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Being YOU!

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Being a Writer :)

Logo Leicester Writes

 

Well, it looks set to be a busy second half of the year, with short stories to appear in no less than four new collections!

It starts this weekend when Mum and I will be travelling to Leicester to be part of The Leicester Writes Literary Festival! The winners’ anthology from their competition will be launched tomorrow and if anyone fancies it you can still get tickets! Here’s the link:

Winners’ Anthology Launch

I will be reading from my story We Went There. This is a new one of mine about a woman taking her dad, who suffers from dementia, to a home when she uncovers a secret… is he who she thought he was? Is she? And now she knows what will she do?

As I have so often said, writing does not have to be a lonely experience. But of course, a huge part of it is sitting alone in front of your keyboard tap-tap-tapping away! Successes are something to be celebrated since we all know how hard it is to have them, and so when you get the chance to celebrate them alongside other writers then you must!

I will be in good company with the other writers including winner C G Menon and second place Siobhan Logan, me as a humble third place 🙂 Also joined by highly commended Lynne E Blackwood and worthy runners-up: Karl Quiqley, Jack Wedgebury, Katherine Hetzel, Asha Krishna, Matthew Rhodes, Bev Haddon 🙂

Read what the judges had to say about the stories here: LINK

Judges were: writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, and Grace Haddon as well as bookseller, Debbie James.

It is a real honour to be part of this line-up and to have my story published by Dahlia Publishing, and edited by fellow writer and friend: Richard Sheehan. Can’t wait to meet everyone and celebrate our success! The book looks great; I have seen the proof and will read as many of the stories as I can before the event tomorrow!

We set off in the morning (so no Blog tomorrow) and then celebrate tomorrow night at the event, home Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

Leicster Writes

Do come along if you can… I will blog about it next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

WHOO!

 

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In The Spotlight: Amanda James

Mandy James April 2017

 

I have great pleasure in welcoming the very talented Amanda James back to my blog to share her latest writing news… and to interview the protagonist of her fantastic new novel Behind the Lie that was out for Kindle on Friday.

This is part of Amanda’s busy blog tour so I am delighted she found time to pop over to mine!

Look where she’s been and where she’s going!

Blog Tour Mandy James

I met Amanda through Bridge House Publishing when we published her short story in our charity book for Born Free. It’s a collection of wild animal stories, and of all our collections remains a landmark success. We launched at the Hay Festival in 2010 with the wonderful Virginia McKenna. What a day. Amanda got to read at the festival. I have since followed Amanda’s career as she has gone from success to success.

Friday (just gone) saw the release of another novel and so I asked her to do something a little different. So we have an exclusive over here today. But first let me tell you a little more about Amanda.

 

She lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. In fact, three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and the new one Behind the Lie – April 2017 published by HQUK ( HarperCollins).

So in an exclusive, I asked Amanda if she would interview her protagonist, Holly, for me and this is what happened…

So to set the scene… a beach house overlooking a windswept beach in Cornwall. We are on the balcony drinking tea and watching the Atlantic waves hurl themselves at the shore. We are huddled in thick sweaters, because even though it is spring, the wind is Arctic.

So, I thought we’d have a little Q&A session, is that okay? It will be fun. Please tell me your name?

The young woman sitting opposite gives me an incredulous look, her eyes reflecting the blue of the ocean.

Humour me.

You know my name, but okay, I am Holly West.

Tell me what you’re most afraid of?

Holly sighs and takes a sip of her tea. She watches at a kite surfer but I can tell she sees something else. She wrests a strand of golden hair from the wind and tucks it behind her ear. Eventually she looks back at me.

People thinking that I’m not telling the truth, that I am still the woman I used to be.

Why so sad? What has happened to you?

There is no hesitation this time.

So much has happened in such a short time …When my childhood sweetheart left for the army, I left too. I moved from my village in Cornwall to be a model in London. Caught up in everything that goes with such a glamorous life, I was lost, alone…disgusted with the person I became. But then I met Simon and he helped me turn my life around. I was so happy when we married and I fell pregnant with twins but then my son died. Well, that’s what they told me, but I know he’s alive.

What do you want most from the world?

A sad little smile turns up one corner of her mouth.

That’s easy. To find my boy, make a life for us all back in Cornwall and to just live an ordinary life.

What will happen if you don’t get it?

Her expression grows dark and the clouds roll over the sun.

I can’t think about that… I won’t think about it.

Is there something about you the reader never finds out about you, Holly?

There are secrets about me that only you know, Amanda…

 

 

Want to know what happens? This is it…

Behind the Lie Cover

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Buy me! 

Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter  @akjames61

Facebook mandy.james.33

 

I don’t know about you but this has certainly whet my appetite… so do download a copy… thanks, Amanda, and we wish you great success with this! Thanks for being in the spotlight today!

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Countdown 4

I wrote a story and I gave it an odd title… Chutney. I based it around three unlikely friends and set it on an east London allotment in the year 1999. It was very British, quirky and I did not really expect it to do well but I sent it to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2013 . You could have knocked me over with a feather when it only went and got shortlisted, and with only one other UK writer… yikes!

A later developed this into a novel that I am still working on…

The short story was never published so I thought I would share an extract today… enjoy! And tomorrow I might tempt you with something from the novel, hot off the press!

Chutney

I mark out time with giant crosses: the world will end in six months and four days.
I lean one elbow on a table stacked high with gardening magazines and press the flattened tip of marker pen to date. Most of June, and everything before is crossed out. I imagine when the entire calendar is black crosses.
It’s just after five. Emma will be here soon. She always come to the allotment after school for cup of tea and slice of banana cake. We won’t talk about the date. All that matters is it’s Tuesday. Tuesday is for algebra.
Except not this Tuesday.
Perhaps not any more Tuesdays.

Steam rises from plastic kettle, one with dirty smudges on side, looks like a face: two eyes, a nose and wonky smile.
“How does that look anything like a face?” Emma said when I showed her the first time. “You’re mental you are Georgy B.”
“Mental?” I said. “I not know word.”
“Yeah, mental, as a froot loop.”
“Froot loop?”
She put her hands on her hips and said, “Georgy it’s simple, I can’t see no face.”
“Here,” I said running my fingers over the smudge. “See, face – it look like baby.”
I remember the way she looked at me then, the same way my dear Irina used to look at me when I make – what’s the expression? – ‘a cock up’ – which was often.
“Always foot in mouth,” Irina would say. She called me “glupy starik.” It’s Russian for silly old man. Then she laugh. Big laughs, what you call belly laughs. But right now I don’t feel so much like laughing. When I think about Irina and Emma I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

I look back at the calendar. Fifty-four years is a long time to be with one person. And fifty-four years is never enough time to be with one person. I pick up a tissue from the table and dab my eyes. Then I think about what will happen when the world ends.
Or maybe it already has.

After I told Emma about smudges on kettle looking like face, she told me about the baby. She was picking at threads on her glove, smiling. Maybe she thought telling the silly old man was funny, maybe she just scared. Or maybe she had no one else to tell but silly old man. I offered her banana cake (buy one get one free at Tescos) and I watched her slurp tea, holding mug with both hands. Then she said, “I thought if you did it standing up you didn’t get pregnant. That’s what Darren said anyway. Fuckwit.”
“You no need to swear.”
“What-ever,” she said.
“What you going to do?”
“Dunno. Might get it adopted.”
“It?” I said. “It’s not an ‘it’. You can’t call it it.”
“What-ever,” she said.
Young people, they always use that expression, always say it the same way like they’re talking about something what’s the word … trivial. But a baby is not trivial. So I looked right at her and I said, “Yeah, what-ever.” She screwed up her face and belly-laughed.
“Georgy B you are funny. I might adopt you as my granddad,” she said.
I had to look away then.
When I turned back she got what was left of her slice of banana cake and put the whole thing into her mouth. “Got any more? It’s fuc—I mean it’s effing lovely Mr Beletsky. Better than the lemon one.”

Next to the kettle are two mugs, one is blue and white. It’s the Spurs Football Club. Irina gave it to me many many years ago.
“I know how you like the Spurs,” she said. “Though I not know why.”
Many years before that she gave me ticket to White Hart Lane. She saved a long time for that; did a whole lot of cleaning houses. But in the end I didn’t go. I was with Irina in the hospital. It was the night we lost our fourth baby.
The Spurs mug belongs to Emma now. I gave it to her when she started coming for her lessons after she told me about the baby. She said she was going to get rid of it because Darren said it was best. The baby. Not Spurs mug. I tried to tell her, “Who it best for?” A week later, in the middle of vectors, she told me she would keep it.
“Where are your parents?” I said.
“Dead,” she said. Just like that. “Dead.” She said it with a sweeping motion of hand like she was chasing away flies. “Same as Darren.”
“Darren is dead?”
“He might as well be. The fuckwit is well and truly dumped.”
I was going to tell her: no more cussing. My Irina, she was a lady. She never learned English cuss words, except for “Shit.” She said that was different because all it means is fekalii which is Russian for poo. And every time she say the word ‘shit’ we laughed.
“Forgot to get carrots for chutney,” she’d say. “Shit.”
“Council put rent up again,” she’d say. “Shit.”
“Totten-ham Hot Spurs lose again,” she’d say. “Shit.”
But I never told Emma off for her cussing that day. Maybe because there are far worse things people do than cuss.

A few days later Emma told me she grew up in a children’s home. All I said was, “Shit.” I never laughed…

©Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2013

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Finding Your Rhythm With the Short Story Form

 

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The pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter is back,  rain dancing on conservatory windows; tapping thoughts gently into my head as I begin another week.

I will be blogging this week about my experiences at the London Short Story Festival which has got all sorts of creative urges, urging. It is no secret my feelings and love of the good short story; a good literary, makes you think, changes something you feel about the world short story. I was treated to plenty of those by some incredible writers on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I love this idea of daring to be bold, of using the short story form as a playground for experimenting creatively, something I have always seen it as. For me, it begins with a short story.

Short stories are different things to different people and come in many forms. For me they find a rhythm inside me and once I start writing a new one they grab me and hold me down until I write and rewrite and keep on writing until it is as near to perfection I can find; if perfection is ever truly attainable. But it’s in that search I find my bliss.

After listening to a fabulously talented panel of writers May-Lan Tan , Laura Van den Berg and Jon McGregor talk to the also highly talented Paul McVeigh about the short story and people they read I have more books to buy. It’s like my appetite has suddenly been whetted again and I think I know what my next project after Chutney needs to be, some short stories, possibly getting together a collection. I want to experiment with the form and challenge myself again. And who knows I now want to talk and be a guest at the London Short Story Festival.

I wasn’t a guest but was close to it as we saw the launch of a collection I have a new story in at the event.

It was also wonderful meeting fellow Unthologists as Saturday also saw the release of Unthology 7. These collections are a unique and interesting place to showcase what can be done in the short form. Unthank Books have now published me twice and I fully intend to submit again.

One thing I did listen to with great interest over my day at the festival was the rhythm of language and I heard some writers talk about how they used music for mood as they wrote sometimes. I only ever did this with one story interestingly; one I have yet to write in a form I want but I will. It’s about a woman finding, after all these years, the brother whose hand she let go of when she went to Auschwitz. Music plays a big part in that story because she survived because of her musicality; she played for the officers. In fact I remember having to write a memory of her playing the ‘Radetsky March’ as her best friend plodded past with heavy footsteps to the gas chambers; and she knew she had to keep playing. Keep playing. Don’t stop. Just keep playing. It wasn’t that I listened to that music, my own heart beat made that inside me, no I listened to the score of Harmony, the Manilow musical about the Comedienne Harmonists as Germany drew closer to the holocaust and there are some songs in that that evoke something powerful and enabled me to find that dark place and sustain it as I wrote. I know when I return to that story the music will instantly take me back to that place.

I liked to play in that story with the musicality, which I will revisit. Language has its own rhythm and can be explored in a musical way and I want to do more of that experimentation. When I edit it’s quite hard to explain to people the need to use rhythm but it’s in listening to other great writers, we find that rhythm and I believe that’s where you will find your true voice.

What I find interesting as well as using music as place, is using music for establishing character; I would love to use that device overtly in some form, how characters represent a certain piece of music. I think this is something that can helped deepen characterisation.

Recommendation for today:  Laura Van den Berg. I was so moved by the new story  she read on Saturday I have to try out her collections, and she has just released her first novel.

 

The way

 

Isle

 

Find Me

 

Find on Amazon

 

Tomorrow I am talking more about the short story and differences between America and the UK in how the short story form is used as a platform to debut new writers…

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