Guest Post – Marc Nash "28 Far Cries"

Marc Nash was one of the first friends I made via Friday Flash. As I said in my recent post, I love his work, and his unusual take on the world. I also love the way he plays with language, structure, and the very basis of story. When I started writing flash fiction, it didn’t occur to me that I might put a create a collection, so I was very impressed when Marc started putting his together. And when it finally crossed my mind last year that I could do something with my pieces of flash fiction, he was enormously helpful and provided excellent advice about self-publishing. I’m not very good at that sort of thing, so I was grateful to find Gumbo Press to do it for me, and was  delighted to discover that Marc’s 3rd collection was accepted at the same time as mine. I read a number of the stories in “28 Far Cries” when he published them as Friday Flash,  so I know this will be a great read. I’m so pleased that he is here tonight to tell you a bit more about them…

I am always looking to tell stories in a different way, other than those of beginning, middle, ends. So in this my new collection of flash fiction, I have two stories without characters in them at all. One is like a landscape painting, but with markers of time passing etched across its man-made fabric, while the second is delineated by the changes marking a human body under duress. The final story in the collection doesnt have any sentences or paragraphs. It is formed of two columns of single words that can be read either down or across to determine the relationship of the two distinct voices. 

I love playing with language, particularly drilling down to the DNA of words, that is the very letters that form them. So in the story Type-O Negative a woman is exposed to radiation, but instead of developing a superpower in comic book tradition, Isotope Girls words mutate one letter at a time with hilarious outcomes. In the story Ur, Um, the first human language from which all others stemmed, the so called urlanguage, is resurrected when one morning a man wakes up to find he can speak it. Everyone thinks it sounds familiar to them, but no one can quite understand him. Then the politicians get involved in laying claim to him

If there is a theme to most of the stories, it is that many start from a consideration of the human body. Ageing is a motif, so that Staring At The Sun originates from my own developing of floaters in the eye, Nocebo is all about the difficulty of taking pills and Nemesis sees a superhero face his greatest foe, his body empowered by radiation but also set for mutiny by the radioactive mutation wrought. The Idea of A Man takes three iconic images of the dead, a body preserved from Pompeii, a Bog Body and a dead soldier from Desert Storm and probes our fumbling need to deduce their stories from the fragments they leave behind. We end up imposing narratives and lives on these people which they in all likelihood never have lived and through that I question our reflexive urge to form stories.  

 And for a bit of light relief, there are two stories involving extra-terrestrials visiting earth. In No Laughing Gas Matter the Nitrous Oxide exhaust fumes of their space ships reduces humanity to subjugation through laughter, with a surprising cohort of mankind coming to the rescue of our species. While in The Interplanetary Flâneur, an alien observer tries to read our communications emblazoned in T-Shirt slogans.

So there it is. Some among the twenty-eight stories in this my fourth collection of flash fiction, all beautifully presented by Gumbo Press who are also publishing Virginias debut flash collection with which Im delighted to be alongside on the same roster. Virginia, thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about my book and may we both help establish Gumbo press as a really important literary imprint.


Celebrating Flash Fiction – Calum and Kath Kerr

I have managed to celebrate two male and two female writers this week, so it seems only fitting to conclude with a married couple, Mr and Mrs Flash Fiction themselves (the Brangelina of the short short story).

I first came across Calum in 2011 when I saw he was touting the idea of a National Flash Fiction Day. I was quick to sign up and thoroughly enjoyed myself, so have been a big fan ever since. I soon noticed that he and Kath were doing really interesting things, like setting themselves challenges to write a flash fiction story every day for a year. I didn’t catch all of them but the ones I did were excellent, meaning that this collection is well worth a read.

Since then, they continue to be busy writing. Calum has been particularly prolific as he has set himself another challenging writing task of writing a flash fiction collection every month (doing pretty well too) and published a fine “how to” book about flash fiction.

They’ve also  set up Gumbo Press which publishes a regular ezine,  small e-books and has recently branched out into flash fiction collections (including my own!). They’re a young company but you can already predict that they will do well.

In addition Calum teaches, and of course continues to direct NFFD which grows bigger and better by the year, and so it’s great to be celebrating his and Kath’s work today.

I’ve only shared a few of the writers I’ve come across (and haven’t even started on my overseas friends) just to give you a flavour of the wonderful talent out there. But I hope it’s whetted your appetite and whether you follow #nffd today, or #fridayflash or just branch out and explore other places where flash is being produced, I hope you find stories that will make your day.

Happy Reading Y’All!

Celebrating Flash Fiction – Icy Sedgwick

Icy Sedgwick is another writer I met through Friday Flash. I always enjoy her stories, particularly because of the ease with which she jumps genres: horror, fantasy, gothic, westerns all come very easily to her pen.

Icy’s stories are so varied, you never know where you are going, but you’re always entertained by the resolution. In  “Wake Me” a group of commuters are intrigued by the man who regularly sleeps in the corner. Whilst “Footsteps” is an unusual take on the nervousness we can all feel alone, late at night. “Allergy” is fine piece of historical fiction, where the heroine’s allergy has a deadly consequence. Whilst “Psychic“ponders whether it really is an advantage to be able to read minds. And in “The Numbers”mathematicians around the world obsessively solve equations without realising their true purpose.

In addition to her flash fiction, Icy has also published two novels: “The Guns of Retribution” a Western, and “The Necromancer’s Apprentice”, a horror fantasy, both of which have featured on her blog.

Icy used to post at “Icy’s Blunt Pencil, but she’s given her site a makeover. Her new look website, “Icy Sedgwick’s Cabinet of Curiosities” is a delight, and as well as fiction writing, also features many interesting essays. Please do go and visit, enjoyment guaranteed.

Celebrating Flash Fiction – Peter Domican

I met Peter two years ago on National Flash Fiction Day at the flash fiction slam in the Albion Beatnik bookshop in Oxford. I have a feeling I’d already spotted some of his Friday Flash stories, because I remember being pleased to meet him, but we’ve been sharing stories and conversations about Spurs, politics, Nordic Noir and the wonders of the Gladstone Library ever since. Peter is another author I really enjoy. His stories are subtle, full of heart and emotion, capturing the important moments of life. Here in Snow Angels a little girl’s desire to play in the snow has an emotional resonance for her grandfather. Whilst That Voice Again published in last year’s NFFD flashflood is a perfect description of the awkwardness of bumping into your ex. And The Last, Last Ride ,shortlisted for the New Poetry and Prose Award 2011, is a beautiful reflection of how growing up limits life’s pleasures.

What I like about Peter’s writing is that he is a real master at keeping things short, and it is not surprising his work has been featured in a number of anthologies including ‘Pay Attention: A River Of Stones’, ’100 RPM – One Hundred Stories Inspired By Music’, the second ‘Friday Flash’ anthology, ‘A Blackbird Sings’ and Sixwords Online Magazine. I also love his non-fiction posts on his blog, thoughtful pieces driven by his innate empathy and humanity. I am so delighted he’s coming to Oxford for the Evening of Flash Fiction on the 21st June. If you’re coming along, I can guarantee you’ll hear some great stories, and if you’re not, please do check out his blog.

Celebrating Flash Fiction – Mazzz in Leeds (Maria Protopapadaki- Smith)

I love being part of the Friday Flash writing community, because it is filled with fine writers, who are also up for mutual support. One of these is Maria Protpapadaki-Smith, who I first met on twitter as @Mazzz_in_Leeds. I’ve enjoyed her work from the off. Mazzz’s writing covers fantasy, gothic, sci fi, horror, is often dark but also very humane. For a long while, we used to joke that each story always had to feature at least one death, though these days she seems to be a bit more mellow. But her characters always die with a purpose and she has a lovely way of turning a story on its head.
In Audience, she describes a father’s emotions watching his daughter’s killer face the death penalty. In The Shepherd’s Daughter,  the parent’s are so full of pride for their daughter they completely underestimate the power she wields . And here in “Witches Brew”, a husband learns the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.

I don’t really read horror stories, but Mazzz is so darned good that I’ll read any she writes – a recent story  Viral being a case in point. But she also writes with real heart as in this tale of Survivor’s Guilt. She hasn’t got a collection together (though I hope she will one day soon) but do go and have a look at her blog and check out her archive. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Celebrating Flash Fiction – Marc Nash

I encountered Marc Nash back in 2010 when I first joined the Friday Flash community. I quickly spotted a writer with a fine sense of wordplay (as shown in this story Pelvic Floored , brilliant title and the joy of that last line). I soon discovered that he loves to experiment, moving from light to dark with ease and telling urgent stories that matter, and always looked forward to his weekly posts. Not surprisingly we quickly got talking on twitter, where we found we have many common interests and ever since, we’ve enjoyed sharing and reading each other’s work.

Marc is a very different sort of writer from me, and his work can, at times, be quite challenging. But I love the originality of his writing and the humanity of his characters, even when he is at his bleakest. I also enjoy the way he crosses boundaries,  as evidenced by this his partnership with Pixel Pixie Design to tell his story Just Aphasia Going Through through kinetic typography. It was great on his blog but fascinating like this.

Marc blogs at Sulci Collective, where he will also share his thoughts on music, politics and writing in general. He has an interesting take on the world, so is always worth a read. He is also extremely prolific and has self published two  flash fiction collections 52ff and 16ff. And I’m pleased to say that his next collection “28 Far Cries” will be published by Gumbo Press in time for National Flash Fiction Day so we get to be with the same press too.

Marc is a fine novelist and his self published books A, B& E, Not in My Name and Time after Time are all available to download on Kindle.

I’d hoped to lure him to Oxford for NFFD but alas! Bristol got him first. Next year maybe.

Plug of the Month – Rapture and what comes after by …Me


If you paid attention to this blog post from earlier in the year, you may have noticed I was putting a flash fiction collection together. I had intended to make it my first foray into self publishing (thanks to great advice from Marc Nash and fine editing from my twin Julia Williams) but then I saw a call for submissions from Gumbo Press. To my delight, Gumbo have taken it on. “Rapture and what comes after” will be available on Kindle and Print on Demand just in time for National Flash Fiction Day.

The collection consists of fifteen pairs of stories, many of which were first posted here as part of “Friday Flash”.   Each story is a reflection of the experience of love, with the part one stories telling the more positive side of love, and the part two stories giving a slightly darker view. Each pair of stories is linked in some way, either through character, theme or motif.

I’m so pleased that this collection is being published. I’m even more pleased that I didn’t have to do it myself as I’m just not very good at this sort of thing. Thanks so much to Calum Kerr from Gumbo for his hard work and encouragement. He managed to juggle putting this together with planning for NFFD, teaching creative writing and writing his own collections. He even did the beautiful front cover – how does he do it?

And talking of NFFD, I’ve decided to use this blog to celebrate the wonders of flash fiction, so over the next few days I’ll be promoting the work of some of the fine flash fiction writers out there.

Happy Reading Everyone.