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Posts tagged ‘flash fiction’

B.G. Hilton: steampunk, Frankenstein, thieving magpie?

B.G. Hilton has a fascination with the weird and wonderful, from Victorian-inspired steampunk to a place where low fantasy meets high soap opera … and no doubt beyond! Then there’s Leonard Nimoy and Dr Who to add to the mix.

Ben’s debut novel will be published by the awesome Odyssey Books (where books are always an adventure!) next year. It’s titled Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys and promises to be a rollercoaster read.

Ben has published many fab short stories (such as ‘I was a Steam-age Werewolf‘) as well as flash fiction, and you can join the fun with his DIY serial novel at https://bghilton.com/diy-serial-novel/

Welcome to last Word of the Week, Ben, great to meet you! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Ben: I was always an eclectic reader, even when I was young. The seed for my novel ‘Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys’ came from a book of trivia for kids – probably from Scholastic? I’m not sure.

This book had an article about a weird science-fictiony idea, a hoax that people in the Nineteenth Century believed to be true. Somehow, this idea stuck with me for thirty-odd years and became the basis for my novel. I’ve always been interested in Victoriana, so this idea joined with a bunch of other things that fascinated me about the era – the music hall, weird quack medicines, steam power, the Royal Navy and more.

So, coming the long way round to answering the question, what they should know is I’m a bit of a magpie with ideas, and when I’m writing I try to make use of them.

What a great combination of notions! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

For me, the easiest part of writing is dialogue – I’d write dialogue only novels if I could get away with it. For that reason, the scenes I’m most proud of are the ones that are largely or completely dialogue free. They’re my biggest challenge to write. My favourite is a scene in Charlie and Gladys in which one of my protagonists, Charlie Decharles, escapes from a boat and swims for safety across a freezing river so for obvious reasons he can’t say anything. It’s probably the least complicated action sequence in the book, but I think it’s pretty pacey and it captures Charlie’s struggle against the river. And it ends with Charlie having a nice little chat with his rescuers, so it makes me happy on that level.

So maybe you’ll be writing plays and film scripts in the future! Or episodes of Dr Who. That would be cool. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

My protagonists probably wouldn’t care – Gladys is too practical to let something like that worry her and Charlie would probably pretend to understand but not really follow. The character who would react in the most interesting way is Charlie’s mother, Lady Decharles. I think she’d try to take advantage of the situation by outsmarting me, the author. She’d probably succeed, too. She’s much smarter than I am.

I like the sound of her! Can’t wait for her to appear. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

When you’re in a writing class and they ask you that question, you’re supposed to say Hemingway or Carver or someone like that, I don’t know. I love reading great works of serious literature when I’m in the mood for it — but they don’t make me think ‘I should try that; I should do that’. The people who make me want to write are more like Harry Harrison, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, Frederic Brown, Robert Holmes, Cherie Priest. Not writers of deathless prose, perhaps, but entertaining writers with something real to say. That’s the sort of writer I want to be. 

Entertaining and real – perfect goals, IMHO. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Ten years ago, I was alone and struggling to balance my studies with a job that I hated. I guess I should say to myself ‘hang in there’ – but I actually did, so it wouldn’t be particularly useful advice. More practically, I think I should have told myself to spend more time hanging out with other writers when I had all that time to socialise. Now I’m a dad, and I just have too much cleaning to do.

No, wait, that’s what I’d do. I’d tell myself – ‘learn to be a more efficient cleaner, and also get used to finishing half-eaten bananas’.

That’s hilarious! Great answer. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

Short term? Marketing. Lots and lots of marketing.

Longer term, I’m working on a sequel to Charlie and Gladys. Also, I have a horror-inspired speculative fiction manuscript I’m trying to get into publishable shape. It’s about a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she learns that she’s Frankenstein’s granddaughter. To escape from her family’s enemies, she must seek shelter with the creatures that her ancestors have made and cast out. I think it’s a basically a good manuscript, but the setting was very misjudged, so it needs a serious rewrite.

Great heavens, that sounds interesting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I hate to say it, but probably I’m most like Mr Toad from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in that I get very enthusiastic about things and then lose interest in them. It’s not a bad thing for a writer, having dozens of past obsessions that I can call on when I need. Saves a lot of time researching, sometimes.

My wife says I’m like Professor Moriarty. That could mean that I have big plans that don’t go anywhere or just that I rock a top hat. Or maybe she’s just saying I’m good at maths. I’m not sure I want to know, so I didn’t ask.

Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Ben. Can’t wait to meet Charlie and Gladys.

LINKS:

Website: bghilton.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bghilton.author/

Twitter: @bghilton

In the Toolbag by Laura E. Goodin

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Backyard Skywatchers Find Tool Bag Lost in Space
By Jeanna Bryner Senior Writer
posted: 25 November 2008 11:51 am ET
Amateur astronomers have been monitoring a shiny tool bag that has been orbiting Earth ever since it was dropped last week by an astronaut during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The bag is reportedly about magnitude 6.4, which under most sky conditions is too faint to see with the naked eye. Veteran spacewalker and Endeavor astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper lost her grip on the backpack-sized bag on Nov. 18 while cleaning up a mess from a leaking grease gun she was carrying to help mop up metal grit from inside a massive gear that turns the space station’s starboard solar wings.
http://www.space.com/news/081125-iss-tool-bag.html
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“Just tell them the bag slipped out of your reach when you were — oh, hell, I don’t know. Cleaning spilled grease off the tools. We can squirt grease into the rest of the bags to make it look more plausible. They’ll never know.”

“No-one’s going to believe something that stupid.”

“Would you rather tell them the real story?”

“Point taken.”

I heard their voices fading behind me as I drifted out, out, out into the bright, hard light of the stars. I exulted. My plan, so carefully conceived, so patiently implemented, had disintegrated into a chaos of flailing limbs and swashbuckling, but never mind: I had finally escaped.

How many years had I languished amid the heat and smells of the planet below? When I’d been marooned, the pyramids of Egypt were not yet even a sated despot’s sleepy afternoon vision. Year after year, I studied Earth’s sticky, fetid inhabitants, watching them with gut-wrenching distaste as they went about their revolting business. I learned to know them – and, eventually, to guide them.

It takes a world to build a ship. And so I began: a suggestion here, a nudge there, some “lucky find” placed where one of their shambling dreamers could stumble on it and slowly, dully, make the connection.

Metallurgy in particular was a nightmare to get through their thick skulls. But I needed their arms to mine the coal, to pump the bellows, to wield the hammers, to farm and to govern so that the smiths and the scientists might work unmolested by starvation and pillage. Cities sprang up where I had worked most closely; I’d saved large areas of the planet for later, knowing that when the first mines and forests were depleted, they would – I would – need fresh earth. And when the time came, new lands, sparsely populated by those I had left in peace, were ready for my trained animals to arrive.

Year after year they built, connection after connection, forming in the end vast networks of knowledge and skill. Any single idea, any single achievement, was moronic in its simplicity, but the humans bred in their thousands and their millions, and each one, however awkwardly, did something.

And so they progressed until they burst at last from their planet’s gravity. Those first brief trips into space, no more than pleasant afternoon jaunts, were nothing to me. The moon landings were an unfortunate distraction; I could no more escape the moon’s gravity than the earth’s. But the space station – ah, yes. The platform from which I could spring outward and begin my journey back to my home and my revenge.

My beasts have honored me: Prometheus, they’ve called me, Matarisvan, Grandmother Spider, the altruistic bringer of knowledge. Those who call me Azazel know me better: the sneering puppeteer who gives only to take, teaches only to exploit. I am not ashamed. My own long-ago crew, appalled, had refused to complete my visions. I will miss these more biddable hands. And yet they, too, were beginning to cause me trouble – several of them will bear the scars of battle as a price for looking too soon into the toolbag.

END

You can find out more about Laura at www.lauraegoodin.com

Check out her wonderful books: After the Bloodwood Staff and Mud and Glass

The Tree of the Sentries by Clare Rhoden

‘The Sentries have been at it again.’

Thera, the Duty Provost, clicked her tongue. She wasn’t sure what annoyed her more: the unhelpful vagueness which characterised Canon Field’s conversational ambits, or the ridiculous – and dangerous – preoccupation of the Sentries with challenging every covenant of the pact. One of these days, their foolhardy actions would bring on another Great Event. The self-named ‘Sentries of the Human Race’ refused to accept any of the hard-fought agreements that had brought Planet Earth at least a few steps back from the void. ‘If it’s not good for humans, it’s not good for Earth!’ was the mantra of their stupidity.

‘What have they done now, Canon?’ she asked. ‘Interrupted another sports carnival? Scandalised another fashion show? Insulted another religion? Dumped green waste on the steps of the Senate House?’

Canon Field, his bright eyes sparkling with delight, hopped up and down on the one spot. ‘You’ll never believe it, Provost! It’s too delicious. They’ve cut down a tree! There’s no saving them now. So much for allowing them freedom of thought!’

Thera blinked. Then she adjusted her uniform, quite unnecessarily. ‘You’re right, Canon. I don’t believe it.’ Even the Sentries could not be quite so flagrant in their destructive protests. Since they had been disarmed, their penchant for killing had been checked. She was sure. Wasn’t she?

Field nodded. ‘Just as I thought! You know, you’ll turn into a Sentry yourself one of these days. Such a doubter. You never believe anything! But it’s right here on the Rounds. Come, see for yourself.’ He gestured towards the bank of screens that filled the eastern wall of the high chamber. When Thera did not immediately move, he took hold of her sleeve and tugged. ‘Here, see? Their very own tree.’

Unable to look away, the Duty Provost fixed her eyes on the looping images that comprised the day’s Rounds. Sure enough, wedged between the day’s Energy Price Statement and the Relative National Product forecast was a bizarre image. Dozens of Sentries, their distinctive bulky clothes transforming them into so many foreshortened trolls, cavorted around a fallen eucalypt. Thera gasped at the thought that flashed in her mind, but there was no denying that they did look like cannibals dancing on a skeleton. They were only Sentries, but Canon Field was right. This time their nonsense had to be checked.

She watched the Rounds through three more times before calling for the Watchmen.

 

 

Starting Here, by Clare Rhoden

‘Well, I suppose everything is going to be different, starting here and now.’

Here is a barren courtyard, now is the end of the world. At least I think it is. I can’t hear anyone else, anything else, moving. I never imagined coming out of the shelter to find nothing and no one. No dog bark, no bird song, no traffic snarl, no chopper clack. No people yammer, no machine whirr, no wind whoosh. Everything is dead.

I never imagined talking to myself just to convince myself that I’m alive.

Are you alive, though?

I jump and fling myself around, trying to see where the voice is coming from. Immediately I stagger back about two paces, gasping. Seated at the edge of the courtyard, looking comfortable and rather pleased with herself, is a perfect replica of that cat-headed goddess from ancient Egypt.

Replica! I see you have a sense of humour. I’m Bastet.

Parts of my brain are functioning. ‘Ar, er, Bastet,’ I say. ‘Goddess of, let me see, home?’

Domesticity and slaughter, if you don’t mind.

‘Ah, yes. Two aspects, right, of the one being. Protector and avenger.’ I can’t find anything else to say.

Bastet yawns delicately, showing the inside of her perfect pink mouth and her very white teeth. And sometimes I accompany the dead. A companion, if you like.

I am not sure I do like. ‘I’m dead, then? I’m about to begin my afterlife?’

Bastet stares at me. She blinks several times, apparently thinking over my words.

Only one thing is starting here and now.

‘I understand.’ I don’t, but I feel I should humour a cat-faced goddess who might act as my companion in the unknown world beyond.

Bastet is not fooled. She narrows her bright green eyes to slits.

What starts now is the rest of your life.

Make it a good one.

I’m awake and she is gone. Her challenge remains.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Markets by Kathryn Gossow

He’s short. It’s the first thing I notice. I don’t say anything. It’s not prudent to point out to men that they are short.

We talk about celery. I marvel at the height of his celery leaves. He says supermarkets sell celery with fewer leaves but his customers want more leaves. For their soup, he says.  I mention my chickens. They like celery leaves.

He talks about broccoli. Broccoli, he says, the supermarkets want it this size. He shows me with his hands cupped in front of his hips. But his customers, they want it bigger.

Well, I say, most people have a knife, they can cut their broccoli.

His eyes gleam; he looks half at me, half at the dust around our feet.

He says: I like knives.

I see that he has some nice beetroot.

I have about fifty of them, he says.

I exchange my money for his vegetables.

Thanks, I say.

But you have to hide them, he says.

I step away from his vegetable stall; the Sunday market crowd moves along with me, leisurely and complacent.

Featured image credit: By Georges de La Tour – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153677

Kathryn Gossow has been writing and publishing short stories and flash fiction in a variety of genres since 2006. Her debut novel Cassandra was published by Odyssey Books in 2017 and was a finalist in the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel 2017. She is a regular blogger at www.kathryngossow.net and sometimes gardener of her two-acre garden in a pocket of the Brisbane River. Her collection of short stories, The Dark Poet, will be released in May 2019.

I see the light!

I think I’ve done it!

After a couple of days of fiddling and frowning, I *think* that my newletter sign up function is working…Apologies if you tried and had no success previously. (Please feel very welcome to try again!)

Now I’ll rock on with preparing my very first newsletter for January 31st!

Sign up now! Newsletter coming soon…

I have entered a dangerous territory … pop-ups! If you are able to see the pop-up subscribe box on my website, I hope you will consider joining my new project.

At the end of each month, I’ll be sending out a newsletter email with news about books, my latest book reviews, and a little extra now and then.

There will also be FREE flash fiction from me and from guest authors.

I think you’re going to love it. See you soon 🙂

The Long Way Home, by Clare Rhoden

At one time, there were three sisters.

Lizabelle, Bellabelle, and Clarabelle.

Lizabelle was the most beautiful sister; Bellabelle was the cleverest sister; and Clarabelle, the youngest sister, loved animals.

The sisters lived on the edge of a forest, where trees grew thick and where the shadows under the trees were as dense as black velvet. In these shadows, magical creatures and natural creatures played together, little knowing that their two kinds should not meet. The magical and the natural don’t always play well together, and sometimes their play turns deadly. But this was the Forest of Innocence, after all, and many of the creatures knew no better.

Lizabelle the beautiful sister was the first to walk into the Forest of Innocence. When she didn’t come home by sundown, the other two sisters were worried.

‘Where can Lizabelle be?’ asked Clarabelle.

‘She walked into the forest,’ answered Bellabelle thoughtfully. ‘But she sure is taking ages to get back. She must have taken the long way home.’

The next day, there was no sign of Lizabelle. Bellabelle told Clarabelle to wait at the edge of the velvet darkness, because she was going to follow Lizabelle. ‘I will find her,’ she reassured her little sister. ‘I will follow her tracks and we will soon be home.’

Clarabelle waited for most of the day. ‘Lizabelle and Bellabelle must have taken the long way home,’ she said aloud. She smiled. On the other side of the velvet black undergrowth, a pair of shining green eyes gleamed at her in admiration.

Clarabelle, now the most beautiful and clever sister alive, loved animals.

Why Stars are the Way They Are, by Felicity Banks

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Fans were charmed when she wore bunny slippers to her first award ceremony, peeking out from under a designer gown. Her face was as expressive as her music, grinning as her blonde hair fell across one eye, or sweetly calling attention to the successes of her favourite charities. People called her the girl of a thousand smiles.

Her only foible was that she did not like having her picture taken. It was a phobia based on the beliefs of certain cultures that cameras could steal a person’s soul. Missy sat for portraits each day, and passed them out to photographers as gifts, hoping to discourage their professional enthusiasm. They merely photographed her handing out the pictures.

Even as she retreated back into restaurants or behind gates, her sharpest rebuke was to say, ‘I don’t want my photo taken, you drip.’ Young girls began using the word ‘drip’ as hip new slang referring to anyone wielding a camera.

Missy and her high school sweetheart were married. The drips were greeted cordially by Missy’s manager, and invited to leave their cameras at the door and enter. The ceremony was performed in the backyard of Missy’s childhood home. Most of the town attended, but they were still outnumbered by photographers, twitching frustrated fingers as Missy sparkled like never before.

As Missy and her husband were permitted by reverent order to kiss, cameras appeared from under seats and inside handbags. The flashes pierced her closed eyes. She broke the kiss and stared around as if caught in a deadly trap. That iconic look of interrupted innocence appeared on the cover of no less than three major magazines within the week.

Something changed in the press that day. They followed Missy in taxis and unmarked vans, taking pictures of her at the beach, with family, and through the windows of her home. Photos appeared of her getting drunk as she sought anonymity by any means. Soon there were pictures of her fighting with her husband, and both of them trying new and harder drugs. A photo of Missy with a male prostitute made the photographer’s career. The prostitute went on to star in a hit reality show. Even in the sealed courtroom, as Missy wrangled with the man who would soon become her ex-husband, someone managed to secretly take photo after photo after photo.

As Missy left the courtroom a horde of paparazzi caught her on the steps in a blaze of light. She shrieked and swore and swung at the nearest. The drip grabbed at her, and snagged a handful of fabric.

‘You want some?’ she shrilled. ‘Take it!’ She tore at the shirt, bursting the buttons, and threw it in his delighted face. Her bra followed, and the respectable skirt she’d worn to court. Famous undies matched the bra on the ground. The flashes were like an electric storm. Missy shielded, not her face or her nakedness, but somewhere near her heart. Soon there was nothing left to take.

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Even the ocean can be emptied, drip by drip.

***

Felicity Banks writes steampunk and fantasy novels for kids and adults. She also writes interactive fiction and is the designer and head writer of the “Murder in the Mail” and “Magic in the Mail” art-filled immersive short stories. FelicityBanks.wordpress.com/store

Newsletter coming soon!

Fabulous news! In 2019, I’ll be starting my very own newsletter – a monthly digest of interviews, book reviews, event notices and flash fiction. Stay tuned for more information!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll be looking for contributors too. If you have some short-short fiction that would like an airing, keep an eye open for my submission process.

storm flash

Photo by Martinus on Pexels.com

This is SO exciting! I can’t wait to get started.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2019.