In which we share the latest news from The Fiction Desk, including upcoming publications, writing competitions, and other odds and ends.
We received a great batch of entries this year, and to acknowledge this we’re going to announce a shortlist as well as our three winners. All of the shortlisted writers will receive a year’s subscription to our anthology series, and the three winners will appear in an upcoming Fiction Desk anthology.
Let’s start with the complete list of shortlisted stories:
My Body Upstairs by Frank Babics
Poor Billy by Alex Clark
One Green Bottle by Leah Eades
Mrs Dabrowski by Gilli Fryzer
Things in the Dead Space by Jo Gatford
Soup — Condensed by Anabel Graff
Laptops and Coffin Lids by Sara Kellow
Every Ghost Story is a Love Story by Vera Kurian
A Rooted Sorrow by Norma Levinson
Sing Me No Sad Songs by Amanda Mason
Home Solutions for Mould by S R Mastrantone
Jonathan by Louis Rakovich
The Fowling Piece by Stephanie Shaw
And now for the winners, in reverse order:
In third place (£100): Poor Billy by Alex Clark
In second place (£250): Home Solutions for Mould by S R Mastrantone
And the winner of the 2015 Fiction Desk ghost story competition, in first place (£500): Soup — Condensed by Anabel Graff
Congratulations to all of the above, and thank you all for sending in such great stories and making my job very difficult. I’ll be getting in touch over the coming weeks to arrange the shortlistees’ subscriptions and winners’ prizes.
Now a little bad news (or good news, depending on your tastes): we won’t be doing a dedicated ghost story anthology this year. Thanks to our slightly erratic “when it’s ready” publication schedule, we’ve swung quite heavily in the direction of supernatural fiction lately, with two of our last three anthologies being dedicated to it, and we do need to rebalance that a little. It also strikes me that it’s a bit odd to try breaking down genre barriers by bringing in ghost stories, only to then segregate them into their own volumes.
As a result, the above three winners will be appearing in one of our regular, mixed-genre anthologies, which should benefit both the volume they grace, and those among our subscribers who prefer their ghosts as part of a more balanced literary diet.
Tuesday, 10th March 2015. There are 2 Comments.
It’s time to announce the Writer’s Award for our latest anthology, New Ghost Stories II.
The Writer’s Award is one of my favourite things about running The Fiction Desk. The Award is given for each anthology that we publish, and is judged by the contributors themselves: each contributor votes for what they think are the two best stories, and the writer of the winning story gets £100.
The votes for New Ghost Stories II are in, and the winner this time is…
… Tamsin Hopkins, for her short story ‘The Table’.
Congratulations, Tamsin! The virtual cheque is in the digital post.
You can read the winning story (well, all the stories) in New Ghost Stories II, out now in paperback and Kindle editions: see here for details.
Monday, 16th February 2015. There are no comments.
The Newcomer Prize received a fantastic selection of entries, touching on a variety of themes, ideas, and styles, and has therefore been exceptionally tough (and rewarding) to judge. But judged it has been, and I’m now delighted to announce the two winners of the 2015 Newcomer Prize.
The winners are:
First place (£500 prize): Mark Newman, for the story ‘Before There Were Houses, This Was All Fields’.
Second place (£250 prize): Tim Dunbar, for the story ‘David Bowie’.
The two winning stories will be published in our next anthology, due this spring. They’re both excellent stories, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.
Sunday, 8th February 2015. There are no comments.
We hadn’t originally planned on announcing a shortlist for the Newcomer Prize, but during the judging process it became clear that simply revealing the two winners wouldn’t do justice to the quality and variety of entries we received. We’ve therefore added a shortlist step, along with some small extra prizes.
The winners of the 2015 Newcomer Prize will be drawn from the following shortlist:
Adam Blampied: The Cobble Boys
Tim Dunbar: David Bowie
K M Elkes: Game Face
Uschi Gatward: On Margate Sands
Gerald R Gore: Memories of Balham
Cathie Hartigan: Cleaning Up
C G Menon: Spring Tides
Norman Miller: Jellymen
Mark Newman: Before There Were Houses, This Was All Fields
Miranda Prag: Under the Wheels
Catherine Simpson: The Little Golden Apple with the Tiny Golden Bite
Amy Smith Linton: Cleaning Up
A J Stirling: Property is Theft
Chloe Turner: The Bronze Garden
Barney Walsh: Free the Prisoners
All of the authors above will receive a year’s free paperback subscription to our anthology series.
We’ll be announcing the first and second prize winners — taken from the list above — on Monday 16th February. The two prizewinning stories will also appear in an upcoming Fiction Desk anthology.
Friday, 15th August 2014. There are 4 Comments.
Hot on the heels of our Writer’s Award announcement, it’s time to reveal the winners of the 2014 Fiction Desk Ghost Story competition.
This year, we have one first prize winner and ten runners-up.
All of the stories listed below will appear in our autumn anthology.
The runners-up, who will each receive £100, are:
- Alice Adams, for ‘Watching Kate & Gustav’
- Die Booth, for ‘Twice a Day with Water’
- Lucinda Bromfield, for ‘The Time of Your Life’
- Bernie Deehan, for ‘Hell for Leather’
- Tamsin Hopkins, for ‘The Table’
- Matthew Licht, for ‘The Bear Got Me’
- Amanda Mason, for ‘Incomers’
- Miha Mazzini, for ‘Armies’
- Matt Plass, for ‘Next to Godliness’
- Melanie Whipman, for ‘End of the Rope’
And the winner of the £500 first prize is:
- Jane Alexander, for ‘In Yon Green Hill To Dwell’
Congratulations to all of the above. It was another great year for the ghost story competition, and once again we’ve found ourselves handing out more prizes than expected.
We’ll be sharing more news about the autumn anthology over the coming weeks. Next month will also see the launch of a new competition (one we’ve not run before), so keep your eyes out for that.
Friday, 15th August 2014. There are 5 Comments.
Today we’ll be announcing the results of not one but two competitions.
Later, we’ll be revealing the winner and runners-up of our 2014 ghost story competition. But we’re starting with the Writer’s Award.
The Fiction Desk Writer’s Award is given for the best story in each of our anthologies. It’s judged by the contributors themselves, who each get two votes.
The votes for There Was Once a Place ended in a draw, with Alex Clark‘s ‘The Stamp Works’ and Chris Fryer‘s ‘The Loop’ both in first place. Last time this happened, we called in The Asylum’s John Self to decide the winner. For this volume, our special guest tie-breaking judge is none other than author (and Fiction Desk contributor) Charles Lambert, whose new novel With a Zero at Its Heart is one of 2014’s must-reads. So over to Charles:
It’s a tough decision, because the stories are so different and have such different aims, so that what it comes down to is, finally, a question of personal choice. There’s much to admire in ‘The Loop’ – it’s inventive, intelligent, thought-provoking — but I’d choose Alex Clark’s story. It’s cleanly written, beautifully handled — the risk with this kind of tale is always to over-egg the cake with one special effect too many, and she resists that admirably. It’s rooted in believable detail and surprisingly moving. I liked it a lot.
So it’s congratulations and £100 to Alex Clark, winner of the Fiction Desk Writer’s Award for her story ‘The Stamp Works’. And it’s thanks to Charles Lambert for taking the time to break our tie.
You can read ‘The Stamp Works’, along with Chris Fryer’s excellent story and all the others, in There Was Once a Place. And don’t forget to check out Charles Lambert’s With a Zero at Its Heart too. Both books are out now in all the usual paperback and ebook formats.
June’s round-up didn’t even come close to listing all the new books coming out from The Fiction Desk’s authors this year. So here are some more:
Matthew Licht: Justine, Joe, and the Zen Garbageman
Over the years Matthew Licht has become one of The Fiction Desk’s regulars, with stories appearing in Various Authors, Crying Just Like Anybody, and New Ghost Stories. His new book is out now from Salt, who have this to say:
Justine’s a famous poet. Joe’s a self-styled Private Investigator without a clue. The Garbageman has cleaned his mind through immersion in filth. What he has to offer his clients, and even his enemies, is serenity. Three characters in search of a reader: you.
Jon Wallace: Barricade
Jon Wallace‘s story ‘Rex’ appeared in our first anthology, Various Authors, back in 2011. His debut novel, a road thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future, was released this summer by Golancz. Here’s what they have to say:
Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.
A fast-paced, droll and disturbing novel, BARRICADE is a savage road trip across the dystopian landscape of post-apocalypse Britain; narrated by the cold-blooded yet magnetic antihero, Kenstibec.
Kenstibec is a member of the ‘Ficial’ race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.
The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who’s touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that’s just the start of his troubles.
On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant king with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good – and humanity too.
Danny Rhodes: Fan
In 1989, eighteen-year-old John Finch spends his Saturdays following Nottingham Forest up and down the country and the rest of the week trudging the streets of his hometown as a postal worker. 2004 sees Finch spending his days teaching in a southern secondary school, delaying the inevitable onslaught of parenthood. Leading inexorably towards the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, the worst sporting disaster in British history, Fan glides between 1989 and 2004 when the true impact of this tragic day becomes evident. A book of personal and collective tragedy; it s about growing up and not growing up, about manhood and about what makes a man, and above all about football s role in reflecting a society that is never more than a stone s throw away from shattering point.
Jonathan Pinnock: Take it Cool
Jonathan Pinnock is a relative newcomer to The Fiction Desk: his story ‘A Whole Bloody Century’ appeared in New Ghost Stories. His new book, Take it Cool, is out now from Two Ravens Press, who have this to say about it:
If you’re born with the name Pinnock, you are just two consonants away from disaster, and that proximity pretty much wipes out any chance you have of being cool. Jonathan Pinnock knows this. He has never been cool. The word “Pinnock” is printed through his every bone like Brighton rock.
But then one day he finds out about Dennis Pinnock. That’s Dennis Pinnock, the reggae singer. The reggae singer who recorded over twenty singles on a dozen different labels but never made it to a full-length album, despite working with some of the biggest names in black British music.
So who is this Dennis Pinnock guy? Is he still alive? Is he a big star somewhere? What is a black man of West Indian origin doing with that daft surname? And what in God’s name is a white, middle-class, middle-aged bloke doing on a quest like this anyway?
In the course of the search for Dennis Pinnock, Jonathan digs up some long-forgotten cuts of reggae music, tries to re-inter one or two others, marvels at some unfeasibly shiny suits and encounters some unpalatable truths about how his surname might have crossed the race boundary.
Several of our authors have events coming up in July. As ever, plans can change, so check details with the organisers before making plans. (Links given below.)
July 4: Jon Wallace talk at Palatine Library, Blackpool
Jon Wallace will be talking about his new novel, Barricade, set in post-apocalyptic Britain. The event starts at 14:30, and tickets are £2. (Tickets can be booked in advance: see here for details.)
July 11-12: Amanda Mason’s play at York Theatre Royal
A group of acting students at the York Theatre Royal will be performing a selection of thirty brief plays, including one from our own Amanda Mason. For full details and booking, see here.
July 13: Jon Wallace at London Film & Comic Con
Here’s Jon Wallace again, this time making an appearance on Sunday at the London Film and Comic Con. Details of this event are here.
July 15: James Benmore at Big Green Bookshop
The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, London, will be hosting an evening with James Benmore to celebrate the publication of his novel, Dodger of the Dials. It runs from 19:00 to 20:30, and tickets are £3 (redeemable against any book purchased during the event). Details and tickets here.
July 17: James Benmore at the Dickens Museum, London
On the evening of July 17th, James Benmore will be appearing at the Dickens Museum in London. The evening kicks off with a tour of the museum, followed by a talk and readings from James. There will also be a bar.
Tickets are £10. Full details are on the Dickens Museum website here.
July 25: Richard Smyth at the New Moon pub, London
From 19:00 on Friday 25th July, Dead Ink Books will be hosting an evening of “roistering, feasting and exciting new fiction” to mark the launch of new novels by Richard Smyth and S J Bradley. There will be drinks, grub, and readings. Here’s some info on the pub.
This summer is going to be a busy one for our authors, with new novels and other bits and pieces coming out. Here’s a round-up of what to look out for:
Miha Mazzini: Crumbs (Out now)
Slovenian author Miha Mazzini‘s stories have appeared in two of our anthologies: Crying Just Like Anybody and New Ghost Stories. He’s written several novels, although only a few have been translated into English. The German Lottery (published by CB Editions) is well worth a read, and this year Freight Books have published a translation of his debut novel, Crumbs. Here’s the blurb:
The best-ever selling novel from the former Yugoslavia, this is a hilarious, anarchic, irreverent black comedy about national aspirations and wanting things you can’t have, re-published in the year that Scotland votes on independence.
Egon is an amoral but charismatic writer, living on the breadline in a grim, unnamed communist factory town in Slovenia prior to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. With little evidence of his real literary ambitions, he makes ends meet by writing trashy romances under a pseudonym. When not searching out sex with as many women as possible, or slagging off the literary establishment, Egon is full of schemes to feed his pathological need for the ruinously expensive aftershave, Cartier pour L’Homme.
Around him Egon has gathered a motley crew of friends and acquaintances, each of whom also has an equally obsessive, unattainable ambition. Poet is desperate to have his verse published in a leather bound volume, Ibro is in love with Ajsha, a factory girl to whom he cannot utter a single word, while Selim is convinced he’ll marry Nastassja Kinski, the world-famous actress. As Egon’s attempts to secure more perfume become ever more degenerate, his grip on his own identity loosens. The consequences are messy, as grim as they are hilarious, and allude to a nation undergoing radical change.
Crumbs is not only a ribald, dirty realist satire – a modern European classic – but also a fascinating and utterly unique commentary on the pathology of self-determination. It’s publication in the months before Scotland votes on independence lends a surprising, alternative but authoritative perspective on the debate.
James Benmore: Dodger of the Dials (Out now)
This is the second book in James Benmore‘s series of novels revisiting the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist. Written in the Artful’s voice, these novels show off James Benmore’s talents as an impersonator, and the stories feel as much performance as literature. (For the performance of another, very different character, see James Benmore’s story ‘Jaggers & Crown’ in All These Little Worlds. Here’s what publishers Heron have to say:
Two years on from the events of Dodger, Jack Dawkins is back as top-sawyer with his own gang of petty thieves from Seven Dials. But crime in London has become a serious business—and when Jack needs protection he soon finds himself out of his depth and facing the gallows for murder.
The evidence against him seems insurmountable, until a young reporter by the name of Oliver Twist takes up his cause. After freeing Jack from gaol, the pair must bury their past differences and join forces to hunt down the men who framed Jack and stole that which he treasures most.
Charles Lambert: With a Zero at Its Heart (Out now)
This short novel is constructed of 240 paragraphs, each of 120 words, forming a semi-autobiographical narrative. There are always tensions in Charles Lambert‘s writing between structure and emotion, and the personal and political, and I’m particularly excited to see how those tensions resolve themselves in this new book. With a Zero at Its Heart has already been well received by the Guardian. Charles will be launching the book in London next week. Here’s what publisher The Friday Project says:
24 themed chapters.
Each with 10 numbered paragraphs.
Each paragraph with precisely 120 words.
The sum of a life.
In his beautiful and haunting new book, Charles Lambert explores the fragmentary nature of memory, how the piecing together of short recollections can reveal a greater narrative. Through chapters tackling elemental themes such as Sex, Death, and Money, Lambert assembles the narrator’s moving life story. Executed with all the grace and finesse of his previous acclaimed work, this is an incredible artistic achievement, breathtaking in its simplicity yet awe-inspiring in its scope.
With cover and text design by the renowned designer Vaughan Oliver, With a Zero at its Heart is as beautiful to look at as it is to read.
William Thirsk-Gaskill: Escape Kit (Out now)
This is a short novella from William Thirsk-Gaskill, whose story ‘Can We Have You All Sitting Down, Please?’ appeared in Crying Just Like Anybody. It’s available as a limited edition paperback and Kindle ebook. Here’s the blurb from publishers Grist:
Bradley is a fourteen-year-old school boy who escapes his troubled home life to visit his grandparents in Stevenage. On the train there, he is held hostage by a deluded gunman who thinks he is an escaped PoW from WWII and that Bradley is a member of the Hitler Youth. Now Bradley must try and escape using his mobile phone. William Thirsk-Gaskill’s novella is a gripping and beautifully told tale of innocence and experience.
Richard Smyth: Wild Ink (June 2014)
Richard Smyth provided the title story for Crying Just Like Anybody, and a supernatural tale to New Ghost Stories. He’s published several books of non-fiction, but Wild Ink is his first novel. Here’s what the publisher (Dead Ink) says:
Wild Ink is a blackly comic story of friendship and envy, love and memory, booze and uproar, secrets and scandal. Albert Chaliapin is dead – or at least, he feels like he ought to be. He lives in a world occupied only by the ghosts of his former life (and his nurse, who can’t even get his name right). Then, one day, his past – in the form of a drunk cartoonist, a suicidal hack and a corrupt City banker – pays a visit, and Chaliapin is resurrected, whether he likes it or not. He doesn’t, much.
Someone’s sending him some very strange cartoons. Someone’s setting off bombs all over London. Someone’s been up to no good with some very important people. This is no job for a man wearing pyjamas. Will Chaliapin make it out alive? And is being alive, when it comes down to it, really all it’s cracked up to be?
Jo Gatford: White Lies (July 2014)
Jo Gatford, who won our 2014 flash fiction competition, is also celebrating the publication of her debut novel from Legend Press. White Lies takes a look at the way a family’s secrets are exposed when the father develops dementia. Here’s the blurb:
When Matt’s half-brother Alex dies, his father refuses to hold onto the memory of his favourite son’s death. It was hard enough the first time, but breaking his dad’s heart on a weekly basis is more than Matt can bear.
Peter, Matt’s father, is terrified his dementia will let slip the secrets he’s kept for thirty-five years. Unable to distinguish between memory and delusion, he pursues one question through the maze of his mind: Where’s Alex?
Faced with the imminent loss of his father, Matt is running out of time to discover the truth about his family. Tortured by his failing memory, Peter realises that it’s not just the dementia threatening to open his box of secrets, but his conscience, too.
Our regular readers will be familiar with Charles Lambert, whose work appeared in our first two anthologies. He’s also the author of several novels, and his latest, With a Zero at its Heart, which was published last month by The Friday Project. Some of his novels, like the new one, are literary fiction, while others are thrillers that explore power and corruption in his adopted country of Italy.
Charles will be coming to London for a couple of events to celebrate the publication of his new book. Having been to his launches in the past, I definitely recommend going along to one of these if you can.
As ever, event details can change at the last minute, so be sure to check the websites below for any updates.
Monday, 9th June: Waterstones Piccadilly
Charles will be at Waterstones Piccadilly from 7pm for ‘An Evening with Charles Lambert’, which is sure to be fun. The event is free, but they’d like you to reserve a place by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details of the this event, visit the Waterstones website.
Tuesday, 10th June: Belgravia Books
Charles will be at Belgravia Books on Ebury Street from 18:30 to 20:30 on the evening of the tenth to celebrate the launch of With a Zero at its Heart.
For more on this event, see the event page on Facebook.
Charles Lambert in The Fiction Desk
There are short stories by Charles in the first two Fiction Desk anthologies: ‘All I Want’ appeared in Various Authors, and ‘Pretty Vacant’ appeared in All These Little Worlds.
Both books are still available, either direct from us, or to order from all good bookshops (including Waterstones and Belgravia Books).