Wednesday 20 May 2015

Book Launch and Giveaway!

Well, hello everyone!

It's been quite a while since I blogged, but if you've been following me on Facebook or Twitter then you know this is due to my engaging in another of my very silly projects. 

In 2014 I set off, once again, to write 365 stories. But, this time, the plan was to produce them as 12 books of linked stories, and to self-publish them all. This much, I did, and then since the last full stop was typed (9.45pm, 31st December 2014, if you want to know) I have been teaching - a lot! - and also turning those 12 books into one massive volume. It is now out, and it is:

The 2014 Flash365 Anthology!

I have made arguments for the necessity of this book's existence - a concrete sign of my output and the project's actuality, a way for people to buy the whole collection for a much cheaper price (£24.99 in paperback, or £8.99 on Kindle, rather than £59.88/£23.88 individually), and even something about there being a market for it, or an academic need, or something - but basically I just wanted a book with a large enough spine on it that I could see my name from across the room!

Anyway, it is now available in a foot-threateningly big paperback (really, careful you don't drop it - it's heavy!) and in a much lighter, but no-less-stonking Kindle version. And, to celebrate, I'm going to give it away!

So, if you would like the chance to win a FREE copy of the mammoth paperback (really, it's like eleven inches tall, seven inches wide and over seven hundred pages thick - it's HUGE!) or be one of the FIVE runners-up to get a free copy of the eBook, then all you have to do is sign up for my new Newsletter using the form below.

Newletter? You say. You never mentioned a Newsletter.

Well, actually, I just did.

But, yes, there's always a catch isn't there? I promise, though, that I don't send out Newsletters very often, and when I do it will only be useful book/writing-related information. Scout's honour! (Although, in fairness, I was never a Scout, nor a Cub, nor a Brownie, but you know what I mean.)

So, please sign up below, and you could be the proud owner of this wrist-breakingly large book!

Names will be drawn on 1st June, so you have until my birthday (seems only right) which is the day before, to sign up.

(Note: If you are already a member of the mailing list, then you will automatically be entered into the draw.)

Thanks for reading, thanks for (maybe) entering, and please, please spread the word!

Subscribe to the Newsletter mailing list

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Tuesday 13 May 2014

Lunch Hour - 3 for FREE

And so, to bring you up to date, we have 3 FREE stories from my most recent collection, Lunch Hour. All 30 of these stories were written in April and feature the many inhabitants of a single office, and what happens to them during their lunch hour. There is love and loss, life and death, shopping and aliens... you know, the usual. These disparate flash-fictions work together to create a picture of a complete world which is both recognisable and unfamiliar at the same time.

Lunch Hour is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version
Amazon USA – Kindle version

Amazon UK – Print version 
Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)


Noah’s hands were sweating, slipping on the keyboard, making typos entirely outside of his control. Every few seconds his gaze slid from the words of his email down to the clock in the bottom corner of the screen, and then back. In the interim his interpretation of spelling and gram-mar took further diversions, but he was no longer reading the text he was typing, or caring about what it said.

He was waiting, counting down, waiting for twelve o’clock and for his lunch hour to start.

He ran through his plan one last time.

12.00 – stop working, lock the computer, switch off the screen,

12.01 – take the box out of the top desk-drawer on the right.

12.03 – walk out of the building and turn right towards Covent Garden.

12.14 – arrive at the Garden and wait.

12.15 – Annie arrives.

12.20 – sit down on their bench.

12.30 – finish eating the sandwiches which Annie will bring. It’s her turn and there’s no way to stop her without giving the game away.

12.35 – remove box from pocket.

12.35:30 – get down on one knee.

12.36 – finish asking the question.

Once more he tried to move the plan forward in his mind, to see what might come after the question, but he couldn’t make it work. He could see everything up until that moment, but not beyond.

He felt a fresh slick of sweat seep from the pores on his hands. A separate trickle ran down between his shoulder blades.

He stopped typing and looked up over the heads of all his friends and colleagues to the clock on the wall, the clock which dictated everything, the clock which held his life in its hands.

The seconds ticked away: slowly, so slowly.

And then, at last, it was time.

You Are What You Eat

Typical. The lift’s out. Nineteen floors by stairs, plus the office to office. It’s not what I signed up for.

Still, this isn’t the job I wanted. It isn’t a job anyone would want. But at the moment, any job is worth having. Or jobs. When I finish here, it’s the afternoon shift in the shop, then off to the Hounds for the evening – late licence tonight – then up early for the morning shift behind the desk at the vet’s. Altogether it’s just about enough to pay for the flat.

It helps to be young, and it helps to be blonde. Getting the only kind of job that’s available at the moment is much easier when you can flash a smile, maybe a bit of leg or a bit of boob. Does that make me a bad feminist? Well, so be it. I reckon it makes me a realist.

 It also helps with the tips. You don’t get many at the vet’s – the customers feel they’re paying enough as it is – but the saucer fills up well at the shop, and I get a lot behind the bar, especially if I choose my top carefully.

Funny, though, the best tips I get are on the office run, here in particular.

Prawn Mayo And Tuna Sweetcorn barges past me as I start up the first flight. I don’t mind, it’s not his day anyway. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he has his double order. He tips well, but not as well as some of the others. Don’t think he notices my charms – mind on other things.

Still, his floor usually does me well. There’s Plain Ham on White – a quid or two most days and a fiver on a Friday. I put up with the pat on the bottom and the patronising attitude because that’s what I’m being paid for.

Beef and Horseradish on Brown is a regular one-fifty every day – and no pat. Which is a bit of shame, he’s quite a good-looking bloke. I wouldn’t have to plaster a fake smile like I do for Plain Ham.

The four Chicken Salads share a bank of desks. They always have a laugh about their shared order. They share a laugh about everything. It’s only a couple of quid on a Friday from all of them, but that doesn’t matter, as their boss is a fiver-a-day man.

I know why he does that, of course. He reckons he’s buying my silence, but I wouldn’t say anything anyway. I mean, who cares about a bit of porn? I could have told you by looking at him that he was the kind of man who wants to wear nappies and be spanked, I didn’t need to see his screen to know that.

I save Turkey on Wholemeal for last. She’s the highlight of my day, and the only woman in this whole block who orders from us.

I don’t know why we have so few women. Maybe they bring their own. I see some of them eating pasta or salad from Tupperware. Maybe they order from somewhere else where the delivery comes from a hunky, ‘Diet Coke’ kinda guy rather than me. Who knows, or cares? All I’m bothered about is keeping Turkey on Wholemeal happy.

She doesn’t tip, except at Christmas, but I don’t care about that either.

It’s not that I fancy her. There wouldn’t be a problem if I did. I’ve tried that, and it was nice, but I prefer blokes if I’m honest. And she’s too old for me, anyway.

No, I like her because turkey on wholemeal was what my mum used to eat. And she looks a bit like my mum. And on the corner of her desk is a photo of her when she was younger, with a man, and two kids, and she’s wearing a waitress’s uniform.

She’s the boss of this whole place now, and I look at her and I know that she had to put up with the pats on the bum and the constant call of ‘darling’ and I know that if she can do it, so can I.

Clearing Up

Mark chewed on his beef sandwich without really tasting it, not even the zing of the horseradish penetrating his concentration.

The morning had dragged as he entered figures into spreadsheets, sorted them, applied formulae and generally did whatever it was he got paid for. His mind had not been on the job, how-ever, and everything had taken him a lot longer than it should. He had been waiting for lunch time – the one time of day they were allowed to use the computers for personal activities.

And now, with the clock having ticked past the meridian, and half of his colleagues having left to run their various errands, he was able to chew his unnoticed mouthfuls and try to break his girlfriend’s passwords.

He knew some of them. She had told him the ones for Netflix and the Sky account. They were both based on the name of her first pet: ‘Hercules12’ and ‘hercuLes9’, so he had some inkling of what others were likely to be, the trick was to get them right without triggering any security lockouts.

He’d been through her desk at home, so he knew the account numbers for her bank accounts, and her online login codes. He’d been through her phone so he knew that she also used ‘HerCuLes666’ and ‘astrid7’, but he didn’t know what for.

His first job, as he saw it, was to break into her email. If he could get that, then he would have access to the email reminders for passwords and usernames and then his job would be easier.

Luckily the email didn’t seem to care how many times you got the password wrong, so he was able to open it on his ninth try with, of all things, ‘hercules’.

After that, he got onto a winning streak. The bank accounts used the second of the two pass-words from her phone. Once in, he quickly transferred most of her savings into his account. He left the money in her current account. Clearing her out completely might look suspicious.

While he was there, he checked to see if her pay had gone in yet. When he saw that it hadn’t he logged into her work system (using the wonders of ‘Forgotten Password?’) and exchanged her bank details for his. The money would go in tonight, and then he could change it back.

He read through her emails, oddly wondering if there was anything else he ought to do, but he seemed to have caught it all. So he gave a sigh of relief and logged off from her systems. He shut down the windows, wiped his browsing history and cookies, and sat back in his chair.

He looked up at the clock on the wall. It wasn’t even half past. He’d managed it all in less than thirty minutes.

He popped the last corner of his sandwich into his mouth, savouring the flavour that he had so far ignored. Perhaps it would be a good idea to get out into the sunshine for a little walk before he started back. After all, he would probably be spending the afternoon working up another worry as he waited for home time, and the fresh air would calm him.

He thought ahead to what awaited him. He would leave, get home, eat tea, and then phone his girlfriend. When she didn’t answer, he would get worried and go round. When she didn’t come to the door he would go in and find her dead on the floor – in the same pose he had found her the previous night: spread-eagled at the bottom of the stairs, a loose slipper hanging from one foot – and then he would finally ring the police and tell them the terrible news.

Yes, definitely time for a little walk.

Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Grandmaster - 3 for FREE

Following on from the 3 FREE stories I gave you from Apocalypse and The Audacious Adventuress, as an attempt to whet your appetite, I thought I would let you see the first 3 stories from March's collection: The Grandmaster. It is a full crime story but told, as ever, in flash-fictions.

The Grandmaster is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version
Amazon USA – Kindle version

Amazon UK – Print version 
Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)


The knife drew slowly across her throat as she screamed behind the hard-clamped gloved hand. The blood ran down her neck and stained her blouse, oozing slowly at first but then gushing with gathering force. It spattered onto the bare floorboards, running with the grain and gathering in the joins.

Her writhing slowed as her screams became gurgles, and then they stopped and she hung limp in the arms of her killer.

He dropped her body to the floor, his mouth a cruel gash in his ski mask, then he stepped past the body to the dresser.

He emptied the contents of the jewellery box into the rucksack which had been hanging like a flaccid chrysalis from his back. He rifled through her underwear drawer, examining some of the slighter, lacier items and discarding them after a moment, pulling three black velvet boxes out from the bottom and adding their contents – a necklace and two large-gemmed rings – to his haul.

He turned and walked back across the room, treading through the spreading pool of blood and leaving wet, red boot-marks in his wake.

The wall safe was his next stop, and then the desk in the office.

At the door he discarded his boots, and pulled fresh trainers from a holdall. He pulled off his ski mask and slipped it into a pocket of his jacket, then he exited onto the street and joined the flow of humanity.

“That was where the trail went cold,” said the voiceover. “After committing the same crime in twelve different cities, and leaving twenty corpses in his wake, the killer disappeared. But two years later, Detective Crispin, having refused to give up, found the clue which would crack the case wide open.”


“I don’t understand how you can watch this shit. I think sometimes you’re a sicko,” Mike said as he walked into the lounge in search of his keys and shoes. He found the latter and sat down on the edge of the sofa to pull them on and tie the laces.

Heather shifted in her own seat and then gave a grimace as she extracted her fiancĂ©’s keys from underneath her. She held them out to him with a look of mock-distaste on her face.

“That’s rich, coming from you, considering what you used to do, what you do all day and what you’re going to do now!”

He shrugged as he stood up, slipping the warm keys into his pocket. “The reality is nothing like that, though. Those crime channels you watch glorify and glamourize the whole grisly business. It’s not clever or shiny, it’s just bloody messy.”

She waved him off and turned back to the TV. “Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Have a good day at work with your bloody messy job. See you later.”

He grinned at her and bent down to kiss her cheek, then he walked from the room, grabbed his coat from the hall stand, and headed off to the latest bloody mess.

The Opening Move

Dave shut the front door and dropped his keys onto the small table in the hall. He took two steps and then stopped, walked back to the table, and picked them up again. He’d read on the internet about people using long stiff wires to steal people’s keys through letter boxes. He didn’t want to be burgled, didn’t want someone to get into the flat in the middle of the night, didn’t want someone driving off in his car and listening to his music.

He carried the keys through into the lounge and dropped them on the coffee table instead – making a mental note to remember where he’d put them so he wouldn’t have to spend too much time looking for them in the morning. He dropped his briefcase onto the sofa and chased it with his jacket and his tie.

His next steps took him to the dining table. He pressed the button to bring his laptop to life, kicked his shoes off and sat down.

He typed in his password and the screen opened straight into his internet browser.

He spent all day bent over a computer, checking the markets, making trades, but this was always his routine when he returned home: log on and get into his own, much more interesting business.

He was bent over the keyboard, typing, when the blade entered the back of his neck. It slid smoothly up and into his brain.

Dave let out an involuntary squawk and his stockinged feet drummed on the floor, then he collapsed forward onto the keyboard, his nose typing an endless ‘fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff…’ across the screen.

His killer stepped away from the body, using a small rag to wipe the blade clean of blood and brain matter, then stowing both in a small pouch.

He took a moment to look around, and then stepped over to the coffee table. He lifted the keys which Dave had placed there and slipped them into his pocket.

He removed the few books and magazines from the coffee table, took a folded duster from his pocket and used it to clean the bare surface. He placed the literature in a neat pile on the dining table and straightened the edges.

He then took the chessboard from its place on the small bookcase next to the TV, the one filled with DVDs, and placed it in the centre of the coffee table. He aligned it with the edges, nudging it back and forth until, with a nod, he was happy.

He reached out and picked up a white pawn. He rolled it between his fingers, feeling the edges of the piece through the slickness of his latex gloves, and then he placed it back on the board, two squares advanced from where it had been.

As he left the flat, the laptop started a low scream of beeping as it finally protested.

The Bloody Mess

The policeman held out his hand, palm out, and Mike stopped and produced his ID.


Mike nodded. “I should be on the list.”

The policeman checked the clipboard which he had been holding down by his side, and nodded to himself. He turned and pulled the crime scene tape from the frame, and pushed the door open a little. Mike could tell that the man didn’t want to go inside and probably didn’t even want to look. He held back a smile.

“You know what you’re doing?” the policeman asked.

Mike nodded. “Sure. This isn’t my first time.” He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and looked at it. “Living room?” he asked.

The policeman nodded. “Yeah. Though there’s a bit of fingerprint powder in other rooms too.”

“That’s normal. But no blood or anything?”

The policeman gritted his teeth and Mike wondered how long he had been in the job, and how long he would last.

“No. No blood. Or anything. Just the lounge.”

“Okay,” Mike replied, gave the policeman an overly-hearty smile, and entered the flat.

The lounge was at the end of a short hallway. The late winter light lit the dancing dust in the room, at least partly made up of the police’s powder. It also lit on the dark red stain which started on the dining table and continued on the floor. It formed an oblong outline on the table, showing where something had been removed.

Mike put down his kit and took a closer look. It wasn’t a lot of blood. He’d seen worse.

A quick survey of the room, and he saw that apart from the mess made by the police, this was it. No wonder they had sent him in alone on this job. Naeem would be annoyed to miss out on the work, but that was what seniority brought you.

Mike grimaced at the fact that he saw the chance to clean up someone else’s blood and brain matter as a cause for celebration, then started to unpack his things.

He glanced again around the room as he did so, always curious about what the police might have discovered; wondering if they had caught their killer, and then set to work. If he could get this done quickly, he could be back before Heather left for her shift at the hospital.

He started to clean up the bloody mess.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

The Audacious Adventuress - 3 for FREE

Following on from the 3 FREE stories from Apocalypse, as an attempt to whet your appetite, I thought I would let you see the first 3 stories from the Lucy Burkhampton collection: The Audacious Adventuress. After you read these, I defy you not wanting to 'read on...'

The Audacious Adventuress is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version
Amazon USA – Kindle version

Amazon UK – Print version
Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

Part 1
The Call to Adventure

Lucy Burkhampton, socialite and mountain climber, is heir to the Burkhampton fortune and stands to inherit the whole Burkhampton estate upon her father’s death. In the meantime she spends her time in the same way as any young lady, attending balls, doing good works, and scaling the world’s highest peaks. As we enter the story she is resting on a ledge before attempting the next stage of her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, read on...

Lucy lifted her flask from where it hung at her side. The air was cool, but the climbing was hot. She forearmed sweat from her forehead and studied the rocks ahead. She was roped, as any good climber should be, and Emily Garbert-Smithe had found a good place to rest and secure the rope, so there was little chance she would fall, but Lucy prided herself on making every climb utterly flawlessly.

Her eyes traced over the cracks and gaps in the rock, picturing the climb in her mind, seeing and almost feeling the way her hands would slot here and here, while her toes could hold there and there.

She was just readying herself to commence the climb when she heard a scuffling from above. She looked up and saw Emily grappling with a man in black. He seemed intent on throwing her from the cliff.

And that was just what he did!

With a shrill scream, Lucy’s best friend since childbirth, her sister in all but name, teetered on the brink and then, with one last shove from her mysterious assailant, was ejected into space.

She plummeted past our plucky heroine, trailing the rope behind her. Lucy braced herself for the jerk, and it came. Emily reached the end of the line and slammed to a halt, still screaming and now swinging in towards the sheer cliff face.

Lucy held on with trembling fingers, but the weight of her friend was too much, she, herself, was being pulled towards the edge!

She reached down and grabbed her ice axe. She hadn’t needed it before, they hadn’t been high enough up, but now she did. She pulled it free and slammed the point into the ledge with all her might. It bit deep and held true, and she clung on.

Looking down, she could see that Emily had been knocked unconscious by her impact against the cliff. Looking up, she saw the man in black looking down.

“Who are you?” she shouted. “What on earth did you do that for?”

The man laughed before he responded and the sound of it chilled Lucy to the very heart.

“Who am I?” he called in a mocking tone. “Why, my dear girl, I am nothing less than your nemesis!”

He paused to laugh again, then continued.

“I will be the end of you and of all things Burkhampton. I have already disposed of your father, after getting him to make over his Last Will and Testament to me. In a moment, I will be free of you, the only challenge to my success. And then I shall track down the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom and all of your riches and lands will be mine!”

This time the laugh was definitively maniacal. And it went on for a long time.

Meanwhile, Lucy was struggling to hold on. Emily’s dead weight was pulling at her, and she was powerless to resist. She slid, inexorably, towards the edge of the cliff while the madman in black laughed.

He did nothing more than watch as first one foot and then the other were pulled out into space. And then she was hanging by her fingers from the cliff, her unconscious friend unconsciously dragging them both to a jagged death.

What will happen next? How long can this ‘cliff-hanging’ moment last? Will our heroine and her friend survive? Who is the man in black? What is the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom? To find out all the answers to this, and more, tune in next time...

Part 3
Taking the Plunge

Last time: Having left Emily’s body with three strange Sherpas and reached base camp, our intrepid heroine, Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber, has caught her leg in a bear trap left behind by her evil nemesis, Lord Diehardt. The tents are in flames and there is no help within a hundred miles. How will our plucky girl escape? Read on…

Lucy stared frantically around the inside of the burning tent, tugging at her foot, trying to pull herself free. Then, with a moment of desperate inspiration, she grabbed the kerosene lamp from the table next to her, smashed the glass chimney from it, then poured the kerosene down the side of her leg and into her sturdy boot.

She knew it was insane, in an inferno, to cover herself in flammable liquid, but it was her only chance and she needed the lubrication.

With a heave, she pulled at her leg and it slipped up and out of her boot.

“Yes!” She exclaimed then knelt and prised open the trap, releasing her item of precious, bespoke leather footwear and pulling it back on, her fingers slipping repeatedly from the kerosene.

She finally pulled it on and grabbed the trusty knapsack which was the reason why she had come back to camp in the first place. It contained everything important to her, and if Lord Diehardt was right, it was all that she had left in the world.

With her life in her hands, she spun to where the exit had been only to be greeted by a wall of flame. She didn’t pause, but with her lustrous hair tied securely back in a ponytail and bouncing against the nape of her neck, she plunged through the flames and out into the open air.

She took three steps before she realised that her boot and both of her hands were on fire. She dropped and rolled, quenching her hands and trousers, then leapt for the fortuitously nearby stream and doused her boot in the cold water.

Lucy pulled her foot back out. The leather was slightly blackened, but essentially unharmed, and she gave a sigh of relief.

That was when the first bullet hit the ground just by her.

She looked up and on the ridge above her she could see head after head, each with the pinprick of a rifle barrel piercing the skyline. A second shot exploded in the dirt on the other side.

She jumped backwards and rolled again, and then she came up running. She zigged and zagged through the camp, putting the burning tents between her and her new assailants. The bullets were still coming, thicker and faster now, but their aim was getting worse as the rising heat from the flames skewed their view of her.

She ran on, beyond the camp, wondering just how much was ranked against her, as the shots grew fainter. Just how many people did this Lord Diehardt have working for him? How many assailants would she be forced to battle against if she was to get to the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom before her nemesis? And then, if she did find the Eye, would she be able to get it to her father’s old school friend, the Sultan, and claim the proof of her inheritance that she would need to regain her life?

She had no answers to any of these questions, so she simply ran, but she knew, in her soul, that she was going to try her very hardest. And that would have to be enough to prevail. It would have to!

The firing seemed to have stopped – or maybe she had just moved out of range – but she continued to run.

She slowed, however, as she realised that there was no longer anywhere to run to. The plain came to an abrupt end at a low cliff. Beyond it was a rushing river – the flood which the stream through their camp had fed – all green water and white foam.

She paused at the edge, standing between large rocks, looking down at the water and trying to work out her next move, when a pair of hands pushed her in the back and she flew from the cliff.

“Get in, the water’s lovely!” shouted Lord Diehardt as she plunged into the rapids and was pulled towards the rocks.

Our plucky heroine has been swept away, but is this the end, or just a baptism at the start of her journey? How does Lord Diehardt manage to always be ahead of her? Will Lucy be able to get away long enough to regain her life? Will she hold onto her trusty knapsack? Tune in, next week, to find out…

Part 8
The Sting in the Tale

Last time: Our beloved heroine, Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber, having escaped from the Pygmies and finally having boarded a ship for the Indies, finds herself locked below decks, in a ship which is plainly heading South rather than East, and with a barrel of scorpions smashed open at her feet! Will she escape from this ship of evil or will she feel the sting of death? Read on…

As the scorpions crawled closer, their claws scratching on the deck, Lucy kicked out. The creatures flew and hit the far wall, but landed unhurt and scuttled back towards her. She nodded to herself, her hair moving in a graceful rise and fall, and she changed her tactics for the next wave. These she stamped on, crushing the life from them, apologising in her mind but assuring their souls that her need was greater, and at the same time thanking providence for her sturdy leather boots.

In next to no time she found herself surrounded by a fresh carpet of dead scorpions and could finally turn her attention to the locked door which barred her way.

With barely a pause she reached to the bunk and grabbed her trusty knapsack. A single loose scorpion was sitting on top of it, but without any pause at all she swept it to the floor and stamped on it, even as she reached in to the bag for her small pouch of wotnots.

A bobby pin was to be her saviour. She bent the ends together and fed the whole thing into the door lock. With one twist she was free.

Or free of the cabin, at least, for beyond the door were two swarthy seamen, each clutching a short sword, and obviously waiting for her.

She gave them one of her best smiles and tossed her lustrous hair. They followed it with their eyes, as she had known they would – as she always knew that men always would – and so they didn’t see one of her sturdy boots again coming into action as she hefted it up between the legs of the man on her right.

He let out a gust of air in an “Ooof!” sound, and clutched at himself. As the sword fell from his hand, Lucy dropped into a squat and caught it, effortlessly shifting her knapsack to her left shoulder as she did so, and so was prepared to meet the sweep of the sword from the other sailor as it plummeted towards her.

The ring of steel on steel filled the gangway as they fought back and forth. The first sailor was forgotten, groaning on the floor, as Lucy fought the other man backwards towards the ladder and the companionway above it. That was her route to the freedom of the deck, and nothing was going to stop her.

“Do you know what I think?” she eventually asked the man as they traded blow after blow, neither gaining or yielding the advantage.

“No, what?” asked the sailor, his voice deep and dark, like his hair.

“I think you’ve forgotten the first rule about boats.”

He wrinkled his brow, thinking obviously more difficult for him than fighting. “What’s that then?”

“That there’s always plenty of water!” she crowed and with her next blow she braced herself and pushed.

The sailor took a step backwards and his foot entered the puddle which Lucy had spotted on the floor behind him. He slipped, his feet rising up high in the air, and his head landing with a resounding crack.

He didn’t move, but when Lucy bent down she could see he was still breathing. That was good. Killing the scorpions had been bad enough, she didn’t want to add homicide to her list of crimes, even if these seamen were working for her nemesis, Lord Diehardt.

She leapt over the man and mounted the steps with alacrity. She burst through the hatch and onto the deck, ready to engage more of the blackguards, but the deck was deserted; at least for the moment.

She seized her chance and ran to the side, tucking the short sword into her trusty knapsack as she did. There, she climbed into the waiting lifeboat and hit the emergency release lever.

The boat splashed into the water and the relative motion of the large ship quickly dropped her back into its wake and away.

That was when she noticed that her comment to the fighting sailor had been correct. Her trusty boots were now sitting in an inch of water, and the level was rising.

And then she noticed the second thing: a note.

There was a feeling of fatalism as she unfolded it.

“Happy Sailing!” it said, and she did not need to read the elegant signature to know who had written it, nor who had drilled the holes in the bottom of the lifeboat.

Adrift on the Arabian Sea in a boat which seems destined for the ocean bottom, miles from home, even more miles from where she needs to be, and with no hope of rescue, how will our heroine survive, and find her way to the hiding place of that precious Red Eye? Tune in next month to find out…

Thursday 17 April 2014

The World in a Flash

'The World in a Flash' is the title I came up with when first asked to run an online course in flash-fiction. It seemed suitably vague while also being suitably grandiose.

It's now three years since I first ran that course, and dozens of students have now taken it and - I am assured by them - gained useful knowledge of how to write flash-fictions.

So, it seemed like a good idea to re-use the title when it came time to turn that course into a text book. It's something I've been meaning to do for a while, but this year was the first time I was able to get myself together to write it.

It contains much of the information from the course, but I've amended and added to it - including a chapter on perspective, style and experimentation that I was always sad there wasn't space for on the course - and it's now out there for all to see.

As with the flash-collections I'm writing this year, ( I've type-set it and self-published it, and I'm rather pleased with how it looks. Using subheadings and putting all the exercises into boxes, it looks like a proper text book and everything!

So, if you've taken one of my courses, but would like the information in a handy book form, or if you never have but would like more info on how to write flash-fiction, then maybe you should give this a go.

UK links:
Kindle               Print

US links:
Kindle               Print

(Change the or .com to your local Amazon store as necessary...)

Oh, and the usual pleas apply. If you like it, please consider sharing the link with your friends and leaving a review.

In the next couple of months, I'll also be converting my other two courses - one in Life Writing and one in Editing & Rewriting - as part of The World in... series, and I'm already planning new books in self-publishing, genre writing, an 'advanced' flash one, and more. If you think of anything you'd like to see in the series, just let me know!

Monday 14 April 2014

Apocalypse - 3 for FREE

Hello again.

Following on from my last post about my current flash-fiction collections, and in the run up to the 4th one (Lunch Hour) coming at the end of the month, I thought I would give you a taste of what has gone before.

So, here, for your delectation and delight, are the first three stories from Apocalypse. If you like them, and want to read on, the book is available in Kindle and print versions from all Amazon stores. Here are the links for UK and US, but if you live elsewhere, simply change the or .com to your local variant.

Amazon UK – Kindle version
Amazon USA – Kindle version

Amazon UK – Print version
Amazon USA – Print version

Enjoy, and remember, it's not the end of the world...!


Party Time

Brandon grabbed another beer from the cooler and turned to survey the crowd. He nodded to himself. It was going well. He was happy.
Now, if he could just find a way to get Ashley on her own, he’d be even happier.
He worked his way past the knots of people who had gathered in the kitchen area to talk, and back into the main lounge where the music was playing and some few people were dancing.
Ashley was over by the bedroom door, her glass of wine cupped up by her neck to keep it safely out of the way of gyrating bodies. She was talking with Jess, but that was okay. Jess and Brandon had dated for a while, but it had been years ago: a platonic, early teenage thing that they laughed about now. That she was still his friend gave Brandon confidence that he was an okay kind of boyfriend.
Brandon was halfway across the room, moving around the dancers and swaying to the beat, when Zach blocked his path.
“Josh is here,” he shouted, struggling to be heard over the music and chat.
Brandon nodded his understanding. “Cool. Has he got them?”
Zach nodded, grinning.
“Cool,” Brandon repeated. “Now?”
Again the nod.
They parted: Zach moving towards the main door to the apartment where Brandon could see Josh waiting with a large box in his arms; Brandon heading in the other direction, to where his iPod was plugged into the speakers.
“Hey!” he shouted over the groans and protests that greeted the sudden silence. “Hey, everyone! Up to the roof. We’ve got a surprise!”
He headed back through the crowd which was now grudgingly making its way out and up the stairs. He was able to position himself next to Ashley as he did so, and guided her through the crush with a hand on the small of her back. She gave him a smile and he knew that things were going to be okay.
Up on the roof, Josh was unpacking the box and setting up small devices around the parapet. Central Park was a dark absence in the distance. It would be the perfect backdrop.
“What is it?” Ashley asked Brandon as they found a space to stand in.
Brandon grinned and took a pull on his beer. “Wait and see.”
A moment later Josh moved back towards the gathered crowd, unwinding a spool of cable and holding a small box. He looked over at Brandon, who nodded, and then he pressed a button on the box.
The first set of fireworks went off with a whoosh and a second later fire burst in the sky.
There were an assortment of gasps and whoops, and Brandon felt himself tingle as Ashley slipped her arm through his and gazed up at the sky.
Another press of a button and a second set of rockets burst into the sky, lighting up the night.
However, unlike the first set, the light from these fireworks didn’t die away. Instead they grew in intensity. The light became almost too bright to look at, and then Brandon realised it wasn’t coming from the fireworks but from the sky itself. The dark of the night sky was torn with ribbons of red, like lava running through the atmosphere.
And then fireballs started to fall from the heavens and the assembled enjoyment changed to confusion and panic and, as one, the crowd turned and tried to squeeze through the door.
In the melee, Brandon lost sight of Ashley and then, in a tangle of feet, he fell and lost sight of anything at all.


He liked the dark. That was where he lived. Even when he walked in the daylight, talking and joking with friends and colleagues, he existed in a cocoon of darkness.
The night was the time when he could really be himself. No need to hold his desires in check, he could let them spread out far and wide and no-one could see them.
He stood in the shadow of the tree and waited. Sunset came late at this time of day on the Eastern seaboard, but it had finally arrived and he only had the streetlights to contend with.
He watched people walk past on the street and smoked another cigarette. He looked as though he was killing time, but he was waiting for that particular someone.
She came past here every Tuesday at this time, walking back from her Pilates class. He knew where she went and who with.
Always do your homework was his number one rule.
He knew which routes she took and when and why she might change her routine. He knew everything he needed to know.
And he knew that tonight was the night.
Right on schedule she appeared under a distant streetlight. The evening was warm, and she was still in her sweats. He could see the glisten on her skin even from here.
He watched as she approached, counting slowly under his breath, and then as she passed him he stubbed his cigarette on the sole of his shoe and slipped the stub into his pocket with the others. No sense leaving evidence.
From his other pocket he pulled the thin latex gloves on – skin coloured so as not to give anything away – and then he set off after her.
She would turn off the main drag just one block up, and that’s where he would take her. There was an alleyway between the school and the track which was always deserted at this time on this day.
He was so intent on following her that he didn’t see the sky start to change and ripple. He didn’t see the tears which appeared in the firmament.
The first thing he knew was when she glanced to the sky and started to run. He looked up and finally saw what was happening, and just had time to notice the ball of fire which was hurtling towards him.
After that he knew nothing.


- Wow, look at those stars, dude.
- Don’t call me ‘dude’, Gav; it makes you sound like a dickhead. This is Romford, not fucking Venice Beach.
- Oh, man, chill, ‘kay? It’s all good. Here, have another toke, dude.
- You are such a spaz.
- Ha. I know. That’s why you love me, innit?
- Argh, gettoff. Stop being such a dick.
- Worried someone might see?
- Don’t be daft. Who’s around, in the middle of nowhere, at this time of the morning?
- Ah, but that’s the question.
- What?
- Hmmmm?
- What’s the question?
- Sorry?
- I said who was around at this time of the morning, and you said that was the question.
- Well, it is the question, dude.
- What is?
- Is it morning?
- Of course it’s fucking morning. It’s… well, just after five.
- Ah yes. Five. A lovely number. But is it morning?
- That’s why they call it five in the morning, dickhead.
- But we’ve not been to bed.
- So?
- So, if you’ve not been to bed, then it’s just a late night, innit? I mean, think about it, dude. It’s all perception. If you stay up all night, then it just gets later and later until suddenly – bang! – it’s morning, and then it’s early. But where’s the… you know… tipping point thingy.
- Fulcrum.
- Hah, ha, ha. You said cum!
- Crum, you dick!
- Oh. Yeah. So, where’s that, then? When does late become early. I mean, if I was your mum…
- Leave her out of it.
- Okay, dude. Chill, man. If I was my mum, I might go to bed at like, ten thirty, and then if you woke me at midnight, I’d be like – ‘who is that at this late hour?’ – or whatever. But to you and me, it would be early, cos we’d’ve, like, only just gone out and that. But if you woke her at four, she’d be all like – ‘why did you wake me so early?’ – and suddenly we’ve tipped over. Cos, that might just be late to you and me, cos we’d been up all night. So, is it late or early? That’s the question.
- Does it matter? It’s five in the morning either way.
- It sure is, dude, and those stars are amazing.
- That, I can agree with.
- Dude?
- What?
- Is it me or is the sky melting?

Monday 7 April 2014

Flash365 2014

Hello there.

Sorry I’ve not been around for a bit. Thought I would pop in, see if anyone is still here (hello?! hello?!) and tell you what I’m up to at the moment.

You see, I’m undertaking another one of my crazy projects at the moment, and I thought it was probably time to explain.

If you follow me on my various social media platforms, you can’t help but be aware that I have been writing like a man possessed and publishing a stream of books. But what’s all that about, I hear you ask. 

Well, over Christmas, I was thinking about my writing and the fact that 1. Having just finished the first draft of a novel, I had nothing on the go, and 2. That I hadn’t written any flash-fictions for a while and, seeing as that’s what I’m known for, maybe I should do some of that.

I thought back to my last flash-fiction project – flash365 in which I wrote stories and posted them to a blog every day for a year – and thought something similar might be worth attempting. There were two things which stopped me from simply redoing that project however.

The first was that, well, I’d already done it, and I was loathe to simply repeat myself. The other thing was that the idea of writing another huge selection of largely unrelated flash-fictions didn’t hold any allure for me.

It may sound arrogant to say, but there is now little challenge to me in the writing of individual flash-fictions. After a year of doing that, I know I can do it – almost to order. I have even started doing it as a party trick: standing up at events, conferences, etc., taking prompts from the audience, and writing a complete story in about five minutes while people watch.

So, what I needed was something with the size and scope of flash365, but with an extra challenge.

One of my favourite parts of flash365 was the stories I wrote in the November; the stories which became Braking Distance. The idea behind those stories was to set them all in a single place at a single time (in this case, in a motorway service station with the event of someone dropping a tray-full of tea mugs occurring in all stories). The result was a series of stories which interlinked and came together to form something akin to a novella.
 That, then, formed the inspiration for what I decided to call flash365 2014.

This consists of writing 365 stories across the year, but grouping them together in 12 collections. Each collection would be linked in some way, to make it a single piece of work, while being made up of as many flash-fictions as there were days in that month (31 for January, 28 for February etc.) And then, just to make life that little more difficult, I decided I would aim to actually publish these collections – on Kindle and Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand platform – by the end of each month.

This means that in each month I would have approximately three weeks to write the whole month’s-worth of stories, and then a week for editing, proofing, type-setting, cover-design and uploading.

I think you’ll agree that this raises the bar set by flash365 to a whole new level of crazy.

As you will note, I am writing this on Monday 7th April. I started the project on January 1st, so you might be wondering how it’s going.

Well, so far, so good.

I started by trying to map out what some of the collections would be, what events, themes, characters, etc they would revolve around. And then I got stuck into the first one.


That first collection was to be set around the end of the world. I started off planning to set them all at the same time, but that quickly became impossible, because the narrative required events to move on, and surprisingly enough the end of the world is not a quick thing.

In the first story, I invented a character who then became strung throughout the collection. Whenever he appeared, time would have moved on – by a few hours, a day, a week, whatever – and that allowed me to set a section of stories in that new time period before moving on.

The result is, as I hoped, similar to a novella, but in bite-sized fictions that give me the scope of a novel, or a series of novels, in only a little over 16000 words. It allowed me to range through my most comfortable genres – horror and sci-fi – but also include a full range including some comedy, some love stories, some domestic scenes and so on.

I was very pleased with this first collection – and with the layout and the cover – and that spurred me on to the next collection.

Apocalypse is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

The Audacious Adventuress

For this one, I had decided to revisit a character I invented as part of the original flash365: Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber. She came from a month of stories written using the titles of Barbara Cartland’s books as prompts. The prompt which started it was The Audacious Adventuress, which to me conjured up a 1950s radio serial featuring an imperilled heroine who moves in each episode from cliff-hanger to cliff-hanger. The original story was corny and clichĂ©d, fun to write, and surprisingly popular.

Since that first story was written, Lucy had had 8 more instalments, each plucked from different and separate parts of the putative serial. So when it came to the book I decided to incorporate the original stories and fill in the gaps. Though, I quickly decided, I wouldn’t completely fill all the gaps.

One of the charms of the Lucy stories for me has always been the fragmented nature of the links between them. Because no two stories follow on, you never find out how she gets out of her cliff-hangers, but by the beginning of the next story she is always in a new one. A large part of the overall narrative happens in the gaps between the stories and is told in shorthand in the ‘Last time on…’ sections at the beginnings.

I originally planned to write three Lucy collections across the year, but once I was into writing the stories, I quickly cut that down to two. While she is fun to write, each story requires you to come up with the details that have happened since the last one, the cliff hanger to start her in, the story itself and the cliff hanger to end her on. That’s a lot of work for only 700 words, and by the end I felt that I was starting to run dry. The second collection will be quite different, so I’m confident I will be able to complete that one, but it was at times a bit of a struggle.

Because of the way of writing, the second collection featured the 28 stories written especially, but also 8 of the original 9 instalments, making it a little over 22000 words in length.

Again, people have enjoyed it – for the adventure, the comedy and for the interesting structure of the book – and I’m pleased that something so different to Apocalypse could also work in the new ‘flash-fiction novella’ format that I was exploring.

The Audacious Adventuress is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

The Grandmaster

Having undertaken a series of sci-fi/speculative/horror fiction stories set around an event, in Apocalypse, and a parody of the serial adventure in The Audacious Adventuress, I wanted to turn my hand to yet another different genre when it came to the third collection.

In my original planning, all I had written down was the word ‘Crime’, so at least I knew what it was meant to be. What I didn’t know was what the story was, who the characters were, or how I was going to structure the whole thing.

I decided that I wouldn’t simply do a collection of disparate crime stories, partly because I find crime very hard to write within the confines of flash-fiction, and partly because another idea came to me.

I decided to see if I could cover the whole of what would make up a crime novel, but in just the 15000 or so words of a flash-fiction novella. By using this short form, and by implying extra bits of story in the gaps between the fictions, just how much could I cram in?

As for an idea, I went back to a novel which I started and then abandoned after I completed my MA, back in 2001. It was about a killer who was using murders as moves in a chess game.

Unlike the previous two collections, the hardest thing about this one was the plot. I realised that I needed to hit all the traditional beats of a crime novel – murders, clues, investigators, multiple suspects, red herrings – and simply deciding what to do on a daily basis wasn’t going to cut it. So very early on, with only a couple of stories written and a vague idea of the ending, I worked out what was going to happen in all of the stories and made a list to work from.

That made the writing process much easier, and then it became about how I was going to tell each story, and how I was going to imply the extra information.

The Grandmaster came out at the end of March and has also been well-received. At just over 12000 words it is the shortest collection of the year so far, but at the same time it tells the largest single story.

It has also done a good job of setting up a scenario and characters I could return to at a later date, perhaps in a full novel.

The Grandmaster is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

Lunch Hour and Beyond

And now we’re into April and I am working on book 4.

This collection will be entitled Lunch Hour and is a return to the structure I used for Braking Distance. The stories are linked but separate, creating a larger story from their interconnections rather than any continuing narrative. All the stories feature people who work in the same office and take place during a single lunch hour.

As with Braking Distance, this gives me the scope to hop from genre-to-genre, and to include the protagonists of some of the stories as minor figures in others. I’m only part-way in, but I’m enjoying it and think it will make for a fun collection.

After that, my plans for the year include the second Lucy Burkhampton collection (The Ultimate Quest); an entirely conversation-based collection featuring two more of my previously used characters, Bob and Jim; a collection of unrelated (or not) science-fiction stories; a family-saga spanning many years; a horror/ghost story collection; a time-travel collection; and, to round off the year, in December I will write a sequel to Apocalypse, picking up events a year later, called Post-Apocalypse. That will feature some of the same characters, but also some new ones, and hopefully resolve the larger story which was left hanging at the end of the first collection.

And then, just to cap it all off, I shall gather them all together and publish them as one huge book containing all 12 smaller collections. This will, of course, mostly appeal to completeists, but it will also provide me with a full record of the year, and a book on my shelf with my name in HUGE letters down the side!

Final Thoughts

Writing these collections is a fascinating project, and is already providing me with some academic, practise-based research material about flash-fiction and what it can do when used in these ways.

If you’re interested in what I’m doing, I’d love for the word to be spread about the books (and perhaps garner some sales!)

The collections are on sale as cheap as I can make them. In the month following publication the Kindle versions are only 98p, and then they rise when the next book comes out to only £1.53. The print editions are all only £4.99, so even buying one a month will hopefully not break anyone’s bank.

If you would like to write a review of any or all of the books and would like a free copy of the Kindle or PDF versions, please do get in touch with me at calum (AT) calumkerr (DOT) co (DOT) uk and I’ll send them over.

Also, now I’m back on here, I shall update at least once a month with how things are going.

There might also be some extra posts because I am currently turning my online courses (flash-fiction, life-writing and editing/rewriting) into text books. Stay tuned for more on those!

If you’ve read any of the books and enjoyed them, please let me know, but, more importantly, tell your friends. A project like this relies on word of mouth, so any help would be gratefully received.