Cover Reveal: Solid Moments

Solid MomentsIntroducing SOLID MOMENTS, a short story collection which will be released on January 9 2015.

I am thrilled to be revealing the cover to you today – once again designed by the inimitable MCM – and very much hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

What’s this all about?

As you may recall, in October I set myself a two months, one book challenge. While I’m running a little behind schedule, Solid Moments is the result of those two months’ work.

Collating 23 short stories of varying lengths, Solid Moments captures the precious minutes when we are most ourselves.

Add it on Goodreads – and stay tuned for updates!

Two Months. One book.

I have a plan.

It is a good plan, an achievable plan. A fun one too, all going well.

I need to get back into writing, but the novel is refusing to cooperate. So my plan is to recapture my enthusiasm by revisiting the short story format.

More specifically, I’ve decided to release a short story collection in December.

I toyed with the idea of a werewolf follow-up to Hungry For You, but it didn’t quite take hold of my imagination. I needed a new challenge.

What could I write about instead?

I’ve done fantasy scenes with showy set pieces, but what about the quiet moments in between? The slices of life, the intimate times when we are most ourselves?

Those precious minutes are what I’m going to be exploring for the next two months.

And, all going to plan, I’ll have something to show for it come December.

Two months. One book.

Wish me luck.

LONE WOLF

I make sure I don’t love them.

It’s hard to love prostitutes as it is; when you’re one in a long line of men paying for sex it hardly inspires devotion. But for the lonely soul, the temptation to fall in love is there. When you’ve lived as long as I have, it’s easy to see the beauty in people.

Take Antonia.

Petite, blonde. Skin so smooth you could roll a coin on it. She’s lounging on my hotel bed, legs crossed at the ankles, unlit cigarette dangling between her fingers.

I picked her not because she’s vain, stupid, or an intrinsic liar. (I’ve learnt that with enough exposure even these qualities can become loveable). I picked her because she chews loudly. After sex she always has chewing gum, and each loud, wet open-mouth chew is an offence to the senses.

It’s the small things that grate the most. Any multitude of sins can be forgiven, but the little bad habits stick.

Another loud chew. She blows a bubble and its pop shatters the silence of the hotel room. For a moment I hate her, and that’s safe.

“Another round?” she says, lazily. “Got an hour to kill.”

My body is tired but the wolf inside is eager. Three days to go until the next full moon.

She takes my silence as consent, spits out her chewing gum, and sits up next to me. Her hands run down my body but there are other things on her mind: her young daughter, the overdue bills, and her fear that she is getting too old and soon no one will book her anymore.

That last thought inspires a dangerous flash of sympathy. I push it – and her – away. For a moment instead of Antonia I see my wife, her skin rippling and transforming as the disease infects her.

“Not interested,” I say. It’s clear to both of us that my body disagrees.

I can sense Antonia’s dismay, her delicious vulnerabilities. We lock eyes and I realise a part of me has begun to care for her, open-mouthed chewing and all.

I get dressed. “You stay here. Have what you want from the bar.”

She lies back on the bed, shrugs. “See you next week.”

I’m already at the door, hand on the handle. I bow my head and want to tell her that she’ll never see me again, that I don’t hate her enough anymore, and that my love could turn her into a monster.

Instead I nod, and lie: “I’ll call you.”

I shut the door behind me before she can reply.

A Closer Look At Flash Fiction

Episode 10 of Webfiction World looks at flash fiction: the pros and cons of writing short stories, the different communities, and why you should give it a try.

My guests, John Wiswell and Angie Capozello, showed me up by have serious insight into the flash fiction community. Here’s a recap of the main points discussed.

Why write flash fiction?

To be a better writer, you need to write. It’s a simple concept: practice makes perfect. But writing flash fiction — and short fiction more generally — has unique benefits when compared to writing novels.

Flash fiction is short, under 1,000 words. It forces you to be concise and precise, it teaches you how to use your words effectively. There’s no space for infodumps or random descriptions; the challenge is to make your story engaging in a short space.

The short length of this form also makes it a perfect testing ground: you can try new genres, characters or writing styles, and if it turns out horribly, then you can move on. It would be far worse to be halfway through a novel and realise that it’s not going to work.

There is also a great twitter community surrounding flash fiction (FridayFlash, particularly) which means you can also get feedback — and if you want to improve as an author, feedback is crucial.

On the reader side, flash fiction requires very low investment. It’s generally free, and takes five minutes to read. It exposes prospective readers to your writing style, and gives you a chance to tempt them into wanting more of you.

Not to mention the numerous ezines out there accepting flash fiction submissions — even if they’ve already been posted on your blog.

So if you’re eager to give flash fiction a try, what should (and shouldn’t) you be doing?

Flash Fiction Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Be concise. If it doesn’t move the plot forward, don’t put it in.

  2. Don’t convolute. Too much of anything is too much, whether that is number of characters, points of view, time lapses, etc.

  3. Avoid word-counting. Don’t write 999 words. Be willing to experiment with how short your story can go.

  4. Push your boundaries. Try new genres, themes and writing styles.

  5. Don’t overplan. Go with your idea and see where it leads you.

  6. Write around the edges of your day. If you find it hard to make time to write, then scribble during breakfast or lunch, or write John style, in the toilet.

  7. GO FOR IT!

If you’d like to hear more about John and Angie’s work, flash fiction communities online, and whether chocolate trumps cheese, tune into the podcast.

In the meantime, any suggestions to add to the list?