Category Archives: Anthology
The paperback of my new book is out now. Here’s the introduction that explains what the book is. You can buy it here: http://mybook.to/madamemonvoisin1
“I don’t understand what we’re doing here,” said Étienne.
“Well,” said Catherine, “Monsieur le Wombat has written a book about our adventures, and has invited us to introduce it.”
“But we don’t know each other at the start of the book.”
“Does that matter? We know each other now.”
“Of course it matters.” Étienne’s mouth twisted unto a sulk. “It’s weird. And we do not know what will happen at the end of the book.”
“That’s of little consequence,” Catherine said. “We wouldn’t want to give away the ending, would we? This preamble is simply where we describe what the book is, rather than telling the actual story.”
“Ah yes, you are right, mon cher! Many stories indeed.” Catherine gave Étienne’s hand a pat. “Look, let’s just get on with it, and afterwards I’ll make you a spiced chocolate drink, yes?”
“With cinnamon powder?”
“Only if you’re good. Deal?”
“Then let’s begin. Dear Reader—”
“The reader. That person out there, look, reading these words.” Catherine’s fingers toyed with her hair-ribbon. “Actually, they’re very attractive, don’t you think?”
“Oh, stop fluttering, madame. They’re not all that.”
“Very well. Though, really, you have no joy about you today at all.” Catherine cleared her throat and sat up straight. “Dear Reader, Monsieur le Wombat here collects all of the stories he has written that did not appear in his first anthology—”
“The Museum of White Walls.”
“Thank you, Étienne. All of his stories since then, into a book.”
“Into TWO books, because there are so many stories. Oh so many. Honestly, the man never shuts up. Blah blah blah.”
“Yes, quite right, there will be two volumes. This is the first. Now, rather cleverly I think, rather than simply present them mundanely and tediously, one after another, he has instead woven them into a brand new tale.”
“A brand new tale about you and me, which is exciting.”
“Yes, indeed. This is a book of hidden stories, dear reader. They are hidden within our own narrative, and you must find them. Stories inside a story, that will lead you further to yet another. They are all links in a chain, intertwined. In musical terms, this is a concept album.”
“I don’t know what that is, Catherine. Is it from the future?”
“It is. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, Étienne. Please, dear reader, have a glass of wine and join our adventure. Relax and see where the stories take you. Enjoy the day, my friend.”
I’m chuffed to little mint balls to be in such august company as the other nominees, quality writers all (well, mostly) who include one Alex Brightsmith I’m pleased to see.
Voting starts on September 1st, and I’ll bang on about it at length then, no doubt begging for your votes.
Lisa Shambrook has written about the origins of Human 76, I have written about its development, and all sorts of people are contributing their thoughts on the characters and stories that have moved them. Individual authors have expressed their own points of view.
Alex Brightsmith has talked about how her character Chrissy developed when she crossed paths with my own Glint.
Denise Callaway has published a short extract from her story, Underneath, as has Michelle Fox from her frankly terrifying Human X. Another snippet, this time from Steven Paul Watson’s non-stop The Hunted, can be found here.
Just two more links for you – the ePub version is free at the moment, but will soon rise to a reasonable price. You might want to grab your download sooner rather than later. Might I recommend, though, that you shell out for the paperback, which is a thing of beauty. Not only will you find that it contains a map of Ghabrie’s journey not in the eBook, but you’ll also have a warm glow of satisfaction from knowing that you’ve helped a worthwhile charity.
The opening of my first story in the imminent Human 76. Enjoy. The book will be available in a few days if you want to find out what happens next.
Lauren strove to move, even to twitch. Her brain dispatched electrical impulses to motor neurons, but her paralysed muscles would not shift. She could not move a single millimetre; even her eyes were fixed straight ahead, gazing directly up at a grey ceiling. Her breathing, though, was unaffected, and her heart still pumped blood, reassuring her that her automatic motor functions continued to work normally. Peripheral vision showed white-coated figures moving about. They had told her that she would feel nothing because she would be unconscious during the operation, but they had been wrong. The back of her neck itched. Draughts caused by the bustling figures caused slight movements of the simple shift that covered her and stimulated her sensitive skin. She could feel. Terrified that they would cut into her while she was still conscious, she concentrated on moving even something as small as an eyelid to alert them. Nothing.
One of the figures reached above her and pushed a switch, turning on a bright light. The woman glanced down with a slight frown; perhaps she’d seen Lauren’s pupils dilate. The woman leaned in close and, in a whisper that tickled Lauren’s ear, said “You think we don’t know that you’re awake? Awareness is necessary for successful implantation. I know that is not what we told you, but to be honest we don’t really care how you feel. Now, try not to struggle; it will do you no good at all. Besides, the pain will only last an hour or so.”
Human 76, the new linked-tale anthology that I’ve been trumpeting, will be available in a matter of days. Any and all profits from sales of the book will go to the charity Water Is Life, who provide clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education programs to schools and villages in desperate need worldwide. The charity fits well the main theme of the anthology: helping those displaced or struggling to survive in a harsh world. WiL is a global charity, reflecting the fact that our authors are scattered all around this small blue planet.
Let me tell you a little about the remarkable evolution that took place around Lisa Shambrook’s simple premise of a girl searching for her lost sister. At first, most of our authors simply got on with their own stories, but then slowly, almost organically, a new level of writing began to emerge.
As we chatted – in the Human 76 Facebook group, on Twitter, or by email – we began to pick up ideas from each other. We read and commented on each other’s stories as they appeared in draft. We became inspired by our peers, and edited our own work so as to include cool stuff invented by fellow Seventy-Sixers.
Eventually some of our tales intertwined like lovers (Glint and Behind These Walls), while others made amusing references. One story (Sand) was entirely inspired by another (The Oasis). This process of cross-fertilisation led to Ghabrie’s world becoming very real to all of us. Of particular pleasure was the way that characters other than our sibling protagonists took on a life of their own. KJ Collard’s David, at first a simple (though vital) walk-on part in her Sheshwahtay, now has a complex, moving story arc of his own. MS Manz’s Leader causes ripples that even he would find difficult to predict. And Jeff Hollar’s Hieronymous Planck eventually … but let me not spoil the fun. You’ll have to find out about him by reading the book.
So please bear in mind that, yes, Human 76 is a collection of tales, but it is also more than that. It is a single book-length story. The saga of Ghabrie, the girl and the myth, and her determination to make her own future in a fractured world.
As an introductory offer, the eBook version of Human 76 will be available FREE for a short period of two weeks. Release day is only a few days away now. Watch this blog for more news as it happens.
Here, have a snippet from ‘Valentine’, one of the stories in “Blood on the Ground”, my new collection out in paperback tomorrow:
Such a perfect blue, those eyes. Gareth gazed into them, certain that she was the one. The corners of her faultless mouth dimpled. He stroked her waist, and squeezed her fingers with his other hand as they swayed to the seductive rhythm of ‘Moonlight Serenade’. As the music ended, he brushed her ear with his lips.
“Will you be my Valentine?” he whispered.
“If you’ll be mine,” she smiled, those amazing eyes twinkling.
“Come up to my room?”
She bit her lip, and glanced nervously at the other dancers, as if they might have heard. She nodded.
“But come to mine. I shall be able to relax more. And only for a quiet drink.”
She gave a stern look. He had better not frighten her with over-enthusiasm.
“I cannot promise not to kiss you, you have beguiled me so. We can stay here, if you feel safer.”
Marian dimpled one side of her tempting mouth in a wry grin and raised a mischievous eyebrow.
“Perhaps just one kiss.”
Bingo. He had been right to target this shy little wallflower rather than one of the more confident women here. An innocent conquest was far more exciting.
Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want to stroke it, feel the wood beneath your fingers*? Click on the picture there to revel in the luxury of a larger image. I proudly present for your delectation the cover of my new book of short stories, available in paperback in but a few days. A Kindle version will follow thereafter. As ever, Mr. Thom White has done a superb job, once again producing not only a book cover but a work of art.
“Help yourself to a dozen dollops of whimsy from Michael Wombat, shortlisted for the HNS Short Story Award 2014. From cowboys to dragons, from hilarity to horror, this cornucopia of diverse adventure will absorb, amuse, thrill and terrify you. You know, I hate writing back cover blurbs. All that snappy ‘Blurbspeak’. This one’s rubbish, isn’t it? “Dollops of whimsy” sounds like the sort of Edwardian novel where nothing happens, and keeps on happening. ‘The Dollops of Whimsy End’, a new novel from Mr. Michael Wombat (not really).”
Anyway, get this book. You’ll really enjoy the stories inside it.”
Today I started writing an unsettling little tale for Anthology Club’s ‘Autumn Anthology’. This Edith Piaf song is one of the inspirations behind it.
With two successful collections already on the shelves, the music-inspired Soul of the Universe and piratical Cutthroats and Curses, Anthology Club has already established itself as a reliable publisher of stonkingly good anthologies. Contributing authors receive a share of any profits.
Sound like a good deal? Fancy submitting a short story yourself? Listed below are nine Anthology Club collections that are currently open for submissions, together with their required word count and deadline. You’ll find much more detail on the Anthology Club website so click through and get writing. I’ve already got a dragon tale and a summer short up, and am working on something for the Autumn anthology now. Come and join the happy throng.
Dragonthology, 4k-16k words, no hard deadline as yet.
- A collection of shorts that reimagines dragons. Genre mash-ups more than welcome.
Shakespeare in Life, 5k-10k, no hard deadline as yet.
- A fluid theme, but stories that touch on Shakespeare in some way. Quite how is up to you.
Autumnal Anthology, 300-3k, August 20th.
- The theme is autumn (fall) and endings. There is no limitation on genre.
Western Tales, 6k-8k, September 15th.
- Stories that update the Western. Genre mash-ups more than welcome.
Descent into Darkness, 4k-10k, September 15th.
- Tales that centre around someone losing their mind. Unnerving rather than gory.
- Stories with a theme of winter, and stasis. Any genre welcome.
Wish You Were Here, 5k-10k, December.
- Tales that involve one character missing another.
Spring anthology, 300-3k, February 20th 2015.
- Stories concerning spring and rebirth. Any genre.
- A collection of summery reads.
“Oh, then that’s fine,” the Captain said, cheering up. “Right, let’s have a look at this map you got for me.”
Crow pushed aside his bowl of rum and rolled out on the rickety table a crackly old parchment. He and the Captain bent over it, peering intently in the dim, pungent glow cast by the sputtering gull-lamps that were the only source of light in The Dirty Doxy tavern.
“The Isle of the Drowned?” the Captain read, “Why do you always want to take us to some doom-laden place or other? When are we going to go on a day trip to The Valley of Happy Unicorns, eh?”
Crow said nothing. He knew better than to bring up again the matter of the unicorn with the wonky horn. That was a sure way to get the Captain tediously wittering on for hours about old adventures.
“And what, you scab, are these numbers?” the Captain continued.
“Cap’n, it really is beyond time you learned how to navigate – you know, what with being a ship’s captain and all. Those numbers show the location of the island. Latitude and longitude.”
“Latitude and longitude be buggered. I can’t do everything, can I? That’s why I pay you to steer the ship. I’m far too busy scheming and planning to get involved in every little detail. I’m the brains of this outfit, Crow.”
Crow took out his glass eye, gave it a polish and opened his mouth to speak.
“Don’t even think of saying what’s in your head,” the Captain interrupted, removing his tricorn hat ready to wallop Crow should the first mate utter one wrong word.
“I love my Captain,” said Crow. Mollified, the Captain put his hat back over his greasy hair.
“Hmm,” growled the Captain, peering once more at the map. “There aren’t many landmarks on this, are there? What’s this say here?”
“Ah now, that’s where we’d land. Sudden Death Cove.”
The Captain gave Crow a look and took off his hat once more.
“No, no! Listen,” Crow explained hastily, “The skinny bloke reckoned that this map would lead us to treasure. Buried here, where there’s a big ‘X’, near this pool that feeds down into the bay.”
“What does the ‘X’ stand for? Oh hell, it’s not ‘xylophones’, is it? Not much call for xylophones along the Skull Coast. No wait, it’s ‘xenopus’, isn’t it? You want me to load the Little Mavis with xenopusses.”
“No, no, no, the—” Crow began, then paused. “What the flaming hell is a xenopus?”
“African clawed frog. Produces eggs in response to the urine of a pregnant woman. Used for pregnancy testing.”
“Oh,” said Crow, pausing for a moment to consider the odd mind of his captain. “No, it does not indicate the location of a xenopus. The ‘X’ doesn’t stand for anything. It just marks the spot where the treasure is buried.”
“Then why didn’t they put a ‘T’, for ‘treasure’? That would make much more sense.”
“I don’t know why they didn’t put a ‘T’,” sighed Crow, “It doesn’t matter why they didn’t put a ‘T’. What matters is that the skinny feller said that here,” Crow’s grimy fingernail indicated a scratchy ‘X’ in the centre of the map, “is a treasure more valuable than gold coin.”
“Don’t give me that malarkey. What on earth could be more valuable than gold?”
“I don’t know. Lots of things.” Crow struggled to think of an example. The Captain was a big one for examples.
“Maybe…” Crow said, off the top of his head, “Right, how about a hat that made you invisible, so you could go wherever you liked without being seen –– merchant shops, inns, anywhere – think of the potential for profit in that.”
The Captain’s eyes drifted upwards to gaze at the dark smoky roof as he considered this, and a smile appeared in the middle of his bushy dreadlocked beard.
“The point is,” Crow continued, “I don’t know what we’ll find, but the skinny bloke was not lying, I’ll warrant that. And the map cost us nothing. So what have we got to lose?”
“With such a hat I could go into ladies’ boudoirs unseen,” said the Captain, huskily, “Or bathrooms.”
“Cap’n, concentrate! What is your command? Do we follow the map?”
“Aye, Crow, we follow the map!” The Captain’s eyes gleamed. “Alert the crew. We sail on the dawn tide.”
Crow stood and bellowed loudly above the cacophonous babble in the crowded tavern.
“THE CAP’N ORDERS THAT WE SAIL ON THE DAWN TIDE!”
Every person in The Dirty Doxy, save Big Tam who owned it and Dolly the Wench, let out a huge cheer, both man and woman alike, for every customer in the tavern this night served aboard the good ship Little Mavis.
“Crew alerted, Captain,” said Crow.