Saturday, 15 January 2011

Shock Totem Issue 3

Issue three of Shock Totem is now available for purchase. In this issue is my short story "Ruth Across the Sea", which won the magazine's 2010 Flash Fiction Contest.

I've spoken before of how highly I regard this publication. You should pick up a copy of Shock Totem and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Bride Stripped Bare

I'm about three quarters through reading the single author anthology of short stories "The Bride Stripped Bare", by Rachel Kendall.

If ever there was a book that 'pulls no punches' in its stories, then this is it. No subject would appear taboo for Kendal, and what results is a fascinating journey through humanity's darker side.

But if these stories are difficult, they're told with such brutal honesty, and with such assurance by Kendall, that the reader simply can't 'walk away'. It's like this dark underbelly exists and so simply has to be witnessed. It's life stripped bare.

The Bride Stripped Bare is published by Doghorn Press

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Reject

I received my first rejection of the year. It was a sad one as it was for an anthology I was really keen to be in, and sad in that I wrote the story from scratch especially for that anthology. Still, I can rewrite it for a more general market without too much heartache, so all's not lost.

But who'd be a writer, eh, rejected as we are? :-)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

We all love a good google

I googled myself. All writers do this, even if like masturbation they tend to do it when no-one's looking (or maybe some writers do it loud and proud, what do I know?).

It's far too soon for any reaction to Burying Brian, but I found many reviews relating to Haunted Legends, and my story "The Spring Heel" therein. Perhaps I should also mention the anthology has been nominated for the Black Quill awards and was deemed anthology of the year by the Chicago Sun Times. Which is all jolly nice.

Of "The Spring heel", says:

Steven Pirie’s “The Spring Heel” (a Spring-Heeled Jack tale) is a fascinating reclamation where the legendary figure once rumored to haunt the streets of Victorian-era England (romanticized in the extreme by Pirie’s desperate protagonist) turns savior for a woman eager to escape the reality of her world.

Black Abyss says:

The Spring Heel by Steven Pirie is set in Liverpool and introduces us to Ruth a homeless prostitute and the mysterious Spring Heeled Jack. It’s a deeply emotional story which brings the traditional legend, kicking and screaming, into a modern world of drugs, violence and tragedy.

Of course, not all reviewers heaped glowing praise on my story. Some pretty much ignored it, and others were lukewarm.

From Sffworld

The remaining tales, including… "The Spring Heel" by Steven Pirie… tend to walk the line between the two genres, generally channeling local legends through the psyches of the stories' central characters. While I found these meldings to be interesting, the psychological element tended to dominate the narrative so much they were virtually indistinguishable from many of the ghost stories.

Skulls in the Stars didn't mention me at all. Which is perfectly fine, of course.

Read All Over says:

Anthologies are also hard to review because it’s hard to give full attention to every single story in a collection. Because, while I really enjoyed this entire anthology, there were definitely some I loved more than others:

The Spring Heel by Steven Pirie — from the title one can see that this is a tale about the English legend, The Spring Heeled Jack. I loved how this story was both eerie but had me almost rooting, in a way, for Jack.

From the Apex Book Company

The Spring Heel by Steven Pirie – This is the retelling of Spring Heel Jack as told through the experiences of Ruth, a down-on-her-luck prostitute. She fears seeing the Spring Heel means death or worse for her. In the end, joining the creature supposed to be the devil results in the most unexpected of things. This story is told well enough to make it timeless. It could be set in the modern day as well as London in the 1800s. I finished the story with a smile on my face.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ten things you should know about sheep

I'm going to write a story about a shepherd. But, in the meantime, here's ten things everyone should know about sheep:

1 Sheep are of the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Cordata, Order Ungulata with Sub-order Artiodactyla. They are of the Family Bovidae with Sub-family Caprinac, of the Genus Ovis and Species Ovis-Aries. Basically, this means they are alive.

2 One of the most famous sheep (which, ironically, wasn’t alive) was a sock puppet called Lamb Chop, wielded by deceased comedienne Shari Lewis. It is unique as being the singly most unfunny sheep in existence.

3 Farmers like to ‘dip’ sheep regularly. This involves fully immersing the animal in a bath of antiseptic and detergent liquid, and not what you’re thinking.

4 Calling a sheep ‘Lamb Chop’ or ‘Mint Sauce’ is paramount to animal cruelty. As is turning them into socks.

5 Sheep don’t shrink in the rain.

6 A sheep dog is not a sheep, rather it is a dog used by farmers to bully sheep into pens and things. Dog sheep, however, are sheep of easy virtue, used by farmers once the dogs have bullied them into pens and things.

7 However, sheep may shrink if tumble dried.

8 Another famous sheep was Dolly the Sheep. This was the first animal ever cloned, and so marked a momentous advance in bio-molecular sciences. Dolly died after a particularly violent dipping by a farmer in 2002, and was served to the queen with sauté potatoes.

9 Some sheep are good at clinging to precarious, mountain crags and rocky outcrops. Those that aren’t are dead.

10 Sheep dislike being carted off for slaughter. Many are heard to utter, ‘Bah!’ when so carted.

Look at these writerly muscles

I did something today I've never done before as a writer—withdrew stories from a (supposedly) pending publication.

'Why did you do that, Steve?' I hear you ask, all aghast.

Well, the stories (four flash pieces) were accepted back in 2007, and since then communication with publication's editors has been, shall we say, somewhat sporadic. Despite claims that the publication will happen, surely there's only so long a writer should wait before dismissing the sale and moving on.

And it's not as if I'm an impatient bloke in that respect—I've waited to see a story placed many times in the past. Maybe I just wanted to flex a writerly muscle. Maybe I'm growing up as a writer. Perish that thought, eh?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Writers read, don't they?

It struck me yesterday I'm not reading as much as I used to. The last time I stopped reading it was because I needed glasses. You'd think that would be an obvious one, really, not being able to see the words and all, but it surprised me back then how long I went before I realised the problem was physical. It was only when my arm wasn't long enough to hold the book that it dawned. A swift visit to the Optician's, and behold, the world was back in focus.

I suppose I could need a new prescription, but this time it feels less physical and more a question of setting time aside for reading.

So, I'm going to promise myself I'll read at least a book a month. I'm not a slow reader, but often I force myself to read slowly to immerse myself in the story. And it's so hard these days to read purely for pleasure and not study the writing and language itself. But I reckon a book a month shouldn't be a problem.

So, where to start? Shall I go high-brow or slum it? Literary or genre? Comedic or 'serious'?

I have book tokens, so these words are loaded.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Is this it, then?

So, this is 2011, is it? It's a bit damp. And not much looks different when I look out my window. Possibly that's because my curtains are closed, and should I open them I'll find the world has shifted sideways.

There didn't seem quite so many fireworks at midnight this year. Maybe people have got no money to buy them.

Still, we're off to the football soon. It's an away game, and even though it's not too far for us to travel, I do like the little trips for the football.

Here's hoping you're not too hung over this morning.