‘Publication of the Month’ Nomination by Spillwords Readers

I was thrilled to discover that my story, You Bruise Easily, has been nominated by readers of Spillwords Journal for Publication of the Month. Voting is now closed, but I will keep you posted. The nominations are based on readership popularity within the last 30 days. One very happy author!

I have also reached a landmark of 5,000 followers on Twitter. I really value and appreciate all the support of readers. With six short stories published this year, and two more forthcoming in Fully Lit Magazine, it has been a productive year. If you have missed any, there is a list of publications on my website

Watch this space! I hope you’ve all had a reasonable summer, despite the current circumstances. Stay well.  

Four Lit Journal Acceptances This Week And A New Short Story Publication

I hope everyone has survived lockdown. We are not out of the woods yet, but it’s good to have a little more contact with the outside world. I have had a recent flurry of writing and four short story acceptances this week! Stories forthcoming in Burnt Breakfast Magazine (July 2020), Fully Lit Magazine (July 2020), Lunate Fiction (August 2020)

I had a lovely acceptance letter from all of the above journals, but wanted to share the words from Lunate Fiction about my story, A Place of Unfinished Sentences:

“It is a rich and complex story, once that requires focus and attention from a reader in order to bring out the full story, and even then, as the title suggests, we are not given all the pieces of the puzzle! Your use of narrative voice is exceptional in this piece, as is your careful use of minor detail which draws the reader’s attention and acts almost as a smoke-screen for the wider picture. It is a remarkable flash fiction.”
And in other news, my story, Someone Once Told Me That Delia Is Outdated, was published by Reflex Fiction, May 2020. You can read an extract below and follow the link to read the complete story at Reflex Press.
When paranoia sets in, I mentally search for the fire escape. Is it in the hallway? Is it on the second floor? What if I feel the urge to jump from the balcony? A short man with a balding head walks past me and winks. He is holding a book on golf. My stomach turns. I am in the self-help section, looking for something that might fix my mind, but it is not there. There is no book that can erase memories. Maybe the cookery section might help, something from Jamie Oliver or Mary Berry. Someone once told me that Delia is outdated. I have acquired lots of books on how to bake cupcakes and muffins, which I would happily make all day, but sometimes you need to get into the meaty stuff, the grit of life….read more at Reflex Press.

Short story publications

Stories published in online journals

Short stories are the heartbeat of many writers. I intersperse writing short stories with writing and editing novels. My second novel is now complete and edited. Below is a list of my recent publications and some links to other stories I have enjoyed reading.

Is He?, Mojave Heart Journal, February 2019

Lavender, Synaeresis Issue 5, January 2019

You Listen to the Sound of Gulls, EllipsisZine, December 2018

Your House is too Small, Spillwords, November 2018

Classic Short Stories for Fiction Writers

writersedit.com

Stories I Have Enjoyed Reading in Recent Publications

I Eat the Flowers on Your Grave by Barbara Lovric, Anti-Heroin Chic

Bullseye by Meg Pogkrass, Fictive Dream

Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador, Cheap Pop Lit

Against the Grain by Tara Isabel Zambrano, Wigleaf

The Mightiest Mammal, Singing by Kate Finegan, Pigeonholes

Senna by Steve Campbell, FlashBack Fiction

Screaming Story by Deve Murphy, Jellyfish Review

In November 2017 by S.L. Bailey, SmokeLong Quarterly

And if you’d like to read more….

Best Microfiction List

  • Sarah Arantza Amador, “Sanctus Spiritus, 1512” (Cheap Pop)
  • Anita Arlov, “He She It They” (National Flash Fiction Day NZ)
  • Jessica Barksdale, “Knock Knock” (Matchbook)
  • Roberta Beary, “Swimming in Circles” (KYSO Flash)
  • Matt Bell, “The Hungerer” (Wigleaf)
  • Dick Bentley, “Health Care” (Serving House Journal)
  • Gregory Brown, “Birdhouse” (PRISM International)
  • Cavin Bryce, “Fragments of Evolution” (Cheap Pop)
  • Tetman Callis, “Candlelight and Flowers” (NY Tyrant)
  • Mike Chin, “Training” (Passages North)
  • Myfanwy Collins, “Euthanasia” (Jellyfish Review)
  • Tim Craig, “Northern Lights” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Tommy Dean, “You’ve Stopped” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Olga Dermott Bond, “Mr Rochester and I” (Bath Flash Fiction v3)
  • Leonora Desar, “Fire, Ocean” (TSS)
  • Leonora Desar, “My Father’s Girlfriend” (Matchbook Lit)
  • Leonora Desar, “The Monkey” (Reflex Fiction)
  • Will Finlayson, “The Strip Club” (Southampton Review)
  • Valerie Fox, “Even the Christmas Tree was Nicer That Year” (Across the Margins)
  • Sarah Freligh, “Any Body” (Cincinatti Review)
  • Frances Gapper, “Plum Jam” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Jo Gatford, “Things Left And Found By The Side Of The Road” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Christopher Gaumer, “He Died We Left Him Til Morning” (The Citron Review)
  • Beth Gilstrap, “Becky” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Beth Gilstrap, “Bone Words” (Longleaf Review)
  • Melissa Goode, “Empire of Light” (Gone Lawn)
  • Melissa Goode, “I Wanna Be Adored ” (Cheap Pop)
  • Melissa Goode, “Tonight, We Are Awake” (Wigleaf)
  • Anita Goveas, “Frau Roentgen’s Left Hand” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Anita Goveas, “Let’s Sing All the Swear Words We Know ” (Lost Balloons)
  • Tina May Hall, “The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #28 (incandescent bulb, unlit)The Collagist” (The Collagist)
  • Toni Halleen, “Not the Whole Story” (Wigleaf)
  • Steven John, “A Brief History of Time in Our House” (Ad Hoc Fiction)
  • Peter Krumbach, “11.37” (The Adroit Journal)
  • Meghan Lamb, “Missing” (Passages North)
  • Raven Leilani, “Kanekalon” (Split Lip)
  • Page Leland, “Self Portrait with Early December” (Former Cactus)
  • Robert Lopez, “A Warm Motherly Look” (Wigleaf)
  • Paul Luikart, “Breathless” (Brilliant Flash Fiction)
  • Fiona Mackintosh, “Siren” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Fiona Mackintosh, “The Chemistry of Living Things” (Fish Publishing)
  • Lutivini Majanja, “Am Inheritance” (Flash Frontier)
  • Prosper Makara, “Lessons from my Mother” (Afreada– Africa’s Literary Magazine)
  • Dan Malakoff, “Loop-the-Loop” (Wigleaf)
  • Michael Martone, “Boom” (Always Crashing)
  • Michael Martone, “Klaus Weber, Curb House Numberer” (The Collagist)
  • Kathleen McGookey, “You Can Find Joy in Doing Laundry” (KYSO)
  • Adam McOmber, “A Roman Road” (Atticus Review)
  • Heather McQuillan, “A post-traumatic god” (Menicus)
  • KC Mead-Brewer, “It’s Shaped like a Grin, They Say” (Cheap Pop)
  • Jose Enrique Medina, “Niňos de La Tierra” (Burnside Review)
  • Tracy Lynne Oliver, “This Weekend” (Fanzine)
  • Dominica Phetteplace, “After the Flood Waters Came” (Wigleaf)
  • Meghan Phillips, “Abstinence Only” (Passages North)
  • Megan Phillips, “Final Girl Slumber Party” (Barrelhouse)
  • Kristen Ploetz, “LifeColor Indoor Latex Paints® — Whites and Reds (R)” (JMWW)
  • Claire Polders, “Breathlessness” (Moonpark Review)
  • Dina Relles, “And Sometimes We Meet” (Matchbook)
  • Belinda Rimmer, “Domestic” (Anti-Heroin Chic)
  • Nicole Rivas, “Crumbs” (The Cincinnati Review)
  • Becky Robison, “Baby Dolls” (Pank)
  • Brad Rose, “Desert Motel” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Sarah Salway, “Not Sorry” (Cincinnati Review)
  • Kim Samsin, “World’s Finest” (Matchbook)
  • Noa Sivan, “The End of the World” (Synaesthesia Magazine)
  • Rachel Smith, “What I Now Know” (Flash Frontier)
  • Rachel Smith, “Glossectomy” (Menicus)
  • Joe Squance, “The Seeds of Things” (Cease, Cows)
  • Elizabeth Stix, “Tsunami” (Southampton Review)
  • Paul Strohm, “Masculinities” (West Marin Review)
  • Xenia Taiga, “Princesses” (Synaesthesia Magazine)
  • Kaj Tanaka, “The Hair Child” (Bending Genres)
  • Sharon Telfer, “My Father Comforts Me in the Form of Birds” (Reflex Fiction Magazine)
  • Jamie Thunder, “The Central Line Has Severe Delays” (Spelk)
  • Cathy Ulrich, “The Delicate Art of Ikebana” (Barren Magazine)
  • TM Upchurch, “There Will Be No Lace” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Zach VandeZande, “Making an Illegal U Turn on 15th near Union” (Monkeybicycle)
  • Elisabeth Ingram Wallace, “Satin Nightwear for Women Irregular” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Clare Weze, “Helping” (Reflex Fiction)
  • Charmaine Wilkerson, “The Laundry Room Comes First” (Fiction Southeast)
  • Benjamin Woodard, “Half Tank” (Atticus Review)
  • Luke Wortley, “Reverse Field Trip” (Longleaf)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “Feeding Time” (Okay Donkey)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “New Old” (The Southampton Review)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “Snowstorm” (Atticus Review)
  • C Pam Zhang, “Braindrain” (Paper Darts)

microfiction.com

Short Story Highly Commended in TSS Publishing Competition

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I’m thrilled to share the news that my story, I Wonder about the Gun, has won HIGHLY COMMENDED in The Short Story microfiction competition by TSS Publishing, home to the Cambridge Short Story Prize. Squeals of delight this end. I discovered when I received congratulations from fellow authors on Twitter.

The story hasn’t been published on the site but you can read it by signing up to the mailing list.

Below is the Judge’s Report:

In other news, there is a fabulous new Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, which has just published it’s third issue. The stories are deep, rich, often painful. In Vain, by Aaron Housholder, Editor’s pic in Essays, is one of the single most powerful stories I have ever read.

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Author Interview with Anthony Black

Today I interview author, A. Joseph Black, from Carnlough, Ireland. His short stories and flash fictions have been published online in literary magazines and in print anthologies. His story, Just Thinking, is in Schooldays, a collection of poetry and flash fiction from Paper Swans Press, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Saboteur Award for Best Anthology. His long short stories By the Lake and Nora have been published as chapbooks in Australia. He has recently been Shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017.

  1. What drew you to writing short stories and do you have any key inspirations?

I should probably declare straight away that I’m not a person who feels they have to write, that they’ll die if they don’t, that they just don’t make sense when they’re not writing. I would use the analogy of snooker, rather improbably. You like watching snooker on the TV, so you ring a friend and begin to play for an hour every week at the local snooker hall. You enjoy it as an observer at first, then you decide that you might enjoy actually trying it yourself. And that’s the basis on which I started writing. Late in life relatively speaking, at 44, I just thought, “I should have a go at this myself”. There are writers I love, obviously, but I’m quite undiscerning in what I read, as I think many readers are. I just like good stories well told. I mostly buy books in second hand shops, where immediately there’s a “found” aspect to it – you haven’t gone there to buy a specific book – and as the reader I love the different dynamic that creates. The last four books I bought were by Katherine Mansfield, Michael McLaverty, Raymond Chandler and Nick Hornby, all second hand. Does that tell us anything? I’m not sure it does.

2. Do you plan your stories or do they evolve as you begin to write?

After my long short story first piece, I continued by starting to write microfictions and flashes, as low as 100 words. With a piece that short, you can’t have character development or a narrative arc. Most often the “idea” is a single point of light – a noise, a phrase, an image – and you just place that in a sympathetic, complementary environment, like setting a jewel. I could have some of those written, revised, edited and pretty much finished in my head before I ever put a word down on paper. Of course, that only worked with very short pieces.

By the time my stories had reached 4,000 words and beyond, like Nora and By The Lake, I found I was planning as a necessity. I find it much more time-inefficient to not plan, and I have to really fight for my writing time, so for me it’s “well begun is half done.” And now I’ve come to enjoy planning and plotting. And it doesn’t mean, in my case at least, that the story can’t still surprise you, change materially, veer off, as you’re drafting it. They absolutely still do that, and it’s a big part of the fun of writing for me. But I do now find it prudent to provide myself with an outline superstructure when I start.

3. Is there any advice you can share with new writers who might be thinking of sending their work to literary journals or competitions?

Just get the really obvious stuff right: familiarise yourself with the type of material they publish, respect the submission guidelines, and never submit anything until you’re absolutely certain you can’t improve it any further. Impending competition/submission deadlines can make for some poor decisions about the quality of your work, in my experience. Also remember that if you’re not generating copious amounts of material then you need to manage your subbing carefully, noting response turnaround times etc. You don’t want your work tied up for months in a competition or with a lit mag. Even just waiting until right on the deadline before submitting mitigates this. You can simultaneously submit of course but do you really want that plate-spinning exercise to manage along with everything else?

And be realistic, for your sanity’s sake: there’s no reason not to shoot for the stars, just as long as you’re not then plunged into despair when your second ever finished piece is rejected by The New Yorker or doesn’t win the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

4. Your writing is very descriptive. Do you picture the scene as you write or draw from your own experiences?

I like to picture it, to feel it, smell it, listen – and I want the reader to do all that as well. Again, it’s a function of the type of books and stories I myself enjoy reading. I love good descriptive writing. And it’s kind of frowned on a little now, I feel. Looked down upon almost. Like it’s telling, not showing. And yet if you read Daphne du Maurier, who I think is fantastic, she describes things endlessly: natural landscapes, physical appearances, even the weather. But the story’s barrelling along and you’re right there as the reader, in among the sights and sounds, and it’s exhilarating. If I can even get close to providing that sort of immersive experience for my reader I’d be delighted.

Some contemporary fiction leaves me a little cold, if I’m entirely honest. Too often it feels like an exercise in demonstrating how clever or erudite the writer is, with little or no consideration for the reader’s experience. Much of is actually too intellectual and abstract for my taste. And the lack of defined endings! I suppose I’m steeped in a very orthodox Irish storytelling tradition, but when I read a 5000 word short story which just stops – doesn’t end, or conclude, it just runs off – I find that so infuriating. Like I’ve been robbed of the time I spent reading it, however well written it was. As a reader I  want a well-defined, narratively satisfying ending, and I suppose that orthodoxy is apparent in my own stories.

5. How much does the writing scene in Northern Ireland influence your work and are you connected with other writers or groups?

Haha, I would never be a part of any scene that would have me as a member! There is some tremendous writing happening in NI presently and a thriving litmag scene with The Tangerine recently launching, and The Incubator, who were first to publish one of my stories, and first to give me the opportunity to read my work in public, which I love doing. Staring your listener in the eye is a blast because most of the time we’re closeted away in our writing space.

So I do know a few of the writers and editors like Michael Nolan, Kelly Creighton, Ruth McKee from readings, and I interact a lot with other NI writers on Twitter. As well as reading them, of course (six months after their book has come out and I can find a copy in a second hand shop). But I don’t think I’m much of a “scene” person. I can’t do the rounds of book launches and what have you – I have a full time job and five children all pulling on my time before I even get to my writing time, much less “scene time!”

There is definitely something in the air with NI writing at the moment though. I don’t know if anyone has ever satisfactorily defined “a scene” but I’d guess that’s what it is.

7. You mentioned beginning to write later in life. How did it all begin and what have you learned along the way?

It really was most unremarkable. Having enjoyed reading all my life, I just wanted to see if I could actually write. About six years ago I searched online for a writing prompt and found one that said “write a story in which the two main characters do something illegal and something immoral, but the reader retains sympathy for them.” And I wrote my first story, “An Encounter” (the title being a nod to Joyce, which is of course mandatory for all Irish writers or they revoke your citizenship). I realise now that was probably the worst/hardest prompt I could have found, but I wrote the story, learnt a lot in the process and – crucially – I enjoyed it. So I decided to write another one.

I do think I approach writing differently now than I would have in my 20s. For example, I don’t really set myself goals – there are things I wanted to achieve and did, such as having a story in translation in a foreign litmag, getting into a print anthology, my own name on the front of a book. But I’m not on a mission. I don’t have that iconoclastic zeal of youth. I don’t feel I need to kick over the statues, unseat the establishment and reinvent the novel. I just want to produce writing that people enjoy, that takes them away from their everyday life for the brief time that they’re reading my story.

8. What are you planning at the moment?

I didn’t write a word for almost 18 months last year and this, then I fell off the wagon in the summer when I wrote a short flash purely for my own pleasure. Immediately upon finishing it I saw that the Bath Flash Fiction Award closed at midnight so I submitted it (I’d never sent them anything before, but then I hadn’t had serendipity on my side before either) and it was shortlisted and will appear in the print anthology later this year. I suppose that reminded me of how fun and interesting and rewarding writing can be.

So with my fast broken, I’ve since finished the first draft of the short story I was working on when I downed pens last year (yes, I actually gave up writing right in the middle of a story, although the specific story wasn’t the problem, it just all felt like it had become a bit of a drag). I’ve now planned out a much longer piece, straying into novel-length territory, set in 1950s New York City. It’s inspired by three Edward Hopper paintings. I always look at the people in Hopper’s paintings and wonder what their story is –  What are they thinking? Are they waiting on someone? Who? And then I thought, “Well, why not take some of them and give them that story?” So that’s what I’ve done: the main figures in Hopper’s paintings Nighthawks, NY Movie and Gas are now Eddie, Marion and Victor, my three central characters. It has kind of a “noir” vibe, and it involves a crime, but beyond that I’m not really sure how it will look or sound if it ever emerges. But that’s the fun of writing.

And for me, writing should be fun. Writers who complain about how hard it is to write are the worst! If it isn’t fun, then you probably need to do it differently, or stop doing it altogether. I mean, it’s not heavy lifting and you’re inside out of the weather almost all of the time.

You can visit him at www.ajosephblack.com or join him on Twitter at @a_joseph_black.