The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain – a new collection

Rocky Mountains_Judy Darley
I’m excited to share the happy news that Reflex Press will be publishing my third short fiction collection in 2022. The title is ‘The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain’, taken from one of the shortest stories in the collection in which a house encompasses the whole world…

I included the following introduction in my submission to Reflex Press. If you’re planning to submit a collection to a publisher, I highly recommend you create something similar to ease them in. This is the second time I’ve done this, and both times it’s culminated in a publishing contract. It also provides them with some copy to share with the announcement and whet readers’ appetites.

The stories in this collection speak of togetherness and separation: how we strive to connect with that one person who could save us, how we attempt to save the people who matter to us and how we sometimes (often) get things wrong.

Consider the things we slowly come to understand, and then can’t grasp how we didn’t know sooner. Not all is as it first appears. Genders and time frames may skew; perceptions warp. What seems to be unreal may be real, or vice versa. Magic may uncurl in the most commonplace corners. Everyday concerns shuttle past minor miracles.

Discover the lost, the self-conscious, the reckless. Learn how to milk an alpaca. Encounter a river with one thing on its mind. Touch on moments of isolation amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Find out how a ghost-tree could bring a community together. Witness the moment when friendship sparks into something more. Consume a life in one mouthful. Meet the lovers, the families and the undefinable others who make up these worlds and sweep us along.

It’s so good to have something positive to look forward to!

Sign up for updates on the Reflex Press website here.

Flash Frontier entreats your sweet words

The Florist Elderflower meringue dessert by Judy DarleyThe lovely folks at New Zealand’s Flash Frontier magazine are currently inviting submissions of short tales from across the world on the theme of ‘Sweet’.

The deadline is 10th March 2021. Submissions must be only 250 words in length. Stories of 251 words won’t be accepted.

They say: “We are looking for variety and originality. Tickle us, haunt us, gobsmack us. Choose your words carefully and leave our readers wanting more. And do it in a small space. (…) We love original art in all forms – colourful and daring, muted and understated. We’ll choose art each month that reflects the theme.”

Send only previously unpublished stories, and make sure you follow their style guide to the letter!

To get a taste of what the editors like and get inspired, read Flash Frontier’s latest issue, on the theme of doors.

Find full details of how to submit your work here: https://www.flash-frontier.com/submissions/ 

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud(dot)com.

Enter National Flash Fiction Day’s microfiction competition

Sweets by Judy DarleyNational Flash Fiction Day’s 100-word microfiction competition 2021 invites your submissions. Send something funny, something that resonates, is fresh and exciting, and leaves the judges lost for words.

The deadline is Monday 15th February 2021. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

This year’s judges are Rachael Dunlop, K M Elkes, Sharon Telfer and Alison Woodhouse.

Titles aren’t included in the word count.

  • First prize is £150
  • Second prize is £100
  • Third prize is £50

The winning and shortlisted authors will be published in the National Flash Fiction Day 2021 anthology. Winning and shortlisted authors will also receive a free print copy of this anthology.

Find full details here.

This year, National Flash Fiction Day is on Saturday 26th June. How will you be celebrating?

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud(dot)com.

Sky Light Rain – Merrow Cave

Iona Abbey carving cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-second story is ‘Merrow Cave’. It tells the story of a young boy, Callum, who is sent to live with his aunt and granddad on a remote island when his mum is unwell, and discovers a rather fishy family secret.

The story grew from someone telling me how their ageing grandma was forgetting her English and reverting to her mother tongue, which his granddad had never learnt, so that it was as though the grandma was being cast adrift with no one to understand her.

The route I took to explore this sorry situation wove in marine folklore, in particular Irish tales of mermaids, or the merrow. Imagine if your relative came from a world more alien than simply being from another country? How could those differences reemerge as they aged and grew frail?

Introducing Callum as the protagonist gave me an opportunity to examine the scene with an outsider’s eyes. Relocating him from his inland home to the windswept isle makes him feels as out of place as his grandma is becoming.

‘Merrow Cave’ was one of those rare tales that seemed to almost write itself, as though carried by a tide I had little control over.

‘Merrow Cave’ was originally published by Querty Magazine, the literary journal of University of New Brunswick Department of English in Canada.

The story begins:

It’s carved into the side of the rock – a face tilted to one side, hair streaming behind. The jaw is angular and strong, the whole thing larger than life.

Running his hands over the smooth stone of the cheeks and nose, Callum senses it again, that feeling of someone behind him, watching. He lets his arms drop to his sides and turns, slowly, gazing into the darkness at the rear of the cave. The shadows are so deep he feels blind for a moment, but then there’s something, a movement of some sort, and the thin light crawling in from the entrance snags on something back there.

“Hello?” he calls, and his voice bleeds back to him, causing him to shudder with self-consciousness. He wants to run outside into the sunshine, but as the last echoes ebb away, he hears something very like a cough being stifled. Whatever it is in the darkness, it sounds unwell.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.

Sky Light Rain – Underwire

Underwire by Judy DarleyHave you ever created a fictional character who gained traits and powers you didn’t expect? You may have noticed that for a while now I’ve been offering ‘behind-the-scenes’ insights into the inspiration that prompted the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

A few weeks ago, entirely unintentionally, I completely skipped over my story ‘Underwire’. This tale is the twenty-seventh in the collection, and should have appeared in this series of posts between ‘The Sculptor‘ and ‘Breathing Water‘.

This most curious thing about this omission is that ‘Underwire’ tells the tale of a woman who chooses to disappear.

It originally washed up in issue 67 (Winter/Spring 2018) of Tears In The Fence.

The image above shows where the story ends. It begins:

The pebbles of the beach are cold lumps beneath my soles. A January wind whistles in from the sea, but I ignore the goosebumps sprigging my flesh and with effort I think the core of me into heat. That’s a trick, imagining an inferno lit at the centre of my gut, flames licking the ropes of intestines and keeping me warm.

The whole world is dressed in shades of bruises today – bluish pebbles, the greenish sea, a sky like slabs of ice above.

I glance up the beach; see the violet trim of my sneakers where I kicked them off a few steps back. Nearby, my socks lounge untidily like patches of lichen or moss. 

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.

Enter Oxford Flash Fiction Prize 2021

Oxford University buildings. Photo by Judy Darley. Photo of old buildings in the English city of Oxford.Oxford Flash Fiction Prize 2021 invites you to submit your finest flash fiction tale for a chance to get 2021 off to an excellent start.

The deadline is 31 January 2021.

The word limit is 1,000.

  • First prize is £1000.
  • Second prize is £200.
  • Third prize is £100.

Shortlisted entrants will be offered the chance to be published in the end of year digital anthology.

You can choose to enter one flash at £6, two at £10 or three at £14.

A limited number of free entries are available to low-income writers. Find out more here.

Rules of entry

  • All entries must be formatted as a single-spaced word document or PDF.
    Font: Arial, 12pt. This is to standardise entries so that all stories are treated equally. Only entries that are under the 1000-word limit (not including the title) will be accepted.
  • All entries must include the title of the story but not the name or address, or any identifying information of the entrant.
  • This is an international competition, and all entries must be in English.
  • All entries must be the work of the person entering and must not have been published anywhere online (including blogs and websites) or accepted for publication elsewhere. The copyright remains with the author.
  • Entries will not be accepted without payment, and any entries that do not comply with the competition rules will be disqualified.
  • No corrections post-entry can be accepted or refunds given.
  • The results of the competition will be published online and the decision of the judge(s) will be final.
  • The closing date for entries is midnight (UK time) on the 31st January. Winners will be notified by email within six weeks of the closing dates.

Find full details here.

Submit your words to the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards

Azorean views over the Atlantic by Judy DarleyIreland Writing Retreat and Wild Atlantic Writers invite you to submit flash fiction and creative non-fiction inspired by nature. The closing date is 10th December.

The Flash Fiction Award is open to all genres from sci-fi to crime, and romance to horror, providing nature features as a key element, “It could even be that a tree, plant, stone or other being or Nature in its multitude of expressions plays a key role in your story. ”

The maximum length is 500 words, not including the title.

The Creative Nonfiction Award offers a similar challenge, only instead of a fiction story it should take the form of memoir, personal essay, travelogue (even one about your hometown) or anything other true tale, providing nature plays significant role in your submission.

It must be no more than 500 words, not including the title.

For both competitions, the prize is 500 euros in cash.

A fee of 10 euro is required for each entry.

The closing date is 10th December.

Find the full rules and link to enter here.

Published stories – October 2020

Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

This photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash illustrates my story ‘Kitten Heeled.’

While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, including within my own home, October has seen a generous number of my short fictions published, which has offered some light in the fog.

Last week, two tales inspired by real life moments found homes. The second, ‘Calamities of Varied Weights‘, is now live at The Daily Drunk. It covers a real day out with my teenage niece and nephew back in February 2020, rainfall, grumpiness and all.

The first, ‘Kitten Heeled‘, has been published by The Art of Everyone. It captures a moment from my childhood. Adam at The Art used a royalty-free photo I supplied, shown at the top of this post.

Uh-Oh Books published their beautiful Wild and Green kids’ magazine featuring my children’s story ‘Grace Under Lockdown‘, about a grey seal coping with noisy, messy humans! Marine Conservation Society helped with insights.
On 5th October, Dream Journal published a teeny tiny pandemic flash fiction inspired by my middle nephew – ‘Ezra Can Stand on One Foot Forever.’
So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Earlier in October, wonderful book post arrived from Indianapolis – the ninth edition of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, containing my hopeful story ‘Reaching Branches‘, which is about a newcomer to a suburb seeking a way to forge a sense of community.

The folks at the journal say: “The journal has become well recognized in the writing and artistic community. This year, we received 267 entries for 65 slots, so the selection process was challenging. Here are a few stats: Of those selected: 41 men, 24 women, and 12 veterans. Fourteen of our contributors are from Indiana; 42 are from out of state; and 9 are international. The journal features 38 poems, 17 prose pieces, 10 photographs, and 9 works of art.”

Extraordinary to have my work selected out of 267 submissions, and as one of only 24 by women and nine from overseas!

To top it all off, today is the book birthday of my short story and flash fiction collection, Sky Light Rain. Happy first birthday, Book 2!

Sky Light Rain by Judy Darley

Enter The Masters Review chapbook contest

Autumn gourd by Judy Darley

The Masters Review is inviting submissions to their inaugural chapbook contest.

The deadline for entries is 15th November 2020.

The winning writer receive $3,000, manuscript publication, a subscription to Journal of the Month, and 50 contributor copies.

Steve Almond, the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football, will judge five to ten shortlisted chapbooks chosen byThe Masters Review and select the winning manuscript. Steve will also provide a brief foreword for the winning manuscript on publication.

The Masters Review say: “We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 40 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, long-form fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work), and function cohesively.”

Got an event, challenge, competition, new venture or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Book review – Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas

Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas coverAt first glance, the five sections of Anita Goveas’ collection appear elemental. A closer look rewards with the dawning understanding that the categories are types of natural disaster, with the final two a little more tongue in cheek. Fire, Water, Wind, Love and Families each warn of the emotions contained within, or, more, likely, poised to spill over.

The opening sentence of a collection is crucial in setting the tone for what’s to come. Goveas does this fearlessly, dropping into our laps the unflinching line: “There’s an ancient prophesy that you’ll die by volcano.” What Really Gets You Is the Rising Heat is a story that speaks of the expectations we fight against to forge our own path, even if that does turn out to be directly to the same volcano’s mouth our parents marked for us.

The titles form a poetry of their own, with the second tale warning us from the off that A Pilgrimage Can Be One Way, before enfolding us in ‘packing’ and ‘to do’ lists that contain humour, love and heartache within deftly rendered brevity. It’s the kind of hermit crab flash that hints at tireless hours of crafting.

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