The Fiction Desk seeks ghost stories

Arnoa Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyIn these early days of the year with so many hours to each dark night, The Fiction Desk invites you to seek a home for your spooky scribblings by submitting an entry to their annual call for ghost stories.

They say: “’Ghost story’ can mean a lot of different things, from an encounter with an actual phantom to more unusual paranormal phenomena and unexplained events. All types are welcome, so feel free to experiment: we’re very unlikely to disqualify a story for stretching the definition of a “ghost”. Keep in mind that our general readership (and by extension our judge) may be more likely to respond well to psychological chills and unexplained mysteries than in-your-face gore.”

They pay £20 per thousand words for stories (eg £80 for a 4,000 word story, or £120 for a 6,000 word story). Contributors also receive two complimentary paperback copies. The stories they publish are also eligible to enter the Writer’s Award, a cash prize of £100 for the best story in each volume, as judged by the contributors.

Rules of this call for submissions

Entries should be between 1,000 and 20,000 words in length. The entry fee is £4 for each story submitted.

The deadline for entries is January 31st, 2021. To cover admin costs, submission fees are £4 per story.  Stories should be submitted online.

You might find it helpful to take a look at their previous ghost story anthologies.

Find full details of how to submit your ghost stories here.

Writing prompt – spooky settings

ss Great Britain by Judy DarleyWith Halloween almost upon us, it’s got me thinking about ghost stories and what makes them work. In my opinion, a large part of this is the setting you choose, whether that’s a cemetery, a cave, a toyshop (a la Angela Carter), a ship… There are so many options, each of which can be mined for their own particular creepiness.

Last night I read a scary tale at Redcliffe Caves, as part of Bristol Festival of Literature’s Writers in the Caves event. My ghost story is set in the caves themselves. I read it surrounded by flickering by candlelight, in the darkness of the man-made caverns.

And then on Saturday, I’m excited to be heading to Brunel’s ss Great Britain, a beautiful ship built more than 170 years ago, and now set in a dry dock on Bristol’s harbourside. In association with Bristol Old Vic, actors will brings the ship’s history to life (or, rather, underneath), in the manner of a haunted house. Eeeps!

This week, I urge you to consider an intriguing or unsettling location and use that as the starting point of an eerie tale.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – trapped

Metal handprint cr Judy DarleyWith Halloween just days away, I want you to think of a story to chill your readers to the bone.

This photo was taken at a local farm. The dented metal caught my eye – notice that the pattern almost resembles a handprint as though someone is trapped behind it and desperate to escape.

What happened here? Who was trapped and why? What was the outcome? You decide, just make sure it’s eerie enough to raise goosebumps on your arms as you write, and make you wonder if that creak you just heard needs investigating…

If you write something prompted by this idea, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

A fairytale and a ghost story

Mossy tree cr Judy DarleyThis week I received the exciting news that one of my short stories has been chosen to appear on the Enchanted Conversations websites, a fabulous hub of original fairytales and homages to traditional ones.

You can read my story, Sapling, here. The atmospheric image selected by editor & Publisher Kate Wolford is by artist Richard Doyle.

My story begins like this:

I was the only one who saw him. Everyone else, even my mother, it seems, only saw the tree. I lay in the long grass playing with my soldiers who were using the lawn as a jungle. Sunlight fell thick and heavy through the strands of grass, darkness falling briefly as my mother passed. I glanced up to see where she was going – saw her reach the tree, climb the trunk and disappear into the leaves. I gazed, amazed. My mother had never climbed a tree in my life, that I knew of. I stared at the old oak, then heard a rustling, a sharp gasp, and my mother fell. By the time she hit the ground, my father was halfway down the lawn, running full tilt. Yet only I saw the man in the branches, his skin the color and texture of bark, eyes like two bright spaces between the leaves where light leached through.

Read on…

Find out how to write fairytales here.

We’re already into October, and the run up to Halloween. Britain never celebrates this most gruesome of fiestas with as much fervour as I’d like, but this is also the time of year when ghost stories are most successful, so I’m really pleased to have one of mine published by the wonderful Origami Journal.

My tale, Unwanted Guests, was inspired by a rental property I moved into where the cellar was filled with the previous tenant’s possessions – everything from old pots and pans to gymkhana ribbons and old teddy bears – seriously eerie! Why on earth would anyone leave those kinds of things behind? That was the seed – read the result here.

Enter The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2013

Arnos Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyWhen I think of classic British ghost stories I get a satisfying shiver down my spine, not least because it’s an area women writers seem to excel in, from Mary Shelley to Susan Hill!

The Fiction Desk are straying from their preference for more or less realistic tales for a competition focusing solely on the genre of the ghost story, saying “some genre fiction should be part of any balanced reading diet. One genre that we’d like to feature more of in our pages is the ghost story.”

The closing date for entries is 31 May 2013. Continue reading