All posts by Paul Dunn

A Summer Carol

by Guilherme Ribeiro
3rd place, October 2020

Dawn slaps him around a little. I’m awake! He shouts at the sun, accepting sweet numb nothing ain’t returning. I’m awake, he mumbles to himself as he slides off the park bench. Not a sliding off exactly, more of a ploy to trick gravity into gaining momentum with the purpose of standing up. He succeeds… Somewhat. He straightens his once red, now crusty brown overcoat, standing to attention. He shakes the slumber off. Coffee! Yes, a purpose.

The old man in the crusty coat ambles aimlessly, ignoring the layout of the park, scratching at his long white beard as he goes along. Grass, leaves, sticks creak under his feet. He sweats as the heat of summer blasts on, filling the early hours of the morning with dense hot air. An old mutt catches up with him, scratching under his snout. Hello old friend, what’s breakfast? The dog barks a rough snort in response. Hmm, that bad hey? Don’t worry, old Nic got himself a little liquid breakfast.

They find shade and Nic shakes the instant coffee into a mug, fills it up with malt liquor and stirs it with his finger. He splashes some on the floor. Here you go, don’t go sayin’ I don’t take care of you.

They sit there for a while, sipping coffee, keeping their minds from the unrelenting heat. Watching the dozens of birds toiling away at their day around the pond’s ecosystem.

Bloody birds. Mocking us with their flight. I used to fly you know. Yes, don’t give me that look, I used to fly real good. Fastest man in the world. You try getting to all continents within forty-eight hours. I thought so. The wife never much appreciated the job, did she? I could have taken her along, but that wasn’t the problem was it? Don’t look at me like that…

Huh… I know, I am a drunk slob, you’re right. You try only working two months a year. And the economy hasn’t been great, has it? Yeah, you should know. Dumb mutt.

The dog barks in disapproval.

Sorry, yeah, you smart alright.

They walk up to the pond and take a rest around its edge. His hands grab bits of grass and pebbles, rolling them in his hand, throwing them aimlessly in the general direction of the birds. His jaws work away, grinding, thoughtless.

Hey you, yes you, you big long necked duck. You a duck right? ‘Cause you’re dark. A swan would be white yes? You remind me of her, she also had a long neck.. She quacked plenty too.

“Nicky get off the sofa, Nicky dwarfs are a bad influence, Nicky you always stink of booze… Nicky if you want to keep reindeer you have to take care of them. Goddammit Nicholas! I am not burying one more malnourished ravenous reindeer…”

The dog looks at him.

I know… It gets too hot… Don’t look at me like that.

It’s moot now. She kicked my ass out. The neighbour you know? Some grizzly lumberjack apparently. I can’t compete with an industrious seal clubber, now can I? He’s apparently ‘friends’ with the polar bears too, yes, that old boxing club uptown. Punch a bear, get a fish. He got mauled once and she was all over him. Nic go fetch antiseptic, Nicholas warm towels! For Mr Muscle next door, now!

I hold no grudge dog, not at all. She’s much better off now, she is even happy, I hope.

But I ain’t changing ’cause I got kicked out am I? You know it. You ever change old dog? Nope. Exactly my point.

A small child runs around the pond, the park fills with tourists, families, babies crying and nice dogs doing their business and being all well behaved.

Until that moment he was alone, he thought, not one soul. Nothing but the dog, the feathers everywhere, the white specs veering away from the water and hovering in full speed, spreading tiny ripples as they go. Now his morning is over. The noise and the heat disturb him. He finds some vegetation where he can hide. Sleep. He dreams of a lumberjack playing go fish with a seal.

Right dog. I am off south. You coming? Gotta keep going. Some teens barbecuing nearby recognise him and invite him over. Is all good kids you go back to your thing. It’s no trouble really. Want a sausage? No, I am good, I got places to go. You kids have fun.

They give him a bottle of whiskey which they refuse to accept back. He thanks them, takes a large swig, shakes off the dirt around his trousers and gets going.

As he enjoys a sudden refreshing shade over him, a giant eagle stabs his shoulders with its claws and lifts him up to the sky.

Dog! dog! look, I am flying! I am finally flying! Hahahahah! Ha Aw, Aww!

The giant bird flaps around a bit until he decides on a direction.

Soooo, Mr Eagle, where do you think you taking me? The giant bird coos in response. Fine. He closes his eyes and embraces the breeze, the weightlessness, the joy of flight, the sobering pain in his shoulders.

The eagle lets him go. And he falls, and he smiles, now we are talking. Now he is free.

His body hits the ground with a crush. He can taste the impact. A bloody gargle is all he can muster, or he would be laughing hysterically.

Hahahah – aww – Fiiine – aw – Coughs – I will shape up. Is that OK with you, you stupid bird?

He lays there for a while, quietly. A rough whimper in the distance can be heard. Dog! Dog? Where are ya? Someone needs to scrape me off the floor, dog. Here you are. The dog licks the puddle of whiskey next to Nic’s body.

Dog… We making some changes around here… I made a decision. We’ moving to the south pole OK? I hear penguins are good neighbours. Plus, they better than reindeer at high speed travel. Don’t know how dog, do I? They just are.

Who will build toys? You really think people need more trash? Nah, I am out of that racket, the internal politics, the drugs… all them wild nights with half sized people.

Here’s what will work dog. I am gonna give people what they need to hear and make ’em hear it alright! That’s it. The dog lays on his back next to Nicholas. See, you warming to it. They watch the stars do their thing. “Tell people you appreciate them” “No, sequins ain’t good on a dinner dress” “Get off yer ass” “Leave your desk job” “Bangs do look good on you” “You are extraordinary” “Playful stylish sandals ain’t a thing” “Speak your mind” “Tell that one person you adore them, now” “Double denim was never a good look, and it ain’t starting now” that kind of thing.

Dog barks in approval.

Dog, can you get a doctor in the morning? Thanks, appreciate it.

October 2020 – Long List

Our entry inbox grows bigger with every fresh quarter, and the judges have had more stories to read this quarter than ever before. Our ‘4 entries for the price of 3’ continues to prove popular, and we’re delighted that it’s encouraging so much great writing out there.

So much so that we’ve decided to extend the offer into next year!

For our current short story competition competition – deadline 31st January 2021 – you can once again take advantage of entering four stories for the price of three. So what are you waiting for – get writing!

However – We’re still receiving some entries that do not adhere to our rules, and therefore have had to be disqualifed. If you’re entering the competition, please read all the terms of entry very carefully, to ensure your story is in with the best chance of being considered.

Even if you’ve entered our competition before, go back and check the rules again.

Make sure you’ve got everything right – not just the word count, but the layout and document title requirements too. Make sure your document has a covering page, containing all the information we need.

It’s all there in the rules – make sure you read them thoroughly.

In the meantime, we’re delighted to reveal our long list of authors for the October 2020 competition:

Emilie Akoka (for 1 story)
Liz Andersen
Cath Barton (for 2 stories)
Simon Birinder
Hollie Brennan
Gillian Brown
Rebecca Burns
Robin Butterworth
Colette Coen
Georgia Cook (for 2 stories)
Elizabeth Cooke
Kathryn Crowley
Maureen Cullen (for 2 stories)
Mark Demeza
Paddy Doherty
Eoghan Doyle (for 1 story)
Jonathan Gurling
James Hancock (for 4 stories)
Peter Hankins
Christina Hennemann
Stephen Ho (for 2 stories)
Adrian Holmes
Radhika Iyer (for 1 story)
Denny Jace
Tom Jameson
K T Jayne
Tesni Jenkins (for 1 story)
Andrew Jones
J Kimber
Richard Layton (for 1 story)
Sarah Leavesley
Ros Levenson
Rose Little
Sarah Mackey
Gwenda Major
Mike McMaster
David McVey (for 4 stories)
Sherry Morris
Melissa Morrison
Miriam Moss
Jack Paton
Helen Rana
Guilherme Ribeiro
Rachel Robbins
Sarah Robin
Rob Robson (for 1 story)
Jennifer Ryan (for 1 story)
Laura Scotland
Edward Sergeant (for 3 stories)
Francoise Sharpin
Kerri Simpson
Liane Smith (for 3 stories)
Jessica Squier (for 2 stories)
Andy Stewart
Hannah Sutherland (for 1 story)
Sam Szanto
M Q Tate
J M Thomas
Julia Vaughan
David Wass
Daniel Watt
Gillian Welby (for 4 stories)
Katherine William-Powlett
F S Williams
Anne Wilson (for 2 stories)
James Woolf
Alex Zyms

Congratulations to you all!

The short list will be announced, and the three placed stories published here on our website, on 12th December.

Short story competition – 4 for 3 offer extends into 2021

Ever get the feeling you’re going through a sense of deja vu?

Yes, here we are in another lockdown in the UK, with all the inconveniences and uncertainties that it brings.

But one thing that remains ever constant is our 1500 word short story competition!

Last quarter we received the biggest number of entries since the competition began. We were delighted that our special offer of allowing 4 entries for the price of 3 inspired so many of our writers – both new and regular – to create even more great work. We’re currently reading through all eligible entries and creating the longlist.

And because we love it so much WE WANT TO READ MORE!

Which is why we’ve decided, for yet another quarter, to extend the offer and do it all over again! (deadline 31st January 2021).

This will be the third quarter in a row that we’ve done this, as we continue to strive to be a thoroughly affordable and accesible writing competition. It’s open to any theme or genre, the only limit is the word count of 1500 words (not including the title).

The fee for one or two stories remains the same – £5 for one, £8 for two – but if you pay the fee of £10 you will qualify to enter FOUR stories, instead of the usual three. This equates to just £2.50 per story entered; we know of very few paid competitions which are better value than that!

So go on – take advantage of the offer once more. Enjoy creating your four new stories – you have three months in which to write them.

We look forward to reading them.

You can enter the competition here. Make sure you carefully read and abide by all the rules of the competition. If you would like to read previous winners and placed entries, you can do so here.

Meet our first Anthology contributors

You may have noticed recently that we’ve been shouting about our upcoming Short Story Anthology.

Well, we make no apologies for that! We’re very proud of it, and we can’t wait to share the fantastic work written by our thirty-three contributing authors.

Publication date is 16th November, and you can pre-order your copies here.

They make a fantastic Christmas present for anyone in your life who loves reading (including yourself!)

If you’re a regular subscriber to our website you’ll know that our competitions are open to any theme or genre, and the anthology really reflects that, with a fantastic mix of humour, drama, sci-fi, supernatural… you name it, it’s in there!

And here are the authors whose work is featured in the book:

Matt Allen
Andy Banks
Edward Barnfield
Cath Barton
Joe Bedford
Peter Boyle
Sharon Boyle
Richard Garcka
Carole Garrett
James Hancock
Alyson Hilbourne
Sue Hoffman
John Holland
Jason Jackson
Alan Kennedy
Gwenda Major
Robbie McHarg
Lindsay McKean
Sherry Morris
Lauren O’Donoghue
Tony Oswick
Nicki Parkins
J D Revitt
Michele Seagrove
Liane Smith
P J Stephenson
Andrew Stott
Annalise Taylor
Sonia Trickey
Betty Weiner
Gillian Welby
Claire Wilson
Barbara Young

We hope you enjoy reading their stories as much as we have.

And if you’d like the chance to feature in one of our future anthologies – as well as winning cash prizes – take a look at our Short Story and Flash Fiction competitions, and GET WRITING!

Our first print anthology is almost here!

It’s been about a year in the planning and production, but now our first ever print anthology is almost here!

Featuring prize-winning stories from the first year (and a bit) of our short story competition – plus many of the fantastic short-listed entries too – the book is over 170 pages of brilliant fiction.

It will be available to buy EXCLUSIVELY from our website. We’ll be offering readers the chance to pre-order very soon, so keep watching this space, as well as our twitter and facebook, to make sure you stay in the loop.

THIS ANTHOLOGY WILL BE A STRICTLY LIMITED PRINT RUN – once they’re gone, they’re GONE!

(If you’re a contributing author to the anthology and you’re reading this – don’t worry. You’ll hear from us before the book goes on general sale, to make sure you’re able to pre-order all the copies you require!)

Though we say so ourselves, we’re very chuffed with how the volume is turning out, and we can’t wait for you to read this fine collection of stories from thirty-three superb writers. A fantastic value-for-money read if ever there was one – and just in time for Christmas too!

Happy reading folks!

Get involved with us in the next stage at Cranked Anvil Media

Our two quarterly writing competitions – the 1500 word short story and the 500 word flash fiction – are both in full swing now, as regular visitors to our website will know. We’ve already got a bumper crop of entries for our current submission windows (ending October and November) and we’re looking forward to receiving a lot more.

We’ve already got an impressive back catalogue of winning and short-listed entries, and we’re very excited about the next stage of Cranked Anvil’s development. We want our regular writers and subscribers to be in on the act from the beginning, so here’s what we want you to do…

Like our facebook page.

Click this link to head over to the page and click like.

But why? we hear you ask.

Well, it’s on the facebook page where we’ll be posting a lot more exclusive content and information in the near future, and that’s the best place to see it and get notifications of its existence. This will include pre-recorded and live videos, and news of our upcoming published anthologies.

 

Anthologies

Yes, the first anthology is on its way. Cranked Anvil Press is currently hard at work putting together a selection of work from our first year of short stories, and we can’t wait to share more info about it with you. Make sure you like our page to keep fully up to date.

 

Videos/live broadcasts

An exciting new idea we’re currently working on is to present readings of some of the best stories we’ve received and published. We’re thinking of it as a kind of ‘grown-up Jackanory for the 21st century’! There’ll be plenty more news and information as the project develops, which is why you need to like the facebook page now to get all the latest updates.

We also want to hear what you have to say about this and other projects, so while you’re following us on the facebook page, why not also jump on twitter and follow us there as well, where we’ll be asking questions, putting out polls, as well as giving you all the latest information on all our projects.

 

So what are you waiting for?

Get writing, and get liking. And if you know of a few writer friends who don’t yet subscribe to our website, drop them an email and let them know.

We can’t wait to welcome you as part of our team!

July 2020 – Shortlist and winners

We had a fantastic response to our special offer this quarter, with lots of writers taking advantage of being able to submit 4 stories for the price of 3. (We’re repeating the offer this quarter.) The judges have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the eligible entries, and it has been a tougher task than ever to get down to the shortlist and the final three placed stories.

But we’ve managed it, and here they are. Congratulations to:

1st: Sharon BoyleMoth Woman

2nd: Andrew StottThe Well

3rd: Annalise TaylorHow To Take An Inventory

Prize money is on its way to you, and your stories are published here on our website.

Well done to the following writers who made it onto the shortlist:

Matt Allen; Edward Barnfield; Cath Barton; Oliver Barton; James Hancock (2 stories); Margaret McDonald; Robbie McHarg (2 stories); Lindsay McKean; Liane Smith; Alan John Wilson.

Our next competition is now open: maximum 1500 words, any theme/genre, deadline October 31st.

And if you write flash fiction, our new competition is also open: max 500 words, deadline November 30th.