Category Archives: FULL BLOG

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.

The Well by Andrew Stott (2nd place, Jul20)

The swallows fly into and out of the well. There must be a nest down there. Whyever else would they fly down into it? I have looked down over the top. There is mesh there, to prevent a human being falling in and falling to their doom, but there is a small hole in the mesh. I wonder if a swallow has picked it apart with its beak – broken in – entered the depths – the unknown. What is down there? What do they know that I don’t…

Sometimes, I stand there, at night, looking into the well. The black of the well is darker than everything else – you can’t even see the mesh. But it is there – protecting me – protecting me from a fall to my doom.

I look for them. I try to see the swallows. I try to see the nest. And then I switch my torch on and everything is illuminated – the mesh is bright and brown and clear. And I think I can see the reflections of water down below. I want to see the nest. I want to see the bright eyes of the chicks but I cannot make anything out. I call. And then they come at me. I fall back as the bats stream up from the well. Hundreds of them. Thousands. Going up in a huge column. The end of days. It has come. It is all over.

I stand beside the cooker and I watch my egg boil. It jitters around in there. There is a trace of white in the water. I pierced the end of the egg with the sharp point of my smallest knife. It is to release the pressure – to stop the egg from cracking when it enters the simmering water. It sometimes works. It has worked this time – the egg has not cracked. But there is still a small wisp of white from the hole. I look at it. It is like semen in water. I feel like I want to stick my fingers in and lift it out but that will scald my fingers and I will have to hold them under the cold tap – or – worse – take myself to A & E because my flesh is falling off.

Not a good idea.

I decide not to do it.

In the lounge I sit with my feet up on the pouf. I continue with my knitting. Knit one. Purl one. Knit one. Purl one. I keep going… I enjoy it. I turn the knitting counter and start on the next row.

Downton Abbey is being repeated on ITV and I like that. I keep waiting for Dame Maggie Smith to reappear. She is the only one I want to watch. The other ones bore me somehow. Knit one. Purl one. Knit one. Purl one.

I sit on the toilet and wait. Sometimes it takes ages. I eat too many eggs. I know that. But I like eggs. And wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you do everything that they tell you not to do? Why be like that? Why follow their rules? It is my life. I only want to be free.

In the bedroom I pick up the picture frame. I stare at him. He is not with me anymore. I love him. I feel like he is with me when my hands are on the picture. And then I feel this overwhelming sense of loss, and I curl up on the bed and I wrap myself into myself and I hold the pillow and I cry.

It doesn’t last long. I uncurl and lie down. I look at his bed, no longer occupied, over to the right of me. I imagine him there. I imagine his chest rising and falling. I imagine the little snores emanating from his mouth. A huge creature, a monolith. A creature from the deep. A beached whale, in the bed next to me, with the special bars that go up and down and the electronics that raise the back end of the bed, and the front end of the bed, on hydraulics. I think that is what they are called. You could squeeze him into all sorts of positions with those buttons. But usually you didn’t. You just raised the back and then gave him his pills, and then helped his feet find the floor. You put his hands on the walker and you helped him stand. You talked through with him which foot he was going to move next and where he was going to put it and – gradually – over time – over quite some time – he made it to the toilet. And then he was stuck. Because he couldn’t turn round. And just before you got him there it was all over and running down his legs and it was okay… it was nothing to worry about… just sit down… and once he was sitting down you got the shower head out of the shower connected to the really long hose and you washed him down until he was clean and he just saw you. He just looked at you. No longer really connected to anything else. A broken darling. A bird on the wing. A swallow heading down deep into the well – never to return.

There is life down there. I know it. The swallows are breeding life. You can see them during the day and you sit on the step in front of the patio. They fly into the well and they emerge from it. Is it the same swallow? Is it a mummy swallow? I don’t know. And I wish I did. I wish I could place my hand on it. I wish I could hold it. I wish I could see it.

I stare at the monkey puzzle. I like those trees with their crazy branches. I planted it twenty years ago. It is doing well.

I cut my nails. I snip off the hard bits of nail that I have softened by sitting my feet in a bowl of water for twenty minutes with the funny salt in it.

The nails I place on a piece of paper. I am still alive. I keep growing. Look at me grow. I have to keep cutting pieces off myself.

I didn’t think that I would still be alive – so long after he died. I still feel it. Why do I continue to exist? It doesn’t seem right. I treat each day as a gift. Because it is. There are no children in my nest. They have grown up and have left home. They come to visit sometimes. And I make them my roast lamb. They like it. They bring the mint sauce from Waitrose. The expensive one. It works really well.

How To Take An Inventory by Annalise Taylor (3rd place, Jul20)

Accuracy and efficiency are all. In order to be a successful Retail Inventory Associate you must be reliable and focused. Strong mental arithmetic will help you sail through the application process and before you know it, you will have been registered, with a navy polo shirt and name badge, and be awaiting notification of your first shift. It will be at an inconvenient time for most people, but this is what attracted you to the position in the first place. You think that you can find rapid change exhilarating and are sure you will enjoy the flexible hours and schedules.

Your first shift arrives. Fortunately, your mother is available to stay overnight with the children. The shift begins at 5pm so you need to leave home just after they return from school. They will be clingy but you will fob them off with ice cream and cartoons. You have been assured that so long as you are accurate and efficient as promised, you will be finished by 3am so you should be back before they get up. Once the count begins it must be completed. You cannot leave until it is finished. You will not fully appreciate the impact of those words until 3am the next day.

You arrive at the large supermarket’s back entrance and find the shift supervisor who issues you with a webbing holster and scanning gun. A more experienced Associate helps you put it on and explains how the scanner works. You have received training like everyone else but perhaps he feels the need to explain because you may just be old enough to be his mother. You are irritated but grudgingly relieved as the training hadn’t really sunk in.

‘No multi scans,’ the supervisor intones during the team briefing.

‘This is food not fashion,’ complains a young guy at the front. This boy wants the supervisor’s job – you can tell by the sharp lines shaven in his close-cut hair. He wants to trade in his polo for a real shirt with cuffs and a tie.

‘Yes Martin. But we are here on a recount and they want it thorough. No room for human error – that will not be a defence.They are looking to reduce their shrinkage and they need our inventory to do that. With all that in mind, welcome to our new Associates. Let’s have an accurate and efficient count. We all want to be in bed before sunrise.’

You head out onto the shop floor with the rest of the team and are relieved to be paired up with Martin. He knows what he’s doing and is surprisingly patient with you.

Your arms will soon adjust to the repeated movement of twisting a tin to locate the barcode, scanning the code, moving onto the next tin. You’ll be put on beans – entry level stuff. When you mis-hit a key Martin will help you delete your mistake. Intermittently the assistant supervisor, Holly, will download data from your handset to a central laptop. Like the rest of the staff she will appear to be twelve years old. Which is something your mother would say, but she genuinely looks like she should be in a school uniform, not dissimilar to the cheap, white shirt she has earnt the right to wear.

By midnight you will have had one fifteen minute toilet break. You will want to call your mum to check everything is alright but you won’t because she will be asleep in front of the telly. You have time for a wee, a drink of water and a Snickers bar from a vending machine out the back. You plan to pack sandwiches next time. You think of telling Gavin about all this; the annoying kids in charge, the arbitrary rules, the work that is mindless but not mindless enough, so you still need to concentrate on it. You will remember that Gavin is no longer home for you to share the day’s stories with. You will remember that if it wasn’t for Gavin, you wouldn’t need to be here. You would have tucked the kids in hours ago and be watching a documentary with a cup of tea and half a packet of biscuits. You would like to reduce the shrinkage in your life. You will consider taking an accurate and efficient inventory when your mind is your own.

When you return to the shop floor you will be sent back to Martin who has now moved onto the frozen vegetables. These are not the same as tins of beans, neatly stacked and regimented. These are freezing, floppy bags that need to be pushed to one side then scanned one packet at a time within the upright freezers.

With each bag of mixed veg that you pull forward to be scanned you retrieve another memory of your life with Gavin. Tentative lunches in the university canteen. Late night study sessions where nothing academic was achieved. Sheltering from the rain in a Yorkshire pub. You will consider at what point you realised that you had nothing in common except an appetite for excellent sex. You will hate your former self who said that she found Gavin’s derision of her academic work refreshingly honest. Activating the scanner’s red light and high-pitched tone you will recall weekends away to naff locations that you both approached with irony but left with fantasies of belonging,formed in front of estate agents’ windows.You will realise that these memories are without value in that their recollection subtracts from your sense of self-worth.

When the twelve year old supervisor admonishes you for your inaccurate scanning of frozen peas you will contain your rage. When she says, ‘‘So will you be fast and accurate for the rest of the night?’ you will try to forget that it is now 3am and your hands are frozen from clawing through bags of frozen vegetables and that you just want to go home.

You will push from your mind how much you hate her. And her piercings. And each of her poorly tattooed eyebrows that don’t look like eyebrows, or tattoos for that matter. You will not point out to her that you have written a thesis on women’s body image or that you have given birth. Twice. And that you are now compensating for the unexplained absence of a father in your children’s lives. You will not care if these thoughts make you ageist or whatever the opposite of intersectional is.

You will simply say, ‘Yes, I will be both fast and accurate.’ You will feel as if you have sold a significant portion of your soul for the minimum wage.

You will realise that the scanner only reads barcodes that are there in front of it. It does not register the ghosts of products that were once on these shelves. You will consider your mother who has never mentioned her disapproval of Gavin from day one. You will think of the soft skin of your son’s chubby hands. You will feel the reassuring weight of your daughter pressing into your lap as she hands you a book to read.

You will finish your shift. You will hand in your scanner for the final upload. You will wait for the night bus, too tired to be scared. You will get home and send your mum to bed. You will set your alarm for two hours’ time. You will close your eyes and you will dream of numbers.

Our new FLASH FICTION competition is now open for submissions

Writers and authors visiting Cranked Anvil regularly will know that we’ve been running our 1500 word short story competition for about 18 months now. With rolling submissions open quarterly throughout the year, the competition has grown from strength to strength, and we love reading all the short stories we receive. (Our next shortlist and three placed winning stories will be announced on 11th September, with the three top stories published here on our website.)

So why a new Flash Competition?

Flash fiction is an increasingly popular form, and we’ve been noticing more and more that many entries into our regular short story competition take the form of flash fiction – often with a word count below 500 words.

So we thought: why not open a seperate comp – with diferent deadline dates – for those who want to focus on writing and submitting flash fiction?

Click the image to go to the Flash Fiction page.

Of course, our regular 1500 word short story competition is still continuing to run, but now writers also have the chance to submit flash fiction – any theme or genre – for a chance to win cash prizes and publication on our website.

The first comp is now open for entries – just £3 for one story, or £5 for two.

Make sure you read and adhere to all the rules, and then enter your story here. We also reccomend that you familiarise yourself with our GDPR/Privacy Policy here.

The deadline is 30th November. We look forward to reading your work.