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2018 First Chapter Competition Results

June 5, 2018
2018 First Chapter Competition Results   Thanks to our judge, literary agent Diana Beaumont, for reading our ten shortlisted chapters and giving feedback on them all. We did promise the results would be announced in May but there has been a slight delay due to holidays and other competition announcements. Diana enjoyed reading all of the chapters and said: “I have judged a few things in my time and these were genuinely a cut above.  The standard of entries was impressive and I was delighted to judge it.” So to all of our shortlisted writers, well done! And a huge congratulations to our winner and runners-up. So here are the results… Winner Ain’t you been Baptized by Rachel Daniels I just loved the writing here – it’s incredibly accomplished and beautifully done with a vivid sense of place and a distinctive voice. Lenny’s dialogue – and the vagrant who attempts to rescue him – was pitch perfect with plenty of tension and an underlying dark humour that drew me in. I really wanted to know more about where Lenny has come from and where he goes next. Runners-Up Looking For Me by Hilary Taylor What a great opening paragraph: it disconcerts the reader and plunges us straight into Miriam’s world which is dripping with God and gore. It’s not always easy to pull off a child’s voice but this worked extremely well. The writing is so visceral and vivid that the trip to the butcher’s shop feels more like a horror movie with the blood and sawdust – not to mention the mother’s finger getting chopped off by mistake although there is a humour that offsets it. The author clearly has talent. Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge I really enjoyed this. It is polished, compelling writing and I was drawn in from the first paragraph. It reads like psychological suspense and I liked the way in which it is ambiguous as to what is real and what is imagined. The smart, Hamptons setting contrasts with the emotional darkness that underlies it. I also loved the descriptions of the meals, which were mouth wateringly delicious. I certainly wanted to read on. Highly Commended Gabriel by June Whitaker There is a wonderful, timeless quality to the beginning of this novel set in Southern Spain, which is steeped in superstition and fear. A woman is about to give birth to a child on ‘Black Tuesday, which is considered to be accursed. The writing is atmospheric and I wanted to know what becomes of the little boy born on this fateful evening. Shortlisted Freeze Frame by Dawn Michelle-Baude The writing has an intense, oppressive feel as a seventeen-year-old girl and her mother visit a morgue to identify whether the dead body on the gurney there is her father. The second person viewpoint can be tricky but seems to work thus far. Make sure the first paragraph really pulls the reader in, keep up the pace at all times and watch for moments

Forgetting Flash Winners

May 29, 2018
  Once again, thanks to all that entered the last themed flash comp. I’ve had a hard time choosing the top the three from the shortlisted stories but have finally made my decision. Well done to all of the shortlisted writers, who now appear in the list below the winner details as the standard is excellent. Why I chose it: I loved how this played with the theme and focused on how our memories work. How something that seems so momentous to one can be something much less significant to the other. How time affects that too so our lives become stories for us to edit as we see fit, to make ourselves seem more interesting than perhaps we really believe we are. The sumptuousness of the imagery and fantastic use of language give a real richness to the story that makes it feel a lot bigger than it is.   Why I chose it: Colourful flowers and the symbolism of their meanings all the way through added a real poignancy to the story. I loved how the young narrator was bringing flowers to her grandad that symbolised all the hope ahead for her life as his faded. The penultimate line about the time to get the Google results of the final flowers he gave her compared to how long it will take her to get over it, is a stunner.   Why I chose it: The sums running through this about how emotions, life events and the actions we take all come together to make something else are brilliant. Forgetting is never mentioned but the theme of memory runs throughout the whole story tied into the math. Great stuff.   Amy Drake by Nicole Fitton An Odyssey by Alison Woodhouse Burning Bright by Shirley Golden Captivity by Jennifer Riddalls Forget You by Nikki Marshall Freedom by Elizabeth Ottosson Hope You Find Your 90 by Adam Lock The Frog Prince by Margaret Morey   There’s still almost a month to get your flash stories in for the next themed flash comp and be in with a chance of winning up to £400 and getting your story published on the website. The theme is Reunions and the deadline is 24th June. Our Retreat West Author Members get entry to the comps included as part of their benefits package, as well as a lots of other great stuff. We hope to read your work soon!   [/themeone_one_whole]  

Unforgettable by David Wiseman

May 29, 2018
She is not black. She is chocolate that slides from Bournville to Dairy Milk and back again according to the light and the heat and the particular swell of skin she shows you. She is pink, sumptuous pink, with a tongue that teases and licks from behind pearl-white teeth she’s stolen from the poster at my dentist. She is blue, luminescent blue, shimmering in her hair as it cascades round her shoulders, down her back, across my face. She is not asleep, although she may dream behind closed eyes. Her arm grows heavy across my chest and the urge to move cannot be resisted for long. We are of the moment, without past and with future uncertain. Tomorrow is agreed, tomorrow is our horizon, until there is no tomorrow. Then we’ll slip into each other’s pasts, vivid at first, for one of us vivid and raw too. For the other the colour will fade faster, a faint after-image on the retina, quickly overwritten by the brightness of a new day, the thrills of the new lover. She will not be forgotten in a year. She will be a painful reminder of what might have been or she’ll bring a smile and a pause to recall a blissful affair. She will still be Rosemary, silky smooth, bright eyed, with a mane of black hair. She will not be forgotten at thirty when I walk past the house and remember which bedroom we shared and the salt taste of her sweat. The thought will shock me and I’ll wince when I realise I have the wrong house, they all look the same and really it was the next road along. She’ll still be Rosie, the beautiful girl who imagined strange worlds, and I’ll wonder if she did drugs and I hadn’t realised. She will not be forgotten when I’m forty or fifty and have children of my own. I’ll look at them slyly and see how they stand, see how they smile and wonder what they’d be like if Rosie had born them. She’ll not be forgotten when I’m sixty and seventy. I’ll talk to a friend I haven’t met yet and we’ll share past glories with an amber swirl in our cut-glass tumblers. It’ll take a moment to remember, were we lovers? Of course we were lovers, and what lovers we were, but the taste of her skin will elude me. Was she Roxie or Roz? I’ll settle for Roxie, more exotic to fit into a story, and by then who’ll care if it’s right or wrong? She’ll be almost forgotten when I dream my last dreams. I’ll call her to me one last time – if anyone should hear they’ll think it’s the drugs or a spasm of pain. I’ll long for the kiss, the touch of her hand, but I’ll struggle for a name, any name, to put to her face. About the author: David Wiseman lived in the UK until 2011 but is now a resident of British Columbia, Canada. He writes long and short fiction, is an occasional blogger, and enjoys maps, photography, travel and reading. If you’ve enjoyed his story,