Short story: Oboe solo for two players

david-stewart

The sound of the oboe carries through the evening, a melancholic invitation to come now. He has told his mother that he must be in the bandstand; something about fresh air and breathing technique. His mother likes that he is practicing.

At the first note, gliding in through her open window, she stirs and tells her mother she’s going to the meadow with the old portable gramophone, to dance. Her mother likes that her daughter is imaginative.

At the bandstand, in the dusk, she winds up the gramophone. And while Bach’s Partita for solo oboe plays out into the night, they practice, together.

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This is a 100-word(ish) story for Friday Fictioneers brought to us by the wonderful writer Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and the picture this week is supplied by the fantastic writer, David Stewart. Click here to join in with Friday Fictioneers, or here to read other people’s.

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Until Sunday readers in the US can win a signed copy of the UK version (left) of my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days; and readers in the UK can win a signed copy of the US version (right). The competition is running on Twitter and Facebook. Click the links and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck!

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Flash fiction: Talking with the dead

rachel-bjerke

 

I rise early and go down through the forest to your grave. Moss has grown over the stone I placed there and a snail has left a map of its convoluted journey as if it, alone, plans to return.

I sit on the ground, soft and damp with the autumn’s leaves and eat sandwiches. Egg and cress; your favourite. I tell you everything: who she is, how much I love her, why I must leave.

I listen for your arguments and tears, but for the first time I hear nothing, just the mist condensing and dripping from the trees.

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Finally this week I’m two words under my 100-word allowance (that should make up a little from last week’s over-spend). Friday Fictioneers is brought to us by the wonderful writer Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and the picture this week is supplied by the lovely writer, Rachel Bjerke. Click here to join in with Friday Fictioneers, or here to read other people’s.

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On Tuesday my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was officially published in the US by Tin House.

Our Endless Numbered Days is Officially published in the USA today

OEND-CS-copy

Today, 17th March 2015, Our Endless Numbered Days is officially published in the USA by Tin House.

Masie, Nanci, Meg and the rest of the team have been working so hard to get my novel noticed, and they’ve done a fantastic job so far:

“…the book is almost impossible to put down. Fuller weaves a hypnotic intensity of detail into her narrative that gives every lie the feel of truth…” The Chicago Tribune

“Fuller’s compelling coming-of-age story, narrated from the perspective of Peggy’s return to civilization, is delivered in translucent prose.” KIRKUS reviews

“The novel’s shocking, satisfying ending points to the persistence of the domestic plot in fairy tales, even as it’s flipped.” Cleaver Magazine

And, it’s been chosen as Powell’s Indiespensible book for March, which means it has had a limited edition cover made.

Our Endless Numbered Days is available from most independent bookstores, from Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

One last thing – if you do buy it and read it, thank you! And if you like it make sure you come back and tell me, tell your friends, write a review, or just generally shout it from the rooftops. Apparently nothing sells books like word-of-mouth.

Claire

 

Flash fiction: Frost and fire

frost-on-a-stump-sandra-crook

Richard laid branches in a wide circle on the frozen grass; then the skeletons of old Christmas trees which Flora’s father had stuffed behind the shed every January; and finally a layer of straw, like a bed. Almost comfortable.
‘Ready?’ said Richard.
Flora would never be ready, but she bent to lift her end. Her father’s body was heavier than she had imagined, and she and Richard had to swing it three times. Richard held out the matches, but Flora shook her head. Instead she watched the white grass around the edge of the fire melt into green and then blacken, as if seasons had passed in the space of a minute.

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A piece flash fiction which is supposed to be 100 words, but I’m 112 this week, oh dear. Usually I can slice and edit with no problem, but this week somehow everything here I wanted to keep. Friday Fictioneers is brought to us by the wonderful writer Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and the picture this week is supplied by the equally wonderful writer, Sandra Crook. Click here to join in with Friday Fictioneers, or here to read other people’s.

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Tin House, my US publisher has posted the first chapter of my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, on their blog. Have a read, if you like.

Flash fiction: Destroying Angels

erin-leary

 

Awe-struck and trembling, we lined up in front of the Reverend’s beautiful wives and opened our mouths obediently for a quarter of holy mushroom.

“There is only one rule,” the Reverend said, tears of joy in his eyes. “Don’t leave the compound.”

What would you do with your last half a day? There weren’t any surprises: a few couples went to the woods; some prayed, most read from The Book. None of us anticipated the sweats, and the pain and the crying.

And me, what did I do with my final six hours? I wrote it all down, so that you can read it now.

 

This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) story inspired by the picture supplied by the lovely Erin Leary. Friday Fictioneers is organised and run by the wonderful Rochelle. Click here to join in, and here to read other pieces. I’d love to know what you think of mine – please leave a comment!

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Hurray! After nineteen months of waiting, my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days has been published in the UK (Fig Tree / Penguin) and Canada (House of Anansi). It will be published in the USA on 17th March by Tin House. Click on the Amazon links on the right to read the first chapter.

A chat between two writers

Last week I had an online chat with Helena Hann-Basquiat a Canadian writer, about our recent and forthcoming publications.

My novel Our Endless Numbered Days, has already received positive reviews in the national press, and Helena currently has a Pubslush campaign taking pre-orders for Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two, and is also publishing a Shakespearean-style play, a tragi-comedy called Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. 

Overheard over coffee at Helena’s…

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I’ve just grabbed a coffee, are you sitting comfortably?

Claire Fuller Colour

Yep!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Well, Claire, I guess to start off, I should say that I really only know you from Friday Fictioneers, but that I’ve already a respect for your writing. I can’t recall how long ago you announced that Our Endless Numbered Days was being published, but I recall being excited. How long a journey has this been for you?

Claire Fuller Colour

The book sold in the UK and Canada nineteen months ago (July 2013) and to my US publisher I think it was in the November of that year – so it feels like ages! So you’re about to release volume two of Memoirs of a Dilettante, is that right? Can you tell me a bit about the project and volume one to start with.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Well, the strange thing is, I’m going completely against the advice of the person who started it all. A friend of mine urged me to start writing again, if only for myself, and so I began writing as Helena, both for anonymity reasons and to amuse myself and keep myself entertained. It was never meant for an audience, per se, but my vanity demanded it be read, and slowly I picked up readers. Volume One is a looser collection of stories and essays, mostly unconnected to each other, though there are some story arcs that last for a few chapters. It’s a fine first effort, I feel, but it was in no way as intentional as Volume Two.

Volume Two is, as strange as it sounds coming from me, who has maintained an enigmatic air, deeply personal — even more so than some of the stories in Volume One.

Claire Fuller Colour

I was a little confused on your website as to who was the alter-ego and who was the real you…

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

And the confusion is deliberate I assure you. Only recently have I revealed my identity to the world, but I still maintain that there should be a disconnect between the writer and their work. The writing should speak for itself. Now, I’ve only had a chance to read your descriptions of Our Endless Numbered Days (haven’t got my hands on it yet!) but tell me if I’ve got the start of it, because even this captivates me. A man takes his daughter into the woods to protect her, and tries to convince her that the world outside of that forest has ended. Can you take it from there and tell me a bit more?

Claire Fuller Colour

Hmm, not to protect her, but because of some particular family circumstances. And yes, he tells his daughter Peggy that the world beyond their little patch of land has disappeared, and because she’s only eight, she believes him. They live there for nine years, just about surviving, until Peggy makes it home. You know from the outset that she makes it home, but just not how… that’s the twist if you like. And for you – being such a private person, how was it making your writing public and getting such a following – you have 4000 ish followers on your blog don’t you?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Ah, so it’s not for protective reasons. Curious… As for making my writing public — it was a lot of fun, and sometimes a lot of heartache. All I really wanted to do was write, but it doesn’t work like that, and so I found myself socializing as Helena, and people took to her. The way you describe your story, I’m not sure what to make of it — is this something that’s going to be disturbing? Or is this something that’s going to be heartwarming? I guess I should ask who you think your audience is — what do they read?

Claire Fuller Colour

It’s more disturbing than heartwarming. It’s set in 1976 up until 1985. People have compared the subject matter to Emma Donoghue’s Room (which I loved). Have you read that? About a girl abducted and kept in a cellar, but mine is outside in the woods. Can you give me some idea of your style of writing, or the content of some of the stories?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Ah, see, my other alter ego, Jessica B. Bell, writes all the disturbing stuff, and when I heard “man keeps daughter out in the woods for nine years” my mind went all sorts of dark places.

For Memoirs, stylistically, it began as a sort of “no holds barred” writing experiment, intentionally breaking a lot of writing rules and flaunting them.

Don’t use alliteration. Don’t use adverbs. Don’t talk to your audience.

Broken. Broken. Broken.

I took stories from my own life, dressed them up in flamboyant clothes, and sometimes, it was something as simple as a trip to McDonalds.

Claire Fuller Colour

That sounds really interesting. We are told all sorts of rules as writers. I think you have to be quite courageous to break them. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of adverbs, but I like it when authors talk to their audience.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I quite frequently break the fourth wall. In the play I also just finished writing — a Shakespearean mash up called Penelope, Countess of Arcadia — I actually included You (as in the audience) as a character, and use them a couple of times for interjections.

I grew up watching a lot of Looney Tunes, and I think that’s where a lot of my absurd humour comes from.

Claire Fuller Colour

I like the idea of writing in the second person. Have you read ‘If on a Winters Night A Traveler’? The novel I’m writing now is half letters from a wife to her husband, so it has quite a big second person feel to it.

I can’t say I broke any literary rules with Our Endless Numbered Days. I just wanted to write a book about a subject that I might be interested in reading.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I’ve not read that, but I’ve toyed with that idea myself — I think it pretty much HAS to come in the form of letters, otherwise it comes off as pretentious. I used some of that technique in the meta-novel JESSICA.

I have to ask you — are you familiar with the Iron and Wine album by the same name – Our Endless Numbered Days?

Claire Fuller Colour

Oh yes. That inspired the title. I love Iron and Wine and listened to all his music when I was writing. I acknowledge the debt in the book. What are your titles and how did you come up with them?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I once made up a word as a title – I love neologism, and in another life I probably would have made a good linguist. The day H.R. Giger (the Swiss artist famous for designing Ridley Scott’s Alien) died, I wrote a tale about a woman who gives birth to something macabre. I wanted the title to mean Strange Birth, but that was too transparent, so I created the word Paraxenogenesis from two Greek words, literally Strange and Birth.

Our Endless Numbered Days is out now — are you doing any book tours or signing appearances?

Claire Fuller Colour

Good word! Actually it’s now in the UK and Canada, and 17th March in the USA. Tin House, my US publisher can’t bring me over from the UK as much as I’d love to go, but there are quite a few signings and readings booked in the UK already. How will you go about promoting Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I’m promoting it via a Pubslush campaign right now, and with the funds raised from pre-orders, am planning on doing some advertising. Now that my identity is public, it kind of changes the game for me, and I’m a bit freer to do more personal things, like public appearances and such. I have got contacts with a lot of local book stores to set those kinds of things up.

Claire Fuller Colour

And are you looking forward to those – public appearances?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

After two years of hiding, it might be interesting to talk to people, but I’m so much of an introvert it makes me a bit nervous! How about you — is this something that excites you or do you just want to get back to writing?

Claire Fuller Colour

That’s interesting, because your online personality comes across as so extrovert. I worked in marketing for a long time, so I’ve found that I’m really happy to get out there and speak to readers. It is so amazing when you speak to someone who’s read your book who isn’t in part of the publishing team or a relative. I love that side of things, but that has surprised me. I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

That’s why Helena’s so fun… I get to channel my inner extrovert! Well, thank you so much for talking to me today! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book!

Claire Fuller Colour

It’s been really nice talking to you too.

Claire Fuller ColourClaire Fuller is a writer of flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is already available in the UK (Fig Tree / Penguin) and Canada (House of Anansi), and will be published in the USA (Tin House) on 17th March. It is the story of Peggy Hillcoat, who is taken to the forest by her father, and not seen again for nine years. Visit Claire’s website (www.clairefuller.co.uk) or follow her on Twitter (@ClaireFuller2)

Order Our Endless Numbered Days on AMAZON UK

Order Our Endless Numbered Days on AMAZON CANADA

Pre-Order Our Endless Numbered Days on AMAZON US

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettanteThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE

Available now! image06 JESSICA image07

BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Flash fiction: Dogged

c2a9dawn_landau

Halfway home I turn and see him.

‘Shoo,’ I say, stamping my foot. ‘Don’t follow me, dog.’ Something in the way he looks at me squeezes my insides, loosens my bowels. I turn and walk fast, breaking into a trot, but can’t resist looking back; he’s still there, keeping pace, mouth closed, ears up, relentless. The day is hot, but my blood is cold. I stop and pick up a stone from the path, throw it. When it bounces off the dog’s shoulder he doesn’t even flinch; he just stands there looking at me, with my father’s eyes.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) story inspired by the picture supplied by the lovely Dawn Q. Landau. Friday Fictioneers is organised and run by the wonderful Rochelle. Click here to join in, and here to read other pieces. I’d love to know what you think of mine – please leave a comment!

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Hurray! After nineteen months of waiting, my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days has been published in the UK (Fig Tree / Penguin) and Canada (House of Anansi). It will be published in the USA on 17th March by Tin House.

H

First Words

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From The Finnish Museum of Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/valokuvataiteenmuseo/

In a week (a week!) my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, will be published in the UK. I don’t have the words to express how excited I am. Well, I do, but they are all adverbs and those aren’t allowed. To celebrate the fact that I only have seven days to wait to see my book out in the world, I’d like to invite all the lovely writers I know (and those I don’t) to share the first words of one of their books, or whatever they’re writing at the moment.

In the comments below please share the first couple of sentences of your writing – not too much, just give us a taster. Include a link to where we can buy your book or read more and tell us a tiny bit about it. And then, and this is the most important part, read at least two other writers’ first words, and click on their link or comment on their writing. And finally, share this post.

So, to start us off, here are mine from Our Endless Numbered Days. It can be pre-ordered from Waterstones or Amazon in UK, Amazon (USA), or Amazon (Canada)

 

This morning I found a black and white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn’t look like a liar.

 

About Our Endless Numbered Days: In 1976, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat is taken by her father to a remote European forest. There, he tells her the rest of the world has disappeared. She isn’t seen again for another nine years.

The promise

crystals

Afterwards, Dorothy would have sworn she knew something was about to happen: there was a lull, a silence as if all the molecules in the hotel bedroom shifted infinitesimally. Then came the flash, the choking dust and the noise like a star bursting from inside her head, and the floor and Alex and the walls and mirrors and everything flew apart and tumbled together.

‘Live, live, live,’ she whispered to Alex in the dark as she made her promise to God.

Alex had lived, and Dorothy kept her promise. Now she never swore and rarely spoke and her name was changed to Sister Mercy.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) story inspired by the picture supplied by the lovely Marie Gail Stratford. Friday Fictioneers is organised and run by the wonderful Rochelle. Click here to join in, and here to read other pieces. I’d love to know what you think of mine – please leave a comment!

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I’ve had a couple of lovely reviews in for Our Endless Numbered Days (released in UK 26th Feb, Canada 1st March, USA 17th March). The first, from The Times (“A thriller of a fairytale,” and “a triumph”) and the second from The Sunday Express (“spellingbinding scary stuff”)

The Times reviews Our Endless Numbered Days

The Times

 

Today, The Times published a very lovely review of Our Endless Numbered Days – my first review in a UK national paper. The Times is pay-walled, so there’s not much point in having a link to the piece, so here is the print version. (The slightly odd sub-editing is caused I think by someone cutting down the online version for the printed newspaper.)

 

A thriller of a fairytale

By Fiona Wilson

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller Fig Tree

The year is young and yet already the literary world has been confronted with several novels that force readers to experience a parent’s bleakest nightmare, the abduction of a child – in both cases, that of a girl.

The stakes are high with a subject like this. The American detective novelist Laura Lippmann has described such missing-person novels as real-life ghost stories where those left behind are haunted by the possibilities of what has happened to their loved one. There is another side to the story: that of the point of view of the missing person. This is the premise for Claire Fuller’s debut novel, and it’s a triumph.

Our Endless Numbered Days is inspired by fairytales; the story’s menace is more Hansel and Gretel than that of a parent’s real-life horror story. Peggy, a young girl, is stolen away by her survivalist father to “die Hütte”, a ramshackle cottage in a European forest, and tells her that the end of the world has come, that her mother has died and they are the only survivors.

This much we know at the start: it is 1976 and Peggy’s father is building a fall-out shelter for the seemingly inevitable armageddon. He teaches eight-year-old Peggy to catch and kill a squirrel and trains her to pack a rucksack with everything she needs within four minutes of the blow of his silver whistle. When Ute, her mother, goes travelling with work, her father takes Peggy on “a holiday” to their cabin and cuts them off from the world. He tells Peggy that Ute has died and that a storm has wiped out the rest of the world. So begins their strange existence in the woods.

We know that Peggy survives the ordeal because twinned with this narrative is another set in 1985 – nine years after she went missing – when she has been reunited with the very much alive Ute, who has since had another child, Oskar. Peggy, we know, has arrived at her mother’s home malnourished with rotten teeth and only half an ear. “What did you like to eat when you were away?” Ute asks, “were away” being her euphemism for Peggy’s disappearance.

Peggy’s feelings about her father are confused: she cuts out a small photograph of him and sticks it under her right breast. “I knew if he stayed there, everything would be all right and I would be allowed to remember.” Within 50 pages, you are swamped with questions: what really happened that summer? How involved was Ute and where is Peggy’s father now? Slowly, the memories come back. Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue.

Fiona Wilson