Fantasy Book Review Short Story Competition winner and runner-ups

UPDATE: We are currently working on publishing the three winning entries, the work which includes the design of three individual, specially-designed PDF templates and comment on the winning entries from Frank P Ryan and the winning authors themselves. Thank you for your patience.

I am delighted to announce the winner and two runner-ups of our inaugural short story competition. After very careful deliberation Frank P Ryan selected three stories from our shortlist of nine:

In third place is Kat Zantow for the well-written classical fantasy / science fiction tale To Ashes.

“I was twenty miles from the city of ashes when my eyes started sliding shut of their own volition. My body demanded coffee, and I obligingly cut off a honking sedan to make the exit. I followed the ramp to a small string of shops sandwiched between a church and a motel. The café looked familiar, so I parked out front. I hadn’t been to this place since I had escaped the City on the Hill with—

Leigh. My stomach twisted, and I wondered if I could make it to my car before she realized I had arrived. I hadn’t recognized her pull. She was always so good at sliding her intentions naturally into my thoughts.

I spotted her through the window. Her back was to the glass and there was nothing familiar in the sheet of purple hair, but I knew her at once, as I always know her. My hand throbbed with the tempo of her heartbeat, and I could feel, in sharp detail, every point in the pattern she had tattooed into my knuckles those years ago.”
An excerpt from To Ashes

In second place is Kirsty Logan for the very stylish and witty Coin-operated Boys.

“That August, Elodie Selkirk became the latest lady in Paris to order a coin-operated boy. Despite her hooked nose and missing pinkie finger, Elodie was suffering from a rash of suitors; unfortunately for them, she was in no need of a gentleman. Elodie glanced down the hall to make sure that the maid was still safely in her room, as instructed – it was best to keep the boy a secret until she could check him over. She straightened the silk bow at her throat and opened the door.

Her apartment was close to the busiest shopping street in Paris, and all of the city’s ephemera were passing by, their feet at eye-level. A parade of life, from the glittering right down to the groaning: whispering petticoats dirtied at the hem, leather shoes shinier than pennies, wheels ticking on cobblestones, snatches of scandal… Usually, Elodie could not stand the racket, but it all slipped out of focus the moment she saw the boy. From the calm angles of his cheeks to the ruled lines of his cravat, the boy was a mathematical sum. He added up perfectly.

‘Mademoiselle Selkirk? I am pleased to meet you.’ His voice was as clean as dew, but Elodie would not forget her manners.

‘Do come in, sir. There is tea in the parlour.’ She swept her arm to clarify, fingers carefully curled to hide the missing pinkie. The boy bowed as he passed her. His pinstriped boater seemed to tilt; Elodie looked away from the imperfection as she closed the door, and by the time she walked to the parlour he was sitting at a perfect right angle to the chaise longue.”
An excerpt from Coin-operated Boys

And the winner is David Rudden for the poetic and simply outstanding Senescence.

“My father built coffins for our village’s dead.

He was a small man, his eyes two nail marks in an umber mass of beard and sun-darkened skin, his hands gnarled masses of knuckle and nail. When he worked, old scars shone white under sweat, a nonsense-scribble of forgotten wounds. As a child, my world was made up of things that he built; the walls of our cottage, the wide, low bed that we shared, the simple toys he had carved.

My mornings would be broken by the sound of saws, the hacking cough of mallet on chisel. Sunlight would pool on the earthen floor as I swept sweet-scented pine shavings into neat piles, brought tools to the whetstone to be sharpened, or brought jugs of water to him when the sun turned the air to ripples of choking heat. He would split green wood and leave it to season, weighted by stone so that the wood would not warp. When the moisture dried creaking from under grain he would stack it and wrap it with canvas in the corner of his workshop, the ends painted with acrid-smelling sealer he made from the berries that grew above the graves on the hill.

At night he inked the symbols on his arms for the thousandth time, and waited for a body to build around.

Our village lay in that curve of forest that spread from Winter’s Edge to Farcal Rise, one of the few settlements this far north. Just a few hundred farmers and hunters, a village so small it did not have a name or a reason to exist beyond people desiring people, cottages huddling together out of necessity, a bulwark against lonely night. A few hundred metres from our cottage door, the world devolved to the cracked clay and wiregrass of the true north, the wasteland scoured by wind and roofed by storms.”
An excerpt from Senescence

I would just like to offer my congratulations to David, Kirsty and Kat, whose submissions were wonderful examples of high-quality short-fiction. The winning stories will be published in their entirety on Fantasy Book Review and Swift Publishers in seven days time (November 8, 2011).

The winner, David Rudden, will receive an Apple iPad, while Kat Zantow and Kirsty Logan will receive an Amazon Kindle each.

Thank you to all who entered the competition.

Shortlist of 9 for Fantasy Book Review Short Story Competition

10 days ago I published a longlist of 22 entries for our short-story competition. After careful deliberation we have now shortened the list to 9 and I would just like to offer my commiserations to the 13 authors that have been lost from the longlist and sincerely hope that they were happy to know just how highly we rated their stories.

So here are the 9 stories that have made the shortlist, in alphabetical order, with the first paragraph of their story.

  • Coin-Operated Boys by Kirsty Logan
    That August, Elodie Selkirk became the latest lady in Paris to order a coin-operated boy. Despite her hooked nose and missing pinkie finger, Elodie was suffering from a rash of suitors; unfortunately for them, she was in no need of a gentleman. Elodie glanced down the hall to make sure that the maid was still safely in her room, as instructed – it was best to keep the boy a secret until she could check him over. She straightened the silk bow at her throat and opened the door.
  • For All Time by Jean Marino
    Sage watched the Heron skim the trees before its slow descent to the nearby marsh. When it dipped out of site, a shadowy mass in a maple tree caught her eye. Her dog growled, his silver scruff rising. Her initial trepidation waned, and she drew nearer, urged by her curiosity. A soft gasp escaped at the sight of a man dangling from the branches. Was he dead? As if in answer, his body twitched, sending her dog into a barking frenzy.
  • Howl by Rheanna-Marie Hall
    The fast moving mass of cloak and steel converged upon the hillside, a black spot against the dirty green of marshland scrub. Progress became slow as the riders snaked left to right in search of sturdier ground, their steeds’ hooves sinking into bog. Heavy armour only added to the difficulty.
  • Scholar’s Reprisal by Thomas Dipple
    “Scholar! If you stop that horse one more time I’ll let them kill you! Now ride!” Pursa felt the horse bolt as Carden slapped its rear with the flat of his sword blade. The beast charged on through the forest and Pursa cried out as his face was whipped by low hanging leaves and twigs.
  • Senescence by David Rudden
    My father built coffins for our village’s dead. He was a small man, his eyes two nail marks in an umber mass of beard and sun-darkened skin, his hands gnarled masses of knuckle and nail. When he worked, old scars shone white under sweat, a nonsense-scribble of forgotten wounds. As a child, my world was made up of things that he built; the walls of our cottage, the wide, low bed that we shared, the simple toys he had carved.
  • The Dwarf by George Poles
    Now it was the fashion in that state for beauty to seat itself by ugliness. How could the splendour of the graceful palaces of the rich truly be appreciated without placing them within sight of the poorest slums?  How could the elegant lines and delicate colouring of the finest artists be understood without the contrast of the rude sketches that were placed next to them?  Most of all how could the shining faces, slim bodies and gorgeous dresses of the young ladies of fashion truly be seen without the darkness of the malformed and misshapen beside them to reveal their light?
  • The Hearing by Mark Torrender
    The courtroom smelled of cedar and wood polish. Exactly what Jack Deacon expected. I bet all courtrooms smell this way, he thought as he straightened his Sean John gold paisley tie which he hoped would make an impression on the judge, daft as he knew that sounded. Jack had never been to court before – hadn’t even done jury duty – but here he was now fighting for justice. No one had ever done what he was attempting to do, and if it meant emoting blood, he’d emote blood.
  • The Price of Envy by Stephie Hall
    I distinctly remember that as a child the forest was a welcoming place. In my mind, it held a Narnian lamp-post, shining brightly with a welcoming yellow glow through the wintry storms. It was a place to play, where crisp new snow lay undisturbed by the rowdiness of my playmates. My secret place, where I could withdraw and dream up stories that were, in my mind, equal to those of the venerable Mr Lewis. I would hold out in hope, praying earnestly, in the way that small children do – how God must smile to hear the sweet, sincere prayers of those still untouched by the cynicism of Life – that a faun, brown coated and cloven hoofed, would come and invite me for tea. And my faun would be far superior to Lucy’s because in the forest of my mind there was no great evil, no Lilleth to bring her icy coach and tear us away to an evil place.
  • To Ashes by Kat Zantow
    I was twenty miles from the city of ashes when my eyes started sliding shut of their own volition. My body demanded coffee, and I obligingly cut off a honking sedan to make the exit. I followed the ramp to a small string of shops sandwiched between a church and a motel. The café looked familiar, so I parked out front. I hadn’t been to this place since I had escaped the City on the Hill with—

The above 9 stories are all now with Frank P Ryan, who will be selecting a winner and 2 runner-ups which we will announce on Tuesday (November 1, 2011) and published exactly a week later.

Congratulations to all who made the shortlist.

Please note: Although all short-stories have now been read not all may have, as of yet, received their free ebook. Over the coming days and weeks I will be cross-checking all submissions to ensure that all have had their details sent through to Swift Publishers. (Please feel free to leave a comment on this page if you have not received your free book.)

Longlist for the Fantasy Book Review Short Story Competition

Back in April 2011 we launched the Fantasy Book Review Fantasy Short Story Competition. As with any competition in its first year we were unsure as to how it would be received and how popular it would be. Thankfully it was a success and the excellent entries have given – and are still giving – us hours and hours of reading pleasure.

I know that many entrants have been waiting patiently for the release of the shortlist of 9, which I have had to keep pushing back while we read are way through almost 100 stories that came in during the last 2 days of the competition. And we still haven’t finished but we are almost down to single figures now!

Although I hadn’t planned to do so I cannot think of any reason why I shouldn’t publish the longlist as it currently stands. The list below will grow larger should any of the remaining stories score highly enough.

Before you look at the the list I just want to quickly explain the rating system we have used. We marked every story out of 40, awarding up to 10 marks each for originality of fantasy theme, characterisation, plot and overall quality. Any story that received 32/40 was very, very good. However, the stories listed below all received 33/40 or more and as such were just that little bit special.

The list below will be whittled down to 9, and then to 3. If you were on the longlist but do not make the shortlist then I hope you are not too upset – I reckoned (hopefully accurately) that you would like to know just how good we thought your submission was.

So, without any further ado, here is the current longlist, ordered by the date they were read and rated. I have included small snippets from the judging notes to help explain what exactly it was we liked about each story:

  • Adlers by Elaine Peake
    A thoroughly delightful story, well-written and featuring great characters and a great plot. Both engaging and charming;
  • The Price of Envy by Stephie Hall
    A great story that gets right to the root of what fantasy literature is all about and why it can have such a significant and everlasting effect on a developing mind. It also shows clearly how the loss of imagination and the loss of innocence are unfortunate side-effects of maturity. Powerful with bitterness and realism;
  • Night Swimming by Judy Upton
    A near-faultless short story written with great confidence and skill;
  • The Ladder by Pete Clark
    A chilling tale, containing elements of horror. A disturbing and excellently written short story that will make any parent confront their worst fears;
  • Of Demons by Tomos Lloyd-Jones
    A fantastic little story with a nice touch of dark humour at the end. Laugh out loud at some points, it is well written, amusing, and highly entertaining. Overall a great short story;
  • Horrific Accident by Alice Whitfield
    Top-notch characterisation as the author shows a keen observational eye. It was a brutal, depressing story of real life in a tough and often uncaring world;
  • The Dwarf by George Poles
    In a Brothers Grimm-style tale, the beautiful people of a kingdom buy deformed dwarves, the uglier the better, which they place beside them in order to set off their own good looks even more. A short fairy-tale that contains a lesson to us all;
  • Spellbound Dreams by Dawn McKinley
    A short story from a very talented author – everything was to a high standard;
  • Coin-Operated Boys by Kirsty Logan
    In an unusual short story, women can buy coin-operated boys who are perfect mannequins that act like humans, to be hired and used by ladies who need some company. An inventive plot, with a sinister undertone;
  • The Hearing by Mark Torrender
    A superb short story of a man who sues his Guardian Angel, for not saving him from a life changing injury, only to find out some home truths;
  • Legacy of the High King by Robert Kelley
    An excellent and interesting story about a man who is dragged into a story he doesn’t understand, where no one tells him the rules;
  • Night-whisperer by Ian Smethurst
    A tale of revenge against a Necromancer of intense power who is beaten by a victim of one of the Necromancer’s spells. Interesting to read and intelligent;
  • The Tower of Truth by Oliver Eade
    A fantastic story about a man who, at a fair, enters a ride and is shown the past/present and future, but unfortunately doesn’t heed the warnings given;
  • Scholar’s Reprisal by Thomas Dipple
    A story of betrayal from a king who wants more power but is served instead revenge by the people he tried to betray. It would make a good longer story as well;
  • Senescence by David Rudden
    Original, great characterisation and plot and all held together by an excellent narrative. A real gem of a short-story, powerful, thought-provoking and memorable;
  • The Ogre’s Elevator by Noel Williams
    A lovely, magical little story featuring paper aeroplanes and ogres;
  • Can you keep a secret? by Fabienne Maria
    Well, this one was a bit of a surprise! It took me three days just to open the attachment, and when I did the story itself did not have a title. Not the best of starts… But the story itself turned out top be a little gem, very original, good plot and characters and a great plot. A really unexpected success;
  • To Ashes by Kat Zantow
    I really liked this story of two people who have escaped from a firestorm that has destroyed their city, but who go back to finally lay to rest the ‘Patron’ who ruled and eventually cursed it to ruin. Moving amongst significant points, the ashes are mixed and tattooed onto the girl’s back, in a prison for the Patron. It’s very well written, with an urban fantasy feel but more fantastical, with magical tattoos and hellhounds roaming the charred city streets;
  • Howl by Rheanna-Marie Hall
    A wonderful little story about a Halfling whose son is taken from her and the revenge she seeks on the humans that stole him;
  • For All Time by Jean Marino
    An intriguing story of time travelling. When a man from the past falls into our future, sparks erupt between him and the woman who rescues him;
  • River Song by Cheryl Hartsell
    A beautiful story of two people who are no longer living, finding each other with the help of their dead relatives;
  • Arran of the Blood Red Army by Martin Leyland
    A great story about a boy on a trip with his aunt and uncle who discovers that he is able to see into a magical realm and discover his destiny, by helping protect very powerful magical artefacts.
  • The things we don’t say by Sonya Selbach
    An intruiging story of love lost and conspiracy. The story twists from memories to the present so we never know the full details, it leaves you wanting more.

Fantasy Book Review Fantasy Short Story Competition 2011

*** THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANK YOU FOR ALL THE FANTASTIC ENTRIES ***

The winning short-stories will be announced on November 1, 2011 with the stories being published both here and on the Swift Publishers website the following week.

UPDATE – A longlist of 22 has just been announced. The shortlist of 9  will be published as soon as we have read each and every submission.

This year, Fantasy Book Review, in association with Swift Publishers, is delighted to be able to run a short story competition. The writer of the winning fantasy short story will receive an Apple iPad (we are working on also having the winning entry published), the two runner-ups will receive Amazon Kindle. The best news of all is that each applicable entry will receive a free copy of Frank P Ryan’s fantasy ebook THE SNOWMELT RIVER (read our review here). Everybody wins!

The winner of the Fantasy Book Review Fantasy Short Story Competition will receive an Apple iPad

Full rules and conditions can be found below but in brief it is imperative that all submitted work be the author’s original work, between 2,000 and 5,000 English words with a fantasy theme woven throughout. Entries can be submitted from today (April 10, 2011) up until September 10, 2011, with the winners being announced on November 1, 2011 and published on the site exactly one week later.

Fantasy author Frank P Ryan has very kindly supplied a guide to how to write a fantasy short story especially for the Fantasy Book Review Short Story Competition 2011. Full of sound advice and tips it is an essential guide for anyone sitting down to write a fantasy short story.  You can view and download the PDF by either clicking here or on the screenshot below.

How to write a fantasy short story by Frank P Ryan

So, what are you waiting for? Why not start writing today and when you are happy with your mini-masterpiece, simply email fantasyshortstorycompetition@fantasybookreview.co.uk with your entry as an attachment (please read terms and conditions below for full submission details). If your entry meets the qualification guidelines in the terms and conditions you will receive a copy of THE SNOWMELT RIVER ebook to the email address associated to your submission.

As well as attaching the short story in Word document, please answer the following questions within the body of the email:

Your full name (first name and surname):
Country of residence:

All that is left to say is good luck and happy writing and that if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Fantasy Book Review

Rules and Conditions of Entry

The 2 runner-ups will receive an Amazon Kindle.Please read the following points carefully before emailing your submission:

  1. All rights to the submitted story will remain with the author. However, by entering the competition you are agreeing – in the event of said story being a winning entry – to the publication of the submitted story on Fantasy Book Review;
  2. The submitted story must be the author’s own original work without copying in whole or in part from any other source. Plagiarism will result in immediate disqualification;
  3. The story must be written in readable English;
  4. The story must not have been published previously in any journal, compendium, book, or formal digital publication;
  5. Entrants may submit only one short story;
  6. Submissions from two or more groups of individuals will not be accepted;
  7. The story will consist of a minimum of 2,000 words and a maximum of 5,000 words;
  8. Entries must be typed in English and submitted as a Word document (.doc or .docx) attachment on an email (we cannot accept handwritten or printed entries);
  9. No updated or revised entries will be accepted after initial entry;
  10. Entries must be received on or before September 10, 2011;
  11. The winner and two runners-up will be announced on the websites http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk and www.swiftpublishers.com on November 1, 2011;
  12. The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into;
  13. An iPad will be awarded to the overall winner, Amazon Kindles to two runners-up;
  14. Entries cannot be returned;
  15. The winning entry and the runners-up will be published Fantasy Book Review and Swift Publishers (www.swiftpublishers.com) on November 8, 2011;
  16. Swift Publishers will undertake to provide an e-book copy of the fantasy novel, THE SNOWMELT RIVER, by Frank P Ryan, to all entrants once their entries are formally accepted by Fantasy Book Review. These ebooks will be sent as e-mail attachments to the e-mail address provided by the entrant. The entrant will be contacted by e-mail and asked to nominate their choice of e-formats from pdf, e-Pub and Mobi Pocket. Only a single copy will be sent to each entrant. For these purposes, the onus to provide a functioning and reliable e-mail address will be on the entrant;
  17. The organisers reserve the right to disqualify entries deemed unsuitable;
  18. All care will be taken but no responsibility will be accepted for misplaced work. Fantasy Book Review cannot accept responsibility for lost, damaged or delayed entries. Proof of posting or digital transmission is not proof of receipt;
  19. Employees, contractors or persons directly or professionally associated with Fantasy Book Review or Swift Publishers may not enter this competition;
  20. Short-listed entrants may be asked to confirm the originality and/or authenticity of their entry;
  21. All entrants agree to be bound by the rules of the competition. Failure on the part of any entrant to adhere to any or all of these rules will render the entry in question invalid;
  22. Prize-winners may be required to participate in publicity (photographs, interview, quotations, etc.);
  23. The promoters reserve the right to change prize specifications subject to availability at the conclusion of this competition. No cash or alternative in whole or in part of the prizes will be offered;
  24. Canvassing of adjudicators will result in automatic disqualification;
  25. Notwithstanding that the winners may have been declared, if the organizers discover before the distribution of prizes that for any reason under these rules a winner should have been ineligible to enter the competition or if the entry should have been declared invalid, the organizers reserve the right to determine that a winning entrant is disqualified;
  26. The promoter does not commit to notifying unsuccessful entrants of the competition or to returning unsuccessful entries;
  27. Postage and all other associated costs are the responsibility of the entrant;
  28. The promoter reserves the right to amend any part of these terms and conditions and/or the rules of the competition as might be required without notice;
  29. The promoter reserves the right to change any aspect of this competition for any reason whatsoever without notice.