An Author’s Best Friend: Lily Peters’ Top Dogs in Fiction

One thing that really struck us when we first read Accidental Flowers, Lily Peter’s novel-in-short-stories, was the descriptions of the numerous canine characters.

As this week is #LondonDogWeek AND #NationalDogWeek over in the U.S, we asked Lily to rank her favourite dogs from classic and contemporary literature. Disagree? Tweet us @ArachnePress with your favourite fictional hounds.

 

An Author’s Best Friend – Lily’s Greyhounds

 

I wrote, illustrated and bound my first book when I was eight years old. Its main character was not a plucky young girl who dreamt of becoming a bestselling author, but rather a very lazy and quite fat Dalmation named Slobdog. Although for an eight-year-old, my spelling and grammar were excellent, there are, perhaps, superior literary dogs that should be celebrated:

To begin, let us put our paws together for Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. A wise terrier, with a sensible aversion to tornadoes. He is the best friend a lost girl could have and has excellent people instincts (which I find to be true of most dogs), revealing the Wizard for the sham that he is.

Next, we have the entire cast of dogs present in Dog Boy, by Eva Hornung. The novel tells the story of abandoned, four-year-old Ramochka and his hero dog, Mamochka, who adopts him as one of her own. He grows and learns with a pack of feral hounds – becoming one himself. It is a beautiful story that celebrates the canine moral code and it has a growl of an ending that will not disappoint.

Then, of course, there is the heart-wrenching folk tale (folk-tail?) of Hound Gelert. In Welsh folklore, the story goes that Llewelyn the Great wrongly accuses his own faithful pooch of killing his infant son. As he administers a fatal blow to Gelert, he hears his son crying and discovers him safely hidden, beside the corpse of a wolf – whom Gelert had obviously slain. Realising his mistake, Llewelyn is doomed to forever hear Gelert’s indignant, dying yelp.

Serves Llewelyn right.

It is my firm belief that we humans don’t always deserve our dogs. And yet, they keep finding us and loving us with huge generosity. Many of my favourite characters share their fictional spaces with beloved creatures and nowhere is this more true than in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman depicts a world in which every human shares their living days with an animal extension of themselves, their Daemon. When we adopted our greyhounds, Jasper and Joni, I knew I had found my very own pair: long-legged busy-bodies, with a ridiculous love of salty snacks and an inability to cope with change.

In my novel-in-short-stories, Accidental Flowers, dogs abound. Abandoned, beloved or left behind, they pad their way through the stories, sniffing out adventure and love. I can’t pick a favourite. Perhaps Juliet, a ghost of a Jack Russell who haunts the pages of her story with her vital loyalty and companionship? Or maybe Boatswain, a greying lurcher and huge fan of the beach, so long as the sea stays where it should? Can either of them compare to Argos, whose friendship and quiet, fuzzy-eyebrowed understanding helps one protagonist discover their true self as the world lurches to a stop?

How can I choose?

Best to let someone else decide for me, while I take the dogs for a walk.

Accidental Flowers by Lily Peters is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or why not get the audiobook?

You can find Lily Peters on twitter as @SenoritaPeters.

100 Days of 100neHundred: Behind the Scenes

Today we are celebrating 100 days of 100neHundred!  Laura Besley’s second collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words.

We spoke to author Laura Besley and Arachne Press Director and Editor, Cherry Potts to bring you a behind the scenes look at the commissioning and editing process of 100neHundred and the particular challenges and joys of creating a collection of flash fiction:

Laura, can you give us a brief introduction to your writing career and where your inspiration comes from?

Over the last 12 years I’ve been writing as much as time has allowed, around work and/or childcare. My writing journey started with literal journeys: travel writing about my time living and teaching in Germany and Hong Kong. Fiction writing soon followed.
I realised early on that I had plenty of ideas, but struggled to write more than a paragraph or two. Quite by chance I discovered Calum Kerr online (Director for National Flash Fiction Day at the time). He had set himself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction (max. 500 words) every day for a year. I did the same. In that year I learned a lot about my writing, not least that I loved short fiction.

Cherry, when did you first come across Laura’s writing and how did the idea for 100neHundred come about?

Laura was one of the contributors to Story Cities, our 2019 flash fiction anthology which explores (almost) every corner of urban life in anonymous cities. Her story Slim Odds was about estranged sisters sitting opposite each other on a train. It was deliciously off-kilter, and now I’ve read more, a typical Laura story. For our eighth anniversary in 2020 I put out an invitation to people who we had already published, looking for collections and novels. Laura was one of those who responded, with her concept in place, and a lot of stories already written. My initial reaction was that it was a little gimmicky, but would make it easy to market, but once I read the stories it was an immediate and firm ‘yes’.

Laura, was the idea of a collection of a hundred stories daunting? How many did you need to write and how long did you have in which to do it?

I’d amassed the 100 stories originally submitted over many years, so in that way it didn’t feel daunting. It just occurred to me at one point that I had enough to put together a collection and 100 stories of 100 words seemed like the best format. I submitted the manuscript of 100neHundred to Cherry in March 2020 and was delighted when she said she wanted to publish it. Things were a little delayed by the pandemic, but in September 2020, after Arachne secured funding from The Arts Council, I got the go ahead. However, there were 25 stories Cherry didn’t like enough to include. Over the next three months I wrote another 35-40 stories, finally both agreeing on the final one hundred stories to include.

Cherry, were there any particular challenges (expected or unexpected!) in editing a collection of stories with such a precise word count?

The predictable one was that they weren’t all exactly 100 words to start off with! And it wasn’t as simple as adding or subtracting a word here or there. Laura had played with the grammar here and there to hit the target, so I edited as though we weren’t aiming at 100 words, and then gave them back and said, now fix the ‘100’ thing. Taking the titles into the header so it wasn’t counted in the file helped! There were some stories that ended up turned inside out in order to get there. And some that we decided to lose because the 100 limit just didn’t suit them, they needed more room to find themselves.
I was afraid that it would get tedious, every story being the same length, (and remember I read a great many more than 100 stories, and all of them multiple times!) but it wasn’t the case – a lot of stories felt a lot longer, and some seemed to whizz by so fast I could barely catch them – 100 words is actually quite a generous limit, it allows for a lot of variety.

Laura, the stories in 100neHundred are divided into four sections, each named for a season. Can you tell us a little bit more about that decision, and how you decided where each story fitted within the collection?

I decided to divide the collection up into sections to make it more appealing and manageable for the reader, thinking that being faced with a bulk of 100 stories, despite them being short, might feel a little daunting. The idea of seasons seemed, to me, the most natural step to take. Once that was decided I looked for obvious markers to place them within the different sections, like the weather, or people’s clothing, but also I looked at the mood of the pieces, as well as trying to strike a balance overall making sure that pieces, in style genre and content, were evenly distributed across the collection.

Were the any moments of disagreement during the edit, or stories that you each
felt strongly about in different ways?

Cherry:
Oh boy – not so much an individual story, but a thread of stories. With the initial 100 stories, I started a spreadsheet with a loose themes column. This was mainly because it helps me work out how to sell a collection if I can track the writer’s preoccupations, and also to check I wasn’t imagining a particular slant to the book.
There were an awful lot of deaths, dead mother/father/brother/sister/friend/child… children, one way or another. Maybe Laura as a young mum was working out her anxieties? I think I actually gave Laura a corpse limit. It was quite amicable!

Laura: Generally, there were no big disagreements (I don’t think!), but there is one story I can recall submitting in the new batch that Cherry said: “No, just no”. And I realised there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise. That’s fine – as readers, writers and editors we all have personal tastes and preferences.

The response to 100neHundred has been incredibly positive, from readers and reviewers alike. Why do you think these stories have resonated so much with people?

Cherry: I think the brevity and apparent simplicity of a 100 word story allows the reader to project a huge amount of their own interpretation onto the characters and situations, so that they relate to the story more than they would if there was extraneous description. The surburban houses are the houses in the suburbs you live in, or travel through, the men and women in the office are the ones you work with; particularly when you are given only a he or she to play with. I wouldn’t say the stories quite achieve universality, but there’s a huge stride towards it.

Laura: I’m absolutely thrilled with the positive response 100neHundred has received. It’s impossible, for me at least, to say with any certainty why these stories have resonated with people. I’m just extremely grateful that they have. Every kind word and positive response is so uplifting.

100neHundred by Laura Besley is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or get the audiobook.
 

100 Days of 100neHundred: Author Notes

As a part of our 100 days of 100neHundred celebrationsauthor Laura Besley has shared an exclusive glimpse of her writing process

Earlier this year Laura spoke to blogger Elizabeth M. Castillo about writing longhand – I always write first drafts on paper, so I have notebooks, pens and pencils all over the house, in bags, in coat pockets, etc.” – and we’re delighted to share a little glimpse of Laura’s notebook today, with a look at the first draft of her story,’Weekend Dad’:

Laura told us about the inspiration for this story:  “I saw (presumably) a dad and his young daughter in a cafe and the daughter was talking non-stop like little children do. The thought crossed my mind as to what would happen when she was a teenager and, like most teenagers, goes through a silent phase and a time of not liking her dad. I imagined how they might be able to bridge that gap if they only met for an hour or two in a cafe at the weekend.” 

 

Here’s the final story, as it appears in the finished copies of 100neHundred:

 

100neHundred by Laura Besley is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or why not get the audiobook?

You can find Laura Besley on twitter as @laurabesley and instagram as @besley_laura.

 

100 Days of 100neHundred: Our Favourite Reviews

This Friday 3 September it will be 100 days since publication of 100neHundred, Laura Besley‘s remarkable collection of 100 stories of exactly 100 words each. To celebrate we are sharing 100neHundred related content on our blog and social media all week.
 
 

It may be a little book of tiny tales but 100neHundred has had a big response from readers, reviewers and booksellers. We asked Laura Besley to share her 10 favourite reviews of 100neHundred with us:

 

  1. “The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Storgy
     
  2. So much of life is packed into these stories; precious moments and sad ones, humour and grief, gorgeous nuggets of hope and stinging barbs of hurt.” Read Ellie Hawkes’ beautiful blog review of 100neHundred
     
  3. “Besley takes you through so many emotions in very few words. She also whipped the ground out from beneath me a few times, changing my expectations with the final line, which I enjoyed.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  4. “Laura has created beautiful snapshots, each one alive with precision and emotion. Each story excels in its originality, each one a complete tale, each carefully crafted without a word to spare.” Read an excellent review of 100neHundred – as well as an exclusive story extract- on Book Bound
     
  5. “Such a wonderful collection of human observation told in flash fiction.” Amazon Reader Review
     
  6. “If, like me, you worry that short fiction can sometimes be a little pretentious or isolating, fear not – this is wholly accessible and a joy to read rather than a puzzle to try to piece together.”  @tillylovesbooks reviews 100neHundred on instagram
  7. “I always think it’s remarkable when such short fiction can be so impactful.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  8. “Besley writes with sensitivity and an acute awareness of what to include in the frame and what to omit… Every story in 100neHundred is worthy of a re-read; the entire collection deserves many more.” Daniel Clark offers high praise in Briefly Zine
     
  9. “This well-crafted collection tantalizes very quickly and delivers potent moments, creative economies, and clever tours of humanity.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  10. “Turning the pages of Laura Besley’s 100neHundred flash fiction stories is as delightful as being inside a huge box of chocolates… bite-size stories meet with you for any and every occasion; they will delight every literary palate.” Read the full review by Elizabeth Chell on Everybody’s Reviewing
 

 If you already have a copy of 100neHundred but haven’t yet left a review on Goodreads or one of the online retailers, then please do! Reader reviews make a huge difference to both the publisher and the author:

“I recently told a friend, who was about to publish her first collection, that reviews will make you cry. Not just the bad ones, although they make you cry too, but the good ones. Especially the good ones. It’s nothing short of magical when you read someone else’s words about your words: sometimes they are kind, considerate and thoughtful, sometimes they are insightful, and sometimes they convey exactly what you were trying to achieve and it is this, all of this, that overwhelms you emotionally, because the hard work, the early mornings and late nights, the writing and rewriting, the editing and re-editing, is worth it for someone else’s enjoyment of your writing.” – Laura Besley 

If you don’t have a copy of 100neHundred, you can buy one from our webshop here.

 

SUMMER SHORT STORY SALE EXTENDED

We’ve extended our summer sale to the end of August!

30% off backlist short story titles with a minimum spend of £10.

Buy some books!

Love Audio Week: Accidental Flowers

“A fascinating and imaginative vision of the future, built on the foundations of our current climate crisis. You get to follow the overall story from multiple view points which allows multiple other issues to be delicately explored through a variety of characters.

A really pleasant surprise from a book I hadn’t heard of! I would recommend it to anyone wanting an interesting, entertaining and thought provoking read.” Audible Review

Our #LoveAudio post today is an extract from the audiobook of Accidental Flowers, a novel in short stories by Lily Peters.

This title was another multi-voiced audiobook. The clip above is narrated by Beth Frieden and we also got to work with several other fantastic voice actors and narrators, including Tigger Blaize. Tigger said:

I loved playing Robin [in Accidental Flowers]! With each role like this, we get closer to having a trans cannon of stories and characters. It’s a brilliant book with a real mix of voices.”

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Love Audio Week: 100neHundred

One of the most interesting things about publishing our titles as audio books is when we are working with anthologies and collections that need a multi-voice approach. This creates the challenge of finding authentic, representative voices for each story or poem within the collection – without having to recruit a cast of thousands! 

Today for #LoveAudio week we are sharing an audio excerpt from one of the most multifariously voiced books we have ever published: 100neHundred by Laura Besley is a collection of 100 stories, each of exactly 100 words. We’re delighted to share two stories from this brilliant book, one read by Cornelia Colman and one by Shubhita Chaturvedi:

The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Jeffrey

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Love Audio Week: Incorcisms

For #LoveAudio week today we have an unsettling tale by short story writer David Hartley, read brilliantly by Margaret Ashley.

Margaret is an actress and multi-nominated voice actor – she is currently nominated for the Best Radio Drama Performance in the 2021 OneVoice Awards – and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with her on several of our recent audio books.

This is ‘Mothering’, from Incorcisms:

 

 

”David Hartley’s tiny fictions are elusive and teasing and true. They’re like the fading echoes of dreams you struggle to remember when you wake up in the morning – the bits that you know didn’t quite make sense, and made you feel strange and a little unnerved, but you knew were important, so important, if only you could hold on to them forever.” – Robert Shearman

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Submission call for UK Deaf Short Story Writers and Poets for ‘Movement’ anthology

BSL version of this page signed for us by Marcel Hirshman of WealdBSL

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FRIDAY 23RD APRIL 23:59

Arachne Press is planning an anthology of fiction and poetry by Deaf and hard-of-hearing writers, which will be produced as a printed book, an eBook and a series of videos. The eBook will contain links to the videos, which will also be on the Arachne Website, and probably YouTube.

Our editors are Lisa Kelly (co-editor of Magma 69, The Deaf Issue; co-Chair of Magma Poetry, first collection A Map Towards Fluency published by Carcanet) and Sophie Stone (RADA trained Actor, Writer: Paine’s Plough, The Bunker, BBC Radio 3 and Co-founder of DH Ensemble theatre Co)

We have chosen the theme of movement, to fit with our overarching theme for this year and next, of ‘maps and mapping.’

You can interpret this however you want,  and we’ve been thinking about movement as communication and connection, mobility, and stillness, being moved emotionally, movement within and after Lockdown, freedom of movement, and being part of a political movement – so we are open to all your ideas… Except! NO Erotica, horror, gratuitous violence, sexism, racism, or homophobia.

We actively encourage submissions from underrepresented voices, including ethnically diverse writers, LGBTQ writers, writers with experience of multiple socio-economic deprivation and women writers.

You can apply in written English, or by video in BSL, SSE or whatever UK based form of sign you wish; or in writing and sign. We will pay royalties, and there will also be paid work translating/performing the BSL output from this project.

We will be translating everything that arrives signed into English, and we will also be translating everything that arrives written, into BSL. We will discuss with you in detail so that we get these translations right.

If your work is chosen and you want to do the signed version yourself, it will depend on the state of lockdown, and on your own technical skills with a camera; we will do our best, but we don’t want to put anyone at risk. If you don’t want to sign your own work, or it isn’t possible due to lockdown etc,  we will use a signing Deaf actor/translator.

For the submission just use a phone to video yourself and send us a file no bigger than 400mb. If your file is larger, let us know and we will arrange an alternative method.

You can send us one story of up to 2000 words/15 minutes of signing, and up to 3 poems around 650 words/5 minutes each which total up to 2000 words/15 minutes of signing, or 1 poem and 1 story.

We would prefer that the work be unpublished, but if you have published something that is a perfect fit, we will consider it, provided you hold the copyright.

Publication planned for November 2021

All submissions via https://arachnepress.submittable.com/submit, where you can also find submission calls for Global Majority writers,  should that apply to you.

Call for submissions for UK resident writers of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage on the theme of ‘maps and mapping

Arachne Press is planning an anthology of fiction and poetry from UK resident writers of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage. Publication will be October 2021. We will pay royalties. Once published in an Arachne anthology you may be invited to submit a collection or novel.

Our Editors:

Laila Sumpton and Sandra Agard

Laila Sumpton [recently the Keats House poet in residence who has edited poetry anthologies for the University of London, the Royal Free Hospital and Ministry of Stories] will be our poetry editor, and Sandra A. Agard [Professional storyteller, poet, short story writer, playwright, cultural historian, literary consultant, resident writer/reader and creative writing facilitator for over forty years] will be our fiction editor.We look forward to receiving new work from across the country and are excited to discover voices new and familiar.

  • Poets can enter two poems maximum of under 50 lines.
  • Short story writers can enter one story of up to 2000 words.
  • All work in English and unpublished
  • We will accept translation if it is of your own work.
  • All entries will be read by the editors.
  • No entry fee.

We have an overarching theme for all our anthologies for the next 12-18 months of ‘maps and mapping’. You do not need to take this in any way literally – ‘the map is not the territory.’

Consider new lands, homelands, boundaries – real or imaginary; journeys, ideas of territory and ‘your place’. Landmarks and directions, roots and routes, (dis)location and getting lost – the possibilities are (almost!) endless.

Deadline for submissions 14th April 2021

final decisions will be made by 14th May 2021

submit here