18:07, 24th March, 1945
“How long’s he been muttering like that?” asked Mayhew from halfway down the basement steps.
The SS officer was sat on a rickety chair amongst broken boxes and torn sacking, speaking quietly, without pause. His gaze was fixed on a nondescript point at the centre of the cracked plaster ceiling. Urbanski knew some German – being the son of Poles had some advantages – but he couldn’t recognise a word the Nazi was saying.
“Just started, sir,” reported Lucky. “Thought I’d better tell you.”
“Shut your hole, kraut.” Mayhew put a hand on his pistol holster and descended a few more steps. “Save your confessions for the Colonel.”
The German stopped for a moment, looked at Mayhew with a sneer and then continued murmuring as he returned his gaze to the same point. The lieutenant undid his holster and took another two steps but the sound of a gunshot from above made everyone jerk with shock.
“What?” Mayhew dashed up the steps, Urbanski close on his heel, Lucky and another paratrooper behind him. “Who the hell is shooting?”
More shots rattled out from across the house.
“It’s a counter-attack, Lieutenant!” came a reply from the remains of the lounge at the front of the house. Ramsey and O’Gara were at the large bay window, their rifles poked through the shattered panes of glass.
“There’s near enough seven thousand Brits and nine thousand boys from home in this neck of the woods, there ain’t no damn counter-attack.”
Moving to the window, Urbanski could see grey shapes moving through the rubble of the buildings. They seemed disorientated as they stumbled over the broken bricks and tiles but they were definitely Germans. Looking to the right he could see more converging from where the machine gun nest had been.
As he looked back across the street, the sergeant saw an enemy soldier staggering from the ruins opposite. Shots rang out from above and the German jerked left and right, feet scraping in the dust and stones.
The man kept walking.
“What the hell?” Urbanski stepped up next to Ramsey and fired a burst from his Thompson. At this range, just twenty yards, he couldn’t miss. The bullets hit the soldier square in the chest, knocking him backwards.
“See, that’s how…” Urbanski’s words trailed off as the German continued shuffling towards the house.
In all the excitement of Christmas, you may have missed an exciting release. Stille! Untoten! is an anthology of adventure, horror and undead. It features a story by me, Rise of the Secret King, from which the above extract was taken.
You can see the full Fringeworks press release here, and you can order the collection directly from Amazon.
It was great fun to write, and I find the challenge of creating a story inspired by a theme is very rewarding – it helps to define the edges of a project from the start. I’ve been working on more original fiction which will be seeing print this year and hopefully after. This is where self-publishing, digital and small press publishing are at the sharp end. The variety on offer in terms of reading and submissions opportunities is fantastic.
The first anthology contains stories from the likes of Graham McNeill, Scott M Baker and David Thomas Moore.
It’s certainly a part of the industry as both a writer and reader I’ve been getting more familiar with. My reading time is quite curtailed at the moment, so novellas, anthologies of short stories and graphic novels have featured more heavily in my leisure time. On the professional front, the chance to try out different ideas, worlds and themes is too tempting to pass up.
If anything, I would love to write a lot more short fiction outside of the Black Library, but it’s hard to allocate work time to it when I have advance-paying, commission-earning projects waiting. There are a growing number of outlets in small press and digital, and I would recommend any writer wanting to be published should seek them out, study the guidelines and start submitting stories. Not only is the experience invaluable, of writing but also the submissions and editorial process, but being able to call yourself a published author helps on any covering letter for that ten-part megaseries you have always wanted to write.
The discipline of writing short fiction also improves your writing in the longer form. It forces a writer to make dramatic choices, to keep characterisation and description tight, and make dialogue do a lot of heavy narrative lifting.
Using submissions themes also ensures that you read around different subjects and styles and it’s good to think in terms of multi-genre these days. Having a simple concept that has to be explored in a concise narrative, from an exterior sources, helps develops the creative muscles and habits you will need to come up with stories on a regular basis. Even if you’re a bit gun-shy about submitting, having a few practise stories under your belt based on real guidelines from actual publishers will shape your thinking and process.
And there’s no time like the present. While you’re surfing the web looking for all those submissions opportunities (follow publishers on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, join forums, etc. to get the latest announcements) why not have a go at this writing challenge laid down by Chuck Wendig – I will hopefully find some time and be posting my story soon!