New Title: Unthology 9

We’re delighted to announce that Unthology 9, the latest in our series showcasing short fiction from new and established writers will be published on April 6th 2017.


Unthology 9

ISBN: 97819100641442

PRICE: £9.99

EDITORS: Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones

PUBLICATION: April 6th 2017

CATEGORIES: General Fiction

DIMENSIONS: 129 x 197mm


TARGET READERS: Lovers of short fiction

DISTRIBUTION: UK Trade: Central Books.

UK and Ireland representation is via Quantum Publishing Solutions Ltd Email: 


Succumb when love fizzles out and degrades you in public, when your knees give and your breath fails. Shun your mother. Flee the music of the camps and the glare of white nights. Sell your baby. Sell your stash, your kidney and your collection of strange dolls to buy a time machine. Brave the seas in a bathtub. Ride the dust currents. Your timing must be impeccable, and your skill with the scalpel expert. Mourn, salvage and refuse to fade. Struggle up the beach, heart raring, fists tightened. Welcome to the archipelago. Welcome to Unthology 9.


Juno Baker, Roelof Bakker, Judy Birkbeck, SJ Butler, Gordon Collins, Dan Coxon, Sarah Dobbs, Sarah Evans, Rosie Gailor, Tania Hershman, Tim Love, Mark Mayes, Jane Roberts, John D Rutter, Nick Sweeney, Tim Sykes, Jonathan Taylor


‘Unthology is still going from strength to strength’ THE WORKSHY FOP

‘Stokes and Jones have done a good job keeping up the pace. Roll on Unthology 9.’ BOOK MUNCH.

Unthology 9 is available to pre-order in paperback from Wordery.

Unthology 9 is also available to pre-order for your Kindle.

The End: Ailsa Cox on Writing Coup de Grace

Ailsa Cox talks about how she wrote her story, Coup de Grace, which appears in The End: Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings: Short Fiction Inspired by the Artwork of Nicolas Ruston, edited by Ashley Stokes

When, in summer 2015, the writers were asked to select a paintings, I knew the one I wanted straight away. It was the picture that looked like an eye in fur. I’m a very slow writer, and there wasn’t much time to complete the commission. But my journal was full of entries about my dog George, who’d died not long before. Losing the dog had been incredibly painful. Something vital had been lost in both our lives, my husband’s and mine, and this wasn’t just about George himself, but mortality and love and loss, and the human condition. Ours is a late marriage; we have children by previous partners, but none together, so the dog we’d had for fourteen years was, if not exactly our baby, a creature we’d brought up together, some one who’d shared our daily lives. 2015 was not a great year for our family. George’s decline symbolized all those other adversities. There’s also something about the absolute trust dogs place in humans that’s especially heart-rending, and exposes your capacity for grief. I’ve never wept for anyone as much as I wept for George. I couldn’t bear to be at home because it seemed empty without him.

So then – easy. I’d just rework the material I already had, including a trip I made with my husband, stepson and grandkids to see the cruise ships passing by on from the beach at Waterloo, just up the road from where I live on Merseyside. (Waterloo and Crosby Beach also feature in my story, ‘Killing with Kindness’ in Unthology 6). The story’s ending was all ready; I wanted to finish on something my husband said, about George’s final moments, as he was put to sleep – ‘I couldn’t look him in the eye.’ I’d been been reading unashamedly autobiographical fiction by Karl Ove Knaussgaard and others, and it seemed impossible in any case to just tinker with the truth, changing names and so on. What was the point?

This is my first attempt at an opening passage:

George. Not all of this story is fact, but I don’t have it in me to invent another name because he was true to himself, he was the indefinable substance that went by that name. Most dogs have sad expressions, and George is one of them, unutterably sad. Is that a cliche? Unutterably sad.

Just terrible. Soppy. Cringe-making. Scrap the auto-fiction. I needed a different dog and a different family. And somehow that took me to Freddie and Evelyn, his elderly owner, and my narrator, who is her daughter-in-law, and younger than me because I wanted the children to be her children. And then if Evelyn was in her 90s, there had to be an age gap between the narrator and her husband, Jeff. That worked, because it helped to add another layer to the themes of mortality, aging and loss. The image of the children on the typewriters is taken straight from my diary, but also served to signal the age gap; ‘“Do you remember those golfballs?”’ says Jeff, “used to be like a circular thing?”’ Other elements, like Evelyn’s funeral tape, just came out of nowhere as I was writing. At some stage I know I wanted to reference Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ and Evelyn’s name was taken from another story in Dubliners, ‘Eveline’. That has been lost in the writing, and so is the line of dialogue about the eye that I wanted to steal from real life, and other things have taken their place, according to the logic and the rhythms of the story. Once you’ve taken that first step from fact to fiction, everything changes, and a different kind of reality opens up before your eyes.


The End: Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings: Short Fiction Inspired by the Artwork of Nicolas Ruston, edited by Ashley Stokes is available to order here.

The End Interviews: Jonathan Taylor Talks to Zoe Lambert

Jonathan Taylor asks the questions as Zoe Lambert talk about how she wrote her story ‘Chaconne in G Minor’ for The End: Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings.

Chaconne in G Minor

Chaconne in G Minor

JT: Like all the other stories in “The End,” your story, “Chaconne in G Minor,” opens with one of Nicolas Ruston’s paintings. In fact, the painting pre-dates your story: all of the writers in the anthology were allotted one painting each before writing their stories. How do you see the relationship between the painting and your own story? How did the story “grow out of it,” as it were? What were your aims in writing it?

ZL: My painting suggested film noir to me, and I wanted to write a kind of pulp fiction response. The kind of story that snaps shut at the end, or has a reveal or twist in the tail. I was intrigued by the figure standing next to the blinds and imagined a woman looking up at him, standing there. Sadly, my story did not work out like that at all! It became a story about a relationship, but as with other stories in the anthology, my ideas started to be more about other ways endings relate to short stories and to artistic form in general, and the greatest end of all: death. So, though I intended to write plotted story, I ended up writing a more lyrical short story about a young woman who has lost her way after her mother’s death. She is stuck, playing this piece of music over and over.

JT: As “musical fiction,” your story clearly uses J. S. Bach’s Chaconne in G Minor as its central image. Why did you choose this piece in particular? One of the things I love about musical fiction is the way in which it explores music in lots of complex ways (not just in terms of subject matter, for example). What are the relationships between the musical piece and the narrative structure, theme and, indeed, the emotional life of the characters?  

ZL: I’ve long been interested in how music works emotionally and how emotion in music is intrinsically linked to form. This form works across most Western artistic forms in terms of the simple structure of beginning, middle and end. As I describe in the story there is always a movement from harmony to disharmony and back again, and if you look into music theory, this emotion is mathematical. But does this explain everything about emotion? And how does this offer consolation in the face of grief? Do you ever achieve harmony again after death of a loved one? So I started to write about how music might not offer consolation in the face of life ending. I wanted to mirror how the narrator is unmoored in this state of disharmony, of grief, in the structure, with the story beginning and ending with the same sentence. It swallows its own tail, so to speak, and could grammatically be read over and over. Therefore conveying a non-ending disharmony. I didn’t as much choose that piece of music though. Its drama and melodrama appealed to me and I imagined the mother wanting this piece because it’s a performance piece for violinists and the mother is so invested in her daughter’s career that when she’s gone, the daughter has nothing left of her own but this piece of music, which she is left to perform over and over to her increasingly irritated boyfriend.

JT: I suppose your story is a form of ekphrasis – but a complicated way in which you balance three different art-forms in one. Was this a difficult balance to achieve? How did you go about it?

ZL: I kept the image of the painting in mind when writing the story. If I haven’t ended up with a short story that emulated the genre of film in the painting, then I’d at least keep the image as a central image in the story. The beginning and end of the story describe the boyfriend standing in front of the blinds and he remains a shadowy figure in the story as he is in the painting since the central relationship is between the mother and daughter. I didn’t try to balance the three forms in the story. I think because the central themes are about form, these ideas on structure, form and emotion linked all the art forms together. When read the story at Lancaster University, I included the piece of music by playing an excerpt in the story.

JT: Do you find in anthologies like this one that the stories (consciously, actively, unconsciously, accidentally) speak to one another, overlap, even argue in some ways? What attracted you to writing for this particular anthology?

ZL: They do. I swapped stories with Tania Hershman before submitting, and we had both engaged with questions around endings and the short story form, but in very different ways. I didn’t see other stories before publication, but we have very much spoken to each other. I think it’s because we are all practicing short story writers and very interested in the form itself that our responses explored form and endings.

JT: In the story, you’re dealing with major issues, including grief, mourning, depression, relationships, criticism (even, to use a current term, a form of “mansplaining”). Are there things, do you think, that short stories can’t handle, in terms of emotional experience? What are the limits (and indeed possibilities) of the form in this respect? 

ZL: There are no limits. I think short stories can handle most emotions. Perhaps, if you wanted to explore developmental change over a long period of time, you might be better writing something longer. But even then, lots of great short stories convey whole lives. Not in the linear way a novel might, but by ‘dropping in’ to moments in a character’s life.


The End: Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings: Short Fiction Inspired by the Artwork of Nicolas Ruston, edited by Ashley Stokes is published by Unthank Books and is available to order here.