Author Archives: Cool_hand Chrovenden

Meeting 12/04/17

Another top meeting with some great short fiction in the box.

Chris presented a short story called ‘Anti-freeze’. There was praise here for the good imagery and dark overtones throughout the piece very dark. Members thought this was a great idea, though perhaps not executed correctly. (Chris heartily agreed!) Calls for some more clarity on the POV’s motives and a slight expansion to flesh that ending out.

Bryn presented a short story called ‘Better Lost than Loved’. Universal praise here for the great concept in this piece and that fantastic imagery throughout. There were some questions over why the POV would go along so easily with the other AI’s plan, and calls to keep the sabotage a little more hidden from view.

Finally, Rachel presented a short story called ‘Logistically not a problem’. Praise here for the brisk pace and action packed story telling. Some members questioned whether our POV is a bit quick to forgive ANON and help him out. (He got her into this mess!) Calls for our POV to take charge, more dialogue and a bit more character development.

That’s all for this time.

Pip pip!

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Meeting – 24 January 2016

A great meeting to round off January with 11 members in attendance, and 2 new attendees: a big welcome to Kay and Mike, and a big thanks for your insightful critiques.

First, a plea for submissions: our Anthology, Revolutions 2, is still under way and we’ve extended the submission deadline until we get enough subs (huzzah!). Please send your Manchester-based fiction to msfantho[at] (you can check out the guidelines on our homepage).

On to the crits!

Peter presented a short story called ‘Hand in Hand’, a curious post-apocalyptic type tale set on a distant world. Members really enjoyed the strange rock like aliens, the clarity, pacing, and the strong voice (though keep it consistent). Praise for the great worldbuilding and tense moments in the story’s middle to end. Some questions raised about the world itself: was there a bit too much going on for such a short piece? What has happened to society? And does our POV character have a name? Calls for a narrowing of scope, some more emotion from the POV, and a stronger arc for him/her to follow.

Next, Tom presented the fifth chapter of his Sci-fi epic, Children of Akorest, with a return to Chen: still stranded in a universe far far away (or perhaps co-located with us, I don’t know multi-verse theory). Members again enjoyed the great worldbuilding and fantastical setting. Praise especially for the characterisation of Nystoro, with some members feeling he was reminiscent of Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon, of course, not that live-action abomination). Some questions over the nature of the world we are in: sometimes gravity seemed to be stronger, sometimes weaker. Also, would our intrepid scientist so recklessly stick her hands into a pool of what could very well be skin dissolving acid? Calls for a bit more emotion and character from Chen, some members felt she was a bit of a tabula rasa at the moment, and of course for the return of App… I mean Nystoro!

That’s all for this week, folks. See you on the 8th of February!


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Meeting – Tuesday 22nd November

Another top meeting on a somewhat drizzly Tuesday night. We had twelve members in attendance and five pieces in the box.

Eric presented the final section of a two-part story called ‘Mr Nobody’. Lots of praise here for the great premise, ambiguity, and the POV’s quirky habits (I’m pretty sure we’ve all wanted to squeeze a few heads on the bus!). Some questions over whether there is enough at stake for our protagonist and just what his motivation is in the last third of the story. Calls for a bit more sympathy for the protagonist and some Patrick Batemen type carnage in the final act.

Mark presented the first part of ‘Adapt or Die 22’, a rags-to-riches story of a retired slasher coming back for one final kill. Members enjoyed the crisp prose, dark humour, and celebrity slasher POV. Some pressing questions: Who is paying him for all of this, and why is it legal!? Some members also wondered whether the back and forth between the memoir and the chase scene slowed the pace a little too much. Calls to keep the POV steady and to turn Marisa’s harrowing chase into a twitter feed!

Kate presented the first part of a quest fantasy novella called ‘Shaman’. Some Comparisons drawn to the South American book, Something of the deer. Members were fully on board with the non-western fantasy setting and gender swapping shamans. Praise for the great world-building, and brilliant twists on the old folk-tale betrothal story. Some questions over whether there is a bit too much information crammed into this first part: should this be the first 3-4 chapters rather than the first 3-4 thousand words? Also, where about is this set, and what is going on in that spirit journey? Calls for a bit more emotion from our POV and her betrothed, more visual descriptions of the world, and to make the details of the spirit journey a little more clear cut.

Javier presented the first part of his horror piece called ‘The Haunting Handbook’. Members enjoyed the Gothic horror styling of this piece (even those who aren’t usually fans of the style!). Praise for the olde English vibe and the slow build horror elements in this piece. Some questions raise around the monster encounter: what does the Barghest actually look like, and why does it just stand there? Also, do we need a preface, a poem and a foreword? Calls for more description of the place (what are the sights, sounds and smells of this gloomy 19th Century York), a little more detail on the Barghest, and, of course: more more more.

Chris presented ‘Itchy throat’, a hairy little body-horror piece you should definitely avoid showing to your mum. We unfortunately had no time for crits in the session, so we went across to Common where all were agreed that it was thoroughly disgusting.

That’s all for this time. Next meeting December 14th.

Pip pip!

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Meeting – Tuesday 25th Oct 16



Ahoy there!

Another top meeting this Tuesday with five pieces in the box and a whopping seventeen members in attendance (I think the most we’ve ever had!). A very warm welcome to our newest member, Marc, who presented some great first-time crits. We look forward to reading some of your fiction very soon!

Before we get to the meeting, can I drop in a gentle reminder to everyone about donations: MadLab give us the space for free and we try to make sure that we ca give something back to help keep them afloat. We suggest £1 per meeting, though I know some people like to put in a lump sum for a number of meetings. You can find the donate link in the bar to the right.

OK, to the crits!

James presented the first part of a piece called Arthur Leyland. Members enjoyed the shock factor, striking opening, and the very very dark humour. There was lots of praise for the character moments: members felt this nicely captured the conflicted nature of loss and grief. Some questions over Arthur’s reaction at finding his father (check for a pulse, man!). Also, some members wondered whether the flashback/memories should come where they do (given the rather dark hole we are looking into!), and whether we need quite so many of them. Some members were wanting some more sensory writing: there are loads of bodily fluids, but where are the smells? (God help us!) Calls for a closer narrative voice, some more shocks, some more showing, and a little less telling.

– – – I am not putting a picture in for this one! – – –

Claire presented the first part of her children’s story, Gendry the Christmas Elf. Members enjoyed the fairy-tale style in this piece as well as the charming imagery and the mischief of our main character. Praise for the clear prose and fun style. Some questions raised over just how big Gendry is and whether raspberries really would dye a fairy purple. Also, why is the juice so horrid and smelly? Some members felt it would be useful to see how this would look in print with illustrations, this might give a better indication of the pacing. Calls to keep the writing a little more consistently fairy tale esque, to keep the rhythm bouncy, and to add in some more fantasy elements to the world (we want fairy-berries!).


Eric presented the first part of Mr. Death, a short story about an office worker with a not-so-tender touch. Lots of praise for the unconventional protagonist and his neurotic inner monologues (some members felt this could have been taken further). Some questions over Andre’s motives: why does he go out with the office gang if he doesn’t want to be around people? Perhaps we could play up the social anxiety/pressure angle? Calls for a quickening of the pace, more misanthropy, and more detail on our protagonist (is he deaf? Is he autistic?).


Tom presented the third chapter from his sci-fi epic Children of Akorest. Lots of praise here for the action scenes and descriptions of the characters and port. Lots of intrigue about the jarsens’ ‘pact’, I think all were agreed that this was a great backdrop to the species and a mystery we can’t wait to have solved. Some questions raised over whether we need to meet so many characters in this chapter. Perhaps we could meet some of them later when they’re doing what they do best. Calls for a bit more description of the setting and a slight slowing of the pace. Calls, also, for a slightly closer perspective (we want a look inside that jarsen’s head!).


To everyone’s utter dismay, we ran out of time before getting to Chris’s piece. Through the wailing and sobbing and the salty salty tears we agreed to bump the piece to the next meeting.

That’s all for now. Next meeting Wednesday the 9th November. See you there!

Pip Pip!

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Tuesday 27th September 2016

Another top meeting to round off September. We had 7 members in attendance with 3 pieces to crit in the drobox (two from new members, good job guys!)

Eric presented part 12 of his novel Hellbound. Everyone was agreed that this was a very easy read with some top writing. There was a great deal of praise for Diane’s character with members enjoying her characterization (and that she is finally breaking free!). Her troubles were very believable. Some questions raised over whether some of this chapter and the previous one with Kim could be condensed into one. Calls to not draw too much attention to Oscar’s powers and to stretch out Diane’s character transition a little more over the preceding chapters

Tom presented the first chapter of his novel The Pilgrim’s Storm. It was clear that there was a very large and interesting world behind this and members really enjoyed the interesting nautical/spacefare crossover, the tension between the alien races, and the bad-ass bat monster that is Heryst! Some questions over whether we perhaps need a more relatable human-like character to get us into the story. Also, how big is a Jarsen? And is this is a prologue (boo! hiss!) do we really need so much of Alius’ backstory? Calls for a little more clarity over the species we encounter and for us to see these characters again soon! (Gief moar Heryst!)

Finally, Bryn presented the first part to a two part short story called An End to Forever. A lot of members felt this was reminiscent of Ian Banks and all enjoyed the poetic themes and the imagery (Superman approves your ice palace!). Some questions over whether we need the initial ‘prologue’ section and whether it wouldn’t be better to drip feed this throughout the story. Also, questions raised about whether the strong poetic element of this piece could be turned into a standalone piece of flash (no prizes for guessing who said this!). Calls for a little less info-dumping and a bit more characterization of our POV character: what does an eternal ice overlord look like?

That’s all for now. Our next meeting is Wednesday the 12th. See you then!

Pip pip.

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Meeting: Tuesday 26th July

Another top meeting last week with 9 members in attendance. To the crits:

Arthur presented the first chapter of Wendigo Water, a novelization of his radio play of the same name. A lot of members were well up for some wendigo madness. Praise here for good character interaction, an interesting opening and the last line cliff-hanger. There were some questions raised about the accuracy of the portrayal of the US legal system, and whether some of the characters/infodumps could be cut. Also, is the tone right for horror? Some members felt there was a comedic lilt to the righting. Calls for more showing, less telling… and more wendigo!

Eliza presented the second part to her short story, ‘More than one zodiac in school’. A lot of praise here for the elegant writing, with some members enjoying this more than the first part. Universal praise for the fantastic mother character and the conflict of bringing a friend round for tea for the first time. Members also enjoyed the twist with Tegan, though wondered about what her motives might be for her actions. Also, where the hell are Tegan’s parents? Finally, is the solution to Tegan’s problems a bit too easy? Lots of questions from members about what the message is with feeding your spirit/zodiac animal. Calls, also, for a bit more insight into Tegan’s scar (is this a product of her ‘separation’), and for some more on the powers the other spirit animals possess.

James presented the first part of a piece, working title: ‘the Grand Buffet’. Praise here for the great interaction between the mother and Alex, the dramatic conflict throughout and the general characterization of Alex. Some members found the piece reminiscent of Dexter (the serial killer, not the guy with the lab!) and Donnie Darko. Questions over what is going on with the personification of the tumour. Also, is there actually such a thing as 100-year-old malt? Calls to cut the names in dialogue, give a bit more characterisation for Alex’s sister, and perhaps hint more towards the overall narrative of the piece.

Last, but by no means least, Kate presented the second part of her hard-boiled noir ‘The Sad Bird’. A few members found this reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, with a lot of praise for the great writing, horror imagery (phantom beaks are, frankly, terrifying!), and Dave’s eventual comeuppance. There were quite a few questions raised over the final scenes: does the protagonist get away with things a little too easily?  There were calls to develop Dave’s character more and for harpy’s sake let us see the action scene!

That’s all for now. I should close by saying that this will be Arthur’s last session for a little while. I’m sure we’d all like to thank him for some great pieces and critiques and wish him the best of luck in Preston.

Till next time!

Next meeting Wednesday 10th.

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Tuesday 28th June

Another great meeting last week with 11 members and five pieces critted (that must be some sort of record!


Arthur presented a witty short story called ‘RTS’ that many members felt was reminiscent of a Douglas Adams like jaunt into space. There was much praise for the ideas in this piece: hoovering up zombies to put them on the moon was a clear hit, though members were split on the final pun. Some felt the piece was telling, not showing too much at the moment. There were also some questions about the general logic of the piece and motives of the characters; however, given the humourous nature and length, most were agreed that these points didn’t hamper the piece.




Eliza presented the first half of a short story called ‘More than one zodiac in highschool

There was a great deal of praise for the writing and characterisation here, especially the writing of Amy’s mum. Members also enjoyed the foreshadowing with Tegan’s drawings, Amy’s relationship with Long, and the dark tone of the piece. Some members were worried that the piece was a little too reminiscent of Phillip Pullman. The general consensus, though, was that the story could be made different enough not for this to be a problem, provided the spirit animal concept was made clearer.


Kate presented the first part of a short story called ‘The Sad Bird’, which turned out to be a Russian folk-law meets noir detective story, with some definite cosmic horror vibes.

There was much to praise here amongst both the writing style and the very original ideas. Members had some questions over just how much under the protagonist was  under the creature’s spell and that they would be more shocked to discover such a creature exists. Some members also felt that the reveal that the client is a magical creature could be held back longer for effect. Also, a different profession for the protagonist than a Private Eye might be better. Some further calls to convert the narrative summary into dialogue. But so far everyone is enjoying this.

Graeme presented a short piece called ‘She’s Behind You’. Some members found this reminiscent of Donnie Darko, and all were in agreement that this was a very disturbing and creepy read, and in that respect entirely successful. Much praise for the ambiguity, clipped style, and use of the second person in this piece, and especially for the cold and distant voice of the POV. Some questions raised over why not every character has a ‘shadow’, and what goes on in the woods. Is our POV disturbed, or does he go through with the act? Again, though, the ambiguity was generally enjoyed by most members.




Finally James presented a short piece called ‘Surfing Zombies’, which turned out to be a punchy read about a mysterious trashy video from the early 90s. All members agreed that the thought of zombies in speedos is utterly horrifying Praise for the hook and intriguing plot and the nods to 80s and 90s culture. Some members found the piece reminiscent of ‘the Ring’. Others raised questions about the rather sudden ending: Is he going to watch it again? Is it a curse? Will it affect our POV? Could the watching of the tape come parallel to other events in our POV’s life perhaps (we watched this crazy movie at a house party and…)? Calls for a bit more of a twist and a bit more showing rather than telling. Cowabunga!




That’s all from us for now. Our next meeting is on Wednesday the 13t, 7pm at MadLab. See you there dudes/dudettes!

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Tuesday Meeting: 24th May

We had another great meeting last Tuesday, although with a slight change of location. After a mix-up with our usual room in MadLab, we headed over to Tea4/2 on High street (who were kind enough to give us a table for 2 hours). Nice chairs!


We had 10 members in attendance this Tuesday including one new member. I’m sure everyone will join me in welcoming Claire, we look forward to seeing some work from you very soon.

On to our crits:

Peter presented two pieces: one short story and the first part of a larger work. A lot of praise for both of these, both the writing and the ideas. A few questions raised regarding whether these were standalone or part of something larger (something to make clear in the submission folder methinks). There was a feeling with both pieces that they gave a snapshot of an interesting world and perhaps wanted to be turned into something longer.

  • ‘The Centaurs’ Dream’ put some members in mind of a ‘Little Mermaid’ but with centaurs, which all agreed sounded like a job lot of fun! Some questions about ‘amphora’ in the first line and the difficult to character names possibly presenting a tripping point for flash readers. Calls to make more of the discovery of Chalcedon’s transformation and expand upon the reasons and repercussions for and of this change: is there some irony to this transformation?
  • ‘Enclosure’ received a lot of praise for the writing and descriptions. Some great world building here. Some members worried that the characters were a little bit generic and there were calls for this to be expanded to give the motivations and backstory for both our protagonist and antagonist. Questions over why our protagonist doesn’t put up much of a fight, and how her brother came to be the King’s right hand. Is he really in control? Where is the King anyway? We look forward to learning sometime soon!

Arthur presented the first two chapters from his novel ‘Repospace’, a Douglas Adams-esque foray into the life and adventures of an intergalactic repo man. There was all round praise for the setting and humour throughout this piece. Also praise for the characterization of Larrr. There were some concerns about the number of characters introduced in the second chapter and some calls for more active intros of the main characters. Some members felt that the sub-plot with Larrr needed to be drawn out over several chapters (or perhaps the whole novel!). Calls also for more active showing of the events in the opening. All agreed that there was a lot of great material here with Larrr’s backstory and the initial repo job-gone-wrong, but as this was all told by other characters rather than shown to the reader, we ended up missing out on a great ride! Lets get the narrator front and centre for the repoo job. Some questions over Larrr’s motivations given her situation and the  inclusion of the nagging wife.

Finally, Angela presented the first part of her story ‘Sorell Sharclaw’. Lots of praise here for the descriptions and vocabulary, aggressive main character, use of senses other than just sight, and the sinister foreshadowing of what we might have in store for us. Some members felt the piece was reminiscent of Chronicles of Riddick and Enemy Mine with our protagonist trapped on an apparently barren planet with an unsavoury character. Lots of interest in our POV’s implants and how they work. Some questions over why she has to shave her head to get them working (because they’re solar powered!) and why someone who powers up from sunlight has been imprisoned on a planet with three suns. Calls for more characterization of Dickrot (and some clarification: is his name really Dickrot?!), including bringing out his malevolent side (he’s a big teddy right now). Calls, also, for some more alien flora and fauna, and explanation as to why she has been exiled to this planet: what is the rehabilitation system that she is being put through? We look forward to seeing more soon, and hopefully getting some richer descriptions of this out of body experience.

That’s all for the crits; however, we’ve been getting quite a lot of comments about manuscript formatting recently. As a general reminder be sure to check out the Shunn Formatting guidelines. Basically:

  • Double line spacing in a plain font (Times or Courier)
  • Put ‘Name // Short-Title // Page#’ in your header (starting second page)
  • Keep your paragraphing consistent (if you use a hanging indent for new para, then stick with it!)
  • Use a # to designate a section break to avoid confusion.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Our next meeting is an early one in the month: Wednesday the 8th. We’ll see you there!

Pip pip!


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Wednesday Meeting: 11 May

Hi all,

A quick announcement first

Our glorious leader Craig Pay is stepping down from running the group for the foreseeable future. I’m sure everyone will join me in thanking him for his hard work, fantastic crits, and general dedication to the group over the past several years, and in wishing him well with all his future exploits. We look forward to some fleeting visits (and please bring lightsabers for us to play with).

For the time being, the People’s Republic of ManSpecFic will be governed by Graeme Shimmin, Eric Ian Steele, Luke Shelbourn, and Chris Ovenden (hey, that’s me!)

OK, on with the report!


We had another short meeting this Wednesday with just two pieces to crit, though we made up for this with some slightly longer critiques.

We would also like to extend a very warm welcome to two new group members, Lindy and Arthur, who were attending for the first time. You both gave some great critiques and we look forward to seeing some fiction from you in the very near future!

  • Hans presented the first half of a short story called ‘In the Wash’. This was a piece that I think everyone agreed was full of some very interesting ideas just looking for a bit more direction. There was some debate over whether it was leaning more towards horror or comedy, with some thinking it should perhaps be chopped up into different pieces. A lot of praise for the writing and dialogue, as well as for the transformation from mundane events to horror/absurd. A lot of questions about the hand in the washing machine: How big is it? Is it disembodied? Is it alien? Also, some members felt the two horror events in the story needed a stronger narrative connection (and perhaps that they needed homes in different stories). Calls for more foreshadowing and background to connect up the spooky events. Is this her husband coming back to haunt her, or is there a problem with the water supply?
  • Next, Angela presented a short piece called ‘That Creature Called Sprout’. Lots of praise for the premise of this piece and for the themes of death and rebirth. There were some questions about whether this could be capitalized on further, and whether the tree POV was being over-personified, but general agreement that this was a strong POV to work on. Some members felt the twist ending came too abruptly and needed more foreshadowing, and there were a few mixed feelings about the opening paragraph: some felt it had a nice hook, others that it could be cut. Calls for more world-building and a clearer explanation of Sprout’s actions towards the end: What are her motivations? Could she hear the POV all along? Is she a witch? A spirit? Is our tree POV really a tree? Lots of questions from an engaging story, we hope to get some answers when it makes it into print!

That’s all for this week. Next meeting Tuesday 24th (and we’ll try to get the blog post up a bit more sharpish!)

Keep writing!

heart frame craig.png

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