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The Treasure No Thief Can Steal

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The Treasure No Thief Can Steal was first published in issue 53 of Scribble, the spring 2012 edition. Previously it was entered in the Manchester Fiction Prize, but failed to be short listed (there were 1900 entries in 2011, from 45 countries – competition is high as the Manchester Prize offers a whopping 10K prize).

Scribble short story magazine cover issue 53 spring 2012

cover artwork by Rebecca West

Below is my story, the comments it received from readers of Scribble, followed by my comments about the magazine and its competition.

The Treasure No Thief Can Steal

by Christopher Fielden

1

Before me is a panoramic view. Usually, beautiful scenery makes me feel calm. Not today. I’m tied to a tree on snow-covered ground and my fingers are numb.

Over the past week I’ve been dragged up a mountain by my captor, his cruel eyes betraying a desire that he’s unable to act on. He needs me as he believes me to be – untouched. I smile at the thought.

‘What’s funny, bitch?’

He wants me, but can’t have me. He hates me, but needs me alive. At least I’m enjoying his frustration.

I stare at him, refusing to answer.

‘Smile while you can, pretty one,’ he says. ‘What you got coming’s gonna make a mess of your face.’

I’m trying to remain strong, but the callous way he speaks makes my impending death inescapable.

My captor chuckles.

Feeling tears on my cheek, I stare out over the vista before me.

We’re on the higher slopes of Mount Holne, where the Gordesian Mountains divide to form the borders of Kort Eavenhow, Thirl Mere and Lostwithiel. If you use your imagination, the lay of the mountains to the northwest looks like the gargantuan maw of a slain creature. The view is known as The Jaws. This spectacle is said to have inspired a popular myth: The entire Gordesian mountain range was created by a dragon’s fallen body. It fell in a fight with an unnamed god who, thirsty from battle, drank from the sea so deeply that the surrounding lands were revealed.

Sitting here, witnessing this spectacle for the first time, makes the legend seem plausible. There are worse places to die.

My captor moves to sit near me, seemingly disappointed by my regained composure. He eats some salted beef and slurps water. I watch him, unable to take my eyes from the food.

When he’s done eating, he feeds me the few remaining scraps. I gobble them, too hungry to decline.

He watches me, cocking his head with interest. My eyes mist and I realise I’m hallucinating. He looks like a plucked chicken, basted and stuffed, ready to cook, but his eyes are alive, observing me as though I’m the meal ready for the oven. I wonder what narcotic he’s fed me.

‘Night, night,’ he says. ‘You’re gonna wake up dead, pretty bitch.’ His voice sounds distant. My consciousness fades.

2

My head feels like it’s been used as an anvil. I groan and roll onto my side, forcing my eyes open.

The first thing I see is the box. It sits upon a plinth in a shaft of sunlight, beautifully crafted from wood and inlaid with ivory. It might be a trick of the light, or the residue of narcotics in my system, but it looks like a hazy aura is emanating from the object, giving it an auburn glow. Transfixed, I stand and approach on trembling legs.

Up close, the workmanship looks even more impressive, every joint invisible. Studying the ivory inlay more carefully, I see an ornate, cobweb-like pattern. As I examine it, I realise that words are hidden within the design:

Trickery, trappery, feeding the need,

Meat for the beast, drawn by rumour and greed.

As I reach forward, a guttural growl echoes in the darkness. My senses return and I’m suddenly aware of my surroundings.

I’m in the centre of a large cavern, which is illuminated by a pillar of sunlight, radiating from a crevice high in the rooftop. The cave stinks of death. Skulls litter the floor.

Mountains of bones are piled against one wall, surrounded by a horde of interesting items: swords, parchments, armour and archaic contraptions.

I realise where I must be. The heap of bones corresponds with stories of Grimdune, a bestial collector of artefacts and relics. Until now, I’d assumed the tales to be myth.

‘What possessed you to bring me here?’ I whisper to my absent captor.

‘Greed.’

The voice that answers me is deep and resonant. Something vast moves in the cavern’s shadows. I see...

3

Do you want to find out what's lurking in the shadows?

If so, you can find out in my short story collection Book of the Bloodless Volume 1: Alternative Afterlives, published by Victorina Press. 

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Scribble’s Reader Comments

Scribble issue 54 Summer 2012 (incorporating Debut) was released in July. In the Scribble Feedback section, readers vote for their favourite stories and can comment on stories they did and didn’t like. Comments are always encouraged to be helpful, honest and fair.

Scribble 54 Sumer 2012 Readers' Feedback

illustration by Emily Peters

Sadly I didn’t win any dosh as I wasn't voted into the top 3 places overall although editor, David Howarth, did say this:

"The voting was extremely close again with every story in both magazines receiving at least one vote for first place. All the winners are (again) female. Does that signify anything…?"

Below I have listed the comments pertaining to The Treasure No Thief Can Steal. The comments appear in the order they appeared in Scribble Feedback.

Mary Lou W

I voted: ‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ in 1st Place. Chris Fielden’s story is strong on imagery and characterisation. Although I found it a bit wordy, (I prefer tightly written phrasing). However, I got into it, and was delighted when Lila appeased the dragon, Grimdune, and so won her freedom. I actually breathed a sigh of relief!

Tom G

‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ was imaginative, poetic in places and with not a little schadenfreude in ‘rather you than me’.

Angela P

I found choosing a third more difficult - nothing sprang out at me on first reading. So I went back and read them again. And then, wow. I discovered ‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ by Chris Fielden. This one was not an immediate pleasure like the other two, but on the second slower read I found the imagery and style of writing totally to my taste. I almost put this one first but have decided to stick to my original instincts, so give this 1 point. I do hope though, to see more of this writers’ work in Scribble/Debut.

Ivy B

First: ‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ by Chris Fielden. Although I feel this should have been a chapter in a book rather than a short story, I cannot ignore the sheer power and ingenuity of the descriptive writing. It leaves me wanting more, so I do hope a book will follow this theme through. And more short stories please from this talented writer.

Bronwen R

Most of the stories in this edition were well-written, although I found ‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ very over-written. I don’t however, read fantasy/SF - maybe it’s all like this?

Thomas P

‘The Treasure No Thief Can Steal’ by Chris Fielden takes second place. This held my attention purely by its vivid descriptions and limitless imagination. I was impressed by the way that Lila talked her way out of her perilous situation.

Scribble 54 Cover Summer 2012

cover artwork by Rebecca West

As you can see, a writer published in Scribble will receive a mixture of comments about their work, some positive, some not. The not so positive comments are often useful, so you can learn from them and improve your work. So you can see a full write up, here are the comments I wrote about the stories that appeared alongside my own in issue 53 of Scribble:

Chris F

I thought it unfair to vote for my own story, so I’ve voted for other peoples. Do I get a prize for being so honourable? If so, I like money and beer :-)

1st, ‘A Friend Called Elspeth’ - well-written and gripping with believable characters and plot. Excellent.

2nd, ‘Remembering Turtle’ - I like stories to do with the war, and this was well told. The only thing that stopped this coming first for me, was a bit of confusion at the beginning. I couldn’t tell whose voice was telling the story. Might just have been me having a special moment, but I had to re-read the opening section two or three times before I could get my head around it. Aside from that, brilliant. 3rd, ‘In London From Arles’ - I liked the originality of this story and the way it unfolded.

All in all, I’d say this is one of the strongest selections of stories I’ve seen in Scribble to date, with a nice variety of genres. Thanks to all the contributors for taking the time to write such entertaining tales.

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About Scribble

Scribble is a quarterly short story magazine, printed in the UK and distributed world-wide. Each month around ten stories are published in the magazine and readers vote for the winner. First prize is £75, second prize is £25 and third prize is £15. Each writer who has a story published receives a complimentary copy of the magazine. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll also receive a £4 voucher off your next subscription. There is a 3,000 word limit on entries, but stories can be of any genre or theme.

Scribble offers an excellent opportunity for new and established writers to have their work published in print. It also has some unique qualities I have yet to find anywhere else in the world of printed short story magazines.

  • The best thing about Scribble is its community of writers and readers, all giving feedback on each other’s short stories. You’re able to engage with the magazine, its writers and readers, by voting for what you deem to be the best stories in each issue. The magazine will print any comments you make about your choices. So, while David (the editor) decides the shortlist, the readers judge the outcome. This works well in two ways:
    • One, if your story is published, it’s really nice to receive comments and opinions from lots of different people; you effectively receive multiple mini-critiques. Some people will love your work, some won’t, but it’s interesting to receive feedback from readers with a variety of tastes. It’s also interesting to see what other readers love about stories you hate, or hate about stories you love. You can learn a lot (primarily that you can’t please everyone, even if you’re J K Rowling).
    • Two, voting encourages you to think like a short story competition judge. What do you like about the stories you’re voting for? What makes one better than another? What criteria do you judge by? It’s interesting, and allows you to consider your own work in a different way. In my opinion, it has made my own writing better as I’m more critical of myself which results in a higher quality of output.
    • For me, these two factors are what set Scribble aside from the rest. I’m unaware of any other printed magazine which offers this unique quality, apart from Park Publications other magazines, Debut and Countryside Tales (Scribble’s sister publications), which work using a similar format. FYI - in July 2012, due to rising printing and postage costs, Scribble and Debut will merge to become one magazine.
  • Scribble publishes many different styles and genres of short story; entries simply need to be fresh and original. I like this in a magazine as the variety makes it more interesting to read. It also means, no matter what style or genre you write, your work will be considered for publication. And, as a reader, you can learn from stories written in styles and genres that you wouldn’t usually read.
  • Scribble only publishes stories. There are no articles, no features, no nonsense. It’s all about fiction. In my opinion, this is another thing that makes it special.
  • Entry into the competition is £3, or free if you’re a subscriber.
  • The only thing I don’t like about the competition is that you have to enter by post. I like the fact that the magazine is printed rather than being online, as there is something special about seeing words on paper rather than a computer screen, but entering by post, to me, seems old fashioned. And I guarantee it will put some people off entering the competitions (probably younger writers). This comment comes from years of working in SEO and internet marketing – I’ve worked on conversion-rate optimisation for many clients in many different business sectors. Essentially, the following rule can apply to any business: remove ALL obstacles relating to conversions. This means giving your clients / customers what they want, not what you want to give them. If I were the editor, I’d simply offer entries by post and email. If there are reasons why email entries aren't practical, I'd work on a way to make them practical. Despite favouring the printed format, I’d probably consider printing and publishing online too [since writing these comments, I'm pleased to say that Scribble now accepts submissions via post and online].
  • The regularity of the competition means you can enter at anytime during the year and have a higher chance of publication than you do in the annual competitions. Same as comments on the Devil’s Crush page re Writers’ Forum - it’s down to maths. More frequent competitions mean you’re up against fewer entries, so you have a greater chance of being published. Simples.
  • David Howarth (the editor) and his team provide some excellent publications. Scribble was launched in 1999 and has built up a strong readership which writers can now take advantage of. I hope David is proud of what he’s achieved, as it’s of great value to the writing community. And I hope Scribble continues long into the future.

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Comments:

Your comments:

Jo F
Well done

Jamie M
Ooo check you out. Nice one mate , look forward to reading it. I am sure Alison will be commenting on this ( in a good way of course)

Lynne S
Fantastic ! Brilliant! Very creative x

Janet G
I felt compelled to read about your experiences with Scribble as I used to subscribe, entered quite a few stories and never made it! So I was slightly irked when I found your story to be very over written, but I did enjoy the ending. 

I have put your website on my favourites and plan to browse further as I am a competition addict; I have won a couple of prizes, been in anthologies and short listed a dozen times.
I am a technophobe so my website is fun rather than sophisticated!

Chris Fielden
Hi Janet, I suppose the key is to keep trying with Scribble. I had a couple of stories rejected before they accepted this story. If you keep sending work in, I'm sure you'll be published in the magazine at some point! 

A few people commented on over writing with regard to this particular story, but a lot of readers seem to like its fantastical and imaginative nature, which is what I was concentrating on when I wrote it. I would guess that's why it was selected for publication. You can never hope to please everyone with your writing, so I find it best to try and focus on the readership a story is aimed at - in this case, readers who enjoy fantasy. At least if people don't like what you write, when it's published it opens discussion, which is why I've left this one as it is and not reworked it (yet, anyway) :-) 

One of the good things about Scribble is that the editors are happy to publish a wide range of styles and genres of story to a readership with differing tastes, allowing writers to receive comments from readers who wouldn't normally read their work, as well as those that would. It's a great little mag. I'd strongly urge you to persevere and send more work in :-)

Best of luck with your writing.

Janet G
Thanks for your prompt return comments. Yes it would be dull if everyone wrote in the same style and there are not many magazines like Scribble, packed with stories. I have had success in the ether with 'e-Literate' - a story in the Feb and March issues. As this is a new venture, wondering if they have not had many sent in yet, seems worth a try for others!

Chris Fielden
Thanks for the tip Janet :-) Writers' Forum is another good one as they run regular competitions and you can receive feedback about your entry for a low fee.

Frank D
I'm glad I found Scribble in a Google search! I read manuscripts for a series of online magazines of different genres and have been published in both enthusiast magazines (non-fiction) and short story magazines in both literary fiction and romance. I plan to submit a story or two to Scribble in the near future.

Chris Fielden
Great Frank, congratulations on the publishing success and best of luck with Scribble :-)

Tara-Marie H
Well done with the story Chris, I found it intense with deep imagery, very unlike my own.

I'm a student studying 'Scribble' for an assignment at the moment and I found your experience and information about it extremely helpful! So, thank you!

Chris Fielden
Welcome, thanks Tara-Marie!

Chris B
I had a quick question if you don't mind.

I've had a short story published in "Scribble" and I'm doing some posts about it for my blog. Since "Scribble" is print only, I'm looking at getting it published online.

I just wondered if you had any idea what counts as "online publishing". Basically I'd like to publish a sample on my blog, just a couple of paragraphs, and to me, that means the story is still unpublished online because it's only a bit of it.

I can't seem to find any advice on publishing samples and whether this counts as previous publication, so just wondered if you knew?

Thanks!

By the way, just so you know, I've recommended you as a speaker to my writers' group! They had another speaker in mind, so they're contacting her first, but I'll let you know if that doesn't come to anything, because I might end up giving you a shout! If that's something you'd be interested in doing of course!

Chris Fielden
Hi Chris, congratulations on having another story published – that’s great news.

I think of it exactly like you – an excerpt or teaser does not mean a story is ‘published’. The hazy bit is how many words constitute a sample. I reckon a couple of paragraphs is fine. David, who runs Scribble, is a very reasonable guy – all my dealings with him have been great. If in doubt, I’d just run it past him. Most publishers appreciate any advertising and promotion a writer will give them, so as long as you only publish a short section as a teaser, they are usually fine with it.

For example, the guest post James Woolf wrote for me recently uses an excerpt of his story, that's actually quite long. Before it was published on my site, he simply asked the London Short Story Prize administrators if they were OK with us doing that. They said yes as it helped gain publicity for their competition and the anthology they produce.

Hope that helps.

Yes, I’d be interested in being a speaker for your group. Just let me know if you want me :-)

Chris B
Hi Chris, that's great - thanks for the advice! It wasn't Scribble I was worried about really, they say they want first publishing rights only and so you can offer work elsewhere after your story's been published. I found a magazine that is looking for stories that are previously unpublished online; Scribble doesn't count, so I just wanted to make sure an excerpt on my blog didn't either!

That's great about possibly being a speaker - I will let you know.

Chris Fielden
Hi Chris, oh right. Well, same principle I guess. Just contact them and ask before submitting / publishing the excerpt. Worth a go :)

Eamonn M
Just to update, Scribble does now take email submissions from subscribers, and to be honest subscribing is the best way to use the mag as otherwise you have to pay a fee to submit. It's also pretty good with a wide variety of stories. My subscription lapsed and I just renewed it, reminded by this website.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks for the update Eamonn, much appreciated.

Suzanne B
It is now June 30th 2017. Is Scribble magazine still being published? I would like to subscribe to it if so, do you know how I go about this?

Their website doesn't have any recent dates on it hence my query.

Thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Suzanne. Yes, Scribble is still publishing. According to their website, they have just released their Summer 2017 edition.

You can see all the details and subscribe via this link.