Milk and thunder

Many had taken refuge on the roofs of the buildings which still stood—the bus depot, the medical clinic—others had clamoured up trees, straddling branches and waving helplessly to the heads and head-shaped objects floating by.

From the ridge, Kobe looked down into the valley at the spume of life and death as if in a trance. Just three hours ago he’d been tying a load of cane to the back of his motorbike, whistling that tune that had been going around, and watching Jora belt the life out of a woollen rug with a piece of driftwood. “Am I so useless to you?” she raged, punctuating each word with a blow of the stick, “Useless! Useless! Useless!”, clouds of dust exploded from the rug’s woollen flanks. Continue reading Milk and thunder

The Bubble – My first and befittingly ignored entry to the 2015 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story competition

The Bubble is frothing at the edge cataclysm. Debt-starved zombies roam the streets of London, desperate to feast on the fresh credit ratings of the financially unburdened.

Sam and Laney are planning their getaway. Will they manage to avoid the malevolent plague and escape the city before it’s too late?

This was my entry to the 2015 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story competition. Someone good won it. They always do.

Frame one of The Bubble Continue reading The Bubble – My first and befittingly ignored entry to the 2015 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story competition

Atheist Children’s Books

Fiction put on hold. The quill hovers over the digital notepad… writing has been placed somewhere on the shelf up near my sheet music and other crusty life goals while I attempt to realise yet another project – Atheist Children’s Books.

Yes, the product of months of procrastination, an idea born of frustration, illumination and wonder, atheistchildrensbooks.org, is finally in progress. With it and through it I hope to promote authors of exceptional works of fiction and illustrated fiction, and maybe, just maybe, help to sprinkle a little reason around the world.

Atheist Children's Books - To whom do you bow?

I want to help!

Great! At the moment the site is very much in development, however if you’d like to contribute to getting it up and running, or are an author of secular, humanist, science or atheist books for kids and would like to promote your book on atheistchildrensbooks.org, please get in touch.

Once I have the site in a reasonable state and all the associated media and assets are ready, I’ll be running a kickstarter campaign or the equivalent in order to raise funds for marketing and development. The aim is not to rule the world, but to make it a nicer place to be.

Peace!

Crawling from the abyss of hypocrisy: Liberate your inner literary critic

I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

Mark Twain

One of the most enjoyable things about learning the discipline of writing is studying those you admire; following the authors who inspire you and whose writing you would walk on fire to be able to emulate. Reading acquires a new dimension as you study their methods, their choice of language and themes, and begin to understand why you love their work.

You might also want to talk about it. Heaping praise on Australian author Tim Winton, at least for me, is easy. I identify with his settings and characters, and I think his prose is magic.

But when may a new writer stand up and level harsh criticism at an ‘acclaimed’ work of fiction with impunity? Which credentials are required? If Mark Twain says he has no right, then who am I to say that I loathed [insert book title from Man Booker prize nominee here]? Who am I to judge? Continue reading Crawling from the abyss of hypocrisy: Liberate your inner literary critic

Literary agnosia and the short story

The DrawerWriters of every genre will recognise the scourge of familiarity; the sense of intimacy with your own work which is so great that it renders your powers of objectivity impotent. Does this story work? Have I chosen the right phrasing? What should I cut? The questions keep coming but no one answers.

When I’m working on a piece, particularly a short story in which every paragraph must count for something, I often lose all perspective. And returning to the page every day only seems to make the condition more acute; proximity threatens to destroy creativity, like a magnifying glass burning ants as it concentrates the sun’s rays. The pressure to produce and finish stories leads to unsatisfactory conclusions or improbable characters, and I think that sometimes I’m writing simply because I feel I have to and not because I want to… or can, for that matter.

So what do we do? Continue reading Literary agnosia and the short story

Alcatraz Dolly (The New Guy)

Alcatraz Dolly

As soon as the new guy arrives, he gets the bed and I’m on the stool with my back to the wall, a lightening rod up my tail.

The warden’s jammed that book in my face again – the one about Mesopotamia, “land between rivers” – the only one in the whole damn library. And on account of my broken shoulder, my hand’s stuck in the air so it looks like I’m throwing the new guy a friendly wave, or waiting for an eventual high-five. As if I care. I don’t even get a chance to complain before it’s lights on.

There’s some interest though. There was bound to be. After all, there are two of us now.  Must be some kind of damn precedent. Continue reading Alcatraz Dolly (The New Guy)

Why rejection letters are the new Xanax

14-rules-of-storytellingI was hay making through the chaff in my inbox recently when I stumbled across a curt email from [enter not-so-prominent journal name here] informing me that my piece entitled [enter short story title] had unfortunately been rejected.

I can’t remember my precise reaction – it may have involved scratching my behind, or sucking out the remaining juice from the Tetley bag stranded at the bottom of the teapot – but it went along the lines of, ‘whatever’. Continue reading Why rejection letters are the new Xanax

Why aren’t more novels illustrated?

As I sit here on my unmade bed surrounded by a few years’ worth of books, I ask myself first, how I ever came to collect so many volumes of literature, and second, who the hell is going to clean up this mess?

Among the teetering towers of words are hardbacks from Dickens, collections of short stories, several Mediterranean countries’ worth of Lonely Planets, and a colossal mound of tattered and mostly unread second-hand paperbacks – tributes to my unquenchable thirst for reading. And proof of my inability to get any done.

I flick through the pages looking for stray bookmarks and loose banknotes, and something strikes me: not one of the works of fiction contains an illustration. Not a sketch. Not a squiggle. Not even a photograph. (Squashed mosquitoes and pasta sauce do not count). Continue reading Why aren’t more novels illustrated?