Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The First You & I

My short story, "The First You & I", has recently been published by Little Lantern Press in the debut issue of Skylark Review, and as usual I'm blogging about how the story was written for those who might be interested. There will be spoilers.

The story is quite short and the idea quite simple. One afternoon - childfree - myself and my partner were wandering along the beach at Walcott on the Norfolk coast (a short drive from Norwich where we live). It was an awesome day. The light was perfect and the sky was blue. It struck me at that moment that I would be happy should that day be repeated on a never-ending loop. Nothing else mattered: I felt free to shed the normal responsibilities and accept it as my personal heaven. I would have been happy for that day to extend to eternity.

What resulted was a love story - a paean to our relationship - but also tinged with a little sadness as I realised that for the characters in my story heaven would have to come at a price.

Once I had the idea for this story the title came to me quite randomly. I had a book launch at the Diss Publishing Bookshop in July and opposite where I was sitting was a display of greeting cards. Some of these had words on the cards and as they were stacked they overlapped. "The First" and "You & I" were actually the initial words on two separate cards which spelt "The First You & I" on overlap. Weird how ideas come, but the title seemed perfect for the story where the 'first you & I' is the template for a 'forever you & I'.

An extract is here:

Look at this, you say. I walk towards you, brush my hand on your dress above your hip. An I am here touch. You nod downwards, camera poised. The beach is nature's canvas. Against the flat wet sand the receding sea has raised flower-patterned swirls. They are intricate and beautiful, almost achingly perfect. Art without intent: stripped of meaning they are more than we could ever be. A fresco of seaweed hair.

Prior to publication, I read the story in its entirety at a Poetry Collective event in Norwich. This is available to watch here:

"The First You & I" was written to the album Couer de Pirate by the wonderful Couer de Pirate on repeat.

Skylark Review features twenty-nine poems and five short stories, and also includes Devon Miller Duggan, Jane Burn, Jeffrey C Alfier, Pippa Little, Jane Loechler, Hannah Dellabella, Rachel Plummer, Steve Klepetar, Meggie Royer, Andrea Bowd, Susan Taylor, Cris Harris, Ellen Davies, Michael Dittman, Jane Frank, Laurie Byro, Kate Firth, Di Slaney, Lee Crowell, Beth Schneider, Abegail Morley, Aden Thomas, Guy Traiber, Cheryl Pearson, Judy Darley, Neil Schiller, Abi Hynes and Joel Allegretti.

Monday, 9 November 2015


My short story, "Vulvert", has recently been published in #4 of Confingo Magazine. As usual, I'm blogging a few thoughts as to the writing of the story. There will be some spoilers for those who haven't read it.

A few years ago my partner and I were on holiday in the Lake District. Obviously - both being writers - we talk a lot of nonsense most of the time; mind-warps where our brains just flash shit up and then we speak it. For some reason we spent almost the whole week talking to each other in affected American accents. And at some point during this ridiculousness one of us pronounced the word 'velvet' as 'vulvert'. I remember seizing on it as a cool new word. It held an attraction as a title, but also as a mispronunciation. It sounded like vulva. And vulva and velvet go together hand in hand. Perfect.

When it came to writing the story I decided to include a female protagonist (purportedly) from America who spoke her name that way. I decided to have a male protagonist as a linguist. I discovered that the brain of a shark is very similar in shape to a vagina. I realised that language can be something we hide behind rather than to reveal who we really are. All this from a simple mispronunciation. Here's a bit of it:

I had been flicking through secondhand CDs when I saw her again, the jewel cases click-clacking like high heels on a pavement. She stood opposite, head down, her long black hair parted down the middle with a pale pink strip of skin dividing the two sections of her head similar to the way the medial longitudinal fissure divides the two cerebral hemispheres in the brain. The pink strip had obviously caught the sun, reminding me of another simile: the thin strip of excrement retained within the body of a prawn, albeit with the colours reversed.

"Vulvert" was written listening to Ellie Goulding's "Halcyon" CD on repeat.

Confingo #4 features poetry by Marianne Daniels, Karl Astbury and Helen Torres; short fiction by David Gaffney, Andrew Hook, Matt Harris and Keiran Lambe; photography and artwork from Lucy Ridges, Chan-yang Kim, Jordan Sweke, Rebecca Driffield, Ailsa Rhiannon and Zoe McLean; and an interview with the cover artist, Lucy Ridges. Purchase it here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


My short story, "Us!", has recently been published in the anthology, Creeping Crawlers, edited by Allen Ashley for Shadow Publishing. As usual I'm posting a few comments as to how the story came about for those who might be interested. There will be spoilers.

"Us!" was a story idea I'd had for some time. I can't remember exactly how it popped into my head, but the idea sprang from the 1950s movie, "Them!", in which ants made giant through radioactivity threaten small town America. Perhaps it was because of the emphatic title, however I wondered about telling the story from the ants' perspective. Many SF movies - and certainly many horror movies, if not almost every movie - are built around a them and us scenario. I thought it would be interesting to flip it on it's head. However I never got around to actually writing the thing.

Everything changed when Allen announced he was editing this anthology. I now had an impetus to write. So I popped "Them!" into the DVD player and made some notes. I knew it would be very short - you can't really stay in an ant's head for too long - and I wanted it to follow the movie's storyline but in a way in which certain terminology and understanding was more ant-like than human. I couldn't write the story in ant, after all (click click click clickety-click), but I didn't want it to be too human either. Hopefully I struck the right balance. Here's a bit of it:

We knew we were everywhere, had been for a over a trillion sunrises. In some of our colonies they worship ancestors trapped in amber. Yet despite our experience we knew we had disadvantages. Our enemies had superior vision. Their flyers did not lose their wings after the nuptial flight. Their males rarely died after mating. We had strength - the ability for one to lift twenty. Yet our aggressors had non-organic structures which served to augment them.

The style is quite different from my usual writing, which is probably why it took a definite market to exist for me to write the piece. But I'm pleased with it - it did exactly what I wanted it to. And the fact that it is the lead story in the anthology makes me very happy.

A final thought: Each time I write a story I usually listen to a piece of music on repeat. There was only one song I could possibly play whilst writing this: Antmusic by Adam and the Ants. I played it 35 times on repeat and I don't even like the song. I guess I just like suffering for my art.

Creeping Crawlers is published by Shadow Publishing. Here are the other fine folk who grace it's pages: David Birch, Gary Budgen, Adrian Cole, Storm Constantine, Andrew Darlington, Pauline E Dungate, Dennis Etchison, Edmund Glasby, John Grant, Terry Grimwood, Mark Howard Jones, Alan Knott, Robin Lupton, Ralph Robert Moore, Richard Mosses, Marion Pitman, David Rix, David Turnbull. It can be purchased here.