Friday, 11 December 2009

If men had babies would there be wars?

Anish Kapoor's retrospective at the RA, which closes today, is making the news headlines because of its success, but I thought a load of red candle wax fired out of a canon didn't have the "emotional resonance" advertised. How could it? Kapoor's red was Christmas candle red and matched the RA shop's Christmas gift ideas. However, what do I know? The exhibition was jam-packed when I visited, with a lot of people going cor-wow.

For some emotional engagement, next door there is Wild Things, an exhibition of truly obsessed sculpting geniuses, Gill, Gaudier-Brzeska and Epstein. The show closes with the truly terrifying overpowering Rock Drill by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880 - 1959).

"...the astounding modern reconstruction of Epstein’s terrifying masterpiece Rock Drill of 1913-15, at once the first representation of a robot in art, and one of the first times a found object (a real rock drill) had been incorporated unchanged into any work of art. Those who first saw the statue were shocked by what looked to them like a big, aggressive phallic symbol. But as the Great War took its toll, it became impossible to see the towering mechanical creature as anything other than a symbol of death itself in an industrialised form. For now the robot and his tool looked like a machine gunner indiscriminately mowing down anything that crosses his path."

Look carefully at the torso, and you can see it appears to contain an unborn child.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Morrissey's Life Writing

I was in Tate Modern St Ives a few weeks ago and discovered some unpublished life writing by Morrissey tucked away in the book that accompanies the exhibition The Dark Monarch, Magic and Modernity in British Art. I thought it was pretty good. It's called The Bleak Moor Lies. Supposedly from his forthcoming autobiography.

I put it up on the Morrissey forums, and someone posted the whole story contravening copyright. I don't know why it's not published yet. Maybe a/ publishers won't pay Morrissey enough, or b/ publishers wanted the story of his bust ups/drugs to compete with Jordan/Ant and Dec, not really his kind of thing. Anyway, Saddleworth Moor is where Hindley and Brady hid their victims, and I think Morrissey's ghostly encounter is pretty well done.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Open Letter to Simon Cowell

Dear Simon,

You don’t know us, Simon, but we are Big Alf, Big Arthur, Big Wilf and Big Sid collectively known as the Lewes Posse. You are an hero to us down here in The Tally Ho! on the south coast of England, although sadly, not Big Sid who passed away on Saturday and never knew his one big love, Cheryl Cole, made it to number one.

We have taken the big bold step of writing to you because we have heard that you will leave Britain if John and Edward win. You, like us, are outraged by John and Edward. The success of those two talentless twerps in a honest, decent, talent show is beyond belief. You, like us, are appalled that ordinary people can be taken in by utter rubbish. What a disgrace! Rest assured that we too will leave this once great island together if, heaven forbid, they actually win.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, Simon. Take heart! We too are all appalled at how few of those so-called acts can actually sing or dance. Like you, Simon, we too are able to see through fakery, confront deluded fools, and puncture inflated egotists. Take Bill Oddie for one. How often are we all called upon to bravely lance the boil of those upstarts who cannot hold down a decent tune and who try to deceive us by pulling the wool over our eyes? With your good judgment, and honest manly forthright opinions, together we can change Britain for the good. We are all agreed that with you in charge, Simon, Britain can once again be truly called great. So please don’t leave, Simon. I know you have business interests abroad. I too have business interests in Spain and the Costa del Sol, but like me, your roots are here and believe me you have great support here in The Tally Ho!

We would go as far as to say we are one hundred per cent behind Her Majesty in finding room for a great man like you in the New Years Honours list. And it is with great honour that I can hereby announce that your efforts have not gone completely unnoticed, and you have at least been made a freeman of The Tally Ho! here in Lewes. We all look forward to seeing you here soon although please be aware that in November we have the men in to do the drains while it's quiet before Christmas.

Your truly
Big Alf, Big Arthur, Big Wilf and Big Sid (RIP)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Alien Abduction in Upper East Side

After five nights in New York, I'm disoriented and my body clock is messed up but it was well worth it. NY was very inspiring. I had a hundred ideas for years of work. I’d never been to the US before. Caroline wanted to go, but I didn’t. From a UK writer’s point of view, I’m very glad I went. The effect was extraordinary. Getting out of JFK airport felt like the great weight of the UK’s resentful class system was lifted away, and suddenly everything and anything was possible. It’s no surprise that my writing credits have either been in my home town of Manchester, or the US.

I like New Yorkers. They have empathy, they’re realistic, pessimistic, funny, ironic, polite, sympathetic, direct, open and encouraging, Stop to take a photo and others stop to approve, and to see what you’re doing. NY is the place where you don’t get people trying to take you into care for being yourself. This photo of road works in East 64th typified my week. I passed a chaotic scene where workmen were lifting these huge lids off New York to let the steam out. But when I nipped back to take a photograph, there wasn't a workman in sight.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Lolspeak and Lolcatz

I met a man who worked for the OED last Saturday, and told him about the "esoteric in-joke" language Lolspeak, and its cartoon-like manifestation Lolcatz. He was very excited, but he was really just fixated on the idea of discovering a new language as though he was some kind of valiant frontiersman making forays into the world of ordinary folk. He didn't seem to get the joke and expressed a fashionable disregard for the apostrophe. He probably thinks Lolspeak celebrates the inept, and of course he was terrified of appearing elitist.

A very laid back Canadian company I once worked for actively encouraged expression in office clothing. A lot of people saw this as an opportunity to express that they were beach bums by choosing to wear t-shirts and torn denims. Big mistake. The company wanted to see people choose to be smart. It’s the same with the apostrophe. I don't like people saying, "It's the "grocer’s apostrophe". There's a lot about the British class system in that. If you choose to misuse them, you are in danger of being grouped with people who can’t use them. In reality, this never happens because people can misuse apostrophe in a not-posh way, and that's called Lolspeak.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Against Objectification of Women

I listened to Radio 4 Woman's Hour this morning and heard Eleanor James talking about feminism and Britney amongst other things. So I added my name to the NUS statement against objectification in student unions @

Monday, 14 September 2009

Steve Dearden

I've been trawling the Internet for work by the writers in the Brace Anthology (Comma Press). My motive is to see whether Comma Press look like they'd be sympathetic to my style without actually buying the anthology. I was pleased to discover that Steve Dearden gives a great sample of his work, the opening of his story Clare Counting in Brace. Would Comma Press be interested in the things I write? How should I know?

I fouled up my Friday afternoon submission, addressing the covering letter to the person who replied last time. The guidelines clearly said address it to all editors. Silly me. Anyway, I apologised to them profusely, and it looks as though they'll consider it. All contacts with anybody are an opportunity though, even when it's an embarrassed apology.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Another Effort Sails Out

I pinged a US sci-fi mag a few months ago and received a generous rejection, so I'm trying them again with a 1250 word story I wrote in spring. It failed once with another US mag, and I've done a great deal of work on it since. I have three more stories in the wings which I'll be sending to the US before returning to the novel.

I constantly search for equivalent UK magazines, but never find anything. I Googled some writers in Brace, a 2008 UK anthology published by Comma Press, but never found a single example of their work published anywhere online.

Maybe I should Google harder and for longer. If I was an anthologised English writer, I'd be promoting my writing through my web pages. Maybe English writers think the web is beneath them. Anyway, Charlotte Allan, Juliet Bates, Annie Clarkson, Adam Connors, Steve Dearden, Paul de Havilland, Tyler Keevil, Richard Knight, Jacqueline McCarrick, Neil McQuillian, Chris Killen, Heather Richardson, David Rose, Guy Russell, and Guy Ware. Where is your work online?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rejected by Expanded Horizons

Rejected by Expanded Horizons after I queried, but I never received the original email.

Wished me the best of luck with my writing though, and then declined my Expanded Horizons Live Journal community membership request.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Non Response From Expanded Horizons

Two issues of Expanded Horizons came out since I submitted a story to them.

Editor Dash never replied to my submission, so I think I can move on with this story. Maybe the email never reached its destination. They're a small mag.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back On Shorts

Short stories again. I looked at some new material, and it looks good. I have a lot of work ahead. Some stories that have been around benefitted from a rewrite and I'm very excited about one in particular.

I worked on the novel for four weeks. Most of that was spent reworking the ending. I'll leave it four weeks and come back to it again.

Friday, 14 August 2009

About My Writing Credits - Eclectica Magazine

The editors at Eclectica have had the wisdom and foresight to publish my stories over the years. I was spotlight author in 2006@

Eclectica was founded in October 1996 with the goal of providing a sterling quality literary magazine on the World Wide Web. At the time we were not able to find a forum that would be the net equivalent (in terms of content) of Harper's, New Yorker, Granta, The Atlantic, and other publications providing quality material for the appetites of a wide variety of demanding readers. Although some of these magazines even had their own web-sites, they were conceived as companions to the print items rather than sites that stood completely on their own."

"Thus Eclectica was born. The vision we shared was that of a magazine not bound by formula or genre, that harnessed technology to further the reading experience rather than for the sake of flashy gimmickry, and that was dynamic and interesting enough content-wise to keep readers coming back for more."

"Thirteen years later, quality is still the sole criterion in our editorial process. If it is outstanding writing, then we want to share it with our ever growing, global readership. We provide broad categories for convenience's sake, but we love to get material that just doesn't fit into them. And while there are many, many online publications now that succeed, to greater or lesser degrees, in doing what we set out to do in 1996, we pride ourselves on being one of the longest-running and most consistent literary ezines on the web."

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

About My Writing Credits - Verbsap

My stories Have You Quite Finished? and Think Of a Name For It appeared in VerbSap - "an independent online literary magazine featuring an eclectic selection of concise prose."

"We publish more than 100 short stories and author interviews each year, showcasing the work of recognized and emerging writers."

"Our authors have been awarded Pushcart Prizes, Nebula Awards, and major grants such as The Guggenheim Fellowship, and many stories originally published in VerbSap have been reprinted in independent collections. Over the past three years, more than 20 stories from VerbSap contributing writers have featured on the storySouth Million Writers Award list of notable online fiction."

Laurie Seidler

"Founding Editor of VerbSap and a former Reporter, Editor, and Bureau Chief for Dow Jones & Co. Her reporting has appeared in in The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers, and she has had short fiction published in various literary journals. She is a graduate of Yale University and has an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. She lives in San Jose with her husband and son."

Randall Osborne

"Writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in,, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Progressive magazine, among others. He is finishing a book of stories."

Paul Schweer

"(Seen Waking) is a part-time student at Rollins College. His work can be found online at AikiWeb. He lives with his wife Cheryl in Apopka, Florida."

Neil Crabtree

"Lives in Miami, FL, and offers commentary through his daily blog, Believable Lies. He is completing a novel, The Barricades of Heaven, and a short story collection, Isolated Incidents."

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

About My Writing Credits - Transmission Magazine

Transmission is one of many magazines to have had the foresight, intelligence and great taste to publish two of my stories.

The people behind Transmission are:

Graham Foster

“Graham is the ukulele-playing, garlic-obsessed editor of Transmission. While, at best, he has an amateur knowledge of all things horticultural, he writes regularly for Urban Garden Magazine. His particular literary passion is contemporary North American literature, something he is indulging by studying for a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he also teaches. His writing has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Literary Review and Times Literary Supplement. He believes there is no greater pleasure than reading a quality book while drinking a quality beer…”

Jo Phillips

“Jo is the gentleman designer of Transmission. He is a softly-spoken perfectionist who whiles away his time at the club, slim cigar in hand, singing Russian folk songs with his elegant, lilting voice. Not content with being the aesthetic brains behind the magazine, he also reveals his love and knowledge of literature at key moments. Jo has a degree in the History of Art and Design, but really his eyes are firmly on the future.”

Stephen Ireland

“When not huddled behind his computer screen, exercising his computer wizardry, web-designer Steve is Transmission’s in-house action man. While his team-mates would weep at such activity, Steve likes nothing more than a throwing himself down some gushing rapids in his kayak. His love of the white water aside, he also enjoys thunderstorm hikes followed by a bottle of red. He is also the creative force behind Ivyparkmedia, a web-design company with extra ones and zeroes…”

“Transmission is a sturdy skiff on the turbulent waters of independent literature, packed with a cargo of the best short fiction. It features exclusive interviews, articles, writing guidance from industry professionals and reviews.”

“Transmission is designed to appeal to literature lovers from writers and academics, to bibliophiles and bookworms. Published tri-annually on a not-for-profit basis, Transmission continues to explore the choppy waters for the best and most original literary voices.”

“We publish only the best short fiction and with every piece illustrated with original artwork, we hope to stand out from the crowd. We are amongst a very small number of UK printed magazines solely dedicated to the short story. While we don’t pay for submissions, if your work is published you can be sure it will find itself in a well-respected literary magazine (that’s us!), alongside interviews and writing guidance from established authors and industry professionals.

“A magazine showcasing some of the finest writing talent.” – BBC Online

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Attack!!!! 13 Is Out Now - only £2 including postage!

Issue 13 of Attack!!!!, inspired by Gethan Dick's piece "Mouth", was launched by Wes White at the Attack!!!!tacular event on July 4th and is now available to buy online.

'Mouth' - a spell for fixing broken heads - is reprinted at the start of this issue, and Gethan also designed the cover.

Ruth Moog Baker, Lawrence Bradby, Johanna van Fessem, Sophie Hanson, Jared Konopitski, Steve Leighton, Myriam G.S. Mestiaen, Alastair McInnes, Chris Murray, Erica Viola and Wes White all feature with original writing and artwork inspired by Gethan.

Click the link above for more details or go straight to the relevant shop page here -

- to order it.

Back issues also available there.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Time to go back to the novel

I'm working on several stories at a time, but this burst of story writing started as a distraction from writing a novel which I started in August 2008, and put aside on (checks diary) Friday May 1st, nearly three months ago. I was bored with seeing it each day after nine months and I've had two stories published as a boost to confidence as a result of the lay-off.

So the novel should all be horribly fresh when I see it again. Hopefully, it will be great, but more likely it will need another year's work. Never mind. 18 months is the minimum to write a novel, and summer is when everyone writes their blockbusters (6000000 pages of how a boy wizard called Harry Trotter took on the might of the British boarding school). There's no point rushing to get into the already heaving slush piles.

I want to submit it to an indie publisher in December, and for that I need the first three chapters. The first three chapters are greatly affected by how the whole novel feels, so I like to complete the whole thing and then redo the beginning. It's like running 1o0 metres, and then going back to the start to run the first 10 again. In writing you can do this. In running if you get the start wrong, the race is over, but not in writing. Not until the printer whirrs.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Yet Another Rejection

No names mentioned by me this time because it was a standard, polite no thank you, and thank you for thinking of us. I have lots of stories rejected, and it's very unusual to have a rejector that doesn't at least thank me for the effort.

Rejections remind me that nothing comes easily with fiction. Intense work is always needed to lift a story into the limelight, and then what?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A Tongue Lashing Rejection

Bards and ... a comprehensive slagging off by editor Julie Ann Dawson that leaves me in no doubt she didn't like it. The story was well-received by another mag, although also rejected. "The conclusion is completely out in left field," she rants. Sorry, folks. I must try harder.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Attack!! Issue 12

Attack!! issue 12 is now out.

Attack is a series of collections of works on the same theme by invited contributors.

I'm a contributor to issues 2, 5, 7 -12 and it really is a great magazine.

Stories that will lead you along strange ways

Rainy City Stories: Sofa Sorbet @

The Front View (aka The View From Here) (ISSN 1758-2903): Telescopes @

Transmission 6 (ISSN 1752-3729): Nobody Knows a Damned Thing @

Transmission 4: The North is So Much Better for Youngsters Today @

Nobody Told the Horse, I Hadn’t Even Started and Not Your Problem (Surprising Stories) @

Think of a Name For It (Verbsap) @

The Day I Asked Blake Morrison If He Raced Pigeons (Eclectica) @

Swing Naked, How They Looked at the Sun and Roads That Go On and On (Eclectica Spotlight Author) @

There Has to Be a Better Balance (Eclectica) @