Thursday, 23 June 2016

Guest Post - Author Jim Webster

I've "met" jim Webster through the Goodreads site and he is that rare virtual beast who is both erudite and chockfull of common sense, so when he puts across a point of view it is measured and demands serious consideration, as against all the other shouty voices you encounter. Jim's blog is always a good read and like me Jim has published books in double figures spanning science fiction and fantasy adventure. He has his latest book just out now-

Available from Amazon for just 98p

I asked Jim to blog about whatever he fancied and this is the question he wanted to explore:

How many voices at one time?

It's a question I have wondered about and occasionally discussed with others. When you're absorbed in writing one particular book, you tend to take on the 'voice' of the characters in that book. (Well at least I do.)

This, at least in my case, can spill out of the book a little. When I was in the middle of writing a number of stories for Tallis Steelyard (a poet who dwells secure within a fantasy world of my creation) a young lady asked me directions. She wasn't entirely sure where she was going and on gentle questioning it appeared that her boyfriend had asked her to meet him at work.

This had involved her in a long train journey followed by a bicycle ride out into the middle of nowhere looking for a particular site. I felt this showed both dedication on her part, and an element of taking her for granted on his.

Thus I directed her to where she wanted to go, and as she thanked me, I, or perhaps Tallis Steelyard, gravely informed her that had she been my girlfriend I would have arranged for her to be collected.

Now we had talked for ten minutes, and it was obvious she had a good sense of humour, so she merely smiled and equally gravely replied that she would keep this information in mind for future reference.

But you see the problem. When you write there is an element of getting into the mind of the characters you're writing about and the blighters have a habit of returning the favour.

Unfortunately this has let me down. You see, I wrote six novellas about a character of mine, one Benor. He's a cartographer, dwelling in a fantasy world with no elves, dwarves, dragons or hobbits, and indeed very little magic. The stories are detective stories, and the cunning plan is that like the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can read them in any order. It's a collection rather than a series.

I wrote them, edited them and got everything set up so they're published at four month intervals. The next one is called 'Woman in Love'

The problem is, I'm 75,000 words into a SF novel, and I didn't want to break off. But the realisation that books don't sell themselves has forced me to. So with a mental crashing of gears I've got to leave one set of characters, and re-enter the minds of another set.

The story? To quote the blurb

"Asked to look for a missing husband, Benor finds that the female of the species is indeed more deadly than the male."

Cheers Jim and best of luck with both the new book and the science fiction work in progress.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Afterlife Of Books - Flash Fiction

Collaborations do not afford good literature. As proven by the collusion of stonemason (a serif font for god’s sakes) and your own agent who had penned the epitaph on your tombstone. “Doubtless in Heaven he will be composing some bon mots for the Lord”. What like your His speechwriter or something? Your inner editor would cavil at ‘doubtless’ since the word possesses a range of shades of meaning from probable to certainty. You might rather have opted for the blue pencil inscribing ‘unequivocally’, but there didn’t seem to be pen and paper in whatever this non-state of being you currently resided in. Consonant to being on a life support machine but with minimal brain activity you surmise. Akin to when you used to participate at literary conventions. 

Yet you are preserved here for whatever purpose. In the fleeting moments of mindfulness permitted, you calculated it was due to your books attaining the cachet of the canonical. Such exalted eminence confers true immortality it seems. For all the good that redounds on a deceased you. To be endowed stature without any physical body at all. A corpus sans corpus. See how the pun survives death. God’s cosmic joke? Just like I always wrote. Maybe your agent was right, maybe if you entertain God with a well turned phrase that cracks his stern countenance, then you get togo again down there one earth. Only problem is God hasn’t put in an appearance and you can no longer string together two words. You are entirely reliant on your past body of work. 

There were no hidden manuscripts. No abandoned novels for passing on to a designated writer to complete. Nor had you buried any work in a time capsule to be uncovered and published a hundred years later as some of your contemporaries had hit on for inexplicable reasons. Yet even with no more new works to be published, there were still reissues and new editions of your work and each sale passed through the ether and delivered you a prod in whatever non-protoplasmic state of you existed. A notch on the bedpost of your eternal rest, yet not sufficient to rouse you fully. No, that came with the critique that followed such a sale. For here in the empyreal, you got to experience what down there on earth self-published writers felt when they received notification of a new review. The only cognisance granted you in your perpetual sleep was to digest the critique offered by each and every one of your post-mortem readers. For all the good that it did you. Though perhaps you shouldn’t be quite so churlish, since the continuing royalties will see your family comfortably provided for. The philistine ingrates that they are, one son the professional sportsman and the other a lawyer. You momentarily wondered whether the lawyer had fleeced his sibling out of his share by now, but Elysium’s own censors and legal eagles quickly shut down your narrow window for thought processes. Narrow, it rated more slender than an arrow slit casement in an old stone castle. Hey that’s not a bad metap-

The evanescent periods of time allocated were only to cogitate on a review. Not that you were privileged any right of reply. That made this amorphous condition somewhat of a trial, nay a torture even. Maybe this wasn't the literary realm of the august and the sublime, perhaps it was actually purgatory. The Devil has all the best tunes, but you don’t figure Him to be much of a reader. Instead you are forced to consume a slow but never-ending drip feed of the living’s responses to your moribund output of yore. What does any of it matter now? not to you. And not to the readers either. You could see attitudes shifting slowly (not that you had any concept of time up/down here). No more did you get the sustained terms of sentience when your books were made into a film or TV dramatisation, or some literary critic obligingly reinvestigated you on some anniversary or other so that sales took a spike. You were presumably now off the school curriculums since you no longer received the feeble blip around exam time, when the students were forced to offer their own opinions on your work but found the task beyond their capabilities and trotted out the received notions of their teachers. What happened when you dropped out of people’s consciousness altogether? Membership of the literary canon revoked, presumably you ceased to exist in such renowned status here in literary heaven/hell? A fate that must have befallen Stephen King some considerable time ago? Not that you have any sense of time passing. 

Maybe there was a way of foreshortening the process. After all, what exactly was the value of this non-existence being force-fed your own work back to you by people beyond your own time? Unfortunately it seems your books had changed with context. You could absolutely accept the criticisms offered by these new, contemporary readers. Well figuratively perhaps, since you didn’t actually know what world they occupied, nor what their values were. Nonetheless, you could recant all your work now and bring all this slow torture to an end. Nothing lasts for ever. God? Satan? You’d like to compose a posthumous work. A palinode. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Murder App - Flash Fiction

The assassin’s paymasters had paid other masters of their trade to piggyback the software. The geosocial sex app now became the locus of a most decidedly unsocial hook-up; La petite mort supplanted by la grande mort. That final great big kiss off. A lust for life terminating in its extinction. The lovelorn, the unfaithful and the promiscuous, formed the largest pool for her to locate her designated targets. On any evening, it was only a question of time before the right matching profile loomed into her focus. The lamb for slaughter gambolling right up into her lupine claws. Of course her own (faked) love profile was out there in the ether along murder mile and occasionally people wandered up to engage her. But one glower from her murderous countenance was enough to make them scoot on past. The only protection against this Trojan Horse was chastity. But the names that got on the paymasters’ list were not there because they were exemplary citizens. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


Nursey Nursey bring me your boxy teat
For I crave a proxy milk treat
Of course my surrogate little one
And then off to sleep with you and all done

Oh no Nursey for I like to watch and see
The light come together in embrace over me
I am afeared of the solid shadows of some
Who would eclipse me, unless one be my mum

Your mamma is like you confined abed
Unlike yours we have a name for her dread
Beware no monsters coming in the night
For you arrived during the day full bright
Having eaten her out as full blight
When she popped you into the light
You swallowed the key to lock her caramel brown
Swiped the bung to tamp her blood back down

Is that why her soft pillows cannot give suck?
They smelled divine when I was first laid there
Not like the brack brew from your slack old sacs
How do you lactate when you lack for an heir?

Oh sweet child for someone so choosy
You surely fierce sup me bluesy
You really must lay back your head
I’ll lullaby you full comforted
Sing you a song to row you safely across
Morpheus’ fosse until we recover Helios

Your rhythms cert seem soothing
But your cadence I glean to be reproving
Besides I’ll do no such thing as yield
The dying of the light and my mother unhealed
It will take more reassurance
Than the filched milk of a fireside milch
Such as a nanny goat can provide
My nostrils filled with the reek of sulphide 
Your rotten eggs and brimstone sap
I yearn only to nestle in my mother’s lap

I’ll fire you a tallow to calm your forebodings
Though a flickering wick brings qualms anew
No more nocturnal comings and goings
Goodnight my sweetpea, adieu

Ha the candle affords me still sight
A shaft of flame peeling back the night
No terrors can remain concealed
I espy Nursey yonder in our field
What could she be doing the old witch?
Some midnight herbs to treat her twitch?

Good morning Nursey what a fine dawn
Your look tired, your face all drawn
What were you up to after last vespers?
Saints preserve me with continued willpower
Forever putting me through the wringer with your pesters
So I’ll tell you my little bloomer
For just why I was out under the lunar
With pruning knife I threshed fresh flowers

Are they to adorn my mother’s grave?
Why would you say that you rave? 
Let me feel your head for a fever
Can’t permit another to fall to the reaper

Then take me to drink in their pretty colours
Affirm giddily to possess fitting lustres
To lift the spirits of my ailing mother
Belladonna and poisonous milkweed I’ll wager

The only venomous thing is your lips
Clamped on my bruised and bloodied breast
Squeezing for dear life until the squeak of pips
I don’t believe you, for all the blood and the rest
I venture you infused her with tainted tincture
Under the cloak of her childbirth strictures
Just long enough for her to linger 
Before you apply the fatal cincture

Are your mammaries laced with bane?
Also to carry me off mad with pain?
So you can have my father all alone
Blind with grief stumbling into the arms of a crone
Nursey Nursey wants to play housey housey
Her plan all sown to acquire the throne
Now I know how a never gravid makes milk
My father all trussed up in your spider's silk
Strokes and dandles your udders rancid
Fomenting just like an ant palpates the aphid

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Alzheimat - 300 word Flash Fiction

Broadcasts report that my frontal lobe has been overrun. Lesions of the damned occupy my zones. Shock troops and sapper units deplete my forces. Resistance cells, besieged on all sides. Unable to hold the line. Of my failing self. Just a few loyal partisan remnants of me carrying the fight. Former comrades strafe my grey matter. The neural runways pockmarked by bomb craters blocking take off. Interdicting my diction. I can hear Morse code broadcasts outlined inside my skull. Either that or it is a white noise of electrical waves trying to jump across the ruptures. Mudder, I am ravaged and being stripped of my memories, my experiences, my language and my childhood. I am returning to the state of nothing when I was inside you. Please receive me generously.

They expand upwards ever upwards. Seeking the light, in order to eclipse me. The slow accumulation defying gravity. Honing their aculeation, ready to receive me. To impale me on their spikes. A chalky maiden press. This calcification of my mind. Annexing my powers against me. As I squat huddled at the crown. Dripping rusted parts of my being, to further augment their Babel tower. Stalactite me seeding stalagmite them. Narrowing towards one another, the joust of two knights most unchivalric. If we flawlessly align, our whetted points will just abut, dovetailing harmlessly. Michaelangelo’s god infusing pneuma into a recumbent Adam. The handshake of the Red Army with the American 69th Infantry at the Elbe. But if the pinpoint precision is out by any fraction of a degree, at best we will scrape against one another and send up shower of malignant sparks. At worst they will pierce my mass and fatally gouge my nucleus.

The tragedy, farce, Grand Guignol, Lehrstücke, kitchen sink theatre of my mind has gone dark.