Friday, 14 April 2017

Sovereignty - Flash Fiction

It was easy for the Fascists to insinuate themselves into the street unrest. They just donned the same Guy Fawkes’ masks as the ultra-democrats. Their own death’s head insignia was more discreet than the skull and crossbones of the pirates and anarchists and more anatomically correct, as they went on unerringly to prove with their clubs and bludgeons. 

Their first act in power was to pension off the old queen. The beloved crone was replaced by a sixteen year old and to solidify her ascension to the throne, the government cut off the internet and tore down phone masts. Sovereignty established with a steampunk aesthetic.   

They ensured this English rose's throne was outsized so that she couldn’t cross her legs as they photographed her with fisheye lenses from floor level. They had her cupping the testicular orb and lubriciously gripping the erect sceptre. They forwent silhouetting, so that men could lick the back of her head when sticking her stamp on a letter, or by stretching out the crinkles in banknotes they could make her flash her pudenda. And when the rape fantasies projected upon her wrought her haggard and drawn, they simply replaced her with a clone. The Royal Line now secured for all eternity, the preservation of pure autochthonous genes sealed. 

They needed no grand gesture to establish their new power, for they didn’t have to blow up Parliament, merely let it crumble away beneath the erosion of the River Thames. However as was their wont, they remained preternaturally superstitious. Accordingly they culled the ravens in the Tower of London to signify a thrusting new kingdom dissevering that of the past. But synchronously the red rose standard and emblem of England was struck by a blight, never to return to the soil of the land, while the Barbary Apes left Gibraltar’s rock to underscore the end of England’s last colonial vestige, gobbled up by the mythic European superstate. Scotland, Northern Ireland and now Gibraltar, a small price to pay for recovering sovereignty in English eyes. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fricative Fricassee - Flash Fiction



















































Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Story Of Story - Flash Fiction

With the summer round of book fairs and literary festivals just around the corner, authors rolled up to the storehouse of stories. They checked in their plots that would keep them fermenting throughout the winter cold, executing them beside a roaring fire. In return they took possession of anecdotes and terminological exactitude, blew the dust off them and dialled their agents to inquire of the travel arrangements, itineraries and Green Room riders.

When their literary rambles and belletristic excursiveness were over for the season, they all assembled at the fabled construction and pushed on through the silo doors only to discover every last one of their story stock had disappeared. They were aghast, with their instinctive reactions of placing their professional pen-holding, or keyboard-palpating hands over either eyes, mouth or ears resulting in a series of tableaus vivant of the Three Wise Monkeys. “What, ain’t you lot ever heard of backing up your work then?” chimed in the warehouse’s custodian, who wrote the odd bit of cyberpunk in his spare time but never showed it to anybody.

“This is an utterable, bloody disaster!” expostulated a writer of the old school.  

“Swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary, or didn’t your mother teach you that bouncing you up and down on her knee?” snarked a writer of erotica. 

“I feel… bereft” sobbed a writer of romances.

“Of course you do dear” smirked the erotician.

“Just because you have no need of a plot in your- I can barely bring myself to call them - stories”.

“Ladies, ladies, come now- who’s that sniggering? I hardly think this is a situation that invites levity. We have all just lost the entire wellspring of stories-“

“All seven of them-”

“- That affects us all”.

“- Not me squire, I write anti-novels”.

“What are you doing here then?”

“My Steampunk writer pal is giving me a lift home from ‘Wilderness’ festival, but he had to stop here to load up his saddlebags”.

“They can’t just have vanished”.

“Recycling’s Tuesdays, so can’t have been carted off in a commercial waste lorry”.

“Not funny”.

“Call this dialogue? It’s bloody rubbish”

“Yes, well we’re rather lacking for stories to hang realistic characterisation on at the moment, aren’t we?”

“Magical Realism bloke, can’t you conjure up something for us here?”

“I got nothing”.

“Christian Fiction guy?”

“I do redemption endings not deus ex machina ones”.

“Pretty simple really. Someone’s nicked them. Half-inched the schemata, hitched up our storylines and had our narratives away on their toes”.

“What on earth are you talking about you ridiculous little woman?”

“Clues me dear. It’s what I deal in. Detective fiction at your service”.

“Well your books can’t be much cop. Our plots haven’t been stolen so much as devoured and consumed. We writers of Police procedurals do things properly. By the book. Anyone here pen forensic science protags?”

“Yeah I do and I see what you mean. There’s insect husks scattered all around here”.

“What are they, boll weevils?”

“I dunno mate. I’m not an entomologist, I’m a writer. I’m the geezer who emails the entomologists when I need some facts”.

“Well here’s a fact for you, boll weevils feed on cotton, not stories. Not paper. Something you’d know if you read my saga on slavery and the Deep South”.

“Oh, I remember that book. When the critic pointed out the infestation that destroyed the crop only happened long after abolition and the Civil War”. 

“Yes, well poetic licence and all that”.

“Historical Fiction, or as we call it, Anachronic-ism”

 “I think you’re all missing the point here. The custodians have a duty of care to our germs of ideas. So we should demand redress. Write a wrong, compensation for lost earnings”.

“Germs of ideas? That’s more Billy Burroughs’ territory. Words as virus”.

“Billy Burroughs? Close personal friend were you?”

“Wasn’t everybody?”

“Plot hole my fictive friend, Burroughs has been dead nigh on two decades. Can’t have been responsible for this”.

“Copycat? Plagiarist?”

“Is no one listening to me?”

“Probably not. Cos no one’s read you I know that much”.

“We should sue the Depository.

“I think you mean sue the Repository?”

“No, I mean Depository”.

“You don’t know what you mean. You don’t know what you’re talking about”.

“You’re splitting hairs”.

“No I’m being pedantic. If they meant exactly the same thing, we wouldn’t need two different words would we?”

“Oh go shove it up your sphincter”.

“He’ll require a suppository then”.

“Fellow writers and Creative Writing Fellows, we can still solve the riddle here. The husks are shed larval skins. Therefore there should be adult insects round here somewhere. We should be able to tell what they are then and what they’ve done with our stories”.

“This might be a clue! This big lump of earth in the corner here!”

“A termite mound! Yes, I’m pretty sure termites eat wood pulp, so paper would fit their diet”.

“Well where the hell does that get us?”

“Into the mound! Our words would be excreted by the insects, so if we can collect them all up, maybe we could reconstruct the plot lines”.

“What are we looking for exactly? What does termite pooh look like?”

“Termite ‘pooh’? What are you, a children’s author?”

“You don’t need to go scrabbling about on the floor. That mound is part earth, part termite faecal matter”.

“I’m an artiste darling, I’m not plunging my hand into a mound of insectile cloaca for literature or anybody”. 

“That’s not true of your last book”.

“That’s not just a mound… that is the literary Omphalos. The font of all story”.

“Who let the prose poet in here?”

“The literary Omphalos, here in Hay-On-Wye, are you sure?”

“Insects, this is all a bit Kafkaesque don’t you think?”

“Kafka’s insects were more metaphorical than literal I would have said”.

“What, insects devouring our words then shitting them back out as pellets and making a tower of them isn’t a metaphor you mean?”

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Gyre - Flash Fiction

Bodies on display in the street. Burst pipes spewing clean water and dirty sewage like impromptu fountains. I stood at the lip of the crater where my parents’ home once stood. I didn’t know if they were dead or had just fled. Either way it amounted to the same outcome. We were asunder one from another for good. There was nothing keeping me here, but plenty to propel me away.

I headed westwards. Among a gaggle of others. Some stopped and turned around to pray in the direction we were forsaking. Other than that religious prescription, they didn’t bother to look back. They weren’t praying for a return to their homeland. For the rest of us, our new god faced the other way. We honoured the sun setting on our lives by making a headlong pilgrimage accelerating our progress there.

As more joined our throng, we felt like a drove being prodded by an unseen goatherd. I couldn’t see a bell around my neck alerting to our presence, yet wranglers eyed us suspiciously at the border. They branded us with their marks on our papers yet would not let us stay on as their property. They marched us past ranks of policemen stood in front of wire fences, through which locals shook their fists through the mesh and screamed at us. We were put in a temporary camp at their other border, where we were now the ones contained behind wire, resting and wringing our hands through the chinks, but we were missing the third limb, that of any police to protect us from predations by others within the wire.

We moved on. Hanging from trains or 4x4s like creeping vines, though some of us human berries dropped off and were crushed underfoot, or were threshed by non-fruit pickers. Whether juice, pulp or seed, the ferment in our wakes meant we could not lay down roots here. 

And on we trudged. Overhead a flock of geese. The child next to me threw himself to the ground. He thought their tight formation presented them as a fleet of military aircraft, or perhaps their array of freshly released bombs. No one helped him up. These aerial migrators glided unerringly straight where we ploddingly snaked. Their voyage smooth since they were never challenged for their papers. They were ebulliently raucous where we were bone-wearily silent. They flew perpendicularly over us and I contemplated adopting their direction from latitude to longitude. But I could not raise my feet high enough to escape the rut in the sand that our human train had pressed and carried on in line. 

We reached the coast and found that the sea would always welcome us with open arms. Would always have berths for us to lay down and never rise again. Packed into boats like sardines, once the boat was tipped up and emptied, we scattered and were spread out on the waves. The boats sunk but we floated bloated. Until we were hooked like a fish at a funfair (that too would only live for the shortest time), or we finally settled on land, buried beneath its soil.

In Europe as we were passed from pillar to post, or rather temporarily lashed one from the other, I thought of the Wandering Jew. Supposedly our mortal enemy, now we walked in his exact footsteps. Had he closed the way for us several centuries later? He of course had the advantage of being a shoemaker who could thus repair his own leather, where our callused and bloodied hooves were not so fortunate. Our feet aped that of the European messiah where nails had been driven in to tether him to his pillar and post. The natives do not offer us such sympathy, devotion or care. Instead they hit us, shout for us to pick up our feet to go quicker and not to loiter. 

And so we do. We get the same reception in every country we cross into. Which is to say no reception at all, we are not received in the slightest. We are like the interference on TV screens, the white noise on the wireless, with which one turn of the dial they tune us out and restore their home broadcasts. Eventually we wash back up on the shores of our original homeland. We have traversed the earth seeking sanctuary. And right now our levelled home ringed with fire and bullets, our fellow countrymen rounded up and compacted like shawarma meat on the rotisserie before periodically a giant knife comes and slices off the outer layers, looks more inviting than the treatment we have previously received at the closed hands and hearts of our fellow man.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Entomology Of Love - Flash Fiction

We drifted apart. Uncoupled. Split from one another. Broke up. Leaving a stinger embedded in each other's thorax. Though we ourselves perish from such abdominal rupture, the barb continues to mete out our venom in place of the nectar we used to rub on one another. We were like mosquitoes, with proboscises sunk inside each other's flesh, insensible to the draining of our own lifeblood. Sapped until our baneful sucker is so bloated we cannot but fail to notice and swat it in a hemolymphatic spume. We scratch and tear at every single lens of each other's Argus eyes, until there are no ommatidium remaining and we are returned as blind as the squirming larva we once were. As we now strive to move on, we moult the constricting chitinous coagulation of our exoskeleton, so our spiracles can respire freely once again. Yet palpating at the hollow husk of the shed me with my antennae, I can't help feeling that represents the real me now. Wherefore my new carapace in which I reside is just some regressed puparium from which I will never hatch again. My wings folded into the flexion line of my back, never to unfurl and propel me again. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

"Man-tra" Flash Fiction

Some words are incontestable. Words like fuselage and undercarriage elicit only one possible association. There are no shades of meaning, no half-life decay from their etymological root. But then there are other words who offer an artist’s palette to choose from. Like the word ‘Father’. A myriad of fathers festoon our lives. From religious pastors tending the spirit of their flocks, through to founding fathers who establish nations and institutions and bodies of thought. Protectors and providers all. 

But there is another cohort conjured up by the word. A far more abstract genus. Abstract as in absent. Associated with a hole. A fissure. An absentee god the father who never shows himself. Or the more humble father my progenitor, who created me. Implanted me in my mother’s womb before skedaddling. A brotherhood may well be about fellowship and fraternity, but fatherhood is a singular mission. A one-to-one commission. A vocation. One which you have avoided and voided. Oh my father why have you forsaken me? 

‘Father’ is a richly bankrupt word for me. Multiply duplicitous. It should represent constancy, a shroud, an aegis set over me. Instead every day it sets my heartstrings a thrum with lack. That I am on the move, constantly vibrating on the lookout for my missing father. Questing in the arid desert. That I am forever recriminating myself with guilt and doubt that I must have driven him away. That he could not love me because I am unlovable. That I do not deserve a father because of my inherent undesirable being. But today I am aware he is held within the fuselage of a plane, whose undercarriage I await the lowering of in order to requite him to me. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Al Gore's Rhythm Method (Parental Advisory) - Flash Fiction

O ym herbrot, owh esfar uyo? Teraf het astl odeepis easepl iveforg isth nerman fo tingwri, tbu I otcann og ughthro therano linggril ta het dshan fo eth licepo. Ullyhopef hist illw oxf nya eillancesurv rithmalgo otsb. Rewsc ouy SAN & QGCH!

Ayanyw no ot pierhap ingsth. I overeddisc veralse inef bumsal fo orey ni ondsec ndha ordrec hopss sterdayye. Het rstfi si Sivemas Ackatt’s “Uebl Nesli”, meso tonkings unest heret. Xtne pu, Thraxan’s “Ongam Het Vingli” si ssiccla rashth talme. Tgo na inalorig singpres fo het Ung Ubcl PL “Iamim” hichw si ampsw esblu ta sit stbe. Allyfin Ombb Het Sbas “Earcl” thwi cea cktra “Gbu Derpow” encingrefer Liamwil Oughsburr “Kedna Nchlu”.  Erfulwond ffstu.

I stmu og own ym herbrot. Leasep phercy oury plyre.



Fight Back - The Threat Of Donald J Trump

So not three weeks into trump's Presidency and a lot of people on social media and artists are proclaiming the need to not only resist, but to #fightback. I blogged my advice for strategic & targeted resistance last week. But this week represents my #fightback contribution with some cartoons I devised and which I moved quickly to get them illustrated and out there. An artistic response can be quick. Obviously sitting down to write a political novel would take too long, events at the rate they're proceeding currently would have moved on so far by the time it was published, the novel would be out of date. So artists may need to be adaptable and find other mediums. The wonderful art was provided by Wilbur Dawbarn

Saturday, 11 March 2017

20 Anti-Fascist Songs

I wrote a post about the history of the movement "Rock Against Racism" but as we lurch from bad to worse in a post-Brexit, Donald Trump world, I'm now going to post a video playlist of specific anti-Fascist or anti-Nazi songs. The songs don't really require any smart-arse comments from me but can stand alone and speak for themselves.


1) Leadbelly "Mr Hitler"

2) Woody Guthrie - "All You Fascists Bound To Lose"

3) Linton Kwesi Johnson - "Fight Dem Back"

4) Tom Robinson - "Power In The Darkness"

5) Gang Of Four - "Outside The Trains Don't Run On Time"

6) Crass - "The Gasman Cometh"

7) Steel Pulse - "Ku Klux Klan"

8) Dead Kennedys - "Nazi Punks Fuck Off"

9) Men They Couldn't Hang - "Ghosts Off Cable Street"

10) The Specials - "Why?"

11) Fire Engines - "We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thang"

12/13) Minutemen - "Political Song For M.Jackson To Sing" / "Fascist"

14) The Fall - "Who Makes The Nazis?"

15) Propaghandi - "The Only Good Fascist Is A Dead Fascist"

16) The Ex - "They Shall Not Pass"

17) MDC - "John Wayne Was A Nazi"

18) Blaggers ITA - "House Of The Fascist Scum"

19) Sonic Youth - "Youth Against Fascism"

20) The Dicks- "No Fascist friend"

Monday, 6 March 2017

Akashic Books have published one of my short stories

Akashic Books who were the first publishing company to publish 2015 Booker Winner Marlon James, have published my story "Dubmisstep" as part of their "Mondays Are Murders" noir in real locations series.

You can read it here

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Meditation Ex-Cathedra : Flash Fiction

When the levee of my mother’s natal waters broke; when the champagne bottle was dashed against her cervix and started my baby hull moving down the rollers of the birth canal; when HMS neonate me was launched into the world, it had no concept of its future obsolescence and scrappage. Of its down the line replacement by another in the lineage fleet, bearing the same name but managing only to serve in effacing the uniqueness of its memory.

It spent its early days all at sea trying to cohere the view through the telescope provided by the visual cortex and processing chip of a brain. These cozening forces of ordinate and abscissa, plotting the flat earth co-ordinates of reality as fixed and immutable. Freud of course would have it that one is also unwittingly consumed by the perspective rendered extant by the sextant; your personal parental poles of latitude and longingtude. From the antipodes of father and mother, when there is a whole host of the rest of the world to explore and chart. Further palimpsested by majusculed school and prescriptive religion. Establishing a moral foundation erected like a hollow Gaudi edifice, with the dislocating wind blowing up a maelstrom through the upright interstices. 

Of the heritable venerable three questions for man, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What have I done?’, most who bother to interrogate themselves only get as far as grappling with the first one. The last is a matter for consideration solely on death beds and the second is forsaken because they fail to supply the context of their inevitable death through which all explorations would necessarily be refracted. They remain steadfastly progressively forward looking, rather than applying the singular teleological certitude to their thought processes. So inevitably they come to focus on their identities. The person they are during their brief sojourn on earth. Yet what is the point fixating on something that is ultimately perishable? They also reify love’s existence in order that they will not spend their sojourn alone, but again why would I devote contemplation on something equally fugacious? 

Author I took the antipodal approach. Placed myself in the full-length mirror. Over time studied the maculations of the skin, burst blood vessels, the ossific curvature, the protuberances and the loss of sinewy definition. No looking glass could reflect the loss of suppleness, the fitful sleep, the arthritic joints. The physicians had diagnosed my corporeal failings, I was now trying to diagnose myself for my readers. To offer them a speculum into their own being. But stood there in the mirror, pressing and pinching the flesh to see if the nevus had regular contours or not, scrotal bobbins cupped in my hand feeling the spindle for noduled swelling, I have no idea of whether I am of any assistance to my readers. As my words are released, I scrutinise them for their effect, but the letters are reversed in the mirror and illegible to me. The audience remains invisible, occluded by my eidolon therein the glass. The author dies twice over; once at the end of his life, the other every day in isolation. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Third Annual Report - Flash Fiction

The Directors are delighted to report continued year on year increase on production outputs. Not accounting for unbranded live stocks in progress, units delivered for export have increased in volume by 123%. Consolidating our reception suite with the processing facility has brought about efficiencies and reduced the production time significantly. The liquidation of the original reception site has been flawless, with no discernible depreciation of any of our assets.

However if has to be noted we still face procurement challenges, principally that of sourcing raw materials in any area without thinning out the supply in a manner that proves deleterious  to our enterprise and risks attracting unwelcome attention from hostile competitors. We have to cast our net wider and be prudent as to not over-mine any one site.

Blood stock derivative remains a gross inefficiency when it comes to waste processing and the research and development budget will be redirected to tackle this task in the upcoming year. Though this report itself looks resplendent written in the sanguinary red ink we have repurposed from the waste material, clearly the volume employed would not be sufficient to expend our veritable plasmatic seas of surfeit by-product. As to the adipose offcuts, initially we thought we had come up with a dissolution of the inhibitory bottleneck, when we moulded the tallow into candles. However, we found the attendant raiment to be largely of synthetic manufacture, highly combustible and therefore of no efficacy for serving as the wicks, accordingly we have suspended the enterprise. However, for the modest investment of a tanker as our second vehicle there on the balance sheet, plus some hosing and pressure valves, we have hit upon a rather elegant recycling initiative. We operate a service insulating cavity walls with our unwanted suet. This has afforded us the status of corporate social responsibility being conferred on us, which means prying eyes are less likely to be directed towards us. We further remain hopeful that with the appointment of the new leader in America, environmental protection rigour will slacken and not present a problem for us into the future. However the proposed physical wall on the border with Mexico may affect our raw material supply lines from Ciudad Juarez.

Accordingly the Directors would like to commend to you this report and additionally are pleased to announce that they will be issuing the first dividend payment to preferential shareholders on their investment a year ahead of schedule. To that end please be sure to declare this our honourable gift in kind of thirty fresh prime human steaks and fifty kid shanks, a veritable palate-cleansing delicacy I’m sure you will agree.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Advice For Reading Live

For me the best thing about being an author is reading to a live audience. But I know a lot of authors are nervous about reading publicly so I thought I'd offer my advice to nail a live reading.

There are two main aspects to consider, the first is what you read and the second is how best to prepare.

Dealing with the latter first, the simple advice is rehearse. If I'm doing a piece I've performed before, I'll practice it twice every day for the week ahead of the reading. If it's a new piece, then I will do that for at least a fortnight ahead. The length of the reading slot can also effect these timings.

Why rehearse? Well there are three advantages I can think of:

1) Familiarising yourself so that when you come to read live there are no surprises in your own text that catch you out. This may sound a bit odd, after all it's your own text. But you'd be surprised, you may have written it quite a while ago because the publishing process can take a long time. Or just as significantly, when you were writing it, you weren't likely to be writing it with reading it out aloud and there are things that translate differently from page to voice. For example, I wrote a pun on 'greased lightning', with 'greased' written as the country Greece'd. Rehearsing I realised there was no possible way that this would come over to the audience and had to factor that in. Rehearsing and you may come across tongue twisters, difficult words to pronounce or alliteration that ties you up in knots, so practice and you can conquer them.

2) Which brings us to timing. Apart from a rehearsal allowing you to time the length of your reading if you have been given a time limit (which you always will in any open mic, but even often when you are on the bill as a named performer), rehearsing is vital to help you pace yourself. With the adrenaline running once you get up on stage to stand by the mic, it's the most natural thing to speed up and belt through your reading. Rehearsing maximises your chances for keeping the reading speed under control. The more measured the pace, the more chance the audience have of taking in your words. The more comfortable you feel up there, the more rehearsed, the less the tendency to tear through your piece.

3) Bringing the work alive. There is nothing worse than a reading which takes the audience back to listening to a dreary schoolteacher just reading to them from a textbook and making no eye contact. While you probably won't be making eye contact with individuals in the audience if the lights are low, it's still advisable to look up from the text and look out at the audience. It helps establish a genuine two way relationship and a rapport. I wrote the opening to a short story that went

"What is the ideal length for a suicide note? Asking for a friend".

When I read this story, I always look up from the text when I deliver the line 'asking for a friend'. It not only establishes a connection, it actually puts me and the audience together in a complicity - they realise that the character is not really asking on behalf of someone else, but trying to disguise the fact he's talking about himself. So the simple action of looking up actually helps establish the parameters of this story within its opening two lines. Again, I had no idea of any of that when I was writing the story, but through rehearsal its importance emerged.

It's not just about looking and connecting with the audience by sight. If you're feeling confident, you can enhance the story with gesture or an expression thrown out to them. You  are to some extent acting out the story, albeit with one hand since the other is occupied holding the book. Rehearsal does not mean you have to learnt the text by heart to free both hands -  poets can learn their poems because they have compression & specialist rhythm to help them master their work. It's not the same for prose writing, even though rhythm is important for us as well, it's not necessarily designed for projecting through voice, more structuring the reader's journey through the sentences. If you don't feel confident enough to do gestures and expression when you're starting out that's fine, but in time you're very likely to reach such a level.

Finally rehearsal allows you to accent certain words or phrases that again may enhance the meaning of the piece. I don't have much variety in my voice and can't do other accents, but you might have this ability which may contribute to your work aloud. It's because I don't have a terribly interesting voice that I adopt a lot of gesture and performance in my readings to compensate.

How to choose what to read. This is a harder one to be definitive about. First it depends what options you have. In all likelihood you are talking about your debut book, so you're restricted to that. Especially if the reading is mainly aimed at promoting that book. I'm going to assume it's a novel, since short stories and flash fiction are much easier to do live in that unlike an extract from a novel, with these the audience are getting the whole piece and therefore require less contextualising. For the past 4 years I have mainly been reading my flash fiction, but with a new novel coming out this summer, I'm going to be switching back to reading extracts and so what follows applies to me as I make my selections in the next few months.

Firstly what type of book have you written? Action thriller, literary fiction, romance, horror? This will inform your thinking as behind what you choose to read. What are you hoping to convey with what you read? Are you after conveying the style of the book? Or give a taste of the main characters and their relationship? Do you want to convey the atmosphere of the book (such as in Horror or Supernatural)? Do you want to read something that ramps up the tension in the room, then leave the audience on a cliffhanger? Maybe you want to make the audience laugh, or perhaps present yourself as a storyteller par excellence. All of these are valid but always derive from the book you have written. If you have a long reading slot of course you might be able to present a couple of different ones of these impressions. So these are the thoughts you ought to consider when choosing your piece. A descriptive piece may convey the atmosphere and the style of writing, but the downside is it may be hard for the audience to picture in their minds coming to it cold. Dialogue heavy extract may best convey the relationships and characters, but can you carry off the different voices to make them distinctive enough to the ear no matter how distinctive they are on the page.

If you can read the opening of your novel it is always useful as it is doing the job of providing context, rather than if your first extract is somewhere further inside the novel when you will almost certainly have to offer a preamble of how the plot got to that point. A general rule is less explanatory preamble and more reading of the actual text if you can possibly manage it. The preamble, or bits in between the extracts are your chance to talk about the book as a whole and do a selling job on it, sort of pitching it subtly and the extracts will hopefully show that off to the best manner. In the bits between the extracts you can talk about all manner of things associated with the novel, such as where you got the idea from, or which writers inspired you, these are nearly always more engaging for an audience than them trying to grasp your novel summed up in a few sentences. When I come to selecting my pieces (and I won't be selecting the opening of the novel), I may stick with my flash fiction approach and give minimal 1-line preamble and trust to the extract itself doing all the work and conveying to the audience what it's supposed to convey. The novel's structure has the advantage that it is episodic and those episodes occur out of sequence within the book itself, so they are fairly self-contained chapters. Having said that, one of the three main voices I can't read aloud at all, since there are visual cues and ideograms in the book that I just couldn't reproduce in a reading.

So there you have it. I wish you all luck with your live readings and please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments and I'll answer them.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Migration - Flash Fiction

The author was dry. His word flow silted up. He needed to dredge through the sediment of his mind. He went back to the port of his writing embarkation. Opened up the containers that stored his past literary consignments. Rich with word ladings and ideational haul. 

He was reacquainted with the foreign folkloric fable he had towed into one of his own yarns. He was confronted with the exotic loan word he had imported and set to work in a poem. He recalled the overseas foundation myth that he had plundered. He recollected the archetype that recognised no borders but seemed to reside in every culture and which he had displaced front and central in his most successful drama. He revisited the etymological formation and word family reunion he repatriated for use as a motif throughout a novel. The brokerage he’d had to navigate with those autochthonal customs to make them pass muster in his narrative. The stowaway idioms, the refugee colloquialisms, the peregrine phraseology, all of which had sought asylum in his output and which he’d formerly welcomed with open arms and avid pen nib.

But now in his infirmity he recanted these itinerant emigres. Eschewed and and all continental cargo in his cahiers. Berated and chastised them for their colonial impurities, where he was after a majestic, imperial linguistics. Thwarted by the bonded excise scheme that he conceived had been levied on his mother tongue. His language was dead, washed up ashore from the shipwreck of his writing style. Close-fisted and minded, he had become holed beneath the load-line, a ink vessel up in dry dock.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Letter To America - How To Take On Trump

I do not want to come over preaching to Americans from this far away vantage point. I make no claim for greater knowledge of American law or politics than the citizens who live with both. But after just a week of despicable actions by the new President and the furore it has unsurprisingly provoked, I just want to make a plea that such broad-brush outrage is not the best method of opposing him. That is not to say that joining protests and pointing up abuses through social media #resistance are not useful - they are, they show solidarity with those persecuted under the regime so that indicates the persecuted are not alone. But the more clinical tactics to disarm him have to be given space among the sound and fury to work their effect.

Trump has been branded an egomaniac, sociopath, dictator, racist, fascist, liar, sexist, abuser, tyrant, despot, puppet of Bannon, puppet of Putin and probably some others I've missed. Now most of these may well be true, but hurling these epithets at him achieves precisely nothing. He will just shrug and jab a finger behind him in a "Get that lot" gesture; get that lot in both senses of the term, since he has a propensity for going after his critics and opponents and he will go to war with the media and then with Hollywood mark my words. But don't forget he is playing to his supporters, the nearly 50% of your divided nation that voted for him. The more you abuse him, the more it plays to his message that he is the outsider, the new broom and that plays well in places. Demonstrations in large urban areas and airports and he can just claim that it's the political correctness/Liberal/Feminists/Civil Rights 'mob' which he can spin to his supporters as him being on the right track if these opponents up in arms protesting. Trump has not enacted any policy he didn't tell us he was going to do when campaigning. The problem is no one thought he was serious, or that he was just rabble-rousing or talking metaphorically and of course no one thought he would win. Everything so far is playing to his constituency and they are almost certainly loving it. I don't believe that anyone who voted for him has been alienated by the first week's antics and policies. They are not in the slightest bit embarrassed by the criticism aimed at Trumps' decisions both at home and globally; like the President they just don't care about the use of torture.

So the way to get to Trump is twofold. Firstly make him look bad to his own supporters and secondly a vigorous legal defence of the Constitution to reverse as many of his enacted policies as can be defeated by other branches of government. So taking the legal side first and I am no expert, but calls to impeach him after just a week in office are never going to happen, so please stop calling for it. Only the House of Representatives can call for proceedings and the Senate hear them; both are Republican majorities, so the chances of it being successful are small. Turkeys don't vote for either Thanksgiving nor Christmas. However appalled certain Republican congressfolk are by Trump, they will not venture to destroy their own party by removing the man who won the Whitehouse under their name and on their ticket. Now, to proper business. Trump threatens the venerable Constitution like no previous President. Particularly the First amendment when it comes to media and artistic freedom as he goes after his critics. He will also look to finagle away some of the protections of the Fifth Amendment, starting with drug dealers and illegal migrants and then seeing if he can extend it to the everyday. He will wrap such attacks up under the cloak of being the Constitution's great defender, particularly by playing up the Second Amendment, a sort of under two flags approach that Putin also wields in Russia. His supporters might overlook infringement and incremental shrinking of the First Amendment in return for buttressing of the Second Amendment to their satisfaction, plus moves like overturning Roe V Wade that finally gives the religious Right what they have been craving for decades and who have VP Pence leading the charge on it. Every infraction of  the constitution has to be legally challenged. We know Congress are unlikely to do it and can only hope and trust the Judiciary (no matter their personal politics) do their job and rule on matters of law and where the Constitution has been infringed. The problem is that such processes are not quick and instead of having the loggerheads between Congress & Whitehouse that you had under Obama, you risk having a strangulation of business tied up by the wranglings of Executive and Judiciary this time. It wouldn't matter quite so much, but again Trump just turns round and appeals to his supporters to say 'who's holding up business, not me, it's the Judiciary and they need their swamp clearing too'. Such an accusation has already happened here in Britain over Brexit, although it was our press and media more than the government who took it to extremes.

So that brings us to the second thread, make Trump lose face to his own supporters. As much as they delight in Liberal baiting and persecuting of certain minorities, ultimately they have voted him in to improve their lot materially. This won't happen and that has to be played for all it's worth over the next four years as the economy fails to revive itself since rust cannot suddenly de-rust itself and become mint steel again. The coal mines have gone and won't usefully be brought back into production. To really hammer this home, you need to associate the lack of economic benefit for the ordinary man with Trump's own mega-wealth and that he is not and never was the man to represent them after all. There's no point complaining that Trump never showed us his tax returns, didn't impact the election, it's old news now. You have to hammer him on anything he does while in office. Every conflict of interest, every milking of the Presidency for his own gain has to be exposed and legally challenged where relevant. And there's no point revealing these exposés in the Times & The Post, because they're not talking to his support base. I'm afraid they are a Greek chorus when you need to be using the real protagonists on the stage. You need to get them on Facebook and Fox News. And obviously it has to be 100% evidenced and explained, the links made so it's staring them square in the face. Hell, mock up a Breitbart dummy site or hack the real one and get it there as well. Go for the jugular but in order to do so, you have to stay focused and not just go for everything and anything. Only the stuff that degrades him in the eyes of his followers. No moral arguments, just clear cases of corruption and failing to deliver on growth because he can't as he's in the billionaire camp.

The only problem I foresee with this strategy is how Trump reacts to such humiliation? He strikes me as a street fighter in the Boardroom, so that it is possible that he just says to hell with it all and pulls some crazy stunt like going to war with Iran or some equivalent just to re-inflate his ego in his own mind. But let's cross that bridge when we come to it eh?

Good luck with the fight.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

And For The Last Time Of Asking - Flash Fiction