The body was found folded
in a barrel of cement. Dead
when they disposed of him,
they said, and I was grateful.
Four of my poems appear in the latest issue of Lunar Poetry, a relatively young monthly poetry magazine published both in print and online. The issue was launched on Tuesday 31st March at the l’klecktic gallery in London, where there were readings, drinks and general celebrations.
I love Lunar Poetry‘s approach to publishing. Printed issues are almost-ridiculously cheap (£3 for up to eighty pages of poetry) and the digital edition is sold on a pay-what-you-like basis. The website is also home to a fantastic and frequently thought-provoking blog, as well as audio poems and a host of regular features. If you want to support this fantastic new magazine, you can buy a copy of it here.
In the immediate aftermath of orgasm you are surprised to find that you’ve shrunk down to the size of a pin and fallen into her vagina. You land, ankle-deep, and gasp upright, the last tremors of your climax still shivering your skin. The vast muscular walls of her heave above you, ribbed and glistening like the roof of a mouth.
My short story “Depths” appears in the most recent issue of the Canadian literary zine (Paranthetical). The zine is available both online and in print, and is produced by Words (On) Pages, an organisation that aims to work with emerging writers. As well as running the zine they provide editorial and design services, run a blog and host regular events. You can find out more about what they do here.
“Depths” was written several years ago, but it’s taken until now to find a publisher. It’s one of my favourite stories, and (Paranthetical) is an excellent little magazine, so I’m really happy to have found a home for it there. I’d thoroughly recommend picking up a copy of the zine if you can – it costs only eight pounds from their Etsy shop.
I want to say I’m sorry. But to be fair it’s not all my fault. You have to take some of the blame as well. You know you shouldn’t provoke me.
I’ve republished on this site a short piece of hyperfiction that I wrote several years ago. It was, for a while, due to be published in an online collection of hypertext fiction, but the project collapsed before anything happened, so I thought I’d return it to here where it can at least be read.
“Listen, Sally” is a short story told entirely in dialogue. It was put together in HTML and CSS, using Notepad++. It took about a week to write. I’d love to convert it to a more sensible, portable format, but I’ve long-since lost the map I made of the story, and it would be a lot of work to recreate it. There are, as far as I remember, six possible endings, and eighty-seven individual pages.
It’s shadows on the wall of a cave, it is. Nothing that happens is really real. Just neurons firing in the soft butter of our brains. So why not change things? He leans across the table, his pint glass slopping beer onto the already-swimming surface. He stabs his finger into the wood. Why not change things?
My very short story “A Trick Of The Mind” appears on the website of The Fake Press, a project set up by undergraduate students at the University of East Anglia, where I’m currently working towards a PhD. The website aims to bring together a community of the writers and readers that surround UEA, and to create a platform for students. Although it’s relatively new there are already some really interesting pieces to read. Take a look at Nina Ward’s poem “I Am Tired Of Hearing Others Fucking“, or the very short story “Lines Written After A Dream” by Henry Williams.
We’re just doing our job,
they say, as they taser the furious
bereaved. It’s nothing personal.
Don’t hate us while we’re saving you.
My poem “The Provisional Government” appears in The Patchwork Paper, an online magazine which describes itself as a “quilt of truly original poetry, prose and visual culture for everyone to get involved with“. Much of what they publish explores the idea of arts activism and personal or political expression through art.
“The Provisional Government” is one of a series of five poems about a zombie apocalypse. The series as a whole is titled “The Top Five Most Annoying People You Will Meet After The End Of Civilisation”, and was written in the style of any of the numerous list-based articles produced by sites like BuzzFeed or Cracked. This XKCD comic captures the general tone of these articles perfectly, and it was a combination of that and this intriguing New Yorker post (which explores exactly why we find list-based articles so appealing) that inspired the series.
He was knocked unconscious by
his landing. Crippled by it. And so he
didn’t see the plane touch down
into a growing rose of fire and dust.
My poem “When Considering My Father’s Suicide” appears in Volume Two, Issue Two of Meniscus, a free online journal published by Australasian Association of Writing Programs. The entire archives of the journal are available to access for free from the website.
With editors and advisory board members in several different countries, Meniscus publishes poetry, fiction and creative essays as well as translations into English. It is named for the curve that forms at the top surface of a container of liquid. An explanation as to why the name suits the journal can be found here.
One day I drive him back home, and there are police cars ramped up on the kerb outside his house. He ducks his head as we cruise past. “Nice and steady on the gas,” he mumbles, and then we’re away and heading back towards the ring road.
Starting from today (1st January 2015) I’ll be publishing one tiny piece of short fiction each day on my new blog Archipelago. Most of the stories are original, but some are edited versions of existing stories, or are derived from my longer fiction. The blog updates automatically at 09:00 each morning. You can bookmark it, follow it via RSS, or sign up to receive updates daily by email.
My last project involving micro-fiction short stories (an interactive piece titled Hotel), was a lot of fun to work on. After completing it, I decided to continue writing stories of that length. Posting one piece each day should be an interesting challenge. At the moment I have a buffer of about forty updates programmed in. I’ll be working hard to try and stay ahead.
Do visit the blog and subscribe if you’re interested. The first piece, titled “A Difficult Lesson” has already been posted. It’s a story about someone who falls in love with their driving instructor / drug dealer.
It was incredible, really, the way he lost everything – that the plane which carried Fin’s mother and father should fall with such precision onto the car that contained his wife and child. Fin could not believe it at first, when the policeman came for him at work.
Each year the UEA publishes a series of anthologies featuring the work of students graduating from the various Creative Writing MA programmes. My work appears in the 2014 edition of the prose anthology, details of which can be found here. It features the work of all thirty-one students on the course, as well as a foreword by Anjali Joseph and an introduction by Henry Sutton and Jean McNeil.
“Friends” is a story about a man who suffers an unfortunate series of accidents. It was written during my first year at the UEA, and as such seemed an appropriate contribution. The anthologies were launched on October 14th 2014, with a reading at the Drama Studio on the University of East Anglia campus.
I’m currently still a student at the UEA, now on the Creative Writing PhD programme.
The Millenium Bug was hungry again; Skylark could feel it in her stomach. They were linked, the Bug and the girl. Last night’s shopping sat still-bagged on the table. Quietly, she took food from there: bread, tinned peaches and other things she knew it liked to eat. Her parents were in the living room, arguing, TV turned up loud to mask the sound. She hated them. They were like pet dogs – big, unwieldy, useless. They thought she was asleep.
My short story “2001” has been published in the horror-themed October issue of Litro. The story is about a young girl who can see something which she believes in the Millennium Bug. I was twelve years old around the time of the new millennium, and remember being distinctly terrified that the world would end at midnight on December 31st 1999. Fortunately it didn’t, but the memory of that fear eventually lead to this story.
Litro began several years ago as a free magazine distributed on the London Underground – a literary alternative to the range of free newspapers that were on offer. It has grown from there into a monthly magazine, a book club and a boutique literary agency. You can still pick it up from a variety of bookshops around London, and you can also become a member to get full access to everything Litro-related.
God, I wish I could take her skin,
slit it at the back, like a zipper,
unravel the shrink-wrap flesh from muscle,
Two of my poems “Kitten In A Blender” and “As I Watch The Tour Guide Talking” appear in the latest anthology in the Black & BLUE series. The theme of this instalment was “revolution” and it was released – appropriately enough – on bonfire night. You can read more about the project and purchase a copy on Black & BLUE’s website. The issue itself is rather lovely, and features some excellent photography and typographically-innovative poetry.
Black & BLUE are a literary organisation based in Manchester. As well as producing a series of themed anthologies they also put together pamphlets and organise exhibitions and events featuring textual art and poetry. Their work is well worth a look.
His bag lay on the seat beside him, stuffed with clothes, school books and his ancient laptop computer – the only things he’d had time to pack. It was more than likely, he reflected glumly, that everything he’d left behind would by now have been burned and trampled by the mob.
My short story “The Baxters Go To Norwich” has been published on the City Of Stories website, as part of a twelve-week project designed to raise the profile of Norwich as a literary city. As you might guess from the story’s title, it’s set in Norwich, and was written specifically for the City Of Stories project. It was a fun experience to write something a to a brief – although I feel the end result is somewhat different from my usual work, I’m still quite pleased with it. Do have a look at the other articles and stories on the site while you’re visiting.
Six months after the first bombs fell
the zoo was a tattered banner, shit-stinking, empty.
Famished, we butchered first the exotic birds,
plucking bright feathers to roast tiny bodies
My poem “In Wartime” has been highly commended by judge WN Herbert in the Wigtown Book Festival poetry competition. The competition is run every year as part of ten-day festival situated in the countryside of Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland. You can find out more about the festival, and read the winning and highly-commended poems on the website. Although the festival has finished for the year, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to be alerted when ticket sales open for next year’s event. It looks delightful.
Against her better judgement, she married the magician. He was a sweet man and she was dedicated to him. During the wedding ceremony he made fragrant rose petals rain from the ceiling of the chapel. That first night, as they lay in bed together, he conjured silk scarves from nowhere, and made fireworks explode from his fingertips.
My very short story “The Magician” has won second place in the annual Flash Fiction Competition run by Creative Writing Matters. The overall competition was won by David Andrews for his excellent story “Harvest” – you can read both stories online, and also see a list of shortlisted entrants, and a blog post from one of the judges. Creative Writing Matters runs a series of yearly competitions, as well as organizing workshops, courses, mentoring and a manuscript appraisal service.
The story is one of a number of 250-word or less stories that I have been writing for a project that will begin next year. It was inspired – somewhat obliquely – by an episode of The IT Crowd.
My short story “Dumb Creatures” has been published in the Ink, Sweat & Tears webzine. Ink, Sweat & Tears was started in 2007, and is now edited by Helen Ivory. It publishes poetry, prose and artwork online on a daily basis – its entire archive is available to read for free. It also funds a pamphlet competition and a poetry-writing scholarship at the University of East Anglia each year.
“Dumb Creatures” first appeared several years ago on the Volume Blog. It’s a brief story about a man who kills penguins, which I wrote while I lived in Stoke-on-Trent. Although it might seem otherwise, I actually quite like penguins.
There is food down there. Blue plastic bins filled with rice and flour and barley. Tins of dehydrated milk, powdered egg. Jars of jam and marmalade that glow slightly in the pale light that filters in through the vent. The stuff is stacked along the wall in labelled compartments. Organised, ready and waiting for the day when the world above will end.
My very short story “The Cellar” has been published in volume ten of Riptide. It is a story about a man who is very well-prepared for terrible things that might happen.
The theme of this particular volume, “The Suburbs”, is explored in poetry, fiction and life-writing, with a foreword written by children’s novelist and poet Michael Rosen. Reassuringly solid printed copies of Riptide can be purchased from the website, or from selected bookstores. This issue was launched on June 20th at the University of Essex.
My work has appeared in Riptide once before. In 2009 my story “Teeth” was published in volume four of the journal.
There are rooms here that I’ve never seen before. Quiet rooms, layered with dust. At the back of the house we find a second staircase that winds upwards in a tight spiral. We wander through bedrooms, endless bedrooms and bathrooms and offices. All are imperiously neat, echoingly empty.
My short story “The House Of My Grandfather” has been performed at a Liars’ League event in London. You can read the text of the story online, or watch a video of it being read by Cliff Chapman at a Liars’ League event which took place in London at the start of June. The story is about a newly-engaged couple who go to visit a relative, but have trouble finding him within his house.
Liars’ League is a monthly event with outposts in several cities around the world. It recently won the “Best Spoken Word Night” Saboteur Award. You can find out about forthcoming events via the Liars’ League website.
Another of my stories “The Pilot’s Wife” was performed at a previous event in 2013. There’s even a video of the reading from that occasion.
Three days ago Brandon sat at the head of a table, clutched a polystyrene cup of phenobarbital and cyanide, and watched the thrashing, quiet deaths of his eighteen loyal followers. When the last limb fell still and it was time for him to join them, he found that his hand was trembling. His dry tongue tasted sour and he couldn’t stop looking at the blue bloated face of his secretary – a woman named Karen.
I’ve added a collection of very short stories to the hyperfiction section. The set is called Hotel (click here to read it), and is arranged around the floor plan of a fictional hotel somewhere on the outskirts of London. Each room contains a different guest or guests, and you can find out about them by navigating your way around the building. Click on a room to read about the occupants.
The text for Hotel was written over the course of about three months, and then put together in HTML using Notepad++. Some of the guests are borrowed from other stories or poems I have written, and there are a number of secret rooms and pages. Over time, guests may move out and be replaced by others.
This is one of the more extensive pieces of hyperfiction that I’ve assembled. It wasn’t particularly technically complex – although it took me a disproportionately long time to work out how to draw a curved line in Photoshop.
The warm boxthing
with its hunting hum
stares for longer than
any cat can stare.
I wait it out.
It does not blink,
nor narrow that
one red eye.
“Kotka” is a set of five poems I wrote last year, each one of which is inspired by a different YouTube video of cats. The poems are presented here alongside the original videos, which are all still available at the time of writing. “Kotka” is the word “cat” in Old Church Slavic.
The project began, on some level, as an attempt to justify the amount of time I had spent watching videos of cats on YouTube.
It’s hard for a girl. You wouldn’t understand. It’s not like being fat where you can do something about it. Even when you’re short you can wear heels. I feel like a giant sometimes, like a big clumsy giant. Everybody looks. Everybody sees. Boys don’t like it. I don’t like it. When we’re in bed together I feel like I’m too big for them, like there’s too much of me and they’re going to get lost somehow, disappear and leave me alone again.
My very short story “Big Bones” appears in the first ever issue of MISO Magazine, a bi-annual literary magazine that publishes the work of current students and recent graduates of university Creative Writing courses. You can read more about it, and purchase a copy of the issue on MISO‘s website www.miso.riversideinnovationcentre.co.uk.
I’m currently a student on the prose MA course and the University of East Anglia. I’m in the second year of a part time course, and will be graduating this summer. This issue of MISO also features the work of one of my fellow students Julianne Pachico.
You’re parked in the drive in a car full of chickens. You’re holding one against your belly, cradling it, the dead thing, the feathers clayed in shit, pucker-skinned and bloody. Through the windscreen it looks as if you’re crying for an armful of laundry. I wait shivering in my gown and slippers, then tap on the glass. You start. You let me in. The car smells the way farms do in summer. Those things clucking and scratching in the back.
My short story “Decade” has been published in the latest issue of Ambit, which can be purchased from the Ambit website. It is a story told in reverse about a couple forced apart by their ideals – I wrote it shortly after I gave up on the idea that I was destined to be a veterinary surgeon. It’s one of the oldest stories I’ve written, but I’m still very pleased with it, and thrilled to have it appear in a magazine like Ambit.
I was fortunate enough to be able to read from the story at an event in London. There I met Martyn Crucefix, Kita Shantiris and Stuart Snelson, who were also reading their work from the magazine. You can find out about future Ambit events on the website, where you can also purchase a copy of the magazine from their shop.