Short Stories and Similar Stuff

I took up writing short stories two years since as a kind of therapy, required by the trauma of learning how to go about writing literate novels. The solution-focused therapy of a short tale taught me that, as a character in Effervescent Hope suggests, ‘What if your trauma is a gift?’

Short stories are a little like a fun weekend hike with exciting but exhausting new friends. A novel, it turns out, follows an altogether harder path. It isn’t a saunter. Expect blisters writing novels. A short story, in contrast, is free wine and a foxtrot. Anyway, a few small things have been published…

September ’23

‘Sailcloth’ – a short story – will appear in Litro at the end of the month. Another short story called ‘At the Foot of Providence, the Plumed and Omnipotent’ will be in Beneath the Mask.

May ’23

A great deal of teaching and consultation work of late, so fiction has taken a little holiday. Still, All Existing will publish the short story ‘The Moon in the Turbulent Air’ shortly and Literally Stories will feature ‘On Warmoesstraat, A Triptych’.

February ’23

‘Sailcloth’ concerns a lovesick roofer’s slow coming adrift from the English mainland when Thanet becomes an escape raft. It will be published by UK Litro shortly. The American Litro will soon publish a kinky flash piece (this is not a criminal offence) called ‘Knowing Her As You Do Like Me‘.

January ’23

Literally Stories published a short story called ‘Sidelined‘ on 29th March, and another little heart-breaker called ‘“Will They Remember Us?” Little Ignaz Wonders‘ in early April. So keeping busy.

November ’22: Having been working abroad for just under a month, before continuing work on a novel, I’ve been warming up with a few shorter pieces. As result of such procrastination, two short stories, will be published by Literally Stories in early ’23 – ‘Keep Dancing‘ (during the dullest Blackpool party imaginable, a son reveals his true persona to his mother: “He’d been about to sue for peace, until she opened the barn door of her mouth, let the cow come forth”), and a Belloc-inspired comedic morality tale called ‘As Ever, The Nun‘ (“It takes him six-minutes to physically escape the warm constricting trampolining comfort of the Nun, yet a lifetime to escape her purring presence in his subconscious. His is a love that dares not speak its name: Auto-Nun-Asphyxiation”).

November ’22: during a recent consultation in Malta I wrote a poem called ‘The Cranes of Gozo’, and this will appears on the Odyssey Mediterranean Poetry site, sometime early in ’23.

October ’22: a poem about old age, stepping back with grace, called ‘The Invitation’, will be on the Odyssey Mediterranean Poetry site in early ’23.

October ’22: An evocative short story called ‘Climbing‘, which is an extract from the novel On Being in Love with Hilde Wulz, was published early 2023 by Literally Stories.

September ’22 brings the Margate poem Not Much To See, and a short story, Too Close To Home, set at Dungeness, to this anthology.

August ’22: Fittingly, at the height of the southern UK’s brief heatwave, my short story The Mother Dog (content warning) has been published. It’s set in sweltering Spain. Animal cruelty, relationship cruelty… meh.

A poem, ‘Six-Year-Old Summer,’ is on TSaunders (July ’22). Not about sunflowers really.

Another short fiction has been published by Literally Stories June ’22. It’s a gender-reversal story called The Whole Me, The Whole She, The Whole Nine Yards. Kinky-weirdness in cardigans.

A poem called The Heartbreak Dog has been published here. (June ’22.) Honestly, I like animals.

Extinction Rebellion’s Creative Hub has published one of my poems – ‘The Apocalyptic Vision of a Beast Put Out to Pasture’ – and you can read it here. What if humans were beasts of the fields?

In May 2022, Literally Stories will publish Gabby Gets Some Colour in His Cheeks, a short esoteric story about boundaries, sex and transformation.

March ’22 sees Here Come Grandfather’s Goats being republished.

Scarlet Leaf Review is a well-respected literary magazine based in Toronto, and part of a cool publishing house. They’ve featured one of my stories, John Wright Windows Limited, a first-person account of a DJ’s inhibitions slowly crumbling live on air (January 2022).

The Extinction Rebellion (XR) Creative Hub website features work from around the world and two of my short stories have been accepted: Invisible Spoons of Imperceptible Ice Cream (a dystopian Jewish future steampunk vibe) and Here Come Grandfather’s Goats about a refugee not making it to callous England

Litro’s #FlashFriday have selected a weird short/prose poem piece for publication in January 2022 – it’s called The End of British Summer Time

You can read other short stories on the rather brilliant Literally Stories website: As If He Still Drives A Capri is a poignant short story about domestic abuse and resilience, riddled with dark humour. Christmas Lights Icicle Frost features several characters from a novel I’m working on called Effervescent Hope. The story is a magical realist piece featuring a baker with handlebar moustaches and flour in his gorgeous hair, a heroine who has Down Syndrome (it does not have her, she has it in a wrestling hold) as well as assorted sea creatures. All My Darlings Waiting is a short story reminiscent of Lucy Ellmann’s 2019 1000 page novel Ducks, Newburyport, (but much shorter, a brisk 2,000 words) and is a ghost-poem-prose piece

My Son Is Sometimes Wise a fable/short story, is free in the Templeman Review, Issue 3. It involves an American mom and son, llamas, the toupee of a German journalist, and a life of crime across Europe

‘Haus des Meeres’, was published in the print edition of the Blue Nib magazine in September 2020. You can read it on their website here

There are some other poems, too: ‘Sunset on Kefalonia’, a lament, has been published on Mediterranean Poetry, which is a beautiful site. You can take a peek here. ‘Ships Are Not the Only Wrecks on Zante’ a poem about belonging and refugees, is also there. During first lockdown, you know, the proper lockdown, I wrote a poem for a mental health project, and I’m pleased to say ‘Barrier Nursing’ will be published in an anthology by Rare Swan, part of Literati Magazine

Novels and Stuff

Finishing up three maximalist novels is like doing a tab while fending off Quentin Crisp at the Rockingham in the Sixties. Fun and exhausting.

Effervescent Hope is a long novel about a short woman who happens to have cancer, a winning lottery ticket and Down Syndrome, and whose cross-dressing ‘uncivil’ engineer of a father makes his wife’s life hell. Cue a parade of (in no particular order) a gay vicar, a kleptomaniac postman, a Jewish support worker in love with Freddie Mercury, a heroic woman of many faces, inept OAP kidnappers, a nefarious Nonna, and Bishop Keith Lorraine, all pursuing a woman who knows precisely that she does not know what she wants as she balances upon her See-Saw Life 

While there is Still Time: The Twenty-One Love Songs of Augustus Rook is a slightly shorter long novel about a Kashubian boy mistaken for a girl who suffers recurring reincarnation. This is his final adventure. Amongst The Dead Letters of England, and accompanied upon stolen bicycles across Europe by a poet who believes he is a cat, Augustus Rook writes the one person he suspects will be interested in his magic-realist advenrtures. Gasp at Salman’s Rushdie’s non-response. Grimace at English Food. Grizzle at the Infamous Polish Carnival of the Dead as they carry away the souls of little children.

On Being in Love With Hilde Wulz is a tragi-comedy dealing with circus survivors of the Holocaust and how trauma flows like recipes down family generations. It’s set in Vienna, Syros and Rarotonga. Starring an ancient aerialist on a bitter journey home, a man able to save orphans but not himself, a famous psychotherapist for perverts, and an ocean in a city offering redemption, and from which a hero goes flying. Meet the Archetype of Morons. Hear the story of the survival of Jewish children, and What They Did Become. Mourn for Wilhelm Schultz, child soldier and artist, escaping his mother’s boots and father’s blessed apron strings. Go swimming with Father Antonis, an Orthodox Priest high on hashish. Listen to the body of an American, and the chorus of the weeping world. Come hear the luminescent wisdom of the family Frankl

I’m sending out a commercial, humorous and heart-hurting novel about being a man, mental vulnerability and friendship, called Guy Shambles is Utterly Beside Himself.

My current novel-writing is focussed on something called The Good Grief Club. This should be done in first draft by March ’23. It is a gentle and warm comedy about suicide, an angry rescue tortoise, a disagreeable VW camper van, and Kefalonia. Ray of little sunshine McBeth, sells up and settles his affairs. He’s resigned from The Good Grief Club. He’s waited for time to mend him, but now he’s had enough. At the age of 72, he drives Erene’s temperamental camper van almost all the way from England to Cephalonia, the island of her birth. Smuggling both her ashes and tortoise across Europe, on the island he builds a little cairn in memory of their daughter, Agapi-Jacqueline, eats moussaka for the first time, and requiring no beach towel, having never learned to swim, Ray walks into the Ionian Sea

Two short-story collections are finished. (These things take time; good writing is mainly rewriting.) The first is called The Whole of Life Dependent on Four Letters, borrowed from a Lorca poem, and the second We Still Keep House. A third is nearly cooked, and I’m finishing off the novella which is whew main piece. The third collection will be called Small Bits of Wonder. To accompany my first poetry collection (called Utter), a second is nearly done, titled What Happened to Dahomey?