Short Stories and Similar Stuff

I took up writing short stories about eighteen months ago simply as a kind of gestalt therapy. Required as a result of the trauma caused by learning how to go about writing good and challenging 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 fucking gift?’

Short stories are a little like a fun weekend away with exciting but exhausting new friends. They take you quickly to new places and perspectives via a brief but vigorous hike. A novel, it turns out, follows an altogether harder path. It isn’t a saunter. More a commitment to a pilgrimage with a bunch of well-meaning strangers you’re bound to grow suspicious of by journey’s end. Expect blisters writing novels. A short story, in contrast, is free wine and a foxtrot. Anyway, a few small things have been published…

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

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 final 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 crossing-dressing uncivil engineer, 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. A kleptomaniac postman amongst The Dead Letters of England accompanied upon stolen bicycles across Europe by a poet who believes he is a cat. 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 down family generations. It’s set in Vienna, Syros and Rarotonga. Starring an ancient aerialist on a bitter journey home, a man who saves orphans but not himself, a famous psychotherapist for perverts, and an ocean in a city offering redemption, and from which a hero of the Irregular 2nd Ironic Pansy Panzer Corps of Piss Artistes 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, the child soldier and artist, and 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 Frankls

My current novel-writing is focussed on something called The Good Grief Club. This should be done in first draft just after Christmas 2022, with the final version completed 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 Mr McBeth, sells up and settles his affairs. He’s resigned from The Good Grief Club, though its members refuse to quit on Ray. 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 angry rescue tortoise across Europe, on the island he builds a little cairn on a quiet hill covered with olives 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

A short-story collection is finished in fifth draft form. (These things take time, and good writing is mainly rewriting.) Its current title is The Whole of Life Dependent on Four Letters, borrowed from a Lorca poem. A second short-story collection has been begun, tentatively titled Small Bits of Wonder. To accompany my first poetry collection (called Utter), a second is being collated, provisionally titled What Happened to Dahomey?